Spotlight: Mia Marlowe (Blog Swap and Giveaway of Plaid Tidings)

This week’s Spotlight is on Mia Marlowe, author of Scottish-themed historicals for Kensington, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at RWA 2012 in Anaheim, and again at RWA 2013 in Atlanta. Welcome to Blue Stockings & Crossed Genres, Mia!

MiaMarloweAuthorHeadshot120180Thanks for having me here today, Pamela. Since you’re blogging about Victorian fashions on my blog, I’ll be sharing about Scottish clothing here. Obviously, everyone’s thoughts run to kilts whenever Scotland is mentioned and it does have a storied past. But before we get to kilts, we need to have (pardon me, pun haters everywhere) . . . a good foundation!

For men and women, the universal undergarment was the leine (pronounced “LAY-nuh”) or shirt. Made of linen, it was a chemise-like, sleeved garment that came to the knees. Over this, woolen fabric was draped to form kilts or arisaids.

Kilt2A belted plaid, or Great Kilt, is actually just a large rectangle of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide and 4 or 5 yards long. The wearer had to pleat it and strap a belt around himself to hold it up while draping the excess over his shoulder. This versatile garment also doubled as a blanket to wrap up in at night if a man was living rough in the Highlands.

An arisaid is the feminine version of a Great Kilt. The fabric is folded over a rope belt and then can be worn with both halves of the material forming the skirt or the top part can be used as a sort of built-in shawl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe practice of associating a certain tartan with a specific clan is a Regency era development. Wearing a kilt had been prohibited after the disastrous Jacobite uprising of 1745 and was forbidden under pain of seven years’ transportation for a second offense. The Highland Dress Act was repealed in 1782, but kilts didn’t really come into their own again until an English king came calling. (In Plaid Tidings, my hero Alexander is part of the advance guard charged with making sure Scotland will be safe for his sovereign!) When Sir Walter Raleigh arranged for King George IV to make his visit to Scotland in 1822, he assigned certain weaves to each of the clans. English nobles scrambled to come up with a Scottish connection so they could join the king in full Highland regalia. The result of the royal progression to Scotland was a renewed sense of nationalistic pride and a resurgence of Highland dress and traditions.


And now, I believe Pamela has some questions for me:

1. Since the heroine of my new historical, A Song at Twilight, is a professional singer, I was intrigued to discover that you are a classically trained soprano yourself. Would you share a little about your time as an opera singer?

Mia: My undergrad degree is in Music. After winning the District Metropolitan Opera competition, I made my debut with the Denver Symphony and sang with a number of regional opera companies. It was glorious and invigorating and I loved singing, but it required me to leave my small children and DH for increasingly longer periods of time. When I was offered the opportunity to spend 8 weeks in Germany with a repertory company, that was the tipping point. At that level, music is a demanding god.  No one can have it all. I will never regret not laying my family on the altar of my career.

2. Do you have a favorite opera and/or a favorite role (one you played or aspired to play or wish you’d played)?

Mia: I played a lot of different roles. I know what it’s like to cough my life away in a freezing Parisian garret (Mimi from La Boheme). I got a chance to create the role of Mariane in the regional premier of Kirk Meecham’s Tartuffe with the composer in the audience, which was both scary and gratifying. I’ve worn a corset and bumroll and sweated bullets over an aria that turns coloraturas’ bowels to water (“Come Scoglio” from Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte). I even did a pants role (a male part written to be played by a woman) when I was in college (Cherubino from The Marriage of Figaro). That was great fun. But I have to say the role I enjoyed most was Rosalinde from Die Fledermaus by Strauss. Not only is the music divine, she is the smartest person on the stage, outwitting her straying husband by seducing him at a masked ball and earning her own HEA!

Mia as Rosalinde
Mia as Rosalinde

3. How long have you been fascinated with Scotland, and have you ever visited it? If so, what is your favorite/keenest memory of the place?

