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Darlene Marshall, author

I write award-winning historical romance about pirates, privateers, smugglers and the occasional possum.

Pirates make off with (award) booty at Readers' Choice Awards!

The Pirate's Secret Baby - Darlene Marshall Castaway Dreams - Darlene Marshall

My Regency-era tale of pirates, puppies, pirates-in-training and secrets won the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America's Readers' Choice Award.


The Pirate's Secret Baby is a follow-up to Aspen Gold winner Castaway Dreams. I had so much fun writing my morally flexible, but always fashionable, villain Robert St. Armand in Castaway that I wanted to give him his own novel. I tossed a baby in his direction, and the rest is award history.


Thanks go to my publisher, Amber Quill Press, my editor, and all my readers, of course. I also want to do a shout-out to the volunteers who judge and coordinate contests. None of this would happen without them, and their efforts are greatly appreciated by authors and readers.

The Writer's Life

I was at a funeral today for an acquaintance, much beloved in the community. We weren't close, but I had a great deal of regard for him and wanted to pay my respects. I realized about mid-way through the service that when it was the church-service part and not the eulogies I was taking mental notes. I'd never been to a funeral for this particular Christian denomination, so it was a new experience.


That's the writer's life. No matter what comes along, when it's a new experience, part of you is taking notes, in case you ever wanted to write about it in a book.


So now when you hear someone asking an author, "Where do you get your ideas?", you've got a partial answer. Funerals, ziplining, a ride on the New York subway, planting a spring garden, these are all grist for the writer's mill. When you see an author staring off into space and looking profound, they're writing something in their head.


Now you know.

Review--Who Buries the Dead

Who Buries the Dead - C.S. Harris
I am so happy this fine Regency mystery series continues to produce first rate reading. One of the great fears suffered by dedicated readers is that a beloved series will run out of steam. We've seen it happen before. Sadly, it's all too common.

But fans of Sebastian St. Cyr, Hero, and all the wonderful secondary characters can rest easy. Who Buries The Dead is an excellent continuation into the story of Viscount Devlin's unpleasant hobby, investigating strange murders and related mysteries. Sebastian's life is complicated now by the addition of a wife and son, "hostages to fortune". He can't hurl himself headlong into danger without thinking of them as well, and that can hamper his detecting methods.

Nonetheless, it's a cracking good story with lots of twists and turns and surprises. I recommend readers start with the first book and read them in order to get the full flavor of the series and an appreciation for C.S. Harris's writing.


The Pirate's Secret Baby is a finalist!

The Pirate's Secret Baby - Darlene Marshall

The New England Chapter RWA has chosen The Pirate's Secret Baby, from Amber Quill Press, as a finalist in the Readers' Choice Awards. The winners will be announced in late April, but I'm thrilled my latest historical romance is in such fine company.


You can read reviews here, at my website, and at Amber Quill Press.


Sisters of Shiloh - Kathy Hepinstall, Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

All wars are brutal, but for Americans, the Civil War was the conflict that tested our nation like no other conflict has. It's a time of struggle and devastation whose aftershocks are still felt today, and the issues that led to the war are part of the fabric of our nation.

Siblings Kathy and Becky Hepinstall have joined together as a writing team to tell one small story in the greater conflict, a tale of two sisters, Libby and Josephine, who disguise themselves and leave their Virginia home to join the Confederate forces as cousins Thomas and Joseph.

For Libby, it's all about revenge for the death of her soldier husband Arden. She's vowed to kill 21 Union soldiers, one for each year of Arden's life. For Josephine, it's all about Libby. She wants to protect her sister even as she sees the obsession for revenge grow and change Libby into a person she doesn't recognize.

The two young women quickly learn war is hell, but the friendship of comrades-in-arms is like no other. The men of the Stonewall Brigade take care of one another through illness, starvation, battle and boredom. For Josephine, one friendship in particular threatens to unmask her, while for Libby the visions of her dead husband urging her on threaten her very sanity.

Sisters of Shiloh will be enjoyed by readers who like novels such as Cold Mountain, books about the ordinary people who went to war and how it changes them. It shows Civil War life in all its brutality, but there's an underlying poignancy reflecting the small acts that keep men--and women--human even in the midst of horror.

(Disclaimer--I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion

Although the book contained laugh out loud moments, I couldn't help feeling disappointed by the novel as a whole. If you haven't read The Rosie Project, it's unlikely you're reading The Rosie Effect, so I'll assume you've read it. In TRP we met Don Tillman, a brilliant scientist who is likely somewhere on the Asperger's Scale, and has a life that's carefully managed and controlled. Then he meets Rosie, and that's all upended. It was charming, quirky and romantic.

