Casino Royale

I haven’t got time for a ball tonight.

You see, they require a lot of work. Hairstyles and makeup and dresses that tend to be a magnet for food, red wine, and Albert droppings. I’ve got Christmas decorations to take down at home, thank you notes to write, and a book due in February. Honestly…I’m not sure how the haute ton made time for balls and Parliament during the Season. Though, I assume the combination has something to do with the fact that men can pretty much wear the same outfit to every major black-tie event of their lives, and women have to spend a fortune of time and money on new dresses for the same.

A-hem. But I digress.

Tonight, I’m headed for the card room. There’s one at every proper ball, and if the rumors are correct, while Lady B is playing her part as one of the doyennest of doyennes of the Beau Monde, Lord B is a man who not only enjoys a good round of ecarte, but also enjoys winning a good round of ecarte. Interestingly, we’ve never met the Lord in question…which leads me to believe that he likes his cards rather more than most.

I’ve made it through the ballroom, thanks to the excellent distraction capabilities of my fellow authoresses (Gaelen brought a legion of heroes with her, thankfully), and I’m just through the door on the far side where I’ve seen any number of aristocrats head once they’ve deposited their wives or sisters or wards or whomever in the ballroom and danced their required quadrilles, and I can smell cheroot smoke and scotch — a guaranteed sign that I’m in the right place for action.

“Beaufetheringstone,” one loud voice booms from beyond an open door. “Damned if I don’t love your lady’s fetes. You’ve the hottest tables in London.”

“You could give those bastards at The Angel a run for their money,” a second voice chimes in and I freeze, pressing myself against the wall. They’re talking about my Angel. My bastards.

A heavy chuckle sounds from inside. “You only like my home because because you have a chance of winning here, Densmore.” Lord B! He speaks! I resist the urge to poke my head around the door jamb and have a look at the elusive master of the house. ”Everyone knows that you haven’t an ounce of luck inside The Angel.”

“That’s because the tables are fixed there,” Densmore pouts.

“Watch it. If Bourne hears you suggested such a thing, he’ll toss you and your membership out on your arse.”

“I don’t care.”

“Of course you do. The place is run by the coldest, hardest bastards in England…but every one of us wants in.” There is a general murmur of agreement from the gentlemen in the room.

“Speaking of Bourne,” A new voice pipes in and I’m eager to hear what he has to say about my new, elusive hero who is every bit as cold, hard, and dastardly as these men think. “Did you hear what’s happened with Needham? Turns out he’s attached Falconwell to Penelope Marbury’s dowry.”

“The girl tossed over by Leighton?”

“That’s the one.”

“Bourne won’t like that.”

Ha. That’s the understatement of 1831.

“Miss MacLean!” Lady B’s words are sharp and high pitched and very close. They surprise the heck out of me. “Have you lost your way?”

I turn to her, head shaking. “No, my lady, I was simply…” I trail off. There’s really no decent explanation for why I am here.

“Have you lost your way?” She repeats firmly. “I can only imagine you have, as there is no reason whatsoever for a young woman of good breeding to be here…so close to a gentlemen’s card room. And you are a young woman of good breeding, are you not?”

I hesitate, briefly wondering if she’ll leave me alone if I deny the accusation.

“Are you not?”

Damn. “Yes, my lady.”

“Then you have, indeed, lost your way.”

“I was curious about Lord B,” I defend myself. “We haven’t met him and…”

She sniffs and–if possible–straightens further. “You shan’t tonight, either.” She points down the hallway, to the glittering ballroom beyond, where I see Katharine chatting up a tall Scotsman. “There is a quadrille beginning. And I have just the partner for you.”


I let her push me down the hall, away from the most interesting room in the house.

Why do you think Lady B is keeping Lord B such a secret? We know he loves her desperately, and that he’s got great legs…what’s the deal?

At Home Week: Anna Randol Takes A Turn about the Ballroom

I began desperately asking to read Anna Randol’s debut in the summer of 2010, when her editor told me that she’d recently acquired a fabulous book set in Regency-era Constantinople. “What?!” said I, “I want to read that! Now!”

Sadly, I don’t get everything I want, when I want it (much to my constant disbelief and dismay), and so I had to wait an AGE. Through the COLD WINTER of 2010 and DISMAL SPRING of 2011, and even through the summer of 2011, when the wait became much worse because I was TAUNTED with the AMAZING cover of this book. I mean, are you kidding me with that cover? It’s stunning!

