Friday, October 30, 2015

In case you wonder I have been doing with what's left of my life....

There is a debate among historical novelists as to what is too much history and what is not enough. To a large degree, it depends upon the marriage of the reader and the writer.  If I read a historical novel in which the entire story could just as easily occur in modern San Bernardino, for example, perhaps that's where it belongs.  There needs to be a purpose for placing a story in another time slot. Sometimes the incentive to do so is the simple truth that some historical periods are more compelling than others. Setting a story in the 16th century, for example, requires the author to visit there and carry its magic to the reader.  To do so with panache requires more research than a quick visit to Wikipedia, although at least some excursion there would help. It is a reasonable place to start.

One issue a historical novelist needs to address is whether the protagonist or the history drives the plot. One example of how this tricky issue can be handled is Light in the Labyrinth by Wendy Dunn.  Doctor Dunn has a wealth of knowledge of Tudor history tucked into her head, and her depiction of the last days of Anne Boleyn is stunning, but the story remains very much about Catherine Carey and her acceptance of her step-father's love. As heart-rending as Queen Anne's beheading is portrayed, while the story centers around Anne Boleyn, it is not Anne's story. It is Catherine's. . Dr.Dunn's ability to master the distinction sets her book apart from other novels about the execution of the queen.

Applying my observations as a critic and reviewer to my published works, I have revisited each of them and asked the same question.  Even my debut novel The First Marie and the Queen of Scots is not a fictionalized biography of Marie Stuart's life.  It is about Marie Flemyng, aka 'Mally,' and her struggle to seize control of her own story. Doing so requires her to resolve her relationship with her cousin the Queen of Scots, without rejecting her entirely or becoming her apologist.  To that end, the novel is successful.  Does it have a tad too much history for some readers? Yes, indeed.  I did away with some of it in the second edition, which reads better than the first.

  I am going to do something drastic to my second book, perhaps making it into a trilogy. If it has too much history, it is because the protagonist William Kirkcaldy did too much living to cover in anything but a tome, and tomes are out of style.

 The Legacy of the Queen of Scots

 When I began writing the books in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series, I was ready to write genuine historical novels. Viola!  While reviewers have not been forgiving of my editing errors, I am no longer being told to stop calling my work historical fiction and start labeling it fictionalized history.  At the risk of too much hype and not enough blog, here is a brief synopsis of each of the four novels to date in the series.

The Midwife's Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess:  

During the latter half of the sixteenth century, rumors persisted claiming the Queen of Scots gave birth to a live daughter just before she escaped from Loch Leven in 1568.  According to the queen's secretary Claud Nau, the child was smuggled to a convent in France. Sometime between 1568 -1573, the Abbess Renee d' Guise, the Queen of Scot's aunt, brought a child named Marguerite d' Kircaldie to Saint Pierre les Dames du Rheims.  When visitors came to the Abbey, the child was hidden in the cellars. Most residents in the convent believed she was the child of Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, the Scottish knight executed in 1573 for holding Edinburgh Castle in the name of the Queen.  But Kirkcaldy's only child, Janet, Lady Ferniehirst, died mysteriously in London in 1570-72.  Madame Renee's risks her position as abbess and the pressures of her powerful family to thwart those who either seek to destroy or exploit the sequestered child while the resolute young postulate known as La Belle Ecossaise struggles to pursue her destiny, regardless of her origin.

