The Frost Maiden’s Kiss (True Love Brides #3) by Claire Delacroix-Review and Interview with the Author
The Frost Maiden’s Kiss
True Love Brides #3
by Claire Delacroix
Genre: adult, paranormal, historical, romance
Release Date: June 15, 2014
About the book: Release Date June 15, 2014
She enchanted him with a kiss—but winning her love would demand all he possessed.
Disheartened by the challenge of a crumbling legacy, Malcolm left Scotland to earn his fortune as a mercenary. Eight years later, scarred by the realities of war, he returns with a fortune won at too high of a price and a companion even more hardened than he. Lured into the caverns beneath the keep, Malcolm trades his own soul for that of the companion who once saved his life, condemning himself to die in one year. Determined to leave a legacy of merit, Malcolm begins to rebuild the keep of Ravensmuir with all haste—though he has no heir.
After one night’s abuse, Catriona has no faith in the goodness of warriors. In the service of Lady Vivienne, she dreads an unexpected visit to the lady’s brother at Ravensmuir, for he is said to be a mercenary. But Malcolm challenges her expectations with his courtesy, his allure, his determination to save her child—and his unexpected proposal. Knowing it will ensure her child’s safety, Catriona dares to accept Malcolm’s hand. She soon realizes that this stalwart warrior fights a battle of his own, and that she holds the key to saving his soul. But as she descends into the ruins of old Ravensmuir in search of the truth, her own past is in hot pursuit, seeking to destroy all she holds dear—including the knight who has laid claim to her reluctant heart.
REVIEW: THE FROST MAIDEN’S KISS is the third instalment in Claire Delacroix’s (aka Deborah Cooke) medieval True Love Brides paranormal romance series. True Love Brides is a spinoff series from Claire’s Jewels of Kinfairlie series. This is Laird Malcolm Lammergeier of Ravensmuir and Catriona’s story. Although this is the third in the series, it can be read as a stand alone without too much difficulty.
As Malcolm returns home following eight years as a hired mercenary, the last thing he expects is to fall in love. He is a man who has destroyed many lives and believes his end is near. But a man needs a wife and an heir, and Catriona is the perfect woman to meet all of his demands. Malcolm owes a debt that must be paid on Mid-Summer’s Eve-a bargain with the Fae, promised with his life-and his new wife must uncover the truth behind the debt that is owed.
There is an immediate attraction between Malcolm and Catriona-one that is tempered by Catriona’s health and recent pregnancy. The romance develops through friendship, respect and their growing love for one another but Catriona’s past seeks revenge along with another band of mercenary’s set on taking the Ravensmuir Keep.
The secondary characters including Malcolm’s extended family and friends are colorful and add some mystery and suspense to the story. The paranormal aspect of the Fae is almost an afterthought to the main story but the Fae are always in the background wreaking havoc, causing mischief with a portent of things to come. A portion of the storyline is told through song and folk lore-a history of tales about the Fae that are a foreshadow of what is to come.
THE FROST MAIDEN’S KISS is a spirited and intimate tale of life, love and loss in the 1400’s; where two people will find their soul mate at a time when both will face a new direction in their lives. Claire Delacroix pulls the reader into a story of romance between a warrior and his maiden; a compelling and captivating tale with a happily ever after.
Copy supplied by the author.
Reviewed by Sandy
The True Love Bride Series:
1. The Renegade’s Heart
2. The Highlander’s Curse
3. The Frost Maiden’s Heart
4. The Warrior’s Prize
The Renegade’s Heart
True Love Brides #1
by Claire Delacroix
Genre: adult, paranormal, historical, romance
Release: May 2012
Released from the captivity of the Fae, Murdoch Seton wants nothing more than to forget his lost years. Undertaking a quest to recover treasure stolen from his family seems the perfect solution – but Murdoch is not counting upon a curious maiden who holds both the secret to the theft and his sole redemption.
Isabella is outraged to find her brother’s keep besieged by a renegade knight – especially one who is too handsome for his own good or hers. After a single encounter, she becomes convinced that his cause is just and decides to unveil the true thief, never imagining that their single shared kiss has launched a battle for Murdoch’s very soul.
As the treacherous Fae move to claim Murdoch forever, Isabella seeks to heal the knight who has stolen her heart. But will Murdoch allow her to take a risk and endanger herself? Or will he sacrifice himself to ensure Isabella’s future?
REVIEW: THE RENEGADE’S HEART is the first instalment in Claire Delacroix’s paranormal True Love Brides historical romance series-a spin off from her Jewels of Kinfairlie series. This is Murdoch Seton and Isabella Lammergeier’s story.
