Ashley, Jennifer (Ashley Gardner, Laurien Gardner, a joint pseudonym, Allyson James)
Ashley, Jennifer (Ashley Gardner, Laurien Gardner, a joint pseudonym, Allyson James)
Married. Education: Earned an M.A. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, painting, cooking, playing guitar and flute, building miniature rooms and dollhouses.
Author. Hosted the Internet radio show Spotlight on Romance, on the Book Crazy Radio Web site.
Romance Writers of America.
Best Historical Mystery, Romantic Times 2005; Best Historical Romantic Adventure, Romantic Times, 2006; RITA Award for best novel with romantic elements, Romance Writers of America, 2006, for A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn; Golden Quill Award for best novella, 2006; Romantic Times, 2006;The Care and Feeding of Pirates was a Mystic Castle Book of the Month; has won awards for unpublished manuscripts.
Perils of the Heart, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Pirate Next Door, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Pirate Hunter, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Care and Feeding of Pirates, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Christmas Cards from the Edge, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.
Confessions of a Lingerie Addict, Love Spell (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Katie MacAlister and Minda Webber) Just One Sip, Love Spell (New York, NY), 2006.
Penelope and Prince Charming, Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.
The Mad, Bad Duke, Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.
The Queen's Handmaiden, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Immortals: The Calling, Love Spell (New York, NY), 2007.
Immortals: The Gathering, Love Spell (New York, NY), 2007.
"CAPTAIN LACEY" MYSTERY SERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM ASHLEY GARDNER
The Hanover Square Affair, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2003.
A Regimental Murder, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2004.
The Glass House, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2004.
The Sudbury School Murders, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2005.
A Body in Berkeley Square, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2005.
A Covent Garden Mystery, Berkley Prime Crime (New York, NY), 2006.
(Under joint pseudonym Laurien Gardner) A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, Jove Books (New York, NY), 2006.
"SHAREEM" FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL SERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM ALLYSON JAMES
Rees: Tales of the Shareem, Ellora's Cave, 2005.
Maia and Rylan, Ellora's Cave, 2006.
Rio: Tales of the Shareem, Ellora's Cave, 2006.
Aiden & Ky: Tales of the Shareem, Ellora's Cave, 2005.
FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION; UNDER PSEUDONYM ALLYSON JAMES
Double Trouble, Ellora's Cave (New York, NY), 2007.
Dragon Heat, Berkley Sensation (New York, NY), 2007.
The Black Dragon, Berkley Sensation (New York, NY), 2007.
Jennifer Ashley has enjoyed a prolific career writing everything from Regency and contemporary romance novels to mysteries and science fiction and fantasy. Most of her tales have at least some element of romance, and a few stray into heavy erotica. Under her own name, she is particularly well known for her pirate tales; as Laurien Gardner, wrote one novel in a trilogy about King Henry VIII's wives; under the pen name Allyson James she is the author of fantasy and erotic science fiction; and as Ashley Gardner she has received some of her highest critical praise of all for mystery novels set in England's Regency period and featuring disgraced cavalry officer Captain Gabriel Lacey.
"I always knew I'd be a writer," she related in a Mystic Castle interview. "At age eight, I started writing down stories that I made up. I loved to read more than anything else, and dreamed that one day my own books would be on the shelves. In junior high, I wrote stories in math class instead of doing math and told stories to my friends as we walked home from school. I just kept on writing and believing that one day I'd be published." Beginning to write seriously in 1999, Ashley had one of her first stories published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. This success misled her into believing publishing was simple. Many rejection letters later, she finally published again with 2002's Perils of the Heart, her first high-seas adventure about a proper English woman who falls in love with the pirate Austin Blackwell. Romantic Times Online critic Kathe Robin labeled it "one of those lightning-fast, roller coaster rides loaded with escapades and plot."
Several more pirate tales would follow, including The Pirate Next Door, The Pirate Hunter, and The Care and Feeding of Pirates. More romance between women and pirates ensues in these books, and beginning with The Pirate Hunter, Ashley introduced James Ardmore, who is in the business of capturing pirates; with The Care and Feeding of Pirates, there is romance between James's sister, Honoria, and the pirate Christopher, whose family, ship, and crew he destroyed. Called a "humorous, fast-paced adventure," by Robin in another Romantic Times Online review, this last book continued in the rollicking, sensual tales that gained Ashley so many fans.
