Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

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Jilly: Cold Comfort Reading Recommendations

cold-comfortDo you have a favorite book or author you always read when you’re feeling under the weather?

I’ve been out of sorts for a day or two, but during Friday night I hatched out the mother of all colds. I’m not properly ill, just the usual—head full of cotton wool, sandpaper throat, sneezing the house down—and feeling very sorry for myself.

I had a couple of possible posts in mind for today.

My first topic was the preponderance of gratuitous sex scenes in the mainstream romantic fiction I’ve been reading lately. I love a well-written sex scene, but I expect it to follow the same rules as any other scene–it should be particular to the characters and it has to move the story. Two people repeatedly having a good time together, however inventive they may be, does not of itself move the story forward. It takes up pages of real estate that could better have been used to make the relationship and eventual HEA between the H&H unique and unforgettable.

The alternative was to discuss a romance I just started. It’s standard paranormal romance, not erotica. I’ve only read a chapter or two, but it’s a continuation of a series so I’m already familiar with the characters. I’m reading on, because I like the author, but I’m filled with trepidation because there’s a huge gap in age, experience and status between the H&H. He’s mid-forties, a good guy in a dominant leadership position. He’s freaked out to find himself head over heels in lust with a nineteen year-old girl Continue reading

Jilly: Digging Deeper

Do you have a specialist subject or some arcane body of knowledge? Have you ever seen it used to power a novel? Did the author get it right? Does it affect how you feel about their writing in general?

This morning I’ve been reading the comments on one of my favorite blogs with a mixture of awe and fascination.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of Ilona Andrews’ writing, and one of my favorite free weekend treats is to read the latest installment of One Fell Sweep, the third book in their self-published Innkeeper Chronicles (click here to read my thoughts on the second book, Sweep In Peace). The books are posted free as a weekly serial Continue reading

Michaeline: Summer Colds

Lobby Card for a 1921 movie with a man embracing a reluctant woman, and four cartoon horsemen of the apocalypse riding their way around the corner.

Each kiss flamed with danger! Little did he know I WAS Plague embodied. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’d planned to talk about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse this weekend, but I’ve managed to contract a summer cold. I’ve cycled through Famine, my sinuses are at War with each other, Death seems more like a kind friend instead of a fearsome spectre, and for the life of me, I can’t remember the other horseman.

Oh, yeah. Plague. Got that one covered, too. Continue reading

Jilly: Heroines in Disguise

Heroines in DisguiseWhere do you stand on heroines who pass as boys?

Out of nowhere in particular the Girls in the Basement decided that Alexis, the heroine of my current WIP, was brought up as a boy and is passing as one when the hero and his posse first meet her, because of Reasons deeply rooted in her backstory.

This is, of course, a classic trope, and not only in romance – where would Shakespeare have been without it? I’m fine with that except it means I have to work extra hard to avoid borrowing from the canon, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how Alexis could have done it and what it would take to sustain the deception over a long period. I love fictional heroines like Prudence Merriott, the cross-dressing Jacobite adventurer from Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders, but I’m even more interested in learning from real life.

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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.

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