The Other Daughter: Midwife's Secret II:


There is another Marguerite Kirkcaldy. She is indeed the daughter of the Knight of Grange, born posthumously to a laundress in Edinburgh Castle who is a relative of Mariel Fraser, the midwife in the first of the legacy series.  Her family and friends know her as Daisy, the Scottish version of the French name  Marguerite.  Her mother chose it because Kirkcaldy loved the blue variety of the Daisy popular in France, les Marguerites   Daisy is a precocious child who ends up well-placed in the entourage of the Countess of Argyll, who takes the laundress Violet Frasier and her bastard infant under her wing. In her adolescence, she hears the tales of the other Marguerite and her curiosity is aroused.  Ambitious and adventurous, Kirkcaldy's daughter grows into a young woman who defies convention and makes a name for herself as her step-father Will Cockie's apprentice in the jeweler's trade.  On a person note, she struggles between her infatuation with reiver warlord Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst, who happens to be her nephew,  and the king's browdinstair Will Hepburn,  the bastard son of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, to  Norwegian heiress Anna Tronds.  
The two men in Daisy's life have more in common than their pursuit of Daisy. When Andrew was a child, he was taught to think of the wee lass his mother escorted to France in 1572 was a member of his family, the Knight Kirkcaldy's child.  But Will Hepburn is convinced the nun La Belle Ecossaise is the fabled daughter of his father James Hepburn and the Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, there are others in Scotland who have heard the rumors of the birth at Loch Leven.  One is King James VI, and another is Will Hepburn's first cousin, the present Earl of Bothwell, Wild Frank Stewart, who plans to locate the king's half sister and use her as a pawn, no matter what price La Belle Ecossaiseis forced to pay.

1603: The Queen's Revenge

Elizabeth Tudor is dying, and the King of Scots is tapped to inherit her throne.  But Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, once the king's favorite and a darling of the Protestant Kirk, has become the champion of the Catholic earls of the Scottish North. He brokers a wild plot to the King of Spain and the Pope, seeking support for a plan to capture the nun Marguerite d'Kircaldie and carry her off to Scotland in an evasion force he and the Duke of Alva will command.  

But he has not counted on the return from the dead of Will Hepburn of Hailes, who is believed to have been lost at sea, or the ingenuity of his cousin Will's guidwife Daisy Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh's notorious wad wife. In an adventure culminating in the Spanish Netherlands, exiled James Maitland, Madame Renee and La Belle Ecossaise's beloved champion Charles de Guise, Duke of Mayenne, join the little band of Scots to save the Stuart monarchy and protect La Belle Ecossaise from becoming a pawn in a struggle likely to destroy her life.

In The Shadow of the Gallows:     

And now, hopefully in time for November 5, best known as Guy Fawkes Day, comes the latest in the Legacy series, as Will and Daisy ride south to rescue their son Wee Peter, who has been kidnapped to force Hepburn's silence concerning a plot brewing in England aimed at killing the royal family. Is this a plot of aristocratic zealots, or does the Gunpowder Treason have deeper roots, some of which implicate persons in high places, some of whom are Scots?
Join Will and Daisy, the Kers and Trotters, and James Maitland of Lethington as they balance their determination to rescue six-year-old Peter Hepburn against their commitment to the King and Queen of Scotland and England and their children.  All of my books except In the Shadow of the Gallows are available on Amazon and as Kindle books.  The Shadow of the Gallows will be joining them next month.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Old Post with a Strong message. THE POLARIZATION OF AMERICA

When a child goes missing under suspicious circumstances, we are told that the first few hours are critical.  That is the reason behind the Amber alerts. When I was a prosecutor working with the San Bernardino County specialized detectives of the Crimes Against Children unit, we were amazed at the audacity of those who kidnap a child, often in daylight on a busy street or out of an enclosed front yard. But what kind of audacity does it take to highjack a nation? 
Is the culprit stealthy or bold? Surely, I ask myself, there must be myriad witnesses to the crime. But who are they? And then comes the obvious answer. We all are. Every single one of us stood by like the citizen across the street who thought he was watching a parent retrieving a toddler from day care, or picking up his kid on his way home from soccer practice.  We were just that oblivious to the snatching of America.  But now that we know that America is missing, we should have little difficulty recovering her.  A nation is hard to hide.  And again the answer is obvious. Her hi-jackers are not hiding her.  They have changed her and released her back to us. At first glance, she seems just fine, but what we fail to recognize unless we look very, very carefully, is that America is not America anymore.
And when we look closely at one of the widely circulated views of America, we do see a change. America was once populated by Americans--new ones, old ones, Native Americans, immigrants, but Americans, or at least, living breathing people who resided within the boundaries of the United States.  But according to the map I see almost every day at one site or another, the new America is not populated by people.  It is filled by red and blue pixels. There is no United States. There are Red states and Blue states, and a few that are in an identity crisis and shown in pink or pale blue or in several shades of gray. 
So here is my question of the day (Day 2): Until the past five years, when have you looked at a map of the United States divided into Red America and Blue America, other than during a Presidential election campaign?   This new America does not have a past or a future, but just one never-ending election campaign.  And to those who counter that having an informed populace is a good thing, I submit that having a misinformed populace fed a diet of polemics and propaganda is not so good.  At least think about it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Watch for Speed Bumps, and as the English say, Mind the Gap -and other comments about aging.