A foray into contemporary romance, Confessions of a Lingerie Addict, was followed by the paranormal historical tales Penelope and Prince Charming and The Mad, Bad Duke. The former, an "enchanting mix of fantasy and fairy-tale romance," according to John Charles in Booklist, concerns a prince who must marry to regain his kingdom. The woman he must wed, however, seems cursed by previous betrothals gone bad. The magic is more obvious in The Mad, Bad Duke, in which a woman uses a love potion to win the love of the Duke of Nvengaria. Ashley delivers "another exquisitely sensual tale spiced with danger and fantasy," reported Charles.
Immortals: The Calling is a fantasy novel and the first of a series about four immortal brothers doomed to spend their lives trying to maintain a balance between good and evil. "Ashley does a stellar job setting up the paranormal premise and delivering a blazing-hot love story," reported Romantic Times Online reviewer Jill M. Smith of this first installment.
As Allyson James, the author has written both science fiction and fantasy tales. Her "Shareem" books, Rees: Tales of the Shareem Maia and Rylan, Rio: Tales of the Shareem, and Aiden & Ky: Tales of the Shareem, are set in the future, where men have been genetically engineered to please their women. As Page Traynor noted in a Romantic Times Online review of the Rees, the novel includes "explicit sex and light bondage [in] … a romantic story about lasting love."
Shifting focus again—this time to sixteenth-century England—Ashley wrote one book in a trilogy about the ill-fated wives of King Henry VIII under the name Laurien Gardner. Told through the eyes of secondary characters who are fictional servants to the royal household, the novels readdress the rise and fall of Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, and Anne Boleyn. Several critics noted that these works do not offer any fresh information historically, but that this was not necessarily a flaw. As a Publishers Weekly critic related in a review of A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn: "The novel is free to concentrate on characterization and romance, with agreeable results," because it is not concerned with retelling the well-known story of Boleyn. "The novel offers a nicely paced view of life with the royals," commented Lisa Respers France in a BookLoons article on the same title, adding: "There is a well woven subplot of a romance between [Boleyn's servant] Frances and Jack Carlisle, one of the king's men."
One of Ashley"s most well-received series has been the "Captain Lacey" mysteries set in Regency England. Written under the pseudonym Ashley Gardner, the books feature Captain Gabriel Lacey. Unjustly thrown out of the military, Lacey finds himself increasingly occupied with solving murder cases. The work, which he pursues out of a heightened sense of honor and duty, helps take his mind off his troubles, but he is still subject to severe bouts of depression. "In Captain Gabriel Lacey, Gardner has created an intriguing protagonist who clearly strives to assuage his physical and emotional hurts through crime solving, an unusual approach that works well as a driving force for the character," observed Jessica Plonka in a Mystery Reader review of The Glass House. Best Reviews contributor Linda Hurst called The Hanover Square Affair "a terrific mystery with lots of turns and twists and a wonderful view of a life of genteel poverty in the Regency period." Also writing for Mystery Reader, Harriet Klausner called the Lacey books "one of the best historical mystery series in recent years" in her review of A Body in Berkeley Square.
Comparing her mystery writing to romances, Ashley commented in a Once upon a Romance interview: "I find plotting mysteries to be easier than plotting romances! In a mystery, someone commits a crime, the suspects gather, and my hero works out who did it by exploring the personalities of the suspects…. I find romances a little more challenging because you must balance each of the two characters' thoughts and needs and feelings without detracting from each other or the plot."
Ashley told CA: "I always had the dream of becoming a novelist. When I was very young I realized that published books were simply make-believe written down. Right away I started to write my daydreams and make-believe. As I grew up I read constantly and wrote to entertain myself, until it became second nature to write. Finally in 1999 I decided to try to get something published. I wrote several romances and my first mystery, The Hanover Square Affair, and sold the mystery and a romance at about the same time in 2002. My career took off from there.
"I am what is called a ‘pantser,’ which means I write ‘by the seat of my pants.’ I usually do not write out an elaborate or organized outline beforehand—I come up with characters in a situation, set them in motion, and then write what happens. That is not to say I never outline—I do jot notes to myself as I go along to keep everything straight. I rewrite a lot but I love to rewrite and revise. I like the story to unfold while I write, to surprise me. In mysteries, I often do not know the identity of the villain myself until the crucial moment. I think that keeps the story fresh and uncontrived.
"My writing day begins at breakfast and ends when my husband returns in the evening. I write a couple hours, take a few hours' break (to catch up on email and other things), then write a few more hours, etc. I write about four to six hours total a day and can produce about five thousand words a day on average. I love to write!
