Tuesday, August 04, 2015

BOOK GUSH! A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn


Not only is she one of the best authors to follow on social media and blog, she is a prime example of how to connect and engage with one's readership.

Oh! And she writes the sexiest most intelligent books in the stratosphere.

( read my Q and A with Deanna here )

I fell head over heels over her Lady Julia books and then, most recently, with her triad of adorable adventure romances that recalled Out of Africa, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, well, everything good thing (my book gush of City of Jasmine is here )  And now we have a new series to tempt readers of Julia and Brisbane who want something that stretches over books and allows us to settle in to a flint and tinder romance. Beginning with A Curious Beginning (releasing September)

Raybourn writes with a knowing wink and a smile and, here, she is back in Victorian London featuring the darling and bright Veronica Speedwell, a Victorian lady reminiscent of Amelia Peabody who loves to chase butterfly specimens across the exotic corners of several continents and can stay off any untoward advances with her hat pin. She keeps a small mouse named Chester tucked tightly to her as a mascot and she is brave and wonderful with an athletic form, a manner too bold for a spinster, and a life stretched with possibility when her guardian "aunt" passes away.

But there is intrigue! Mystery! Murder! Stolen identities! and even a Royal tinge of excitement and Veronica, alongside the growly and perfect Emerson-like Stoker (there's a lot of Elizabeth Peters in this series) into a whirlwind of corruption, danger and near death.

No one writes quite  like Deanna Raybourn: pairing a whip-smart sense of humour, paragraphs and conversations replete with verisimilitude with sensuality and intelligence.    Obviously, the sparks between our unlikely pair: Stoker the taxidermist with a high falutin' past and Veronica with the unintentional web of intrigue entrapping her corsets, bloomers and fashionable clothes, is palpable.  But Raybourn leads them through several verbal waltzes,  heated breaths and close quarters, without ever quite throwing them in each other's arms.   This is what kept me reading at a harried pace through hilarious scenes with a travelling circus ( seems like Stoker is also an expert knife thrower, amongst other things) to the alleys of London and the docks and filmy murk of the Thames.

The connection between the two is something that will clutch at your heart and catch in your throat, but Raybourn knows how to play her cards and keep you wanting just a little more.  This is chemistry and sexual tension at its finest: a marriage of minds, joining equals who keep the banter flying.

Hilarious and romantic and breathtaking at the same time.

An unconventional symphony that twists and sizzles in flying colours.  I cannot WAIT for the next Veronica Speedwell.

My thanks to the publisher for an e-galley.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Am Writing: Everything about Benny Citrone

As a reader, I love learning about the behind the scenes stuff of novels I love.  Especially when it comes to characters. I want to know what is going on in the mind of an author when they create my latest fictional book obsession. I google a lot. Interviews. Pinterest boards.

I would love to pepper Martha Grimes about Melrose Plant and ask Patrick O’Brian what he was thinking with Maturin (and where Maturin came from ). I would love to ask LM Montgomery about Barney Snaith.

I am currently working on the second Herringford and Watts book A Lesson in Love and Murder wherein I introduce Benfield Citrone.

Benny came about when I was butting my head against the wall with Jasper Forth. Jasper is a long time friend of the girls and, in his mind, a prospective love interest for Merinda whom he just adores.  But he wasn’t adding the spark I needed to the story and he wasn’t bringing out a zesty and challenging side of Merinda I needed him to.  He’s still essential to the story and I won’t let you know how his path ends, but for the purpose of the middle book I needed something other than Jasper.

Benny also came about as a counterbalance to Ray.  My Ray DeLuca ( who is the leading guy in Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is extremely problematic in book II and doesn’t spend as much time on page as in the first, though he remains a pivotal character and plot point.   I know some readers would love Ray but some wouldn’t be attracted to him.  I wanted to give prospective readers options. I don’t always fall for the most obvious character in a novel and I wanted to provide different types that reflected the major differences in Jem and Merinda.  Though best friends, Jem and Merinda would not be attracted to the same kind of man.   I wanted to have some prospect of romance because I love writing it and it makes the mysteries more fun (and gives them an extra slant for investment) and Ray just wasn’t cutting it in this book ( he really doesn’t.  *shakes head* he’s kinda clueless and I keep asking him:  do you REALLY want to do that? And he’s like, “dude. You made me up. I cannot be held responsible for my poor albeit good intentioned life choices)

Benny showed up and he was a mountie.  My dad is an RCMP chaplain and a long time collector of mountie memorabilia and history. It is a major part of my upbringing.  Merinda calls him Benny but his full name is Benfield Citrone.  Benfield is the middle name of Samuel Benfield Steele,  an RCMP officer renowned for taming the Yukon without use of a firearm.  Citrone is ( get this ) the surname of a client I used to work with at my day job and the name just stuck.   

I liked the idea of having a man who possessed the same deductive skill as Merinda but in a slightly different way.  Merinda is schooled in Sherlock Holmes and the guidebook of former Pinkerton M.C. Wheaton.   Benny is a tracker. He is remarkably observant but his skills were honed in the Yukon.  He is vibrant and perceptive and aware and has immediate chemistry with Merinda.

I needed to give Merinda an equal:   I do some neat things with Jasper but at this point in the series she could stomp him into submission.  The second book in my series thematically deals with anarchy and submission and I couldn’t have Merinda sway someone so easily. She has equal footing with Benny and part of their mutual attraction is borne of their butting heads.

Benny is in Toronto infiltrating an anarchist group in hopes of learning more about his missing cousin, Jonathan.  Jonathan may well be dead but Benny won’t rest until he has tracked every last clue to his cousin’s whereabouts: dead or alive.

I am having a lot of fun with him, especially as he takes on his own characteristics.  As a writer, I find I have a beginning outline and vague form and idea of a character but soon enough I’ll be tapping away and they begin to think and talk for themselves.  I have had more time with Jasper, Ray, Merinda and Jem so they have been their independent fully-formed entities for a long creative while,  Benny is fun to get to know.

My sister in law has a question for me any time I go out on a date and that is: Who Would Play Him in a Movie?

Benny is conventionally handsome except that he has had his nose broken in two places by a hockey puck. 

I think of actor Sam Reid ( but with brown eyes instead of blue )

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Which I write Elsewhere

Hi Team!

irrelevant hedgehog

It's been awhile!