But finally, in the autumn, I had the very great pleasure of reading A Secret in Her Kiss. Which was everything I had hoped it would be. Clever and unique and so perfectly Regency even as it was exotic and different and terrific. And, of course, I invited Anna to visit the Ballroom. And meet Lady B.

Lady B: “Miss MacLean? I thought you said you were bringing someone new this evening?”

Sarah, looking about: I did, Lady B. She’s here somewhere.

Lady B, sharply: “Well, shouldn’t she be here–here? After all, she has not been introduced.”

Sarah: I think she might be nervous.

Lady B, barking: “Whatever for?”

Sarah, dryly: I can’t imagine.

Lady B: “I don’t know what you’re implying.”

Sarah: She has to be close by. She wouldn’t disapp–

Anna peers out from behind a potted plant.

Sarah: Ah! Here she is! Lady B, may I–

Lady B: “You there, girl. We have not been introduced. Moreover, since it is my ball, I find such a situation rather havey-cavey. You aren’t Lady Plimpinton’s niece, are you? There are rather a lot of young ones in that family.”

Albert flutters over to perch on a branch. <squawk>Breeding rabbits!<squawk>

Sarah waves Anna out from her hiding place, whispering: “She can sense fear. Stay firm.”

Anna, quietly: Um…no. I am an authoress.

Lady B, loudly: “Another one? Dear me. And why are you whispering? I cannot hear you over the creaking in Lord Solten’s corsets.”

Anna, peering over to the other side of the room: I am avoiding someone.

Lady B: “I make it a point never to avoid anyone unless it is my third cousin Reginald, never could tolerate him. Straighten your spine. Stiffen your lip and stop hiding like a ninny.” (Gives Anna a good long look through her lorgnettes) “Now. Who exactly are you?”

Anna: (remembers her manners and bobs a quick, awkward curtsey) Miss Anna Randol, my lady. I am the author of A Secret in Her Kiss. It’s my debut.

Lady B: “And from whom are you hiding?”

Anna: My heroine, Miss Mari Sinclair.

Lady B: (follows her gaze) “Why would an authoress hide from her own—Good gracious. What is that woman wearing?”

Anna: She’s wearing a traditional Turkish caftan. She prefers it to English gowns. I think it’s the trousers underneath.

Lady B: “Indeed. She does not appear at all comfortable. Indeed, she appears irate?” She turns to Sarah: “Miss MacLean, why is it that you are always bringing strange creatures to my balls?”

Sarah: “I find it rather difficult to control myself.”

Lady B: “I think it’s time you try.” She turns back to Anna. “What is the girl’s problem.”

Anna: Well, Mari may be a bit upset that I accepted Sarah’s invitation without her permission. Mari had no desire to leave Constantinople. She was kind of in the middle of a mission for the British government. She hides pictures of Ottoman forts in her drawings. It’s essential to gaining Greek independence she tells me.

Lady B: “She lives in Constantinople? Once again, most unusual. Who are her people?”

<squawk> Istanbul is Constantinople! <squawk>

Lady B: “Really, Albert. You must stop squawking nonsense words. Have a lobster patty, darling.”

Anna: Her mother was a Greek rebel but her father is Sir Reginald Sinclair, an archeologist of some renown. I know it isn’t the usual setting for a historical romance, but Mari is not a usual heroine.

Lady B: “Sir Reginald! I spoke to him once about covering up the male forms on all that old pottery he brings back. Most… shocking… of course I only look at the legs, but who is to say others aren’t more… curious?”

Sarah: Who, indeed.

Lady B, scowls at Sarah, then returns her gaze to Mari: “But I must say, Miss Sinclair seems a little too annoyed. I would think she’d welcome a break from all the intrigue.”

Anna: (stares at her slippers) Well, there might be a certain gentleman we left behind in Constantinople. You see, the British were afraid Mari was going to stop working for them so they sent Major Bennett Prestwood to ensure she completes the drawings they needed. And while Mari resents him, he is a tall, blond, Adonis.

Lady B, perking up: “Nice legs?”

Anna: The nicest.

Lady B: “Not as nice as Lord B’s.”

Anna: Of course. I meant to say, the nicest outside of Lord B’s.

Sarah, aside: Nice save.

Anna: Thanks. Back to Lady B. Perhaps a bit weary from war, but did I mention he was secretly a poet? Not that he’d admit it, of course. I think it embarrasses him.

<squawk> Roses are red. Violets are blue. Ratafia is sweet and so are lobster patties!<squawk>

(The door to the ballroom flies open and a rugged army officer in a Rifleman’s dark green uniform strides in, the hard line of his jaw tense with worry.)

