Romancing The Romance Authors with… Frances Mensah Williams

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Delighted to welcome my latest guest to the blog to chat about writing romance and who is the perfect hero. This week’s guest is author… Frances Mensah Williams.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

My books fall into the category of contemporary women’s commercial fiction and to date, I have three published novels and two novellas. I’m incredibly excited to share that my next book will be published in Summer 2022!. My novels are influenced by my African ancestry and the settings include both London and modern-day Ghana. 

Why romance?

Why not romance? I mean, who doesn’t love a happy ending? I think romantic fiction is an incredibly optimistic and positive genre of writing and one which suits my world view. I also find that romantic relationships are a fantastic and relatable vehicle for showing how women encounter challenges, face their personal demons, and grow as people. Typically with my heroines – both the main and often the secondary characters in the story – their romantic relationships become the tests that help them discover who they are, what they’re made of, and what – or who – they really want in life.

What inspires your stories?

Like so many writers, my ideas can appear quite randomly! The idea for one of my novellas came as I was coming out of the supermarket into the car park and saw a woman driving in, circling the parking bays, and then almost immediately driving out! I have had some brilliant plot ideas while I’m taking a walk or in the shower (which can be awkward when you’re desperate to write down the idea before you forget!). I’m also inspired by song lyrics or a bit of shameless eavesdropping. 

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I have to say that for me romance comes in many flavours. For example, I love the African American author Terry McMillan for her insightful relationship-driven novels, Jilly Cooper and Penny Vincenzi for their huge casts and sweeping sagas, Lesley Lokko for her vivid international settings, Dorothy Koomson for her romance tinted thrillers, and Marian Keyes for her funny, family-driven love stories. Then there’s Jane Green, Jill Mansell, Milly Cooper… I could go on.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

That’s a tough question but I would probably recommend Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan. Set in America, it follows the love lives of four single girlfriends and shines a painfully humorous spotlight on the challenges of having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince. I also love that all four women at the centre of the story are women of colour. 

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When the men in their lives prove less than reliable, Savannah, Bernadine, Gloria, and Robin find new strength through a rare and enlightening friendship as they struggle to regain stability and an identity they don’t have to share with anyone. Because for the first time in a long time, their dreams are finally OFF hold….

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Does the Duke of Hastings from the Bridgerton novels, as depicted on Netflix, count? Well, if I could transport him into the present day, visions of a dinner for two as the sun sets over a deserted beach come to mind…

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

What I love about the RNA is that it is first and foremost a community. As a writer of romantic fiction, you can feel a bit like the neglected stepchild in the hierarchy of publishing. Writing romantic fiction as a black woman can make you feel like the invisible neglected stepchild! But, in joining the RNA, I found a community that immediately felt welcoming and inclusive. I’m a member of a couple of the RNA groups and continue to learn so much from the other members who are incredibly generous with their advice and support. If you want to know more about independent publishing or tackling challenges with your plot, characterization – or any aspect of your craft as a writer – the RNA network is invaluable.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

It’s probably a good idea to make sure you know the plot rules of the romance game and remember that while your hero/heroine will – and should – struggle, your goal as a writer is to help them reach their happy place. In doing so, be mindful to focus as much on your protagonist’s internal journey as on their external struggles. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

It’s called Imperfect Arrangements and was published in March 2020. It’s the story of three couples who struggle with their less than perfect romantic arrangements. Best friends Lyla, Maku and Theresa have a rock-solid friendship – it’s the other relationships in their lives that are causing them heartache. When ambitious Theresa moves with her husband to Accra, the cosmopolitan capital of Ghana, not only does it show up the cracks in her seemingly perfect relationship, but it also forces her friends look more closely at their lives and choices. Set in contemporary Ghana, it’s a story full of twists and turns, drama and humour. The novel also shows the perspectives of the men in the relationships, which was an interesting challenge! If you enjoy female-centred dramas, I hope you’ll give this a try. 

You can buy a copy of Imperfect Arrangements here.

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There are two sides to every story…

In the sun-soaked capital of Ghana, best friends Theresa, Maku and Lyla struggle with the arrangements that define their relationships. Ambitious, single-minded Theresa has gambled everything to move with her loving husband Tyler from London to cosmopolitan Accra. Feisty Maku is desperate for professional recognition – and her dream white wedding.  Churchgoing Lyla married Kwesi in haste, but while she battles her growing attraction to the mysterious Reuben, her husband has bitten off more than he can chew with his latest mistress.

