Friday, August 26, 2022

Audio Book Review: My Lord Winter by Carola Dunn #Fridayreads

My Lord Winter
Regency Romance
Carola Dunn
Audible Audio
Tara-Louise Kaye - Narrator
Tata House LLC - Publisher
6 hrs 30 minutes

BOOK BLURB: Lady Jane Brooke sought shelter when her coach broke down, and found herself at the Earl of Wintringham’s estate. Trying to conceal her identity, she introduced herself as a governess. Lord Winter, as the apparently cold earl was called, thawed in response to the delightful Miss Brooke, but she knew he would never approve of her deception.

REVIEW: The story has the usual elements that fans of regency romance look for. The mis-matched couple, the people working to keep them apart, and all of the airs that people put on while attending the fancy balls and other social gatherings during "the season." 

What makes each book unique is the cast of characters, especially the two lead characters; and in this case we have the delightfully impish Lady Jane and the troubled Lord Winter.  

Lady Jane is controlled by her mother who wants Jane to embrace the social norms of the ton and behave in all the proper ways. Lord Winter is controlled by his aunt. She wants him to marry one of the ladies she's chosen for him, and she isn't willing to accept the fact that he'd rather stay at the country estate to take care of the family interests there. He couldn't care a whit about one of those pretentious ladies his aunt has selected to be his bride.

The ruse that Jane is simply Jane when she arrives on Lord Winter's doorstep with the other passengers of the mail coach after it breaks down is what drives most of the plot of this story, and that secret identity is a common trope in romances. It works well for most of this book, but Jane's reluctance to tell Lord Winter the truth drags on a bit longer than what I thought necessary. And the ending of the story was rather abrupt. 

For me, some books are best read in print or electronically, and that proved true for My Lord Winter. While listening to this audiobook, it was often hard to follow the action and dialogue in scenes that had a lot of characters. The narrator did a commendable job giving each major character a distinct voice, but distinctions were less obvious in those busy scenes. When there were less people, especially the scenes with Jane and her governess, Miss Gracechurch, and then with Lord Winter, it was easier to distinguish the voices. 

Jane's sense of humor, and her willingness to let it shine, is an integral element of her personality. The comradery and teasing that goes back and forth between her and Miss Gracechurch lets the reader see that sense of humor, as well as the bond that connects them. 

It was also delightful to see how Jane uses that element of fun to thaw the "cold-hearted" Lord Winter. 

Balancing her responsibilities to the potential beaus Lady Jane meets at the customary balls that are held to pair eligible young men and women with her "dates" with Lord Winter, leads to some interesting subterfuge. She is aided by Ella and Albert, who soon develop their own romance, as does Miss Gracechurch with the lawyer Mr. Selwyn. Those two lines of sub-plot were handled deftly and added quite a bit of interest to the story, as well as giving the reader more characters to enjoy. 

If you're a fan of regency romance, this is a good story to read, and if you aren't already a fan of the genre, My Lord Winter is easy reading with characters that will quickly have you looking for more from Carola Dunn.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carola Dunn is the author of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, the Cornish Mysteries, and over 30 Regencies. Born and raised in England, the author now lives with her dog in Eugene, Oregon, USA. To find out more about Carola, visit her WEBSITE



Maryann Miller is a novelist, editor, and sometimes an actress. She's written a number of mysteries, including the critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Gaiman's Sandman and Crafting a Quest

I admit I have not read any of Neil Gaiman's books. I should probably remedy that. I have, however, enjoyed the TV series Lucifer. I was on the fence about the new series Sandman based on comics which are described as "a dark, fantastical, fearless genre-bending riot of creative storytelling."

The story breaks genre expectations. There is no Fantasy hero's journey. The episodes dip in and out of times and places. There is no one antagonist for the hero to battle. Most satisfying for me: no romance or sex. Good storytelling can be done without them. The entertainment industry seems to think sex is the only thing that sells. But it isn't. You just need a darn good well-written story. 

The protagonist is Morpheus, Lord of Dreams. I really enjoy the worldbuilding and unique twists on known characters such as Lucifer and Mazikeen, Cain and Abel, and an adorable gargoyle. The stories incorporate heaven and hell, angels and demons, humans and mythological characters. The theme of dreams and waking worlds is expertly interwoven. In one scene, Morpheus asks Lucifer how it is possible to torment people in hell if there is no hope of heaven. I've written down so many "love lines" from the dialogue. Clever dialogue can make or break a good story. Sometimes it is too preachy and on the nose. It is the subtlety that makes it magic.

The television series is a good example of a quest plot. The protagonist is caught and his magic objects stolen. When he is released, he goes on a journey to recover his precious relics with a series of challenges, aided and confounded by a unique set of characters. 

This type of story easily falls apart. However, in the right hands it can be more mesmerizing than the traditional hero arc. It allows shifts in time and place and cast that would not work well in other genres.