"I did not realize when I started that I had to do any marketing or publicity. I thought the publisher took care of everything—set up signings, sent out promo- tional items, and that sort of thing. I learned that authors do much publicity themselves—design and purchase bookmarks, send out review copies, set up book signings and workshops, pay their own way to conferences. The higher on the publisher's list the author is, the more the publisher does for them, but authors should learn to do their own publicity.
"I have a couple of favorites: The Pirate Next Door was my spoof on pirate romances but also a book that came from my heart. That book did well for my romance career. I also love A Covent Garden Mystery, in which I was able to give Captain Lacey a bit of romance. My first Allyson James book, Rees: Tales of the Shareem, is also close to my heart, because in it I threw my writing inhibitions to the wind and dared to push all kinds of boundaries. It worked, and made me a stronger writer, and besides, it's a sweet love story.
"My favorite books to read are ones that are delightful. I decided while I was still trying to be published that I wanted to write books where the reader walks away smiling and uplifted. That's not to say they can't learn something or be emotionally engaged, but in the end, I want them to be delighted and happy they sat down to read the book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2002, John Charles, review of Perils of the Heart, p. 581; September 15, 2003, John Charles, review of The Pirate Next Door, p. 224; May 1, 2004, John Charles, review of The Pirate Hunter, p. 1549; February 1, 2005, John Charles, review of The Care and Feeding of Pirates, p. 948; June 1, 2005, John Charles, review of Confessions of a Lingerie Addict, p. 1763; March 1, 2006, John Charles, review of Penelope and Prince Charming, p. 75; December 1, 2006, John Charles, review of The Mad, Bad Duke, p. 30; April 15, 2007, John Charles, review of Immortals: The Calling, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of Confessions of a Lingerie Addict, p. 46; January 2, 2006, review of A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, p. 40; January 30, 2006, review of Penelope and Prince Charming, p. 46; August 21, 2006, review of Just One Sip, p. 56; March 12, 2007, review of Immortals, p. 43.
Allyson James Home Page,http://www.allysonjames.com (July 18, 2007).
Allyson James MySpace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/allysonjamesauthor (July 18, 2007).
Allyson James Web Log,http://www.allysonjames.bravejournal.com (July 18, 2007).
Ashley Gardner Home Page,http://www.gardnermysteries.com (July 18, 2007).
Ashley Gardner Web Log,http://www.ashleygardner.blogspot.com (July 18, 2007).
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (November 15, 2003), Suan Wilson, review of The Hanover Square Affair; (November 25, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of The Hanover Square Affair; (November 26, 2003), Dawn Dowdle, review of The Hanover Square Affair; (April 14, 2004), Suan Wilson, review of A Regimental Murder; (April 24, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of A Regimental Murder; (September 7, 2004), Linda Hurst, review of The Hanover Square Affair; (November 17, 2004), Suan Wilson, review of The Glass House; (November 29, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of The Glass House; (October 10, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of The Spanish Bride; (November 15, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of A Body in Berkeley Square; (July 8, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of A Lady Raised Most High; (July 8, 2006), Marilyn Rondeau, review of A Lady Raised Most High.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (July 18, 2007), Lisa Respers France, review of A Lady Raised High, Theresa Ichino, review of A Body in Berkeley Square, and Rashmi Srinivas, review of The Hanover Square Affair.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 18, 2007), review of A Lady Raised High.
Jennifer Ashley's Web Log,http://www.jennifersromances.blogspot.com (July 18, 2007).
Jennifer Ashley Home Page,http://www.jennifersromances.com (July 18, 2007).
Love Romances,http://www.loveromances.com/ (June 1, 2006), review of A Lady Raised High.
MyShelf.com,http://www.myshelf.com/ (July 18, 2007), review of A Lady Raised High.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (July 18, 2007), Jessica Plonka, review of The Glass House, and Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of The Hanover Square Affair.
Mystic Castle,http://www.themysticcastle.com/ (July 18, 2007), "Interview with Jennifer Ashley."
Once upon a Romance,http://www.onceuponaromance.net/ (December 1, 2003), "Once upon a Romance Interview."
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (July 18, 2007), Marilyn Weigel, review of Confessions of a Lingerie Addict; Jill M. Smith, review of Immortals; Page Traynor, review of Maia and Rylan; Susan Mobley, review of Rees: Tales of Shareem; Sheri Melnick, reviews of A Regimental Murder, The Glass House, The Hanover Square Affair, The Sudbury School Murders, and A Body in Berkeley Square; Kathe Robin, reviews of Penelope and Prince Charming, The Care and Feeding of Pirates, The Mad, Bad Duke, The Pirate Hunter, The Pirate Next Door, and Perils of the Heart.