Nancy: Love for the Long Haul

kiss-on-windowBecause most of us here on the blog write (and read!) a lot of romance, the week of Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to talk about that core component of a romance story: love. More specifically, believable, happily ever after (HEA) love.

I thought about HEA love this past week when Maria V. Snyder posted on her FB page about the need for Valentine’s Day cards for 25+-year relationships, cards along the lines of “you annoy me and drive me crazy but I’m still willing to put up with it” or “we worked hard to mesh and I don’t want to train anyone else”. Yeah, those aren’t quite the messages we tend to read or write in our romance novels, but they are tongue-in-cheek reminders that there are real-life HEAs.

Back in the fiction world, though, that ‘believable HEA’ part isn’t always easy to write, and doesn’t always resonate with readers. For example, Continue reading

Nancy: The Duchess’s Christmas Wish

misteltoeFor last year’s Christmas story contribution, which I reposted a few weeks ago, I took you to modern-day Copenhagen to see how Nicky O spent his Christmas. (Hint: there were Danish Christmas hearts, a potential murder charge, and a very hot night with his married lover.) Ahem. This year’s installment, with a mischievous dowager duchess and a reluctant widower earl in 1870’s England, an excerpt from a future novella, seems downright tame by comparison. But there is that pesky little matter of the mistletoe…

Bennett Fairbank, Earl of Sandalwood, stood in front of the newly-stoked hearth in the study of his son-in-law’s country house and hoped very hard he had not allowed his beloved daughter Lucinda to marry badly. He’d been about to ask her about the inattentiveness and slowness of the servants in her new home when the maid had finally arrived with tea service.

“I’m so sorry.” Lucinda reached for his hands as soon as the maid had left the room and finally stood still long enough for Bennett to kiss her cheek. “We’ve had to hire so many new staff so quickly, what with fifteen guests arriving for the weekend, and Christmas preparations well underway.”

“I’d have thought your husband would have had a full staff ready for his new bride.”

Lucinda squeezed his hands. “Daddy, don’t—”

“Lady Lucinda, here you are!” A familiar voice grated on Bennett’s ears.

The Dowager Duchess of Bridgehampton sailed into the room, bringing with her a blast of cold air from the hallway that reminded Bennett of the long icicles hanging from the eaves, one more task unattended. He might have to take the new servants in hand himself.

“I’m perfectly fine,” the duchess told his daughter, and Bennett realized he’d missed the conversation. “You go see to His and Her Grace.”

Lucinda flashed a smile and dropped a quick curtsy before flying out of the room as fast as the duchess had flown in, ruining yet another chance for him to have a private word with his daughter.

“Uh-hm.” At the sound of the duchess’s throat clearing, Bennett glanced at her. The woman had ensconced herself on the black leather settee, her fitted green gown with its waves of ruffles on the skirt flowing around her like an emerald sea.

Bennett shook his head slightly, wondering when he’d last been distracted by the color of a lady’s gown and realizing it matched the green of her eyes and, more perplexingly, why these unbidden thoughts had come to him now, just as he was considering taking his leave to find Lucinda.

“Uh-HM.”

This time Bennett caught sight of the duchess’s face. Those dress-matching eyes bored into him and her mouth was set in a slight scowl, as it usually was when he was in her company. Continue reading

Nancy: The Subversively Feminist Genre

poldarkOh, the internet. Sometimes it leads us to deep, dark places we didn’t intend to go. Sometimes it lulls us into the false sense that we are reading something thoughtful and informative, only to lower the boom on our unsuspecting heads. Even when we do find something engaging and helpful, there is always the risk of falling into the pit of despair that is the comments section. And so it happened that I stumbled upon a nest of romance genre haters buried deep in a comment thread of an article that had nothing to do with the romance genre.

