As seen in the May issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.
Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell readers more about the Dark Gardens series and what inspired you to weave fantasy in with historicals?
This series is a blend of two of my favorite genres, Regency romance and fantasy. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Ursula LeGuin and Mary Stewart, loved Ursula’s dragons and Mary’s spellbinding myth and magic. I was also a huge fan of Regencies: Jane Austen, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsay, etc. The Dark Gardens is my homage to these two fabulous genres, and – I hope – a perfect blend of both those worlds.
An ancient Fae prophecy is about to unfold in England’s charming Lake District, so it is written in the Stone of Draloch. I welcome all readers to venture into the Dark Gardens where bluebell gardens serve as portals into the realm of the Fae and the red mountain known as Friar’s Crag will lead you to the demonic Dragon Lords. A vicar’s daughter holds the key to Fae salvation. But who is she? And can the Fae king find her in time to save his people?
Uncaged: How many books are you planning for the series? Can you tell us what is coming next?
I’ve written four books so far and will write Dragon Lord Mordain’s story next. He is the red dragon, the guardian of the gate to the Underworld. These are all romances, so even Mordain (who happens to be a son of Lucifer) will find his mortal true love.
But I also have some other writing commitments so next up is more Farthingale series stories, more Brayden series stories, and a Pirates of Britannia story that will come out in November 2018 called Pearls of Fire. Now, that is an interesting tale – I met a real life gem hunter who told me about these mysterious pearls that are the magical colors of a sunrise. They are not made by oysters – but you’ll learn all about them in my story. I was so fascinated by them, that I had to write an action-packed romance around them.
Uncaged: Can you tell readers about your other series?
I’d love to! The Dark Gardens series is gothic and fantastical, but my traditional Regencies are lighthearted, warm, and humorous. My bestselling Farthingale Series is all about the madcap and meddlesome Farthingale family’s adventures when introducing their daughters into London Society. A simple matter, one would think. But no. The Farthingale sisters are notorious for getting into mischief. They don’t go looking for it, but mischief seems to find them. There are five sisters and each has her own stand-alone story. The youngest are identical twins Lily and Daffodil, and they are the little firecrackers who add the spark to all the stories, including their own. Of course, they fall in love with spectacular flair.
I also have a series called The Braydens, another traditional Regency series, but this one is about the big, brawny Brayden men. The first story, A Match Made In Duty was originally written for a military charity set to benefit our own US wounded veterans. When the charity run ended, I published the story on my own because it was too beautiful to hide away. It is a heartwarming novella about the power of true love. My hero, James Brayden, the Earl of Exmoor, returns to London Society after years on the battlefront fighting Napoleon’s forces. He is wounded, scarred, and no longer knows where he fits in Society. When he makes good on a promise and marries the sister of one of his friends who was killed in battle, he never expects that this promise made in duty will turn out to be his salvation.
Uncaged: You also work in a law firm, do the people you work with know about your writing? If so, do they read your novels?
Oh, yes. I am the managing partner in a NYC law firm and am very, very proud of the romances I write. I don’t go out of my way to talk about my writing career, but many of my clients know. Some do read my novels. Some don’t but are excited to tell me that friends or relatives of theirs are fans of mine! I work very hard at both jobs and rarely have any spare time – however, writing relaxes me. It is sheer joy and I’m happiest when I’m writing.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
I will read them on occasion, but usually try to avoid getting caught up in them. I look at them for a general overview to understand whether I’ve engaged the readers and touched their hearts. Every once in a while I’ll get a one-star review (every author does, it’s part of the rite of passage) – surprisingly, often around holidays like Christmas or Easter. I think of those reviewers as unhappy people who feel a need to bring someone down because they are feeling hurt and angry. But there are also reviews that are thoughtful and I find those very helpful (no matter what their star rating). I’ll read them with interest because they are constructive rather than just plain hurtful.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
For the Farthingales in particular, I’ve gotten some heart wrenching emails from readers who are going through very hard times (medically or financially or just struggling in general) and tell me how uplifting and fun these stories are. They finish the books with a smile on their face and a good feeling about themselves. A couple of readers have written to me while at the bedside of a dying husband or mother and told me how I enabled them to laugh amid the despair. Same for The Braydens series, and particularly, A Match Made In Duty – wives of military wounded have sent me blessings and told me it is one of the most beautiful stories they’ve ever read. That is so meaningful to me. I’m proud of my books, but I know I am not Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Diana Gabaldon! But wow, that my stories can move people, mostly to laugh and feel good about themselves, that is huge to me.
