Thursday, October 6, 2016

Through The Veil by Colleen Halverson - Guest Post, Book Review & Excerpt

 
Guest post

Five Things I’ve Learned About Romance
By Colleen Halverson

When I was in grad school, about once a month, I would don a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie, grab a large cardboard box, and journey to my local bookstore. You might think I was involved in some elaborate book heist, but no.

I was buying romance novels.

I didn’t have much time. At any moment, one of my professors, a fellow grad student, hell, that cute bartender from the microbrewery with the tattoos could have walked in and I would be found out for the smutty, anti-feminist philistine I was. It was shameful, this addiction. Disgusting. I grabbed at the faded covers with lightning speed. Anything with a kilt. A sword. A vampire. Quick, quick before anyone sees. I threw down my money at the cashier like some surreptitious junkie, scanning all the entrances and exits, praying no one saw me before I got to the safety of my car.

This was in the early 2000s. Before Amazon, before Kindle. Before I knew what romance really was…and what it could be. Even after grad school when I started writing romance myself, I had so much to learn about this incredible world and the people who write in its discourse. It’s been about eight months since THROUGH THE VEIL hit e-readers everywhere, and in that time, I’ve come to understand a lot about romance. The number one being…

1) You don’t need an excuse to read romance. When my husband sits down to watch sports, he doesn’t flash me a sheepish grin and shrug and say, “Honey, I’m doing self-care right now.” He doesn’t play fantasy football “ironically,” or feel compelled to tell everyone some of the historical, anthropological, and psychological reasons why he might engage in the communitas of sports spectatorship. Hell, no. He watches sports because he likes it. Because it’s entertaining.

For years I made excuses about my love of romance, invented complex theories as to why I was drawn to the storylines, to the HEA resolutions, to the provocative scenes. I would laugh it off as a “guilty pleasure,” something I used to unwind after reading George Elliot or Derrida. If pressed, I might even dive into a lecture about the sociopolitical implications of erotica dating back to the eighteenth century, throw in a little of Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the repressive hypothesis if I was feeling nasty.

Screw.

That.

I like reading romance in the same way my husband likes watching sports. Because we like it. Because real life can be a mess sometimes and we need to find enjoyment wherever we can find it. You don’t need an excuse to like what you like. Period.

2) There is a romance out there for you. I can’t tell you how many of my female friends came up to me after they read THROUGH THE VEIL and begged to know what other romances were out there like mine. These were women who grew up with the Fabio bodice-rippers of the eighties. You know, the ones with the weepy virgins and the anti-feminist messages about consent and sexuality. Ladies, here me when I say, the genre has largely moved on and somewhere in the midst of the small town stories, the regency romps, the cowboys, the alpha males, the werewolves, the billionaires, the construction workers—somewhere in this wonderful soup is a romance for you. And it’s awesome.

3) Romance is feminist. And I don’t just mean the storylines. The romance industry is largely a business run by women, for women. I can tell you in all honesty, some of the more feminist discussions I’ve had in the last few years have been in romance. Questions about agency, consent, sexuality, pleasure, the female orgasm—all the subjects I once explored in my feminist theory courses in grad school have become the focus of my writing career in romance.

4) Romance is built on community. When I was at the last Chicago-North RWA Conference, I heard Courtney Milan talk about how she and Tessa Dare would meet online every night around 2 am to write. I also heard the story of how dynamic duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings met on an online Twilight fanfic and decided to co-author the bestselling Beautiful Bastards series. What these stories revealed to me was the incredible power of romance writers and readers as a community. A lot of our impressions of literary history are based on the “great man” theory, the idea of a lone, singular entity breaking through the masses to stand solitary in his genius. That is not how romance works. Not at all. We are a community the helps build each other up, who supports one another at any stage of a writer’s career.

5) Romance needs you. Romance needs your stories. It needs your readership, your reviews, your tweets, your posts, and your support. Romance needs a broader range of perspectives and greater inclusivity, and to accomplish that means taking pride in the genre and the ways in which it can empower writers and readers from all walks of life. It means taking ownership of our identities, especially our sexual identities, and sharing our experiences, our longings, our conflicts, and our triumphs openly with others. Whether we read it or write it, staking our claim in romance is the only way it can survive.
 
