The men of Melissa Cutler's Catcher Creek series are irresistible, including the gorgeously rugged oil rights attorney Matt Roenick, hero of the third book, How to Rope a Real Man (out now!). He's certainly caught the eye of Jenna Sorentino, a single mom trying to get her act together and escape the tiny New Mexico town. In this guest post, Cutler shares her affinity for writing about strong, independent women and offers a sneak peek at Matt and Jenna's chemistry.
Melissa Cutler here, and I'm so excited to be on Bookpage talking about my latest western romance, How to Rope a Real Man. One thing that I hoped to achieve with this story—besides the most entertaining, engaging romance I could possibly write that left readers with a squishy, happy good-book high when they finished it—was that it would take a feminist stance. Even before this book, it was important to me that every book I write—from Harlequins to Westerns to small-town contemporaries—contain positive female relationships. And last year, I made a conscious choice to make sure all my books moving forward pass the Bechdel test (that, within the story, two women have a conversation about a topic other than men).
I’m not trying to write Message Books, but, rather, reflect our modern-day reality. The reality is, women are smart and capable. We form strong bonds with other women with whom we talk about things other than men; we often provide for our families financially; and we handle our shit. So in How to Rope a Real Man, single mom Jenna Sorentino is doing just that. She has strong relationships with her sisters and her best friend. She’s about to graduate college and has a job lined up that’s a strategic career move (with medical benefits, too!). And it was important to me to give Jenna a book hero who finds all those amazing qualities attractive. In fact, country lawyer Matt Roenick is my answer to the flood of alpha asshole heroes that have been all the rage lately.
I’m known for writing steamy romances, so you might ask: sure Matt is attracted to Jenna’s brain first and foremost, but is their physical connection present in the story? You bet. Do they have mind blowing sex? Heck, yeah. But like the vast majority of real life women, Jenna can’t easily orgasm during intercourse. Is that a problem for Matt? Nope. Matt has enough, er, tools in his toolbox that getting creative about Jenna’s pleasure is not an issue. Does it make their sex any less hot? That’s for readers to decide, but I think it makes those scenes even hotter.
I hope you’ll give How to Rope a Real Man a read. At its core, it’s a fun, heartfelt emotional journey of two people who are figuring out what they want out of life and falling in love in the process. Jenna is one of my favorite heroines, and Matt, one of my favorite heroes. Happy reading!
Here's the scene to whet your appetite:
With his eyes on the road, Matt cracked the knuckle of his middle finger and said, "I have a question I've been wanting to ask you. And I bet you've been asked it a hundred times."
As far as transitions went, this one was about as smooth as a dirt road after a rainstorm, but she decided to follow his train of thought around the mental U-turn. "You want to ask me about Tommy's father."
"That obvious, huh?"
She grinned and offered a shrug to show him she didn't mind. "He's not in the picture at all. Never has been, never will be."
Matt's breath gushed out in a whoosh and his torso folded in as though he would've doubled over if not for the support of the steering wheel. "What an idiot. I can't understand men like that."
One of Jenna's greatest sins was letting people believe Tommy's father wasn't around because he was a deadbeat. The truth was, the reason Tommy's father wasn't fulfilling his fatherly duties was because she'd never told him she was pregnant with his child. And unless she were to divulge the whole story of why she'd made that choice—which she'd never do because lives and livelihoods were at stake—then she came across as a borderline criminal, keeping a little boy and his daddy apart for no good reason.
“How are you coping with it? It's none of my business, but does the creep at least pay child support?"
Child support would've been nice. The money might have helped her cut down on her waitressing hours and given her more time with Tommy when he was little. "Tommy and I have managed all right. Rachel's helped a lot and now we've got the oil money coming in regularly." She touched his arm because gratitude was a good excuse to get her hand on him. "Thank you for being concerned about us."
He eased his arm away from her. "You almost told me something earlier but stopped yourself. You said you were juggling being a waitress and mom and something else."
It took her a lot of blinks to catch up with his second directional shift in as many minutes. And this time, she didn't like where they were headed. Not at all.
Her first instinct was to follow his lead by changing the subject. Then she thought about what a ridiculous conversational dance they were doing, twisting around every sensitive topic. How did she ever expect him to open up to her if she refused to do the same?
