Guest Author: Manda Collins & Giveaway!

I’m SO thrilled to have one of my favorite people on the blog today.  She’s Manda Collins, and she writes fabulous and witty historical romance with a dash of mystery to spice things up.  Manda’s debut book, How to Dance with a Duke, will be released by St. Martin’s Press in January, 2012.  It’s a wonderful book, and I predict it will be one of the best Regency-set historical romances of the year.

Without any further ado, I’ll turn the blog over to Manda!

Thank you so much, Vanessa for having me here today!

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Moonlight & Magnolias Writers Conference in Atlanta. I’ve attended the conference, which is one of the best regional romance writers conferences around, before, but this year’s was special. Not only did the fabulous Vanessa Kelly win a Maggie Award for Sex and the Single Earl, but this year’s keynote speech was given by one of my very favorite authors, Eloisa James.  Which, in turn, afforded an opportunity for those of us who were regulars at the now defunct Squawk Radio (a group blog featuring Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, Teresa Medeiros, Eloisa James and Liz Bevarly), and Eloisa’s Bulletin Board with Julia Quinn, to have a mini-reunion.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I get together with old friends there’s a lot of talk about the past, catching up on the present, and prognosticating about the future. And with this particular group of women, we talked again and again about how lucky we all felt to have found each other. What brought us together was our love of romance, but what forged our friendships into lasting ones was, for want of a better term, our “kindred spirits.”

When I got the idea for my Ugly Ducklings trilogy, I wanted to create a world not based on a brotherhood, but instead upon a sisterhood. Not unlike what I have with my friends. Cecily, Juliet and Madeline are cousins who have grown up in the spotlight, but not because of their stunning beauty. Instead, they are compared to their mothers, the Fabulous Featherstone sisters who, a generation earlier, took the ton by storm with their beauty and ensnared three of society’s most eligible bachelors in the parson’s mousetrap, and found wanting. Not only are they not as beautiful as their mothers, they also have bluestocking tendencies. Is it any wonder they find themselves still unmarried? Especially when the season’s toast enjoys nothing better than putting them in their place every chance she gets.

What I love about the friendship between these three women is the way that they support each other. No matter how harebrained the scheme, or how scandalous the scheme, Cecily, Juliet and Madeline can always count on one another.  When an accomplice is needed, they’re there. And when a scold or a stern talking-to is called for, they’re there for that too. They might argue and fuss from time to time, but always, always, they’ve got one another’s backs. Especially when the naysayers of the world try to tell them that they can’t succeed in their chosen fields simply because they had the misfortune to be born women. That really makes us…I mean them angry.

The first book How to Dance with a Duke comes out January 31, 2012.

Here’s a sneak peek at the back cover:

What’s a wallflower to do when she’s suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…


Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father’s exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father’s name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.


Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He’s a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season’s most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston’s expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer’s bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….

So, let’s hear it for the sisterhood! And friendships! What are some of your favorite books about female friendship? Inquiring minds want to know!  Because I’m feeling generous I’m going to give away one of my precious, precious ARCs! So comment for a chance to win!

Wow!!  Vanessa, here.  An Advanced Reader’s Copy of How to Dance with a Duke!  Manda isn’t kidding when she says it’s precious!  I’m also going to throw in a copy of my first book, Mastering The Marquess.  It’s my birthday today, and I want to celebrate that along with Manda’s appearance on the blog.  So, one person who comments will win a copy of Manda’s book AND a copy of  Mastering The Marquess.

130 thoughts on “Guest Author: Manda Collins & Giveaway!”

  1. Vanessa…Happy Birthday!!!
    Manda…Congrats of the trilogy!! The books sound great…something I can really relate too. ;o) I cannot think of any books that I have read that focus on women’s friendships… I read mostly historicals. However, I have three sisters and we are all best friends. Life gets in the way sometimes… but we get together as often as possible… and are always like young girls again when we do.

