Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laura's and Santa's Best CyberPals' Mini Book Club: "Ain't She Sweet" & "Taming Of The Duke"

CONTEST!!! One LCB - or you and a cyberpal who i.d. ea other in comments -- win your choice of one of the featured book club books!

From Michelle:
LauraT won today's GuestBlog by being high bidder for it in the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research! Below, she and her best cyberpal, Santa (folks I've been honored to call cyberfriend) share their story -- not unlike many of our cyberfriendships -- plus hostess a mini book club for their 2 fave books of all time! Look for visits from Eloisa James and perhaps SEP who says she's dying to visit, but is going to be away from a computer today because of a story wayyy too long to go into. She wants you to know that she's got a great fondness for Sugar Beth, too. Please offer Laura and Santa your warmest, "That's what (cyber) friends are for" Bella buongiorno...
From Santa: Laura and I have known each other for about six or seven years now. We ‘met’ on the Avon board and migrated over to Squawk Radio which included, in no particular order, Eloisa James, Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, Connie Brockway, Teresa Medeiros and Elizabeth Bevarly. I was going to say it was during their hay day but, truth be told, the whole experience and the friendships that were forged there was one big hay day. Laura and I quickly connected via our common interest in historical romances by some of our favorite authors Loretta Chase, Julia Quinn, Karen Hawkins - just to name a few. We migrated over to Eloisa James’ BB where we found even more friends, known as Bon Bons, who also shared a love for the romance genre. I have made so many friends via the internet community of romance readers and writers. I’ve met quite a number of them including my critique partner, J Perry Stone, and our reader friend extraordinaire, Manuelita.

The thing is Laura and I have never met. I’ve met just about everyone else from Squawk Radio and from the other blogs I frequent. We tried to get together when she came down to NYC to see Eloisa James, but it never came to be. Then she called me up out of the blue and asked if I would guest blog with her on Michelle Buonfiglio’s site and talk about the books we love.

Great, I thought. I love to talk about romance novels with people of like minds and where better to do that than Michelle’s site. We decided to chat about them in true cyberspace style while on Facebook’s Chat area. We ‘talked’ for about an hour that way sharing when we first began reading romances. Laura in 1995 while in high school and I in 2002 following the birth of my youngest. We won’t explore the whole age difference here or the fact that I was already married for nine years while Laura was in high school, lol. Choosing which books to blog about was easy for us.

Ain’t She Sweet,’ by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (SEP) is a story of redemption and reconciliation. Sugar Beth, former belle of the ball, returns to her hometown at the lowest point in her life. All she wants to do is reclaim what is rightfully hers in the form a painting. The money she would get from selling this painting would go a long way in helping someone very near and dear to her. The problem is that her high school teacher – the one she got fired -now owns her old house. Her nemesis in high school is now the center of attention of Sugar Beth’s former circle of friends. Things are not going to go easy for Sugar Beth but she’s used to that now; they haven’t gone well since she left.

However, as I said, this is a story of redemption and Sugar Beth finds that and so much more with the very people she maligned all those years ago. It’s not an easy road for her. Colin Byrne (gotta love the name) is the first one to crash through her defenses. And they forge a love that is fiery and passionate...

From Laura: It has been so great getting back in touch with Santa, and I am so excited to be here talking about romance novels with the readers who love them. I am so happy that I could pick right up with her, and jump in with a bang. Here we are all these years later blogging together on THE Michelle Bounfiglio’s site with THE Bellas! Talk about THE place for community and friendship forged from a love of reading romance novels!

"The Taming of the Duke," by Eloisa James holds a special place for Santa and I on our bookshelves. Mine even happens to have a "post it" on the title page from Eloisa that reads, “No telling the plot to the Squawkers online!!!:)” Here is what I think about her book:

By page 3 I was laughing. By page 384 I was crying. In the middle I was cheering for both Imogen and Rafe. They change and evolve so much in this book. They bring out the best in each other. What amazes me is Imogen's acceptance of who she is and what she's capable of. In Rafe I see a transformation from addict into someone who knows what he has to offer the world. When the two come together and realized what they can be together, it is perfect.

"The Taming of the Duke" has so many twists and turns, lies and loves. But the one thing that is clear from the beginning is the emphasis on relationships: friendships, siblings, lovers, haters. Every moment between the characters is spellbinding. Even the character Cristobel is worthy of having her own novel, albeit she's only in one scene—one amazing scene. That's why I love this book so much. The relationships form, matter, and make a difference. Imogen's and Rafe's friendship is so strong that the romance flows gently over them, making it unbreakable and beautiful.