Uncaged: What are your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?
That’s a hard question – I love so much about being an author. I love the process of writing each story and finding the perfect match for the hero or heroine (usually someone who should be the worst possible choice, but of course, he or she is the ONLY one they can ever be happy with). I love connecting with readers. I don’t view them as an audience, but as kindred spirits who love historical romance, and we’re all on this fabulous journey together. I have tremendous respect for my readers and count my blessings every day that they allow me to do what I love.
If I have a least favorite part, it’s probably having to meet a deadline. The creative juices don’t flow on command, so I try very hard NOT to put myself under deadline obligations. However, since I write for Dragonblade Publishing, those will come up and I always do my best to turn a polished book in on time. I won’t turn in something that is substandard.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
Ha, ha, ha – I am an Olympic gold medal couch potato. When I’m not writing, I love to turn into a vegetable on my couch and binge watch the Hallmark Channel or Turner Classic Movies. I also love the food network shows and Home & Garden shows. The closest I come to exercising is my daily commute (daily two mile walk, climbing about ten flights of train stairs and subway stairs coming and going). I also love gardening – flowers have a way of renewing my spirit and making me happy. You may have guessed my love for them by the covers on the Farthingale series and the fact that the sisters are all named after flowers: Lily, Daffodil, Daisy, Laurel and Rose.
My favorite place on Earth has to be England. I love everything about that magical, sceptered isle – London, Oxford, York, the countryside, the stunning flower gardens in every yard, Hadrian’s Wall, Windsor Castle, the Lake District (wow!), the people, the history, the War of the Roses, the Battle of Hastings, the Danelaw, the legends of Merlin and King Arthur and Robin Hood, Shakespeare, sheep, manor houses. The list is endless.
Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book?
The hardest part of a book to write is the middle – that is probably the bane of every author’s existence. How do you keep a reader’s interest throughout the story? How do you keep them turning the pages in every chapter? The first part is probably the easiest because you have the reader’s interest and they want to know about the characters. The last part is next easiest, but not all that easy. You hopefully still have the reader’s interest and now must write the climactic ending. But to get them to that ending, you have to keep the story engaging and exciting as you develop the characters and have them undertake their journeys (meaning their inner growth) so that they’ll reach their happy ending.
Not all books are the same, even if they are of equal length. Some stories just write themselves and I find myself typing like mad just to keep up with the characters who are shouting their story to me in my head. My Fair Lily was that kind of story. Lily Farthingale talked to me throughout the book! She’s a bluestocking, but did she want a scholarly, professor hero? No! Give me Ewan, she kept saying, and put him in a kilt! And give him a good dose of Highlander attitude. And give him a dog. What? I loved Lily! She got her story. So did all her sisters. Their personalities were so clear in my head that I knew exactly which hero I needed to give each of them. And each sister had a distinct personality that played right into her story and meshed so beautifully with the other sisters. So many readers recognize their own big, mad, crazy loving family in these stories – or wish they had this big, mad, crazy loving family – and love that about the Farthingales.
The Dark Gardens books were also surprisingly quick for me to write – about three months per story, and they are full length stories. But once you know the characters, and who you must pair them with, then the stories just start flowing. I do a lot of historical research along the way as well. When I’m not writing, I’m reading about the foods of the day, the fashions, the weather, the indigenous flora and fauna, the architecture, the manners, the peerage. Even when creating my Dark Gardens Fae and Dragon Lord worlds, I wanted a level of authenticity that would feel exotic to the reader but also familiar. I hope I achieved that. I am extremely honored that EACH of the four books in the Dark Gardens series was nominated for major awards in publishing. I like to think that it is not a coincidence, but a result of my efforts to bring the readers into a magical world that resonates within their hearts.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I’d like to say THANK YOU! You allow me to do what I love. So thank you for your support, your encouragement and your friendship. Not a day ever goes by that I don’t acknowledge this gift I’ve been given.