Book review
 
Amazon USA Amazon UK
 
Review by Suze
 
Elizabeth is a hardworking student. She has applied for a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation and is spending a lot of time on research for her thesis. She's translating a book written in old Irish. There's something strange though as the book never stays exactly the same. A visit from the Trinity people changes Elizabeth's world forever. She's suddenly a prisoner and they know more about her ancestry than she does. The people who are holding her captive don't show her much kindness. There's only one man, Finn, a commander of the trinity elite warriors, who seems to care what happens to her.
 
Elizabeth is now a pawn in the war between magical races. She's supposed to be very powerful, but she also doesn't know much about the world she's now living in. That's a great disadvantage. Her power can play a crucial role and others want to benefit from it, which means she's being forced into a horrific situation. Will Elizabeth be able to get out of it again? And can her life ever go back to normal now that she has all that new information about her lineage?
 
Through The Veil is a great story about a student who's half Fae and half human. Working with a magical manuscript is only the beginning of a series of terrible events. Elizabeth is strong and resourceful and she doesn't lose her head in a difficult situations. She's a fabulous and powerful heroine. Finn is a sweet guy, but his hands are tied. He can't be there for Elizabeth all the time and they learn about the consequences of that the hard way. Some of the scenes are awful and dark. There are plenty of creepy and cruel characters who are making life difficult for Elizabeth. The story is an interesting adrenaline rush and I loved reading about the different worlds and their inhabitants.
 
Colleen Halverson's world building is really good. I could easily picture everything she describes. There's a lot of action in this story and it's never boring. Things go from bad to worse, but Elizabeth is resilient and she keeps plotting her escape. There's a depressing part that almost breaks Elizabeth, I both loved and hated it. Fortunately Elizabeth can handle a lot and this part gives the story some extra depth. I'm curious to read more about Elizabeth and can't wait to see where her next journey will bring her. I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced fantasy book and I think Through The Veil is amazing.
 
Through The Veil is on sale now for only $0.99!
 
 
About Colleen Halverson
 
As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshmen. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children. Through The Veil is her debut novel.
 
Excerpt

Wiping the crumbs off his jeans, Finn reached into his backpack and threw an apple at me, which I caught with a deft hand.

“Nice catch,” he said, grinning.

I flung the apple up into the air and caught it in my other hand. “I played third base. Little League.”

“You mean baseball?”

I nodded.

“Never seen a game myself.”

I gaped at Finn. “You mean you live in Chicago, and you’ve never been to a Cubs game?”

He shrugged. “Not interested.” Finn’s eyes lit up, and he shoved me playfully with his shoulder. “Now hurling. That’s a good game.”
“Well, they’re totally different. That’s not even a fair comparison,” I said with a sniff.
“Fair enough,” Finn said, wistful. “Really, nothing can compare with hurling.”

I laughed. “Moiré tried to explain the rules to me once, but she lost me after hurley stick.”

“Oh, it’s simple, really.” Finn jumped down and rummaged around the rubble until he found a large branch. He swung it, the stick cutting through the air, slowly at first, but then with more force. Finn’s chest muscles rippled between the flaps of his leather jacket, and my blood pulsed in my ears at the sight of him, dancing from foot to foot as he practiced his swing.

“Now the point of hurling,” Finn began, “is to use this stick, the hurley stick.” He raised the old branch in the air. “To get a little ball called a sliotar either over or under your opponent’s goalpost.” Finn picked up a handful of small rocks and, using his “hurley,” sent a pebble whizzing over the stone wall, inches from my head.

“Hey, watch it!”

Finn smiled up at me. “You with me so far?”

I nodded.

“Now,” Finn said. “If the ball flies under the goalpost into the net, it’s worth three points.” Finn sent another pebble skittering against the wall, right next to my boot. “But you have to get it past the keeper, and that can be a challenge.” His eyes glittered at me as he swung his stick again. He threw a rock up in the air and with a loud thwack sent it zooming over the wall. I held out my hand and caught the stone, the look on Finn’s face making up for the sting of impact.

