Duking It Out

So… drove to Oregon, surrendered the truck into the keeping of Beloved Offspring, and also took in a Free Expressions writing workshop. For a week, I soaked my head in the craft of fiction, and the book I focused on was my old pal, the Welsh Duke, aka No Other Duke Will Do. (There’s a sneak peek at the cover!)

Julian St. David, Duke of Haverford, rode shotgun all the way out to Oregon, and I still arrived to the conference feeling as if he just hadn’t quite come clean with me regarding his defining trauma.

After 455 miles of Nebraska, 403 miles of Wyoming, and about 2000 miles of Everywhere Else,  my hero was still holding out on me.

Dukes can be like this.

So every day, his ducal behonkis got the brunt of my workshop focus. All the exercises were about him, the homework was about him, the in-class prompts were about him. I was NOT going to let up on that guy until I’d figured out what, what, what had hurt his heart so badly that he was turning up a ducally magnificent nose at true love.

I got nowhere. If anything, His Grace climbed higher on his castle parapets, hid more deeply in his vast library. GRRRR.

Finally, I gave up. Told him to just be like that, because I’d brought along Loretta Chase’s Captives of the Night, and the Comte D’Esmond was a lot more fun to hang out with than some pouty old workaholic duke…. Guy has a library of 30,000 volumes, which treasure I bestowed on him in my capacity as author, but does he bother to thank me? Does he meet me in the library for a heart-to-heart? Nooooo.

I flounced off to bed with the Count, but as soon as I started reading, somebody or something tapped me on the shoulder: Pssst! The duke never reads. He owns all those books, and much interesting stuff happens in his various libraries, but why doesn’t he ever, not once, read? He’s nearly bankrupting himself to keep the family book collection together, but HE NEVER READS.

I shoved poor Esmond out of bed, and got back to my keyboard, because that was the loose thread that unraveled the mystery of what needed to happen with the duke.

But guess what? Somebody besides Haverford had stopped reading.

Sometime  since the new year began, I’ve grown too busy, too tired, too focused, too something to be sure I have good fiction with me at the end of every day. Reading has a zillion benefits–lower blood pressure, better heart and liver function, increased empathy, stronger vocabulary, better memory, less stress, less likelihood of Alzheimer’s–but I’d stopped reading.

And I hadn’t noticed that I’d stopped reading regularly. I’d instead felt a malaise of undetermined origin, which I blamed on that dratted duke. Once I got Haverford straightened out (or he got me straightened out), I climbed back in bed with Esmond, who made the return trip with me. Captain Gabriel Lacey is on deck, Alistair Carsington is in the bull pen.

Whew! So… What does reading do for you? To one commenter, I’ll send my Advanced Reader Copy of Mr. Rochester–A Novel. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre from Edward’s perspective, and it is TERRIFIC.











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25 comments on “Duking It Out

  1. The people in my life tell me it’s escapism… like alcohol, drugs, reckless, destructive behaviours of any and all sorts. Probably. I am absolutely hooked on fictitious people who overcome, find happy endings, are wise, witty and fabulous. And all in not too many pages…

    • I was once asked what the purpose of a romance novel is. My answer was along the lines of, “Quiet, heavy lifting. A romance novel can get you through the family reunion without decking Uncle Walter when he’s had too much to drink. A romance novel is something to send to your kid when she’s in rehab, because it’s a guaranteed happy. A romance novel is something you can read to your mom when she’s getting her palliative chemo treatments….” Escape? Or fortification between rounds with the dragon? Either way, my life has been positively affected.

