Countdown to Smugglivus – Meredith Duran

Day 3 (23 days to Smugglivus and counting)

Who: Meredith Duran, romance novel writer who debuted in 2008 with a romance many hail as one of the best of the year. It has made Ana’s top 10 of 2008.

Recent Work: Her first book The Duke of Shadows was released earlier this year. You can see our review here and a chat we had with the author here.

Ladies and getlemen, Meredith Duran with her best of 2008 and news on her next 2 books *woohoo* :


Occasionally, before The Duke of Shadows was published, I would come across interviews with authors who said that once they became professional novelists, the idea of reading fiction lost its appeal. Some said that non-fiction fed their muse more heartily. Others said their enjoyment of a good novel was hampered because they found themselves approaching it in an analytical fashion, working out why this worked and that hadn’t, and thereby yanking themselves out of the story.

I am very relieved to say that this hasn’t happened to me yet. 2008 was an awesome year to be reading romance. And picking just a few books from the new additions to my keeper shelf is going to be difficult. I’ll start out dramatically, then: I will betray my first love, historicals, by confessing that my year began with a paranormal bang.

First I discovered Ember, by Bettie Sharpe. Ember is a wickedly original retelling of Cinderella, with a fantastic heroine and some of the most unexpected and delightful prose I’ve encountered. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend you set aside a couple of hours. It’s available for free on Bettie’s website:


Then I picked up Demon Night, the fifth book in Meljean Brook’s The Guardians series. In many contemporary paranormals, the “ordinary world” seems invisible. This often works very well, but Brook’s novels are fascinating precisely because she creates a complex, original, finely detailed universe (with angels and demons and vampires!), and then shows how this world overlaps with the mundane, everyday routine of contemporary urban America. As a result, her larger-than-life characters achieve an immediacy and credibility that are riveting. When talking about her books, I often find myself using phrases more typically associated with historicals: “lushly atmospheric” and “richly textured,” for starters.

Back to the historicals (I couldn’t neglect you for long). This year introduced me to three new favorites. First, Joanna Bourne, who owes me at least two nights’ sleep for my bleary-eyed sprints through Spymaster’s Lady and My Lord and Spymaster. Her plotting, her distinctive voice, and her brilliant skill with deep POV (seriously, you could open any page of either book at random, and know within two sentences whose head you’re in) dazzled me.

I am embarrassingly late to the game with Jo Goodman, whom I discovered when I picked up If His Kiss Is Wicked in February. Brilliant plotting, rich characterization, witty dialogue, and searing sexual tension: what more can you ask for? I bought The Price of Desire the day it released, and marveled again at how deftly and thoughtfully Goodman handles very serious issues, even as she constructs an immensely satisfying romance. And then I glommed her backlist.

Finally, Sherry Thomas’s Delicious was a wholly unique treat from start to finish. It’s probably the only novel I’ve read, apart from Dickens’ Bleak House, in which I dog-eared a page because the description of the weather startled and delighted me. On page 206, Verity reflects:

“A London fog was always an unwelcome visitor. It smelled of slop and had the wet fingers of a horny drunk, poking into tender parts where a fully clothed woman didn’t think mere weather could penetrate.”

That is writing, y’all.

There are a dozen more books begging mention, but with 2009 tapping on our calendars, I’ll look ahead to three much-awaited releases. In January, I’ll go to the bookstore for Susan Elizabeth Phillips, my favorite contemporary romance author, and her new release, What I Did For Love.

Since As You Desire and All Through the Night have been on my keeper shelf for many years (and have survived many spring cleanings thereof), I am understandably excited for February, when Connie Brockway returns to historical romance with So Enchanting.

Finally, in March, Shana Abe continues her paranormal historical series about the Drakon with The Treasure Keeper. I was lucky enough to score a copy of The Dream Keeper at RWA this summer, and I read it in one sitting. I can’t wait for the next installment.

Pretty soon thereafter, my year is going to get busy. Early summer (June, to be exact) brings the release of my next historical, Bound By Your Touch — featuring a hero who delights in breaking the rules, and a heroine who specializes in studying them. It isn’t a comedic book by any means; each of the characters has a dark core that the other must uncover and try to heal. But I found the hero immensely entertaining to write about, all the same. As one character puts it,

“He could sweet-talk Russia out of Afghanistan, and the Queen back into colors. That’s Sanburne for you; his joie de vivre is infectious…if a little wild.”

In July, I shift tone as my third historical romance, Written On Your Skin, is released. Phin, the hero of this book, has no desire to be charming. Rather, he is cool, collected, and calculating—because he fears what would happen if he weren’t. Alas for Phin, he has found his match in Mina Morehouse, who has absolutely no interest in being controlled or manipulated, and is utterly determined to undo him.

So, that’s July. And somewhere in this timeline, I’ll be heading off to India for a year of research for my degree. 2009 will be busy. But in all the excitement, one constant will remain: reading. I’ll be lugging the newest releases of my favorite authors with me wherever I go, because in 2008, I not only became a published author, I also reaffirmed a basic truth: I am a reader for life, and romance is my genre of choice.


Thank you, Meredith!


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  • Marg
    December 3, 2008 at 2:33 am

    Just stopping by to say that I didn’t get your email girls! Can you resend?

  • Amy C
    December 3, 2008 at 4:14 am

    The Duke of Shadows will be on my top 10 of 2008 as well. Beautiful, heart-tugging, wonderful writing.

    Thanks for talking about your favorite books you read this year. I’m adding Joanna Bourne’s two books to my TBB list! I seen a lot of buzz when they came out but still passed on them.