Here are some links where readers can follow me – and if a reader emails me, I always respond personally. If someone cares enough to take the time to contact me, then I can surely take the time to answer.
Oh! And if I’m new to you, you can subscribe to my mailing list and download a newsletter exclusive and Farthingale novella, If You Kissed Me. Find the link on my homepage at www.mearaplatt.com.
Garden of Shadows
Danger lurks for Julia Marsden, the daughter of the late vicar of St. Lodore’s Church in the quiet village of Borrowdale.
Julia doesn’t believe in faeries or magic or dreams coming true, but odd things have been happening at the vicarage lately that cannot be explained. Her orphaned cousin, Charlie, believes in mythical creatures and claims that faeries now inhabit the vicarage’s bluebell garden. The boy also claims the faerie king, Cadeyrn, has promised to make him a prince in his kingdom and teach crippled Charlie to walk again if he will cross into the Fae realm.
As the faerie king’s influence on the boy grows stronger, another threat emerges from the boy’s uncle – Douglas Hawke, the Earl of Eastbourne, who has come to wrench him from Julia’s guardianship. Julia is determined to fight both men, but as she and the boy begin to fall under the spell of the faerie king, Julia realizes that only her love for Douglas can save them.
But is Douglas capable of loving her, even at the cost of his own life?
Douglas followed Julia as she wheeled the boy out of the sitting room into the hall and through a quaint blue door with a rounded top. He couldn’t help but notice the soft sway of her hips as she walked, or that she was nicely rounded in all the right places. Her legs, he could tell by the outline of her gown, were long and slender.
“What do you think, Uncle Douglas?”
He forced his gaze from Julia and turned his attention to Charlie and the small room they had just entered. The walls were decorated with intricate drawings not only of St. Lodore’s Church, but of mythical scenes of faeries in their royal court and frolicking in meadows and gardens. There were also drawings of fire-breathing dragons, their rendering so real, he could make out the details of their shimmering scales. “The two black dragons are Brihann and Bloodaxe,” Charlie said. “The red dragon is Mordain. Necros is the amber dragon and Python is the emerald dragon. And these scenes are of the faerie king, Cadeyrn. He’s king of the Woodlands and that makes him High King of all the faeries.”
“Did you paint these?” he asked Julia, determined to stifle his admiration. Not only were they beautifully done, but revealed an intelligence and creative aspect to her nature.
She frowned lightly. “No, Charlie did.”
“Well done, lad.” In addition to talent, the boy had a vivid imagination and a knowledge of the surrounding countryside. Obviously, his mythical characters had been drawn in local surroundings, and though he did not wish to give Julia credit, he had to admit she had not kept the boy cooped up inside despite his infirmity.
Douglas surveyed the small room more closely and nodded his approval. The bed was sturdy, the linens fresh, and the curtains delicate but not feminine. The boy’s window overlooked the bluebell garden and bookshelves lined the opposite wall. A writing desk stood on one side of the bed and a functional nightstand with a basin and ewer stood on the other.
Whatever her faults, and he knew Julia had them, she’d taken good care of the boy.
“How big is your bed chamber at Eastbourne, Uncle Douglas?”
“Enormous, as big as this entire house.”
Charlie’s eyes grew wide in gleeful amazement. “I’d like to see it someday.”
“You will. I promise. Soon.”
Julia stepped between them, gently taking Charlie by the hand and leading him the few steps to his bed. “Enough dawdling, young man. Let me help you out of your jacket.”
She moved efficiently, stripping him out of his clothes and into his nightshirt, then helped him to wash his hands and face. “Don’t forget your prayers,” she said while folding his clothes.
