Marilyn Brant's 5 Loves and a Dud

Ahhh...Europe.  How AWESOME would it be to spend a summer there?  Eating french bread and brie in France and red wine and pasta in Italy.  And calories don't count there, right?  Is that why European women can eat carbs and not gain weight?! Damn them! Today we've got the lovely Marilyn Brant sharing her 5 Loves and a Dud.  Her latest novel, A Summer in Europe makes us want to hop on the next plane there.  (Seriously, let's go!)  It's delightful and fun, we think you'll enjoy.

Here's the scoop on A Summer in Europe: On her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea's Sudoku and Mahjongg Club. The prospect isn't entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting--an engagement ring from her boyfriend--doesn't materialize, Gwen decides to go.

At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it's the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and stunning vistas of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment--skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre, and taste-testing pastries at a Marseilles cafe. Reveling in every new experience--especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor--Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within. . .

Sound good?  Then leave a comment and you'll be entered to win one of FIVE copies!  We'll choose the winners on Sunday December 4th after 6pm PST.  Good luck!



1. Great Movies I love classic movies like "The Philadelphia Story" and "Roman Holiday" and more recent films that are, in my opinion, just as classic, like "When Harry Met Sally," "Shakespeare in Love," "While You Were Sleeping," "A Room with a View" and just about every cinematic production of "Pride and Prejudice." I love the way I can lose myself in films like these...find myself in the drawing room with Darcy and Elizabeth or hanging out at the deli with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan or listening in (alongside Jimmy Stewart) while Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant banter by the poolside. I also love movies like "Footloose," "Dirty Dancing" and "La Bamba" that make me want to sing and dance along. And I especially love watching really well-made films of any era -- everything from "It Happened One Night" to "The Princess Bride" to "The King's Speech" -- with family and friends, so we can experience it together and talk about it for hours afterward. Often over dessert.

2. Food  Yeah, real specific, huh? Just so you know, I TRIED to narrow it down to a single edible item like, say, Thai spring rolls, which I really love (especially with plum dipping sauce), or even just one particular cuisine, like Italian, which I also love -- and not only because I grew up with Sicilian friends and married a man whose family comes from the Tuscany/Liguria regions. No. The sticking point was that it just didn't seem fair to talk about my adoration of crisp garden salads with freshly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and romaine...without also mentioning desserts that I can't imagine my life without, like gelato, baklava, English trifle or brownies. How do I say, "Oh, I love dips like roasted-red-pepper hummus," and callously ignore my deep affection for thin-crust sausage-and-mushroom pizza or garlic mashed potatoes or grilled jumbo shrimp? You see how that's a problem, right? So, really, with very few exceptions (see my Dud below), I love ALL food, and I embrace this.

3. Traveling  I've had a pretty insatiable case of wanderlust since I was a kid and have spent much of my life plotting out where my next trip was going to be and how long I'd have to save my allowance (or my paycheck) to get there. When I was in high school, I was an AFS exchange student in Brisbane, Australia for three months, and it really changed the direction of my career. Up until then, I had my future planned out until I was about 80. After the trip, I didn't know what, exactly, I was going to do with my life...LOL. It made the end of high school and the first couple years of college more confusing, but I think it was important for me to go into those years with an open mind. In college, purely on impulse, I auditioned for a folk dance group and ended up performing with them for 2 years, including going with them on a summer-long European dance tour when I was 19. That, too, was a life changer because I really fell in love with Europe and knew I had to go back. Which I did, a few years later, with this world-history teacher I was crazy about...and he proposed to me there, on London Bridge. That was almost 20 years ago ;). Together, the two of us backpacked abroad quite often before we became parents. Since then, our trips have all been much closer to home and much shorter (!!), but I still really love going on roadtrips, taking long walks through other cities and getting a new perspective simply by being in a different place.

4. Music and Musicals  The first film my parents let me stay up late to watch was "The Sound of Music" when I was in 3rd grade. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. At age 8, I wanted to BE Julie Andrews -- well, once she stopped acting like a nun. (I'm Catholic, so I knew enough about nuns not to overly romanticize...) But that musical fueled my desire to learn how to read music and to play my first instrument. It also hooked me on stage musicals. Going to see live productions of "The Music Man" and "My Fair Lady" and, later, "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" -- plus listening to several hours of pop songs every day, which drove my parents nuts! -- was a huge part of my music education. These days, I can't write a character without knowing what kind of songs they'd listen to and, for my own amusement and for any readers who are music lovers, I always have a soundtrack for each of my books.

5. Math I know, I know. You're wondering if, maybe, Liz & Lisa accidentally switched this Love with my Dud since I know a lot of writers who'd probably prefer facing a cold virus over an algebra equation. But I genuinely love math. (Note: I did not say I always understand it!) One of the big reasons is because math correlates strongly with music (see Love #4) and, when I was a junior in high school, I had an amazingly cool algebra teacher/amateur guitarist who shared my love of both. My senior year, after having just been to a physics class where we'd had a lecture on acoustics, I saw my old algebra teacher in the hall, and he and I got to talking about the number of oscillations per second of major musical notes, like the A above Middle C (which is 440 Hz, in case you were dying to know and, yes, in answer to your silent question, I AM a geek). This led me on a fascinating side project of figuring out -- by using an equation I totally can't remember now -- what the vibrations would be for every note on the piano. Seriously, I calculated all 88 of them one night, charted them out and gave a copy of it to my old teacher. It wasn't for extra credit or anything. I wasn't even in his class anymore! It was Just For Fun. (See? Card-carrying levels of geekdom.) But that's when I knew that absolutely any subject on earth could be thrilling for kids if it could be made relevant to their lives and could tap into a passion. A priceless insight for someone who later became a teacher herself...and the parent of a kid whose favorite subject is -- you guessed it -- math.



Cold viruses As I write this, I'm up to my elbows in crumpled Kleenex tissues which, no doubt about it, influences my choice for this particular Dud. I have had this very bad cold for six days already, and it was one of those types that hit me with the force of an express train -- immediate, unrelenting and painful. I. Hate. It. For what it's worth, I also don't like celery or sardines. I find mean-spirited gossips highly annoying. And I'm not a big fan of driving around in busy parking lots, particularly during the holiday season. But I will deal with all of these (okay, not the gossips) almost cheerfully if I don't get another cold like this one EVER again. Hope all of you are staying healthy ("Wash your hands! Get lots of Vitamin C! Go to sleep at a reasonable hour!" Do I sound like my mother yet? *grin*) and here's wishing everyone reading this a wonderful end of the year.

Thanks, Lisa and Liz!!

Thank YOU Marilyn! xo, L&L

To read more about Marilyn, head on over to her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.