Name of the Book: Grays Hill
Name of the Author: Barbara T. Cerny
Publisher: Eloquent Books
Disclaimer: I have recieved this novel from the author in exchange of my honest review.
After reading Angels ad Orphan and Tessa, I had expected nothing less than what I am reading currently, 'Grays Hill’. Strong characters, backdrops -I would give anything to have this kind of knowledge of history which would put many historians to shame. As usual a great book from Barbara.
Lady Oksana Jane Wallingford had lost her family home and needed a place to stay. Her childhood friend, Geoff Tarkington takes her to his brother - Rafe Tarkington’s house who was The Duke. Rafe was a widower with three kids. Oksana joins as their governess and soon takes over the running of the property.
While the Duke didn't like it originally, but soon found himself relying more and more on her. Not only as a caretaker for his children but also as a companion. His distrust in women, caused by his late wife Paula, too a dent when his armor against love and happiness was chipped off by Oksana.
But even when they succumbed to their love, Rafe is not able to let go of his past and would rather have her as his mistress rather than as his wife. But he was very badly shaken when she refuses. Would he be able to let go his past or would it be too late for them before he really understands her worth.
The characters are very strongly etched. Oksana, aka OJ, comes out as a very strong woman. She was ashamed of her weight but instead of lamenting about it..[ahem!!!] she acknowledges it and decides to do something about it. Sorry guys.. this is not a weight loss book but this topic is very close to me..[*winking]
Now, back to track… Oksana is one woman I would want to be. Strong, dependable, independent and above all humorous. The way she learns fencing, her subtle fights with Lady Catlin and the way she handles the Duke is done in a humorous way without losing the sweet and passionate romance between them. Right touch of evil injected,which gelled well with the Duke’s inner conflict.
Barbara has not restrained herself to only the two protagonists - this is what I have always loved about her writing. She has brought about Geoff also as a beautiful character. I love the way he reacts when he comes to know about his best friend loving his brother. I would have done the same. :)
Would I recommend this to my readers. Definitely.
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About the Author
A tete a tete with Barbara T. Cerny
What inspired you to write your first book?
I have wanted to write since the second grade. I was always coming up with stories to tell my friends at lunch or on the bus rides to/from school. I wrote through high school, on the journalism team, in creative writing class, on the teen page for the school newspaper.
My first story, Of Angels and Orphans, rolled around in my head for nearly thirty years. Life eventually got in the way and writing was shoved to the side. “Someday, I will write…” You know how it goes.
Well, that someday came in the most unusual way. I am a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserves, a twenty-two year veteran in our military. And I, like hundreds of thousands before me, was called up by my country to serve in Southwest Asia (SWA) in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
I left behind two small children, Oksana, eight and Audra, five, and a husband, Charles, who overnight became chief, cook, bottle washer, mom and dad. I bless him everyday for the sacrifices he made to keep the home fires burning. He took the brunt of this deployment, not me. I love him with all my being: my heart my mind, my body, my soul. My love for him is where my ability to write about the love between my two main characters is born.
In SWA, I worked six days a week, twelve to thirteen hour days for twelve straight months. My day off was sometimes a day off, sometimes only six-to-eight hours of work. I lived Groundhog Day for three hundred sixty-five days.
But I had time on my hands. No kids, no responsibilities outside the mission, no cleaning the bathrooms, no cooking or grocery shopping. I just had to make my bunk and take the bus to work. I lived in an open bay barracks with forty-eight of my favorite friends, walking three buildings to a shower/toilet trailer in 115º heat.
When I first arrived, I read voraciously, downing four-five novels in a week. In January 2006, I was able to take a four-day break to Qatar and lay around reading seven novels. I read two romance novels in those four days, a genre I rarely read as I like Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and their brand of book best.
So there I was, reading a romance novel and wondering why I was reading other people’s books when I have Of Angels and Orphans still wandering around in my mind.
So I started to write. I wrote on my days off. I wrote on my evenings I wasn’t dancing - I taught ballroom and country dance lessons for the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines on my camp. I wrote when my boss went on leave, I wrote when my boss went on business travel. From the first week in February to the first weekend in June, I wrote that book that I had thought up so long ago.
Since I had written it in my head, every activity planned to the nth degree, it flowed very quickly. I wrote the meeting between Nate and Audra first and the two whippings, the wedding day, then the wagon train, then the final sword fight between Audra and her brother as they had been detailed greatly in my mind over the years. The rest filled in fast without problem.
