Guest Post: Book Reviews a Survivor’s Guide by Incy Black

I’m thrilled to be hosting the fabulous Incy Black today, who has not only kindly written a guest post for the blog, she has also bought her new book along – Hard to Forget – but more about that later.  Without further ado, here she is…

Amazon, Goodreads, blogs and websites, all littered with opinion, some loving, some harsh.  Do book reviews matter? Who knows? Who cares?  Well, the début (and most likely the seasoned) author cares.  From experience, I can assure you the review process is akin to slow-streaking your Rubenesque, less than well-honed naked body down Bond Street crowded with the taut and gorgeous.  In other words, putting your book out there takes blind courage, or probably more accurately, pure 100% proof, drunken nerve.

So, does letting it all hang out in there in public, flaws and all, merit a medal for bravery?  Hardly, in a crowded market place (over-saturated when it comes to books published), success rests on exposure, and good or bad, that’s what reviews garner for the author, exposure.  Example: Fifty Shades of Grey was pilloried, but no one can argue with the sales results.  E.L James laughed all the way to the bank.  But that doesn’t mean the criticism didn’t sting, that it doesn’t continue to gnaw at her confidence.  What it does prove is that a public slicing is survivable if:

  1. You grow a remarkably thick skin (think rhino-hide tough).
  2. You accept the review as ‘an opinion’, and therefore, subjective.  What some love, others will abhor.  Differences in opinion stimulate debate. And, with public debate comes, yes, that Holiest of Grails from a writer’s perspective: exposure.
  3. You read the negative reviews, those one and two star trouncings.  There is gold to be found in criticism. If a sufficient number of critics echo the same point, well, chances are they have a point.  Learn, improve, move forward.
  4. You accept reviews can be bought, arm-wrestled or secured by blackmail.  Shocking, I know, but that’s the reality.  Don’t be intimidated by a competitor with 500 reviews—they may just have more friends and a larger family than you.  10 solid ‘reader’ (i.e. purchaser) reviews will always be more impartial, and therefore more honest, and readers and prospective buyers are rapidly learning to tell the difference.
  5. You react and spit-the-dummy IN PRIVATE.  Don’t go public with a vitriolic counter-attack to a poor review.  Some arguments can’t be won, and an over-zealous defence or calling to account, will come across as an author throwing a tantrum.  Entertaining, but somewhat lacking in dignity.


Incy Black is the author of recently released Hard to Forget, Book 2 in the Hard to… series, featuring hard bastard, rule-breaking heroes, ripe for redemption, and strong, ‘no surrender’ heroines who bring that redemption about.

HARD TO FORGET can best be summed up with two quotes:

He didn’t want her forgiveness. What the hell would he do with it?  Jack Ballentyne

Protective Custody? What’s that a euphemism for, exactly?   Lowry Fisk.

Full details…blurb, buy links, even a free sample (Chapter 1) can be found here

And you are heartily welcome to connect with Incy Black here:



Twitter @IncyBlack

Thank you for popping by Incy!  Words certainly for me, to consider carefully as I send my writing out into the world.

As I mentioned earlier, today is release day for the second book in Incy’s series Hard to Forget – and I was lucky enough to read an advance review copy.

Hard to Forget For a start, what an opening to a book!  Incy Black doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for a piece of romantic suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat the whole way through.  Unlike the previous novel, Hard to Hold, I did not feel confused about the setting and could relax into the story straight away.  Also, like the previous novel, this story does not shrink from depicting violence necessary to the story and I will confess I read the first part through my fingers when considering the attack on Lowry.  I won’t go into too much detail here as it is a big part of the story and if you are of a particularly sensitive disposition you have been warned.

Jack and Lowry.  Well yes, I did wave my mental pom-poms for them in order to get their HEA.  Commander Jack Ballentyne is so stubborn and infuriatingly dense when it comes to Lowry I did threaten to emasculate him on several occasions.  As her ex-boss (and when he was her boss) it seemed like he did everything to make matters worse, and he doesn’t make a great start here.  One tough SOB he works for the same government agency that Lowry once did and her father is currently the head of, awkward.

Former Special Agent Lowry Fisk is clever and tough, with an upbringing that would make anyone so, but in order to survive the ordeal that she went through attempting to do her duty she is damaged whether she likes it or not.  Even she would have to agree that if she wasn’t crazy at any stage, she certainly looked like it.  Coming out the other side of this she is carving a new career as an artist with a bunker that no-one should be able to enter (really).  Unfortunately for her – her attacker has recognised her and this time he means to end her.

This is an intense book and a very intense relationship – so expect fireworks when there are scenes between the two of them, there are also some sensual scenes sensitively dealt with.

