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Opal

The Lady Soldier. I've Finished!

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Well I picked the book up on Sunday afternoon... and finished it yesterday! (An indication that I enjoyed it :P) It isn't the sort of book I'd usually buy, I'm not entirely aure I've read a historical book before, which I'm well aware is quite strange! However as I was reading, it was just another story to me. I'm not sure that's really the right way to phrase it, but the point I'm trying to make is that it was written in such a way that it flowed nicely as I read it, and whilst I was aware that it was set in the past, that didn't make it any more difficult to read (which I must admit that I thoguht a historical book might be :o)
 

 

As for the story itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I felt almost as though I was there with the characters, experiencing what they did. I liked the way the POV switched between Jem and Tony, showing how they were feeling as their relationship progressed. The main part of the book in Spain felt just the right length to read, and I loeved the ending. The only part of the book that I had an issue with was the transition from Spain to the decision to leave London. I felt that this part was cut short in a way, as though there might have been more to tell, although I wouldn't know what that would be!

I was wondering if much of the original material was cut from the book, or if it was published more or less as it was first written? If there was much cut then where was it cut from and why?



Overall I really enjoyed this book, so many thanks to Kate and BGO for making it available to us! :D

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Hi Opal! I'm really glad you enjoyed The Lady Soldier. We didn't plan everything which happened which mean that the story took some unexpected turns which added to the suspense of writing it!

 

As for your question under the spoiler alert, I'm not sure how to reply using hidden text, but yes we had to cut some scenes from the book because of length, including some scenes from between where you refer which took place on the journey.

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For someone who never reads 'romance' novels, and was horribly put off by the cover, I actually enjoyed this book. Initially though, the syntax of some of the sentence structure was a little odd and I found that off putting, but I soon got swept up in the plot and enjoyed it as a romantic romp. I did find some phrases and events a little too stereotypical of romance novels, which is the reason I don't normally read them. Le Loup (?) was a satisfying baddie though.

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I agree with most of the reviews posted so far. I finished the book in a few hours and found it an undemanding read for a sunny afternoon.

 

Given the subject, the cover could have been better - I thought Jem(ima) looked like a young Evonne Goolagong.

 

Many years ago I read quite a lot of historical fiction and enjoyed the genre. 'Lady Soldier' was probably too much of a romance for my taste. Jem and Tony verged on Mills and Boon at times. However the story was intriguing and the ending not too obvious.

 

Thanks to BGO for the reading opportunity.

 

If there is anyone who missed the offer and would like my copy, please send me a p.m. and I will send it on to you.

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Kate - one of your reviewers on Amazon said that this books had a "solid historical background" - did much research go into the historical detail for the time period?

 

I just ask because I wondered how accurate the detail was, as I didn't think it was overly detailed - but how much would be necessary for this type of novel?

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Many years ago I read quite a lot of historical fiction and enjoyed the genre. 'Lady Soldier' was probably too much of a romance for my taste. Jem and Tony verged on Mills and Boon at times.

 

I agree with Silvergirl on this. I enjoyed the book but it didnt seem to me to contain a lot of historical detail, certainly not as much as I expected.

 

Having said that I read it quickly and the story flowed along nicely, a good summer read.

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Historical detail / research:

 

I'm pleased the historical detail wasn't intrusive. I think fiction should be for entertainment, not instruction and not get in the way of the story.

 

In terms of the research, I'd already written two novels set in early 19th century England before I started on The Lady Soldier and so I was pretty confident that I already had the zeitgeist of the period at my fingertips. I have been collecting books from the period - especially of letters which I think are the closest we can really get now to having a flavour for how people spoke to one another, and words and phrases used.

 

We had to present Robert Hale, the publishers, with proof of our research into real life women who got away with being soldiers in historical times or they would not have been prepared to publish the book. I think most publishers of historical fiction take historical accuracy pretty seriously.

 

The research into the real 'lady soldiers' was necessary so that we could understand the physical and emotional issues Jem might face. We used this research in the story in terms of giving Jem feelings other women soldiers had described, as well as it helping us put together her character and a realistic plot about her adventures.