It's been a long time since I've posted on my own blog. I've become accustomed to always being a guest and never a hostess. It's time for me to start expressing myself on those matters guaranteed to offend someone somewhere. Better to express them here than on someone else's site.
One of the most exciting things I've done in 2015 is functioning on the Board of the M.m.Bennetts Award. One of my duties was screening entries to make sure that met the criteria we established, guided by the legacy of M.m.Bennetts, a highly gifted historical fiction author who spent years as an editor and reviewer and had just begun to produce her masterworks when cancer struck.  Not a happy story, but one of which we should all take heed. So, whoever you are and whatever you do, my advice is to hurry up and live your dream.
There are some lessons about aging best learned while we are young, but unlikely to be appreciated until you are old enough to realize the Golden Years are a thin layer of the good stuff over the brass.  Here are a few of them:
Sex is a function. Love is a sentiment.  They can co-exist, or not.
Do not trust any automated program to present your written product the way you typed it.
Do not trust your fingers to duplicate your thoughts.
If you are a writer, even if you have to sell your designer shoes at a garage sale, get an editor.
If you are a writer, even if you cannot find an editor who will work for what your designer shoes earned at the garage sale, sell your jewelry and your family heirlooms and get an editor.
Do not trust financial institutions who peddle their credit cards one month and lower your credit line the next because you took the bait and now have too many cards.
Do not trust banks that encourage you to transfer balances from your 'highest interest credit cards' to one of theirs, and then lower your credit limit when you do, because you have used too high a percentage of your available balance.
When you see a photo on Facebook of your closest friends at a party given in honor of another friend, and it's the first you heard about it, time to revise your list of friends.
If you have large dogs, switch to Industrial Chic furniture with metal legs. The young ones chew and the old ones pee.
If you want total privacy, stay off the grid.
Never waste your money on expensive frames for photos of your children's spouses until they've been married at least fifteen years.
Celebrate your birthday by throwing out all of the things you inherited from your elders and never liked.
Clear your bookshelf of every book you've never read, and sell them at a garage sale or throw them in the trash.Then clear your bookshelf of every book you've read once but will never read again, and donate them to a thrift store operated by a charity. Next, clear your bookshelf of every book you've read and think everyone should read at least once and donate them to a library. Finally, reshelve the books you consider a part of who you are and BUY MORE BOOKS.
Repeat the above as to the clothes in your closet, and the jewelry in your jewelry box.
If you are a woman over 75  or have osteoporosis, get rid of your three and four-inch heels.
If you suffer from vertigo, don't get up too fast.  Peeing in the bed is better than peeing in a bedpan.
Consider doing your holiday shopping out of the treasures you have stashed.
If you want to be a blogger, blog at least three times a week.  It's like exercise.  It gets easier if you start small and ease into it.
It's better to laugh than to cry.  It takes a while for laugh lines to form. Red swollen eyes are visible immediately, and you'll have to wear sunglasses even when it's dark.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A brief expose of the worst book ever written about Marie Stuart and the Four Maries, IMHO.

