Category: Romance

Last spring, just before my late grandmother’s house was sold, my dad and I went through it one last time looking for mementos. After Mimi — that’s what we grandchildren called her — passed away in 1993, my Aunt Lil had moved in and spent the next 20 years hoarding, so the house now comprised a crazy mixture of things that were just as Mimi had left them mixed with Aunt Lil’s heaps of crafting supplies and flea-market finds (books, knickknacks, kitchenware, second-hand clothing, etc).

Sorting through what we considered a mix of trash and treasure was an emotional task — half exciting, half devastating. This house and what it held meant a lot to both my dad and me, and I for one had a sense of desperation. This was our last chance to grasp remnants of thousands of precious memories — what if we missed something important because it was under a pile of smelly old clothes, possibly infested with mice?

To keep up our spirits, I began, jokingly, to talk aloud to the spirit of my late grandmother: “Mimi, what do you want us to take?” My dad eventually joined in, addressing some of his late siblings. We did find some things that stirred strong memories — I took some of Mimi’s colorful tablecloths, and Dad took a camel seat one of his sisters had brought home from a visit to Morocco.

Cover, Eternally YoursThen, when we were about to leave, we asked the spirits for help one last time, and the lamp in the living room began to flicker.

Yes, it really did.

Was it a sign from Mimi? From one of Dad’s late siblings? If so, what were they saying? Their own goodbye to the house? Or to us, for the time being? My dad is a firm non-believer in ghosts, but even he commented that it was “weird.”

Anyway, it’s that time of year again when the veil between this world and the next is thin. If you’re in the mood for a ghost story, please check out Eternally Yours, a full-length contemporary romance featuring a Victorian house and a Victorian ghost. Hubby recently helped design a new cover for it, seen on the left here. (What do you think?)

Meanwhile, happy hauntings!

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Part of the romance of the English Regency lies in the elegant manners. People of the era seem more civil than we do today — at first glance, anyway. But in Jane Austen’s books you find aristocratic characters flinging insults at their less-privileged counterparts. We know from Georgette Heyer that if a debutante dances more than twice with the same guy in one night, she’s throwing herself at him (in the view of the ton) — and if she dances the waltz before getting permission from society leaders, well then she’s a strumpet.

It turns out that real fun comes in smashing up the formalities of the Regency. When Lizzie Bennet takes down Lady Catherine DeBourgh near the end of Pride and Prejudice, it’s one of the most satisfying moments in the book. (“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.” Strong stuff!)

One way I’ve had fun pushing back at the social restrictions of the Regency in my romance novels is through gender-role reversal. In For the Love of Lila, Lila Covington has received a male’s education but not a male’s privileged place in London society. She rebels, deciding to move in with a “freethinking” (female) cousin in Paris. When she gets involved with Tristan Wyndam, a barrister with an eye on a political career, he is more concerned with his reputation than she is with hers. (Good luck with that, Tristan!) Read a more detailed description and sample chapters on this page.

My time-travel, As You Wish, explores what happens when a modern American woman mixes it up with a guy from Regency England. David Traymore is used to society’s restrictions, but, as the illegitimate son of a marquess, he’s often gotten the short end of the stick. Leah Cantrell has had some rough patches, but as far as she’s concerned, the world is their oyster. For the book blurb and sample chapters, please click here.

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A Perfect Duet came about in response to an invitation from the original publisher Zebra to contribute to a “June Brides” Regency romance anthology. It’s the only time since school that I’ve written a story around someone else’s idea. (I suspect most writers have far more ideas than time to write them.) The setting, the era, and time of year were all predetermined, plus the story had to be novella-length and include a wedding. Funny how many details were laid out before I even started writing!

Since the story couldn’t be very long, I figured the hero and heroine should probably already know each other, just not realize that they had potential to become a couple. I decided to make music the thing that connected them, because music is so evocative emotionally and spiritually. (Only once in my life have I heard someone say they “don’t get” music — most of us are touched by one form or another.) The plot then grew around all those pieces.

Maybe because of the way A Perfect Duet came about, it doesn’t seem to have many autobiographical details injected in it. I do wish I had more background in classical music, so I could have enriched the piano-playing imagery with more technical detail, but I suppose the romance is the real focus, and in a novella, there’s only so much room for description anyway.

As for the origin of the “June Bride” tradition, you might think it’s just about good weather (in the northern hemisphere) — but May is nice here, too, and apparently, May is traditionally considered an inauspicious time to marry (though fine for handfasting). The consensus seems to be that the popularity of marrying in June goes back to the Romans, because Juno was the goddess of marriage, and the month of June was dedicated to her.

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I don’t like talking about works in progress — I guess I’m afraid of counting chickens before they’re hatched — but I’ve got three projects now that are all pretty close to being ready for self-publication, so here we go …

1. The rights are reverting to me from my previous publisher of a traditional Regency novella (about 20,000 words) that I wrote for an anthology with a “June brides” theme. Hubby and I have been formatting the text and creating a cover, and I think we’ll get the book up on Kindle and Nook sometime in the next week. (Woohoo!)

2. You may have read in my bio that I’ve been working on a contemporary mystery “with strong romantic elements” that revolves around an archaeological dig near Pompeii. The manuscript is complete, and several beta readers have read it. I’ve submitted that one to a few traditional publishers, but I’m impatient and if no one bites quickly, I’ll just self-pub. Since it’s a new work, I want to do a print version as well as ebooks — hope I can pull that off. Shooting to release it before the holidays.

3. I’m also writing a novella set in ancient Sumeria that’s kind of erotic(!). I’m not even sure where the line between romance and erotica is, but the plot does revolve around sex, so … there it is. The first draft is almost complete, and I’ll want to do a good second run through it, but I’d like to put it out there within a couple months.

Weird to have two novellas on the way with one a reserved Regency and one a wild ride!

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I wonder if other writers have trouble envisioning the rooms and floorplans of houses and other buildings in their work, because I do. Usually, I end up thinking about places I know in real life and move the characters around in those spaces.

Is that a ghost looking out that window in the middle?

The Victorian house in Eternally Yours plays a big role in the plot and needed to be described in detail. My brother and sister-in-law live in a Victorian twin, and I was able to draw on them for help when I got stuck. (In fact, the house on the cover of the ebook is on their street.)

While I was writing, I also attended a book-group meeting in a huge Victorian single that one of our members was house-sitting. The place was for sale — completely out of my league, but I grabbed one of the sale sheets for reference. That house inspired some of the more elaborate features in Lara Peale’s home: the dumb waiter, the pocket doors and some things I can’t mention without spoilers. (Ghosts?)

Now, I’m working on a book that involves extensive ruins near Pompeii, and the buildings are solely products of my imagination, but they seem kind of disorganized to me. Maybe by the time I tweak details and complete the book, I’ll have a clearer picture of them in my mind — but I wonder how important the minutiae are. Do most readers form a precise image of a fictional building from its description, or do they fill in their own details to form a unique mental picture?

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