 

Thus it was only a case of researching the specific historical details required - in relation to Spain and the military - of which co-author Michelle Styles did a lot of the work on. I really enjoyed reading some of the first hand account of, for example for the scene in chapter one, the storming of Rodrigo. We were not able to go to Spain but I had an e-mail from someone who has been to Rodrigo saying how we had got the flavour right. A great thing about the Internet is that you can find all kinds of pictures and photos to help with this kind of thing. Then for the scenes in England - for example the Talbot inn in Ripley on the road from Portsmouth which is a real place - still there! - and in London - e.g. at the theatre I needed to check what was playing at the time and which theatres were open, what they were like inside etc

 

Mills and Boon:

Mills and Boon are probably the main publishers of historical romances in the UK but they would not have considered The Lady Soldier because the high proportion of other action and plot going on besides the romance. I think The Lady Soldier is 'historical romantic fiction' rather than 'historical romance' as such.

 

Co-author Michelle Styles has a contract with Mills and Boon and her first historical romance out with them will be out next May. Called The Gladiator's Honour. It's a first for Mills and Boon as it's set in ancient Rome and they've not published any ancient set historical romances. Ancient Rome is Michelle's historical period of choice and I don't think she is shy of saying how much she was influenced to write it by Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator.

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Le Loup:

Hazel, I'm pleased you enjoyed Le Loup. Michelle and I met when she was visiting London one weekend with her family and I remember, as we strolled up Piccadilly after visiting Wellington's old home (Apsley House), we had a great discussion all about poor Le Loup's miserable and disperate childhood and influences which shaped his character. We needed him to be a proper match for Jem and Tony to make it convincing, not a cardboard cut-out.

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Historical detail / research:

 

 

Mills and Boon:

Mills and Boon are probably the main publishers of historical romances in the UK but they would not have considered The Lady Soldier because the high proportion of other action and plot going on besides the romance. I think The Lady Soldier is 'historical romantic fiction' rather than 'historical romance' as such.

 

 

I noticed that for a romance The Lady Soldier was very 'old-fashioned' for want of a better phrase when it came to the physical graphics of romance. Not having read any Mills and Boon, though I have a feeling they are a little more graphic (not in a Black Lace kind of way) - is that why they wouldn't have picked up Lady Soldier - as it had almost no instances of 'throbbing members' and 'milky thighs'? Was that a conscious decision of yours and Michelles?

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Le Loup:

We needed him to be a proper match for Jem and Tony to make it convincing, not a cardboard cut-out.

 

I actually thought he was the most real character, most natural. I felt he behaved like himself - whereas Jem adopted a few disguises/personas/personalities/fronts, a male notwthstanding, and her beau likewise.

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Just wanted to say I enjoyed the book and read it over one afternoon in the garden. I would like to have found out a bit more about her earlier life though, what happened with her mother and stepfather in more detail, or perhaps that would be another book!

Kate

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I am here at last. Many thanks to all concerned for setting this opportunity up.

Kate Allan told me about this group, but I have had other commitments. Not the least of which was finishing the proofs for The Gladiator's Honour, a Mills and Boon Historical set in 63 BCE.

 

I noticed there were some questions about M&B etc.

First off, the main reason that The Lady Soldier is not a M&B type historical is the focus. The focus in a M&B hisorical is much more squarely on the relationship between the hero and heroine and all the subplots hark back to the main plot which is the growth of the relationship. The Lady Soldier is more evenly divided between adventure and romance.

 

Second, there was a question about sensuality. M&B Historicals run the gamut from very sexy to not very much at all. It depends on the author, and to a certain extent the story. Robert Hale books in general have less of emphasis on the sensual. This may to be due in part to a difference in the main market. M&B Historicals' main market is North America. Robert Hale's main market is the UK. The historical woman's fiction market is different in both those markets. (In case, anyone wonders -- yes, The Gladiator's Honour has more of the sensual -- it is part of the promise M&B makes to its large number of readers)

 

There was also a question about historical research. As Kate Allan said -- we did a lot of research. For example in addition to the research on the Napoleonic War, we made sure that all the inns, pubs and theatres in London actually existed at that time.