  2. Happy Birthday (again), Vanessa! You can never hear it too many times, IMHO!

    Hey, Manda! Did you actually make it back from M&M with that ARC in your luggage?? So many of us would have been more than happy to take it off your hands. *g* I really can’t wait to read the whole fabulous story and the rest of the trilogy. I agree with everyone else—gorgeous cover. 🙂

  3. Happy Birthday Venessa, what a way to celebrate.

    When you talk about sisterhoods, you must mean something like the friends I have for over 3 decades. Yikes, that’s a long time but I wouldn’t want to share a jail cell with anyone else. *g*

  4. I really enjoyed Lori Foster’s “fighter” series… all of the gals throughout the book are really good friends and are accepting of all of the new ladies that come into the picture with each additional story! They were all very close and protective of eachother. (not only the ladies but the men were loyal to eachother as well).

  5. Good morning ladies,

    One of the friendships that stands out in my mind is the Huxtable girls from Mary Balogh’s series. I love how Vanessa was desperate to rescue her sister from a loveless union and offered herself up instead. The girls’ were all so very close and looked out for each other. That’s how sisters and friends should be, always having each others backs. I’ve got four sisters and we always look out for each other.

    Happy Birthday Vanessa and thanks for introducing us to Manda. I haven’t read any of her books yet. I love finding new Authors.

    Thanks for this opportunity.

    dpd333 (at) aol dot com

  6. Happy Birthday to you, Vanessa!
    And congratulations to Manda on your first book! Your book sounds great and I really like the cover. Very classy! I’m very intrigued about the Ugly Duckling story line, it’s one of my favourites.

    When I read your post I immediately had to think of the Wallflower series written by Lisa Kleypas. I think she does a great job of showing friendships between women without any bitching. 😉 I love this series and reread it nearly every year. In contemporary romances I like how Pamela Clare shows female friendship in her I-Team novels. An added bonus is that the heroes are getting friends, too.

    Thank you for the post and giveaway!

  7. Happy B-Day Vanessa & Way to Go on the debut Manda!! 🙂 Sounds like a good book & will have to keep a look out for it. I’m another one where Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflower series immediately comes to mind when thinking about books female friendship.

  8. First of all, Happy Birthday to the hostess with the mostess, Vanessa! Hope you do something decadent and lovely for yourself today!

    Wow! Thank you guys for the cover love. I wish I could say I designed it, but that was the brainchild of my editor and the art team at St. Martin’s. Aren’t they a talented crew? I am so lucky to have them.

    Thank you for the congrats, Betty! Sounds like you have a really great bond with your sisters. I actually live with my younger sister, which has it’s issues sometimes, but we’ve always got each others backs.

    Early happy birthday, Regina!

    I hope you enjoy the story, Alisha and May!

    Gannon, I hate to say it but I was an easy mark. A certain J Perry Stone talked me out of that ARC before I left for home. But she traded me for another one that I’ve been dying to read. And I believe you guys at the Dish should be getting one of your own very soon.

    Thanks, Ebony. I hope you like them!

    Non-romances are cool, too, @readergirl. I was actually thinking about Little Women last night when I wrote this post. And Anne of Green Gables. The Help definitely counts!

    LOL, Susan! I’ve got friends like that too:) We’ve even talked about the jail cell thing. Though fortunately we haven’t had to test out the theory yet.

    Thanks, Kathie. Hope you have a great day too!

    You know, Sara, I hate to admit it but I haven’t read any Lori Foster yet. But it sounds like I need to .Those books sound good.

    Diane, the relationship among the sisters in Balogh’s Huxtable quartet was great wasn’t it? They were all so different, but I loved how they stood by each other. And we can’t forget Stephen. Sigh, I loved those books.

  9. Happy Birthday, Vanessa! Manda, I can’t wait to read your books. Wishing you every success!
    The female friendship in Gone With The Wind. Scarlett and Melanie. It should have ended in disaster, but it lasted until Melanie died. Who’d have thought Melanie capable of murder? I’d write more but now I have to use my tissue.

  10. Claudia and Gamistress, I love Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers too! I think my favorite was DEVIL IN WINTER but they were all wonderful.

    And, Clauria, aren’t Pamela Clare’s I-Team books great? I love how different all of the books are. And yes, those are some seriously yummy heroes!