She scooted sideways in her seat, her heart pounding with a sudden burst of adrenaline. "I'll tell you something about me I've never told anyone, but it can't get around. Not even to my family . . . "
Thanks, Melissa! Readers, will you be checking out How to Rope a Real Man? Find our more about Melissa and the book on her website.
(Author photo by Tessa Desharnais)
Best-selling author Gena Showalter's Burning Dawn, the third installment in her wildly popular Angels of the Dark series—out today!—dishes up a sizzling tale that's sure to enthrall fans of paranormal romance.
Thane, a Sent One (an immortal winged warrior and demon slayer) has been enslaved by a Phoenix princess. After his escape is facilitated by Elin, who is half human and half Phoenix, sparks fly between the unlikely pair. But, of course, danger threatens to thwart their budding relationship. In this guest post, Showalter offers insight into her hero and heroine.
I’m often asked what inspires my stories. The answers are as different as the books themselves. I knew the hero of Burning Dawn before I sat down to draft the tale. He appears in two other Angels of the Dark books (Wicked Nights and Beauty Awakened) where readers are given a mere glimpse of his tragic history. He is an immortal warrior who has endured the worst kind of torture: mental torture. Imprisoned for years by demons, his agony was never physical. He resented that fact. Still does. The physical is what he wanted—his way to experience the pain his closest friends were dealt day after day, right before his eyes. He escaped what they did not. He continuously drowns in guilt. The desire for pain eats at him. So does the denial of it.
Once, his days were simple. He fought and killed demons. Rinse and repeat. He lived for it, had no other goals. He was happy. Or thought that he was.
It has always awed me, how quickly life can change. In one of my other books, I wrote this passage: “A blink, a breath, a second and everything I knew and loved was gone.” It’s a theme I’ve explored often, a theme I’ll continue to explore. To me, it’s a slice of real life. And it’s certainly true of Thane’s life at the very moment he meets Elin. He finds this more agonizing than anything else he’s ever endured. And it changes everything for him.
Elin is light in a very dark world.
Some people function better in the dark. Thane is one of them. In the light, all the creepy crawlers hidden inside his mind are revealed. He is forced to deal with harsh truths. About his past—his future. Love, hate. Who he has become. To Thane, Elin is just another form of mental torture—but as powerful as he is, he cannot find the strength to walk away from her.
Thane might be the most damaged character I’ve ever written. He thinks he wants a warrior woman, someone cold, who has a desire to give and receive pain. A mirror of himself, like calling to like. Elin is kind, witty, sexy, fun—and she wants nothing to do with pain.
How can two seeming opposites make a relationship work?
I adored writing this book. It was a joy to watch Thane and Elin fight their attraction to each other, to play, to argue, to learn about each other…and only crave more. Their connection sizzles. Their awareness constantly intensifies. Thane’s obsession with her grows. Her need for him magnifies. She teaches him to laugh. A miracle. He gives her what she’s never had: acceptance. I shiver every time I think of these two together. They have become my favorite couple—a true happily ever after. I hope you’ll give Burning Dawn a read and fall in love with Thane and Elin as deeply as I have.
Thanks, Gena! What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out Burning Dawn?
(Author photo by Kim Haynes Photos)
RITA Award-winning romance author Robin D. Owens has just launched a brand new paranormal series with Ghost Seer (out this week). In it, Denverite Clare Cermak inherits her recently departed great-aunt's ability to communicate with ghosts. When she encounters the restless spirit of an Old West gunslinger and Zach, a handsome (and very much alive) private investigator, things start to get interesting. In this guest blog post, Denver native Owens offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the inspiration behind the fun new series.
The creation of the Ghost Seer series began with a road trip. I was born and raised in Denver, but always dreamt of castles in Europe. Even though the history of the Old West was all around me, I took it for granted.
Two years ago, I wanted to come up with a new series concept, and my mother and a friend and I were driving to California. It's hard to ignore the landscape that shaped the people, or the history those people made—gold rushes, the Overland Stage, the Pony Express, mining towns and ranch wars and gunfighters—when you're traversing the Western United States mile by mile.