Remember the expression, For crying out loud?  It was something people said in the 1940s when they saw or heard something outrageous. Alas, it is 2015, and I am just short of SCREAMING out loud. I have just read the worst novel ever written about the Queen of Scots. But that 's just my opinion.  Yesterday I posted a reviewed in which I admitted  I had only read the first 35 pages because I could not deal with the inaccuracies. I gave the book three stars because the writing was decent, and the editing was quite good. Tonight I went back and read the remainder in case I had been too hasty in dissing it. Big Mistake

 I should have removed it from my Kindle library and read something more intellectually challenging, like the speeches of Michelle Bachman.  Mayhap I should have finished the book last night and given it an honest one star. Because I, too, am a novelist and sympathetic to the challenges we face, I do not give one-star reviews.  Maybe I'm jealous because the author outsells me.

The writing in the grossly disappointing book went from inaccurate to downright mendacious. It is not quite a print version of Reign, but I find it equally offensive.The producers of Reign did not pretend to sweat issues of historical accuracy. Other reviewers (6) of the book claim the writer accurately researched the topic. That is really scary. Mayhap she did. Do libraries still shelve World Book?

Alas, it is 12:18 AM, PST, too late (or early) to scream. I think I'll have another glass of Apothic White and calm down. I've become an intellectual snob in my old age. The historical distortions in the novel at issue are so much worse than anything P.G  has written;  I am taking back every mean thing I've ever said about The Other Boleyn Girl. I'd try sleeping, but I'd have nightmares.

The amazing thing is, according to Amazon, this book outsells my novel The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, which may have its editing glitches, but is a well-researched historical novel covering the same territory. So who am I to head-butt someone who is successful?
But, Hey! Did you know the kings and queens of England are all buried in a vault at a place called Kingston Abbey?  So much for Westminster Abbey's Henry VII Chapel, Windsor Castle chapel where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are interred,  and a couple of interesting car parks here and there., to say nothing of the Royal Masoleum at Frogmire  where Victoria rests. And, silly me. I thought Elizabeth Tudor died in 1603. Shows what I know. If my protagonist Marie Flemyng from the First Marie had shiny black hair, why did the poets of the Pleiades called her the most beautiful blond woman in Christendom?  And I had no idea 'burly'borderer Bothwell was having supper with the Queen of Scots and David Rizzio on the night of Rizzio's murder. I guess I am looking at a different guest list.  Time for the wine. I feel a scream building.
I choose not to name the title or the author of the book which triggered the emergence of my dark side. You will recognize it if you check the Look Inside feature before you hit the Buy Now button. It is the story which begins with Mary Seton's night time vigil at Fotheringhay, at a time when she was well ensconced at Saint Pierre les Dames du Rheims. It ends even worse, with author's notes informing us where the bodies of the Royal are buried.  I tried to Google Kingston Abbey, and damned if I could find it. I must be living in a not quite parallel universe.  Sour grapes, you say? What the hell.  As long as the wine isnae corked, I'll drink it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Main Character Blog Hop - Meet Will Hepburn by Linda Root

I have been tagged by Anna Belfrage and Susan Appleyard in the Meet the Main Character Blog Hop. The idea is to introduce a principal character from a yet unpublished work and tell our reading audience a little bit about the person. In turn, we tag another four or five good-natured writers to do likewise. My tags have gone to Stuart S. Laing, Ginger Myrick, Louise Turner and Darius Stansky.
My current work is part of the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series featuring husband and wife adventurers Daisy Kirkcaldy,posthumous bastard daughter of the knight Kirkcaldy of Grange, and William Hepburn, the son of the 4th Earl of Bothwell. I have previously answered the questions as to Daisy in an earlier round. Now it’s Will’s turn: Questions used are composed by Debbie Brown of The English Historical Fiction Author’s Blog and Facebook pages.
Photo (C) Distrik 3,, from
The Other Daughter by Linda Root

What is the name of your character?