  11. Happy Birthday Venessa. May you have many more and enjoy them more each year.
    Manda, Love the name of your series. I love Fern Michaels “Sisterhood”/”Weekend Warriors” series. These ladies can kick butt. Sometimes the only way to deal with men is for the ladies to join forces and take care of them. lol I am adding you to my new author list and can’t wait to read “How To Dance With a Duke” and begin my journey.
    Thanks ladies for this awesome giveaway. misskallie2000

  12. What a fabulous giveaway! I’m drooling over them both! And Happy Birthday Vanessa! May your day be filled with much love and happiness!

    Manda, I haven’t read your books before, but I have heard good things about How To Dance With A Duke. I absolutely love the premise. It sounds terrific! I just popped over to Goodreads and added it to my “to-read” list.

    I have read many books about family, but not so much revolving around sisterhood. The only series I recall about sisterhood (and adore) is the Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas. I accidentally stumbled upon Lisa’s books in a Wal-Mart – on a camping trip – desperate for more to read after exhausting the supply I had brought. I have never looked back. She is absolutely wonderful!

    Congratulations on the upcoming release! I can only imagine how exciting this must all be!

  13. hi vanessa,
    happy birthday one again 🙂
    thks to interview a new author here and i’m interesting in manda’s book especially the cover book is so gorgeous :-).the sisterhood’s story i love is from julia quinn’s book : everything and moon & brigther than the sun =D

  14. Happy Birthday to you !! Happy Birthday to you!!!
    And Manda — I love your sisterhood ideas and am looking forward to reading all the stories!! I always enjoy where women band together & stick up for each other… here’s hoping that Amelia Snow gets her comeupance!!

  15. Happy Birthday, Vanessa! I hope your day is filled with love and laughter and lots of presents.

    Happy every day leading to official debut, Manda. I’ve been a fan of your writing since I read the first snippet.Now I can’t wait to see How to Dance with a Duke at a bookstore near me. That cover gets more gorgeous with every viewing. I love her expression.

    Sisterhood is one of my favorite tropes. Eloisa James does a wonderful job with the theme not only in the Essex Sisters books but also in her Pleasures trilogy and in both Duchess series. Anne Gracie’s Merridew sisters are also favorites, and no discussion of sisterhood in romance novels would be complete without a mention of Nora Roberts, who has written some of the best girlfriend/sisters of the heart conversations in contemporary romance fiction.

    • Thank you, Janga! You are definitely my kindred spirit. And–I am not kidding–your encouragement was one of reasons I felt confident enough to start writing again after all those years of my academic sleep. Hugs!

      I am a huge fan of Eloisa’s female relationships. She is just so good at getting the nuances of friendship and sisterhood down on paper. Plus she does it without sugarcoating it and yet somehow manages to be optimistic about it.

      Totally agree about Anne Gracie and Nora Roberts too. Come to think of it, you introduced me to both of them too:)

  16. Happy Birthday, Vanessa!! And congrats again on the Maggie win.

    Can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not stumbled upon Eloisa’s BB and found my way to squawk Radio. Don’t even want to think about it.

    I’m all for girl power and I’m sure someone has already mentioned them (I haven’t read the comments *shame*) but Eloisa James does the sisterhood beautifully. From biological sisters to die-hard friends, she gets it right every time. I also like Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series, featuring three sisters getting to know each other after less than traditional upbringings.

    Would love to get my fingers on this book before January. Well, technically, I’ve had my fingers on an ARC, but I had to pass that one along. 🙂

  17. So happy – another great find in a new author! Your book sound fab. And you sure keep company with some of my favorite authors. Can’t think of any historicals where there is a deep friendship and support among women. But many contemporary ones: Robyn Carr’s The House On Olive Street, Olivia and Grace from Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series, Eve and Mavis in the JD Robb books.

  18. Happy Birthday, Vanessa!

    Welcome, Manda and congratulations again on your upcoming debut. I love the premise of the story and can’t wait to read it!

    I agree with those who have mentioned the Essex Sisters by Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflowers. Toni Blake has a wonderful girlfriend “sisterhood” in her Destiny series as does Emily March in her Eternity Springs series.