It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to review every single book I read ( what with working on my second novel and all ) but I try to do a good job of keeping my Goodreads up to date! Often with little comments or squeals of glee. I encourage you to check out my reading log there.

Rachel's Goodreads 

And while you are there, feel free to add my first Herringford and Watts novella "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" to your shelf.

AND! you can also add the second full-length H and W novel "A Lesson in Love and Murder" to your shelf because my publisher was nice enough to put this on there ( even though I haven't quite written it all yet ;) )

(and seriously: I am working on Lesson in Love and Murder right now and you will all love Benfield Citrone --- my MOUNTIE! yes, I have a mountie.Also, a cameo by Emma Goldman. Also, a cameo by Teddy Roosevelt. Part of it is set in Chicago where my trouser-wearing lady detectives pit against anarchists ---with explosives! La! )

In other places:

On Novel Crossing, I wrote about reporters in CBA fiction ( something dear to my heart as I have one in my own special Ray)

I also interviewed Kate Breslin whose Not By Sight was fantabulous

For Breakpoint, I was able to write about the fab new film Testament of Youth  as well as review Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Q and A: Natasha Pulley

Readers, I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to gulp down The Watchmaker of Filigree Street over the course of Saturday. That's right, I read all day.  This is a keeper book. It is funny and fresh and wonderful. I laughed aloud and often when I wasn't sinking into its gorgeous language.

I was thrilled, too, when Natasha Pulley agreed to do a Q and A here!  Her voice is so special and she is an author that came out of nowhere for me and one that I will follow forever.    I loved her characters immediately!

[[A few snippets of imagery made me trip over how gorgeous they were:

"....the dark corridor to a door the far end under which firelight bled."

"Under the gas lamps mist pawed at the windows of the closed shops"

"The gold caught the ember-light and shone the colour of a human voice."

"Today the silence had a silver hem."

"...water mumbled in the pipes and there were steps and sudden bright thumps..."

"A prickling terseness started about halfway down his spine as if somebody had rested their fingertips gunshaped between the vertebrae there."

"...still dense over the river where it made skeleton ghosts of ships' masts and trapped the stale smell of the water"

"your science can save a man's life, but imagination makes it worth living."

(I could go on forever!   But, I won't) ]]

R: I lost my taste for every other book after reading Watchmaker. Your voice was something I had never encountered before. Do you just sit and write? Or are you a plotter?

I just sit and write. The book didn’t really have a plot at first, but then my editor sort of nudged me and said it might be a good idea if something actually happened.

R:There’s a lot going on in the story---some of it quite dark--- what with nationalism, racism and even terrorism! At times, it seemed to parallel our own world—even though set well over a century ago. How do you think the Victorian age and the “Steampunk” genre best help us confront some of the limitations and darkness of our contemporary time?

Historical fiction is a lot like a telescope. We learn history as a series of facts, unemotionally, and so we tend to think of it in a fairly detached, distant way. Fiction brings everything near again. But if you turn it round the other way and look through it backward, you can make very near things look distant. Very few modern problems are new — they just look new, because they’re closer than we usually see things. Putting them into historical fiction, and making them distant, can sometimes make it clearer what they actually are.

R: My head hurt just thinking of how brilliantly mapped out the entire plot was…not to mention the research from botany to science to watchmaking! The different timelines, the dates, the happenstances, and the events perfectly constructed by Keita Mori. How did you keep track and juggle all of this?

I should probably have kept a big chart, but I’m not that efficient; when I wrote, I tended to have bullet points at the start of new sections to remind me what had to go in and what it had to match up to later, but that’s quite an easy thing to do. A book looks like a linear document when you read it, but writing one, you can skip about from chapter three to chapter twenty without all the intervening stuff to make you forget.

R:I must tell you—I cannot remember highlighting a book so enthusiastically as I did The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It was at times heartbreaking and tense, yes, but also extremely funny. Do you have a personal favourite moment?

Yes. The moment Thaniel forget the music from the Foreign Office Ball, and the moment Mori forgets how to play it, is probably one of the oldest and most redrafted in the whole thing. I think I spent more time trying to get that right than I did on all the parts set in Japan.

R: absolutely adored the relationships between your characters. Sure, the development of Grace and Matsumoto and Mori and Thaniel could set us in mind of Philip Pullman and Doyle ( as two examples). Yet, they were all so unique and so organic. Were there concrete inspirations for your characters? Or, did they just develop naturally on their own?

Definitely there were concrete foundations for everything, only some of which I can remember. I watched a Japanese sci fi movie called Moon Child (it’s about vampires) in which one of the actors looks very like Mori, so I started blurring the two in my mind after that. I was also reading lots of Sherlock Holmes when I started writing it, and it always struck me as strange that although Watson is yanked always between his wife and Holmes at any given time, nobody ever really seems to get properly upset by any of it. I also read everything by Robin Hobb, who has a marvellous character called the Fool who knows the future. He’s a prophet in a far grander sense than Mori is, and he’s much stranger, but a lot of her stories hinge on how what he can do affects his relationships. That said, concrete foundations only go so far and I think the point at which a story really becomes yours is when you start building your own structure rather than looking at other people’s architecture; after point, the characters did develop by themselves.

R:Another note on character: I loved how there was no distinct line between good and bad and each character had moments where the reader questioned or even misunderstood. Here, I think of Grace. While I found it difficult reading about her reactive response to Mori, I empathized with my belief that she was doing what she thought was right. How did you set to achieve this balance?

Nineteenth century novels are full of total candlewasters who wouldn’t react to a slap in the face; I hate The Portrait of a Lady, because the heroine of it goes back to an awful man at the end for a lifetime of rubbish rather than murder him like you want her to. It’s righteous but annoying. With Grace and Mori, I didn’t want either of them to be a coward, and I didn’t want either of them to be a saint. It felt much more human for them to be afraid of each other and to fight and to come away less than shiny.

R:Finally, what has been your favourite part of your journey to publication thus far?

The book cover, definitely the book cover. I owe the Bloomsbury design team a very big round of drinks.

Natasha Pulley studied English Literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Pulley lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. This is her first novel.

Find Natasha Pulley on the web

Follow her on Twitter

Add Watchmaker to Goodreads

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is around the web!

Hi Team!

Just letting you know that you can pre-order the first full-length Herringford and Watts adventure (a novella entitled A Singular and Whimsical Problem will introduce you to the characters in December!) is now available for pre-order

Go to Amazon!

