Jilly: Menu Gourmand

In romance there are basically two kinds of series. The first, which Nancy discussed last Monday, focuses on a community: a family, or schoolfriends, or regimental comrades. In this kind of series, each book tells the love story of a different member of the community. It works really well in historical romance.

The other kind of series follows the adventures of one couple over multiple books and is a natural fit with fantasy and urban fantasy. That’s what I’m busy writing.

At its best, this kind of series is like a tasting menu from a really, really good restaurant. Delicious, ambitious, and not to be attempted by the faint-hearted.

  • Choose your cuisine.
  • Decide how many dishes you plan to offer.
  • Each dish should stand alone as a tasty, balanced, harmonious whole.
  • Every course should be delightfully different, offering contrasting flavors and ingredients but in a cohesive style.
  • The menu should flow, offering a natural progression leading the diner from piquant to savory to a delightful sweet finish and possibly some perfect petits-fours.
  • The content of each dish should be perfectly judged, leaving the diner neither over-hungry, nor sated too soon, but wanting more until the final satisfying conclusion.
  • The sum of the whole should be greater than each of the parts.

To whet your appetite, click here for the Land and Sea tasting menu from one of my favorite restaurants, The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye.

In literary terms, this kind of story is exemplified by Dorothy Dunnett’s Scottish Historical Lymond Chronicles, or Karen-Marie Moning’s Celtic urban fantasy Fever series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife books or more recently by Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy trilogy.

This is what I’m aiming for: something a little different, offering fine local ingredients combined with flair and executed with skill. If I get it right, hopefully my Menu Gourmand will be mouth-watering, memorable, and a treat worth saving up for 🙂 .

6 thoughts on “Jilly: Menu Gourmand

  1. Doesn’t that menu at the Three Chimneys look wonderful! And you’re right – – series should be built just like that. I look forward to reading all the dishy books in yours.

    • It’s been a year or two since I last visited, but The Three Chimneys is fabulous. Amazing food and comfortable rooms in a remote, spectacular setting. It’s a great story, too. The owners, Eddie and Shirley, lived on the outskirts of London and gambled everything to follow their dream of setting up a top-notch restaurant with rooms in the wilds of Skye, showcasing the best local produce. The place is famous now but they started from nothing. They built it, and people came. If/when I ever go back to my Scottish contemporary series, Robbie-the-chef’s book borrows some elements of Eddie and Shirley’s story.

      Fingers crossed I can construct a delicious, satisfying experience from Alexis’s adventures!

    • Excellent idea! They were fully booked when we took our trip to Skye earlier this year, which was probably just as well–saved me (us) from temptation.

  2. Mmmm! Sounds delicious. I think one could also structure series in the same way that one structures a collection of short stories — things that share a theme or share a universe. I think it would be challenging for one author to write to the same theme, but change out the characters and universes for new each time! I really like shared universes, especially when the characters only have very tangential relationships with each other from book to book. We might see the character from Book A on TV in Book B, for example. Just enough to see that she is well and happy and successful. I always think that’s quite cool.

  3. I haven’t read any urban fantasy for a long time, for no other reason than I just don’t make enough time for reading (hoping to rectify that in 2019). Thanks for the reminder that the multi-book romance arc is one of the things this genre does really well. I think Alexis’s story might be just the thing to get me re-immersed in the genre, so I’m anxiously awaiting your series!

    I hadn’t thought about the Fever series in a while. I stopped reading the series at the end of Mac’s 5-book arc. I’ve only read snippets from some of the later ones that were from other POVs (Dani, and maybe someone else?) and couldn’t get into them as much.

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