“Heroine decapitates someone in the first scene”

I am proud to announce my first 1-star review for Dunham, which you can find here. But I will quote it in its entirety for your convenience.

This book contains some shocking and gory scenes of violence that, for me, were difficult to get past. It seems more like historical fiction masquerading as romance, which isn’t my preference as a reader. I found little to recommend the heroine (she decapitates someone in the first scene), and the hero’s introspection was clouded by odd lines that were stream of consciousness? Bad poetry? I’m not sure what it was, other than that I didn’t like it. I’m surprised that kind of thing got past an editor, as it should have been punctuated or scrapped entirely. In all, I just didn’t like the book–it seemed a little too in love with itself and was weighed down by too much needless dialogue that I couldn’t be bothered to wade through. This one was a DNF for me, unfortunately.

(bold is mine)

I am absolutely and utterly delighted and thrilled with this review. Why? I will tell you.

I wrote the first scene, where Celia mutinies her captain by beheading him on the first page, almost 20 years ago. It was not then, nor was it for many years afterward, warmly received by any critique group and/or would-be beta readers (except one total stranger who loved it). It was, apparently, “not heroine-like. Your hero could do it, though.” (That’s a quote.) (By a male.) In fact, it was insulted, reviled, and generally all-around “WTF do you think you’re doing? WOMEN DON’T DO THAT!”

And that’s why I kept it. Through all the naysayers and insults, I knew what I wanted to do and I never wavered. I meant to write a female pirate and I’d be damned if my female pirate didn’t act like an actual pirate.

Even when that wasn’t fashionable.

Regardless, that scene (as does every opening scene in every one of my books) serves as a litmus test for me and the reader. It tells the reader, “If you can’t make it through the first few pages, you really aren’t going to like this book, so don’t waste your time.” It’s a public service, really.

But if you can carry on in spite of its opening, you’re in for a real treat.

As for this: “It seems more like historical fiction masquerading as romance,” well, that’s probably true, too, although I never really looked at it that way because I consider myself a romance writer.

But you know what? What this tells me is that it will appeal to many people, not just romance readers who like strong females and want something different. Because I’ve been vindicated. There are plenty of people who like Celia because she decapitates someone in the first scene.

I like a good beheading in the morning.

PS Please please please go upvote her review because that’ll help me sell more books. CONTROVERSY!

Dunham: The Past

It is finished. I will now wring out my brain.

Now, you! Go go go! Get it and enjoy Revolutionary War swashbuckling on this Independence Day!

Dunham (Tales of Dunham: The Past) cover
Tales of Dunham: The Past
© 2013 by Moriah Jovan
295,000 words


Amazon print | Kindle
Barnes & Noble print | Nook
Smashwords ebook
Google Play ebook
Omnilit ebook
Kobo ebook

EXCERPT: EPUB | Kindle | PDF | online


For an autographed print copy ($27.99 with free shipping; email me for personalization), click the print button (no, it won’t print anything):



Side note: A bit of this book occurs on the Barbary Coast. Celia, the heroine, has spent some time in Egypt. So I am finding the Egyptian uprising today particularly poignant. Independence Day for Egyptians too?

The making of Dunham

And so begins a post (or series of them) (you know how wishy-washy I am) on Dunham, the privateer-heroine and pirate-hero Revolutionary War swashbuckler, which, for those of you not following the serial, will be available for sale July 4, 2013.

To kick it off, here’s the final cover for the official book:


I struggled with the question of whether to go with a slightly modified version of the serial’s cover to deal with familiarity to those who’ve followed the story all year (yes, almost a year!). But in the end, I decided not to. Why? Several reasons.

1. At and during the RT Booklovers convention two weeks ago in Kansas City, I had a few marketing epiphanies courtesy of Tracey Reid (but most of which I can’t articulate yet, which is why I haven’t written about it).

2. My attempt at articulating this epiphany to my friend Melissa Blue brought forth an issue I hadn’t thought about: my books’ covers. ALL OF THEM. The fact that they needed a serious makeover. And that it must be done before Dunham was released to take advantage of the marketing wave.

3. So I did that. The Proviso, Stay, Magdalene, and “Twenty-dollar Rag” have new covers. In a different post, I’ll talk about the evolution of those, as I did before, long ago when I was just starting out.


4. After I had done that, I realized that the variation of the serial cover I had made could not conform to the format I’d made for the previous titles, so I scrapped it and redid it from scratch.

I also decided to remove the series tag from Dunham and, subsequently, book 5, which is a post-apocalypse polyandry tale (as yet not officially titled). That, too, was for a reason: people see a series number and assume that the series has an overall arc and that book X is NEXT in the chronology. It makes them less inclined to pick it up because who wants to start something in the middle of a series? Even so, the four contemporary ones above, while perfectly able to be read alone, are, in fact, chronological, and so the series tag is appropriate.

Yet I needed the cover of Dunham to conform with the first four while still being separate. You will also notice that the featured couple is on the back instead of the front. Why was this? Because Dunham is as much epic adventure as it is romance, I want to capture male readers. There are ships involved and thus, naval battles.[1]

And so we have a cover that reflects the pattern of the four contemporary covers, but is also separate.

People DO judge a book by its cover because marketing has evolved so much that people can tell exactly what’s in it. Well. Maybe not exactly. But close enough to the target market to do the job.


[1] I have done as well as I could regarding ship details and battles involving tall ships, which, I will have you know, is very difficult to come by for this very narrow window of time. It was a time of shipbuilding upheaval and drastic changes in naval warfare that began somewhere around 1760 and ended right around 1798, from which evolved the zenith of tall ship building and warfare, on display at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In short, a LOT of significant things happened in shipbuilding technology and naval warfare between 1780 and 1805.