Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: DEAREST DARLING by Andrea Downing

It's my pleasure to introduce Andrea Downing, an author I've enjoyed reading for some time. Her characters are the kind that linger on my mind, always unique, funny, and up for every kind of adventure. 
#western historical romance #cowboys #Andrea Downing #Wyoming #Jackson Hole

Genre: Western Historical Romance
Length: 82 Pages

About The Book
Stuck in a life of servitude to her penny-pinching brother, Emily Darling longs for a more exciting existence. When a packet with travel tickets, meant for one Ethel Darton, accidentally lands on her doormat, Emily sees a chance for escape. Having turned down the dreary suitors that have come her way, is it possible a new existence also offers a different kind of man?

Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.

But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.

Author Bio:
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born,  instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit.  Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC.  She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west.  Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards.  Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards.   Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and comes out Oct. 8th and Dances of the Heart, another full length novel, comes out in the next few months.

Thanks so much for having me here today, Lynda.  I always enjoy our chats and am grateful for this opportunity to talk about Dearest Darling.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
A love of the west primarily, be it my western historical writing or my contemporary novel which will be coming out soon.  But also, I like to think I write slightly complicated plots, plots with a few twists other than just the complexities of the love story itself.  I like surprises!  And Dearest Darling certainly has a few…

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
That's a tough one. I love going out to the Tetons and Jackson Hole area, so I wanted to set this book there.  I wanted to try to convey my awe of that area and the people who homesteaded it, though it was difficult without making the setting the main focal point of the book. But that is what I enjoyed most, having a setting with which I am familiar, and to which I feel a great attachment.

What would you most like us to know about your new book?  This goes back to the surprises and complexities of the plot.  I'd like readers to know this is not your usual 'mail order bride' book; in fact, I never thought of it as being about a mail order bride until someone commented on that aspect!  If anything, it's more about the chances people are willing to take to lead the lives they want. 

How did you come up with the title?  When I heard The Wild Rose Press was doing a 'Love Letters' series I immediately decided this was for me, and how else do you start a love letter other than 'Dearest Darling?'  But that reference alone was too obvious so, with a little nod to J. M. Barry's Peter Pan and the Darling family, I named my heroine Emily Darling.

Can you tell us about your main character?  Emily Darling is someone who knows her own mind and is very strong-willed but is also a product of her background and the times in which she lived.  On the one hand, she has been forced to accept male domination in the personages of both her father and her brother in order to survive, but on the other hand she is brave enough to have not succumbed to a loveless marriage just for the sake of being married, and to take what opportunities come her way in order to experience a different life.  And she's curious about life, she wants to know what's out there, what this or that feels like, why someone did this or that.  She's patient enough to bide her time to wait for her opportunities, but when the opportunity presents itself, she'll take her chance.

What do your plans for future projects include?  I have a full-length women's fiction novel coming out from The Wild Rose Press called Dances of the Heart, and I'm working on some more commercial fiction at the moment.  I also have a Civil War period saga in mind and, of course, there's always the next western historical to plot out.

      Thanks again for having me here today Lynda—much appreciated!

Excerpt: Dearest Darling
The mercantile was a marvel to her. A large store carrying about everything and anything someone could want out here. Barrels of apples, their perfume vying with the aroma of coffee. Rows of canned peaches and beans, brightly labeled. Bolts of fabrics and piles of overalls and blue jeans. Racks of handguns and rifles, cartons of ammunition. Rolls of chicken wire and shelves of implements, tools for farm and ranch and home. Jars of sweet candies and a stack of newspapers and books. Emily’s eyes were big with wonder and Daniel was rewarded to see it as she did, the color, the diversity, the spectacle, not just the practicality of things in a jam-packed shop with sawdust on the floor. And then he shook his head to remove the distractions, concentrate on the matter at hand.
“What can I do for you today, Dan? Not your usual day in town.”
His sideways glance caught Emily suppressing a smile.
“Dan?” she smirked.
He gulped a breath and ignored her. “Hey, Jason, how ya doin’? My cousin here is just out from New York, looking to make a new life. We wondered if there was any work going she might take up. And I do have a list, as usual.” He tried to put a cheerful, friendly note in his voice, something he was definitely not feeling.
The shopkeeper took the list and studied it, shaking his head. “No work as I know of. With summer coming, some things might open up. We always get folks moving in, mebbe starting up businesses, in summer. But nothing as yet. You might want to check back in a week or two. Or there’s the saloon. I heared Ben’s been looking for someone to clean up each morning, but whether you’d want your kin working there, well, that’s another matter.”
Emily stepped forward. “Where is it? The saloon?”
“No!” Damn woman. Daniel sucked in a breath. “You’re not working there,” he said more gently.
Jason’s gaze shot from one to the other. “’Course, I didn’t mean nothing by mentioning it. Mebbe shoulda kept my mouth shut.”
Daniel locked on Emily’s hard stare. Her anger was evident, but she stayed silent.
“Well. I’ll get this order together. Be about fifteen minutes. Can you wait?”
 “Sure thing,” Daniel said and grabbed Emily by the wrist. He dragged her outside after him, almost tossing her against the hitching rail.
“If it’s the only job?” She stomped her foot. “I don’t belong to you, you can’t tell me—”
“I can. And I am. You made yourself my responsibility...” They were shouting, and he lowered his voice, his gaze darting around. “You made yourself my responsibility the day you took those tickets and came out to me.” He let this sink in, reining in his own truculence. “You’re gonna do what I say, and I’ll make the dang decisions. You got that?” He waited for a response. “I said, do you understand?”
Emily crossed her arms. “You said, ‘you got that,’ not ‘do you understand.’” Smugness was written across her face, her lips a thin, tight line, her eyes round with the correction.
Daniel straightened. Then he laughed. And he laughed a little more. “Oh, heck.” He lifted his hat briefly, swept the hair out of his eyes, and set the hat back on his head. “How the hell did this happen to me?”

Lynda's Review:
As you can tell by the excerpt above, these are not just ordinary characters. They will slip off the page and stay with you for a while. This story makes you think about what risks people take in order to find happiness and the complication and hurdles that result. The element I love best about author Andrea Downing's writing is her absolute control and use of dialog. It's always snappy, character revealing, and plot progressing. And setting comes in second, because after reading one of her books, I can put the location on my 'been there' list. The descriptions are always rich and full of small details that make me feel as if I've actually experienced them. Thank you so much for a heart-thumping story, Andrea. I look forward to reading many more.

Links to Social Media:  
Twitter:  @andidowning 

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  1. Well, thank you so much for such a lovely review! I was honored just to be interviewed here, Lynda, but you certainly put the icing on the cake! Many thanks!!

    1. I really love your writing, Andrea. And I hope you write many more great books in the future. Thank you for being my guest.