A rake in rake’s clothing

How I imagined Madeline's gardens

I have Google Alerts set up to let me know when any of my books are being discussed on the web, on blogs or discussion boards or whatever.   This includes all the historical romances I’ve released on Kindle and Nook.

I had forgotten how strongly readers reacted to these books.  Love or hate, and very vocal.  Lucien’s Fall has stimulated some discussion, at AAR, where the reader seriously did not like the characters (and suspected, perhaps, that I had salted the reviews…which I would not do), and in the reviews at the site itself.  (From “This is one of my favorite romances I have read in a LONG TIME. I enjoyed the maturity of the characters, the “plot” twist, and genuine redemption in the end. Well worth the $$.”  to “What’s Up with all the 5-star reviews?”)

While I would never directly engage a critic, because every reader has a right to her own opinion, I have reasons for choosing the storylines I do.  The criticism that Lucien is a rake always surprises me.  Of course he’s a rake.  He’s an obnoxious, dyed-in-the-wool rake with no conscience whatsoever.  He’s meant to be a real rake, not a false imitation thereof, a man who is only a little bad and might be redeemed by a good meal or the right words.  What fun is that?

So yes, Lucien is a terrible, real rake.  You and I would recognize him in an instant, just as Madeline does.  And yet, we’d be drawn, too, because that’s why a rake is so very effective–he’s charming and beautiful and everything about him promises at least one thing will be very good indeed.  Madeline is drawn, and resists. Her mother has schooled her well, and she is desperate to save the family estate, so she is trying hard to do the right thing.

And yet, there is Lucien. So unredeemable, so inevitably tortured, so alive with music that it leaks out of him in color.   How could she not fall?

The point is, a rake should be a rake, not a good man in rake’s clothing, or there is no pleasure for me in the story.

How about you? A bad boy in the current day is hard to pull off, but a rake is wildly intriguing. Agree? Or not?

A chat with Jennifer Crusie about ebooks…part 1

Jennifer Crusie and I have known each other and debated many things for a long, long time. When we became embroiled in an email debate about ebooks, we decided to share our conversation with you. This is the first of two parts.  Come back tomorrow for Part 2.

Jenny: Hi. I’m Jenny Crusie. I’ve written twenty novels with traditional print publishers, and I’m watching what happens in digital publishing (especially author-originated digital publishing) with interest and not a small amount of envy.

Barbara: Hi. I’m Barbara Samuel. I’ve written forty novels in 3 subgenera of print publishing. I’m currently writing women’s fiction for Bantam as Barbara O’Neal. I’ve also dipped a toe into the digital market with seven backlist books.

Jenny: A toe? You’ve dipped a whole foot.

Barbara: It felt like a toe, but now it’s really a leg, I have to admit.

Jenny:  In it up to the hip.  Maybe that’s what we should call this post: Hip Deep in Author-Originated Digital Publishing.

LUCIEN’S FALL now available as an ebook

Cover art by Sharon Schlicht

Add another to the list…this is so exciting for me!  I loved writing these books and it’s really wonderful to discover that I still love them.  LUCIEN’S FALL was a bit of a breakout book, my third historical romance.

It was becoming clear to me that medievals did not sell as well as other eras, but I couldn’t see myself writing Regency, which is mannerly in the extreme and had too many VERY picky fans who would know if I got even a fork out of place.  While I’m quite serious about research (and in fact it is one of the best parts of the job), that didn’t appeal.  So, one day on the old GEnie RomEx network, I was moaning about this problem…what era could I try that would be right for me? The delightful Jo Beverley, always such a genius in these things, said, “Why not Georgian? It would suit.”

It turned out to be a very good fit. The book earned an entirely new group of readers. I ended up doing three books set in the era, and did enormous amounts of research to set up several more.  The first 2 books of the St. Ives series, The Black Angel and Night of Fire (which also have new covers…see right) are already up at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords (for those of you who are buying the books outside the US and UK, especially).

Now I can add Lucien’s Fall to the list.  It is the tale of a tortured rake with absolutely no moral boundaries who is tortured by a tragic secret.  He meets Madeline at a house party in the country and is determined to make her a notch in his belt, but she’s been raised to understand the tricks of rakes, and besides, she has an ancestral estate to save.  You can read an excellent discussion of the book at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the best discussions of any of my books ever, IMO.

Buy Lucien’s Fall at: Kindle, Nook, or Smashwords.  Only 99 cents for a limited time.

*****Also, my friends, it’s very helpful if readers post reviews or even just ratings at Amazon and B&N. All books, of course, but especially ebooks. You can do it anonymously and it helps other browsers to find the books they’re interested in, so please feel free to tag, rate, or review any/all of the ebooks. I will be eternally grateful. I DO NOT CARE IF THE REVIEWS ARE GOOD OR BAD.  If I could think of a contest to encourage this, I definitely would.  (And if any of you think of a way for me to do it, let me know).  ********


Bid on Book-Club-in-a-Box for Writers for Red Cross

Writers for the Red Cross auctions are going on this month, and we can all see what an amazing job they are always doing, but even more so when something like an earthquake or tsunami wipes out cities.