Now Rosie's pregnant, Don and Rosie are in NYC, and the whole story's gone too contrived. Don gets himself into situations that are magically resolved by kindly, understanding cops and government functionaries...go ahead, take a moment to parse that...and what's more, Don becomes somewhat of a fantasy figure himself, able to solve all his friends' problems.

The book left me with a disjointed feeling of reading a novel that purports to be a contemporary but is too over the top to not think of it as fantasy.

Review--Vision in Silver

Vision in Silver - Anne Bishop

The more I read in this series, the more I like it. The worldbuilding is well crafted, the characters are interesting, and while the protagonist sometimes seems a little too "special snowflake", I'm beginning to accept and admire her as she grows into her new life.

Review--Mistress Firebrand

Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the American Revolution (Renegades of Revolution) - Donna Thorland

Another excellent historical in the "Renegades of the American Revolution" series. Thorland brings the founding of the American nation to life with detail and attention to setting, and characters who are complex and prepared to risk all for freedom, honor and love.

What I especially enjoyed about Mistress Firebrand, even more than the passionate love story between the hero and heroine, was the relationship between women. Jennifer Leighton and her aunt, the Divine Fanny, live together in New York City where acclaimed Frances has settled following a scandal in England. Jennifer and Frances are both pragmatic women, women who understand that to make it in the theater world one has to be prepared to be considered little more than a prostitute. They're willing to use whatever means available and necessary to advance themselves.

British intelligence agent Severin Devere wants General John Burgoyne focused on the war, and not on young actresses like Jennifer. But his attempts to deflect Jennifer from the general's attention end up sparking something between Severin and Jennifer, a spark that threatens to turn into a conflagration that could destroy both of them.

Lushly written, evocative, and far, far more interesting than the dry stories of battles and speeches taught in history class, Thorland's American Revolution novels are sure to captivate readers who like their historical romance with some meat on the bones, rather than light and fluffy fare.

Review--The Turning Season

The Turning Season - Sharon Shinn

I really enjoyed this, and it's my favorite (so far) of the Shifting Circle novels.


The reason I liked it so much is Joe. I mean, how can you get a more ordinary hero name than "Joe"? And he is ordinary, and yet, exactly the kind of hero you want to marry. He's a keeper. Not uber-handsome (he's described as having a "round, baby-face" and has to work at keeping the weight off now that he's no longer 20). Joe's an ex-cop and has that old fashioned quality where he'd be described as a "mensch", a man you can count on to do the right thing, to help out, to stand by you. Not a billionaire Dom, not a SEAL, just a good guy.


Can you tell I'm half-in love with him myself?


Oh yeah, and Joe's completely human. But Karadel is not. She's a shifter trying to get her animal self under control, or at least to settle on one animal, preferably a housecat. She's shifted into being an elephant and a giraffe in the past, and can't control when her change will happen.


And you thought you had a complicated love life!


Karadel works as a veterinarian, though she's not really a doctor. The shifter community in their small Illinois town depends on her and she's experimenting with different medical formulas to help them. But when a shifter changes into a bobcat in public to fend off a rapist, Karadel fears the entire shifter community is threatened. At a more personal level, she has no idea how Joe will respond when he learns of her secret life.


If you're new to the series, I recommend starting with #1 as characters are introduced and grow into their own stories in later books. However, you could read The Turning Season on its own and enjoy it as a fantasy and as a gentle romance.


Review--Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Women Undercover in the Civil War - Karen Abbott

This book had me turning pages like I was reading a novel, anxious to see what happened next. The untold stories of women who serve in wartime, in all capacities, are being brought to light by talented authors like Abbott.

I was especially taken by the tale of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond abolitionist, and her free woman of color cohort, Mary Jane Bowser. Van Lew sent vital information to the Union, much of it gathered by Bowser. At great risk to her own life, Bowser was sent as a "slave" housemaid to the Confederate president's house, never letting on that she could not only read and write, but was gifted with an eidetic memory. As the author points out, women like Bowser were "below suspicion" as they cleaned and dusted around the papers on Jeff Davis' desk.

I had a particular interest in the story of Emma Edmonds, who served with valor and zeal in the Union army as "Frank Thompson". As readers of my books know, cross-dressing women soldiers and sailors were more common than standard histories lead us to believe. I highly recommend the Hugo-award winning essay "We Have Always Fought", by Kameron Hurley, for more on this.

Finally, the stories of Confederate spies and activists Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow are better known to fans of history, but Abbott gives them a fresh spin and really brings these women to life, with all their virtues and flaws.

I highly recommend Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy for all readers interested in the US Civil War and in women's history and studies.

Review--A Chosen Exile

A Chosen Exile A History of Racial Passing - Allyson Hobbs

Movies like "Imitation of Life" and "Pinky" opened up a new world to White Americans, the world of African-Americans who were "passing", living as white people and hiding their African roots.


