Monday, 15 August 2016

Review of "The Artist"

As promised in my blog interview, I've read Juliette Bank's novella "The Artist". 

My conclusion? Sweet and steamy!

I’ve just finished reading it and still have a smile on my face. I genuinely enjoyed it. 

It's told from the POV of the two main characters, alternating slowly enough to avoid "head-hopping", and I thought it rattled along very nicely. The premise was an interesting one to build a story around, and Juliette has produced an entertaining story with a developing romantic relationship and steamy love-making scenes. And eventually a fair bit of mutually-enjoyed spanking! It started gently, then the pace built up. The crisis in the later part of the story added some drama, and was nicely resolved.

I also liked the little details on life in the mid 19th century, with household water still coming from pumps, and railways being a real novelty. The writing also reflects the period a little, enough to give a flavour, but thankfully not a mid-19th century narrative style.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Guest interview with Juliette Banks about her new book 'The Artist'.

Absolutely delighted to have Juliette Banks as my guest today, and to talk about her new book, The Artist.

Hello Ian, and thank you so much for inviting me along today to talk about my new book, The Artist. Many of you will know me as Rachel de Vine, but this is the first book I have written under my new pen name.

You’re most welcome. Can you tell us about your new book?

The Artist is a historical, erotic romance, and is a tale of lust, murder and love.

Here’s the “blurb”.

Lizzie is a pretty, but quite simple village girl when circumstances lead her to the artist, Theo. She made a bad marriage to Lionel, a man who mistreated her, and who then threw her out when she refused to sell her body on the streets for him. Now she is trying to make her way alone.

Theo is the rebellious son of a Viscount, who left his privileged background to pursue his chosen career as an artist. His favorite subjects are pretty young women whom he paints in the nude. He is delighted, therefore, when the beautiful Lizzie knocks on his door one day and offers her services as a model.

It is only a matter of days before the mutual attraction ignites between them and they become lovers. Despite village gossip, they are happy. Until Lionel, hearing that his wife is now living with the artist, erupts in a jealous rage and snatches her back while Theo is away and unable to protect her.

Upon finding Lizzie gone, Theo sets off in hot pursuit, determined to find the model for whom his feelings are growing daily. He soon catches up with Lizzie and Lionel, but during the hot-headed rescue, things take a tricky turn with an unexpected consequence.

Lionel is dead.

Unwilling to be charged with murder, and possibly hanged, Theo and Lizzie flee to Italy, where they try to start a new life together. But the past has a way of catching up with everyone, and they are no exception.

Can the love between a son of a Viscount and an illiterate country girl survive after such a troubled start? And will they have to face justice for the murder of Lizzie’s husband?

This is an erotic tale of a young couple in mid-nineteenth century England and Italy, with some explicit themes, including spanking.

A short excerpt from the book:

He wanted to get back in the studio and look again at Lizzie's soft, luscious body, even if it did send him mad with desire. The sooner the painting was finished, the sooner he could make an attempt on her virtue.

He prepared his palette while Lizzie disrobed behind the screen. She modestly tucked her undergarments beneath the dress, which was flung over the screen, so that they were not on view. Theo smiled to himself, as just the day before she had spread her drying clothes on the bushes behind the house. He found her idiosyncrasies rather sweet and appealing.

He watched as she removed her robe and placed it on the end of the couch on which she lay to pose. He caught a glimpse of her beautifully rounded bottom before she lay down on her side, facing him. He went, as usual, to slightly move her legs so that they were in the required position and longed to run his fingers through the soft curls that nestled between her soft, white thighs. He almost groaned in frustration. The girl was driving him insane. He was a man to whom sex was an essential part of who he was, and celibacy had never been something he would ever consider. He was becoming frustrated with the act of self-pleasuring. Being tormented like this was the cruelest of punishments for a man such as him. The time for action was fast approaching.

He wanted to do more than paint his flame-haired model.

It’s habit of mine to ask my guests a few questions, so that readers can learn a little more about you. Are you game?

Of course, Ian, fire away.

Do you have a day job as well as writing?

Yes, I’m actually a farmer in the UK, and also look after my elderly father. I’m slowly winding down the farming business, though. We no longer keep cattle, and are now purely arable farmers, so I’m able to devote more time to my writing.

Passion by Irena Jablonski (USA)
reproduced courtesy of the artist, 
What does your writing process look like? What’s your writer’s routine? Do you write whenever or at certain times? Where do you like to write? Are you a plotter or do you just write and see where it goes?