Mia: When I signed a new contract with Kensington for more Scottish stories, my DH suggested it might help if we actually visited Scotland. We went last June. For 12 glorious days, we cruised around the UK. I really enjoyed the stop at Kirkwall on one of the Orkney islands. But my favorite spot was the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. No, we didn’t see Nessie, but it’s not hard to imagine something large and otherworldly beneath the surface of those dark waters.

4. What are your hero and heroine’s strongest/weakest traits, and what makes them the perfect match?

Mia:  Alexander is a reluctant hero at first. He wants nothing to do with the Scottish side of his nature since his Scottish mother left him when he was very young. However, when he wins the Bonniebroch barony in a hand of cards, a betrothal comes with it—to a very determined Scottish miss. Lucinda helps him learn to forgive and find the strength to complete the three tasks which will lift a terrible curse from the old Scottish castle and all its residents.

5. Was it something specific or general that spurred you into writing, and which authors were the biggest influence on you as a writer?

Mia: I met a romance writer and realized writers weren’t the ivory tower sorts I’d always imagined them to be. She was just like me. So I reasoned if she could do it, I could too. The Greeks have a word for this. It’s called “hubris.” I had an ocean of things to learn before my first manuscript was published.

6. You’ve tried your hand at many things in life. What is one thing you haven’t tried yet that you would like to try?

Mia: I’d like to run away with my DH and be a full time world traveler—at least for a while. It’s been a dream of mine to circumnavigate the globe and hit all seven continents. Different countries and cultures fascinate me. Of course, I’d miss my family and my dogs (and my own bed) after a while!  At that point, I could always settle in for some armchair travel with some great books!



MIA MARLOWE is a rising star whose Touch of a Rogue was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten Best Romances for Spring 2012. Mia learned about story-telling while singing professional opera. She knows what it’s like to sing a high “C” in a corset, so she empathizes with the trials of her historical heroines. Mia resides in Boston, Massachusetts. For more, visit & connect with Mia on Twitter and Facebook.


Plaid Tidings

PLAID_TIDINGSChristmas in the Highlands…

Not any dashing English lord’s idea of a good time. But now that Lord Alexander Mallory has won a Scottish estate in a hand of cards, he is the unlikely laird of wild, snowy Bonniebroch. Worse yet, the ancient pile of stones comes with a betrothal. To a fiery red-headed virgin. And a curse.

Alex will have his hands full honoring the first, seducing the second and breaking the third … all by Twelfth Night.

Want a Highlander for Christmas? Order yours now!

Print: Amazon | B&N | BAM | Indiebound | BookDepository
Ebooks: Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | ARe

Want to try a taste? Start reading now…

Mia will give away a print edition of Plaid Tidings to a lucky commenter. To enter, leave a comment or question for her. Or answer a question of your own: Famous or not, living or dead, who do you most want to see in a kilt?

ETA: Michelle Fidler wins the giveaway of Plaid Tidings! Please contact Mia with your mailing address, so she can get your prize off to you. And thanks for stopping by!

And catslady wins the giveaway of A Song at Twilight over on Mia’s blog. Please contact me with your mailing address, so I can send you the book. Thanks for participating!

End of October Thoughts: A Potpourri Post (+ Giveaway)

The last couple of weeks have been chock-full of stuff. So much stuff that I never got around to blogging last weekend. So, while I still have some “little grey cells” to devote to the task, here’s a five-point bulletin on what’s been happening lately.

P10-04-13_10.441. There is no book that’s so wonderful that someone out there won’t hate it. And there’s no book that’s so awful that someone out there won’t love it.  That being said, I have been surprised, pleased, and touched by the response A Song at Twilight has received so far. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who enjoyed the book and took the time to post reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and elsewhere. A new book by a comparatively new author needs all the support it can get!

