Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Unbound Release Tour

July 5th: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading
July 6th: Promo Post @ Reader Alley
July 6th: Promo Post @ Book Lovers 4Ever
July 8th: Promo Post @ Silver Dagger Scriptorium
July 10th: Promo Post @ The Bookworm Lodge
July 10th: Guest Post @ Anna Durand’s Blog
July 11th: Author Interview @ The Gadoury Dreamer

Also July 5th:

Unbound Available Now!

The day has arrived!  Unbound is officially available on most e-book retailers!  I am so excited for all of you to meet Dash and Celia.  Stay up on my Facebook and Twitter pages for exclusive details!

Buy Links:

Celia Emerson lives a double life. On the outside, she is a beautiful, successful artist mesmerizing the East Coast with her mysterious works of art. Behind closed doors, however, Celia harbors a dark secret that has left her elusive and distant. However, there is one tall, dark, handsome stranger who gets her blood pumping and tangles her feelings in knots, making her consider breaking down the walls she put up around herself. 

Manhattan attorney Dash Greyson is intrigued by Celia at first glance. Her quiet, private manner boldly contrasts the strokes of color and blatant emotion on her canvases. Even after her initial coolness toward him, he continues pursuing her, desperate to know more about her and how her bottled-up emotions spill onto the easel. When she turns to him as secrets of her pass begin to surface, he finds himself not only protecting her but the passion between them simmering to the boiling point.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Release Date: July 5, 2016

Special Thanks to Robin Ludwig Design Inc.​, who created the amazing cover!

Synopsis: Celia Emerson lives a double life. On the outside, she is a beautiful, successful artist mesmerizing the East Coast with her mysterious works of art. Behind closed doors, however, Celia harbors a dark secret that has left her elusive and distant. However, there is one tall, dark, handsome stranger who gets her blood pumping and tangles her feelings in knots, making her consider breaking down the walls she put up around herself.

Manhattan attorney Dash Greyson is intrigued by Celia at first glance. Her quiet, private manner boldly contrasts the strokes of color and blatant emotion on her canvases. Even after her initial coolness toward him, he continues pursuing her, desperate to know more about her and how her bottled-up emotions spill onto the easel. When she turns to him as secrets of her pass begin to surface, he finds himself not only protecting her but the passion between them simmering to the boiling point.

Available for most e-reader formats!

Preorder Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Unbound-Mary-Frances-Gualandri-ebook/dp/B01E67FI6I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1460742471&sr=8-2&keywords=mary+frances+gualandri

Barnes & Noble (for Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unbound-mary-frances-gualandri/1123663092?ean=2940152970531

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/unbound/id1103328729?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/629379


I swallowed hard.  I wasn’t sure what I should be expecting from her right now.  We’d never been this close before, least of all on a bed with my family in the same hundred or so foot radius.  I had to be careful.  Celia wasn’t sure what she wanted right now and shouldn’t jump into anything impulsively.  Hadn’t we just talked today about the importance of taking it slow?  The look in her eyes right now and her body language were indicating something entirely different. 

Celia slapped a hand in the middle of my chest.  I looked down at where her hand seared my skin through my shirt, a little unsure of how to react. 

I didn’t have time to because the next thing I knew, Celia lips were on mine, her mouth assaulting mine urgently.  God, she was good at kissing, her tongue tracing my lips, forcing them open.  Her hands slid up over my chest past my shoulders, finally settling in the hair at the nape of my neck.  I groaned, my hands moving up to grip her waist.  The satiny fabric was a thin barrier between her skin and mine, and I palmed it gently with my hands.  Our tongues entwined furiously, and it wasn’t but a few seconds before I found myself rolling her onto her back.  Her eyes flew open, and that’s when I knew this wasn’t right, at least not now.  She wasn’t ready.  What I did know was that we had chemistry and a hell of a lot of it, but it was too soon for physical intimacy no matter how she seemed to think that it would solve her fears.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: An Upside Down Fairytale, Part IV: The Pirate Prince: The Heroic (and Tortured) Journey of Killian Jones

Fiction has forever been drawn to the tortured hero.  He is someone who has made difficult decisions throughout his life and struggles to atone for his sins.  No matter what he does, it will never be enough to sate all the wrong he's done, at least in his eyes.  Sometimes, the hero never sees the good in himself and the story ends in tragedy.  Happier stories end with the hero accepting his flaws when he is triumphant in another venture.