Also, Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is on Goodreads --- so please feel free to go and add it to your TBR account because I think you will want to read it!

Also,  I have been working on the second novel in the series  A Lesson in Love and Murder and you can check out my pinterest page 

My reading world lately has been this:

Friday, July 03, 2015

Book Gush: Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

what I said on Goodreads: An unbelievably well-written and heart-wrenching exposition on the power of faith to see through treason and uncertainty. Ripe with deft metaphor, Breslin puts her skilled pen to the test weaving a tale with all the enigma and romance that reminds you why you LOVE reading. A throwback to the classics such as Phantom of the Opera, the Scarlet Pimpernel and others, Breslin's talent is optimized in her passion-meets-poetry take on the Great War and the British experience. Literary crossover fiction with perfect faith themes, expert characterization and a heart-wrenching climax. The perfect read

You guys I am gonna gush. So be ye warned. I am just letting you know that there will be all-out gushing. Because Kate Breslin is a genius and this book is a world.

I loved this book. I loved the experience of reading this book: the physical reaction that had my hands shaking and my palm over my heart to hear its thudding beat.

I loved this book. This book is smart. This book is brilliant. This book is poetry. This book is parable.

And, best of all, this book is a perfect literary read: a book lover’s dream---pulling on Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, with hints of Thornfield Hall, with a great, lovely nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel.  This book reminds us why we read.  

We read for love. We read to find ourselves in the pages and we are happily surprised when the characters speak for us--- regardless of time or travail or circumstance.

A well-flourished exposition on betrayal, trust and hope, Breslin thematically weaves faith tenets within the tenuous world of the Great War.  The prose that she so well honed in For Such a Time is expert poetry-in-motion in her sophomore novel.

And can I talk about the feminist suffragette slant? I have mentioned before that a favourite literary trope is exploring women who so want to take a stand but really have to stumble into it : realizing that their individual gifts might be as resonant in their quiet ways of changing the world than in grand gestures.  Here, the book opens with a ball throwing back to Lord Grenville’s ball: that pivotal moment in the Scarlet Pimpernel and as Percy falls immediately for the dashing French actress Marguerite, so Jack Benningham disguised as a playboy while working for the Admiralty is immediately smitten with Grace Mabry---to him a nameless goddess ensconced in tempting green, swathed as Pandora ….

The  metaphorical box she opens is enough to distract and lure him away from his mission at the event, culminating in her leaving him with a white feather, an insignia of the cowardice she feels at his being a playboy in London-town and away from the action of the European theatre.

They meet again, although now Jack ----safely ensconced  on a grand estate as Lord Roxwood---is blind and scarred, the result of an accident at sea immediately after the ball but, to Grace and others, just another story in the tabloid rags of a playboy drunk who set his townhouse on fire.

She becomes his driver, when she is not working  on his estate with the Woman's Forage Corps he becomes smitten with her via their preternatural kinship and a menagerie  of colourful personalities are bottled in a cozy countryside: the servants and friends of Lord Roxwell ( including Violet, Jack’s rich fiancĂ©e and Lord Marcus, a regular Andrew Ffoulkes for those who subscribe to all things Pimpernel)

I did find, at times, that Grace was almost too good – and too perfect a mouthpiece to express Breslin’s religious and moral intent.  But, I found myself not caring because I was so much in love with the story.

In love with the sexual tension that was an undercurrent of every zippy, nerve-tingling scene Grace and Jack shared together.  In love with the soft introduction of betrayal and helplessness, of hope and believably flawed characters. In love with the resplendent juxtaposition of conversation with pure descriptive poetry as Grace, like her creator, imbues the English landscape with a painting of words.  In love with my favourite romantic trope: a man scarred who looks to the promise of love for redemption. This is Rochester, this is Sir Percy, this is  Col Brandon --- this is the reason my literary heart beats so strongly.  In love with the tantalizing research eked out in every scene regarding the Woman’s Forage corps --- a precursor to the Women’s Land Army of WWII ( this has shades of Land Girls, for those BBC fans)

Espionage! Treason! And an e-galley that is pretty much entirely highlighted as I tripped carelessly in love with almost every.single.quote  A teacher once referred to poetry as the perfect words in the perfect order.  Not one of Breslin’s descriptors is out of place:

“Most women,” says Jack, “are by far more intelligent---which is probably why men don’t want them voting at the polls.’ His tone sobered as he added, ‘Fear tends to breed hatred and dissention, Miss Mabry.”

“Just like an artist captures an image on canvas, a good writer must paint a picture with words”

“Men don’t like suffragettes because they want to keep us under their thumbs”

“Those smiles of his were so rare, each one she received from him like a gift”

“His gentle voice caressed like the rustling grasses of the field. “

“Grace pressed close and touched her lips to his. Let this be their parting then, she thought, surrendering not to reason but to her heart”

“Passion unfurled between them like the petals of his most prized rose.”

“She sensed in him a longing, tasting the loneliness he would face in the days to come. Surrounded by him, she breathed in the spice of his Bay Rum cologne mingled with a touch of aged leather and the scent that was uniquely Jack Bennigham.”

“Her emerald eyes gleamed, and Jack drank in her presence –from the riot of red curls bound in green ribbon to the beautiful eyes, her perfect nose and her rosebud mouth that now quivered with mischief.”

I just want to talk about this book forever. And I will.  So I need you guys to promise me that you will go read it and then see if you can get through it without dying to throw in the Anthony Andrews version of the Pimpernel (but resist it and keep reading) and then come talk to me. FOREVER!

As for me, I have preordered three print copies: one for me, two spares – or to giveaway to friends who will fall as hard for this fictional world as I did.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015


For the second time in a year, I  was back satiating my passion for BOSTON!  My goodness, by far my favourite US city!

I spent six days wandering the city as well as taking advantage of the amazing and quick commuter rail to head out to Concord to visit Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott's often homebase and the inspiration for Little Women)  and to visit Walden Pond, Thoreau's homestead and Ralph Waldo Emerson's house.

I love Boston.

Some of the reasons I love it:

Boston proper is a relatively small city (especially compared to Toronto) so it is so easy to walk around in.

The Common: Reading in the Common with an iced coffee while watching those Swan boats?  Love

The cobblestoned Freedom Trail.

Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall

The accents! To Canadian Rachel, most Americans have accents: but the Boston dialect is so distinctive and regionally specific----

THE NORTH END! Oh my goodness, I love the North End: site of Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church but also Boston's Little Italy---home to amazon cannoli and all manner of delicious Italian food at restaurants people line up for hours to get in.

Back Bay and Beacon Hill: the rows of red-bricked ornate architecture, the public alleys and Boulevards

THE PEOPLE: the people in Boston are so friendly. When I was there last autumn, stepping out of the airport, a woman used her Charlie Card to get me on the subway and rode past her stop to make sure I found the Back Bay station

The Green Dragon Tavern: I love the ambience and the ghosts of the rebel Sons of Liberty plotting their revolution

The Harbour: gorgeous! I mean, one moment you are remembering a ton of darjeeling was tipped over the side, the next you are gazing over at New England lighthouses

The people ( I think I mentioned this )

The Old State House and the Old South Meeting House: just walking Boston gives you a sense that you have peeled back a few hundred years


pictures! ( ever so craftily stolen from instagram)

I read great books in Boston

Finally finished Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the 'It' Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu ( note: this non-fiction is UNPUTFRIGGINDOWNABLE )

Popular by Maya van Wagenen 

The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress which was adorable and snarky 

I was at opening night of Newsies on its Boston tour stop and it was my first time seeing the highly anticipated Broadway show ( I have been stoked about it ).  Ironically, I am seeing it opening night here in Toronto.  Lots of Newsies for me!

Friday, June 19, 2015

'Caroline in the City' is on youtube and I am very ranty about it......

I was amused to find all episodes of Caroline in the City on youtube. I wasn’t a diehard follower but I had seen several episodes esp of the first season in high school and I liked the sarcastic bite of the humour mostly between Caroline’s cartoonist Richard ( who, clad in black and obsessed with existential poetry was a complete anomaly in 90s heroic standards) and Annie (the best character on the show, Caroline’s best friend and a dancer in Cats).

So, when I discovered it ( probably after thinking about it while talking to Allison)  I watched a few eps here and there on youtube, recorded from syndication on some British station as evident through the v.o. on the credits and enjoyed revisiting the 90s clothes, the 90s hairstyles, Lea Thompson’s dimples and the broadway references.   Note: there is a fab epwith David Hyde Pierce playing an accountant who wants to be in Cats. You should find it.

But then, the show takes a nosedive.  A nosedive.   I don’t know (and I have a barely working knowledge of this ) if it was taking cues from relationship triangles and disasters in Friends but it goes so way off the deep end and I GOT VERBALLY ANGRY last night.

ANGRY at a sitcom.  Why? Because I am an adult and I can.

Let’s recap the relationships in Ye Olde C in the C.  You may need wine 

Richard ---- morose, bitter artist turned colourist who has a thing for sunny Caroline but doesn’t realize it til Caroline almost marries Del---her poofy haired greeting card mogul.  Caroline doesn’t recognize this.  (note: my teenage self never realized that Richard is basically gay.  Now, it is blatantly obvious.  Regardless, Richard shoulda ended up with Annie or with Del.  Whomever.).

 Caroline----perky Wisconsin native with dimples who has her own single girl in the city comic strip. In the second season ---after a few mixed paths and almost-happens realizes that she loves Richard.  This is not done well. This is not done subtly. Culminating in her leaving Richard a message on his 
( hello 90s!) answering machine which his returned-from-Italy old girlfriend Julia erases.
sometimes Richard dates Lorelai Gilmore

Then Richard marries Julia!!!  After pretending to be married to Caroline.  This isn’t even some charming screwball comedy move from the 30s….

Then we get season three which, I swear, I may  not actually make it through:
Julia---- I HATE IT WHEN writers resort to a Julia.  The Men love B**ches Trope. I HATE IT!   The same guy who would fall for Caroline would not end up marrying ( and yet he does) the woman who albeit gorgeous, he left in Italy with his memories of backpacking.  It is  awful.  The two have no onscreen chemistry and the love triangle is so very sickening.  Julia is a horrible woman and she does dastardly things and we’re supposed to hate her but root for good girl Caroline to win Richard. But, who WANTS Richard now that he has proven terrible decision making skills? Who wants Richard to be the hero when he knows that he is susceptible to a gorgeous but horrible woman with a trust fund?

Not me.  Anything that was endearing and black and artistic and nerdy about him before is now just annoying.  And Caroline is annoying because she gives into Julia and I want them all ( except for Annie ) to fall off a cliff.

But the  show decides (cue from Friends?) to finally get Richard and Caroline together.    In the stupidest way possible.  The absolute worst writing of any “love” story ever.   And they keep poking at it with episodes soapily linked to each other in To Be Continued. It is so genuinely awful.

First, they have the entire ensemble in an unrealistic flashback bottle episode where they are all tied up by a marriage counselor.

Then they release Julia’s trust fund so Richard is no longer a starving artist and can paint in a penthouse.  This is disingenuous to the character who has spent seasons ALMOST getting his big break (in a funny and clever way). They just cash in their bored chips and GIVE him money. All that clever writing work. UGH!

He also doesn’t have to work for Caroline anymore which means they can’t have their daily domestic spats; nor can Annie show up from across the hall and engage him in a battle of sardonic quips.

They paint themselves into the worst corner ever and do you know how they get out of it?  ( I am rolling my eyes here): by having Caroline and Annie think that Julia has cheated Richard prompting Richard to follow his wife to Spain to confront her. Thereafter, Annie and Caroline also go to Spain and Richard almost gets trampled BY A BULL RUN ( oh how I wish he had).

And this was the episode I watched last night after a few pints with a friend and I WAS SO LIVID that someone ( a many someones, to be exact) made actual real live money and lots of it for writing this awful nonsense.  Like give me the money and make Richard get trampled by the bulls….

And it gets even worse…

Caroline and Annie  have apologized for their mistake and gone back to New York.  Richard follows Caroline because on his deathbed from bull trample ( he’s not even scraped) he re-evaluated his life and wanted to be with Caroline.

You two shouldn't be together. The cat deserves more happiness
And I didn’t get past this moment so I cannot tell you what happens next because I was yelling at my computer and because I love my MacBook Air so much didn’t want to  be inspired to throw it across my room in frustration.