The amount research that appears in a book should be the tip of the iceberg. There is a big issue in historical fiction writing circles, if you will, about whether or not you information dump. I am sure you have all read books where page after page is recounting of fact that does very little to further the story. With some authors, if you know the period, you can even tell which research books they used.

Both Kate and I feel that historical facts should be dribbled in, and should only be there if it enhances or furthers the story. We want readers to be focussing on the story, rather than on the history. The history should move the story forward rather than be there to show off how much research the author has done. Sometimes, information dumping can give historicals are reputation of being hard to read or even dense.

We also both feel that the story had to be possible within the historical context. (This goes for my M&B historicals as well) Accuracy is important. And I, for one, hate reading historical novels where I have to go -- okay in a galaxy far far away...

 

It did my heart good to see so many comments that The Lady Soldier was a pleasant read that passed a summer's afternoon. In that case, it did its main job which is to amuse, entertain and give an enjoyable read.

 

FWIW

Michelle Styles

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Hi Michelle,

Great to see you here and well done on finishing the proofs!

 

One thing about writing novels is that it's not just about writing - stories have to be revised, copy-edited, proofed... all takes ages!

 

I'm also really pleased to see The Lady Soldier entertained. :) I also think it's done a little bit to raise the awareness of the subject of women serving in the historic military. I was asked a lot of questions about this when I did a radio interview recently.

 

btw I'm reading excerpts from The Lady Soldier at the Jane Austen Fayre in Basingstoke this weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 11.30am and 2.30pm both days, so if anyone is in the area and are looking for an historic day out - do come along and say hello! (Bring your copy if you'd like it signed.)

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btw I'm reading excerpts from The Lady Soldier at the Jane Austen Fayre in Basingstoke this weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 11.30am and 2.30pm both days, so if anyone is in the area and are looking for an historic day out - do come along and say hello! (Bring your copy if you'd like it signed.)

 

Would love to come but Glasgow to Basingstoke is a bit of a hike - have a great time!

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I finished the book this weekend and I really enjoyed it - I felt quite disappointed when it ended as I wanted to watch their life for a bit longer - I truly bought into their romance.

 

When it started I did think it was a historical story and once I had got into it I did see a likeness to Mills & Boon - however I have always enjoyed the odd Mills & Boon here and there and so I was not downhearted. It was reminisent of M & B as the male lead was giving the impression he did not care fully for the female lead which is a classic story line in M & B. I thought there were classic lines such as tightening of the loins etc...

 

My favorite character was Tony as whilst we were reading his thoughts the thoughts were still selective and so at times he was a mystery as to his intentions.

 

I am happy with the ending and like to imagine that they start a life together without the pressures of society and on a more equal footing. I therefore do not feel the need for a sequel. I found myself thinking about the couple alot as I enjoyed their romance.

 

I would recommend it to my Mum and to a lady I work with who loves heroic romance.

 

I liked the action in the book too and I think it portrayed well the difficulties of being a woman and doing the action such as the impact onto her shoulder when shooting.

 

I would read books from the authors again especially if they pick unusual subjects again.

 

I would like to mirror the comments made before of thanks for the opportunity to read the book. I am much obliged.

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So glad you enjoyed the book, Amy.

 

Like you, both Kate and I like romance.

 

Each genre if you will has its own vocabulary (to a certain extent to meet reader expectation), thus there were classic romance lines. In much the same way as you would expect to see classic fantasy lines in a fantasy or crime lines in a mystery or even classic literary lines in a literary work. It was not until I read Diane Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland that I truly appreciated about fantasy being so formulaic. It is a must read for anyone interested in fantasy btw. Another book that explores the same issue is Self Editing for Ficiton Writers

 

For the writer, it is the challenge of making something seem unusual/different without losing the basic framework of the genre. or the over-riding story.

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