This is what I can share with any reader who has ever read a romance novel that has made them drop the book and give an author a standing ovation, laughed out loud in the subway, sobbed out loud while their DH is trying to sleep, and bought a book four times because it was borrowed forever, read too much, dropped in the tub, or two copies are better than one.

***SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers Okey Dokey, just type ***SPOILERS*** at the top of your post, please!

What did you think of Sugar Beth’s and Imogen’s transformation? How important do you think the relationships made and broken are in making them into the best heroines they can be? How important are your relationships with your romance reading friends and your bulletin boards where groups like the Bellas, SEPPIES, and Bon Bons have a second and welcoming home?
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Check out more hot romance from Michelle at "Heart to Heart!"


Jessa Slade said...

friendship is so strong that the romance flows gently over them, making it unbreakable and beautiful.

Oh wow, you just captured what I love about romance in one easy sentence. If we make "gently" a fill in the blank for your favorite subgenre, it works perfectly.

As a recovering introvert, I really value my relationships since they don't come easily to me. My romance reading friends are in a class by themselves because we instantly have something wonderful in common. One question -- "What are you reading?" -- and we're off for hours. Ah, bliss.

Dianne Castell said...

Wow, two incredible books. Can't wait to read both. Books that bring you to tears and make you laugh too are the best. Thanks for sharing, Michelle.

Anonymous said...


You are so lucky that you get to read these 2 books for the first time. There is nothing like the magic of discovering new characters and how they grow.



The last 2-3 years I have been kind of an introvert, and because of romance novels, I have such a strong bond with so many friends online and offline. & I just love how Eloisa writes...

Another book that did that for me was Your Until Dawn by Teresa Medeiros. That one had me transported back in time, and I was standing looking out with the characters.. it was awesome!

Thanks Michelle for having us!

~Laura T

Laurie G said...

I've read other books by both of these authors but neither of these...strange.
I think it's important for people to grow as they get older, to accept their limitations and faults and try to improve themselves.
Sugar Beth will have to face her adversaries head on and deal with them respectfully. Imogen sounds like she's on top of her life and deals well with others. The Duke sounds like he needs to accept himself and let himself fall for Imogen.
I love going to blogs and reading about the books they like and why they like them. I then compare them to my own perceptions of the book. I check out their rationales for feeling the way they do. Then if I agree, I look for their recommendations of other books to read.

pjpuppymom said...

Welcome Santa and Laura T! I feel so blessed to have formed friendships with many strong, smart and caring women throughout the cyber-romance community. I've also been fortunate enough to have met many of them in person. Santa and I finally met in person a couple of weeks ago at RWA National and at the same venue I was delighted to meet Michelle and many other Bellas at the fab Bella breakfast.

"Ain't She Sweet" is one of my favorite SEP books. Only an incredibly talented author like SEP could take such an unlikeable character and turn her into someone I cried for, cheered for and would be proud to call "friend".

Colleen aka GeorgiaPeach said...

YAY! Two of my favorite books :) I discovered the wonderful world of message boards in 2003 when I joined SEP's board. It was a great source for support, love and those ladies are a wealth of knowledge. When I don't have an answer, I go to the Seppies!

There have been great friendships formed on that board and I remember the formation of the Bon Bons on EJ's board....to the books!

Ain't She Sweet was a great discussion book for use on the board b/cse of the subjects tackled in the book. I know all of us had opinions on pivotal scenes such as the party scene. The history behind the relationships and the damage done so long ago is a great foundation for this book of redemption and love.

For me, Imogen and Rafe in the TOTD were a wonderful study in what love can do for two people. EJ does a wonderful job of setting up these characters over time in other books, so by the time their book came around we were breathless with anticipation to see how these two could overcome their demons.

What a great subject ladies!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Hi Santa and Laura - great post! I love both these books, and Taming of the Duke is absolutely my fav EJ! Rafe and Imogen are both so wounded yet so strong, closed up tight yet so vulnerable - I cry everytime I read this book. Their relationship is fiery, sweet, funny, and incredibly sexy. It's just a romantic masterpiece, IMHO.

I don't know if "Ain't She Sweet" is my fav SEP, but I think Sugar Beth is my fav heroine. Yes, she's initially unlikeable, but she has such courage facing up to all the self-induced crap in her life. Through her relationships she develops into a heroine you totally love and cheer for.

My relationships with my romance reading/writing pals are a necessary requirment to keeping me sane. Without them, I'd probably be a totally looney writer glued to my keyboard - tapping away in crazy isolation!