What I loved about this book and very nearly gained it a hard won 5 stars (4 1/2) was it was a much more confident read than the first book.  The settings were clearer in my mind as were the hero and heroine, even the secondary characters felt more confident and interesting.  The story moves along satisfyingly fast, and boy does Incy Black write one hell of a chilling villain.  I also loved the country house setting and Jack’s family.  Very intriguing, especially the brothers and Will, yes Will is here!  In general the characters felt much more rounded.  Plus the twist (where I DID work out the villain, first time for everything.)

What I didn’t like so much and what was slightly confusing is that this book takes place before Hard to Hold, so Nick Marshall is working alongside Jack.  This did mess with my head a little to begin with until I realised, and I do wonder why this book wasn’t released first?  Also, while for the most part I felt that Lowry’s PTSD was dealt with well, there were some areas that gave me some cause for concern.  I realise though, that everyone is different but if Lowry was going to be on the road to recovery and at the point of moving forward I felt that sometimes she had gone way back to what she must have been at the time of her trauma, and this didn’t feel right.

To be honest these things feel slightly minor at this point and as I say I very nearly gave this book 5 stars.  I look forward to the next instalment, and WILL NEEDS TO BE THE HERO OF IT, OK?!

Hard to Forget is out today via ebook from Entangled:Ignite.  A copy of this review can also be found on my Goodreads page.

Published: My Article in the Latest Leopard Magazine!

Some exciting news here – I’ve just had my first article published in The Leopard Magazine.

Entitled ‘The Curious Case of the Colonel’s Missing Legs’ you can find it in the latest edition, which is March 2014.

Needless to say, it’s an historical article – and it’s about Charles Mackenzie Fraser of Castle Fraser’s experience of being wounded among some other intriguing things.

Let me know if you’ve read it and what you think.  You can also email me about the legs in question via this blog if you wish.

Guest Post & Giveaway: My Favourite Research Books – Marguerite Kaye

I’m very excited to welcome the lovely Marguerite Kaye to my humble blog this week in order to celebrate the release of her latest book – Rumours that Ruined a Lady.

We’re often talking about books and historical research, so what better subject to have a natter about here!  Take it away Marguerite…

Hi there, and thank you so much for inviting me to talk about one of my favourite subjects, historical research.

I read a LOT, though what I don’t read a lot of are traditional ‘history’ type books. I do have those so I can check up on dates and times and key events, but it’s the detail of history I enjoy most, and the gossip, and for those two things, you can’t beat letters and diaries.

I first came across Lady Hester Stanhope in The Oxford Book of Letters (ed Frank Kermode and Anita Kermode).  Lady Hester acted as her uncle, Pitt the Younger’s political hostess, before heading off to a colourful and ultimately tragic life in Arabia.  It was many years later that I returned to her letters for inspiration when I was writing an Arabian-set romance, but that goes to show that nothing is wasted.  The Oxford Book of Letters is one of those anthologies that are perfect for dipping into when you have a spare half hour.  There is a letter from Fanny Burney to her sister which describes her mastectomy in a great deal of blood-curdling detail.  What struck me though, was the strength of Burney’s personality that shone through, and the depth of the bond between the siblings that allowed her to be so frank. And that’s what I really love about this book. The letters are intimate.  They not only give a real sense of the personalities involved, but they give a real sense of time and place, and for me, that’s what makes the history embedded in them memorable.

Historically, marriage is much more about property than love.  I first came across Lawrence Stone’s books on marriage at university, little thinking that they would be of use so many years later.  My much-thumbed copy of Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives is a fabulous source of material. Lawrence covers the full range of courtship, marriage, divorce and separation in England (which is quite different to Scotland).  There are endless permutations of clandestine marriage, for example, that would make endless variations on plots for a romance.  What has always struck me, particularly from reading some of the case studies he uses, is how relatively easy it is to get married, and how very, very difficult it is to get divorced – particularly for women, and particularly with the freedom to marry again. In fact, so difficult that I almost had to give my latest hero and heroine an unhappy-ever-after because I couldn’t find a historically-accurate way of getting her out of her first marriage.

I do like a good scurrilous history, and Julie Peakman’s Lascivious Bodies is just that.  If you want to know the tricks of the trade employed by courtesans in the Eighteenth Century, or if you’re interested in finding out the range of specialist brothels Covent Garden had to offer, then this is your book.  Molly Boys, cross-dressers, sexual toys and contraception, it’s all here, in bawdy yet authentic detail – some of which I included in my short, Behind the Courtesan’s Mask.