One especially pleasant surprise was this starred review from Library Journal (I knew it was positive, but I didn’t know about the star until I received a tweet about it, and yes, I’m going to indulge myself a little by quoting it):

Library Journal

★ 10/15/2013
“Devastated when Robin Pendarvis’s past wrenches him from her life and crushes her romantic dreams, silver-voiced Sophie Tresilian gives up on love and immerses herself in her music. Now, four years later with her star on the rise, Sophie almost has it all—until Robin walks into one of her London performances and turns her world upside down. The past alternates with the present as tantalizing flashbacks bring fans up to speed in a compelling, deeply complex romance that becomes more tangled as it progresses. A self-possessed heroine and a hero determined to make things right prevail against formidable odds in this engaging story that is enhanced by an abundance of family and friends (some introduced in Waltz with a Stranger) and leaves room for the stories that are sure to come. VERDICT Moving, lyrically written, and superbly inventive, this late Victorian tale has a dash of mystery and more than one startling plot twist to put a refreshing spin on the typical tender reunion story. A delightful way to spend an afternoon.”

It’s always such a lift when a reviewer “gets” your work–and the fact that she avoided giving away major plot spoilers while reviewing is another bonus! 🙂

Of course, the funniest response I’ve received has come from the 10-year-old son of my Queen Beta Reader, who wanted to know “why Auntie Pam’s books all have a guy showing his chest on the cover?” Out of the mouths of babes . . .

2. Much to my surprise, an article I wrote almost a year ago–around the time Waltz with a Stranger came out–ended up being tweeted and re-tweeted all over the Twittersphere last week. I’m startled but flattered by this occurrence, and if the advice I offered helps other writers, then that’s surely all to the good. But I guess it goes to show that nothing posted on the internet ever really dies!

51hARr6AfCL._SY300_3. With Halloween fast approaching and Thanksgiving following close on its heels, I’m bracing myself for the onslaught of holiday music–good, bad, and indifferent. But I’ve found one palliative already in Connie Dover’s Christmas CD “The Holly and the Ivy.” I discovered Dover when I was in graduate school. She doesn’t tour much or have many recordings to her name, but her voice is exquisite: light, clear, and supple rather than ethereal. Not that I mind ethereal voices, but it’s refreshing to hear a non-breathy trad singer. Dover does a lovely job with most of the holiday standards on the CD, but I can already tell that “The Huron Carol” is going to be a favorite. It’s an unusual song written by a French Jesuit priest in Canada for the Huron Indians, retelling the Nativity story in their cultural terms. Dover sings in French and English here, flawlessly. So, if you’re looking for a Christmas album that’s traditional but also pushes the envelope a little, I recommend this one!

4. Various houses in my neighborhood have been going all out for Halloween. So I’ve been regularly taking pictures on my walks of what I see. Offerings range from the grisly (hanging skeletons, a front lawn strewn with fake body parts–which I’m not including here!). . .

P10-24-13_08.39. . . to the elaborate (an ever-expanding haunted mansion, a pirate-themed house) . . .P10-24-13_08.38[1]. . . to the let’s-not-scare-the-kiddies (Mickey & Minnie, sittin’ in a tree).

P10-20-13_09.53Most of the decorations are quite clever, although I personally think the graveyard motif is a bit overused this year, along with giant spiders in their cotton batting webs.

MiaMarloweAuthorHeadshot1201805. The Spotlight column returns on Monday, 10/28, with special guest Mia Marlowe, author of Scottish-themed historical romances. Mia and I will actually be doing a blog swap that day, guesting on each other’s sites to promote our new releases. And we’ll each be giving away a copy of Plaid Tidings and A Song at Twilight, respectively. So look for us on Monday. Mia will be here, at Blue Stockings & Crossed Genres, while I’ll be over at her place. Hope to see you there!

In addition to the blog swap giveaway with Mia, I’m holding my usual giveaway this weekend: a copy of A Song at Twilight to one commenter. Post about anything you like, whether book-, Halloween-,  or life-related, until midnight PST, 11/3!


ETA: Michelle Fidler wins this week’s giveaway of A Song at Twilight! Please contact me with your mailing address so I can send you your book!

Everything’s Coming Up Pumpkins! (and Giveaways)


Three signs for me that autumn is actually here!