Will Hepburn:  If ye dae nae mind, hen, ah’ll be speakin fur m’self. Tis bad enough ‘aving Daisy puttin’ words in m’ maw.  Ah call m’self Will Hepburn, but when ah was a lad, ah used the name a’ Will Beaton.  Ah borrowed the surname from m’ Granny’s best friend Janet Beaton, an older hen who happened tae be m’ da’s mistress on an off.  Tis fair tae say m’ da the earl’s love life was a wee bit complicated.

Are you fiction or a historic person?

Oh, ah’m real enough, but there’s nae much written boot me.  Just a few lines here and there unless ye’re good at trawlin. Ah was at Holyrood serving m’ step-brother James as his browdinstair, which means ah was the one who embroidered the canopies hangin’ o’er the king’s head at banquets, ‘cept when as busied m’self at tasks ah was better at doin’, such as savin’ the king from folly and courtin’ me gudewife Daisy.

When and where is the story set?

The action starts up at Kinghorn at our lodge on the shore a’ the Firth.  Twas a couple a’ years after our king toddles off tae LondonTown tae catch himself a crown. Truth be told, most a’ the action takes place on the wrong side a’ what we used tae call the Border which our fickle king has renamed ‘The Division’ and calls it parklands ‘stead of battleground.  Like ma da Lord James Hepburn, formerly the Earl of Bothwell, R.I.P., ah ‘ave nae affection fur the English.

What should we know about you as a main character in the story? 

 Ma mammy was a Norwegian lass who got herself jilted by ma da. She said they were handfasted and m’ da nay-sayed. So, she hauled me off tae Scotland when ah was wee, hoping tae enforce a marriage contract. Nice as they were tae her—and she was very rich, so they were very nice—they were nae anxious tae go against Marie Stuart, who was Queen a’ Scots and had other plans fur m’da. After a spell, m’mame gave up and sailed back tae’ Norway, leaving me with Lady Janet, who helped m’ daddy raise me up. Fur the most part ah lived among the reivers until m’ da got mixed up with the Queen.  Tae understand the way ah look at things, ye need tae know ah am closer tae being a Border Reiver than a royal embroiderer. Ah dae nae cut the image a’ some a’ the other Borders like m’gudewife’s kinsmen the Kers a' Ferniehirst, but people ‘ave a way of sensin’ ‘twould nae be healthy tae come at me with a dagger drawn, if ye git m’meaning.

What causes the conflict in the story—what messes up your life?

After the last time me wife a’ ah nearly got ourselves killed savin’ Scotland from the intrigues a' ma cousin Wild Frank Stewart, who wears the Bothwell title as a reward fur being born on the right side a' the sheets,  ah promised Daisy tae settle intae  the quiet life. Things were goin’ just fine 'til a pack a' bawbags broke intae the house in Kinghorn. They murdered our master of the household and carried off our son Wee Peter. Ah had a heavy load a' guilt tae deal with,  'cause ah was the fool what caused it. And tae top it off,  fur sure m' wee lad came first, but ah also felt duty bound tae save our sorry king. Seems like savin’ James had gotten tae be a habit.

 What was your personal goal?

First and foremost came gettin’ wee Peter back, but ah needed tae find a way tae save the Stuart Royals if ah could.dae it and still keep m family safe. Ah guess  ye could say ah needed tae balance m' duty tae m' family wi’ m' pesky sense a’ honor. And there's always the need tae keep  Daisy frae getting all a' us killed.

Is there a working title for this novel, and where can we read more about it?

If ye are interested in how ah managed tae deal with Peter, m' Bodacious wife  Daisy, a pint-sized duplicitous Prime Minister and a bunch of Catholic fanatics and still dae m' part in saving the royal family, Mistress Root has set it out right straight in a piece she's written called In the Shadow of the Gallows. Parts of it have shown up from time to time on The Review blog and Facebook page on Excerpt Sunday.

When can we expect the book to be published?