The focus of the storyline finds Murdoch on the hunt for his family’s missing treasure. Murdoch believes the Lammergeier’s –a family of thieves and relic hunters- has reappropriated the treasure for their own coffers. What Murdoch did not expect to find is Isabella Lammergeier who offers to help Murdoch in the search for the missing treasure. Following three years as a captive of the Fae, Murdoch hopes to atone to his family before he must depart forever.
The attraction between Murdoch and Isabella is immediate but Murdoch knows his time is limited. The Queen of the Fae has demanded a payment for his return and Murdoch’s heart is in the hands of the Queen. The one sex scene is intimate, seductive and passionate.
THE RENEGADE’S HEART introduces a number of friends, family and extended family for both the Seton’s and the Lammergeier. Like many spin off series there is a history between the characters but you do not have to have read the previous series to understand the premise. Information from the other series and storylines is imparted where necessary.
Claire Delacroix blends a little bit of the paranormal with historical romance for an entertaining and compelling series. The world building pulls the reader into the 1400’s, medieval landscape of Scottish Highland wilderness and forests dotted with small villages and the people who tend the land.
If you are a fan of historical romance storylines, Claire’s TRUE LOVE BRIDES is a spirited series with mystery and suspense, a little bit of fantasy, and a beautiful setting that will take you away into another time and place.
Reviewed by Sandy
TRC: Hi Deborah and welcome back to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of THE FROST MAIDEN’S KISS
Deborah: Thank you!
TRC: For anyone who does not know Deborah Cooke aka Claire Delacroix, would you please tell us something about yourself?
Deborah: I’ve been writing romance full time since 1992, when my first medieval romance was published under my pseudonym Claire Delacroix. Since then, I’ve published in a wide variety of sub-genres (medieval, contemporary, time travel, paranormal, fantasy, paranormal young adult and straight fantasy) under three different names, Claire Delacroix, Claire Cross and Deborah Cooke. My first book to land on the New York Times’ list of bestselling books was The Beauty, a medieval romance and part of my Bride Quest series. The Frost Maiden’s Kiss is a medieval romance with fantasy elements, the third book in my True Love Brides series and my 50th published book.
TRC: Who or what influenced your career in writing?
Deborah: I think the greatest influence upon my writing is that I’ve always been an avid reader. Reading has given me a love of stories and a respect for storytelling, so it’s only natural (in a way) that I always wanted to write and publish my own stories. As for my career as a writer, both editors and other writers have been the strongest influences there. That’s mostly because I was first published when it was difficult to correspond directly with readers. One of the really wonderful things about the current connectivity we have in the world is that it’s easy to keep in touch with lots of people, no matter where they live. I’ve built much stronger connections with my readers in recent years, and that’s become a bigger influence on my work.
TRC: When not writing, what do you do to relax?
Deborah: I knit a lot. I also read and work in my garden. Some years – like this one – the weeds win.
TRC: THE FROST MAIDEN’S KISS is the latest release in your TRUE LOVE BRIDES medieval romance series written under the pen name Claire Delacroix. Would you please tell us something about the premise?
Deborah: This series is directly linked to my previous medieval series. The Jewels of Kinfairlie. There are eight siblings in that family, and only three had their stories told in that first trilogy. In The Beauty Bride, book #1 of the Jewels of Kinfairlie, the parents of the 8 siblings have died suddenly, leaving the oldest son heir far sooner than expected. Alexander inherits not only a lot of responsibility, but an empty treasury. He needs to see his sisters married quickly, but they aren’t very cooperative – and he doesn’t want to tell them about the finances of the holding. In desperation, and at the suggestion of his unconventional Aunt Rosamunde, he decides to auction the hand of the oldest sister in marriage, ensuring that only bachelors he sees as eligible are invited. The Beauty Bride is Madeline’s book – it’s not really a spoiler to tell you that Rosamunde intervenes and that love does indeed conquer all. The Rose Red Bride is Vivienne’s book, when Alexander tries to do better in arranging his second sister’s marriage. Then both sisters get even with Alexander in The Snow White Bride – he had arranged their marriages, so they arrange one for him. Of course, all three matches work out well.