“And he’s out!” I cried, jumping off the wall and doing a mock victory dance. “Cubs win! Cubs win! Wooooooooooooo!”

Finn stalked over to me and grabbed my fist. “Will you settle down!” he said, attempting to pry the pebble from my grip. “I’m trying to teach you a three-thousand-year-old art form and you’re nattering on about the fecking Cubs.”

I giggled, snatching his hurley stick from his hands.

“Technical foul!” Finn barked behind me, but I sprinted away, swinging the hurley over my head as I climbed the wall.

“Get back here, you brat!” Finn bolted after me so quickly, he lost his footing on the stone wall and tumbled to the ground. I laughed as he came to his feet, his hair loose, chasing me.

“It’s the bottom of the ninth, bases are loaded!”

Finn made a snatch for the stick, but I feigned to the right.
“Tanner’s up to bat.” I climbed a set of old stairs to nowhere and tossed up the stone. I popped out my hips and, following through on the turn, sent the stone flying over the hill and down the cliffs below. I jumped down, swinging my baseball/hurley bat. “Homerun by Tanner! And the Cubs win the pennant!”

Finn smacked into me, and I collapsed to the ground, his wide body over mine as he grasped for the stick.

“Dammit, O’Connell!” I gasped beneath Finn, his whole weight crushing my chest. “Now I know for a fact hurling is not a contact sport!” I laughed as I squirmed to get away, holding out the stick just beyond his reach.

“Neither is baseball!”
With a devilish grin, Finn tickled my armpit, and I curled up in a fit of giggles. He made a grab for my wrist, pinning me to the ground, and his gray eyes danced as he looked down at me. My laughter faded, and running my other hand through his hair, I pulled his face to mine. He kissed me, a low moan rumbling deep in his throat.

Finn nipped my bottom lip with his teeth, and my back arched as our hips melded together, my better judgment forgotten. He slid his arm beneath my shoulders and pulled me close against him, kissing me long and hard, and I gasped, gulping for air as he lowered his mouth to my neck.


8 comments:

  1. I love reading your final words in a review, Suze. That's my favourite part. This book sounds really interesting - The Irish mythology....

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  2. I can really relate to what Colleen said about keeping her romance novel addiction secret. I live in the bible belt, and have extremely religious family. So I keep my reading preferences to myself. I can't wait to read her book.

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    1. It's so interesting how other people's prejudices force us to keep our passions a secret. For you, it's religion. For me, it was stringent feminism in academia in the late 90s, early 00s. I mean, jeez, people, just let us like what we like!!! Thank you so much for reading! <3 <3 <3

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  3. I really enjoyed reading the entire post, especially the "Five Things I’ve Learned About Romance" part, thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Nikolina! I appreciate that very much! <3

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  4. I. Loved. Reading. THIS FANTASTIC GUEST POST!

    Oh! can I ever relate to this.
    I can hardly recall reading anything for myself during the last couple years of my 7-year grad-school sentence. After being released (a little early, for good behavior) a few years ago, I continued to not-read... at all. Too shaken, stirred, chopped, and screwed from a... *spooky voice* Clinical Psychology program. *sound of wolves howling in the distance*

    Yes, I was raised by those wolves-- and by "wolves" I mean feminist psychodynamic/analytic theory.
    *stunned silence*

    And now, I read trashy books!!!

    ...Jk jk jk.
    Truth is, I've pretty recently started reading (and really, truly LOVING) Contemporary Romance. And YES!-- another truth is that I DON'T need an excuse to read it-- and that I DON'T need to feel guilty or compelled to explain it away.

    I do, however, suspect that I've surpassed my word-count limit.
    My bad. And, I'm afraid I have no excuse for this. ;)

    --Ann

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  5. I enjoyed Colleen's tale about reading romance novels in college... how comical!

    Thanks for your review, sounds interesting.

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  6. I love that the point is argued that romance is indeed feminist -- what a revolutionary idea! Kudos, Kara S

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