Seems moderns are pickier than folks who did their readin’ in the auld days, at least those of them who could read.  Ah keep telling Mistress Root the story she calls In the Shadow of the Gallows is lookin’ fine as it is, but she says, Nae, tis not quite ready yit, like it was one of m’ Granny Agnes’s half-baked shepherd pies. Methinks she’s lookin' at the end a’ June. Daisy says tae tell her tae hurry up. Seems there’s another book she needs tae get busy and write.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A conversation about love, death and writing historical fiction

Those who read my Legacy of the Queen of Scots series know who Daisy Kirkcaldy is.  She is the indomitable posthumous bastard daughter of the Knight of Grange. He is a real historical character, but she is not.  Sometimes I pretend she is my alter ego, but she is not that, either.  I know this, because, in my book 1603, the story begins with everyone who matters  telling her to get on with her life because her husband Will Hepburn is dead, and she refuses to believe them. In my novel, Daisy is right, and the rest of the world is wrong.  I would not have had her faith in Hepburn or her inner strength.

But then, this morning--a beautiful desert morning unique to the high desert after a storm--I awakened knowing as long as I do not write it, Hepburn and Daisy will live without either of them having to share the death of the other.  Such is the way of fiction.  Life is different.   But, I asked myself, what if Will should die on one of their madcap adventures under circumstances disallowing Daisy to deny the reality of  Will Hepburn's death?
What then, Daisy Kirkcaldy?
I think of another pair of star-crossed lovers from the history of Britain both of them real.  Like Will and Daisy, they do not alway act wisely or in their common interest, but their love is enduring and intense.  And one of them, the more selfish of the two perhaps, out-lived the other for many years.  Her name was Sarah Churchill, the wealthiest dowager in Britain, who even in old age was besieged by young, ambitious suitors.  But Sarah did not waiver.  Legend is she drove them off telling them she would never give in marriage the hand that touched hands with John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Methinks Daisy would behave in the same manner.

John Churchill - First Duke of Marlborough
She would live on because she is an adventuress, and she would not go about it alone.  But she would never link arms with anyone the way she linked arms with Hepburn. And not just because that is the way I have written them.

When I introduced them in my novel The Other Daughter, I rather expected Daisy to chose her nephew, Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst.

He was the tall, dark and handsome one.  There were genuine obstacles in placing Ferniehirst in a long term relationship with Daisy. Sir Andrew Ker is an actual historical character, married with a son and three daughters.  He became Lord Jedburgh and had his portrait painted alongside his wife Anne Stewart, who is depicted holding a monkey in her hand.

 In addition, there is the problem of consanguinity. Even today, avunculate marriages are not universally considered incestuous, but they are illegal in England and Wales, for example. During Daisy's day, the Pope gave dispensations to Hapsburgs when it was of dynastic advantage for uncles to marry nieces or aunts to marry nephews, but I find no such practice endorsed by the Calvinist Scottish Kirk.

William Hepburn is also real--the bastard son of  Lord James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, third husband of the Queen of Scots. His mother is either Janet Beaton or Anna Trondsen. History has little to say about him other than he was  James VI's browdinstair- an embroiderer of the canopies that hung above the king's place at the banquet table. He also had served as arbitrator in a street brawl. In choosing Hepburn, I had an almost empty slate to fill. But I am not sure I am the one who selected him. I suspect Daisy did.

In my current works in progress (WIPS in novel speak) Daisy is in her early thirties.  If she were a modern twenty-first-century woman, she would have another forty years before she faced the crisis that at 76, I am facing now. Her time with Hepburn likely would have been much shorter.