The presence of Spiced Cider at Trader Joe’s …

CiderThe ubiquity of pumpkin as an ingredient in everything from soup to muffins to coffee…
PumpkinProductsAnd the appearance of Halloween decorations in the neighborhood! Front yards sprout tombstones and the occasional body part, jack-o’-lanterns and scarecrows leer from porches, and ghosts and witches dangle from trees.  Here is a typical example:

TombstonesOther houses–more ambitious–erect whole cemeteries, mad scientist’s labs, and  dungeons in honor of All Hallows’ Eve. This house seems to be setting up as a haunted mansion in the style of Disneyland’s, with gargoyles grinning from the gateposts and tiny skull garlands festooning the iron fence.

HauntedMansionBut my personal favorite is this lighthearted, whimsical display of classic Warner Brothers characters, all set to go trick-or-treating. But then I’d like my “scary” well-laced with humor. (The one genre you’ll never catch me reading voluntarily is horror!) See how many of them you can identify beneath their “clever” disguises!

WBHalloweenEven the local fauna seem to be getting in the spirit of things. Is it bad luck when a black cat–with witchy green eyes–crosses your path?

BlackCatWell, not when she only wants her stomach scratched!

CatRollingSo, dear readers, what signs mean autumn to you? I’ll be giving away a signed copy of A Song at Twilight to one commenter this week, until midnight PST, October 20.

ETA: Jean LeZotte wins this week’s giveaway of A Song at Twilight! Please email me with your address, and I’ll send the book off to you as quickly as possible.

Spotlight: Mary Jo Putney (Book Giveaway of Sometimes a Rogue )

Welcome to what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog–the Spotlight column, focusing on guest authors–whether longtime favorites or brand-new faces–and their works. This week, for the maiden voyage, I’m delighted to host an author whose books I’ve loved since I was a wet-behind-the-ears graduate student, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last summer’s RWA conference in Atlanta: Mary Jo Putney.

MJP-1579HR-Color--pic1Here, Mary Jo talks about her newest release, Sometimes A Rogue, which came out in late August, and her long career as a romance author.


 1. What was the inspiration for Lady Agnes Westerfield’s Academy and how did his experiences there shape your hero, Rob Carmichael?

MJP: I find the idea of deep male friendships sexy, at least partly because it demonstrates that they are loyal and capable of emotional connection.  In my Fallen Angels series, the core characters met at Eton, where they became family for each other, since each of them needed that.

When I was thinking about a premise for a new Regency series, I wanted to do something similar, but different.  The Westerfield Academy takes that male bonding idea and ups the stakes.  When I thought of the school’s tagline, “for boys of good birth and bad behavior,” I knew I had a winner. <G>

Boys end up with Lady Agnes, who is a generous and accepting foster mother to them all, not necessarily because they are delinquents, but because they aren’t fitting the molds their families or society want.  Rob Carmichael is the despised son of an earl’s young second wife.  His relationship with his father is bad and with his older brother, worse.  At the Westerfield Academy, he makes loyal friends, develops a solid sense of himself, and the ability to adapt to whatever life sends him—and it sends him a lot!

2. Several of your novels feature identical twins with complex relationships who end up changing places–Kit/Kira in Dancing on the Wind, and Dominic/Kyle in The Wild Child. How does Sarah and Mariah’s relationship compare to those of your other twin pairs and what do you find especially appealing about “trading places” trope?

MJP: Identical twins fascinate because they look alike and have many traits in common, yet they are distinct individuals.  Unlike Kit and Kira and Dominic and Kyle, Sarah and Mariah were raised apart, and Mariah didn’t even know she had a twin.  Since they meet as adults, in some ways they have a less complicated relationship: they can just be friends and enjoy the bond that immediately manifests.

As for the trading places, it’s always a fun plot device.  Again, Kit/Kira and Dominic/Kyle are different because they exchange places while they’re among people who know them.  When Sarah substitutes herself for her very pregnant sister, she is among people who don’t know her, but her situation is dangerous, unlike the other twin pairs.  Luckily, she’s a lady if not a duchess, so she can carry off the substitution fairly easily.  Other than being in desperate peril, of course!

 3. What would you say were your hero and heroine’s strongest/weakest traits, and what makes them the perfect match for each other?

