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At, first, this week’s assignment confused me. Were we supposed to write about what we’re actually reading this summer, or what we woud take with us to our mythical private Risky Regency Beach. (Oooh, I bet that would be a fab place. Piles of books everywhere, buckets of champagne, trays of strawberry-dipped chocolates and mangoes. Cabana boys named Clive and Gerard and Orlando and Sean…)

Ahem. I digress. Okay, so I turned this into a two-section thing: what I am reading right now, this week, for my summer enjoyment, and what I would put in my bag to take to our lovely RR beach. And let Orlando read to me while he feeds me grapes…

Books I am Currently Reading: (and these could go to the beach, too–I’m certainly not averse to hauling a massive hardback biography across the sands if I have to!)

1) Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder by Mary S. Lovell, who also wrote the riveting book The Sisters about the wildly eccentric Mitford sisters. Actually, these could be companion studies of dysfunctional families through the ages! Bess was born into the “upper middle classes” of Tudor England, but rose, though 4 advantageous marriages and much wheeler-dealering to be the second most wealthy woman in England after the Queen. She built several grand properties, including most famously “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.” She was close to Elizabeth and her leading courtiers, and had much to do with Mary Queen of Scots (her fourth husband was Mary’s main jailer, a source of high tension and stress that eventually drove their marriage into acrimony and separation). The book is full of wild family squabbles, spectacular marital spats, and an intriguingly wide view of Tudor society. I love it, and will probably read Arbella: England’s Lost Queen when I finish (Arbella, the ultimate rebellious teenager, was Bess’ granddaughter and a serious claimant to the throne).

2) The other book I’m reading is Julia Childs memoir My Life in France. In 1949, she married and moved to France with her diplomatic service husband, thus having the chance to experience the glories of French food for the first time. She attended the Cordon Bleu, started working on a cookbook with some friends, and the rest is history. Gorgeous meals, beautiful scenery, the general joie de vivre of France–it’s delightful. I would have so loved to party with her and her husband!

And now, what I would pack in my beach bag (paperbacks, so a little lighter than the two above!)
A Singular Lady by Megan Frampton (the blue cover would go so well with the sea, and the chick lit at Almacks tone is perfect for a vacation)
Code of Love by Cheryl Sawyer (because it looks interesting–I’m a sucker for intellectual skullduggery like code-breaking)
Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long (because I’m also a sucker for dukes who don’t wanna be dukes–like they have a choice, poor things. Snort. And because I enjoyed her first book)
Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I just finished and loved. Historical paranormal YA, where the fate of the world and the Realms rests on the shoulders of a gaggle of Victorian 16-year-olds. Loved it!)

And that’s it, my vacation book list. Until I start adding to it. And BTW, the pic is one of the very few you will ever find of me in a swimsuit. Someone snuck up on me as I was reading on the hotel lanai in Hawaii. The last bikini pic of me was when I was 3 and had a flashy gold lame creation to wear in my wading pool… 🙂

Each year, for the past 17 years, my husband and I (well, he wasn’t always my husband, but you get the point) head to Ocean City, NJ for at least a week of the beach.

Now, if you’ve seen my picture, you know the sun is not my friend. But I like the idea of sitting somewhere and just reading. So I’ve come to love the beach, even though it means slathering myself with SPF 50 and higher each time I venture outside.

I have a theory about beach readsd. Instead of choosing light, frothy reads, I like to read stuff that is in contrast to my surroundings. My beach time is when I choose the meatier books from my TBR pile. The other necessity is that the book be something I can count on–there is absolutely nothing worse than reading a dud when you’re stuck in the middle of sand, and can’t get back to make another choice.

So here is what I’ll be taking to the beach this summer:

Bernard Cornwell‘s Sharpe series. I’ve read the first two (chronological) Sharpes, and have been watching the series on BBC America. Cornwell is a FABULOUS writer, someone who can write 100+ pages of battle scene and keep my interest all the way through. And what’s really cool is that Cornwell always has a twist at the end, so you know there’s another payoff coming at the end of the book. The best part, though, is that Cornwell is alive and writing, and he is very, very prolific, so you will always have more of his stuff to read.