Facing lies, betrayal, and shattered illusions, each couple must confront the truth of who they have become and the arrangements they have enabled. Against the backdrop of a shifting culture, each woman must decide what – and who – she is willing to sacrifice for the perfect marriage.

About the Author

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Frances is a British-Ghanaian author. Her debut novel, the romantic comedy From Pasta to Pigfoot which follows hapless PA Faye Bonsu in her search for love and identity, went straight to no. 23 of WH Smith Travel’s Top 100 Summer Reads.  It was followed by From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings. Frances is also the author of the novel Imperfect Arrangements and a novella series (Marula Heights Romances) which includes Sweet Mercy and River Wild. An entrepreneur, consultant and executive coach, Frances has led numerous international skills and business development projects, receiving a CBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 2020 New Year Honours List for her services. Frances’s non-fiction books are Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals and I Want to Work in Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent. 

Connect with Frances:

Website: www.francesmensahwilliams.com

Facebook: Frances Mensah Williams

Twitter: @FrancesMensahW

Instagram: @francesmensahw

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Catherine Kullmann

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In the wake of the latest fantastic RNA Conference, it’s time to chat a bit more about romance writing with my latest love scribe, author… Catherine Kullmann.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

My novels are set in the extended Regency period, between 1803 and 1830, but mainly during the Regency itself (1811-1820). They are set against a background of the offstage Napoleonic wars and focus on how these wars affected the women left behind and who frequently had to fend for themselves with a patriarchal system.

Why romance?

There are two aspects to romance, I think. One is the fairy-tale one that takes us out of ourselves, assures us that everything will get better and promises us a happy end and happy-ever-after with the love of our lives. This is the romance that we get to know first, as children. As adults we still return to it, to escape from our mundane lives or help us get through a bad patch.

The other aspect is the love story. What is it that makes us choose that person and no other? In getting to know them, we must also get to know ourselves. A love story is the process of creating one out of two, in forging a new union. It is something that happens every day, everywhere and yet each one is unique.

What inspires your stories?

Frequently just a simple “what if?’ or ‘what happened then?’ I like to take my stories further, explore what happened after the first ‘happy end’, as in Perception & Illusion. In The Murmur of Masks, I asked myself ‘what if a marriage of convenience does not turn into a love match?’ My novels are all set in the same world, and some characters take on a life of their own, like the Duchess of Gracechurch who has her own book in The Duke’s Regret. One sentence in Perception & Illusion had me write The Murmur of Masks. Lallie and Olivia are at a masquerade. Lallie goes home at midnight, Olivia stays. I wanted to know what happened then.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

For regency, Georgette Heyer who created the genre and the late Jo Beverly who sadly left us far too soon. Nalini Singh writes excellent paranormal/urban fantasy romance. Shapeshifters, angels and vampires are a refreshing change after I have spent the day immersed in the Regency world.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

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Vernon Alverstoke sees no reason to put himself out for anyone.

But when a distant connection asks for help, he is quickly plunged into one drama after another by the disorderly Merriville family.

Surprisingly, he finds himself far from bored – especially when he encounters their strong-minded daughter, Frederica.

However, she seems far more concerned with her family’s welfare than his romantic advances…

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

The Marquis of Alverstoke, the hero of Frederica. Assuming it is after 1816, we would drive in his curricle to his secluded shooting lodge where we would be undisturbed except for the discreet servants who would provide delicious meals whenever we wanted them. If we had longer, for we must allow for Regency travel times, we would take his yacht to France and on to Paris where we would have a beautiful first floor apartment on the île Saint-Louis.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

My favourite thing is the camaraderie. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. I gained most from my membership in the NWS. My writing was all over the place, and my first reader gave me pages of most helpful advice but, most importantly, said ‘you have a voice’. That encouraged me to keep going.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

See if you can get a place in the NWS.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest novel is A Comfortable Alliance, set in 1821/22. You can buy a copy here.

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Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors.

Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?

When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony

Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.

But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?