  2. I have always enjoyed reading from my teenager year’s to my older year’s I am approaching my 70th year and still rely on books to relax me and sustain me.I do not think I could be happy and contented if I could not read. During my career in social care I did not have time to read or start a book I was often on call or dealing with front line situations.When I retired seven years ago and I picked up a book and read it without any interruption or breaks I was amazed and felt so happy.So began my journey back to reading I discovered an author called Mary Balogh her books are brilliant,I read all her available books and she introduced me to an author I had not heard of before,Grace Burrowes.I bought her first book and have become a constant reader awaiting every new book.So please Grace keep plugging away you do it so well but also remember you must enjoy it and want to do it.Let those stubborn Dukes rest on the side and move on to the barons viscounts and earls there are plenty about Balogh and Burrowes remain my best authors and long may you reign.Thanks

    • Brenda, thanks for those kind words (and Mary was raised in the UK, you know). I usually read before falling asleep each night, which tells my brain, “Time for nighty-night. Stop planning, worrying, problem-solving, anticipating, rehearsing, raging, regretting…. put it all aside, and enjoy a waltz.” Put it aside, as you say. Romance novels are my best Putter Asider-s.

  3. Reading has become my drug of choice, and I haven’t discovered a bad side effect yet. I’d always been a reader, but toward the end of my work life I had stopped reading completely. I was so tired at the end of the workday that I would fall asleep watching the 6 o’clock News. When I woke up, the news was still on, but it was the 10 o’clock News.

    So, when I retired I renewed my romance with the library, and haven’t looked back since. That’s where I discovered you Grace. I now own almost every book you have published.

    My reading is not as varied as it was in my younger days. I read now for pure enjoyment. I am an unapologetic romance junkie.

    • I have nowhere near the energy I used to, so it’s fortunate writing books doesn’t require a lot of get-up-and-go. It’s interesting that your tastes have narrowed, while mine have expanded. I’ll read biographies, historical reference, and I LOVE historical mysteries. I’d be surprised if you didn’t also enjoy Ashley’s Gardner’s Captain Lacey mystery series. He does choose a bride, but it takes about eight books.

  4. Reading tends to bring me out of my very own daily stress and worries. I can surround myself in times I’ve been curious about and learn so much from the research done by the Author. Reading to me is the most relaxing form of real life problems even if temporary.
    Carol L

    • Me too. Somebody pointed out that reading lets us emote within the limits of our own comfort, while movies tend to grab the emotional volume control and not let us take it back. I prefer the “safer” imaginative exercise of the book. I also just like the physicality of holding a book rather than watching or reading a screen.

      • IH yes, just holding the book in my hands feels like I just took hold of the reigns and promised an exciting journey. 🙂
        Carol L

  5. Reading is my *re-boot* at the end of the day. The only time I do not read at the end of the day is if I am too tired or ill. And even then, I make myself glance through a (shelter)magazine to slow my brain down so it can rest. I, like you, have found if I don’t read–and it’s fiction as well non-fiction for me–I am a slight mess the next day. It’s cumulative so it’s icky when I am not able to read several days in a row!

    Right now, I am reading about…..Lady Godiva! I’ve read two novels and a gathering of the *facts* by her 30+great-grandson. Very interesting and not what she has been portrayed for literally eons. I’ll tackle Lady Godiva, her husband Earl Leofic until your next book comes out…it’s soon, isn’t it? Medieval Mercia before the Duke of Normandy can wait until I read your latest.

    • I’ve heard she was a populist tax protester, and married to the tax man, as it were. Haven’t seen any romances based on her premise… yet.
      I actually had a book come out on Tuesday–Tartan Two Step, in a two-book bundle called “Big Sky Ever After,” and there’s a sequel to Tartan coming out in May, Elias in Love.

  6. Reading feeds my soul. When protesters are having knock down drag outs in front of the courthouse, then turning on the police for breaking it up, I sail away to lower blood pressure, secure in the knowledge that the dreamers, the builders, and the creators remain amongst us. When insanity drives vehicles into shoppers and murders babies in the name of our Creator, I am reminded that peace abides among those who welcome it. Reading brings the voice of sanity, a reminder that horrors existed through all the ages, yet life and joy and the bubbling well of creation seeps back to fountain unchecked in the lives of those who refuse to focus on the dark.