I knew Killian Jones, AKA Captain Hook, was a tortured hero after watching "Tallahassee."

In the prior two episodes, the side of Killian Jones that the audience saw was that of a scoundrel, a ladies' man, and a ruthless pirate.  He'd stolen Rumplestiltskin's wife and attempted to goad him into a duel.  While charming, his likability level was low, yet Colin O'Donoghue's meticulous acting made the viewer want to know more, particularly after the Dark One himself chopped off the pirate's hand after murdering his adulterous wife.  It was apparent that "Captain Hook" was now on a mission to get revenge on "the Crocodile," and the audience couldn't wait to see that.

"Tallahassee" altered the view on the character of Killian in a drastic way.  Easily his most vulnerable episode in the character's debut season, "Tallahassee" reveals that Killian is much more than an irresistible, swashbuckling pirate.  A tattoo on his forearm reveals how deeply the murder of his first love gutted him.  When pressed by Emma Swan on the subject, he clams up and answers with vague words.  He uses flirting as his defense; sexual innuendos serve as his specialty.  The viewer can't help but be drawn in by Killian Jones' magnetism, yet knowing somehow that there is a sad story behind those blue eyes.

Killian's backstory is still in the process of being revealed to the audience, and the sporadic pieces of the puzzle have been three seasons in the making.  The structure of it is very similar to that of any romantic hero.  Killian's mother died when he was a young child, leaving him and his older brother, Liam, in the care of their father.  One night, he awakens to find out that his father is a fugutive and that he and his brother have been sold into servitude.  The two of them spent their formative years in the service of cruel masters who drove him to drinking early on.  After a fateful voyage to the Eye of the Storm to retrieve a precious gem, the Brothers Jones were recruited to the Royal Navy, where they excelled in service to the king.  A trip to Neverland forever changes the lives of the Brothers, when Liam, a captain, is poisoned and killed because of the voyage.  Killian, driven by anger and grief, takes his brother's ship and becomes a pirate.  The life is for him, one full of treasure and women.  That is, until he meet Milah, a married woman desperate for a life more exciting than her own.  She begs to go with him, and he obliges.  They fall in love upon the high seas, but as Killian discovers, there is a price to be paid.  Many years later, Milah's husband, now the Dark One, appears, killing Milah and taking his hand.  The trauma leaves Killian angry and full of vengeance, willing to do whatever it takes to get it, including killing his own father.

Everything appeared to shift, even if it was only slightly at first, when he met Emma Swan.  In her, he saw a lot of himself: the abandonment and loss.  He is drawn to her and pursues her at first with his innuendos, to which she rolls her eyes and keeps walking.  Over time, it is obvious in the longing looks that he wishes for her to see beyond his pirate exterior.  The first glimpse of it is in their journey to Neverland, when she discovers he has saved her father's life.  While it was prompted by teasing and goading, Emma throws herself into a kiss with him, one that he thinks means more than it actually does.  That kiss heavily impacts his decisions over the course of the rest of the season, as he keeps trying to hold on to hope that it meant something despite her "one time thing" comment.  It leads him to reveal that Emma's former lover Neal is alive and in Neverland despite the fact that they are competing for her affections.  It makes him go after her, traveling across realms and trading his ships to get to her even when she didn't know who it was.  It forced him to make a choice in an effort to save her son.  All of these contributed to Emma finally seeing the man beneath the leather and faux confidence.

Since making their relationship official at the conclusion of season three, Emma and Killian have been on an entirely new journey to discover how to navigate romance.  Both of them have spent many years alone, their nights filled with meaningless one-night stands to ease the emptiness inside them.  Therefore, in the midst of all of the crises in Storybrooke, they've had to steal "quiet moments."  A date at an Italian restaurant, lunches on the now-recovered Jolly Roger, and dinner at Granny's.  He respects her, treating her like all women deserve to be treated.

More than that, though, it's in the little moments, like when Emma showed him the box that contained the contents of her childhood or when Killian revealed that she was his happy ending.  It is in those moments that the audience see that vulnerability is the core of this relationship.  Both of them feel safe revealing the difficult things to one another, and those are the times when we see the growth in their relationship.  For a man like Killian, who is adjusting to a modern world with new standards, it is growth that is truly a gift to see.