About the Author

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Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Widowed, she has three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

She is the author of The Murmur of Masks, Perception & Illusion, A Suggestion of Scandal, The Duke’s Regret, The Potential for Love  and A Comfortable Alliance

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Catherine also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: https://www.catherinekullmann.com/

Facebook: Catherine Kullmann Author

Twitter: @CKullmannAuthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Helga Jensen-Forde

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Today I am delighted to be chatting about books, writing, and romance writing in particular, with author… Helga Jensen-Forde.

Welcome to the blog, Helga. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I have just published my first romantic comedy called Twice in a Lifetime, with my second novel due out next year. I am also about to complete a Creative Writing MA at Bath Spa University. 

Why romance? 

The world can be a stressful place. I much prefer to live in a world of romance and happiness and dreams coming true, and through my stories, I try to make this happen. I like to take my reader to a place full of fun, romance and happiness. 

What inspires your stories?

My inspiration comes typically from something I have experienced or seen, and I will then elaborate on that teeny idea. I travelled the world as cabin crew, and seeing all these different places and things that happened gave me lots of inspiration. 

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present? 

This is a hard one, as I love so many. Narrowing down a few authors is a tough task as there are just too many to mention! I adore Jill Mansell’s books, also Julie Caplin, Pernille Hughes and Natalie Normann.

(Some of my favourites in there too!) If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

This is a tricky question as so many are fantastic. However, I do love The Little Café in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin. All of Julie’s books are so sweet, and I love her writing style. 

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Welcome to the little cafe in Copenhagen where the smell of cinnamon fills the air, the hot chocolate is as smooth as silk and romance is just around the corner…

Publicist Kate Sinclair’s life in London is everything she thought she wanted: success, glamour and a charming boyfriend. Until that boyfriend goes behind her back and snatches a much sought-after promotion from her. Heartbroken and questioning everything, Kate needs to escape.

From candles and cosy nights in to romantic late-night walks through the beautiful cobbled streets of Copenhagen, Kate discovers how to live life ‘the Danish way’. Can the secrets of hygge and happiness lead her to her own happily-ever-after?

Excellent choice. Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

That would most definitely be Jamie in Twice in a Lifetime. He is a true gentleman who would pick you up from home and whisk you away somewhere for a nice meal. If it was a whole weekend away, we would stay in a beautiful country hotel and go on a picnic, with a bottle of champagne, some sausage rolls (of course) and perhaps some smoked salmon. The sun would hopefully be shining and we would chat on our picnic blanket while sipping (or even guzzling!) champagne. It really would be the perfect weekend.  

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership? 

The RNA is one of the best organisations you could ever join. From joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and having feedback on my initial draft to the opportunities to meet agents and publishers is just fantastic. The members are also a lovely bunch, and I have made so many friends who are at different stages of their writing careers. Perhaps my one favourite things, though, is meeting like-minded people and industry specialists. 

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre? 

Research the genre, read lots of similar books and don’t give up. Keep writing, and one day you will eventually succeed. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Twice in a Lifetime is a romantic comedy with a slightly older protagonist. I wanted to show that women in their 40s and 50s can have fun too. Amelia is sadly betrayed by her husband who runs off with ‘Tanja Tart’. She needs some magic back in her life. So, when she finds the phone number that was given to her twenty years ago by a handsome stranger in New York, Amelia wonders whether he might be The One That Got Away. You can buy it as an ebook here.

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Amelia might have met The One. But is she twenty years too late?

After her husband left her out of the blue, the only relationship 48-year-old Amelia Simpson has enjoyed recently is with Nutella and Pinot Grigio. While her 8-year-old twin boys, Jasper and Rupert, keep her busy, Amelia dreams of a life more than washing muddy rugby kits and weekly chats with best friends Sian and Jamie.

Amelia needs some magic back in her life – but magic seems in short supply in her small Welsh town. So when she finds the phone number that was given to her twenty years ago by a handsome stranger in New York, Amelia wonders whether he might be The One That Got Away.

But when Sian takes matters into her own hands, launching a worldwide hunt to find the handsome stranger Amelia met outside Tiffany’s two decades ago, Amelia finds herself on a flight to the Big Apple to reconnect with her ‘Perfect Patrick’.

But as the two explore the sights of NYC, has Amelia reconnected with The One? Or will she discover that the sparkle she was missing is actually closer to home?