I recommend analyzing Sandman scene by scene as a study in master craft. Whether you wish to write a novel, comic, graphic novel, or anime series, there is much to learn from the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

For a more in-depth discussion of the series, check out this article:

For more on crafting stories without an overt antagonist check out:

Flipping Fantasy Tropes

Choosing Your Antagonist

Levels of Antagonist

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

POVs, Dialogue, and Info Dumps

Writers have a laundry list of things we pay close attention to, not only when writing our books but when reading others’ works. Putting aside the typos or grammatical errors – we all make those in the first hundred drafts - the two things that I watch are dialogue and info dumps.

Dialogue is the force behind a good book. If it’s not done well, it can ruin a good story, no matter how good the story is. Is the dialogue stilted or natural? Would a person say that sentence or would only a writer write it? Would the speaker use that word? Those are questions I ask myself when I’m writing. It’s easier and clearer when your character says what you want the reader to know rather than telling it in narrative form. Show vs tell isn’t always action. The best way to know if your dialogue sounds natural is to read it aloud. I do it until I'm sick of my own voice.

In a series, we want each book to stand alone, without cliffhangers to the next book, at least I do. If a new reader unknowingly reads the second or third book in a series first, or if there’s too much time between the publications, it’s important to remind the reader what happened previously. TV series do it by simply saying, “Previously on The Last Kingdom,” and presenting a short trailer to remind the viewer what went on in the last episode. Writers do that too, but it’s tricky to do it without an info dump. So, how does a writer fill in what happened earlier without hitting the reader over the head?

Slowly and carefully, interspersing the backstory in little pieces.

As I mentioned, I do it through dialogue if possible. It’s easier in third person because the writer can always have another POV tell readers what she wants them to know.

EXAMPLE: third person, multiple POV

He loved the way her curly black hair moved when she walked, how the sun picked out the blue-black highlights.

In this example, the writer lets another character describe her main character because it’s awkward for the main character to describe herself.

EXAMPLE: first person

Diana looked in the mirror while pinning up her long, curly black hair.

NO, NO. Never once have I looked in the mirror and mentally acknowledged the color of my eyes or hair unless I needed to color it, which reminds me…

This is the beginning of chapter one of Mind Games, the first book in my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: 

Diana Racine, Fraud of the Century

That was the headline in the morning’s Times-Picayune. She’d heard the accusation since she was a child. Charlatan in Miami, carny huckster in Detroit, and a dangerous witch in Boston. Others had called her a hustler, schemer, faker, pretender, gypsy, quack, phony, and scamster. That last was from Vegas. Totally biased reporting there.

They were all right. She was a fraud. And a damn good one too. A thirty-three-year old, five-foot-two bundle of fraud.

To a point.

Well here I am, people of New Orleans. Judge for yourselves.

She peeked around the curtain at the filled-to-capacity crowd, blew a curl off her forehead, and smoothed her skirt. After massaging her neck to loosen the tight muscles, she drew a deep breath, let it out slowly. They’re just people, Diana. You’ve done this a thousand times before. She stepped onto the stage to the welcome sound of applause.


What do we know about Diana right away? She’s famous or she wouldn’t be written up in the newspaper. She’s been called a fraud since she was a child. Why? She is a fraud but "to a point." Is she or isn't she? Hmm, curious? She’s thirty-three, five-feet-two, has curly hair, she’s in New Orleans, and she’s a seasoned entertainer because she’s done this a thousand times before, hence, that’s why she’s famous. She also wears only black and white, but that’s not mentioned until later, and it’s mentioned by the killer.

That’s a lot of information. Is it an info dump? Kind of, but not so it hits you over the head. That’s my opinion, but I’m biased. More importantly, does it make you want to know more about the character and keep turning the page?

To offer another example, I went straight to my bookcase for an author who describes his lead character’s physical stats at the beginning of the second chapter. His first chapter is always from the killer’s POV. Here is John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport from Night Prey:


“Lucas was a tall man with heavy shoulders, dark-complected, square-faced, with the beginnings of crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes. His dark hair was just touched with gray; his eyes were a startling blue. A thin white scar crossed his forehead and right eye socket; and trailed down to the corner of his mouth. He looked like a veteran athlete, a catcher or a hockey defenseman, recently retired.”


Is this an info dump? It’s a matter of style, and his style is to do that in each book. He also describes most characters on first meeting, including what they’re wearing. Believe me, I’d give anything to have Sandford’s sales, and I’m not criticizing his successful style. He’s consistent, and it works for him. He describes his character right off and doesn’t have to do it again. There’s a neatness to that. It leaves me wanting to know about the scar, which he discusses somewhere in the books.

Do you write in first or third, and how do you describe your characters in those POVS? Do you use dialogue or narrative for description? Do you notice how other writers do it? Inquiring minds want to know.


Polly Iyer is the author of ten novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Indiscretion, and her newest, We Are But WARRIORS. Also, four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder, with a fifth book on the way. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.