Next up is Ross McDonald‘s Lew Archer series. Lew Archer is a detective in Los Angeles in the–I want to say ’50s and ’60s, but I’m not quite sure–who is smart, tough, and compelling. McDonald’s descriptions are amazing, and the way he writes is on par with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. If you like James Ellroy, you will like Ross McDonald. Again, I’ve been collecting his books. Unfortunately McDonald is dead, so there are no more Archer books, but he wrote plenty when he was alive, and they are now out in gorgeous trade paperback.

Loretta Chase‘s Captives of the Night has recently been reissued, and I have never read it. If you’re a Regency fan, you’ve read at least one of her books, and you know she is a solidly consistent author whose heroes are deceptively stupid and her heroines are smart and brook no nonsense. You can depend on Chase for an enchanting read, good for if there seem to be storms brewing over the horizon.

And last, Barbara Hambly. Her Benjamin January detective series is lush, intriguing, and describes 1830s New Orleans society so well I feel as if I’m there. January is a great character, a dark Black free man who is a pianist and a doctor. I’ve only read two of the series thus far, and am very much looking forward to reading more.

And that is what will be getting sandy with me at the beach. Sorry about no pictures, I am on a kind friend’s computer and haven’t the time to hunt down pictures.

Have you read any of these? Are there any in these genres that you would recommend?


I read quite a lot in real life–I am blessed with a commute on public transport which allows me ample reading time, and I also like to read before I go to sleep. But summer reading–the luxury of knowing that you will have time and opportunity to dive into some good stuff–is something else.

Since I so rarely go to beaches–or at least ones where the wind will not rip a book from your frozen fingers–I’ll talk first about the book I’m taking to Atlanta. I know it seems odd to take books to an event where you leave staggering under the weight of give-aways, but that’s me. And this one is quite a hefty tome: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I’ve been meaning to re-read this for years. I have vague memories of chilly, atmospheric descriptions of the Thames–the book opens with the discovery of a body in the river. It’s his last completed book, dark, tortuously plotted, and full of strange, weird characters.

If I were truly going to a beach, or having extended leisure time, I’d read the following:

All of the Malloren and the Rogues series by Jo Beverley. In order. Possibly with a flow chart to hand. That way I wouldn’t be so confused when the family descends in all their numerous glory.

Ditto Mary Balogh’s Slightly series. I think I’ve read most of them but in the most illogical order possible.

Byron’s letters–not the whole lot, I’d be at the beach for years and turn into a shriveled prune, but a good collection–any recommendations, anyone?

And that, I think, would keep me busy.


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I’ll give almost any genre or author a try normally, but when I’m on vacation (beach or otherwise) I’m less adventurous in my reading. I think it’s because vacation time is so precious I don’t want to risk wasting it on something I won’t enjoy enough to finish. And since many of my vacations are outdoorsy, chances are there might not be a bookstore nearby to supply a more satisfying read.

So I usually stick to favorite authors.

For my next vacation, I’ll make an effort to catch up on Amanda’s and Diane’s backlists, though these ladies are so prolific it’s a challenge (albeit a worthy one!) to keep up. The pile will also include books by some of the following authors: Jo Beverley, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale, Mary Jo Putney, Jean Ross Ewing aka Julia Ross.

But I have a confession to make. While the pile (constrained only by luggage space) may have some weightier stories, there also have to be what I think of as quintessential beach reads: pageturners with plenty of humor.

That’s why I almost always vacation with something by Loretta Chase. In recent years, I’ve romped through a few of her two-in-one Regency reissues. Her long historicals are also fantastic, of course. But I guess most of you know that already!

Here are a few other books I’ve read recently that are great beach reads.

BET ME by Jennifer Crusie–great characters, dialogue and what the hero does with a chocolate Krispy Kreme is just…well, believe me when I say it’s good. Very good.

DISAPPEARING NIGHTLY by Laura Resnick. It’s not a romance though it has a romantic thread that ends in a kiss. Really, it’s Chick Lit meets Ghostbusters. Kooky stuff, but I devoured pages as if they were potato chips. If I were allowing myself to eat potato chips during swimsuit season, that is. Which I don’t. Mostly.