So what have we learned?  A.) people who write throaway bull running episodes owe me money B.) I hate it when writers create a “love triangle” by having their heroine or hero end up with a jerky mean and evil person. WHY WILL WE LIKE THEM IF THEY MAKE POOR LIFE CHOICES AND FALL FOR HORRIBLE people?  C.) the 90s. oh the 90s 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

book gush! Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

Rambly Rambly Book Gush

I am going to go straight out and say that Deeanne Gist hasn’t always been a favourite read of mine. Not her writing ability, so much as her heroines and the conventional wrap-up and message of her stories.  But,I read them all. I guess because I saw some spark I knew might be one day fully realized.

I followed her from her Bethany House days to Howard and found that I enjoyed the Fair books more than I had her previous books. We are, thought I, on the right track. Maybe because she had moved away from ( there's nothing wrong with this ) a more conservative inspirational publisher and had a little more wiggle room.

Then, Tiffany Girl came along.   And this is the book that, I think, Gist was meant to write and it makes the statements I wish she had made throughout her entire fictional career.  You see, Gist’s previous romances hedged on the happy ending.  As was part and parcel of the demographic she was writing for and the convention she was writing in ( again, nothing wrong with this) but both present an odd paradox for a romantically inclined feminist.  I often find myself at a bit of a complicated odds in my reading life: for while I love romance, I am a bit of a complex contradiction, sad often that the heroine’s life really STARTS when she weds and the independence and spirit that saw her to that eventuality sometimes gets tucked under a carpet of domesticity.  Of course---and slightly tangential here---we have series like Thoene’s Zion Covenant where Elisa and Murphy are just as exciting to watch after marriage as before. Raybourn's City of Jasmine is another example of this trope working well. The same with the Scarlet Pimpernel, where the marriage off-sets a romance more dazzling than before. 
But, for the most part, the happily ever after sealed the deal with Gist’s heroines and I found myself thinking a bit of them had died.  The prose and story waltzed around the eventuality of marriage. Rightly so, as this was the focal point of so many women’s stories in historical periods.  But, I digress....

Here, Gist decides to invert the trope that she so long fictionally subscribed to and, in what I find a brilliant tongue-in-cheek colouring outside the lines ( brilliantly paired, here, with the artistry motif) she writes a treatise on the very thing that made her career: the romance ending in marriage.

Flossie is not your ordinary girl. Instead, she is believably complex. Like so many women she is torn between her desire for her husband and children as well as her passion for her art.  When she is offered the chance to be a Tiffany Girl: to work the stained glass for the grand exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair, she grabs it at the reins.  (Note: this is brilliant because while so much fiction in the CBA market focuses on the actual fair, this is in the periphery ---art meant to be displayed there that gives us a bustling New York backdrop).    Despite the reservations of her parents, who have supported her interest in art and her artistic schooling to this point in hopes she would give it up for a husband and babies, she moves out to become a New Woman and takes up residence in a boarding house.

For the first half or so of the novel what we see realized is one of my favourite types of story:  an almost bildungsroman of a woman trying to fit into a mould that she is not meant for.  Flossie is certain that her intrinsic ideals are well-matched with the New Woman archetype and yet she is not a character who can be fit into a type. She immediately falls back on cordial hospitality: befriending the boarders and setting up little dinner parties and games.

Reeve Wilder ( note: by far Gist’s best hero and one of my favs of the year) is not under Flossie’s spell.  He thinks New Women are like to undermine and overhaul all that is sacred about motherhood, home life and family.  His dark and lonely past help realistically inform his distrust of this new model of women and he speaks out quite plainly against Flossie.  Yet, they are neighbours, and while he cannot advocate for her lifestyle, he is intrigued by the light that surrounds her, her artistic sensibility and the warmth that imbues every single person in the boarding house. 

There are charming scenes where Flossie pricks away at Reeve’s icy exterior just as there are scenes involving Reeve and an elderly widow --- where we get to see the true treasure behind the New Woman rant and spiels.

Both characters are --as I feel so often as a reader/ woman ---contradictions. Brilliant, befuddling contradictions as so many of us!  Real, fleshy human beings with hopes and flaws. Do they grow? Absolutely.
When Reeve begins writing a fictionalized serial about a New Woman, modeled on Flossie, of course, the book's ideologies slowly start to shift and its stern yet subtly woven statement begins to emerge.

Everyone wants a happy ending for the fictional heroine. And a happy ending for fictional serialized girl means giving up her photography business ( for what married woman can work!) and falling into marital bliss.  The editor basically tells Reeve he has set the story up for this moment. This trapping is the only seeming resolution for two characters of 1890s New York.    Of course, the readers expect the same.  But something has changed. Reeve has begun to understand why women want to make their own money, why women want to pursue their passions and leave their indelible marks outside of the expectations and industry of men.    Reeve has begun to see why Flossie wants what she wants.

The desire is not to overthrow him, the desire is for her to be herself—have her own passion and dreams.

In ingenious parallel, meta-fictional and fictional worlds collide and intertwine.

There is some confusion, some dancing, some spats, some cute moments and a few kisses ( much hotter, with innuendo-ed language that far outweighs any further descriptive) and the metaphor of doors being open and closed.

There are ups and downs as Flossie learns that her passion for her art and her natural skills are at odds with each other. She recognizes that she is average. Quite remarkable for a woman in a historical fiction novel, where we pride ourselves on women who break boundaries and excel. She does these things, yes, but on a small scale.

And Reeve....well Reeve.... learns what it is to let his guard down.  And he writes some more and she finds herself in his words – and not in words crafted around her caricature, where her flaws and contradictions are paraded, but in soft, dulcet tones.

And romance ensues.

Real, toe-tingly romance.

And we whirl and twirl and Blue Danube our way into a pattern that is so familiar and that is exhumed so expertly into marital and domestic certainty…..and yet….


This book may have lost me if it had not been able to maintain its equilibrium between the two characters.  This book is romantic feminism at its best when it works with the often explored theme of shared marital finances.

Reeve and Flossie are not of a time period where they can shake the world to such extent it turns on its ear.  Reeve and Flossie are not of a time where women can work and still be married.  But, Gist is brilliant enough to assuage convention by carefully threading what true independence and collaboration mean.  And, for her, and for her characters, this is deftly interwoven in terms of money, earnings and how married couples divide property.    There are limitations, but these are not the days of pin money and rescinded property.

So she makes her statement and it is better still because it is historically plausible.   We know that Reeve and Flossie are part of a chugging motion that will echo into the future and bring us to the point where we are at today: a point where women with independent passions and means outside of familial life are advocated for as much as those who choose marriage and families.