Playground Monitor said...

I totally understand the cyberpal thing. I have cyberfriends I met at least ten years ago and have never met in person, but I consider the friendships as strong as those with friends I see several times a week. I think unless you've experienced this, you don't understand.

I've not read the Eloisa James book, but I devoured the SEP one. I'm born and raised in the south. I understand the mentality of that small town, and I've had a Sugar Beth or two in my life. She's one of my favorite book characters -- the woman you love to hate and then the woman you love to love.


LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Laura and Santa,
Congrats on "winning" this chance to blog--you've done a great job and I love the whole theme today. I am a huge SEP fan, or thought I was - LOL. I am not a great blog fan because I post on any and all so sporadically I'm kind of like the strange, odd woman who wanders through periodically and makes people go 'huh?' So, I haven't become a "Seppie" yet. I need to check that out!

And, "Ain't She Sweet" is one of the few SEP books I just haven't gotten to yet. But I love SEP's heroines in general and I love her complicated plots and her amazing ability to touch us with real-life characters and situations. My fave of hers at the moment is "Natural Born Charmer" - that book just touched on so many kinds of personalities I love. But, I'm running out to get "Ain't She Sweet" today!!

I do have wonderful cyber friends--mine primarily on several writing loops (not critique oriented). I think these can be some of our most important friendships as readers and writers. We can share things we often don't have time to deal with face-to-face, because we can focus directly on problems (and celebrations) until we've talked them out and find we aren't alone!

Thanks for a great post! Happy Wednesday Hump Day everyone!!

Santa said...

Ciao bellas! It is so wonderful toi be here!
Are,t these books amazing? I fell for Rafe the minute he bought those hobby horses for the Essex sisters. And Imogen, well, I just knew she'd come to her senses and how beautifully she did. Eloisa James is a master craftsman of the genre and yet she makes it feel so easy and natural. In a bit of six degrees of separation she told me to go read SEP's book so I could recognize how a writer's voice resonates on a page. Not only does it resonates, it sings an aria like a virtuoso.

Sigh. I could go on and on but I'll leaveit at that for now. Duty calls and so I must don my deli diva tiara. I'll be back in a spell.

Ohn but one more thing...Yours Until Dawn is one of Teresa Mederos' best EVAH.

Now, talk amongst yourselves and I'll buzz back at break.


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas and welcome, welcome, Laura and Santa!!! I've been so looking forward to your visit today! Your friendship is a vibrant example of the best part of what happens online because of romance: the intimate connection between human beings who love romance books and reading. You and others pretty much took my breath away when I first jumped into cyberspace w/both feet because I'd not expected such easy and important connections to be available online. Where else to go to find support and friends who love romance? It remains humbling to me, the enormity of the positive, healthy connections made, and the way they thrive.

I'm off to read comments and looking forward to the day. Thank you so much for doing this for us, for sharing your relationship and love of these books. And thanks, too, for giving me a final nudge to read Ain't She Sweet! And re-vistit Duke. :)

Kim said...

I've only read SEP's book and really enjoyed it. She does a wonderful job of writing about smart, funny heroines, let alone her great dialogue. Although I've read EJ's Desperate Duchess series, I haven't started on her backlist yet.

As for cyber friends, it's a terrific way to share a love of books and to discover new authors.

The Reading Frenzy said...

Well I loved Ain't She Sweet, as I said in the last column it's the only book I've ever re-read. I haven't read Eloisa's book, but never fear it's in that all elusive TBR pile of mine.
Now on to the question, my favorite of all novels always, always includes some missed opportunities, grossly debacled love affairs, and just plain meanness by one party or the other and then low and behold years down the road they re-meet, re-connect and re-kindle what they so stupidly threw away before. Those are the best romances.
Now my e-friends are very important to me, they keep me updated on things I've missed, they introduce me to new and exciting authors and they make me feel like a part of a huge community of the same minded people. In simple terms I treasure them.

amy kennedy said...

Welcome Santa and Laura -- what a great post!

I will never forget the day a friend from work handed me SEP's "This Heart of Mine" and said, "Read this. Now."

And so began my love affair with SEPs books -- now don't throw anything, but, I haven't read Ain't She Sweet -- I kept thinking, I must have read it, but no. So, just like Laura said to Dianne -- I am lucky to be able to read it for the first time!

Was it Heaven Texas, where the widow of the thieving minister comes back to town with her son?

Taming of the Duke...I've read that. Loved these characters, loved Imogen and Rafe, both their character arcs were so emotional and unforgettable.