    The greatest works of art emerge triumphant from the darkest days. Yet even the humblest novella with its HEA is a flame against the darkness, a hobbit of a tale triumphant against the reign of terror. What are books but hope that lives triumphant in hearts wherever they go? Anne Frank’s schoolgirl scribblings outlived her generation. Tretien de Croyes had no clue his tales of chivalry would survive in every knight’s tale for the next 1300 years. How many of us are named after our parents’ favorite characters?

    I read to breathe. I read to sleep. I read to inspire and comfort and amuse and be human. I read to smile and renew my joy in simple things like new friends drinking tea in kitchens late at night. I read to remember that people on the other side of the world are just like me, wanting the same things I want. The tea might be spiced a little differently, the stove might be heated by different fuel, and there might not be a table at all. But the smiles are the same, even if the jokes are accented a little strangely to my ears.

    Here’s to the authors who keep us together in the face of screaming, shouting, nastiness! So long as we have stirring stories, nothing can touch us deep inside where humanity lives. And those quietly stirring words are what inspire hands to reach for brooms to sweep away the debris and tools to rebuild when all the tantrums and protesting and smashing is over. Because quiet stories of love and families and friendship show us who we really are.

    It’s my form of protest when I turn off the yammer of negativity and pick up paper or iPad and sink into beauty and a vision of better things. More subversive than any Mockingjay, reading brings me happiness I can share and cultivate. Dukes or cowboys, special ops or longhaul truckers, there are heroes out there and kindness. Reading feeds my soul.

  7. What does reading do for me?

    I read 2-3 books a week. I read at lunch to recharge for a busy afternoon. Reading at night is enjoyable and I am able to relax and get to bed on time– helps me unwind and less the stress of the day behind. I sit on my leather chair with corgis Celeste and Rose and relax.

    The cool thing about reading is that you can travel to Montana, back to Regency England or to a seaside village in Marryland. Love the HEA , figuring out the mystery, and the characters.

    Back to the ML Buchanon story set in Montana…Nathan is trying to reel in a fish while In a helicopter.

    BTW– love the name of Magnus’ ex…!

    Have a great week!

    • I was interested to learn that our brains to some extent don’t distinguish between what we imagine, and what we experience. The neurons just know that the fish is on the end of the line, and that chopper is LOUD. Movies don’t work the same way, because we don’t have to conjure the images for ourselves, they’re handed to us, along with lighting, sound, music…

      That’s part of the explanation for why books stick with us longer and more specifically. (Also because some books are just terrific.)

  8. Stated most simply: reading helps me relax and unwind. If I am unable to get some reading in before bedtime, I don’t sleep as well as when I do – my brain hasn’t had time to unwind and shut down from the work day so it won’t let me sleep.

    Of course, there are all sorts of other benefits to reading. I get to escape to other times and places, meet wonderful people, and have all sorts of adventures.

  9. It’s all about the stress relief. And if you are reading a good book, in my opinion it’s usually better than about 99.9 percent of anything on TV. Captives of the Night is one of my favorites, along with the Lion’s Daughter. Both such amazing, layered stories.

    • I was also reading Captives for the mystery element, because it’s a murder mystery. I wasn’t entirely happy with that aspect of the story, but ye gods, the voice, the prose, the world… At RT one year, I got to thank Loretta Chase in person for saving my sanity during the hardest of the single parenting years. THAT was a postcard moment for me. She’s the nicest most unpresuming person you’d ever want to meet, too.

  10. Over the weekend, I read I Dared a Duke by: Anna Bennett, My Fair Duchess by: Megan Frampton, I also recently read Legend by: Marie Lu. Reading helps me relax, look at the world differently, rest, relieves stress, expands my world.

  11. I rarely read your blog posts but I got sucked into this one….only to find that you enjoy the Captain Lacey series! It has to be one of my favorites but I couldn’t find anyone else who reads it. I also find escape in your novels but a break from romance is nice.

    • I love Lacey! I’m also a fan of Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox detective series (high Victorian). Deanna Raybourn writes a terrific historical mystery, and oh…. so many books, so little time!