I suppose ( and I thought of this continually while writing) , part of the reason I always read Gist’s books is because the historical accuracy and research is resplendent. From basketball to trolley assaults, she outdoes herself here. 

I also want to make note of the inspirational content.  Gist was indeed an inspirational author.  This is very much a general market book. There is nothing christian about this story. Save in its subtle themes ( i.e., Reeve pays Flossie’s debt at one point, anonymously and without wanting payment).   However, she keeps all *ahem* action behind closed doors.  That doesn’t detract from the sexual tension, though. It is palpable.   (okay, so there’s this hot scene where Flossie arrives in the middle of the night chilled to the bone from wandering in a blizzard and boarding house mate Reeve has waited up for her and he rubs her feet so they don’t get frostbite. And this is, like, the sexiest thing since Willoughby helped Marianne Dashwood with a sprained ankle or since Dick Dewy and Fancy Day washed their hands together in Under the Greenwood Tree)


 "She did want that, there was no denying it. For years, all she'd ever dreamed of was growing up and becoming a wife and mother, but that was before women had any choices. Now they were earning degrees. They were asking for the vote. They were even securing jobs in professions never before accessible to them."

"Managing comes naturally to a woman. She has been managing homes since the beginning of time. But the quality we, of the stronger sex, assume she lacks is business ability. Yet this writer had an opportunity to sit with the head of the only shop of woman glasscutters in the world. She and the dozen young women who work under her direction made--without any assistance from men---the award-winning windows of the Tiffany's chapel.

"Their eggs are all in one basket, and when you've only one basket, it stands to reason that it had better be a good one."

"Instead, he found her mouth again and wrapped his arms clear around her. "Open your mouth, magpie."
He kissed her, really kissed her. She made mewling sounds. She raked her fingers through his hair. She twisted against him. Bracketing his ears, she pushed his mouth away.  "I thought I was going to die during the photos!" 

"That's the whole point of being a New Woman. They don't want to be reduced to housewifery. They feel it would take away everything that is special about them."

"Well, now she really was a New Woman and also in love. Neither looked even remotely like her fantasies."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Happy Book Birthday: The Sound of Diamonds

Full Disclosure: I haven't finished this book yet; but I wanted to make sure I was drawing your attention to it.

I love featuring debut novelists and Rachelle Rea's passion for excavating the Reformation period in a genre and market that often fails to delve into this part of history is very exciting indeed.

From the publisher: 

Her only chance of getting home is trusting the man she hates.
With the protestant Elizabeth on the throne of England and her family in shambles, Catholic maiden Gwyneth seeks refuge in the Low Countries of Holland, hoping to soothe her aching soul. But when the Iconoclastic Fury descends and bloodshed overtakes her haven, she has no choice but to trust the rogue who arrives, promising to see her safely home to her uncle's castle. She doesn't dare to trust him...and yet doesn't dare to refuse her one chance to preserve her own life and those of the nuns she rescues from the burning convent.
Dirk Godfrey is determined to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk knows he has only one chance at redemption, and it lies with the lovely Gwyneth, who hates him for the crimes she thinks he committed. He must see her to safety, prove to the world that he is innocent, prove that her poor eyesight is not the only thing that has blinded her but what is he to do when those goals clash?
The home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, the saint and the sinner must either dare to hold to hope...or be overcome.

(pick up a copy at Amazon) 

Rea captures the gritty depth and dark religious fervour shading the Reformation period.  She sprinkles her prose with an imaginative tint and ensures that she infuses her words with the right amount of romance and intrigue. 

Her spirit and passion for grammar and the written word are evident ten-fold in the parts of Sound of Diamonds I have had the privilege to read thus far.

 Rachelle wrote her first historical romance novel the summer after her sophomore year of college. Two years later, only a few short months after graduation, she signed a three-book deal to release that novel--and its sequels. Times gone by snatch Rachelle close. So she reads and writes about years long ago. 

Monday, June 08, 2015

Signed Sealed Delivered: from Paris with Love

Oh guys,  if you want the television equivalent of gooey mac and cheese then that is what SSD is for.

When you want to believe that the world is a lovely place full of lovely people with lots of integrity who wear their hearts on their sleeves---- then that is also what SSD is for.

It is full of the most delightful quirky characters: all relics of a time past who are trying to fit into a changing world.  They are endearing and loveable for their obvious eccentricities.

The POstables have returned.   Shane and Oliver ( he is, as you know, my ideal man ) and Rita and Norman.

This time their dead letter office mystery involves divorce papers that never arrived for a marriage on the brink of a terrible mistake.    As is the usual, the dead letter mystery parallels a major life event for one of the POstables: this time Oliver and is horribly annoying wife Holly who left him at the Post Museum ( how could she. I will never forgive her. You suck, Holly. DID YOU SEE WHAT AN AMAZING GUY YOU HAD!!! stupid Holly).

Anyways, Holly is back and Shane is pining.   Rita is swept away as Miss Special Delivery and Norman thinks he has competition to his owl-loving gal.

It's all so sweet I wanna wrap it up and put a bow on it.

SSD believes in love. And in marriage. And in tradition.
c/o Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
 It is a throw back ---as Oliver O'Toole is--- to a time of words and chivalry. To a time when society wasn't tripping over itself to move faster.

It is just delectable. A delectable ode to the written word.  Here, we have a new motif constructed in Holly's new penchant for poetry.  Her poems and Oliver's reaction to them are one of the highlights of a well-crafted hour and a half.

Previously, Signed, Sealed, Delivered was a series with hour-long episodes featuring a small post office mystery. Hallmark, since, has opted to explore a different format with several little self-contained films a year.

This works for me.  Anything works for me! ....As long as I get to hang out with my lovely POstables.

Marry me, Oliver. Marry me now!

For those of you who enjoy Shane and Oliver, you will get some darling moments. For those of you who also enjoy Rita and Norman, your heart will end up in your throat. OH MY GOODNESS!

With thanks to our friends at Grace Hill Media for allowing this Canadian to watch a media screener of the new film.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Theatre Review: 'Titanic'

Here’s the deal: if Kat likes something then you know it has something going for it.

Ever since I’ve known her, Kat has loved the musical Titanic.   So I knew when it came to Toronto that a.) we had to go that b.) it would have something amazing going for it.

Kat is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. So, she has no time for dumb stuff. 