Eloisa James said...

I'm so honored to have a book of mine in this blog -- thank you both! Like you, I have a special place in my heart for Imogen and Rafe. I see him as one of the biggest challenges of my career: exactly how do you take an alcoholic, bit pudgy duke and make him into a romantic hero? Like I said, a challenge! Mind you, it took more than one book, but i think he's pretty amazing by Taming-Duke.

hugs for everyone -- you make my head spin with pride!

Monica Burns said...

Welcome Bella Laura & Santa (Santa, you must share how you got your nickname!)

Ain't She Sweet was my FIRST SEP book. I didn't like SB in the beginning, but SEP did a terrific job tugging at me to root for SB. I LOVED the book. Made me a SEP fan forever

I love EJ too, just haven't had a lot of time to read. Potent Pleasures was my first EJ and I loved it.

As for friends, I've been on the Inet since B4 it was the Inet (and I have the father of the Inet-Vint Cerf's autograph *swoon*). In that time I've developed friendships here and there, but none ever so strong as those friends I have in the romance community. I have a friend I chat with occasionally in Australia. We've only met twice, but it's like old home week when we see each other. My blog mates are also great friends, and while we only meet once a year, it's like we've just seen each other the day before. That's the beauty of the Inet. You don't have to see someone to form a strong attachment. Just a good heart, a love for romance and an Inet connection. It's love all the way around!

Santa said...

Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for having us here today.

And,Eloisa darling, so great of you to pop by. Rafe's book was the first pre-published book I received. Naturally, I went out and bought a copy when it pubbed. I do what I can for my auto-buys to get their numbers.

Hi Monica, Santa is not a nickname - it's my real name, lol. What I like to call my moniker is smbslt which stands for so many books, so little time which we all know is sooo true.

Right now I'm reading Christina Dodd's ARC of Storm of Visions. She's turned me into a paranormal fan, damn her eyes which means more books to get my hands on.

I have to wave hello to PJ who, as she said, I first met only weeks ago. When she introduced herself I stared at her for a minute and said to myself - I know this woman but where have I met her before. Lol, it was her darling face that I recognized from the blogshere but it was her sheer joy of reading of the genre that made her as familiar to me as a life long friend.

Wow, I'm really loving this today. Off to sell the delectable portobello muffaletta sandwhich I created for the day. Deli diva is my creative outlet in the daytime, the nightime belongs to my beloved books and my writing.

See you again in a few,

Monica Burns said...

Hi Monica, Santa is not a nickname - it's my real name, lolaHi Monica, Santa is not a nickname - it's my real name, lol

GET OUT! LOL That is too cute!

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura and Santa. I also "met" both of these ladies when I was active on the Avon board. I also migrated to Eloisa James's board but confess I haven't visited either of these boards in a while. Lack of time is the ONLY reason.

I loved both of the books mentioned. I think I identified Sugar Beth more that Imogene. I was in "the group" in school. So much of what happened to Sugar Beth I could see happening. Southern women are different! :)

I have a number of "online" relationship. In fact, one of my online friends (Kait Nolan) recently visited me for a writers' weekend. I've a couple of more (Amie Stuart and Jennifer Baker) when I went to Dallas for Dreamin' in Dallas conference.

I was unable to go to Washington this year for RWA Nationals, but watch out Nashville! Find me there if you come and introduce yourself.

I'll probably be wearing my "pen name" Cynthia D'Alba

Janga said...

Hi, San and Karen. I love your book talk. Ain't She Sweet is not only a book I enjoyed reading; it's also one of my textbooks for studying characterization. SEP is a marvel.

I'm ambivalent about Taming of the Duke. Rafe is one of my all-time favorite heroes, but I'm never persuaded that Imogen quite deserves him. After a couple of rereadings, I decided I'd have to look at them the way I do a RL situation that is similar: if she makes him happy . . .

My online friendships within the romances community changed my life. They give me someone with whom to share the books I love, and they, especially the bon bons and Vanettes, are a constant source of inspiration and support.

Anonymous said...

Amy K..

I read through the posts really quick, and I will be back later.. But This Heart of Mine is the first SEP book I read, too, and I LOVE it. One of my favorites!

Waving to Eloisa! So glad you could stop in!

I also see others on here I know.. Hi Janga and Cynthia! (I haven't been online in awhile, either, so it is so nice to see you guys again:) that's what I love about reading friends online-- we always bump into eachother esp if we are talking about our fav books! .. I'll be back this afternoon.

ps Monica, I also read Potent Pleasures and loved it!