Modern women with permanent partners may not be as financially and socially dependent as their 17th Century counterparts. We have options. They do not make it easier to watch the breath grow shallow, or the eyes grow dim in one we love.  Daisy suggests rather than becoming maudlin, I should switch my genre to historical romance and send her, Hepburn, and the kids, on a voyage into a painted sunset, heading somewhere warm, mayhap Bermuda.  I wish they had room aboard La Belle Ecoassaise so I could write a place for Chris and me aboard their carrack.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dirty Words from the World of Book Reviews by Linda Root

We are drowning in lists--grocery lists, shopping lists best sellers, worst dressed, sexiest man, cutest dog, most cunning cat...but the lists  I find the most annoying have to do with books--writing, reading, reviewing and promoting.  I have my reasons.  I am a writer, a voracious reader and a serious reviewer and I find the language of book reviews  as creative as fast food for dinner and as exciting as a barium enema as a nighttime ritual.  My fellow writers Mickey Mayhew and Michael Schmicker should teach a class: How to Write an Incredibly entertaining Highly Intelligent and   Masterful Book Review.' At least I'd approach  reviews of my work without wincing, no matter how many or how few stars my novel rates.
Terms which turn me off:
Thriller:  Besides being a Michael Jackson musical masterpiece, a thriller has special meaning for me and others who are  1. long of tooth;  2. advanced in age;3.  Seniors; 4. mature adults; 5. old people.    Each of those terms are on another list I will discuss on a day when I have both 1) ice; 2. Jameson's; and 3) no other commitments.  To most people old enough to vote and still breathing  (unless they grew up in live in Cleveland where Thriller is a roller coaster at  Euclid Park) a thriller is something exciting and fraught with danger.  A book I consider a thriller is Silence of the Lambs. Another is Relic.
 A thriller is a high-octane, very scary piece of work.  It is not a highly plotted Elizabethan mystery involving ladies and monkeys and dwarfs and nuns and spiders.  Nor is an espionage story in which the scariest thing in the book is a Russian woman with a silencer on her H & K.  All action adventures are not thrillers.  Not every good piece of fiction with tension and intrigue is a thriller.

Which leads to the ubiquitous page-turner.  For some reason if a book is not labelled a page-turner, it is doomed unless it is the Bible or something written by Neil Stephenson.  Why must we equate excellence in writing with a product which must be digested in one giant gulp.  We savor good wine;  appreciate beer with the right amount of head, and sip champagne.  Why do we have to guzzle words to make them worthy of ingesting? I recently read a book by author David Blitx which I consciously put aside to let it penetrate the inner reaches of my mind, or to laugh at plot twists I found amusing or ironic or simply delightful.  And I was on a schedule.  Some books by Susan Howatch can be read in sections according to the point of view of the character.  They are not barn-burners, or races. The last line is not a Finish Line.  A good book engages its reader and keeps the interest level high, but it is not a  390-page literary marathon.

There are other terms bandied about in reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, assuming there still is an elsewhere.  For example, a reading experience is not necessarily a 'ride'.  Also in my opinion, there is no such thing as a masterpiece by James Patterson. Mr.Patterson is a fine prolific writer who I read and enjoy, but his books are not masterpieces. Eco sometimes writes masterpieces.  Patterson writes excellent pulp fiction.  I also hate the overuse of the term 'tale'.  There is something about calling a books about a serial child molester a 'tale' which I find obscene.  'Yarn' is another one.  Yarn is not just antiquated and a tad too cute--it implies a complicated, tangled plot with a homespun quality. Hannibal is not a yarn.

The new word which drives me to frenzy is 'steamy'. For some purposes  we find books rated on their steam value.I am not quite sure how steam and sex became equated--perhaps on Grey's Anatomy.  On the other side of the same gripe I find the word 'sweet' applied to every Victorian novel where kissing is a brushing of taunt lips on a gloved hand and no one removed clothing other than a cloak or a hat.  If the entire plot is saccharine, then sweet is as good a label as any but if the story involves a heart-rending romance  full of emotion and tension, it desires a more substantial label than 'sweet'.
I understand the term 'cozy' when applied to a specific class of arm chair mysteries.  It is the title of a sub-genre, like time-slip.  When I've had enough of guts and gonads, I am drawn to a 'cozy.'  I occasionally like books where the principal character (as opposed to protagonist) is a cat, an elderly busy-body or a vicar.  We cannot all be John Ryan or Lucas Davenport.