Lady B: “Your warrior poet, I presume.” (Pulls out fan as she surveys him.) “I would like to point out that he doesn’t look happy to be at my ball either.”

Anna: (shifts uncomfortably) Someone may be trying to kill Mari. It’s why she wanted to quit drawing. Bennett’s a bit overly protective. You should hear him talk about his sisters. (Bites her lip) Maybe I should have told him where we were going. He takes his orders to watch her very seriously. He puts duty above all else.

<squawk!> I’ll be watching you. <squawk>

Lady B, intrigued: “Is he going to shake Miss Sinclair or kiss her?”

Anna: Well…I’m not entirely sure. Things can get rather…heated between those two. Perhaps this would be a good time to take our leave. Mari doesn’t take orders well and Bennett can’t stop giving them. And Mari does have one final fort she has to draw despite the fact that the Ottomans may know her identity.

Lady B: “Perhaps your characters would be more pleasant at my balls if you were a little kinder to them. Keep that in mind for next time.”

Anna: They are happy by the end of the book. Does that count for something?

Lady B: “Perhaps—Oh, my…”

Sarah: “Well. That solves the kissing or shaking question.”

Anna is generously offering up a signed copy of A SECRET IN HER KISS to one lucky reader! To enter, tell us below: Is there a location/time period that you have always thought would be a perfect setting for a book? What intrigues you about it?

Parlor Games: Regency Word-Libs with Manda Collins

Tessa: I’ve invited a new friend to the ballroom today! Lady B, may I introduce Miss Manda Collins, yet another authoress of colonial extraction. Manda and I were talking about how we haven’t played parlor games in ages, and Manda is so very clever. She suggested… Well, you tell them, Manda.

Manda: Thank you so much for introducing me to your charming coterie, Tessa! I vow I haven’t seen a more lively crowd since the tiger got loose at Sally Jersey’s circus-themed rout! What I have in mind is much tamer, but no less amusing. It’s a word game called MadLibs.

Lady B: More madness in my ballroom? I should have known, coming from you, Miss Dare.

Tessa: (aside) Actually, these aren’t really Mad-Libs. Because Mad-Libs are a trademark. So these are Word Libs from (clears throat) Manda, can you explain to Lady B just how this new parlor game works?

Manda: Well, you take a passage of prose and remove the nouns, verbs and adjectives. Then you make a list of nouns, verbs and adjectives. And place them in the slots left blank in the passage of prose. And the new ones render the paragraphs…that is to say…

Lady B: I may require an example.

Manda: Excellent idea. Here’s a very simple one, from the teaser for Miss Ashe’s first installment in her Falcon Club series.

(Note: Clicking “Create story” will take you to the WordLibs site to see your result. To share it with the rest of us, highlight and copy the text, then click “Back” to paste it in the comments!)

When a _____ Loves a Lady

Tessa, giggling: Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to see all our guests’ variations! Here was my result:

A Melon fleeing society, a Sparkly lord bent on seduction, and a Fantastical little village covered in Fudge.

What could be more Mawkishly scandalous?

Manda: I love it! Are you getting the idea now, Lady B?

Lady B: I believe so. But I think a more thorough sample may be in order.

Tessa: Manda, why don’t we use the blurb from your debut, How to Dance with a Duke?

Lady B: Oh! This is excessively diverting. Miss Dare, I agree. Miss Collins is clever indeed.

Tessa: The best part is–more ratafia you drink, the better it gets. Let’s have one more, Manda! Perhaps we can set Miss MacLean in our sights.

Tessa: Manda, thank you so much for coming by today and bringing us such an entertaining diversion! I can’t wait for How to Dance with a Petri Dish, er Duke to hit the shelves!

In Which Sabrina Darby Drags Yet Another Man into Lady B’s Home

It’s a new year and it seems to be off to a rollocking start, what with Gaelen’s Duke enlisting new recruits and Manda Collins visiting with her highly entertaining Regency wordlibs. And we mustn’t forget that we almost met Lord B!

Or at least Sarah almost did. But I assume she would have reported gossip about the mysterious man in great detail.

However, since Lord B is unavailable (pointedly accusing look at the general area I last saw Lady B), I’ve had to enlist the appearance of another, more reclusive, and possibly mysterious gentleman.

I say possibly mysterious because the first time we were introduced to this gentleman, it was through his mother, and what grown man can maintain any proper dignity and glamour after his mother calls him by a childhood diminutive?