“I’ve said them already.”
“Yes, Julia. I prayed and prayed, and that’s how Uncle Douglas came to us.”
“It’s time for bed,” she said, letting out a ragged breath as she bent down to kiss him.
Douglas bent over him, as well. “Good night, Charlie. Pleasant dreams. I’ll see you in the morning.”
He left the room, allowing the boy and Julia a moment alone. She seemed to need it, though he wasn’t certain why he should care. However, he remained near the doorway, able to hear the exchange between the pair, and was surprised when Julia began a simple bedtime story instead of issuing further warning against the Eastbourne family.
Once upon a time in a magical kingdom there lived a young prince. His parents, the king and queen, loved him very much…
Douglas turned away with a sigh.
He’d meant to take the boy away this very evening, but his plans had changed the moment Charlie had gotten up from his chair and immediately struggled to regain his breath. That incident had shaken Douglas. No wonder Homer had gotten so riled.
So he’d changed his plan and arranged to meet Julia in the sitting room after she’d put the boy to bed. He wasn’t certain what he was going to say, other than make clear the boy would come with him to Eastbourne with or without her cooperation.
Of course, gaining her cooperation would make matters simpler, avoid the unpleasantness of ton gossip, or the nuisance of a legal battle she could not possibly win. He had the law on his side, the influence and connections not only to remove her as the boy’s legal guardian, but to ban her forever from all contact with the boy.
Surely, she understood the futility of her position. And if she didn’t, he’d explain it to her in very blunt terms. His mind set, as it had been since learning of the boy’s existence, he entered the sitting room and crossed to the window in time to watch the sun’s golden rays fade below the horizon.
Sun? When had it stopped raining?
He shrugged, deciding it mattered little and stepped away to peruse the room. He lit a small lamp on a nearby table, but after finding little of interest to occupy his time, he returned to the window, his gaze drawn – indeed, suddenly compelled – to the unusual garden.
He watched, at first amused and then fascinated by the golden twilight as it washed across the flowers and began to play tricks on his eyes, began to take on human shapes, as though Charlie’s faerie king was holding court among the profusion of blossoms.
“Hello, King Cadeyrn,” he murmured with a chuckle.
One of those shapes seemed to nod back at him, soon followed by other golden shapes.
He blinked once, twice.
The images refused to disappear, though he knew such creatures simply could not be. They existed only in a little boy’s imagination. Indeed, Charlie had captured the magical sunset over the garden in several of his drawings, particularly in those renderings of the faerie king and his court.
“My lord, please help yourself to more tea,” Julia called out. “I’ll be another moment.”
“Tea?” In most of those drawings, the faerie courtiers held silver goblets filled with wine.
An instant later, he noticed a decanter of red wine and two glasses on the table beside him. Julia must have set them out in anticipation of their discussion. “I’ll have the wine instead.”
He poured himself a glass and took a sip, expecting an unremarkable vintage. To his surprise, the ruby liquid slid smoothly down his throat and left a very pleasant fruity taste in his mouth. He drank more, enjoying the warm sensation now spreading throughout his body and easing his tension.
He leaned a shoulder against the window pane and lost himself in the magical twilight, in the golden shapes that grew brighter as day settled into night, as the colors of the blue sky faded to gold, then amber-gray and finally to black.
A peaceful, endless black.
Douglas suddenly jolted awake as the empty glass slipped from his hand and shattered. “Damn.” He shook his head and glanced around, only to find himself still standing beside the window. He must have drifted off to sleep, but he wasn’t certain for how long. His limbs were delightfully numb, as though he were floating along an effervescent stream and soothed by its warm, bubbling waters.
Odd that he felt no aches after a long day’s ride.
He let out another muttered oath and knelt to gather the larger shards, setting them on the ledge for the moment.
“Miss Marsden,” he called out impatiently, the garden now a bleak darkness he found most unsettling.
“I’ll be right there,” she responded. “Please make yourself comfortable, my lord. I’m sorry for the delay.”
