Thursday, March 25, 2010

What are you reading -- Michelle Styles?

PHS Editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles divulges the contents of her various reading Mountains.

I often have a variety of books on the go. A number of different mountains if you will -- books for pleasure, romance to relax, research books and craft books.

At the moment, on a whim, I have started Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It is the fictionalised account of Thomas Cromwell's life. It won loads of prizes last year, but it is not for everyone. It is a hard read in many ways as it is written in present tense and the narrative jumps time so I suspect there will be a number of people who start the book and don't finish. But Mantel has created a fascinating protrait of the time period. A few years back, I went through a real Tudor phase and read a lot of non fiction about the period, starting with Peter Ackroyd's Life of Thomas Moore. I gave Wolf Hall to my husband for Christmas and he kept staying up late at night to read it. I am about half way through and it does immerse you in the world. Mantel really does give a sense of place and time.

However, much of the time, I don't want challenging things to read after a long day's writing. I like to be entertained. And so I read series romance as I know that I can be swept away in the author's world.

Top of my list for want to read is Donna Alward’s latest Her Lone Cowboy. I met Noah in a very rough form and I am excited to find out what he turned out like. I loved the wedding dress scene and I want to see the added touches that Donna always gives things. Donna has promised that she has sent me a hardback copy...I am waiting on the Postal Service...I have been waiting for awhile...

I recently read Kate Walker’s The Konstanos Marriage Demand. It is vintage Kate Walker and well deserved its top pick from the RT. A true Romeo and Juliet story, Kate sucked me into her world from the very first page. But in truth it is more than vintage Kate Walker, it is a classic Presents story and will be loved by anyone who enjoys an intense read.

Kate Hardy’s Good Girl or Gold Digger (hated the title, loved the book) had me turning pages late into the night. She is the perfect author for waiting rooms. So I read her latest Medical The Doctor's Lost and Found Bride about two A& E doctors who divorced but encounter each other again while I waited for my youngest to take his guitar exam. Annoyingly the examiner was running close to time and so I had to finish it at home that night.

With writing craft books I recently discovered Elizabeth Lyon’s The Manuscript Makeover and think it is the best book on writing that I have read in a long time. It really helped me pin point where I had been going wrong and why. I also learnt the POV that I write in – dual and the importance of psychic distance (ie how far away is the camera). It is a book that lives on my desk when I am revising and editing. And I just sent my editor a copy. Thanks to Lyons' book, discovered The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock which gives a more feminine perspective to the whole concept of the protagonist’s growth arc. It chimed with me in a number of ways — not the least with her depiction of true versus illusionary romance. It all stems on whether or not the relationship is a partnership or one where a deity is worshipped. No prizes for guessing the vast majority of the romance genre is centred around partnership rather than the deification of some male demi-god.

With research books, I keep going to the Lit and Phil and discovering wonderful books. One was the Woman in Fashion by Doris Langley Moore. Moore was one of the first femaleFashion historians as well as being a respected Byron scholar and costume designer ( she did Katharine Hepburn's wardrobe for the African Queen). Her collection of dresses provided the nucleus for the Fashion Museum in Bath. In 1949 with the publication of The Woman In Fashion, she proved that the 18 inch waist was a myth. It was down to fetish writing, people’s faulty memories and clever cutting. She did this by measuring as many surviving dresses as possible. Much is down to the shape of the foundation garments... The models in the book were all Society women, actresses and ballerinas from Moore’s day and the dresses actual ones from the period. It was great to see Lynne Redgrave as a young girl and Vanessa Redgrave as a pre teen. All the bridal gowns are modelled by ballerinas including Moira Shearer. Vivian Liegh looked ravishing. To my intense personal satisfaction, she refers to reticules and not ridicules, plus shows examples of them from different periods. Moore was a stickler for accuracy and it is largely thanks to her efforts that fashion history came to be researched.
I have also been reading books on Lady Hester Stanhope, including the letters she and her lover wrote. At age 31, Lady Hester, a spinster took 20 year old Michael Bruce as lover because as she wrote to his father she adored his beautiful body. A thoroughly fascinating woman.

Michelle Styles's latest North American release A Noble Captive is out now in Harlequin Historical Direct. Her last UK release Compromising Miss Milton is out in paper in May 2010.


  1. Got to say that if agree Elizabeth Lyon’s The Manuscript Makeover a great book.

  2. Lady Hester sounds like a very interesting lady. Any books on her that you could recommend?

  3. Thank you for the lovely comments on Konstantos Marriage Demand, Michelle. It's always a real compliment when a fellow author loves a book.