I always wanted to return to Kinfairlie and tell the stories of the other siblings. I’d heard from readers for years that they wanted to known Elizabeth’s story in particular – she’s the youngest sibling and the one who can see the Fae. Her book, The Warrior’s Prize, will be published in December. Partly because of Elizabeth’s abilities, I’d also to explore the entanglements between the family at Kinfairlie and the Fae. It’s mentioned early in the Jewels of Kinfairlie series that there’s a portal between the realm of the Fae and Kinfairlie. Things are changing in the mortal world, and the idea behind the True Love Brides series is that the portal between the Fae and Kinfairlie can be closed forever if these four siblings marry for true love. The Renegade’s Heart was the first in the series and Isabella’s book, in which she saved Murdoch from the Elphine Queen. The Highlander’s Curse was Annelise’s book and the second in the series, in which Annelise helped Garrett master the curse (or gift) given to him by the Fae. This new release, The Frost Maiden’s Kiss, is Malcolm’s book, and book #3. Malcolm has returned to Ravenmuir, the sister estate of Kinfairlie which is his legacy, after earning his fortune as a mercenary. He’s scarred by what he has done for the coin, and accompanied by a fellow mercenary, Rafael. When Rafael steps into the Fae circle to dance and risks having his soul claimed as the Fae tithe to Hell, Malcolm offers his own soul instead. He has six months before his soul is claimed, in which he is determined to leave a mark for good in the world. He isn’t expecting to meet Catriona, a bold serving woman in the employ of his sister, much less that Catriona will both give him new hope and save him from the price he’s promised to pay. Book #4, coming in December, The Warrior’s Prize, is Elizabeth’s book and is the tale in which Rafael redeems himself (or maybe love redeems him). The eighth sibling, Ross, will have to wait a bit longer for his story to be told!
Both of these series are also connected to my Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy, although there’s a generation between the two groups of characters. In fact, the Kinfairlie siblings are mentioned in the last scene of The Warrior, which is what started the whole thing.
TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?
Deborah: Ah, I just answered that. 🙂 The last sibling, Ross, has been sent to train with his uncle at Inverfyre, though, and that uncle (the Hawk of Inverfyre, whose story is told in The Warrior) has five children with his wife Aileen. I’m thinking that there will be another series following Ross and at least some of those five siblings, set in the Highlands, but am
taking a break from Kinfairlie after The Warrior’s Prize to work on another medieval romance series, one that isn’t linked to anything but itself.
TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular story and series?
Deborah: Well, there’s always something, but the answer always appears eventually. Sometimes I just have to think about the story in another way. For example, stories that people tell each other (fairy tales or folk tales) are often a big element in my books. I’m working on The Warrior’s Prize now and was searching for stories that Rafael’s grandmother might have told him while he was growing up in Spain. I have a lot of sources of vernacular stories from Scotland and more medieval ones from France, but without being able to read Spanish, this seemed a bit daunting. I finally remembered, however, that the poem of El Cid was hugely popular in medieval Spain, and of course, that I have a copy of it in translation. This story of a knight who built his fortune as a hired warrior, as well as the multiple choices he had to make in terms of alliance in Spain during the Reconquista, is exactly the kind of story that Rafael would find compelling. Elizabeth finds it somewhat less compelling when he shares it with her 🙂 but then, the telling does reveal a good bit of his character to her.
TRC: Have you considered a novella or spin off for any of the secondary characters?
Deborah: I did write a short story about Rosamunde, the aunt of the siblings who was trapped in the realm of the Fae in The Rose Red Bride. It’s called The Ballad of Rosamunde and appeared in the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance.It’s available on its own in a digital edition, and is bundled into the new trade paperback of The Snow White Bride.
I tend not to write short, so have written few novellas and short stories over the years. There also has been less opportunity to publish shorter works in the romance genre, at least before digital-first. I’ve recently pulled together a number of my previously published shorts in a collection called Beguiled, partly to have them available to readers again. (Some of the original publications were out of print.)
This market does skew hard toward shorter works, though, so that’s something I’m considering for the future.
TRC: The romance and relationship aspect (The Firestorm) of the Dragonfire series appears to have taken a bit of a back seat in the recent storylines. The premise concentrates more on the war with Chen and the return of the ancient Dragons. Was this move away from the romance arc intentional? If so, why?
Deborah: Well, I don’t really see the book that way. Thorolf’s HEA required him to fulfill his destiny. His role in the battle against the Slayers, and his personal dispute with Chen, is part of his character’s development and also part of his firestorm because it keys into his conflict with Chandra. He had to reach for his full potential for his firestorm to succeed.