MJP: Both Rob and Sarah are resilient and able to deal with life well, but they’ve become too good at “settling” for what they have.  Deep-seated emotional insecurities that make it difficult for them to give and receive love, so they think love is something they won’t have.  Because they have similar issues, they move rather slowly and warily into love.  But Rob is tough and smart and honorable, and Sarah is sunny-tempered and intrepid, so shared adversity sets them on the road to a deep and lasting love.

 4. Your Fallen Angels series–perhaps your best-known work–consists of seven books: the stories of the four “angels” themselves and three of their friends/relatives. Your Lost Lords series has the potential to be even longer. What do you do to keep a series fresh, for you and your readers?

MJP: I don’t focus on the beau monde social scene, so the stories and characters can be quite different.  Also, I don’t draw in earlier characters unless they serve a real story function, so in each new book, you won’t see everyone who has come before; that would boring.  As you say, the Lost Lords series could go on indefinitely, since schools keep getting new classes of students. <G>

 5. As this year’s recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, what is the most valuable piece of advice you would offer writers at the beginning of their career?

MJP: Go for quality over speed, and work both hard and smart.  I think that having a long term career writing fiction requires resilience and an ability to roll with the punches even more than it requires talent.  Talent is fairly common, but it’s tenacity that keeps an author standing for years.

Thank you for agreeing to participate in this new feature!

MJP: Thanks for having me, Pamela!

Comment before midnight PST, October 13,  for a chance to win a copy of Sometimes A Rogue. The winner will be notified by email.

81abjMpj4RL._SL1500_Even the most proper young lady yearns for adventure. But when the very well bred Miss Sarah Clarke-Townsend impulsively takes the place of her pregnant twin, it puts her own life at risk. If the kidnappers after her sister discover they’ve abducted Sarah instead, she will surely pay with her life…

Rob Carmichael survived his disastrous family by turning his back on his heritage and becoming a formidable Bow Street Runner with a talent for rescuing damsels in distress. But Sarah is one damsel who is equal to whatever comes. Whether racing across Ireland with her roguish rescuer or throwing herself into his arms, she challenges Rob at every turn.


Mary Jo Putney was born in Upstate New York with a reading addiction, a condition for which there is no known cure.  After earning degrees in English Literature and Industrial Design at Syracuse University, she did various forms of design work in California and England before inertia took over in Baltimore, Maryland, where she has lived very comfortably ever since.

While becoming a novelist was her ultimate fantasy, it never occurred to her that writing was an achievable goal until she acquired a computer for other purposes.  When the realization hit that a computer was the ultimate writing tool, she charged merrily into her first book with an ignorance that illustrates the adage that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Fortune sometimes favors the foolish and her first book sold quickly, thereby changing her life forever, in most ways for the better.  (“But why didn’t anyone tell me that writing would change the way one reads?”)  Like a lemming over a cliff, she gave up her freelance graphic design business to become a full-time writer as soon as possible.

Since 1987, Ms. Putney has published over forty books and counting.  Her stories are noted for psychological depth and unusual subject matter such as alcoholism, death and dying, and domestic abuse.  She has made all of the national bestseller lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USAToday, and Publishers Weekly.  Five of her books have been named among the year’s top five romances by The Library Journal, while three were listed in the Top Ten Romances of the year by Booklist, published by the American Library Association.

A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won RITAs for Dancing on the Wind and The Rake and the Reformer and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors.  She has also been awarded two Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards, four NJRW Golden Leaf awards, plus the NJRW career achievement award for historical romance.  In 2013 she was awarded the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.

Though most of her books have been historical romances, she has also published three contemporary romances, several paranormal historicals with strong fantasy elements, a young adult historical fantasy trilogy, and numerous novellas and short stories.  She is currently writing the New York Times list bestselling Lost Lords historical romance series for Kensington.

Ms. Putney lives near Baltimore, Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed.  She says that not least among the blessings of a full-time writing career is that one almost never has to wear pantyhose.