Help raise funds and get a How to Bake a Perfect Life package for your book club. Go to http://www.writersfortheredcross.org/baking-a-perfect-life-in-a-box/#respond to make a bid on a package that includes: 5 signed copies of How to Bake a Perfect Life, a celebratory signed apron, a sourdough crock and starter yeast, a collection of colorful spatulas, and a handwritten collection of the author’s favorite bread recipes.

The fun side of ebooks

This is what can be fun about the shift in the way books come to market. A Bed of Spices was my first historical. It’s a dark, wildly romantic Romeo and Juliet tale, and I loved it madly. It was, however, set in an unusual location, and it did not sell all that well. Over time, readers discovered it and bought the used edition to a point that I saw copies for sale for really enormous amounts of money.

Today it’s in the top 20 historical romances at Kindle. What makes that thrilling is that a book I adored and worked so very hard on can now find a new readership in a different market than the one in which it appeared.

It is the nature of the Kindle rankings that things move very fast, so likely it will not stay there long. You never know, though, do you? If you’re so inclined, post a review. Let’s see what happens.

February special: medieval romances only .99

In honor of the month of February and all things love, I will be offering both of my Kindle medieval romance novels for just .99 each.

A Bed of Spices was my first medieval.  It’s a Romeo and Juliet story, set against the thick forests and castles of medieval Germany,but don’t let that put you off.  It’s a highly romantic tale of discovery and honor and true love, and it seems just right for Valentine’s Day.  Er…sort of.  You’ll see what I mean.

Here is a review of the book, posted to Amazon by Susie Q:

“5.0 out of 5 stars This is that rare 5-star romance you’ve been looking for!

I can’t believe I haven’t submitted a review of this novel long before this time, as I’ve owned and loved this book for years.

A BED OF SPICES has all the elements I love in a romance novel: a forbidden love story, this time between the Christian heroine, Rica and the Jewish hero, Solomon (very rare to find a Jewish hero); well-drawn supporting characters; a medieval setting (Germany, 1348-1349 in the time of the Black Plague) and a fabulous blend of historical fact with romantic fiction. Although the story moves slowly, it’s really worth your while. You will remember Rica and Solomon’s story. If you love historical romance novels, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I often turn back to this novel to refresh myself as to what a historical romance OUGHT to be – creative, imaginative and tender.”

Read more reviews at Amazon,

It is a Desert Island Keeper at All About Romance, where the reviewer wrote:
“Finally, the fifth star would be for the beautiful language. It is clear and deceptively simple, but with an almost poetic quality. All the nuances of feeling, all the poignancy of the story are expressed perfectly, without a shade of purple prose. If a book has that much to offer, how can it not be a Desert Isle Keeper? A Bed of Spices is a little treasure, and I recommend it to anyone who would like to read something very special.”

Heart of a Knight , 1998 RITA award winner.

When Lord Thomas of Roxburgh arrives mysteriously at the abandoned castle and village of Lady Elizabeth D’Auvers, the villagers are relieved to at last have a champion and install the knight in the castle. When Elizabeth returns after a weary exile, she is astonish to find the lands and people thriving, thanks to the able command of the physically imposing and charming Lord Thomas.  Both attracted and wary of the knight, Elizabeth allows herself to be drawn into his realm, only to discover the dark secret that threatens them all is without hope…unless Dark Thomas can prove he is more knight than even the king of England.

“Ms. Samuel weaves a tale worthy of one of Lyssa’s tapestries. Not only does she write of love between men and women, but of the powerful friendships between the women and a man’s need to be free and respected. This is a powerful, stirring medieval romance. SENSUAL.”  –Romantic Times

Just in case you’re stuck inside this week….. 🙂

Target Club Pick!

HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE featured at Target.

I’ve actually known about this for a couple of months and could not say a word. At last I am free to announce it to all of you. How to Bake a Perfect Life is the Target Club Pick. There is a special edition of the book with extra features and book club questions, and as you see, a very nice display at Targets all over the country.


A lovely review

from Publisher’s Weekly

How to Bake a Perfect Life

Barbara O’Neal, Bantam, $15 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-553-38677-6

The Rita Award–winning author (as Barbara Samuel) of The Lost Recipe for Happiness returns with the absorbing story of Ramona Gallagher, a 40-year-old woman whose joy in running a bakery in Colorado Springs helps her transcend a life that’s anything but perfect.Ramona has a prickly relationship with her large, restaurant-owning family and a deep love for her daughter, Sofia, who Ramona had as a teenager and is now grown and pregnant. When Sofia’s husband is injured in Afghanistan and she flies to Germany to be with him, Ramona is left to care for Sofia’s 13-year-old stepdaughter, Katie, a scrawny child whose drug-addicted mother is in jail. Over the summer, Ramona struggles to keep her business afloat and find some solid footing with her family, bonds with Katie, aches for what her daughter is enduring, and rekindles a romance from 25 years earlier. O’Neal’s tale of strong-willed women and torn family loyalties is a cut above the standard women’s fiction fare, held together by lovingly sketched characters and real emotion. (Dec.)

Coming your way very soon, friends!  December 21.