Kicking aside the smaller pieces of glass, he was about to walk to the hearth to stoke the dying embers when a glimmer of light suddenly emanated from one of the flowers and caught his attention. Silver specks of light soon filled the garden, shimmering like fireflies on a hot summer’s eve.
Was this another trick of the light?
But from what source?
“Miss Marsden,” he called out again as the flowers began to sparkle like diamonds, each diamond assuming the color of its flower. White for daisies. Pink for roses. Blue for the myriad bluebells. Yellow for honeysuckle.
In the next moment, he heard music and whispering laughter seeming to come from the bluebells and drift into the sitting room.
The scent of honeysuckle suddenly filled the air.
“My lord, I’m ready to listen to what you have to say.”
He turned to the sound of Julia’s soft voice behind him and watched with heightened interest as she crossed the room. Small and slender, she moved with an elfin grace, her slippers barely making a sound as she glided to his side. He inhaled her delicate scent, roses kissed by the moonlight. Even her golden hair sparkled in the odd, faerie moonlight.
He shook his head to clear his jumbled thoughts.
Flowers didn’t gleam gold one moment then turn to silver. Had Julia drugged him with that wine?
Douglas moved his toes and fingers, hands and feet, and found nothing wrong with his limbs, no lingering trace of numbness. Nor did he feel any pain in his stomach or his head.
“Is something wrong, my lord?”
“No.” He tried to make logical sense of what was happening. Where was the music coming from, the sound of violins and laughter? It had to be a trick of the wind blowing through the fells. And hadn’t Charlie added honey to his tea tonight? The scent must have lingered in the room.
But that didn’t explain the moonlight penetrating the storm clouds and flooding the room in silvery light… no, there had to be a logical explanation.
“Miss Marsden, I was wondering… who tends to your garden?”
“My garden?” She regarded him curiously. “No one. It tends itself.”
“Impossible. It’s more magnificent than the gardens at Eastbourne and they’re considered among the finest in England.”
She nibbled her lip. “May I ask why we are speaking of my garden?”
“How is it that your flowers shine even in the darkness?”
“Lord Eastbourne,” she whispered, a little tremor to her voice. “You must come away. Here, sit by the fire.”
“Don’t you see those brilliant points of light? Can it be King Cadeyrn and his faerie court making merry in the night?”
“He’s make-believe, the creation of a little boy with a vivid imagination.” She placed a firm hand on his arm and turned him from the window. “Please, my lord. Come away. There’s a draft here and we have important matters to discuss.”
“Julia,” he whispered, taking gentle hold of her. “You’re as beautiful as this enchanted night.”
She let out a moan, but didn’t otherwise protest as he drew her into his arms.
He heard her soft gasp and felt the light heave of her breasts now pressed against his chest. A joyous heat coursed through his body as she melted into his embrace. Tears glistened in her eyes and her mouth parted to invite his kiss. He slowly lowered his lips to her beautiful pink mouth, her soft cries beckoning him closer… closer… then, as though by magic, their lips did touch.
Lightly at first and ever so gently.
Her mouth felt as soft as a dream.
A moonlit dream.
He deepened the kiss, pressing his lips more firmly against her delicate mouth and giving himself over to the sudden, ravenous yearning to possess her.
“My lord,” she said, her voice a velvet sob, “release me now, before this goes too far. Please.”
He opened his eyes as reality, and harsh, male laughter in the distance, suddenly penetrated his senses. “Merciful heavens! What have I done? I didn’t mean… I don’t know how this happened.” It was one thing to see a pretty girl and wish to hold her, kiss her. But to actually do it against her will… he’d kissed Julia Marsden! “There must have been something in the wine.”
“What wine?” Julia’s eyes were now ablaze and her fingers curled into fists against his chest as she tried to push out of his arms.
He let her go, stepped away as well, and pointed to the ledge, but the remnants of his broken glass were gone. He glanced toward the table, only to find the bottle and remaining glass were also gone. “It was here a moment ago.” He shook his head in dismay. “You must believe me.”