I’m one of those writers called (I believe) a ‘seat of the pants’ author. I never jot down a plot or make many notes. An idea will come into my head, and once I think of my opening line I am away. The story will somehow unfold out of my brain, and I have no idea at the beginning where it will take me. Although I will occasionally go back and insert new paragraphs, on the whole I simply start at the beginning and keep going until I reach the end.

Most of my writing is done at night, after I have seen my Dad to bed and everything is quiet. Some of my best work seems to come in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately my routine plays havoc in my interactions with people who work ‘normal’ hours!

Tell us about the genre you write in. Why does this particularly appeal and how did you get into it? Do you think your take on the genre is distinctive in any particular ways?

I’ve written romantic stories for some years, but I started writing erotic romances a couple of years ago. Like a lot of people I read Fifty Shades of Grey, and thought that I could write at least as well, so I thought I would give it a try. I have published eight books now through Blushing Books (all as Rachel de Vine until now) and the stories have varied, in the sense that some are what I think of as ‘spanking-light’ novels, where the romance is the main theme, with fun spanking between the two characters, while the others are more BDSM oriented, incorporating more intense sexual and kinky play between the characters. Despite the fact that my characters often have to overcome many problems throughout the story, I like a happy ending, because I’m a romantic at heart, and I like my main characters to walk off into the sunset together. However, one or two of my less salubrious characters have been known to come to a sticky end!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Writing is my main passion now, and takes up a lot of my spare time. However I’m a lifelong and addicted traveller to exotic places and have been lucky enough to have made many trips throughout my life. I travel with a friend, and we have been to China, Tibet, South America, Namibia, Vietnam, India – just to name a few. My brother or sister step in to look after my father for a few weeks, and we set off to discover new places. When not travelling, or thinking about travelling, or planning a trip – I enjoy reading, music and my garden. I’m also lucky to have a wonderful family of brothers, sister, nieces and nephews, and I love spending time with them whenever I can. I am a lucky woman!

If you only had one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

The one word I would use, and I hope others would agree, is kind. Kindness is sometimes an under-rated attribute, but it is essential in the turmoil of modern life that we try to be kind to each other. The kindness of others helps us over the trials and tribulations of our lives, and a kind word or gesture can make the difference between feeling neglected and unloved, and feeling wanted and cared for. I try to be kind always.

If you could pick a past life, what time period would appeal to you and why? Would you be male or female? Rich or poor?

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d pick a past life, because for most of the population throughout history, life has been hard for many people, and women, in particular. No, what I would like would be to jump into the future, because I have a tremendous curiosity to see how mankind develops (assuming we survive, of course – I’m an optimist, so I will say yes, they will). So I would like to come back in 1,000 years and see how the world has changed. I hope it will have changed for the better. Will we have discovered the origin and secrets of the Universe? Will we have defeated diseases? What will life be like for our descendants? I’d prefer to remain a female, and neither rich nor poor, but somewhere in the middle. I’d be very disappointed if we haven’t all learned to get along with each other.

Why the change to Juliette Banks?

For two years I have been writing as Rachel de Vine, but my publishers feel that possible mis-spellings of my name (De Vine, Devine, DeVine) may have affected Amazon’s algorithms due to my name being spelled incorrectly at the beginning, and they recommended that I change my writing pen name. I have become rather attached to Rachel, so I have decided to continue to use both names for the time being. My back catalogue will continue to be available as Rachel’s work, as well as my free short stories on my blog. (You can see these at  In time I will probably produce a separate website for each name.

Many thanks for visiting, Juliette, and I hope a lot of people enjoy reading The Artist. I’m looking forward to reading it myself in the very near future and will post my own reviews.

Please contact Juliette at

Or visit her Facebook page at

Or see herTwitter page at

If your interest has been piqued, here are some Amazon buy links:

Sunday, 3 July 2016


When I've read a book or listened to an audiobook, I try to post honest and constructive reviews on as many sites as I have access to. This is usually Goodreads, the Amazon UK and US sites, along with some publishers website shops, and the Audible website for audiobooks I purchased there.

I know how much a review means to me, and I don't think for a second that any other author is different.

So, three books I've recently read, with links, and the reviews I posted on Amazon.

Tsura: A World War II Romance, by Heather Anastasiu
I enjoyed this. The strong storyline combined romance with a very plausible picture of life in Romania in 1943. Tsura, an engaging and realistic character, tries to survive and wants to be with the man she loves, but has to accept some huge compromises.

Some aspects of the story were rather intriguing. I’d never thought about life on the "home front" within Eastern Europe or one of Germany's allies, nor how it might be to have to get along with Nazis and their sympathisers, or that you might actually quite like them despite their politics.