So with that landscape and the bits of history we read as we traveled, ideas turned in my mind of a contemporary paranormal series set in Denver. With ghosts. And a woman who wouldn't believe in them, a logical sort, an accountant—but she'd have to come to terms with her "gift" or go crazy or die.
So I thought of a psychic power that passes from family member to family member—the ability to see and communicate with ghosts—and Clare Cermak came into being. Clare had a weird great-aunt Sandra who recently died and left her a fortune, the psychic gift, and a ghost Labrador dog named Enzo to help her accept her new powers.
I am most well known for my telepathic animal companions in my books, and I sure like writing them, so writing Enzo helped me transition to the new series.
On the trip we discussed men, naturally, and I came up with Zach Slade, an edgy, wounded warrior type of hero. He's a former deputy sheriff from Montana who, along with his partner, made a mistake that got him shot and disabled. He, too, has to reshape his life. He's not too happy about giving up the public sector, or even interviewing at the Denver private investigation firm that his old boss recommended. But when he meets and flirts with Clare, he's intrigued by the shadows in her eyes that hint at a puzzle to be solved, and, of course, he's attracted.
As for the ghost, this guy was THE archetype for all the gunfighters of the Old West, a man Mark Twain (who never let the truth get in the way of a good story) made famous . . . at the time. Now, he and his story are barely known. He can't move on until he redeems himself for the worst act of his life. I really enjoyed visiting places my haunt had lived, taking pictures, soaking up the atmosphere.
Ghost Seer has romance: Clare with a paranormal gift, and Zach with a whiff of the paranormal, too. Enzo is there as mentor and comic relief, and there's a light suspense twist, along with historical fact as true as I could make it.
Throughout the series both Clare and Zach will grow, and face danger. For Ghost Layer (coming in September), I took a couple of facts that got juxtaposed in my mind—a millionaire who moved an entire ghost town to his ranch estate and a "romantic" ghost that appeared, skeleton and all, in ladies' beds after they died. My millionaire is having house parties, and the ghost is driving off his female guests as well as his staff. In this story, the apparition was murdered and wants Clare and Zach to find his killer before he can go on.
I am having a great time writing these and hope readers enjoy them, too. Thank you for this opportunity for me to gush about my new passion.
Thank you, Robin! What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out Ghost Seer?
Veteran romance author Lorraine Heath has written more than 60 novels over the past 20 years. Her latest, When the Duke Was Wicked (out today!), is the first in her brand-new, deliciously titled new Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series. Will the rakish Duke of Lovingdon (love it!) forgo his wicked ways and give in to his love for Lady Grace Mabry? In this guest blog post, Heath offers a peek into her creative process and shares how real life has a tendency to influence her while she's writing.
I’m a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. When characters visit me, asking for their story to be told, they aren’t always forthcoming with what that story entails. Very often, they simply give me a glimpse—a scene or two—something to intrigue me, to make me want to explore what leads to the scene and what follows. When the Duke Was Wicked, the first book in the Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James series, was no exception.
When I began writing the book, my husband had just finished a successful prostate cancer treatment, and three of my friends had beaten breast cancer. Cancer was very much on my mind. I didn’t originally intend for Grace, my heroine, to have cancer. She was quite obsessed with marrying for love, but as I wrote the story, I realized that she needed to be struggling with something internally in order for the reader not to find her motivation weak. It needed to be something hidden, that her husband would discover on their wedding night. She planned to reveal it before the wedding, wanting someone who would love her so much that whatever her secret was wouldn’t alter his feelings. I considered an accident that had resulted in scarring, something that made her self-conscious. Then I envisioned the scene where Lovingdon, with his wicked ways, would seduce her. And when I envisioned him undressing her, I realized she’d had a mastectomy. During Victorian times, cancer was a disease that no one talked about. It was shameful to have suffered through it. So of course Grace didn’t tell anyone, not even her dearest friends. Her parents knew, and that was it.
When writing a story, we want the characters to have to face their deepest fears. Lovingdon had already lost his first love to disease and never wanted to love again. But he does fall in love with Grace. And then he discovers she’s had cancer—sees that physical indication—and it terrifies him, angers him. He can’t bear the thought of loving and losing again. There’s no guarantee that she will remain cancer-free. But during the time period for this story, the treatment of breast cancer was advancing so I could realistically have a character who survived it.
As a writer, I tend to incorporate in my stories whatever I need to work through. Not always, of course. I tend to be cruel to my characters, and I’ve never had anyone be cruel to me. I’ve never been abused or beaten. But there is usually something reflected in my writing that is part of me. Unfortunately cancer has been very present the past few years. Writing about it, giving my characters an optimistic and hopeful story, has allowed me to work through some of my anger and fears. Grace is such a strong character that I think I channeled some of my friends into her. She faces the disease with dignity and an indomitable spirit. She is determined to make every moment count, because she doesn’t know how many she might have left. She won’t be cowed. I think she is a remarkable character, one who has given me the opportunity to acknowledge those who face cancer—any cancer—with such grace.
Thank you, Lorraine! Readers, will you be adding When the Duke Was Wicked to your TBR list?
(Author photo by Kayla Marie Photography)
Science and love? At first, it may seem like an unlikely pairing, but in his highly informative new book, The Science of Happily Ever After, Ty Tashiro, PhD, presents tips for how to best go about choosing a mate—wisdom generated from examining lots of true-life stories and scientific research in the fields of sociology and psychology. In this guest post, Tashiro explains how we should stick to three wishes—and no more—when it comes to selecting our ideal partner.
If a fairy godmother granted you three wishes for your ideal romantic partner, then what traits would you wish for? When a bright undergraduate in my Psychology of Relationships course at the University of Maryland asked me this question five years ago, I found it so compelling that I eventually decided to devote two years of my life searching for the answer. I knew that guidance about how to wish wisely for enduring love was buried somewhere in the thousands of scientific papers about dating, sexual attraction and marriage. The answers I found are explained in my new book The Science of Happily Ever After.
I know that three wishes does not sound like much, but consider the following thought experiment to see why three is the magic number: Imagine that a bachelorette has an opportunity to choose among 100 eligible bachelors who are randomly selected from the population. Let’s say that her three wishes for traits in a partner include some who is: tall, college educated and employed at a good job.
1. If we conservatively say that someone “tall” is 6' or taller, then 80 of the 100 eligible bachelors would walk out of the room because only 20% of men in the United States are 6' or taller.
2. The wish for someone who is college educated would rule out 16 of the remaining 20 bachelors because 30% of men have a bachelors degree.
3. If having a good job were code for someone who has a job that pays pretty well, maybe someone at the 70th percentile in yearly income ($60,000/year) then only one man would remain out of the initial 100.
You can play this wishing game with just about any set of three wishes, and it almost always whittles down 100 possible options to just about no options. However, this is more than just a game. In online dating situations, it’s common for people to inadvertently narrow their pool of available dating options by specifying certain characteristics of people they will date. Although people should certainly maintain standards for who they will date, it’s unfortunate when something that is not a real necessity, but is rather just a preference (e.g., height, love of the outdoors), rules out hundreds of potential partners who might have possessed the traits that really matter for long-term relationship success.
I wrote The Science of Happily Ever After with the goal of explaining why it’s important for singles to prioritize the three things they want the most in a partner and to be stubborn about getting partners who fit those criteria. This is not a book about settling for someone mediocre, but rather a book about how to be smart about prioritizing what you really want.
The Science of Happily Ever After is filled with entertaining stories about people looking for love, the common problems they face while trying to choose a partner, and straightforward explanations of the vast body of research on romantic relationships. I also explain why many people squander their three wishes on superficial traits and provide suggestions about the traits that can significantly improve the odds of finding relationships that are satisfying and stable.
With Valentine’s Day upon us, sometimes it’s easy for singles to wish that they had somebody, anybody, who could fit the “responsibilities” of being a partner. However, one of the saddest situations is ending up with a lifelong partner who simply fills a role. For singles looking for happiness that can endure, they should be sure that they have a good idea about what it is that they want in a partner, so that they can be sure that they find exactly what they wish for.
Thanks, Ty! Readers, will you be checking out The Science of Happily Ever After? Visit Ty's website to learn more.
Melanie Shankle's best-selling memoir, Sparkly Green Earrings, delivered a laugh-out-loud portrait of the good, the bad and the hilarious aspects of motherhood. In her new memoir, The Antelope in the Living Room, Shankle turns her keen observation to marriage, sharing the ups and downs, the joys and disappointments of her own 16-year union with husband, Perry—all with her trademark, relatable humor. In this guest post, Shankle takes a refreshingly honest look at the holiday of love: Valentine's Day.
I’m sorry if the title led you to believe this was going to be any sort of actual researched work detailing the true history of Valentine’s Day. Because you’ll never convince me that it’s not just a holiday made up by Mr. Hallmark to find a reason to sell greeting cards and boxes of chocolate in that historically dead period between Christmas and some relative’s birthday.
And since the dawn of Valentine’s Day, it has proved to be a harbinger for most women as the day of the year we most prepare ourselves for disappointment. Maybe you’re in the minority of women and your husband actually shows up with two dozen roses and a piece of jewelry from the jewelry store at the mall to tell you he’d marry you all over again. If that’s the case, good for you. We’re all happy for you even though we may not like you. Also, you can quit reading now.
But for the rest of you, I will share a little story. In The Antelope in the Living Room, I write about the first Valentine’s Day my husband and I spent together. We’d been dating a little less than a year and he showed up at my apartment with a giant tin full of red cinnamon-flavored popcorn. And because I was a 24-year-old girl in love, I assumed there was a good chance that there might be a ring box containing an engagement ring at the bottom of that popcorn.
I was wrong.
My daughter read the story from my book out loud about the popcorn the other night, and she stopped at the end of it, looked up at me with a look I can only describe as pity and said, “I can’t believe you thought Daddy was going to put a ring in a bunch of popcorn to ask you to marry him. You didn’t know him AT ALL back then.” And I laughed out loud because she is so right.
Back then I had all these romantic, sappy notions of what Valentine’s Day should look like, and it involved candlelit dinners, roses and other grand gestures. But the truth is that real love isn’t just about a day of the year. True love is the daily commitment to share a life together that is sometimes messy and beautiful and frustrating and wonderful all at the same time. It’s the courage to pick up the pieces and fix what’s broken and constantly work to keep it all woven together.
And so for me, I’ve learned that Valentine’s Day isn’t going to look like it does in the movies or on Hallmark commercials, which is probably for the best because I really do not care for the chocolate assortment contained in those heart-shaped boxes. (It only takes biting into something with coconut filling once to scar you for life.)
So Valentine’s Day at our house is going to look pretty much like every other day of the year. There will be dishes to wash and dinner to cook and kids to drive to soccer practice. There might be pizza delivered for dinner and maybe a card that says, “I Love You” if it happens to be a particularly good year. There will be a car already started in the morning to warm it up for me before I have to leave the house and trash cans rolled out to the curb and leaves blown off the back patio because he knows they drive me crazy.
And what I’ve learned is that all those things look a whole lot more like real, true, lasting love than any piece of jewelry ever could.
Thanks, Melanie! What do you think, readers, will you be checking out The Antelope in the Living Room? Learn more on Melanie's blog.
(Author photo © 2013 by Leslie Lonsdale)
Very few people are lucky enough to love their job as much as David Menasche loved teaching high school English in Miami. One of his favorite lessons was called "The Priority List," in which he asked his students to rank ten words—wealth, love, education, for example—in order of importance to them.
Even after he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2006, David continued teaching—until a debilitating seizure in 2012 made returning to the classroom impossible.
Instead of giving up and letting his illness become the focus of his life, David reevaluated his own priorities, ultimately deciding to end his treatment and embark on a journey to reconnect with former students, who were scattered across the country. Fifty cities and 8,000 miles later, David has reunited with more than 100 students, all eager to let him know the positive influence he's had on their lives.
Menasche shares his courageous journey in his new, incredibly moving memoir, The Priority List, which will inspire readers to reflect and reassess their own priorities. In this guest blog post, David shares the story of the "no-going-back" day he realized he wanted to become a teacher.
For me, teaching wasn’t making a living. It was my life. Nothing made me happier or more content than standing in front of a classroom and watching my students “catch” my passion for language and literature.
For 16 years I taught 11th graders at a magnet high school in Miami, and my classroom was my sanctuary. So much so that on the day before Thanksgiving in 2006 when, at the age of 34, I was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable form of brain cancer, and told I had less than a year to live, I did what I always did: I went to school.
I am a pragmatic man. I know there is no reason I should still be alive. The cancer never lets me forget that it and ultimately it will win this battle of wills. But I choose to live for today and cherish the memories of yesterday. I may no longer get to be in a classroom, but my time as a teacher was time well spent.
The novelist Alice Sebold wrote, “Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.” I backed into my dream-come-true while I was studying journalism at Eugene Lang College at the New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village. One of my favorite professors convinced me to sign up for the Teachers and Writers Program. The program placed aspiring writers in New York public schools and gave them the opportunity to teach. I was sent to teach a group of eager first-graders in upstate New York.
The small village, with its frozen pond in the center, was enchanting to a Miami kid like me. On my very first day, I decided that I wasn’t going to teach the kids by the book. Instead, I read to them from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I couldn’t help but be animated and energetic when I read it, as Whitman had always had that effect on me. When I looked out at my six-year-old students, sitting Indian-style in front of me, I saw wonder in their eyes. Their hands shot up, and they called out questions before I’d even finished reading. Watching their reaction to Whitman’s poetry, I got an idea. “Tell you what,” I said, “why don’t we go outside and write our own poems.”
The kids squealed with delight. I bundled them up and marched them outside like a flock of ducklings. Giving each one a small stack of yellow Post-it notes and crayons, I asked them to write down the things they saw—one item per piece of paper. They ran around looking at everything, and like Whitman, I thought, they had a blissful enthusiasm for their surroundings. They wrote words like “rock” and “leaf” and “snow.”
After I noticed one of my little duckies with frozen snot on her upper lip and shivering, I shepherded everyone back inside and asked the kids to stick their notes up on the board and rearrange them until they were in an order that they liked. When they were finished, they had written a poem. The students jumped up and down with the same sense of accomplishment and joy that I felt watching them learn.
That was it for me. There was no turning back. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a teacher.
Thank you so much, David. Readers, The Priority List is out now, and you can continue to follow David's journey on Facebook.
(Author photo by Chris Granger)
Sophie Barnes was born in Denmark and spent her childhood traveling extensively with her parents. She has lived in five different countries on three continents, speaks five languages and has a degree from Parsons School of Design. Barnes draws on all of these experiences while dreaming up the vivid, unconventional characters and highly entertaining stories featured in her historical romance novels, including the just-published The Scandal in Kissing an Heir—the second in her At the Kingsborough Ball series.
In this guest blog post, Barnes shares how her own adventurous life has influenced her work.
When I was four, my parents and I relocated from Denmark to Spain, but we would always return to Denmark, where my parents kept a holiday home, for the summer. On many of these occasions, we traveled by car, allowing ourselves a week or two to explore the different countries and their towns/cities along the way. I’ll admit that there was a point where I got a bit fed up with churches and cathedrals, but I have to say that I never tired of castles. Having visited many historical buildings from different time periods and built in varying styles, I can often find a way in which to describe the exact setting I’m looking for.
If I close my eyes, I can easily transport myself to one of the places I’ve visited in the past. I can feel what the ground is like beneath my feet: soft, prickly, rough, hot, cold . . . the climate, the sounds, the smallest detail of each object. I do this from time to time with places I miss, and I think it’s a wonderful exercise for me as a writer since it helps with the whole visualization process. Take the Kingsborough ballroom, for example: The feeling I wished to evoke in its description was largely inspired by the Grand Foyer of the Palais Garnier in Paris. It’s a breathtaking room, and I remember how extravagant I found it when I visited it for the first time at the age of 18.
In The Scandal in Kissing an Heir, Lady Rebecca is locked away by her horrid aunt and uncle in a tower. The castle I describe here is largely inspired by a medieval one that a family acquaintance owns in France. I’ve only visited it once, when I was 14, but I remember the tower room and the large closet that was in there—not at all the tiny piece of furniture you find these days at Ikea. In fact, I’m sure there are rooms for rent in Manhattan with less space inside them than that closet. This, coupled with my own love of hiding in closets when I was little, led to the scene in which Rebecca has sought solitude in her wardrobe and Daniel asks if she will allow him to join her.
There’s also a scene in which Daniel and Rebecca visit a gaming hall on Piccadilly—a place named Riley’s. When Daniel and Rebecca sit down to play, whist is the game of choice, a game that I have fond memories of playing with my parents and grandparents when I was little. I definitely think that being raised with some knowledge of typical pastime activities from the Regency era has helped me with my writing. For instance, I’ve tried my hand at needlepoint, cutwork, and watercolors. I’ve taken piano lessons, walked along cobblestone streets and stood on the deck of a frigate. And although it’s been a few years, I’ve also ridden a horse and enjoyed a ride in a carriage.
In my opinion, it’s impossible to write a good book without pouring a lot of who you are as a person into your writing, which is why I often mention art in my books. The Scandal in Kissing an Heir is no exception. Lady Rebecca often finds solace in her sketchbook and watercolors, just as I have done on many occasions. In fact, I spent four years in art school, traipsing through museums and studying the great painters of years gone by. During that time, I drew a lot, filling sketchbook upon sketchbook with all kinds of drawings and watercolors. When I imagined Rebecca sitting in her tower room, I knew she wouldn’t have the patience for embroidery because she’s too lively, but lively people need a bit of quiet time from time to time, and when those moments present themselves, I just know that she’ll be drawing. But if it’s a fruit bowl, flower arrangement or landscape that you imagine will grace the pages of her sketchbook, think again, because this lady, like me, is a dreamer.
Thank you, Sophie! What do you think, readers? Will you be adding The Scandal in Kissing an Heir to your TBR list?
Attention historical romance lovers: There's a new series in town, and we think you're going to love it. Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard—the first book in Vanessa Kelly's Renegade Royals series—goes on sale today. The witty, engaging romp features Aden St. James—illegitimate son of the Prince Regent—who finds himself unable to resist the charming, beautiful Lady Vivian Shaw.
In this guest blog post, Kelly offers a peek into her writing process—and shares what's so fun about basing characters on real-life royal scoundrels.
Authors of historical romance face a unique challenge: How much history should they include in any one book? Readers love the historical details, and woe betide the author who skimps or makes mistakes.
Historical romance, however, is not historical fiction, although both share the goal of creating compelling characters in a vibrant period setting. But romance has an entirely different set of genre expectations. While it’s true that our readers insist on colorful and appropriate world-building, as in all romance, the love story must come first.
In my new series, The Renegade Royals, I worked especially hard to weave in historical elements while still keeping the focus squarely on the romance. That’s because the series premise is bolstered by several well-known British historical figures—the notorious sons of King George III. My heroes are the illegitimate sons of the royal princes, and one of the fathers is the famous Prince Regent himself.
My heroes are fictional, of course, although the royal princes and their base-born offspring certainly provided me with plenty of historical fodder. For instance, the Prince Regent, who gave his name to the era and later ascended the throne as George IV, initiated his scandalous career at the tender age of 17 when he began an affair with the famous actress, Mary Robinson. He took numerous mistresses over the years and had up to six illegitimate children. In fact, the seven princes who reached adulthood sired up to 22 illegitimate children.
Clearly, I had a lot of material to work with.
Aden St. James, the hero of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, the first book in my series, is the illegitimate son of the Prince Regent. I began my research knowing who I wanted Aden to be, and knowing his social background (a spy, whose aristocratic mother had once had an affair with the Regent). That left me to figure out the mechanics—how old was the Regent when he fathered this fictional child, for instance, and was he actually in London when I wanted him to be? Those were the sorts of questions I had to answer in developing the background for my hero.
Believe me when I tell you that there were flow charts and diagrams involved in figuring out ages, dates, times and locations. And more than once I discovered that a certain prince was not where I wanted him to be at a given point in time. That’s one of the hazards of using historical personages in fiction—a written record exists. So just when I needed one of the princes to be in Brighton having an affair, he was inconveniently away in Germany for military training.
Another interesting challenge was deciding how much page time to give historical figures. Aside from the fact that the princes are fascinating (if often repellent) in their own right and could easily overshadow other characters, too great an opportunity existed to make mistakes. The more page time I gave the princes, the greater the risk of putting them in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having them act in a way that was contrary to the historical record.
My solution? Use them sparingly. In my books, historical figures inform the story rather than play an active role. In Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, the Prince Regent does appear in a few scenes, both in service to the plot and because he’s such a fun character. In Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom, my next book in the series (coming in April), the royal prince who sired the hero does not appear. It didn’t make sense for the story, so I kept that real-life person firmly off-stage.
And that’s just fine, because my readers are not selecting my books for detail about the lives of the British royal family in the 19th century. Yes, they enjoy historical elements, and, yes, they want to lose themselves in the extravagant and exciting setting of the Regency era. But they primarily want a heroine they can root for, a hero they can fall a little bit in love with and a happily-ever-after that fulfills their need for a romantic and satisfying read.
Given his own romantic adventures, I hope the Prince Regent would have approved.
Thank you, Vanessa! What do you think, readers? Are you planning on getting swept up in Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard?
They don't call Linda Lael Miller the "First Lady of the West" for nothing. The beloved author of more than 100 romance novels—most of them set in the West—knows of which she writes: She grew up on a ranch in Washington state, her father the town marshall who also competed in rodeos.
Miller's authenticity has certainly struck a chord with readers, with all five of the books in her wildly successful Big Sky series landing on the New York Times bestseller list. The just-published sixth—and final—book in the series, Big Sky Secrets, returns to Parable, Montana, to share the passionate love story that unfolds between Landry Sutton, a self-made tycoon, and Ria Manning, the new owner of a flower farm neighboring the Sutton ranch.
In this guest post, Miller reflects upon the ways that her childhood has influenced her career as an author.
My life certainly has influenced my writing in the past, and it continues to do so, I’m glad to say.
I like to say I grew up in the Old West. I rode my first horse before I was two—sharing the saddle with my cowboy dad, of course—and even then, I reportedly loved “cutting the brush,” which is country-speak for chasing stray cattle out of the bushes, etc., on horseback.
I heard a lot of great stories as a child, and some of them later turned up in books, slightly altered. My father and uncle both followed the rodeo circuit back in the day—Dad rode bulls and Uncle Jack rode broncs. Dad gave it up after he drew a particularly bad bull and got himself banged up, but Uncle Jack continued to compete for a long time.
Naturally, tales of the rodeo—and attending a number of them myself—sparked a lot of ideas that came in handy later.
As kids, my brother and I (we have two sisters, but they’re a lot younger) spent a lot of time on the Wiley ranch, outside of our old hometown, Northport, Washington, where Dad later became the town marshal. He had the star-shaped badge and the whole shebang.
Our honorary grandmother, Florence Wiley, grew up on a farm outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, and she told some great stories while cooking many a meal on the old cast-iron woodstove she refused to give up, even after the ranch got electricity.
My favorites were 1) an account of the night Jessie James slept in the Heritage family barn and 2) the day the Dalton brothers tried to rob the bank in Coffeyville. It seems the townspeople got wind of the plan ahead of time, and when the Daltons rode in, the local men were waiting with rifles and pistols. The whole motley bunch was shot to death in the space of a few minutes, and later, their bodies were strapped to old doors and boards and propped up against the wall of a building on the main street as an object lesson to anybody who might be considering a life of crime.
Gramma heard the shots from the farm, but though folks came from far and wide to view the spectacle, her father was ahead of his time and refused to parade his children past a row of dead outlaws, thank you very much.
Television was a big influence on my writing style, too, I must admit. I LOVED “Bonanza,” or more properly Little Joe Cartwright, as played by Michael Landon, and I’m pretty sure I learned the concept of scenes by noticing how they began and ended on the show. Obviously, something had to be happening before the commercial break to bring the viewers back after Dinah Shore sang, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet…”
Today, I’m living in the country again, just as I did in the early days. Guess you could say I’ve come full circle!
Thank you so much, Linda! Big Sky Secrets is available now. Will you be checking it out, readers?
(Author photo: John Hall Photography)