PLAY ROMANTIC PURSUIT!

Romantic Pursuit is a new romance trivia game in which readers of our blog will be asked a daily question. Readers will score one point for each correct answer. The reader with the most points at the end of the month will receive the grand prize (shown below).Romantic Pursuit Game2 1200x2004-138644976-0-0-1

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Historical Settings

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A Viking romance by Embracing Romance author Gina Conkle

I grew up reading historical romance during its heyday in the 1980s. I happened upon one of Jennifer Blake’s books while babysitting and I was hooked. Most of her books were set in New Orleans, but in one the heroine ventured all the way to the Ottoman Empire. I also read medievals by Jude Deveraux, and pretty much any other historical I could get my hands on. All of the romance I read into the 1990s included quite a bit of historical detail, which I loved, and the settings were quite varied. Though I didn’t notice it at the time as a reader, the varied locations and historical content of the books began to gradually shrink to the point where I was only reading Regency set romance. I didn’t mind so much because I love Regencies, and I was busy working and starting a family, so finding the time to read anything was a treat.

Embracing Romance author Sarah Ballance's most recent historical set in Salem, MA

Embracing Romance author Sarah Ballance’s most recent historical set in Salem, MA

When I decided to try my hand at writing historical romance, the first thing I wrote was a Regency, which was natural for me because it was what I had been reading, and it ended up being the first book I sold. But I studied Russian from the eighth grade through college, and also majored in international affairs with a minor in Russian history. So in addition to the Regencies I’m still writing,  I plotted out a series set in Imperial Russia during the reign of Alexander I, which coincides with the English Regency. Though I have not formally submitted the first book in the series to any agents or editors, I have spoken to several of them about it, and was dismayed to discover that they weren’t excited about it. Some said they would probably be willing to take a chance on it for their digital line, but they would never publish it in print. They almost all universally suggested that I should write it as historical fiction rather than romance.

Embracing Romance author Violetta Rand's Viking romance

Embracing Romance author Violetta Rand’s Viking romance

After I got over my shock, I realized that as a reader, I’ve never really differentiated historical fiction from historical romance (aside from being embarrassed by the old bodice ripper historical romance covers while reading in public). Nearly all of the historical fiction I read has romance at its heart, like The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons or the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Though I love the history, the relationship between Claire and Jamie is what keeps me coming back to the series over and over again.

I recently finished edits on my upcoming release (a Regency), and was unhappy when my editor cut out half of a chapter I wrote in which the hero and heroine are at the British Museum. It had taken me more than a week to research and write. Though she is also a history buff and said she hated to cut it, it had to go because it Just-A-Kiss_500slowed the story down and wasn’t relevant to the romance. This got me back to thinking about my Russian set historicals, and how because it’s an unfamiliar setting for many readers, it would require a lot more detail and description to ground the reader in the setting. So have I discovered the reason that non-Regency historicals aren’t as popular right now? Because contemporary romance is selling better than historicals, do we have to stick to familiar locations and very limited historical detail to attract readers?

What do you think? Should I take a chance on writing my Russian set books as romance, or write them as historical fiction? Would it matter to you?

Romantic Pursuit Question: What country do I want to set my next series in?

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Who me? Cook?

Red, White, and Screwed eBook Cover Extra LargeThe heroine of Red, White & Screwed, Glenda Nelson, has a man over for dinner on a work night. I know! What was she thinking!

“Come have dinner with us, Mr. Goodwich,” Sylvia (daughter) blurted out.

“Sylvia!” I said. “He probably has plans for dinner. At least something a little more exciting than the roast I threw in the oven this afternoon.”

 “I’d love a home-cooked meal,” Chris Goodwich said. “If it’s not inconvenient.”

“A roast?” Sylvia asked with a puzzled expression.

I knew she was thinking her mother had begun taking drugs. I hadn’t cooked a meal in so long that a spider had woven a dual-rack web in my oven. I didn’t leave all the take-out bags in my frig though. I put the last piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tupperware the night before. It gave some sick semblance that there were real leftovers from a real meal. The kind that actually did taste better the second day.

 I turned to Chris. “It’s not inconvenient at all.”

“Well, great. I’ll run down to my hotel and check out. Where do you live?”

I gave him directions and looked at Sylvia while Chris thanked her art teacher.

“A roast?” Sylvia repeated.

“I can cook when my back’s against the wall,” I said. “Come on, get your stuff and hurry up. We have to stop at the store and buy one.”

Sylvia gathered up her things, and we hustled to my car.

“How do you know this guy, Mom?”

“He’s the artist from the courthouse dedication the other night.”

“The one that asked you out? The one you thought was gay?”

“Yes.”

“That guy is not gay, Mom. And don’t roasts take, like, all day to cook?”

“Only the ones your grandmother makes.”

“Bubble gum meat? Those are roasts?”

“Bubble gum meat” was what my children and their cousins called every main course that came out of my mother’s oven approximately twelve hours after she put it in, never really knowing whether it came from a cow or a pig or a turkey but certain that one could chew for a really long time before swallowing or spitting it out.

“Come. Learn from the master,” I said to Sylvia as we ran from the car into the grocery store. Sixty bucks and twenty minutes later, we hurried into the house. Frank was at watching TV.

“What’s going on?” he asked amid a flurry of packages and shouting.

“Mom kind of has a date. He’s coming here for dinner,” Sylvia said to her brother. “Microwave or oven for this meat?”