So anyway, here are just a few more authors and titles you might want to consider trying this summer. Along with, of course, anything by the Riskies. 🙂

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, RT Reviewers’ Choice for Best Regency of 2005

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I admit I’m not much of a beachgoer — I lived for over a year in Santa Barbara and never made it to the beach. There’s just something in the combination of sand in one’s clothes, and salt on one’s sunburn, that puts me off. But this whole idea of beach reading is beginning to appeal to me, because it has now occurred to me that:

1) If you read instead of going in the water, you have no salt problems.
2) If you read in the shade, you have no sunburn problems.
3) If you read, you stay in one place, so you have no sand problems!

(Is this what adulthood is all about?)

So, here are my beach reads — the books that I would read on the beach this week, if I were on the beach. (Actually, as it’s been over a hundred degrees fahrenheit here for days now, the beach is sounding better and better…)

My first book would be Firebirds Rising, an anthology of original fantasy and science fiction stories that includes entries by Diana Wynne Jones, Tanith Lee, Emma Bull, Tamora Pierce, Patricia McKillip, and many more. I just finished reading its predecessor, Firebirds (both edited by Sharyn November), and had a great time. It’s also a handy way to sample new authors, and move those I love most to the top of my to-be-read pile! (In the interest of full disclosure, I will reveal that after reading Firebirds, I moved books by Nancy Farmer and Megan Whalen Turner to the top of my pile. I have, of course, already read everything by the inimitable Diana Wynne Jones.) 🙂

For my next book, I’ll pick a Regency romance. I confess I haven’t yet read Myretta Robens’ Just Say Yes, which on Saturday will be up for best Regency Romance in the prestigious Rita Awards (competing with our own Diane Gaston’s A Reputable Rake, Jenna Mindel’s Miss Whitlow’s Turn, and Jeanne Savery’s The House Party.) I just love the cover. The book promises to be sparkling and witty, so I’m really looking forward to it. (I also like more serious Regencies, of course! Like my own My Lady Gamester, which is also up for an award — the Booksellers’ Best Award — which will be awarded this Wednesday. Yep, tomorrow. Competing against three wonderful novels. Including one by our own Diane Gaston. So I’m not exactly holding my breath. Which is good, because if I held my breath till then, I’d have soon have no more breath to hold.)

I am very excited that World Con is going to be in Southern California this year. (World Con is short for the World Science Fiction Convention — held every year somewhere in the world. For more info, see I’ve never attended a World Con before, and I can’t wait for this one! As an attendee, I will be able to vote for this year’s Hugo Awards — so I’m busy reading the current slate of nominees. Next up for me is Accelerando by Charles Stross. I love science fiction — it can be so intelligent, so clear-eyed, so imaginative and brain-stretching that I don’t know any other type of fiction like it.

Believe it or not, I haven’t yet read the new Jennifer Crusie. Her latest, a collaboration with Bob Mayer entitled Don’t Look Down, has been sitting for a while now on my to-be-read shelf. (Actually, it’s a to-be-read bookcase. Though now that I think of it, I’ve never read a bookcase in my life. Which I guess is pretty obvious. Or it would be a has-been-read bookcase.)

I have loved Jennifer Crusie’s funny romances ever since Strange Bedpersons and What the Lady Wants first came out. (That’s an example of subtle boasting. If you look carefully, you’ll see I am claiming to be one of her early fans, not one of her more recent, read-the-reissue-of-her-early-Harlequins-with-covers-that-pretend-these-are-single-title-releases fans. And while we’re on the subject, let me just casually mention I was a fan of Diana Wynne Jones even before Charmed Life came out. Um. Hmm. I hope I haven’t just ruined the illusion that I am incredibly young and therefore a prodigy.)

Which brings us to today’s questions:

1) Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
2) Do you read on the beach? Is sand truly not a problem?
3) Do you have a to-be-read pile? Shelf? Bookcase? House? If so, do you find that certain things just stay there forever?
4) Are there any authors who you pride yourself on being an early fan of? Who?

Keep cool!

MY LADY GAMESTER — Booksellers’ Best Finalist for Best Regency of 2005!

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