~Laura T

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Janga, you wrote something that pithily describes what reading romance and online relationships do for me: My online friendships within the romances community changed my life. And I think what's cool about your ambivalence toward Duke says a lot about how much you're maybe crushing on Rafe; we never really get overit when the men we adore hook up for good, can we? Even if the women have it all, we'd rather think they don't. Or maybe that's just me and the way I think... :)

jessa, I had no idea you were an introvert, although I am too, in some ways. Stop it! I am! But i so enjoyed meeting you at the Bella breakfast, and I really enjoy your sense of humor. I never can believe it when I get to meet someone I've been lucky enough to spend time w/online.

I'm happy to share these great women w/everyone, Dianne! I like to pat myself on the back for everything possible, and will take credit for their throwing this fun party. :)

Hi , Laura! Thanks for making this day for us. I'm glad you've felt good about coming here to 'hostess.' :) Sounds like you;re quite the historical fan, which psyches me, cause I am, too. I love what you've written about Rafe's and Imogen's friendship. Really lovely. And your final paragraph connecting us all. Thank you for those things.

Anonymous said...

PJ.. Hi to you! :) I love what you said about Sugar Beth someone you want to be a friend with... There are so many characters that I would love to hang out with in real life, and Sugar Beth is one of them.. I love it when authors write something so real and fantastic.

Laura T

Michelle Buonfiglio said...


Hi, Laurie! Welcome! I hadn't gotten to this SEP either, and used it as an excuse to read it! I'm halfway through and have some thoughts to share a little later. I think it's interesting to read the way you approach your time online; very cool.

you said it, pj, blessed. And re sugar beth, i was really curious when folks talked about how unlikable she is and was looking forward to the redemption, wondering how it's done w/a woman. I'm really enjoying the novel and finding even more curious the idea of forgiveness and what roles the 'victims' play in their continued victimization, as well as how they end up walking in sugar beth's shoes, perhaps?

Keri Stevens said...

Ain't She Sweet was my very first SEP book. Needless to say, it sealed the deal. Of the queens of romance, she gets the biggest tiara from me.

I haven't read Duke yet. What is wrong with me? Why am I hanging out, chatting on the blog with y'all when there's a James novel out there unread? I love my internet peeples, too, but . . . sorry! Gotta go!

(captcha is "bourone" as in, "Life was so much more "bourone" and dull before I discovered romance novels!)

Monica Burns said...

even more curious the idea of forgiveness and what roles the 'victims' play in their continued victimization, as well as how they end up walking in sugar beth's shoes, perhaps?

This is one of the themes that really resonated with me in the book. I was the outsider (actually in many ways I still am in my own mind)like Winnie and my Sugar Beth was in multiples. I went to one high school reunion, and I looked FABULOUS, slender, contacts, you name it. I was hot. But the thing was the old cliques immediately set up in the room, and it was like nothing had changed, no one had grown. I have no desire to go back. I think with ASheS made me think it WAS possible to go back, it just depended on the people in the group.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Laura and Santa, sorry I'm late to the party -- it's been one of those days.

I was looking forward to your visit because I heard you were blogging about two of my favorite authors. I was thrilled that you picked Ain't She Sweet, which may be my favorite of all SEP's books. I love Eloisa James, too, and I'm itching to get into Villiers' story!

J Perry Stone said...

After that glittering review, how can I not have read SEP??

I'm ashamed.

But at least I CAN say I've literally gobbled Eloisa James's books.

I'm eagerly awaiting her latest. Her dialogue and utter lack of anything inconsequential to the plot--not to mention her original skill--makes me rabid with jealousy.

J Perry Stone said...


Just thought I'd mention that.

Fabulous job, you two.

amy kennedy said...

Oh Laura, I will never ever ever forget that book...

Michelle, I can't wait to read the book, I'm so interrested in forgiveness and the role we play in our victimization...it's the main theme in the book I'm working on, well, that, and really hawt love scenes.

Sorry. Not really.
Keri, I'm still laughing from "bourone."

Eloisa, I was wondering the same thing when I started the book (although, I loved the character -- he was so witty) but you did it.

Monica, I hate it that that happened at your reunion -- but maybe the people in the other cliques didn't know how to be any other way in that situation.

Monica Burns said...

maybe the people in the other cliques didn't know how to be any other way in that situation.

Nah, a non-issue for me. I think people know better, but they've got comfort zones. just like in ASheS. It was about redemption, but about forgiveness and growth too. It truly was one of my all-time favorite romances. It's just stuck with me. I can say it's my all-time fav contemp. Hands down.

Vanessa Kelly said...

I think you're right, Monica. It's about comfort zones. I went to one reunion many, many years ago, and haven't gone back since. It wasn't horrible - just felt like people hadn't moved out of those zones.

Monica Burns said...

just felt like people hadn't moved out of those zones.

Or maybe like Sugar Beth and her friends we had moved out of the zone and moved on, Vanessa. At least, that's how I'm viewing it. I out grew needing to be one of them a LONG time ago. *grin*

Tessa Dare said...

What a great blog! I admit, I still haven't read AIN'T SHE SWEET (geez, what have I been doing with my life?) but TAMING OF THE DUKE is one my favorites. I loved watching Imogene's journey over the three books--through young, innocent infatuation, grief, bitterness--by TOTD, I really believed that she and Rafe had earned their HEA and then some. I love that they don't "fix" each other, but rather challenge and encourage each other to become their best selves. And their best selves are a perfect match.

Becke Davis said...

I love it that you've never actually met. I have so many online friends -- far more than I have in the real world. It was such fun at National to meet my Facebook friends as well as friends from blogs like this one. So you all have faces, not just cute (or funky) icons? Who knew?

I totally agree -- the romance community simply ROCKS. There is no better group of women, anywhere. Proud to count you all as friends.

One of my favorite, favorite things about National was knowing that all those thousands of women (and a few highly evolved men) all loved to read and, in many cases, to write books with romance as the main theme. I never felt anything like that, anywhere. LOVE it!

Anonymous said...


This is so much fun! Thank you for having Santa and I! I really do love historical romances, they are my favorite followed by ALL other romances.. I love paranormal and Sci Fi, too (and if you are looking for some great cyber buddies there is the amazing HQ LUNA board that I just love. Can’t make it over there much, but it’s awesome, and wonderful—there’s not a place like it.

Keri! I am so glad you stopped by! There is another place called Twitter ;) where Keri makes me laugh everyday even if I don’t reply I am there laughing.


I feel the same way.. there was just something special about these two books. SEP and EJ do such a great job! SEP is w/out the net today so she won’t have a chance to stop by, but anyone can hop on over to the SEP board, and excellent place to talk about all of her books. I really love it when authors have BB’s and are available. - -and when they make fabulous communities for us to learn more about eachother and their books..

Like Santa said there was something about SR that was just amazing!

JP I hope you love Ain’t She Sweet.. Santa couldn’t have said it any better. You’ll love it!

Monica and Vanessa.. you guys both figured it out for me talking about comfort zones. You’re both so right, and it’s nice to see you put it in perspective like that.. I won’t forget it lol.

Hi Tessa! I am still so excited about reading Goddess of the Hunt.. I’m glad you mentioned Imogen’s journey through all 3 books! It was made The Taming of the Duke even more of an awesome book for me.

& Becke I can’t wait til I get to go to a conference someday—even if it is a small one! I can’t imagine the feeling of meeting someone you have known for years, then finally seeing them in person!

~Laura T

Santa said...

Let's face it, ladies, we've all had Sugar Beths in our lives. They thought themselves so much better than anyone else around them. Snotty. Mean spirited. Elitist.

Or were they? Sometimes they are just trying to make up for what was lacking in their lives. I went to high school with someone like that but then we ended up in the same college. And, wouldn't you know it, she was a totally different person. We became friends and came to find out she was acting like she thought she was supposed to ask given the group of people she ended up hanging around with. Separated from that group, she was able to become her own person. Funny thing is - the same thing happened to me.

I think Sugar Beth lived most of her life on the defensive and when you're on the defensive you build walls - no matter how many friends you have and how popular you are.

And I'm going to go out on a limb with this but Imogen is one of my favorite heroines of all time. There I've said it and here's why I think she rocks. She may be self-centered. She may be obsessive. She may be blinded to faults. But..but...

She has a marvelous capacity for change and growth. I think Imogen was a very immature young lady when we first meet her in Much Ado About You. She put blinders on and was driven to distraction by a man as self-centered as she. However, life is unkind to Imogen and sometimes blinders can only withstand so much but what brilliance is let in once they fall. And she shines.

That's what I love about Imogen and why I think she is one of the best heroines out there.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips said...