“Oven. Turn that sucker to five-hundred degrees. Frank, run upstairs and wipe up the bathroom.”

“The bathroom?”

“Yes, the bathroom,” Sylvia prodded. “There are little wipes under the sink. Use those. Just don’t go from toilet to sink. Only sink to toilet.”

I looked at my daughter and thought about what a fine wife she would make. “Put on a clean shirt when you’re done, Frank, and close all of the bedroom doors.”

 I put the pre-mashed potatoes in the microwave and took the already-cooked roast out of its packaging. Congealed gunk went flying down the front of my red suit and down to my matching pumps.

“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” Sylvia laughed. “You’ve got to change anyway.”

“Why? I love this suit.”

“That outfit always reminded me of those suits that minister’s wife used to wear. The one you used to make fun of. You know. The one with all the mascara and blond hair.”

“Tammy Faye Baker?” I asked, horrified. “I look like Tammy Faye Baker?”

“Those little flower cut-outs in the lapel. The way that jacket sticks out over your hips. Gawd! Go change. I’ll handle dinner.”

I went to my bedroom past the bathroom door, where Frank was standing; disinfectant hanky in hand.

“I’m not lifting the seat, Mom. I’m not.”

I walked past him into the bathroom, pulled a clean wipe out of its container, lifted the toilet seat, and wiped the bowl. “You know, Frank, Sylvia and I sit down and pee. We’re not the ones who make the mess on the rim.”

Frank shrugged. “Who is this guy? Where did you meet him? What’s he like?”

“He’s the man who painted the new mural at the courthouse. He was giving a talk in Sylvia’s art class. He’s the one who asked me to go to the thing at Children’s. He’s very nice, Frank.” I walked past my son and had nearly made it to the relative safety of my bedroom when he called out.

“You thought John Marshall was a nice guy, too.”

I chose not to respond. Instead, I pulled on my jeans and a nice, new cream-colored sweater with a little half zipper and a stand-up collar. I ran a brush through my hair, reapplied lipstick and slipped into a pair of penny loafers. I wiped the gunk off of the red suit and put it in the bag for the Goodwill.

When I came downstairs, Sylvia was putting corn in the microwave, and Frank was setting the table. I went into the living room to gather last night’s glasses of warm Pepsi and pick potato chips off the carpet. No time for the vacuum, I thought. The doorbell rang, and I smoothed down my hair and took a deep breath.


 

I’m no cook either but I make these pumpkin muffins every year and they’re always a hit!

Pumpkin muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

1 & 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom of 12 muffin cups or use paper muffin cups. Mix all ingredients just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle 1/4 t. sugar over batter in each cup. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. 12 muffins.


 

Trivia Question: How much did it cost Glenda in the grocery store?

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Of Alphas and Edinburgh

Hopefully, you’re not thinking “Oh, no! Not another post about alpha heroes.” (That’s one reason I included Edinburgh in the title. Who can resist Scotland?) Anyway, if you’re tired of alphas, I apologize, but I’m doing a sort of informal survey here. I was emailing with an editor the other day, and she mentioned that the story in question needed an alpha hero, which got me thinking about my definition of an alpha — or maybe just a hero, period.

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This is Edinburgh Castle from below. Pretty daunting, isn’t it? It’s also my idea of an alpha hero—built on rock (and usually beautifully built as well). You can’t help but notice him. He’s tough and strong, an impregnable fortress (unless the heroine is laying siege). (Edinburgh Castle was successfully besieged, too, so this isn’t a terrible comparison.)

I’m not saying I don’t like reading about manly men, natural leaders, etc., but I like less showy, obvious heroes as much or more. Take a few examples from Georgette Heyer. The Duke of Avon in These Old Shades is my idea of an alpha. I love this story–Avon is delightfully ruthless. But I love Heyer’s quieter heroes just as much, such as—to give my favorite example—the Duke of Sale in The Foundling. He’s an untried, unassuming young man who in the course of the story shows what he’s really made of, and I think he’s just wonderful.

I really enjoy reading about heroes who take care of things in a quiet way. Who don’t necessarily attract awed attention (whether from respect, fear, admiration or whatever) the minute they walk into a room. Who have hidden depths of which they’re often unaware. Who stumble because of their fears, then pick themselves up and prove their worth in ways that perhaps no one sees but themselves.

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This photo was also taken during my recent visit to Edinburgh. I think it’s what is known as a wynd—a sort of alley between houses, often a way up and down a hill. (It may be a close—an alley leading to a specific place, where it ends—but let’s assume it’s a wynd. I took a bunch of notes in Edinburgh, but I’ve misplaced the notebook.) Anyway, this wynd is more like the quiet hero I like. Hidden depths, maybe quite a bit of darkness, but instead of a solid rock, he’s a process. Which is a weird sort of metaphor, I guess–but I must say I found the many wynds (or closes) along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh incredibly intriguing.

Anyway, I’m asking two things. 1) Have I misunderstood the definition of an alpha hero? 2) What do you look for in a romantic hero?

Oh, wait – I’m supposed to ask a trivia question, too. Here goes: Who is the hero of These Old Shades? Fill in your answer here.

Last but not least, for those of you in the UK and Australia, the Christmas anthology, Improper Christmas Nights, is now available. In contains two of my novellas, Under a Christmas Spell and Under a New Year’s Enchantment.

Improper Christmas Nights

I love this cover. She’s definitely harboring some very improper thoughts. ;~)

 

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