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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sexiest Man in Period Costume Awards!

Ok, so by now you may well have heard that in a Romantic Novelists Association poll, Richard Armitage was voted The Sexiest Thing on Two Legs.

The Press Release states:

"British actor Richard Armitage has leapt from last year’s 4th place to this year topping the ratings in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2009 Valentine’s poll, to take the title of Sexiest Thing on Two Legs, beating top Hollywood stars to the number one spot.

Johnny Depp, who topped last year’s poll, was pushed firmly into second place, with Hugh Jackman and George Clooney mere also-rans. “Richard Armitage took 20% of the vote, more than double the count of any other male on the list,” said the RNA pollster. “He was a clear winner from the off.”

The RNA is not alone in admiration of the actor, as numerous online Richard Armitage fan sites will testify. The ardency began with North and South, grew by leaps and bounds with his appearance as the leather-clad baddie in Robin Hood, and shows no sign of diminishing as Spooks takes to the airwaves.

‘It’s a coup for Britain,’ said one starstruck writer, ‘not just for sexy Richard.’

The full list: 1. Richard Armitage 2. Johnny Depp 3. Hugh Jackman 4. George Clooney 5. Daniel Craig 6. Sean Bean 7. Alan Rickman 8. David Tennant 9. Pierce Brosnan 10. Gerard Butler

Fair enough! Richard Armitage has long been one of my favourite actors for his superb performance in North and South. I watched it again last night to remind myself just how superb he was. Many of the other actors on the list have also looked very fine in historical films or TV series. But from the perspective of a historical romance author there are a few notable omissions to the list. So here are a few additional suggestions for the award of Sexiest Man in Period Costume.

1. Rupert Penry-Jones. Quintessential gentleman, dashing action hero with a suitably chiselled jaw. The best thing about the recent TV adaptation of John Buchan's superb novel The Thirty-Nine Steps.

2. Henry Cavill. Which would you choose, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as King Henry VIII or Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk? A writer friend and I had this debate when The Tudors first hit our TV scenes. Suffolk is a bad, bad boy, the ultimate rake. To me Henry is dangerous in a just-a-bit-too-scary-to-be-sexy way. Suffolk gets my vote!

3. Anthony Howell. The BBC is currently repeating Andrew Davies' adaptation of Mrs Gaskell's book Wives and Daughters which reminded me of the deeply romantic scene in the snow at the end. Maybe Anthony Howell didn't create a stir in this because he was playing such a nice-guy hero. But hey, he gives the heroine a wasp's nest as a present! What could be finer than that?

What do you think of the RNA poll? And do you have any nominations for the award of Sexiest Man in Period Costume?

Friday, February 6, 2009

What makes you want to pick up a book?

In these credit crunching times the big question for authors and publishers everywhere is what makes readers pick up a book. Here is a list of factors that the industry experts think are important. What do YOU think?

1. Word of mouth - Who do we really trust? When it comes to the important things in life - like reading - it's the opinion of friends, family and colleagues that counts. According to The Bookseller magazine, word of mouth is one of the best ways to sell a book, even in these media-saturated times. A quarter of people surveyed by the magazine said that they had bought their most recent book on the basis of a recommendation from a friend. Of course, word of mouth is not always a natural process and publishers do their utmost to think of ways to use the phenomenon. From viral marketing to social networking, there are many avenues to try to get a book into the hands of the literary pioneers in any group.

2. The Book Group - An influential way to create a buzz about a particular book and have fun at the same time.

3. Recommendations from TV Book Clubs - Oprah, Richard and Judy, the TV book group is hugely influential and has backed many titles that have come to be bestsellers.

4. The author - The author as a brand has become even more important. The survey found that the only factor more influential than word of mouth in making a reader pick up a book was if they had read and enjoyed a previous book by that author. Moral of the story - always write the very best book you can because it is your most important selling tool. Of course this is exactly what authors try to do, which is why reviews that suggest that you have rushed out a book or failed to do a good job are particularly disappointing.
5. Great cover art - it's official, people do judge a book by the cover. Luxurious thick paper, cut-out sections, embossing, full colour, even glitter all play their part. According to the research, a good cover can make or break a book.

6. In-Store Marketing - The 3 for the price of 2 offer can be very seductive, as can those pyramids of books by the front door of the ground floor of the bookshop. It take much more dedication to search through the shelves in the dark far corner on the fourth floor - though for some dedicated book-lovers that can be half the fun!

7. Prize Nominations - There is nothing more valuable than free publicity and book prizes can offer that in spades. This isn't a sure fire route to success, though. Some Booker Prize winners have fallen completely flat.

8. Unusual Titles - Can be gimmicky but also eye-catching. What's your favourite?

9. Reviews - Are they influential or do you like to make up your own mind? Good reviews can be brilliant; thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful, well-written. Poorly written ones... Let's not go there.

10. Newspaper or magazine publication - If the attention brings sales then great. If it persuades people they've had enough then hopefully the writer has still got a fee from the newspaper.

Are there any other factors that make YOU pick up a book? What do you think of the experts' view? Do you find reviews helpful? Do you judge a book by the cover? Do you like unusual titles?

You are invited to join me tomorrow on the UK Regency Authors Blog to discuss the enduring appeal of Scotland as a setting for historical romance!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Six Degrees of Georgette Heyer

I've found a wonderful new displacement activity! Those of you who read the BBC History Magazine might already be familiar with it. It's called The Six Degrees of Francis Bacon and it works on the same principle as Six Degrees of Separation, which is the idea that each person on the planet is only six steps away from anyone on earth.

To take up the History Magazine's challenge you start with any reasonably well known person from any historical period and/or country and find something that links them to another historical figure. You can be as wild and wacky as you like, with literally ANYONE eligible. Within six steps you have to link them to Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I's chancellor. I have wasted (I mean spent in useful research) literally hours and hours on this conundrum. Then I thought that as a Regency author, why not devise The Six Degrees of Jane Austen? Or The Six Degrees of Georgette Heyer? I'll report back when I've worked it out. Or if you get there first, let me know...

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Happy February! As I write it's frosty and cold here in the UK with a wind that is apparently straight from Siberia! So here is some hot-off-the press book news which I hope will warm us all up!

Firstly the UK edition of Unmasked is in the shops this month. Isn't the cover gorgeous (although I did have to look twice to see what the heroine has in her hand - I thought it was a banana rather than a mirror!) I love the covers they are giving my books in both the UK and US! This edition has lots of extra pages giving some historical information about the background and setting, including some fascinating facts about nineteenth century highwaymen - and women!

To celebrate the UK publication of Unmasked and the US publication in March of my new book Kidnapped: His Innocent Mistress (more on that later in the month!) I have a special contest on my website. I'm running it jointly with the very lovely and talented Amanda McCabe whose book To Deceive a Duke is currently in the UK shops and is also available from Mills & Boon online and from Amazon. To Deceive a Duke has the sort of background I love. It's set on an archaeological dig in Sicily! Find out more at Amanda's website and blog, and enter the contest here!
Later this month I'll be sending out my newsletter with another special contest for subscribers only and a feature on the Scottish background to Kidnapped: His Innocent Mistress. So if you love all things Scottish sign up for the newsletter here and look out for this very special competition and feature!
Meanwhile, to get us in the mood for Valentines Day on 14th February, the wonderful Mystic Castle have put together a luscious Valentines video and they are also running a contest!

And as if that wasn't enough, to celebrate their 60th Anniversary, Harlequin are offering a big book giveaway here! The free books showcase the best in each Harlequin line from romantic suspense to historicals. So keep warm this February and curl up with a good book!