I made it to a computer! Thanks so much to everyone for all your comments. Sugar Beth might have been the most challenging heroine I've ever met. A really, really hard book to write, but I just adored her guts, and, by the end, adored the book. (This after cursing my way through writing most of it!) My books are always about personal growth in one way or another, and I certainly had a big playground to work in with those characters. An interesting question I've enjoyed asking readers is about their own high school experience--were you a "Winnie" or a "Sugar Beth." The vast majority reply that they were a Winnie. (I sure was.) But the most interesting responses have come from those who've fessed up to being a Sugar Beth. I've gotten some flack from a few readers over the pearl necklace. No Spoiler-- Come on, now! I stand by my decision. LOL!

LauraT said...

OMG Santa!

You got it!! Hit it on the head for me.. I have been obsessed with her ever since I've read TTOTD.. and I am printing out your post. wow. thank you for going out on a limb.. it means so much to hear stuff like that especially when I couldn't see it like that before. I was really focused on Imogen and Rafe, and now looking @ just her, and what went on.. it really is perfect how you brought it all together.

I think, now, that even without Rafe.. she still would have become someone amazing. It would have been a seriously different novel, but I guess EJ is so good at creating people on paper, a good # of thing could happen to them, and I am so so glad Rafe happened to Imogen.

Really, thanks for that post!

~Laura T

Michelle Buonfiglio said...


Buona sera, Bellas, Laura and Santa! Capacity for change is key, whether we're the Sugar Beths or the Winnies. And given the opportunity to change, do we take it? or take it out on the Sugar Beths and kinda become them? Who's really got the power? I think it's only w/in us and not outside of ourselves.

The truth is in real life, and SEP showed this so well among all the characters and arcs, that folks lash out when they're hurting and for no other reason. As Santa says, sometimes when we meet them in a different sitch, they're different people or, more likely, their true selves. And sometimes, like maybe the party scene?, their true selves come out a little, too. I can't help but remember that the Seawillows were Sugar Beth's pals, and she wasn't twisting their arms for them to hang w/her. WEre they hanging w/her out of self preservation? Maybe. But they had choices, too, and were there when Sug Bth was tormenting Winnie. Sug Beth was acting out of deep pain and she was a kid. What were their excuses? Were they in deep pain, too? Were they just watching the trainwreck?

I'm only halfway through the book -- the day after the party (wink wink) --so I don't know. And it's KILLING ME that I've got work that's getting inthe way of my reading this! Laura, how dare you cause conflict for me like this! :)

LauraT said...


I am so glad you could make it! And, I am so glad you wrote Sugar Beth's story--. I think I am/was more of a Molly. LOL.

As someone else said on here, Sugar Beth is someone I would love to have as a friend. That book was awesome. I'm off to eat dinner, but will be back soon.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ack! Susan, I'm not finished with Ain't She Sweet yet,and now you're torturing like Laura! :) Thank you so much for taking time to visit today! Laura and Santa spread so much positive karma around the Internet and today is just off the charts with the way so many are sharing their love for connections they've made -- and their love of romance and today's special selections.

Thanks for adding to the good karma overload!

Playground Monitor said...

My 40th high school reunion (I know -- I graduated from high school when I was 8) is the same weekend as my RWA chapter fall retreat in the mountains. For me, it was a no-brainer. Romance-writing pals all the way.

Anyone read SEP's "Nobody's Baby But Mine?" I loved it too. It was a sort of Susan Boyle thing -- we often jump to conclusions about people based on certain things and then are very surprised when our conclusions are wrong.

I've only read one EJ book -- the one with Josie and the Earl of Mayne (sorry, can't remember the title). Once I got used to the language of the times, I couldn't put the book down and loved it. I have more of Eloisa's books but they're in that TBR pile we all seem to have. I loved her speech at the RWA conference too about pulling from our own lives and emotions for our characters.


Manda Collins said...

Hey Bellas! Hey Laura and Santa! Congrats on a great blog:) These are two of my favorite books from two of my favorite authors. I have to say I appreciate it so much when authors stretch themselves to create characters who aren't wholly likable.

Sugar Beth and Imogen are great because they are so realistic. Real people say mean things. Real people do mean things. Real people have flaws. And like Santa said, real people grow. And there is some serious growth going on in both of these stories.

And, oh yeah, both of these heroes are serious hotties;)

On the online friendship front I have been utterly blessed. And quite a few of those friends have commented here today:)

LauraT said...

Hi Marilyn,

I hope you have a great time at your retreat.. it sounds wonderful!