This fascinating history explores 200 years of passing in America, what it meant to the people who made these choices, their families, and to society as a whole. It's a sad and important story that's neglected in American history classes, and Hobbs' excellent book brings these tales to life for a generation that wishes to view itself, and the country, as post-racial.


Review--The Time Roads

The Time Roads - Beth Bernobich

I've become more parsimonious with my five star reviews. It has to be a book that keeps me turning page after page, engrossed in the story, even when I know I should stop reading because life and the real world interferes with our reading time.


The Time Roads is that kind of a book. The Eirean Empire at the beginning of the 20th C. is a world power, continuing its dominance over Anglia, Cymru, Albion and its other subject peoples. Students from around the world flock to Eire's universities and government is stable under the rule of Queen Aine. But a scientist within her court is conducting exciting, but ultimately dangerous experiments, putting into play forces that will change her world and the people she loves and cares for.


There are four interwoven stories in The Time Roads, and as it progresses more and more layers become revealed over time, time that flows and folds back on itself. There are also a couple of love stories at the heart of The Time Roads, but it's not a romance. It's a story that carries on a SF tradition going back to Lest Darkness Fall.


Beth Bernobich has cemented her status as a new star among SF & Fantasy authors. She's crafted a complicated, rich, and exciting tale combining alternate history, steampunk and time travel into something special. It's a different direction from her previous fantasy novels, but The Time Roads is bound to add a legion of new fans to her writing.

Review--Softly Falling

Softly Falling - Carla Kelly

Lovely, sweet romance about strong, good people surviving under the harshest of winter conditions. Boy howdy, did this book make me glad I live in Florida! Just reading about a killer Wyoming winter chilled me to the bone.


Carla Kelly's books aren't about dukes (most of the time) or spies or vampires, they're about ordinary people who reaffirm one's faith in the basic goodness of humanity. She writes wonderful tales about people who could live next door or down the lane or be our ancestors, and she does it with style and flair. She's also one of the top Western romance

writers today, and shouldn't be overlooked.


Softly Falling isn't explicit, but is delightfully romantic and can be enjoyed by all romance readers. It's a good starting point for those who've never experienced Kelly's special brand of romance.

Review--Rogue Spy

Rogue Spy - Joanna Bourne

I loved this book so much, I hardly know where to begin.

No, wait, I do know where to begin: Fluffy Aunts.

Ms. Bourne's books are not only amazingly well written, and wonderfully entertaining, but she crafts secondary characters who could step off the page. They're not spearholders (though in the case of the Fluffy Aunts I wouldn't make any assumptions), they're people who are part of the story and you can imagine them with their own lives and concerns.

Rogue Spy is Pax's story. We met him in previous books, and know he's secretly a French spy, but as is always the case with Bourne's novels of spycraft, it's much, much more complicated than Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. In fact, Camille Leyland is not only potentially one of the really Bad Guys (as well as Pax's love interest), she's deadlier and comes from a background that's prepared her well for a life of duplicity, intrigue and crime.

Each of Bourne's books is a winner, and her numerous awards testify to this. Rogue Spy is the latest in a list of books to be savored over and over again, and I can't wait until she gives us more!

5 Stars for The Pirate's Secret Baby from Pirates and Privateers

From the site Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy:

"...Set in 1820, The Pirate’s Secret Baby is a well-researched historical romance spiced with humor. The story of Robert, Lydia, and Marauding Mattie weaves an invisible spell that tugs at your heart strings, and I particularly liked Robert’s non-violent, but oh-so-typically-piratical solution to thwarting Lydia’s nemesis. Near the end of the story, I thought once or twice it could have ended sooner than it did, but the final scene definitely ices the wedding cake. The host of refreshing, non-stereotypical, minor characters – such as two Mutt-and-Jeff-like seamen who go to school with Marauding Mattie and go her tea party, or the vicar who doesn’t mind if his daughter dons an eye patch and duels with a wooden sword – truly help bring this story to life.

I’ve read several of Marshall’s previous pirate tales, but this is the best written and most intriguing one..."

Read the full review here, and you can purchase the novel in ebook or paper from Amber Quill Press, Amazon, NOOK and AllRomanceEbooks.


Review--Darling Beast

Darling Beast - Elizabeth Hoyt

Another winner from Elizabeth Hoyt: tortured, "ugly" hero, working girl heroine, plenty of romantic tension and enough interesting secondary characters to make the reader look forward to them getting their own books.

Darling Beast is a classic Beauty & the Beast tale done well, set in London during the Georgian period. It reintroduces other characters from the Maiden Lane series, and brings forward some new ones, and the entire effort is a very satisfying page turner.