    • Thank you, PJ! I hope you like my Ugly Ducklings:)

      Good call on the Toni Blake books! The Destiny series definitely has strong female friendships running through it. I haven’t had time to read the Emily March books yet, though I loved her writing as Geralyn Dawson so I’m sure I’ll love Eternity Springs too. You’re another one who has turned me on to some great books. 🙂

  19. Happy Birthday, Vanessa and congratulations Manda. It’s too bad that the JQ/EJ Bulletin Board had to be abandoned. Facebook isn’t the same thing.

    Contemporary romance author Julie James’ books have wonderful female friendships, as does Nora Roberts’ Bridal quartet series. The Wallflower series has been mentioned, but the Hathaway series by Lisa Kleypas has a sisters-as-friends trope that works really well.

  20. Happy Birthday, Vanessa.

    Hi Manda,
    Congrats on your upcoming debut release. I love books featuring female friendship. I do love Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series and Susan Andersen’s Showgirls series.

  21. Happy Birthday Vanessa!
    Congratulations Manda!

    I have to admit, I never liked reading but in the last few years I’ve basically become addicted to reading and I really rather enjoy historical books. I’m basically devouring historical novels and paranormal stories. 🙂 I didn’t know what I was missing all those years.

  22. Happy Birthday Vanessa – I hope you get a special treat – I’ll indulge in a piece of dark chocolate in celebration for you.
    Manda – this book looks right up my alley; I love a series so I can catch up with the characters throughout, I enjoy reading about wallflowers coming out of their shells; I enjoy learning about whatever the bluestocking is consumed with. Hope we don’t have to wait too long for the whole series to be out.

  23. Happy birthday, Vanessa!

    Manda, the trilogy sounds like fun! How to Dance with a Duke sounds really good. I’ll have to add it to my reminder list.

  24. Happy Birthday! One of my favorites with female friendship is Maya Banks’ Sweet series and thanks for the wonderful giveaway!

  25. Happy Bday Vanessa & congrats Manda on your upcoming 3logy. The series sounds wonderful; just the type that i like: intelligent heroines! I’m so happy to have found a new author in my fav subgenre.

    The 1st book that came to mind was Little Women; that was 1 of the earlier books I read. Funny how it is that it’s books I read over 20yrs ago (am I showing my age) that seem to leave the most lasting impressions but I loved Jo, Meg & Beth (hated Amy tho).

  26. Happy Bday Vanessa!
    Manda, congrats about the upcoming release and best of wishes!

    I can’t wait reading about a new series featuring a strong female friendship!
    After reading the Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas, the trilogy by Suzanne Enoch and the series by Laura Lee Guhrke, I’ve been waiting for a new treat! 🙂

  27. Happy bday Vanessa! Congrats on the new series, Manda!

    To answer your question, I would have to say Lisa Kleypas and her Wallflower series. I have never met a greater bunch of girls. What’s great about them is that as a whole, they are fun and impulsive girls who embrace life. But individually, there’s also so much depth to their characters that we get to see in each book!

  28. Happy Birthday Vanessa!! and Congrats Manda on the new series 🙂 I love the cover of How to Dance with a Duke!!!

    My favorite sisterhood type friendship novels are the Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini. They are about an amazing group of women who become great friends – about their lives, love and of course quilts 🙂

    Thank you for the great giveaway!


    Manda, I can’t wait for your book!! I became aware of it not too long ago and am excited to read it. I hope you have a lot of sucess with your book. I love a books about sisterhood.

  30. This sounds like a great trilogy! I love Jacquie D’alessandro’s Ladies Literary Society of London series – the four women are close friends and I really enjoyed reading about their friendships. Of course I also love Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers series (who doesn’t?).

  31. Happy Birthday!!!! Hope you’ll have an awesome time & all the best wishes for a special year!

    I like books about female friendships & some stories I liked recently are by Sarah Maclean. There are few moments between the women of her triology, but when they are together their closeness shows & is even envied by Juliana who comes into the “family” later on. I’m not used to much female companionship personally, but those rare moments can really lift you up & strengthen you in who you are.

  32. If the giveaway is still open and open to international entries, please include me. This book sounds great – all the best for your debut Manda!
    And happy birthday Vanessa! 🙂

    hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

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