Despite being part 1 of a 2-part story, it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. This phase of the story is wrapped up well enough, but with a strong “to be continued” feel. Nicely done!
(in the UK, just swap the .com for

Werewolf U, by Brenna Lyons
Imaginative, entertaining, fast-paced and seriously steamy! I’d love this to be a longer story, simply so Brenna can show us more about the characters and their fictional world. I was impressed by the clear writing in the love-making scenes, as three-way action can be tricky to describe.
(in the UK, just swap the .com for

Trainwreck Book 1, by Michael Michelle Rakes

Wow. The main character isn’t pushed outside his comfort zone, it’s totally out of sight from beginning to end.

There are two interwoven themes, one an interesting sex-related cop story, the other is how Vincent copes with the incredible problems he has in his head, his marriage and his work. Gritty simply doesn't describe it, this is a rough, intense ride and the sex is very BDSM. Although this isn't really my taste, I just kept wanting to read on... Excellent writing.

Whoever advise the author to split this into two books is a rotten so-and-so, as this book ended as things spiralled downwards, and I wanted to know what happens next! But I’ve already bought book 2, so I can find out.
(in the UK, just swap the .com for

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Giving Feedback - Nits, Crits and Reviews

This piece, my personal thoughts about how to give a writer helpful feedback on their work, was originally posted on the ERWA blog ( I tweaked it slightly in light of some of the constructive comments offered on it.

One of the great features of being a contributor to the ERWA is the "storytime" mailing list, where we can post pieces of our work for constructive feedback. Of course, reading this can sometimes be disheartening, but I strongly believe that knowing what readers make of your work is a key step to becoming a better writer. Once I started offering feedback, I found it helped my own writing, particularly if I could mentally "step back" and be fairly objective about my work.

I'm sure every writer feels insecure and hopes for "wow, this is great". Realistically, the best we'll ever get is a variation on "this is good, hope I can help you make it even better".

So, if you want to give a writer some feedback, how can you be helpful?

The first thing is to remember that your feedback is your opinion. By all means be confident in your opinion, but the writer doesn't have to agree with you. It is their work, after all!

What you write may not come across quite as you intend, and it's only courteous to critique others in the way you hope they would your own work.

The simplest form of feedback is to tell them what you thought or how you felt about the story as a whole. You don't have to write a lot. Simply knowing that it engaged and entertained a reader can make a big difference to the writer's confidence, especially if they're having a rough patch and doubting themselves. If you really liked something, maybe the characters, dialogue or "action" scenes, say so. 

And why not make it your feedback? All you have to do is use "I" rather than a generic "you" or "the reader".

If you want to give more detailed feedback, this is typically in the form of "nits" and "crits".

Nits are details like punctuation, grammar, spelling, misplaced name tags, confused descriptions of action and so on. These are things an editor would look out for in a submitted manuscript. Remember that UK and US English have differences in spelling, vocabulary and usage.

Ideally "crit" means a constructive critique, not criticism in the everyday sense - someone put time and effort into writing that piece and will feel anxious about how it's received. Critiques may be fairly general comments about how you found the style, plot, use of dialogue, or the way characters are described, or they can be more in-depth, such as suggestions on how to rephrase sections.

Reviews posted on book purchasing sites are what published writers want. Positive reviews encourage potential purchasers to buy. Amazon's system means a book is more likely to be suggested to customers once a certain number of reviews have been posted. Fake reviews can be purchased, but thankfully Amazon is taking steps to minimise this. I've seen claims that Amazon makes apparently arbitrary judgements about the reliability of some reviews, especially where they consider the author and reviewer to be "friends".

Any Amazon customer can post a review, and if they got the book from Amazon, they're shown as a "verified purchaser". Their system doesn't always share comments between the UK and US sites, so I have accounts with both and post the same review on each. If I bought the book from the UK site, I say so in the US review. If I was offered a free copy, I only accept it on the basis that I'll post my honest opinion, and I say so in the review.

I'm not a fan of structured reviews which summarise the story, as these can unwittingly include "spoilers". I try to say, in general terms, what I enjoyed about a book and acknowledge anything I didn't, basically what I'd say to a friend who asked me about the book. If I read a story to the end, I must have enjoyed it, so there are always things I can write about.

Now and again, we'll all come across a book we really don't like, either because it's not our sort of story or because we didn't like the way it was written. Do you post a bad review, even if it's our honest opinion, or just not bother? I'll leave that to you.