I read Nobody's Baby But Mine, too, and I had a friend borrow it and never got it back.. BC IT WAS SO GOOD :). I agree with you.. I think that it was a Susan Boyle type thing. Pheone was so fantastic in that book... another SEP heroine I would LOVE to hang with.

mmm and did you say Mayne? I Loved that book! You will love the rest if you have a chance to read them. You're so Lucky you got to hear EJ's speech. I keep hearing more amazing things about it. I love what she said about the characters.

Hi Manda! You are so right.. I love it when authors can create characters who aren't perfect. I end up loving them more.. esp when the journey is gradual.. spanned through a few books, and then we get a prize at the end with a character we can't help but love and want to see a HEA for.

It's great to "see" you :).

~Laura T

Kim Castillo said...

Hey San and Laura! I love you both! San is one of my dearest bffs and I can't imagine life without her.

Sugar Beth and Imogen are two heroines I didn't think I could ever like but SEP and EJ totally turned me around. I remember writing EJ all through the Essex series and saying "I really don't like Imogen!". She's say "just be patient.." LOL. She was so right.

Just wanted to stop by and shout out some love for my girls!

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura and Santa! Sorry I'm so late to the party. Gotta blame work and being on the west coast for that. You two did such a great job with the blog!

I "met" both Laura and Santa on the Avon message board years and years ago. (Perhaps 6 years now?!?) Although I've never met Laura in person, I've grown very fond of her through our contacts via message boards, email, and even through critiquing her writing.

I am proud to say that I did meet Santa in person last year at the RWA conference in San Francisco. I was so excited to finally see her and J Perry!

I have found that only my fellow romance reader friends understand my love for romance books. And the only friends of this type that I have been blessed with are my cyber buddies. Thanks for all the recommendations! =)


Santa said...

Ciao Susan! Thanks so mich for stopping by and thank you for sharing your gifts with the rest of us and I have to say that if you struggle with the work, then I know there's hope for me.

Manda, darling, you have put it beautifully.

Kimmie - you are such a doll.

Manuelita-Meeting you was great! You are one of the best ambassadors of the genre!

Michelle - thank you so much for having us. And Laura, I was so honored that you asked me to join you here. Love ya, darlin'.

And at the risk of sounding like a frat boy (a hot one, 'natch) -
I love you guys!

amy kennedy said...

I always end up loving the characters the most who have had to evolve the most. I love the reading (and believing) in their character arc.

Frankly, I'd like to hang out with any of SEP's heroines. No one likes perfection. Just like Manda (yay! Manda!) said, real people have flaws.

Susan, I can't even speak to the fact that you were here...well, there, I just did.

LauraT said...

Manuelita & Kim,

I am so so glad you got to stop by! & Amy, I really do like what Manda said, too.

And to respond to Santa: You're the woman! (a little frat-ish.. but hey somewhere along the line this turned into one big party with surprize guests, even :) :).. yay!)


Thanks for hosting such a great party! I can't wait to hang out with the Bellas from here on out. You guys know how to shake it up.

~Laura T

Monica Burns said...

My 40th high school reunion (I know -- I graduated from high school when I was 8)

ROFLMA - I almost spewed my water onto my keyboard. Marilyn you have a wicked way with words GF

Hugs & still laughing!!!

orannia said...

I'm sorry I'm so late :(

Ahhh, an SEP book I haven't gloomed! (I've been rationing them.) I'm still working my way through the comments, but Manda put it beautifully! Both Rafe and Imogen grew so much in Taming of the Duke...admitted their weaknesses and realised that they were stronger than they thought. Now I want to go and read it all over again :)

Thank you so much Laura and Santa! Fantastic post!

Becke Davis said...

Wow, this is really a star-studded comment board! I feel as if we're all walking down a virtual red carpet here!

I discovered Eloisa James' books through BN.com's Romantic Reads board, and that discovery led me to a WHOLE lot of other historicals. I'm officially hooked now.

I attended Jennifer Crusie's Cherry Con in 2007, and took a lot of notes, especially of authors people were recommending. So many people were talking about SEP's books, I went out in the middle of the conference and bought a couple. Since then I've read them all, some more than once. LOVE them!

And, Laura, I hope you make it to one of the 2010 conferences. We can hang out and goggle at the author-stars surrounding us!

The Reading Frenzy said...

Good morning all my friends
this is in response to SEP's post. I was definitely a Winnie, in fact High School was my nightmare time of life I felt so out of place not only in society at the time but in my own body as well.
In fact I've never been to one of my class reunions, I only participated in the musical aspect of school and have stayed in touch with some of the other Thespians but none of the general population. I figure it this way, they had 4 years to be nice to me in high school and they didn't so why spend good money to see people who didn't give me the time of day.