The first arc of season five was heavy for Killian and Emma's relationship.  With Emma taking on the darkness, Killian was forced to resist her and push her away, not realizing that he is also a Dark One capable of massive destruction.  His biting words when he embraces his new persona are a sharp contrast to the man who reveals he wants a future with Emma, to take a step forward and move in together.  Ultimately, that arc ended with Killian sacrificing himself, ending up the Underworld tortured by Hades.  Emma wasted no time going to find him, and while he felt undeserving initially, it took a reunion with his brother to realize that he did deserve saving and wanted to pursue a future with Emma, no matter how difficult the journey might be.

Over the course of nearly four seasons on the show, Killian Jones has emerged as the man of honor he  so desperately wanted to be.  It has included some of the most heroic sacrifices of all, including dying for the woman he loves.  That journey has not been without its errors and returns to the darkness, as many critics of his character stress.  What many people forget is that mistakes are a major part of a hero's journey.  Like anyone else, these characters are not perfect, one of the many reasons we connect to them.

The worst part of the criticisms of Killian's character is that despite some of the ugly things posted on social media, no one hates Killian Jones more than Killian Jones.  The amount of self-loathing he has is visible often in small moments usually shared with Emma.  In his eyes, he will never be a good enough man to deserve her love.  He has taken steps forward in learning to love himself, but it has taken the love of another for him to see the good parts of himself.  I have a feeling that the audience will continue to see these insecurities, so often hidden behind a facade of smooth arrogance and flirtatious remarks, until the conclusion of Once. 

Words cannot express how brilliantly Killian Jones has been created as a romantic hero.  It was never about Emma changing him.  Instead, it was about her helping him to open his heart and rediscover feelings he had long since repressed, an observation I saw on Tumblr.  In some ways, that has changed him, but the writers and producers did not go with the overused good girl trying to tame a bad boy trope.  In fact, the beauty of Killian and Emma's love is that it has given each of them room to grow without one pushing the other to do so.  There is a sense of realism in it, which is what one would least expect from a show about fairy tales.

Young girls spend their childhoods dreaming about the prince who will sweep them off of their feet.  I, for one, would much rather have the flawed pirate willing to do anything for the woman he loves and will never stop fighting for her, forever willing to go to the end of the world (or time) to make that happen.

Thank you for reading this series!  I will be returning soon with new blog posts!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thoughts from a Hopeful Romantic: An Upside Down Fairy Tale, Part III: The Lost Girl: Emma Swan as a Romantic Heroine

Orphan.  Savior.  Lost girl.  Mother.  Dark One.  These are all words that have been used to describe Emma Swan, often simultaneously.  Most of them display the strengths of her character, or at least how she built herself to be who she is.  Others, such as her new role as the Dark One, show how these roles can culminate and ultimately cloud the light within a person.  It is plenty of meat to work with as a writer and allows for the creation of a truly three-dimensional character.

It also makes her much more difficult as a romantic interest.

Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison) in a season 3 promotional shot.
Photo courtesy of ABC Studios.
Emma is an extremely guarded character.  She trusts few people, and it takes a long time before she allows them in.  That makes falling in love with someone quite difficult.  Still, looking at Emma's history, her skepticism and distrust of others is completely understandable.  She spent the first eighteen years of her life shuffled around in the foster system, feeling out of place and unwanted.  Following that, she spent time as a thief, joining forces with Neal Cassidy, forming a Bonnie and Clyde-like team.  They fall in love and make plans for the future in a hotel room with a dreamcatcher and a map.  Their bliss ends all too quickly, a warning from an elusive stranger sending Neal running, leaving Emma to go to jail for their crimes.  Worse yet, Emma discovers that she is pregnant.  She gives birth in jail and decides to give the baby up for adoption.  After leaving jail, she turns her life around, getting a job in bail bonds.  She establishes a new life for herself, yet she is all alone.

Finding out at the age of twenty-eight that she was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and the Savior of an entire world of storybook characters only seemed to strengthen the walls around Emma.  It hadn't helped that she'd known her parents first as friends, or that Graham (fairy-tale alias: the Huntsman from Snow White) a man she had a genuine connection with in the town of Storybrooke, was killed shortly after they met, just another in the tragic string of losses in Emma's life.  Her son, Henry, was really the only person who could get through to Emma throughout the first three seasons.  To this day, all of her relationships are complex and layered.