One of the challenges in writing a long linked series is striking the balance between the next block in the overall story arc of the series and the story of the individual romance in each book. There’s also the balance between keeping the focus on the two main protagonists and allowing the reader to catch up with other continuing characters from the series. Dragonfire was also intended to have a strong overall story arc, following the progress of the Pyr’s final battle with the Slayers, and each book, while a romance was intended to provide the next block in the overall story. As we get to the end of the series, the war needs to come to its resolution. Although I wanted to write a long series (from the outset, Dragonfire was intended to be 10 or 12 books in length – it will be 11) these balances are becoming more tricky as the individual characters and their roles are more developed. So, we need more detail and more story (and more cameos) while keeping the pacing quick. The really challenging part of this is that every reader, writer and editor will strike those balances at different points, because we each have things we want to see happen in the story and favourite characters we want to revisit.
That’s the short answer. Now we’ll have the long one!
When I started to write romance, there was a tremendous amount of diversity in the genre. I believe this is why it was such a vital genre in the 80’s and 90’s. All books make the transition from idea to product as they move through the publishing process, but there was more room for alternative views in those days. In the last ten years, though, market expectations have tightened and the market itself has shrunk. There has become less room for diversity in the structure and writing of books, and as a result, less diversity in the marketplace. For example, by 2005, the vast majority of books in the romance section were either vampire romances or sexy Regencies, told in third person point of view. This was because these two niches had been selling well, so publishers wanted to focus on success. I believe this focus and resulting lack of diversity accelerated the shrinking of the book market – no matter how much any given reader enjoyed either or both of these sub genres, diversity had kept the market vital. When there’s less diversity, the books all start to seem the same.
When KDP launched and authors could publish their books by themselves, there was a big change in the marketplace. The digital market was incredibly vital, right from the outset, and much of that original spurt of growth came from books that authors hadn’t been able to place with traditional publishers. Many of these books were radically different from what had become the norm, in terms of structure, genre (often they were hybrid genre), voice, setting and niche. I believe that the enthusiastic response from readers to these digital releases was a reaction, that readers were excited to again see diversity in the genres they loved. For example, medieval romance was said to be “dead” by 2005 and it was nearly impossible to place works with that setting with traditional publishers, yet in 2011, medieval romance, Scottish romance and Viking romance (two other “dead” categories) were added as new BISAC categories, based on the volume of published titles. I suspect this is primarily due to digital-first publishing.
So, if we look at books as products – because they are – we have to acknowledge that marketing books requires that they be “the same but different”. Readers have expectations of a book, based on the author or the sub genre, and the trick is to satisfy those expectations without the book being predictable or dull. On the continuum between complete predictability and radical innovation, every reader and editor has a comfort point, probably somewhere near the middle. It is typical for publishers to believe that genre fiction readers want more predictability in the books they read, while readers of literary fiction are open to more innovation. This may be true. The thing is that in the past ten years, commercial fiction books have been steadily edged toward the predictable ( or “safe”) end of the continuum, to the point that there is a very firm notion of how stories in sub-genre X should be told.
As a writer, I never want to tell the same story twice. I never want to tell a story the same way as another story I’ve told. I like to mix things up and change things around, to look at romance, love and even firestorms from different angles. I like to give my readers a new adventure each time, albeit with some consistent elements. The interesting thing is that my editors are always excited about these ideas – they make each proposal “fresh” – yet as any given book has moved through the editorial process in the last decade, there has turned out to be no room for those ideas in the established form that the publisher is convinced the book should take. A good example of this was Ember’s Kiss: it was originally intended to feature a double romance, the firestorm between Brandon and Liz, and the firestorm (in the past) between Brandon’s parents. I thought this would be awesome and my editor agreed. The problem was that there was very little room for that in the book and most of the parents’ storyline was cut or never even written in the first place. While I like the book, I also was sad that the original idea never came to fruition. I also finally understood something an editor said to me a long time ago – in 1997, I sold three medieval romances to Dell, and the acquiring editor was the same one who had found my first book manuscript in the slush at Harlequin years before. She left Dell before the first book was delivered there, and it was edited by another editor. I sent the acquiring editor a copy of The Princess when it was subsequently published. She thanked me, but said that she still preferred my original idea for the story. There had been a lot of editorial changes made to the book during the editorial process, but I believed I was learning something about making my book better. I was learning something, to be sure, and I still like that book a lot, but when Ember’s Kiss was published, I more clearly understood what that editor had meant.