    And that free read, Ember, sounds great. I haven’t read many re-tellings, but what I have read, I really enjoyed. And I discovered an author last month who does that. Colette Gale. Me and a friend read her retelling of The Phantom of the Oprah, Unmasqued, a few weeks ago. I loved it! She has another that is coming out next year, Bound by Honor. It’s a retelling of Maid Marian and Robin Hood :).

    I look forward to your next two books next year!

  • Katiebabs a.k.a KB
    December 3, 2008 at 5:32 am

    it was great to hang out with you at RWA this summer! Congrats on everything and good luck 🙂

  • little alys
    December 3, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Thank you for coming Meredith (and thanks for nabbing those chocolates for me at RWA :D, I never did properly thank you for those. ^_^)!

    I am a reader for life, and romance is my genre of choice.
    Best line ever! 🙂

  • Carolyn Jean
    December 3, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Meredith, I just loved DUKE, and I can’t wait for the next two books.

    I enjoyed reading about what books you’ve come to love, and I found myself in hearty agreement with you, except Jo Goodman, who I haven’t read! I must check her out.

    Good luck this year.

  • M.
    December 3, 2008 at 10:47 am

    More Duran in 2009! My collection can build! As well as my Thomas collection, which I’m thrilled will include another candidate to add to my ‘India’ list. Now if Ms. Bourne could be convinced to set a story in India, my happiness would be complete.

    Off to explore Bettie Sharpe…

  • Meredith Duran
    December 3, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Hi, y’all! Thanks for stopping by. And much gratitude to Ana and Thea for having me!

    Amy, do check out Bourne! Something I didn’t remark on in the post, but was reflecting on recently, is the distinctive rhythm to her writing. Some of my favorite authors have a “rhythm” to their prose that I find very soothing and satisfying, almost like music (I’m thinking of Ivory here, and to an extent, Goodman). But Bourne’s got something totally unique going on there. The rhythm is constantly changing from sentence to sentence; it’s the last thing from restful — which works brilliantly in tandem with her action-packed plot. Really keeps you on the edge of your seat, as it were.

    I’ll have to check out Collette Gale. I’m a huge fan of Gaston Leroux’s book. Read it for the first time in seventh grade. That year we had a huge firestorm in the Oakland hills, and we had to evacuate. I remember I “rescued” two books to take with me — Phantom was one of them. (Count of Monte Cristo was the other. Clearly I was a ghoulish little seventh grader!)

    Alys, LOL — where chocolate is concerned, no thanks is required. 🙂

    Caroyln, thanks so much! Glad you liked Duke. Do check out Goodman — I think “If His Kiss is Wicked” is a great place to start. During my glom, I also discovered and loved “A Season to be Sinful.”

    M. — I know, I’m super excited to read Sherry’s book, too. The Northwest Frontier Province (and the Great Game more generally) seems like such a rich and underutilized setting for Victorian romance. I do touch on the Game in Written on Your Skin, but only tangentially. Can’t wait to see what Sherry does with it! I think it’s in safe hands with her. 😉

  • orannia
    December 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

    HI Meredith,

    Thank you so much for giving us an insight into your favourite books and all the best for the release of your next two books (and your trip to India, which is a place I really want to visit at some point 🙂

  • Christine
    December 3, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Ana and Meredith!
    I absolutely loved this post. I always enjoy learning some new insights about my favorite authors, but I love when an author discusses her (or his) favorite books as well! It’s great that you haven’t lost that enjoyment. I love Abe’s Drakon series, too! Well, the first two in the series, anyway. Waiting for Queen of Dragons to come out in paperback.

    The Duke of Shadows is on my Top 10 of 2008 as well and I’m truly looking forward to your two upcoming releases in 2009. They both sound great!

    Best wishes on your year long research in India. May I be so forward as to ask what you’ll be researching in India and what field your degree is in? With a full year’s research abroad, I presume you’re working toward a PhD?

  • Meredith Duran
    December 3, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Orannia, I highly recommend moving India to the top of your must-visit list. Kerala for beaches, the Himalayan foothills for romantic alpine scenery, Ladakh for high-altitude gorgeousness (monasteries at 14,000 feet: it looks a lot like the photos I’ve seen of Tibet), Rajasthan for medieval fortresses, camels, and sand dunes, and the cities on the plains for bustling, colorful chaos. There’s so much to see. Every day provides a new story to tell.

    Christine — thrilled to hear DoS made your top ten! Yep, I’m a PhD student in anthropology. I’m looking at globalization, the “new” middle class, and the service side of the information technology sector in urban India. Long story short, I’ll be hanging out at a lot of call centers and malls. 🙂

  • Christine
    December 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    What an interesting area of study, and an extremely dynamic one at that! Best of luck to you!

    Secretly hoping Meredith has superhuman talent to be able to simultaneously write romance and her thesis. 😉

  • Joanna Bourne
    December 4, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Ackk. I forgot to put Duke of Shadows on my list of cool books of 2008! I loved it.

    You will not necessarily remember me from the publisher signing in S.F., but I was there in your line, squeeing, y’know, in a genteel and practically unnoticeable fashion, and telling everyone — you too — that I had devoured DoS and found it five-star tasty.

    I am so looking forward to Written and Bound. You have such beautiful titles.

    Northern India and the Great Game. Oh yes. Oh my yes.
    I will admit that one of my secondary characters, Adrian, owes juuuust a bit to Kipling’s Kim.

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