J. Arlene Culiner
and her book All About Charming Alice
About the Author
J. Arlene Culiner, born in New York, raised in Toronto, has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Holland, Turkey, France, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 300-year-old former inn in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone’s dismay, she protects all living creatures—especially spiders—and her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.
She is the author of three other published books: a romance, Felicity’s Power (Power of Love Publishing, 2001) a history/essay, Finding Home (Sumach Press, 2004) a mystery, Slanderous Tongue (Sumach Press, 2007)
All About Charming Alice
by J. Arlene Culiner
Published August 12th 2013 by Crimson Romance
Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.
Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.
So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.
In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake’s Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice?
Barnes & Noble
Excerpt: All About Charming Alice
They headed home through the shadows. There was no wind and far off, in the hills, the cries of coyotes filled the night. Through the corner of her eye, Alice observed Jace’s face. He was off somewhere distant, she noticed. Off in a world where she had no place. Was he even thinking about her? Was he aware that she was there?
She searched desperately around for some normal topic of conversation and didn’t find one. Well, just let the silence continue, she decided. And stop wondering what will happen next.
They stopped just as they turned into the front yard and she watched Jace surveying the pile of wooden boards Pa Handy had delivered. It seemed as if a hundred years had passed since then. A hundred years and a big change in her awareness.
“I’m going to have to find time to continue with my home improvement scheme.” She heard him chuckle softly and her heart skipped. That meant he was going to be around a while, didn’t it?
“Actually, I was thinking of buying some paint and getting started on protecting all of this before next winter comes around.” Her hand waved airily at the faded building.
“You paint the house?” He sounded surprised.
She turned to him defiantly, her eyes challenging. “And why do you think I’m not capable of doing that? You may not believe this but the inside of the house looks the way it does because of me. When I first moved here, this was a wreck. I plastered, painted, and pulled the place together. Or, at least, the inside of it.” He threw up his hands in mock defeat but his voice was placating. “Alice, I didn’t really mean to doubt you.”
“Yes you did,” she answered stubbornly. She turned, her eyes blazing, and surveyed the house. Even in the dark she could see the peeling paint around the windows, the shabbiness. Her vexation vanished as quickly as it had come. She could see why he’d said what he had. What she didn’t want to explain was that it took a certain amount of money to keep a place like this up. Money was just not one of the things that came easily in Blake’s Folly.
“What color?” His voice startled her out of her reflections.
She blinked. Normal conversation. That was all she had to participate in. She should feel relieved. “It’s always been yellow. I like the idea of a bright yellow house. And dark blue window frames.” She grinned ruefully. “I suppose that’s a little odd.”
“Sounds nice.” “You think so?” “I think so.”
Her hand was trembling when she slid her key into the lock. Now what was going to happen? Were they going to walk up those stairs and go to their separate rooms, she wondered. She didn’t want that. No way. Time to put Rose’s Plan B into action. How exactly could she go about doing that? He wasn’t making things easy for her, not really. He had stepped in closer, was helping her out of her coat and her knees started knocking again. Did he have any idea what happened to her when he stood close like this?
Well, now what? Was she going to ask him to spend the night in her bed? Of course she wasn’t. “It was nice . . . ” She took a deep breath. “Dancing with you.”
“That it was.” His reply came with the barest hint of a smile. “That it was. Very nice.” She waited. Would he say something else? Make a gesture? Reach out for her?
His eyes traced the line of her mouth, caressed the sharp planes of her face and her skin burned as strongly as if he had touched her. But he didn’t make the slightest move.
She couldn’t stand here in the vestibule, waiting forever, could she? No. She couldn’t. “Well, good night,” she said. And immediately felt like kicking herself. She’d just
ruined everything. But why didn’t he make a move? Why had he left things up to her? Or maybe she’d been mistaken. Maybe he didn’t want her after all.
There was a strange, unreadable expression in his eyes. “Good night.” They walked up the stairs silently. Separated on the landing.
Closing her bedroom door behind her, Alice sighed. So much for Rose and her so- called infallible Plan B.
It had been a complete failure.
A Few of My Very Own Golden Rules for Romance Books
As a writer, I have a big responsibility: I can’t bore my readers; I can’t underestimate them; and I have to share information. And when it comes to writing romances, not only do my readers want a good tale, they also expect to (vicariously) fall in love. So here are some of my rules:
- My hero and heroine need to be intelligent. Why? Because I have to love them both to in order write about them convincingly. They also have to exchange ideas, stimulate each other intellectually or their love won’t last.
- Both hero and heroine must always be real people with real interests. I don’t want to write about multi-millionaires, top-notch executives, flashy cars, diamonds, private planes and all the other trappings. They just don’t interest me. But the folks next door do, and if one of my heroes or heroines just happens to be successful, it’s because they love what they’re doing, not because of all the consumer goods money will buy.
- No one has to be perfectly beautiful. When people fall madly in love, they always think the person they’re in love with is just gorgeous anyway!
- The setting has to be wonderful. Reading a book should be like traveling to an unknown country, or opening a window onto a wonderful view. It has to be “transporting”!
- No silly misunderstandings that are as irritating as sandpaper and take up so much time, there’s no room for anything else. Silly misunderstanding have you wishing people would just sit down for five minutes and talk things over so the real story can begin.
- The grammar has to be as perfect as I can make it and sentences have to sing. There also has to be a definite style — even if it’s a quirky one. And, of course, the story has to keep moving, have no boring moments, no dullness and certainly no tedious conversations.
- We have to get knowledge from a book: we can learn about ourselves, about a new way to solve a problem, a new way of thinking, or we can glean totally new information, find new vocabulary. Learning is what makes life exciting.
- There have to be other interesting or very strange secondary characters. Sure, the main story revolves around the hero and heroine, but they’re not on a desert island: other folks are there too, and sometimes they’re nosy, or nasty, or disruptive, or amusing or even ridiculous. They’re what makes a book fun.
- Most definitely, my heroes and heroines have to have a sense of humor — and that means they can laugh at themselves and their own absurdities.
In my romance, All About Charming Alice, I share a few tales about the settling of the west and give some information about reptiles (don’t scream). My heroine is Alice, an ex-actress who has found refuge in the Nevada desert, protects rattlers and rescues dogs; my hero, Jace is a determined bachelor, an art-loving city man, a writer and an historian who can hardly wait to get out of Nevada and head back to Chicago.
The story takes place in a small, crumbling community in the Nevada desert peopled by… well… the sort of cranks you’d expect to find way out in the back of nowhere: Pa and Ma Handy, collectors of odds and ends as well as gossip; Brad, the rather dull rancher; Rose, the inveterate flirt who chews up most of the males in the west; Mick, a beer-swilling eccentric; and a whole scramble of rescue dogs.
And since this is a romance, you can read all about how Jace and Alice tumble into that heady, dizzying world of new love.