About the Author

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Helga Jensen is an award-winning British/Danish author and journalist. Her debut novel was a winning entry in the 2017 Montegrappa First Fiction competition at Dubai’s Emirates Literary Festival. Helga is currently working on her second book and a Creative Writing MA, whilst continuing to work as a freelance journalist. Having lived in the Middle East for the past 25 years, the former airline stewardess is now in the UK to complete her MA before deciding where to move next. She lives with her wonderful family, which includes a crazy Labradoodle who never stops making her laugh. Helga loves chocolate, wine, nice people and everything dog related. When she isn’t writing she is probably eating.

Connect with Helga:

Facebook: Helga Jensen

Twitter: @HelgaJensenF

Instagram @helgajensenauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Anise Eden

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Today I am delighted to be joined on the blog for Romancing The Romance Authors by author, Anise Eden, who is chatting all things romance writing.

Welcome, Anise, tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Julie, thank you so much for having me! It’s an honour to be here.

I write edge-of-your-seat, deeply emotional suspense novels with romantic elements and laugh-out-loud moments. I enjoy writing series that follow one couple throughout, allowing their relationships to grow and develop over several books. Mental health themes often appear in my work, since I have experience as both a psychotherapist and a patient. I consider my job well done when people tell me they stayed up way too late reading my books, and then demand sequels! 

My first foray into writing was a paranormal romance trilogy, The Healing Edge Series, published by Diversion Books. Now, I am writing for Tangled Tree Publishing, with my fourth novel, Dead Sound, releasing on October 12. I’m working on the sequel, Dead Keen, as we speak.

Why romance?

When I wrote my debut novel, I didn’t know I was writing a romance. I’d only read one romance novel before in my life, back in college. I just wrote the book that was begging to come out, and then consulted some knowledgeable friends who told me I’d written a paranormal romance novel. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the romance and suspense/thriller genres, so I have a much better handle on what I’m writing! Everyone’s creative process is different, though, and for me, I can’t write to a “formula,” so to speak. I have to simply write what’s in me to write, and find the appropriate label for it later, tweaking as necessary. I’d say the fact that all of my books so far have included romantic elements is a reflection of the fact that I am myself a hopeless romantic who is heavily focused on matters of the heart. 

What inspires your stories?

That varies wildly. My debut novel, All the Broken Places, started out as a mashup between exploring my own struggles with anxiety and wondering about the origins of paranormal abilities. Once the initial idea appears, the characters take over, and they can lead me anywhere. For example, my upcoming novel, Dead Sound, originated from a question that formed in my mind: how would an Old Testament-style prophet be greeted if they appeared in the 21st century? Before I knew it, I was writing a thriller. The creative process is truly a mystery.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I’m a relative newcomer to the genre, having just discovered it after I was told my first book was a romance novel. I thought, “If that’s what I’m writing, I should probably familiarize myself.” Now I’m completely hooked and in a process of discovery! The first romance series I devoured were by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse) and Kate Elliott (Spiritwalker). Favourite authors I’m currently reading are Rosanna Leo (whose entire back catalogue I’ve now read), Talia Hibbert, and Sariah Wilson. 

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

I’m not sure how the author would categorize her book, but I would recommend Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love a book that is beautifully written and has a little bit of everything, and Outlander definitely fits that description. An epic love story, history, action, adventure, science fiction, medicine—and that’s just for starters. Plus, Gabaldon is an incredibly gifted artist with a poetic flair. Oh, and bonus: the TV series inspired by her books is pure catnip!

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What if your future lay in the past?

1946, and Claire Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband Frank. It’s a second honeymoon, a chance to re-establish their loving marriage. But one afternoon, Claire walks through a circle of standing stones and vanishes into 1743, where the first person she meets is a British army officer – her husband’s six-times great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Black Jack Randall is not the man his descendant is, and while trying to escape him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Scottish outlaws, and finds herself a Sassenach – an outlander – in danger from both Jacobites and Redcoats.

Marooned amid danger, passion and violence, her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Continuing on the Outlander theme, while this weekend wouldn’t be romantic (I mean, she’s SO taken!), I’d love to spend a couple of days with heroine Claire Fraser showing me around 18th century Paris. With her quick wit, fierce heart, and dry sense of humour, I think she’d be fabulous company. I also really want to meet Bouton, the dog that works at the hospital. And if her dressmaker could fit me in, all the better!