It all started innocently enough. I’d had a conversation with a friend about the Poldark series on PBS. I’d wanted to love this series, but after watching the first episode, I was left cold and abandoned it. After the conversation with my friend, I decided to do a little research about the series and see if there was something I’d missed or maybe some shift in future episodes that would make it worth another try. In my online quest for knowledge, I came upon an article that announced the shows creators and writers had decided to remove a controversial storyline in the books from the TV series, a storyline in which the protagonist rapes his former love interest. Yikes.

While not all protagonists are heroes, watchers had apparently latched onto Ross Poldark as an heroic lead, and keeping the rape scene would no doubt outrage and alienate viewers. I, for one, applaud that decision. ‘Heroes’ can be tortured, dark, and troubled yet still redeemable. But rapists? In 2016, probably not redeemable in the reading or viewing audience’s eyes.

That was all fine and good and gave me food for thought as I considered whether this series was worth my limited time and attention. Then I made a crucial mistake. (We’ve all done it.) I scrolled to the bottom of the article and started reading the comments. There were opinions about the show, overall praise for the showmakers’ decision to cut the rape scene, and a thread that pointed out that of course Poldark was rapey because romances are thinly-veiled rape fantasies and at least the TV series would clean up the mess created in the romance book series. WTFingF??? Continue reading

Jilly: Embarrassing

embarrassingWhen’s the last time you did something really stupid? Something so obviously dumb that when it’s pointed out to you, you can’t believe you did it?

That would be me this week.

I said in last week’s post that one of my main writing goals this year is to enter Alexis’s story in the RWA Golden Heart contest. I also wrote: I’ve entered Alexis in a few contests already, well-established ones with a track record of training their first round judges. I’ll use the feedback from those to consider what changes (if any) I’ll make to my opening pages. I don’t think major revisions will be needed…

Yeah, no. Thank goodness I did enter Alexis in those contests, because I got some feedback from one of them this week, and it was a *facepalm* experience.

One of the questions on the judges’ score sheet for this particular contest was: If I was judging this entry in the Golden Heart, I would give it a… The judge gave me 1 from a possible 10 points. In the comments she wrote: Continue reading

Michille: Read-A-Romance Month

August isRARM-2016-square-300x297 Read-A-Romance Month. What is that? According to the website it “was conceived and launched in 2013 by freelance writer and romance advocate Bobbi Dumas, after she realized there was no one place where the community celebrated romance all together, at one time, in a concentrated way. Read-A-Romance Month is cross-publisher and cross-genre, and represents a broad spectrum of authors and books.”  Continue reading

Jilly: Is It Better To Be Brave Than Kind?

Is It Better To Be Brave Than Kind?Women prefer bravery, courage and a willingness to take risks rather than kindness and altruism in their partners.

Do you agree?

The above statement is a direct quote from an academic paper about online dating, written by Professor Khalid Khan of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Sameer Chaudhry of the University of North Texas, published in the Journal of Evidence Based Medicine. I read about the paper in an article online this week and thought it sounded like story gold, so I took a closer look.

The paper’s stated objective is: to determine, for people seeking a date online, what activities and behaviours have an effect on the chances of converting electronic communication into a face-to-face meeting.

Or to paraphrase, how to win at online dating.

And since success at the preliminary stages of online dating is all about establishing a character Continue reading

Jilly: Romantic Gestures

Romantic GesturesHappy Valentine’s Day!

What’s the most romantic gesture, real or fictional, you can think of?

Credible, lasting, loving relationships are the sine qua non of the romance genre, and we romance writers spend a lot of mental energy trying to find moving ways to show what Michaeline described so perfectly yesterday: two people who find each other beautiful, and suitable, and who listen to each other and get each other. A meeting of both minds and hearts.

The three magic words are important, but they’re an empty promise unless they’re backed by concrete, specific actions.

In real life, the evidence suggests that many people believe throwing money at their beloved is the way to go – last year the estimated retail spending on Valentine’s day in the US alone was almost $19 billion – but in fiction, at least, the reader expects more.

Continue reading