For ‘straight’ research, my current favourite was recommended by the very person who hosts this blog.  Scotland’s Lost Houses by Ian Gow is a beautiful glossy produced by the National Trust for Scotland, of just some of the stately homes that are now lost to us forever.  I ‘borrowed’ Hamilton Palace, exterior and interior, for Crag Hall, my hero’s home in Rumours that Ruined a Lady.  The lush illustrations in Gow’s book inspired me to have my hero and heroine tour the house, and the photograph of the Golden Bed of Brahan (from Brahan Castle) inspired another scene in my book – though I added a mirror!

As usual, I have a huge ‘tbr’ list, but two books are top of the heap.  First off, Antonia Fraser’s Perilous Question, on the drama surrounding the 1832 Reform Bill. It’s a subject I know little about, and I know, because I think I’ve read everything else Antonia Fraser has written, that she’ll bring not just the history but the characters to vivid life. It also helps that I am honoured to have managed to get my hands on a signed copy. Since I’m immersing myself in the 1920s for my next couple of stories, the other book is Mary S Lovell’s The Mitford Girls. I adored Lovell’s biography of Lady Jane Digby, so I don’t doubt I’ll enjoy this, and that it will give me loads of ideas.

But no matter how big my ‘tbr’ pile may be, I am of the very firm belief that you can never have enough books. So if you have any recommendations, do share them with me, I’d love to hear them.

You can see all my reviews, fiction and non-fiction, on my Goodreads page: There’s more about my books, their inspiration and lots of other stuff on my website:  Or why not just come and chat to me about books and life in general on my Facebook page:

Rumours that Ruined a Lady


Amongst the gossip-hungry ton no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider, cast out by her husband and disowned by her family. Rumour has it that the infamous ‘Caro’ is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!

There’s only one man who can save her – notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. Soon Caro is installed in his country home, warming his bed, but their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…

Thank you again for popping by Marguerite, and as a special treat, there is also a chance to win a print copy of Rumours that Ruined a Lady.  All you have to do is tell us about your favourite book in the comments section, and then Marguerite will pick her favourite answer. 

My own review will be appearing on the blog very soon, and why this book is particularly special to me 😀

I also can’t resist adding that I’ve just been to my local bookshop and purchased Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England by Sarah Wise (I loved her book on grave-robbing) and The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones (I’m a massive Richard III fan).  All this in my very own Yeadon’s bookshop Books Are My Bag…bag!  I think you’d like the Wise one, Marguerite!

Writing in Tuscany

Some of you probably already know that I made the decision to take a holiday to Italy this year after not going anywhere for 5 years.  Some of you may also know that I decided to go to Tuscany to take an amazing chance of being taught by Sharon Kendrick in the surrounds of an ancient Watermill in the mountains.

Yes, it is and was as amazing as it sounds, and I learned so, so much.  I also gained confidence and amazing friends in the group of women that I met while I was there.  There is no excuse now not to make the best use of the time and finish my writing and send it out there into the world.

All I can say now is take control of your dreams and make them happen any way that you can.

Here are some memories of my time there – next I will blog about my trip to London on the way home.

The garden at the Mill

The gardens of the mill were fantastic, we wrote out there most of the day, and I loved the roses – so gorgeous against the blue of the sky.

Writing paradisePart of the Mill view from the walled part of the garden.  The river is to the left, and there are several buildings that form a courtyard.

Walking down

Our midweek day off took us on a hike and to the beaches of the Cinque Terre.

You’ve Got One Word…

Thanks to the lovely Mandy, I discovered this fiendish writing practice site.  One word, their choice – you write something in 60 seconds!  No pressure then ;-)  One Word.

Talking of writing, which is pretty much all I can do at the moment – here are some updates on the writing front.

Loving my Pinterest, I have several ideas in development.  From paranormal to modern to yet more historical, one 17th Century and one late 18th Century, early 19th.  Two firm WIPs (works in progress) both well on their way.  One intended for a shorter ebook line, the other a full printed novel.  These are both Regencies and happen to be sisters.  How this all happened is, ahem, another story.

Thing is day job and part time study shenanigans have just left me totally exhausted, and though I desperately want to write I know I’ll be going through the motions.  So.  I took control and not only booked myself a holiday in Italy, I made it a writing one!  You don’t seriously expect me to switch off do you?  Really?

One way or another this writing is getting done!

Expect manuscript sweaty palm moments later on in the year…


A Write Revelation

Yes, a revelation that is I’ve decided to start writing fiction again after a gap of many, many years.

To celebrate I have even gathered my courage together and entered the New Voices writing competition with my historical story.

You can read and comment on Miss Carteret’s Maid here.  Thanks in advance if you do!