Killian Jones' appearance in Emma's life was significant from the start.  At first, he seemed like just another man who came onto her with flirty lines determined to score an easy conquest.  Emma's reaction to this was, obviously, to roll her eyes and keep walking.  She had dealt with enough smooth guys in her life to see someone like him coming from a mile away.  However, their adventure on the beanstalk in "Tallahassee" showcased a much deeper connection between Killian and Emma.  He could see things in her that no one else recognized, perhaps because they were reflections of herself.  Despite being reluctant to reveal anything to him, Emma spends much of the episode remembering her first love, Neal, and how important he had been in shaping her life.  Killian challenges her to remember and encourages her to trust him, an opportunity she rejects in the episode because of her fears.

Emma Swan in Neverland, season 3.
Photo courtesy of watermarked.
Emma maintains the firm walls around herself throughout the season as Killian bounces between being good and bad, continuing to push away anything she might have felt for him.  However, she is forced to join ranks with him as well as a larger group of heroes and villains as they journey to Neverland to save Henry.  The sexual tension between Killian and Emma begins to mount, culminating in a passionate kiss shared after some goading from Killian.  However, Emma discredits the moment almost instantly, referring to it as a "one time thing" and refraining from mentioning it to anyone.  It is evident that Emma's fears hold clout over her.  She is afraid of the feelings that Killian Jones awakens in her, and her natural response is to push him away.  She succeeds in doing that for the majority of the season.

Emma's life is turned on its head yet again when another curse is cast, sending Emma and Henry back to New York with no recollection of their lives in Storybrooke.  Emma and Henry live like this for a year, in a domestic life that they had never had the opportunity to before.  She finds a boyfriend who is preparing to propose when Killian shows up at her door, kissing her in an effort to jog her memory.  While that doesn't quite do it, a memory potion he offers does.  Still, even when she realizes that her entire life in New York is based on false memories, it doesn't stop her from wanting to return to that life, mainly because Henry does not know the truth as there was not enough memory potion for him.  While fighting yet another Storybrooke villain upon her return, Emma is determined to return to New York upon finishing and resuming the life she has built there with Henry.  While much of it is because she is comfortable with the life she'd built in New York, it is apparent that she is also running away from Killian and the possibility of love.  When the curse took over, she'd forgotten everything that transpired between them in Neverland.  However, because all of her memories had resurfaced, she is now desperate to run away and find "home."

A turning point for Emma romantically came at the conclusion of season three, when she and Hook take a trip to the past, which results in them changing the future and the two of them being forced to work together to get future events on track.  At one point, the two of them are forced to attend a royal ball, complete with a Cinderella-like costume change and romantic dance scene.  For the first time, Emma felt as though she was a princess and was a part of the storybook.  Not only that, but she was able to use the magic she thought she'd lost.  Upon the return to Storybrooke, she finally realizes that the quirky little town is home and she learns to appreciate her family.

Emma's next step is accepting love.  When they return, Emma discovers that the reason Killian was able to get to her was because he traded his ship for a magic bean to get to her.  For once, someone truly put Emma first.  For Killian and Emma, season 3 ends with a kiss and the promise of a new relationship.

Season four was good for Killian and Emma.  The two of them begin to fall into a routine, as we see them go on their first date and slowly watch both of them reveal more of themselves to one another.  This includes Emma allowing Killian to go through a box of things from her childhood and Killian fixing a mistake with sea queen Ursula from his past.  However, it was the end of the season where the challenges to their newfound happiness began.

The Author of the storybook creates an alternate universe that reverses the roles of the heroes and villains, leaving Rumplestiltskin the primary villain of this new tale and Snow White and Prince Charming as evil royalty.  Emma is locked in a castle, relegated to knowing the truth but not being able to do anything.  When Henry helps her to escape, she finds Killian to be a cowardly one handed pirate who is far from the man she knows so well.  Their reunion is short-lived, as Killian sacrifices himself to save her and Henry.  It is only after that that she reveals to Regina for the first time that she loved Killian, yet she never told him because she was too afraid that it would drastically changed everything.  Her vulnerability in this scene is gut-wrenching, as it displays perfectly how much Emma has changed and the emotional intimacy that she has allowed in her relationship with Killian.

The work of the Author is eventually undone, presenting Emma with the perfect opportunity to tell Killian that she loves him when they meet again in her parents' apartment.  However, just as she is about to tell him, she panics, instead replacing the words with suitable substitutes.  It breaks the heart of the viewer that Emma is so afraid to tell him that she still won't even after almost losing him.  However, that is Emma Swan.