“Believe you? As Laura believed your brother’s sweet words and soft kisses? Your obvious ploy will never work on me. I won’t be seduced into giving up Charlie!”
“No, of course not.” He’d never intended to take her into his arms, certainly never meant to lower his lips to her soft mouth. But there was something about the girl, something irresistible that roused his protective instincts. In truth, that roused a dangerous hunger in him. Had her cousin possessed a similar sensual beauty? Is that how Laura Marsden had enchanted his brother? “Please accept my apology.”
“Why should I?”
He let out a ragged sigh. “I don’t know. Because it wasn’t me just then. It wasn’t me. I don’t know how else to explain it. One moment, I was staring into your garden and the next… I saw starlight, heard violins and distant laughter… and the next, I kissed you.”
At first, she didn’t seem inclined to believe him, but as the anger drained from her face, she turned him away from the now fading shimmers of light. “We had better speak in the kitchen.”
“You saw them, didn’t you? Those golden shapes?”
“No, my lord,” she replied shakily. “There’s nothing out there but a very wet, dark night.”
He was about to insist that it wasn’t raining, that the moon was out and the night clear, but one more glance out the window proved him wrong. Rain pelted the glass pane and a howling wind shook it dangerously. Bloody hell. “Yes, of course.”
But she knew. It was as though she understood what had come over him and was frightened by it. Not frightened of him, but of it… whatever it was.
“Miss Marsden, what’s out there?”
Lies, betrayal, love with a twist of a fantastical world, lying closely by in a garden of bluebells.
The book begins as a normal historical regency, but it pulls you into its world and when you start learning all kinds of truths a bit over halfway in, you will have a hard time putting this book down. This book combines both my love of historicals with my love of fantasy, and marries the two genres perfectly. An original story that slowly but surely grabbed on and didn’t let go easily, weaving its spell over me as almost as easily as King Cadeyrn seduced Charlie and Julia. The book takes some terrific twists to keep the reader on their toes. This is a nice start to a series, and I’m looking forward to book two.
Reviewed by Cyrene
4 1/2 Stars
Garden of Light
As battle looms between the Fae kingdoms and the powerful underworld demons known as Dragon Lords in England’s quiet Lake District, the Fae king, Cadeyrn, returns to the vicarage of St. Lodore’s where magical bluebell gardens serve as portals to the faerie world and the ominous red mountain known as Friar’s Crag becomes the battleground for Fae, Dragon Lords and mortals. Cadeyrn is desperate to find the right mortal girl who will save the Fae, for she is destined to love him and die a fiery death for that love, as foretold in the ancient Draloch prophecy. All seems lost, for the only girl who can see him is Melody Hargreaves, a very unwarrior-like young woman who has never fought dragons. How can she possibly be The One?
Melody is being courted by a wealthy lord who seems to adore her and is about to propose marriage, but she feels the powerful magic of her surroundings and is drawn to the world of the Fae and its handsome king. As Bloodaxe, one of the evil Dragon Lords, advances with his demon army, Melody must decide between a safe, comfortable life with the wealthy lord or dying a fiery death at the hands of the Dragon Lords. Melody’s heart belongs to Cadeyrn, and choosing wealth and comfort no longer seems the obvious choice. Cadeyrn has also fallen in love with Melody. How can he change the course of destiny and save her as well as his Fae subjects?
So difficult it was to put this series down and move on to other commitments as it’s such a fantasical tale, and Melody and Cadeyrn are the perfect match. Cadeyrn needs to find “The One,” the mate that will turn the tides in war with the Dragon Lords, or risk losing his people forever. But the Fae don’t have feelings like mortal humans – it’s been suppressed for centuries. Mortal people have trouble seeing the Fae, but Melody does, could he finally have found the mortal woman that can save the fae?
I can say that I liked Cadeyrn in the first book, but I LOVED him in this one. The development of the characters and the world building are in excellent hands with Ms. Platt, and I didn’t want to leave. I am going to be making time for the rest of this series.
Reviewed by Cyrene