And yes, for all of you who have followed along since the fall to my (quite distant) relation Mary’s great experiment in marrying off her son, I am speaking of Captain H. J. G. Martin, or Georgie.

Let’s recap, shall we?

It’s been quite a while since Mary last visited us. I think it was before Christmas and likely Thanksgiving (yes, an American holiday). I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely sad to see her return up North. However, being a curious and rather meddling author myself, I decided to drag George down here to visit the ballroom and report on events.

But please, Ballroom denizens remember that we are attempting to ferret out information about his situation without revealing his mother’s actions!

Excuse me just one moment as I… pull an impassively glowering giant of a man into the room with the sort of strength only a romance author has. (And before you question me, to glower impassively is a uniquely romance hero trait and there is no other description as appropriate for this particular stony expression. Or maybe it’s just that scar that’s twisting his mouth that confuses the issue.)

I have to say something.

“I know your mother.”

Eyes stare at me. It’s like he’s having a silent tantrum that I pulled him out of his ornate mancave.

“When she mentioned that her dear Georgie was back from the war, I knew I had to meet you.”


He speaks! Oh, speak again, bright angel.

“I thought your name was George. I mean, that’s what I…um, your mother, named you.”

“John is my third name and I prefer it.”

I actually prefer it a bit, too, considering that George Martin together is far too reminiscent of many other well-known men. A man must have some space to be himself, to live his own name. (I stop myself from web-searching “John Martin.”)

“Well, then, John—”

“Captain Martin.”

Oook. The proverbial frost on those two words has created a wall of icicles between us.

“I’m a relation, John, distant or not, and above all, I am an author. Do not quibble with me!” Perhaps I’m not as frosty, but I can be extremely managing when I like. But he looks rather unaffected. I wonder if his superiors in the army had this sort of trouble with him. At the very least, he will eventually be humbled by the love of a good woman. That much I can control!

The silence in Lady B’s ballroom continues to grow, at least in this small corner of it. After all, there is still the orchestra and the conversation of dozens of society’s best, but somehow Captain H. John (Georgie) Martin manages to ignore them all.

“In any event, Captain, I thought it might be best if now, just before your world falls into extreme turmoil, you shared with us a bit of your current state of affairs. Such as, what exactly do you do all day in that castle of yours? Mope?”

“You have your facts in disorder, Miss Darby,” he says rather curtly, but I’m simply happy he’s talking at this point. “My world is perfectly ordered. And I keep it that way.”

I’m glad he’s so obstinately certain in his ability to control his own world. It will make his fall that much more sweet. However, I dislike this obfuscation. Perhaps one of you will have the right approach to break the ice and make him more forthcoming. Questions for the Captain?

Saturday Salon: Views on Romance from a Historian, a Psychologist, and an Economist

I started the week getting grumpy at the British historian Simon Schama for his article on the PBS series Downton Abbey. I happen to love Downton Abbey; he doesn’t. That’s OK. He’s perfectly at liberty to turn up his nose at this classy but soapy drama about the aristocracy. Not everyone enjoys the shenanigans of hot lords. Certainly not Prof. Schama who thinks the series services “the instincts of cultural necrophilia.” Whatev. I think Simon should chill. It’s not like hot lords are still running the country.

But then he attacked Downton for being too cheerful, even suggesting that it was unrealistic for Matthew to return from World War I alive. Excuuuuse me, Simon. Yes, WWI was a hideous pointless slaughter, but not everyone was killed. Lots died and lots returned, some in better shape than others. If the writers of this fictional drama want a character to survive, that’s their prerogative.

And then he really pissed me off with this statement:

…history’s meant to be a bummer, not a stroll down memory lane. Done right, it delivers the tonic of tragedy, not the bromide of romance.

Fighting words. I bet I know what Simon thinks of romance novels.

The week ended on a more cheerful note with a piece at by writer and psychologist Debra Holland entitled Life Lessons from Romance Novels. She makes some very good points about how romance reading helps women. Plus you should see the book covers that illustrate her argument. Nicely chosen, Debra (or random MSN deputy editor). Is it possible you have ever visited The Ballroom?

And then there’s Jeremy Rifkin. Rifkin is an economist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He acts as an advisor to the European Union and several European governments of varying political persuasions. Without getting in too deep, he believes that individuals have to work together to solve the world’s problems. In The Empathic Civilization he discusses how psychological factors impact economic development. And – surprise, surprise – he says that romance novels have played their part in the historical growth of human empathy.