The ERWA is primarily for erotica writers. If you're curious to know more about it, their website is

To join the private e-mail based "storytime" critiquing group...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


I had a lovely surprise over the weekend - an e-mail from Fireborn Publishing offering me a contract for the second novella in my series of erotic romances!

This story will be The King's Captain, and it develops the story on from Knights Errant.

So now I'm waiting for the editor to send me her comments on my draft, then get to work on the revisions which will turn it from a draft-with-potential to a published book. I enjoyed this process with my first book, even if it did get a bit hectic at times. If only I didn't have to fit writing in around a day job...

The other thing which caught me on the hop with my first novella was finding suitable images for the cover art. I was surprised how hard it was to search stock photo agency websites and find images I was happy with. So this time, I've already found some, including a photo of my own which I think fits the story pretty well.

As soon as I've got an agreed cover, I'll share it as part of my marketing effort. I've already come up with two blurbs, one really short and one a bit longer. I'll look at these a few more times, as other ideas might pop into my mind once I've re-read the story a few more times.

And I'm already writing the first draft of the third novella, about three-quarters of the way through. This one first popped into my imagination in the form of a very short story, about 400 words. Probably be about 40,000 words when I've finished it...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review - Plumbers And Other Lovers, by Spencer Dryden

Just finished reading Plumbers and Other Lovers by Spencer Dryden, published by Fireborn.

I enjoyed this collection of four short stories, each with strong but gentle erotic content, told from the points of view of a different skilled working man. They all meet clients who are fun to work for...

Summer Heat features a technician who wins a fair lady’s favour for repairing a faulty air conditioning unit in her bar, opening on a hot, hot day.

In Love Above See Level, a happy beach bum cum handyman meets an unusually tall woman, a basketball player in the twilight of her career.

A recently-divorced heating technician working the Christmas shift in snow-bound Minneapolis is called out by a woman whose furnace has failed, and all her property is in the back of a truck stuck in a snowdrift.

The Accidental Gigolo is a plumber desperate enough for work to risk falling out with his union. He helps out a friend, who he’s suprised to realise offers more than just plumbing repairs.

All the stories feature a decent, honest and nice guy. Spencer clearly knows enough about the sort of work these characters do to make them seem that bit more realistic. And all four make me a bit jealous, as they have a lot more luck with women than I ever did! Yes, they pander a bit towards male fantasies, but not so much that they’re unbelievable. It's all good fun. Clean? Well...

These are four entertaining, well-written adult stories. And they left me smiling and happy for the characters.

If you like the sound of it, the book's available from the usual outlets, including the Fireborn Publishing website store:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Jumping back in...

A few weeks ago, I finished the second story in my series, and sent a copy to my publisher's editor to read.

Well, by "finished" I mean a complete draft which I was happy enough with to send out. Ever since, I've had ideas for improving scenes and dialogue... I don't suppose any author was ever completely happy with a story they've written, as there's always another way to say something.

I'm confident I wrote a decent story, but I'll have to wait and see if the publisher thinks it's entertaining and engaging enough to be published.

So, while I wait to hear, I decided to start working on something new. My choices were to revise one of two older ideas, or start developing Merely Players story three. I've got several ideas for story three rattling around my imagination, and these shouted louder than revising older stories. My plan is to get a few chapters done, then start posting these at the rate of one per week in my critiquing group and see what comments I get. No title in mind yet, but a few ideas. See which one seems to fit best as I develop the story.

Story two follows on from Knights Errant, but I tried my best to make it work as a stand-alone story. My other ideas, potentially stories 3 to 6, are all stand-alone, following only in chronology, and with characters in one featuring in a later story. Provisionally called The King's Captain, the second story is set against recording the first few scenes of the TV show Paul was recruited to work on. Poor old Paul gets into a emotionally confusing situation, one which has some parallels with the storyline in the TV show. But since there are clearly other stories to come with the same characters, the ending is obviously HFN. I've aimed for a similar balance of tension, humour and steamy scenes as in the first book, hopefully lively and entertaining.

I introduce new characters who will feature to some extent in later stories. One will be in the third story, in a sort of "also starring" role, and two others are the characters from one of my older ideas. In some ways, the Merely Players stories are a spin-off from that one, but in terms of publishing, it'd be the other way around. It has a rather darker storyline and overlaps a teeny bit with The King's Captain. A few scenes will feature in both, but told from the point of view of different characters.

And to my delight, eight readers have posted encouraging reviews of Knights Errant on, giving the story four or five stars:

I've listed all the buy links I know of on my facebook author page: