Tag Archives: romance

Status Update – RITA Finalists!

Mar 24, 2017

I intend to read all of the historicals, starting with these guys

Yay! The finalists for the 2017 RITA Awards were announced on Tuesday! And for those who don’t know that that is, it’s the industry award for romance novels…like the Oscars of Romance. Also FYI, the finalists are chosen by romance-writing peers who read a selection of novels in multiple genres and score them based on a series of guidelines. And to take it back one step further, those novels are submitted by traditionally published and indie authors, with a contest cap of, I think it was 2000 books this year. So after everyone reading and judging all of those 2000 books in a variety of categories, we now have finalists!

Click here for the complete list of finalists in all categories courtesy of the RT Book Reviews blog.

But today I want to talk about the finalists in the two Historical Romance categories, because when it comes to Historical Romance, I think the industry/category has some serious problems.

First, though, let’s celebrate these magnificent authors who made the finals!!!!

Historical Romance: Long

Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrington

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

Susana and the Scot by Sabrina York

 

Historical Romance: Short

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick

 

A round of applause for all of these authors!

Bonus points to whoever came up with Tessa Dare’s title, because every time I see it, I get that song stuck in my head.

And now, let’s talk about what’s wrong with this picture. First of all, I hope you clicked on that link to the RT blog to see all of the finalists in all categories. See how many of them some of those categories have? Up to 10 per category! But notice how many there are for both historical categories combined? Only 10. And notice something else? Of those ten finalists, five of them have made the finals many, many times, year after year. That’s half of the finalists in the category popping up perennially.

So why do I feel like that’s just dead wrong? As my friend Caroline Lee said when we were discussing this, doesn’t that just mean that those authors are the best in the field, especially if they’re finalists almost every year?

Yes. Absolutely.

And that’s the problem.

As I said to Caroline, where is the new blood? Where are the hot young authors in the genre? If the same excellent authors are reaching the finals every year with relatively few first-time finalists in either of the historical categories, what does that say about the health of the genre as a whole?

Personally, I think it means two things. First, it’s just a fact that Historical Romance has been on a downward trend for a while. It doesn’t sell as well as it used to. Even my historical novels—which make up about 70% of my total catalog—don’t sell as well as the contemporary novels I have out there. And I think that becomes a problem when people are judging the books. Overall, they’re scoring them lower, because they’re just not that in to historical romance.

Okay, that’s fair enough. You can’t expect someone to get super excited over books that aren’t their cup of tea. But the other problem I have—and it’s not just this year, it’s every year—is that the number of non-Regency novels that make the finals are…well, there are two this year—one Scottish and one Western. And this is not just a problem with contests, it’s a problem with the industry.

Let me explain… Regency Romance takes up a gigantic percentage of the historical romance market right now. HUGE. But there are so many more eras and locations of history with rich, fabulous stories to be told. So with all of the vibrant history out there, why so much Regency and so little of everything else? Because traditional publishing claims that any historicals other than Regency don’t sell. But the vast majority of what they publish is Regency. So how can they sell something that they don’t publish or claim that volumes of ignored history won’t sell when there are so few case studies of non-Regency books out there?

Okay, I’ll admit that Elizabeth Hoyt is one of my very favorite novelists!

This is why Indie Historical Romance writers have become so valuable to the industry. We write the stories that no one else will publish. And guess what? They sell. Not as well as contemporary romance, mind you, but they put kibble in my cats’ dishes. So if we have proof that other historical eras do, in fact, sell, why isn’t the traditional publishing industry putting more effort into publishing them (and I won’t say they don’t publish anything non-Regency at all—they do, just not very much). Furthermore, and this is more of a question based on reality, have readers been trained to only consider Regency and to block out any other historical eras? (Except maybe Scottish, which is also mildly popular, but honestly, I’m not a fan)

This brings me around to my other question/concern/problem with the industry and readers and awards these days. Is it possible that Historical Romance is seeing such a huge downswing because readers are dead tired of dukes? Is the genre as a whole failing to attract new readers because those readers are SO over Regency, but that’s the bulk of the entire category these days? Is it not possible that the category as a whole could get a huge boost if publishers and contests alike pushed more Western, Medieval, later Victorian, 20th Century, Non-European titles? I’d give my eye teeth to read a romance novel set around the founding of Australia, for example. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to read a series like that. Or what about a romance or two set during WWI? Hasn’t Downton Abbey proven that the material there is rich and crowd-pleasing? What about romances that explore the history of People of Color? I definitely want to read those!

Why don’t we see more variety in Historical Romance?

… That’s basically what it’s all about.

Weekend Excerpt – His Magical Bride/Talia: The Magical Bride

Mar 12, 2017

Well, I may have been a little lazy these past few days (everyone deserves some lazy now and then), but I’ve been busy behind the scenes! I have the first draft of His Magical Bride (steamy)/Talia: The Magical Bride (sweet), Book 10 of The Brides of Paradise Ranch out at the editors right now. It’ll be out in just one week! Woo hoo! Here’s a bit to whet you’re appetite…

Their whole crew started along Elizabeth Street toward the church. As soon as Trey was ten feet past the hotel, he felt as though he’d been hit by a wave of panic. It was really happening. He was really about to go and get himself hitched.

“Uh, Miss Lambert.” He stopped, reaching as gently as he could for Miss Lambert’s elbow to stop her as well.

She did stop. So did all of her friends. Trey was near to making a run for it, until she told her friends, “You go on ahead.”

The ladies nodded and hummed and gave them both knowing looks. At least they continued on without a fuss. Trey waited until they were a good, long distance away before taking a breath.

“You can call me Talia,” Miss Lambert said. “Since we’re about to be married and all.”

“Yeah, about that.” Trey rubbed a hand over the lower half of his face. Talia’s gentle smile faded. “See, the thing is, if I’m being honest, I’m kinda having, well, second thoughts about this whole marriage thing.”

Talia suddenly looked as tired as a young woman who’d ridden miles in the back of a peddler’s wagon would look. “I see.” She lowered her eyes.

Trey’s chest started to ache in a peculiar way that he wasn’t used to. “I’m not saying that I won’t marry you,” he rushed to tell her.

“You’re not?” She looked up at him with so much hope in her eyes that a lump formed in Trey’s throat.

“No, ma’am. I made a promise. And I know what kind of life it was you left behind.” He knew he was echoing everything Virginia had said to him at the train station, but the woman had spoken the truth. “I will most certainly marry you, it’s just…” He let his sentence trail away and let out a helpless breath through his nose. “It’s just that I’m thinking I might not be ready for all the things that come along with a real marriage.”

“Oh?” She blinked fast, her brow knitting in confusion.

“You know, things like children and intimacy and…and children.”

Talia’s face brightened inexplicably. “Oh, I see.” She was back to smiling again, although Trey had no idea why, considering everything he’d just said. “You want to have a marriage in name only to start with. Until we get to know each other better.”

Was that what he’d asked for? “Uh, yeah,” he answered.

Talia’s smile grew so big that she laughed lightly before saying, “I’m perfectly fine with that arrangement. It’s a sensible one. I always did wonder how a woman could jump into every aspect of marriage so suddenly when her whole world has changed.”

She’d taken all that from what he said? “I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.”

“We do. And thank you, Trey.” She reached out, and it was several seconds before Trey realized she wanted him to hold her hand.

Still feeling a half-step behind, he took her hand, and together they headed on to where the others were just approaching the church.

Trey had stood by George during his wedding, and he’d attended the weddings of more than a few of his friends in the last few years, but he had no idea how fast a marriage ceremony could feel when you were the one standing at the front of the church with a woman.

“Do you, Trey Alexander Knighton take this woman, Talia Lambert, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Trey almost answered, “Huh?” when George asked the question, a teasing twinkle in his eyes, but he managed to squeeze out, “I do,” without looking like too much of a numbskull.

“And do you, Talia Lambert, take this man, Trey Alexander Knighton, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”

“I do,” Talia answered with more certainty than Trey would ever be able to manage. She smiled up at him too with a look that said she was confident she’d done the right thing. How did she manage that?

“Then by the power invested in me by God and the Territory of Wyoming, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

 

Weekend Excerpt – Chaos Theory

Feb 25, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a big chunk of the shenanigans I’ve been up to! And we’re less than a week away from the release of Chaos Theory (at last!). So here you go! Will Darling is in big trouble….

Will had driven past Clutterbuck’s Flowers several times, and he knew that the family, Melody included, lived in an apartment above the shop. Scott had told everyone on his team about how amazing the apartment was—two apartments in one, really—but he hadn’t mentioned the location of the entry. It took Will several minutes of wandering around the building, feeling more self-conscious by the minute, before Melody’s sister stuck her head out one of the second-floor windows and said, “Can I help you?”

Cringing internally, Will raised a hand to shield his eyes and looked up. “Is Melody home?”

“Maybe.” Calliope’s tone was a dead giveaway to just how badly he’d upset Melody.

“Can I talk to her?”

“Maaybee.” Calliope drew the word out, her mouth twitching to the kind of grin that made Will feel like an insect specimen skewered with a pin.

He paused, waiting for Calliope to say more. When she didn’t, he asked, “How do I get up there?”

Calliope chuckled. “You’re staring right at the door.”

Will lowered his eyes to find a plain, unassuming door directly across from where he stood. The window had been painted to resemble a stained-glass flower arrangement, which is why he’d assumed it led to the shop. Calliope drew her head back into the apartment, and Will marched for the door. It was unlocked, so he went through and found himself walking up a narrow flight of incense-scented stairs.

Soft sitar music was playing on the other side of a closed, painted door when he reached the top. He raised his hand to knock, but the door swung open before his knuckles could make contact.

“You’d better be here to apologize,” Calliope said in a low voice.

“I am.” Will nodded.

Calliope’s expression lightened to a broad, teasing smile. “In that case….” She stepped back, holding the door open and gesturing for him to come in. “Hey, Mel! Look what the cat dragged in.”

Will supposed he deserved it. Dickery like his deserved humiliation as punishment. That didn’t stop him from freezing in his tracks as he crossed through the modest-if-colorful front entryway and into a gigantic, two story high room. The décor was bright and exotic, what he would call hippie-eastern chic. Oriental art vied with thick, green plants for just about every space on and around the walls. But it was the erotic, almost obscene mobile hanging from the ceiling that caught his attention and had his jaw dropping. Male and female bodies circled and entwined above him in a dance that was…distracting.

“Well, hello.”

Even more distracting was Luna Clutterbuck, Melody and Calliope’s mother. Dressed in a silk wrap-around skirt and flowing blouse, the bangles she wore jingling, she swept across the room and enveloped Will in a hug before he could raise his arms to stop her. He tensed instinctively, then battled to force himself to accept the hug.

“Oh dear,” she said as she stepped back and held him at arm’s length. She didn’t elaborate, she just sighed and said, “I’ll get Melody so that you can work this all out.”

Luna floated off, disappearing through a doorway that looked like it led to a corridor. He heard footsteps going up stairs moments later, followed by Luna’s call of, “Melody, you have a visitor.”

Will glanced to Calliope to see if he could judge just how huge of a villain he’d been reported to be. She didn’t look nearly as peeved as he would have been if his sister had been insulted. In fact, she looked as though she was having a hard time not laughing.

Moments later, Melody appeared at the edge of what appeared to be a loft on one side of the room. She had changed into a long, green skirt and short-sleeved shirt, and her curly hair hung in a wild mass down past her shoulders. She arched a brow and leaned against the loft’s railing. “Hello, Darling.”

Will frowned. She was going to make this as difficult for him as possible. Not that he didn’t deserve it. “I’ve come to apologize.” There. Might as well deal with the issue head-on.

Melody chuckled. The sound was low, coming from her chest. With her standing a full story above him, looking down on him, she was like a fairy queen in the kind of story that had been banned from his house growing up. She made the hair on the back of Will’s neck stand up. Other things too.

“Is that so?” she asked.

He took a breath and clasped his hands behind his back, standing at attention. “I spoke to you in an unbecoming manner, and I’d like to apologize for it.”

Melody burst into giggles, leaning against her arms on the banister. “What, are we in some sort of historical novel now?”

“No.” He frowned.

“Because you sound like Mr. Darcy coming to apologize to Elizabeth.”

Will’s frown deepened. “Who?”

Melody pushed herself to stand straight. Calliope leaned away from Will, one brow arched. “Seriously?”

Will glanced sideways to her, wishing there was a polite way to tell her to go the hell away. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Do you really not know who Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are?” Melody asked from above.

Since Calliope was looking at him like he’d told her one plus one equaled three, he was glad to look back up at Melody. “I take it they’re a couple.”

Calliope covered her mouth with one hand to stifle her laugh. She shook her head and crossed behind him, heading toward the hall where Luna had disappeared. “He’s all yours, Mel,” she called up to her sister before vanishing around the corner.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 5

Feb 15, 2017

Man, I really do like this show! It’s been so much fun watching the way Jenna Coleman plays Victoria so, so well (although I still like the actor who played Albert in The Young Victoria much more than this guy). And once again, they got the major historical details of Albert having a really hard time adjusting and finding a place down pretty good.

I wonder, though, if 21st century audiences really appreciate how bad it really was for Albert. We have certain expectations about the equality between the sexes these days, but even with my History Apologist ways, I have to admit that the role of women compared to men was at a historical low in the 1840s. If he had married any other woman in the entire world, Albert would have expected to be a firm head of household. He would have exercised a certain amount of control and influence over his wife and children. His opinions would have been sacrosanct, and there would be no question that he would be taken very seriously. And Albert was a very serious man.

But Albert was in the unique to the 19th century of being number two in his marriage. As much as Victoria wanted it to be otherwise (and really did work for things like Albert’s right to take her into dinner, and having parliament give him the title of Prince Consort, which they didn’t until the 1850s). We know from letters and diaries that the stress that his unique and, for the time, humiliating position was acute. He really suffered for the first few years, until he figured out how to make a name and a place for himself. Which he did by taking up various charitable causes. I’m sure they’ll get into it later, but Albert gained a reputation for hard work and competence as an organizer and supporter of causes.

But the one thing that I call shenanigans on for this episode in the whole thing with Victoria trying not to have a baby right away. That’s sort of a modern spin on things, in my opinion. Victoria wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of pregnancy and children, but she knew it was inevitable. However, according to everything I’ve read, it seems like she didn’t really know how much she was going to hate it until she was already very pregnant with her first, Vicky. So I would believe the scene between her and Albert when he catches her jumping up and down after sexy times if she’d already had Vicky and knew what she was trying to prevent. Before that? I don’t think she knew.

Victoria & Albert were really *cough* active, though. And we know this because Victoria was the queen of TMI and pretty much told everyone what they were up to all the time. Also, one thing the show isn’t good at showing is that Victoria was really almost never alone. The scene where Lehzen walks in on the two of them in the morning and Victoria tells Albert that she sleeps in the room next door? True. Very true. Only there was a big hole in the wall (I imagine it being like a window, based on what I read) so that Victoria had very little privacy ever. I always did wonder how that worked, seeing as how much V&A “enjoyed” each other.

Anyhow, if I’m remembering correctly, Victoria was pregnant within two months of her wedding, so I’m interested to see how the show handles that.

This is one of my favorite paintings of Victoria & Albert because of how telling it is about Victoria’s attitude toward motherhood. V&A are obviously lovestruck, with eyes only for each other (and the painting is often cropped to show just this part). But way, way over on the other side of the canvas, playing with dead animals? That’s Vicky, their firstborn! And that says it all.

Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!