Friday, December 2, 2011

With a Little Help from My Friends

It was a bad day. I’d just found out that my Border’s in Bowie, Md., was one of the stores that was closing in an effort to avoid bankruptcy. (If I’d known the whole chain would go under only months later, I would’ve felt 100 times worse.) I found myself wandering the familiar aisles, trying to soak up the sights and sounds while I still could. And of course I was shopping. My attention was drawn to a title: When Harry Met Molly. Smiling slightly, my eyes moved to the adjacent book: Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right. I was hooked. Similar to my weakness for a good cover, I’m a sucker for wordplay.

I didn’t recognize the author, Kieran Kramer. Picking up the books, I looked next at the covers. The smiles of the cover models were slightly mischievous, inviting the reader to smile back. A nice shout-out from one of my favorite authors, Julia Quinn. And the pièce de résistance was three small words—The Impossible Bachelors. To this experienced reader that meant only one thing: a series! I bought them both and placed them on my bookshelf. Unfortunately, as I had a backlog of books wanting to be read, they sat there for a few months. And then I ran across Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage and my favorite cover model Ewa da Cruz. It was time to say “yes” to Kramer’s Impossible Bachelors.

Kramer had me by page two of When Harry Met Molly, which featured an original piece entitled “A Love Rectangle of Tragic Proportions.” As recited by the heroine, 13-year-old Lady Molly Fairbanks, the unfortunate poem resulted in our hero, Lord Harry Traemore, being soundly trounced by his older brother, Roderick, for kissing the lovely Lady Penelope Fairbanks—Roderick’s fiancée and Molly’s older sister. I’d just met Molly, but I already knew I was going to like her.

Flash forward a few years and Harry’s in even worse trouble. By order of the Prince Regent, five gentlemen had been conscripted into the Impossible Bachelor’s wager. The unlucky group consists of Harry, his three best friends (Nicholas, the Duke of Drummond, Captain Stephen Arrow, and Charles, Viscount Lumley), and Harry’s mortal enemy, the odious Sir Richard Bell. The winner would enjoy “an entire year of freedom from the trials, tribulations, and, ahem, joys of marriage.” The losing bachelors would draw straws. The one with the shortest straw would have to propose marriage to a woman chosen by committee. Prinny’s rules are simple: the gentleman whose mistress wins the title of “Miss Delectable Companion” wins the wager.

Harry thinks he has it in the bag. And then his now sister-in-law Molly stumbles back into his life. Since her scandalous reading, Molly’s been languishing away at the Providence School for Wayward Girls. To escape, she’s come up with the harebrained idea to elope with her father’s assistant, Cedric Alliston.  At a seedy roadside tavern, the two run into Harry and his exquisite mistress. Harry and Fiona are on their way to Harry’s country estate to compete in the Impossible Bachelor’s wager. Sparks fly, tempers flare, and soon Cedric and Fiona take off and leave their quarrelsome counterparts in the dust—literally, the dust of their carriage wheels.

So what’s a ruined debutante and a desperate lord to do? How about concoct a scheme of epic proportions? Molly agrees to pose as Harry’s mistress, Delilah, for the weekend. If she wins “Most Delectable Companion,” Harry agrees to find her a husband. Lessons on kissing, flirting, and sashaying commence. And soon Molly finds herself competing against the other mistresses: actress Athena Markham, the elegant and mysterious Joan, the delectable and demure Bunny, and Hildur, a towering Icelandic beauty with a fierce temper and an uneven grasp of the English language. Like another Molly—the Unsinkable Molly Brown—our Molly refuses to admit defeat. Instead, she rallies the Mistresses into turning the tables on the gentlemen and having them compete for a change. Eventually, Molly wins over everyone: the voting gentlemen and their mistresses. No surprise, Molly also wins Harry’s heart. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this charming tale. So much, in fact, that I’ve even read its companion blog,

The second book in the Impossible Bachelor series is the story of Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes and Nicholas, the Duke of Drummond. Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right starts strong right out of the gate. A sworn spinster, Poppy has invented an imaginary fiancée to stave off unwanted suitors.  So imagine her shock and dismay when the Duke of Drummond turns out to be a flesh and blood man. After hearing about his supposed engagement, Nicholas corrals the spirited Poppy at a ball and convinces her to play out the ruse. Why? It turns out the enigmatic Nicholas is a heroic English spy. And pretending to be engaged will free him from all the matchmaking mamas and their daughters. I found their story to be just as engaging as Kramer's first book.

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage is the story of Captain Stephen Arrow and bookstore owner, Jilly Jones. Jilly hides a dark secret: she has fled and is in hiding from an abusive husband. Using the last of her fortune, Jilly has opened a small bookstore on Dreare Street. Pronounced “dreary,” the street is all the name implies, dark, dismal, and nearly always encompassed by a thick fog. The inhabitants of the street have fallen on hard times, but the indomitable Jilly attempts to rally her beaten down neighbors and rejuvenate the neighborhood. And then Stephen, who has inherited a property on Dreare Street, moves in next door. In Stephen’s own words: “Miss Jilly Jones. Already Stephen adored her. He always did the outliers.” Watching Jilly and Stephen fall in love was touching and enjoyable.

The last book in the Impossible Bachelor’s series, How to Give a Girl a Viscount, came out in November 2011. I'm only a few pages into the book, but I already know I will like it. It looks to be a take on the classic Cinderella, including an evil step-mother, two wretched step-sisters, and, in this case, a Viscount in need of a quest. Stay tuned.

I urge you to give Kieran Kramer and her Impossible Bachelors a read. Because in addition to penning a beguiling series about four friends, Kieran Kramer knows firsthand what it’s like to get “a little help from her friends.” In the Author Acknowledgements page of her second book, Kramer shares this amazing story.

I’d also like to thank Herbert Ames. He’s a NASCAR man who was wearing a white suit and a huge grin the day I met him on a plane…“Kieran Kramer, are you a book writer?” I dared myself to say, “Yes, Herbert, I am,” even though I hadn’t found a publisher yet. And I was a book writer! I had thousands of pages to show for it. Well, Herbert whipped out his cell phone and called his good friend Janet, who was a writer, too, and urged her to read my book. “Kieran Kramer’s gonna make it.  I just know it!” he shouted into the phone and then he passed it six rows up to me.

So who did that writer turn out to be? None other than best-selling author Janet Evanovich. Did her “friend” Herbert help Kieran get published? Who knows, but it’s a great story. And sharing great stories is what my blog is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I'm so honored that you wrote about my stories!!! My greatest joy as an author is to bring a few hours of reading pleasure to other readers. I'm always a reader first--writer second. I think like a reader when I write. And as a reader, I want to be entertained. I want to snatch a few blissful hours away from the daily stresses of life and lose myself in a story.

    Monique, your blog post is SUCH a bright spot in my day, my week, and in this crazy-hectic month of December! Thanks again for sharing my stories with your readers here. Thank you for making me feel that all my long hours writing at my desk are worth it!!!

    XOXO Kieran