Women helped men learn how to love and express intimacy … In the Romantic schema–visited repeatedly in romance novels–the conquest is reversed. The hardened and insensitive male is wooed by the nurturance and affection of the female. She senses the intimate qualities long buried inside her mate and by creating a sense of trust and affection is able to bring them out–to melt his heart.

Rifkin sees women as teaching the male “empathy.” And, interestingly he credits the romance novel, going back to the eighteenth century, with not merely recording this female-male influence, but with actually causing it. He says reading novels provided the impetus for woman to demand more sensitivity in men.

I’ve grossly over-simplified Rifkin’s thesis, but I’m getting one clear message. Romance novels are good. Romance novels will solve the global economic crisis and bring about world peace. So what we need to do is get more men to read romance.

Do the men in your life read romance. And if not why not? What should we do to encourage men to read more romance, thus bringing about peace, prosperity, and the end of static cling?

At-Home Week Begins with Regency Star, Alexandra Hawkins

Gaelen: Alexandra, I cannot wait to read this book. This series has been flying by and earning rave reviews. Now, most people don’t know this, but you were the first friend I ever made in the romance world back in the day, when we were both unpublished and gazing at all those “goddesses” (the published authors at the Georgia Romance Writers conference) and going, “Wowwww, do you think that could ever be us??” And generally laughing at what seemed like a pie-in-the-sky goal back then, but hey, ya work hard enough and throw in a little luck, and have good friends to help you keep your sanity along the way, and you never know what you can accomplish, right??

So, because I’ve known Mz. Hawkins for QUITE some time, I know a thing or two about her that doesn’t show up in her bio. Such as: Alexandra Hawkins is a woman of many talents, most of them in a creative direction. For example, she is a FABULOUS cook. Not that you’ll ever hear her brag. But Oh. My. God. I have seen birthday cakes she has made for her kids over the years that look like they should be on the Food Channel. She is also a talented artist/painter, with a green thumb, who was a serious trained dancer in high-school, and is one of the most disciplined writers in the field. Even better, she is one of those No Excuses people who never whined about not having the time to write, boo hoo hoo, but stayed up til 3 in the bloody morning after putting her kids to bed when they were younger in order to MAKE the time to write. For crying out loud, woman, is there anything you can’t do?? LOL

Alexandra: Oh stop—You’re going to have me blushing like one of my heroines! I’ll admit that I have a strong creative drive and have a tendency to hold nothing back when I take on a project. LOL, and those cakes were incredible!

How long has it been since that first GRW conference? Eighteen years? Back then, the notion of becoming a published author did seem like pie-in-the-sky. I had just moved from Illinois to Georgia with my husband and eighteen-month-old daughter and the conference was another sign that I was committed to writing a romance novel. How lucky that I had a future NYT’s bestselling author practically living across the street from me!

Oh, and for the record, I might have been disciplined, but I was moving at a turtle’s pace. Gael wrote her first manuscript and was sending out query letters long before I finished mine. When she sold her first book, her phenomenal success gave me hope that I might become a published author one day. I’d break out into a rendition of Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath my Wings” but that song always makes me cry. You know I love you!

Gaelen: Awww! Well, I could rave on about how much I love this gal (and her books!) but what else should our Ballroomies know about you?

Alexandra: I live in northern Georgia with my husband and three teenagers. Hmm . . . One of my goals is to master Photoshop. I like to create my own promo materials so when I’m not working on a manuscript, I’m playing with art software. Historicals are my first love, but I could see myself writing a paranormal or fantasy. World building sounds like my kind of fun.

Gaelen: No wonder you’re so good at it! I can totally see you doing that, btw. And how long have you been writing, my dear?

Alexandra: Since I was a child. I’ve always loved creating short stories and poems. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I considered writing a novel.

Gaelen: When did you first discover romance novels?

Alexandra: My senior year in high school. A friend brought her sister’s romances novels to school and I was hooked. Traditional Regencies were my favorite.

Gaelen: You really have a knack for tapping into the classic Regency vibe that is getting rarer these days. You’ve always been accurate about the language and the clothing, in particular, and I always notice, reading you, that your other creative outlets must get channeled into your writing, like the very specific, artist-eye details with which you nuance your descriptions. It’s very cool. So, what inspired you to create the Lords of Vice?

Alexandra: The idea for the series originated from the seven deadly sins. While I was working on the proposal, I switched from sins to vices, but kept the number seven. I’m having a blast writing stories for my Regency bad boys!