Visit her on the web at

ETA: Sandy wins the giveaway of Sometimes A Rogue! Please contact me with your mailing address so your prize can be sent to you as soon as possible.

Release Day for A Song at Twilight, plus Double Book Giveaway!

P09-30-13_11.39At long last, A Song at Twilight–the sequel to Waltz with a Stranger–is here! And just like I was ten months ago, I’m excited, apprehensive, thrilled, and eager to see the book officially out in the world.  Will there ever come a day when I greet a new release with a reaction bordering on the jaded and blasé? I sure hope not!

You learn something new with each book you write, I’ve found. With Waltz with a Stranger, I discovered it was possible to keep going, even when life hands you disappointments and distractions by the truckload. And that perseverance pays off,  because Waltz was the book that sold first.

With A Song at Twilight, I learned that I could write to a deadline, in spite of the prospect making me break out in a cold sweat. Not that I haven’t written to deadline before and successfully, but an article of some 10-20 pages doesn’t inspire the same degree of abject terror that a 400-page manuscript does!

On the creative front, A Song at Twilight taught me to take risks. Because when I first started to develop Robin and Sophie’s romance, I had only the sketchiest idea of where I was headed. I only knew that the book needed to be its own thing and that I didn’t want to write a story that was just like the one I’d finished telling. So I took a hard look at where I’d left these two characters–smiling tentatively at each other across the breakfast table, hoping that their budding romance might yet have a chance–and mapped out the next year during which they grew still closer . . . and then blew it all to kingdom come. The fallout from that sent them reeling in opposite directions, forcing them to rebuild their lives without the consolation of each other’s company, and making them stronger–and in my opinion, more interesting–characters. Characters with the will to fight for each other when fate unexpectedly hands them a second chance. Characters who understand how precious real love is, and that it’s worth the effort to hold on to it when you find it.

Other risks included taking a non-linear approach to the story, weaving back and forth in time during the first third of the book to present the most complete picture of Robin and Sophie’s relationship. And dealing with the necessity of overlap between A Song at Twilight and Waltz with a Stranger. Generally, I prefer sequels that are less intertwined with previous books in a series. But this time, whether I liked it or not, some key events from the first book required revisiting from a different perspective in the second book, and I could not ignore the repercussions of those events for Robin and Sophie. That also involved the reappearance of a character who’d caused considerable trouble for the “good guys” in Waltz with a Stranger. While his actions there were exposed and successfully thwarted, his ill-will towards Robin, in particular, persisted–to the point where I realized he was not going to go quietly and that he’d have to be dealt with more conclusively this time around. I can only hope that readers relish his eventual comeuppance!

Some of these risks may work for readers, some may not. But I hope that those who enjoyed my first book will be willing to give A Song at Twilight a chance as well. Because this book grew into my heart as I got to know it better, in spite of or perhaps even because of all the challenges it presented to me.

Anticipating the question “Is it necessary to read Waltz with a Stranger before reading A Song at Twilight?” Well, I don’t think you have to, necessarily (a reviewer from The Romance Reviews understood–mostly–and enjoyed Book #2 without having read Book #1), but you might get more out of it if you do.

Which is why I’m giving away not only a signed copy of A Song at Twilight this week on my blog, but one of Waltz with a Stranger as well. So you can comment below until midnight PST, October 8, for a chance to win both books in the series. (To whoever wins: if you already own Waltz with a Stranger and would prefer not to receive an extra copy, just let me know when the time comes.)

Meanwhile, I’ll be embarking on a virtual tour for much of October, promoting the book. The tour itinerary can be found here, and most of these stops will be offering giveaways of A Song at Twilight. I hope some of you will drop by and say hello!


ETA: Gina D. wins the Double Book Giveaway of A Song at Twilight and its prequel, Waltz with a Stranger! Please contact me with your mailing address, so I can send your books off to you as quickly as possible.

However, I will be giving away a copy of A Song at Twilight  to a commenter on a weekly basis for the remainder of the month. See my next blog post for details. Thank you to everyone who stopped by with their good wishes–readers help make the magic happen!