Before I go further, let us make a few things clear a.) Titanic: the Musical is not as terrible as Titanic: the Musical sounds like it could be b.) it is a predecessor of the crappy James Cameron film. It has nothing to do with the film other than the fact that they are set on the same boat.

So I went in with the expectation that Kat likes it so it will have something going for it.

It had a ton going for it including one of the best Broadway scores I have heard in my lifetime.  Maury Yeston (Nine, Grand Hotel ) doesn’t just jukebox the heck outta some nonsense content. He goes deep, he goes big and there is not a note of anachronism in his rendering of whatever musical period he is invested in.

For Titanic, a welcome marriage of Celtic influence, Edwardian popular pomp (think Sousa) and mournful melody ( think Vaughan Williams) as well as a reverent hymn and ragtime and dance hall: music of the period is knit together in a smorgasbord of perfectly suited style.

It's going to hades, Mr. Andrews, but you get a darned good song outta it

The music is so clever (the lyrics, too, but more on that in a moment ) that even its “happiest” melodies have a portentous note.  It is rapturous to listen to how intelligent this all is.  And when you add the lyrics and the marvelous way he knits the quilt of the story (Stoker and Telegraph operator have a duet,  the classes are distinguished with a triad  of couples--a third class Irish lass and her fellow, a social climbing American wannabe, Isador Strauss of Macy’s fame and his wife), as well as the captain, the builder and the owner  create a sequence of musical vignettes.  All, of course, are tied together in the metaphor of a floating city or world. The metaphor of Titanic as a representation of civilization is a recurring motif and embroidered throughout with references not only to class structure but to men speeding ahead of its time. For one, it notes the pyramids( as an example of many).

To add, musical tropes made slightly minor recur. At one moment a theme promenades the grand and opulent  launch of a great ship, when the theme is revisited it evokes the frantic and harried frenzy of passengers spilling into the lifeboats. 

And it goes even deeper.  Every lyric preludes what will happen.  For me, the most surprising and interestingly innovative duet is between Barrett, the Stoker, and Bride, the telegraph operator.  While Bride plunks out a message to Barrett’s love behind he sings of the loneliness made moot by Marconi’s world-bridging apparatus. The self same apparatus that will at once isolate and colonize the entire ship with hope and despair.  A lifeline when the Californian is near, a death-knell as it pats out the last SOS signal.     And yet this isolation juxtaposed with Barrett’s singing the imagery of heaven’s blanket foreshadows a starless, still night and the prayers of thousands facing the glass- shattered pricks of their icy deaths.

Another astonishing musical decision of Yeston’s was to forego the music history informs us was played on the voyage with his own similar composition.  The meters of his own hymn certainly reflect the hymns that would have been sung aboard ship while his version of the Autumn waltz( largely believed to be the last tune the band played as the ship sank ) has the same interesting measure and sequence as the original.

The musical is the best version of historical fiction: it creates its own world, populates it with actual personages and makes them more representation than individual character.  The characters here represent themes. Yeston doesn’t try to develop them---nor should he. They are already set in stone. Moreover, he rotates the carousel of the world so that stage and song-time is distributed in so many directions, it would do a disservice to funnel on one “lead” character.

This is a chorus piece. This is an ensemble dream.

The musical certainly captures the essence of the period and the event ( as mentioned, most pronouncedly in its musical setting) but from a deftly altered way.

The staging of the tour (late of Britain and now over in North America to make its rounds) is sparse.  You will use your imagination but the story, song sequences and sound make you feel as if your modern era has been peeled away.

There is a cacophony of eerie sounds and joyful robust resolutions. There is a layer of hope and dismal despair at once. The score, here, is a veritable feast. I cannot remember the last time I was this impressed by a Broadway score and surprised it took near 20 years from its debut for me to get my teeth into it.

It’s clever storytelling surrounded by majestic and magnificent music and, as it has nothing to do with effing James Cameron’s stupid film, you can go in satisfied and leave, as I did, with expectations exceeded.

 Also, everyone, the first 16 minutes of the show is brilliant storytelling. THIS is how you introduce character, theme and circumstance. It is how you establish action. Luckily, for musical theatre lovers, it is done in a brilliant and scrumptious way.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

'Dearest Rogue' by Elizabeth Hoyt

note: this book be le steamy. if that is not your type of romance, then you have been duly warned

Snortle! What a whizbang of a fun read. Taut with excellent prose and a flourish of humour, Dearest Rogue features one of the most beguiling heroines I have encountered in an age.

Lady Phoebe is blind but her lack of sight doesn't diminish from her whip-smart manner or banter with her body guard, the tortured James Trevillion. With her in his charge, James is able to look beyond a past that has forced him moody and imagine a fresh bright future with a woman who is more than his match.

Quick witted, funny and oh-so-romantic, Hoyt has established a compelling literary world that takes us from London to Cornwall with two fragile,vulnerable and complicated people. While Trevillion still bears the scars and limps of a tragedy years earlier, Phoebe has just adjusted to the last shade of light having left her waning sight. Together, they become each other's safest companion, most doting sparring partner and, well, something else, too ( I tell you, there is more than snark in this novel and a careful, prudish reader might want to tread with care).

This was my first Hoyt novel, provided by Netgalley, and I gobbled it up in pretty much one sitting. I felt that it presented us with a fabulous look at the regency world through the outlook of two unique characters.

Phoebe's blindness is not a limitation rather a catalyst for her working senses and a lesser pen may not have allowed us to "see" through Phoebe's world in such a deft and expert way. Hoyt, however, is indubitably a master and I cannot wait to check out her backlist.

A few fun quotes:

"Blindness had neutered her in the eyes of the world."

"Being kidnapped, after the first few minutes of absolute terror, was really rather boring."

"Really, sometimes it would be much easier if one were allowed to simply hit gentlemen over the head."

Trevillion: "He smiles every time he sees you, "he murmured quietly. Was he jealous?
Phoebe: "I smile every time I smell cherry pie."

Oh and then there is Phoebe deciding on the regency equivalent of a last minute road trip that she wants to try ALL THE BEER:

"If, after several tastings, I find I cannot stomach the beer, then I shall give it up. Often something tasted for the first time seems foreign to us--strange and off-putting. It's only after repeated tries that one realizes that this new thing, this once-strange thing, is quite familiar now. Familiar and beloved." 