And so back to Serpent’s Kiss. I knew that Thorolf’s book would be different, from the moment he stepped on the page. I wanted him to develop more as a character during the books before his own firestorm, but that straying from the romance of those earlier books was not to be because it required making those books “too different”. In the end, I wanted to tell Thorolf’s story the way I saw it, and so I ensured that I was able to do so. Sloane’s book will also differ from the established pattern of Dragonfire, because that’s what is necessary to complete the series. I understand that every time one of the Pyr has to contribute more to the overall mission, some readers think his firestorm is too short, so it is likely that Firestorm Forever will be a longer book. The trick is ensuring that we don’t lose the pacing that characterizes the series so far. There will be multiple firestorms in Firestorm Forever, because that’s what will make that book distinct from the others. The challenge to me is to ensure that readers are satisfied with the balance struck in the book. It is likely that some will not be.
TRC: What are your thoughts on writing a series and ending an instalment with a major cliff hanger?
Deborah: As a reader, I’m not a fan of cliffhangers. I always feel a bit cheated. As a writer, I can appreciate how a cliffhanger increases suspense. I think it’s a technique that is used best in serializations, in which it’s clear to the reader that each instalment is part of a whole and not a complete story in itself. In a way, it’s like comparing an ongoing television series with a movie: in a television series, there are always threads left dangling, and the season often ends with a powerful dramatic hook to ensure that viewer tunes in for the subsequent season. In a way, that cliffhanger is part of their expectation because of the structure of the show. A movie, though, usually ties up all the loose ends in two hours or less, and there’s something very satisfactory about the tidiness of that. You can be in the mood for one or the other, but it’s best to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?
Deborah: I always start with a plan for the story and a sketch of the characters. It feels quite stiff to me until the characters take a breath and step into the story. There’s a moment when they become fully fleshed and real to me, and that’s often the point at which they change the story to suit themselves. They’re inevitably right about these changes, so I’m always waiting for that moment.
TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writers fail in this endeavour?
Deborah: In romance, I think the use of deep point-of-view is key to creating that bond with the reader and putting him or her “in the story”. It’s interesting that many romance readers are resistant to the use of first person POV in a book, as it’s a particularly powerful way to do that, but even in 3rd person, that connection can be made.
TRC: Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon. How do you handle the pressures and anxiety of writer’s block?
Deborah: I suspect that writer’s block is a choice, albeit one made at a very deep (often subconscious) level. It’s frequently the result of criticism of the author’s work and the doubt that criticism creates. The thing is that if it’s a choice, in some way, the writer can choose differently. That’s not easily done, depending upon the size of the scar responsible, but the rhythm of writing on a regular schedule is a very good antidote to the doubts and excuses that keep authors from writing. I’m a fan of The Artist’s Way, as the exercises there can help a writer (or any creative person) move beyond writer’s block and choose to create again.
TRC:Many authors bounce ideas and information with other authors or friends and family. With whom do you bounce ideas?
Deborah: This probably makes me sound cranky, but I think that writing is a solitary occupation and should be the unique expression of the writer. Making it into a social exchange or a group effort – which can be the result of a critique group – often diminishes the work and takes away what makes it unique, even when critique partners are trying to be helpful. We all see stories in different ways, and our perception of the “the best” way to tell it is very personal. Although critique partners are usually well-intentioned, work that has been through that process is often so polished that the author’s individual voice is hard to discern. I think writers need to start with their own clear vision of the work and the strongest expression of their voice, for better or for worse, so that they can defend their choices in the editorial process. There’s an old post on my blog about this, called Perfume. http://deborahcooke.com/2009/05/11/perfume/
TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?
Deborah: I’d like to work fewer hours – not on the writing, because I love writing every day, but on the administrivia end of things. I always seem to have a huge To Do list, but I’m hoping to pass a threshold in 2015.
I’d like to finish up several hundred odd jobs in my house, which create another huge To Do list. I’m not sure that one will ever be done – it’s the nature of old houses to need something to be redone every 10 or 15 years, so we’ll probably get done in time to start over again.
I’d like to have one day in which there are absolutely no weeds in my garden. (Winter doesn’t count.)
TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?
Deborah: After 20 years of doing author interviews, I doubt there are many secrets left! Hmmm. I like vanilla better than chocolate.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Deborah: As mentioned, I’m working on Elizabeth’s book, The Warrior’s Prize, and also outlining Firestorm Forever, which is Sloane’s book and Dragonfire #11. I have a number of other projects in development which will be published in 2015.
TRC: Thank you Deborah for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations on all of your success.
Deborah: Thanks so much for inviting me to visit, Sandy, and for the interview! Happy reading!