Bottom line, deployment gave me the time I had pushed aside for almost three decades so I guess I have to say, “Thank you, Uncle Sam!” for giving me the chance to actually put the life of Audra Markham and Nathaniel Abbot on paper.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I love to write descriptions. Dialogue is very hard for me and I struggle with it and have to really concentrate on it. The editor working on my fifth novel is constantly telling me to rewrite descriptive paragraphs into dialogue (she is diabolical to say the least). I would be perfectly happy to write everything in a description. However, knowing that would drive away my readers, dialogue and I have come to a truce of sorts. I love research and I love history. I pepper every novel with historical facts woven with the story. My readers always comment on the history lesson I take them on while telling my story.
What books have most influenced your life most?
As I said earlier, I read Stephen King (my ultimate favorite is The Stand), Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler (so fun), Robert Ludlum, Dan Brown (so technically amazing), Stephen Coonts, etc. However, what comes into my head are romances. Go figure. I love books with the richness of language. I really hate to see our youth of today “dumbed” down with some of the commercial successes that are written without the depth of the English language I feel all readers deserve to read. Now, I don’t mean reading a diet of Shakespeare, but reading at more than the 8th grade level.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I must confess. I get to read very little these days, as all my spare time is spent doing my own writing (unless you count Time Magazine!). I did read every Harry Potter out loud to my daughter and read every Twilight before I let her read them. JK Rawling wins hands down but I seriously doubt if she is considered “new” anymore.
What are your current projects?
I have two books with editors. My regular editor couldn’t get into my dark fantasy, The Tiefling, so I had to find a new one. My new editor (the diabolical one), is changing every word, I think. But the novel will be amazing. It is set in Scotland, 1053, and first person male. I really had to get in touch with my masculine side for that.
The sequel to Shield of the Palidine, The Magic Thief, is also with my editor (the regular one) and it is well over 425 pages. As editing is simply the start of writing, the both are still “current”.
I am currently developing three new novels: one romance is set in Sweden in the 1600s (researching the 30 Years’ War for background history), a second is a modern murder mystery called The Walled Cat (you will have to read it to understand that strange name!), and a biography of an amazing woman I know. That biography is by far the hardest book I have written and will probably be the only non-fiction I will ever write. It takes a special kind of writer to do biographies and I don’t think I “have” it.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Boy, second grade was so long ago! I think I was just born with a writing gene, if there is such a thing. I have done very well at my jobs over the years due to my writing ability even though that is not fiction (or is it?) I guess it is hard to find folks that understand technology (my degree is in computer science) and English at the same time. I write because it fills my “love bucket”, the thing that keeps me happy and fulfilled. I would love to make a living at writing but sometimes writing is enough.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Each book has its moments. Of Angels and Orphans flowed in literally days. I wrote on Sundays while deployed and had it done in 16 Sundays. But, it had been drafted in my head for 30 years.
Grays Hill had a size problem. It was too short and the publisher sent it back (162 pages was too close to the 150 page-make-no-money mark). So I had to restructure it completely and put in a sub-plot and touched nearly every page. I literally burned down the town with a fire that started at the blacksmith. My illustrator and I laugh now that we need to “burn down the smithy” when something needs a lot of fixing.
Tressa was a breeze. Loved researching baking in the late 1700s in Ireland.
Now, Shield of the Palidine was a pain. Try keeping track of seventeen main characters that represent nineteen fantasy races (pixies, fairies, griffons, etc.) plus animals like yale and centicore. I had to refer to a list of characters constantly (included in the book for the reader). I also had to draw a reference of all their heights and sizes compared to each other for sizing. If a pixie had a conversation with a giant, what did that really look like since the pixie was 18 inches tall and the giant 15 feet tall! Also, my editor’s sister and first reader did not think the romance was believable to I tore it apart too and revamped the romance. I was never so glad in my life to see a book leave my hands. So I tortured myself by writing a sequel. I need my head examined (especially since I have outlined a prequel and a fourth in the series!)
For The Tiefling, I had a map of Scotland from around 1500 I use heavily and a dictionary of Scottish words from the 1400s. Talk about a reference nightmare! I use actual word and phrases from hundreds of years ago and have to keep track of the meanings in a glossary. Plus, it is a dark fantasy, first person male. It took me six year to write as I couldn’t sit down in 20 minutes and write a paragraph or two like I could with the romances. I had to take that long just to reread sections and become Branan Lachlan so I could write from his point of view. I needed large chunks of time to write. I also had to get in touch with my darkest side which doesn’t bubble to the surface easily. I hope I do not have to write a sequel to The Tiefling. I don’t want to go there again.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
ABSOLUTELY! Couldn’t keep track of everything if I didn’t. Now, it is never a complete outline at the start but a framework by which to work. It gets pretty thick by the time I am done.
Stalk her @