"His heart had performed a coup d'etat over his mind and there was nothing more to be done about it"

La! the best! Go forth and read! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Special Guest: Leah! on the Emirates Airline Festival Of Literature

L Polonenko

Rachel here: I am excited to feature my sister Leah on the blog today.  Leah made a guest appearance a few years ago when I featured her for International Women's Day .  Leah has a PhD in Global Governance, is a season
ed world traveler, has worked in the field of development for over 10 years and has a passion for promoting cultural consciousness but also providing tips for experiential travel with an ethical slant.

When Leah volunteered at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, I asked if she would tell us a little bit about it.  You can find Leah's blog here.  Visit Leah on instagram. Follow Leah on Twitter 



Somewhere between the 45 degrees of mind-blowing heat of summer and the cold desert nights of December, the UAE has a perfect month called ‘March’.
In March, not only is the weather perfection, but it is guaranteed that the month will always ‘come in like a lamb’, as the saying goes because of this one uniquely brilliant week-long event:


I know, I know.  If you follow Rachel’s fabulous blog, you already love books and have probably been to festivals yourself.  But there was something uniquely brilliant about this Dubai festival that should inspire all of us, even if we’ve been to a million and one book events.

At the festival, I was brought back to my 5 year-old days when I sat on my mom’s lap, proudly reading lines from a Little Miss book.  The festival brought me back to the greatest joy and power of the written word: its ability to connect and empower.

L Polonenko


The UAE is unique in that 19% of the population is Emirati, whereas 81% of the population is expats (thank you www.cia.gov - CIA World Factbook for this factoid).  The literature festival recognizes this unique opportunity:  both Arabic and English authors are widely represented, the majority of presentations/discussions offer translation, and there are authors from every corner of the globe to appease expats, but also to reflect the true multiculturalism that is the UAE.

What this meant is that I learned about the power of folktales to contribute to national identity by Qatari female author Dr. Kaltham Ali G Al-Ghanim, about the Icelandic culture of words from one of the country’s most popular authors Yrsa Sigurdardottir, about the resilience of Afghan women from Deborah Rodriguez, about the power of women in leadership by Emirati Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, and about how Botswanan adventures are shaped through prose by Alexander McCall Smith.

Literature connects us.  It transports us to new lands we wouldn’t otherwise see, cultures we might not otherwise understand, and into the mind of an individual that represents a religion, culture, and experience that might not belong to us.  Literature connects us all.


Words bring power.  The ability to write down your inner-most thoughts, to work through a particular topic, to give a voice to the otherwise voiceless…words are very powerful. 
Authors are sharing a piece of their soul, and putting onto paper how they see themselves and the world around them..

And what’s so intriguing about hearing from so many authors from so many walks of life is you realize that, in the end, writing holds onto that one amazing virtue - it gives people a sliver of our mind.  So the American turned UK dweller turned Emirates resident Liz Fenwick can introduce us to her love for Cornwall, so David Nicholls can share with us the interesting notions of a man writing about relationships and love, so that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can share her thoughts on modern feminism…

And we grow.  And we perceive.  And we learn through stories and struggles, fables and non-fiction, prose and poetry about worlds and cultures and people that we might otherwise not quite understand.  Or might not even know exist.  Or think about ever.

And we can learn that Afghan women really are ordinary women living in an unfortunate situation. (Deborah Rodriguez)

And we can understand the need for all of us to resurrect our inner creative self. (Kathy Shalhoub)

And we can question our body image perceptions by understanding ‘beauty’ as defined in Botswana. (Alexander McCall Hill)

photo: L Polonenko

And we can wonder why we so quickly see differences between ourselves and others in reality, whereas in novels we seldom see divisions, but understand characters as if they are our friends or closest neighbours.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature was a wonderful event, but these take-home lessons were the most impactful.  To go back to your 5 year old self and remember how powerful it did seem when finally…after days of sounding out letters and making sense of funny symbols…you could…at last…read the thoughts of a stranger.

Interested?  Come next year, March 8 - 16.
Visit www.emirateslitfest.com for more details or follow @EmiratesLitFest

Organized by the Dubai International Writers Centre: diwc.ae or follow @diwc

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

What Late Night Episodes of 'The Flash' taught me about Perambulatory Writing

I am currently finishing the 6th ( and maybe kinda final) draft of A Singularly Whimsical Problem.   This is the first novella preceding The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder  and will introduce all of you to Jem and Merinda.  Hopefully you will like them.

While this book is released before my first full-length novel, its action is set in a logical space during the course of the novel’s timeline.     As such, I don’t give you a lot of background information.

I don’t preamble. I just drop you into the world.

Hopefully, from the action and dialogue you will be able to establish

  • -        Character dynamics
  • -        Toronto’s social and cultural world
  • -        The tone of the books
  • -         Its personality

If I was the Flash I woulda finished this novella already

The end stretch of this novella has been very difficult for me and I have been over-caffeinated, underslept and manically trying to balance its writing with my daytime career ( which is, ironically, also busy).

Late at night if I wake up buzzing ( a common side effect of creative anxiety), I have been watching episodes of The Flash out of chronological order.

My first episode of The Flash was a very recent one and I could tell that a lot of plot functions had taken place and a few major twists about the big baddy had recently been revealed.  But, as in any good writing,  I was immediately sucked into the story without the backdrop or preamble because:
  •   I had an immediate affinity with the hero (he's the sweetest thing since Merlin)

  •  With minimal dialogue I was able to establish what the character dynamic was, who had rapport and who didn’t
  •       I was given a 360 degree view of the world of the fictional Central City it was set in
  •     I was given an immediate introduction to the tone of the show and its fun, zanily manic atmosphere 

I didn’t need to watch The Flash from the pilot to learn the origin story, how these people met and how Barry got his powers.  I didn’t need the preamble.  It was enough that I got the logistics of it, got the feel for it and, eventally, decided that this would make a repeat appearance in my crazy, anxiety-ridden 3 am wake-ups.

You’re not meeting Jem and Merinda from the time they meet.  This is not a Study in Scarlet.  But that’s okay. Many Sherlockians begin with Silver Blaze or, most famously, the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Watson gives you a bit of a line “It was the Fall of 1895 and I had just happened to stop in on my old friend Sherlock having missed the cheery Baker Street fires and…” yada yada yada.

Authors sometimes drop you into the cocoon of a world and if the writing is up to snuff you will catch on, latch on and fall in love anyways.