Gaelen: And it shows!! So, what’s next for you?

Alexandra: Saint’s book is scheduled to be released this summer.

Gaelen: Awesome! Everybody, I have super news…Alexandra is going to be giving away three autographed copies of her Lord of Vice books. Yaaaayyy!! So, leave a comment and you’ll be entered into the computer-randomizer drawing.

In the meanwhile, I just wanted to say that along with your bad boys (which I know we are always happy to discuss at length. cough cough, pun intended – woot!) I love the matchmaking angle in this book. Matchmaking is alive and well these days, not so much from meddling mammas, but matchmaker websites! (OK, fess up, has anyone here ever tried one of those? Details, people. What did you think?)

If not, have you ever played matchmaker, or benefited from an introduction by someone else who was matchmaking for you? (Whether you liked it or not! LOL.) The Ballroom loves “deliciously juicy gossip” so come on, spill, spill, your matchmaking stories!!

Saturday Salon ~ Historical Inspiration: The Count of Monte Cristo

One of the great advantages of writing historical romance fiction is that it tends to age better than contemporary-set stories. The historical tales, I think, have a longer shelf life because they don’t have all the contemporary-world cues like current fashions, buzzwords, and the passing tech fads of the day, that eventually make a story feel dated.

If The Count of Monte Cristo, (Touchstone Pictures, 2002) is any example, this is clearly just as true of movies as it is of books. This film is now ten years old and is as fresh and beautiful a movie as ever. (As one wit online quipped: “Dumbledore teaches Jesus swordfighting.” Who could resist that??)

I was lucky enough to catch it on the Ovation Channel the other day when I was worn out from my book deadline, and the Regency-era scenes gave me all the writing mojo I needed to get going on the final push to finish my book. Check out the trailer:


1. It has a happy ending. (I don’t know about you, but I run from tragic endings like the plague.)

2. It starts in a wonderfully rendered world of 1814 with Napoleon on Elba. (Although those cliffs are apparently County Wicklow, as it was filmed in Ireland!)

3. The gorgeous Jim Cavaziel. Of course, you may feel a little weird as I did, admiring his hotness as Edmond Dantes after seeing him as Jesus in the Passion of the Christ–! But as the Count, this is a guy who knows how to make an entrance. You fall in love with his vulnerability as he’s trying to wrap his mind about being unjustly imprisoned through the treachery of his so-called friend. Later, when he’s turned into a rich badass, I love his luxurious greatcoat thing that he wears throughout the second half of the movie. I gotta say he would fit right into the Inferno Club.

4. Wonderful historical details throughout… the carriages, the furniture, the weapons, THE CLOTHES… speaking of which, check out this Six Degrees of Separation about the costumes used in this movie. I had no idea these Regency costumes got passed around so much in the entertainment world. Who knew??

5. Swordplay, fight scenes, derring-do… what you always wished you could see Mr. Darcy do to Wickham, but of course, The Jane would never show such a thing. Alexandre Dumas pere does. Huzzah!

6. One of the things I love about this story (which BTW was said to be Mark Twain’s favorite book) is the spiritual dimension it goes into as a counterpoint to its physical vigor. God comes up a lot as Edmond Dantes tries to understand why this injustice has befallen him and what he’s going to do about it. Spiritual ideas are further explored when he befriends an elderly priest in prison. Played by the great Richard Harris, Abbe Faria is a true Rennaissance man, a priest, scholar and former soldier, who gives the illiterate Dantes an education worthy of a gentleman while in prison. It is also the Abbe who clues Dantes in to the location of the treasure that will allow him to transform himself into the Count of Monte Cristo.

I really appreciate this movie because it is such an inspiration to me personally in the kinds of stories I like to write. We are fortunate that Hollywood saw fit to make so many beautiful Jane Austen movies in recent years, but my personal hankering in Regency tales involves more action/adventure and danger/derring-do than the kinds of stories Austen was interested in telling ~ throw in an earnest spiritual search ~ crashing highs and lows of emotion ~ and I’m in heaven. The Jane movies (Colin Firth et al) strike me more like soft, gentle watercolors full of charm and subtle wit, whereas the Count of Monte Cristo comes at us with bold colors and strong contrasts of dark and light. That’s the kind of story that helps to put me in touch with what I want to achieve in my own small way as a writer.

What movies inspire you? Whether period movies or writer-themed movies…is there a go-to film that you watch when you need to remember the “mood” or “feel” of what you’re doing as a writer? Or just inspire you about life?

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