Season four concludes with the darkness that has been filling Rumplestiltskin being removed from his body and surrounding the town of Storybrooke.  In order to eradicate the darkness, it needs to be put in someone so that it can be controlled by the dagger.  Then, in a heroic move we have grown to expect of Emma, she takes the dagger, allowing the darkness to consume her.  This is not before she reveals to Killian that she does love him.  She vanishes into thin air, only leaving the dagger, with the name Emma Swan clearly engraved on it.

The Dark Swan arc was a shock and delight to fans.  The transformation of Emma from the light, leather jacket-wearing Savior into a cold Dark One clad in skin tight, black clothing was chilling, to say the least.  She was methodical, and her sultry attempt to convince Killian to trust her opened into one of his best scenes: when he rejects her advances and tells her that isn't who he is.  More shocking yet is the discovery that Emma is not the only Dark One in Storybrooke.  During weeks missing in the memories of the other Storybrooke residents, they traveled to Camelot and attempted to rid Emma of the darkness.  To do this, they need to reunite the legendary Excalibur sword with the Dark One dagger, as together, they create the most powerful weapon of all, that could eliminate the darkness forever.  Killian is struck with this dagger, and the wound is fatal.  To save him, she makes him the thing he hates most: the Dark One.

Killian is unable to fight the darkness, particularly after Emma's own darkness allows her to distrust him.  Therefore, he enacts the dark curse that sends them all back to Storybrooke after killing Merlin the sorcerer.  Emma, distraught by his actions, knocks him out, and removes his memories and the memories of all of those who knew he'd become the Dark One.  It leads to Killian, now angry that Emma has lied to him since the return from Camelot, to exact his revenge by bringing back all past Dark Ones.  Ultimately, though, what happens is the last thing that Emma Swan should have had to do.

In a shocking twist, Killian breaks through the darkness, stating that he is being the man he wants to be.  He absorbs all of the darkness into the now-whole Excalibur, telling Emma that she needs to kill him with it to destroy the darkness forever.  In other words, she is forced to let another person she loves die.  Even as she begs him not to, Killian tells her that it is okay and that he does not want to lose her.  Despite her love for him, she does as he asks, stabbing Excalibur through him, allowing Killian Jones to die a hero.

The last scenes of 5A's finale were heartbreaking and groundbreaking for the character of Emma Swan.  We see her truly grieve for Killian, unable to let go of his hand as the paramedics take him away, laying aimlessly in the house he picked out for them, twirling his ring on the chain around her neck.  The loss of Neal in season 3 paled in comparison to this.  It only went to prove how deeply she loved Killian and how much it gutted her to lose him.

5A ended with Emma's decision to follow Killian to the Underworld after discovering that Rumplestiltskin had absorbed the darkness as Killian died, allowing him to become the Dark One and Killian's sacrifice to be in vain.  The episode "Swan Song" concluded with Emma echoing the words her father had first uttered in an early episode of season one: "I will find you...I will always find you."  There had been no man before that Emma Swan would have ever thought to go that far for, proving just how broken her walls were.

In romantic novels, both the heroes and the heroines are on a journey that leads to love.  Even more than that, though, another part of that is the character learning more about themselves.  In falling in love with Killian and her past experiences with other men and with her son, Emma Swan learned that while she may have experienced a lot of heartache and loss, all of it led her to where she ended up and the man she ended up falling for.

Some people have been critical of Emma having a love interest on the show or her chosen love interest.  Many have said that they miss "badass" Emma and that it is a shame that she relies on a man for her happiness.  Truly that is the complete opposite of what the show has done.  Emma spent the first three seasons resisting any possible romantic interests and pushing people away.  It was only in the last two seasons, where her relationship with Killian has blossomed and flourished, that Emma has opened up and allowed herself to become vulnerable.  It has made Emma better in all aspects of her life: as a girlfriend, a daughter, a mother, a friend, and most of all, a woman.

What will become of Emma Swan?  That is up to the creators of the show, but I hope to see her find her happy ending, and for it to comprise all the aspects of her life.  As a romantic, I hope that she can enjoy a blissful life with Killian and continue her introspection.  Emma is the kind of woman who does not want to need anyone else, and in truth, she doesn't.  However, having that kind of support in a romantic relationships is part of what makes her one of the best female heroines on television.

This blog series will soon conclude with part 4 focusing on Killian Jones (also known as Hook) as a romantic hero.  Thanks for reading!