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I relocated from the US to Ireland three years ago, and joining the RNA has been a fabulous opportunity to connect with writers and become part of the community in my new home. While in lockdown, I was able to join a video call with the Irish chapter, and it was delightful to meet with fellow area romance writers. I am eager to attend a chapter meeting in person when it becomes possible, and I look forward to the next RNA conference. There is nothing quite as much fun as “geeking out” with people who love to talk writing, publishing, and romance as much as I do!

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I would share one of my favourite quotes by Rumi, which has been a guiding light for me in creative pursuits: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will never lead you astray.”

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My new thriller, Dead Sound, was so much fun to write! It draws a lot on things I know about personally, such as working in a hospital setting, life in Washington DC, and Irish leading men (my husband is from Cork). It also dives into some of the topics I most love to explore, from the worlds of medicine and mental health to the complex relationships between power and truth. You can pre-order a copy here.

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The tender scars on her abdomen throb as memories of the attack come rushing back, flooding her mind and sending her heart racing…

Psychotherapist Neve Keane knew that returning to work at the hospital after being stabbed by a patient would be difficult. But entering her unit only to be surrounded by a crowd of people claiming they need her help to stop the apocalypse—that’s more than she bargained for.

When the crowd’s leader turns out to be a mutual patient of Neve and her best friend, streetwise Irish doctor Cornelius O’Brien, they are both pulled into a Byzantine plot that transforms Capitol Hill General into a dangerous place where threats and betrayals lurk around every corner.

Then their mutual patient falls into a mysterious coma, and the clues he left behind lead Neve and Cornelius straight into Washington, DC’s ugly underbelly, a world of shadowy political forces with long arms and deadly intentions.

As they race to unravel the threads of a sinister conspiracy that leads from their hospital all the way to the White House, Neve and Cornelius realize they might be fighting to stop the end of the world, after all—provided they can survive the week with targets on their backs.

About the Author

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Author photo © OC Photography

Following the advice to “write what you know,” ANISE EDEN is the author of suspense novels with thriller, romance, and paranormal elements. Her qualifications include growing up in countryside where rattlesnakes and cougars jumped out of nowhere; living with family members who are a little bit psychic; and having her life saved on more than one occasion by her SEAL Team of guardian angels.
After college, Anise soaked up life in NYC, Washington DC, and points in between. She tried her hand at grooming horses, scooping ice cream, and designing billboards before returning to school to become a psychotherapist. Though she left that field after many rewarding years, Anise remains a passionate mental health advocate.
Continuing her real-life adventures, Anise is now exploring life in Ireland with her husband and their small, benevolent canine dictator. While her books have won multiple awards, Anise’s propensity for dropping glass objects while barefoot makes it highly likely that her next win will be a Darwin Award.
Dead Sound was the Winner of the 2019 IRWA Golden Opportunity Contest in Romantic Suspense.
Connect with Anise:
Facebook: Anise Eden
Twitter: @aniseeden
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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Jean Fullerton

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I am very excited today to be discussing romance writing with RNA stalwart, doyenne of the East End saga and all-round fabulous lady, Jean Fullerton.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Well, firstly thank you for asking me to be a guest on your blog, Julie. I write family sagas and all seventeen of them are set in the overcrowded and impoverished streets surrounding the London Docks in the East End, where I come from.

Why romance?

I’ve devoured historical romance ever since I was a teenager so when I started writing there was no question that I would write anything other than historical romance. 

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of things but mainly the vibrant working-class area where I was born and raised and my large and boisterous East End family.  

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Although Katherine by Anya Seton is as old as I am, it and she are still my favourite book and author. I also like her books the Winthrop Woman, Avalon and Green Darkness. I like historical romance which is accurate, so I also read Elizabeth Chadwick and Nicola Cornick but as long as it’s a good story I’m happy to read it.    

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

I’m afraid it would have to be Katherine by Anya Seton as it was the book that started me on this incredible journey. The prose is somewhat old-fashioned, but the story is cracking and so romantic. 

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Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.

Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.

A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Well firstly as I am the heroine in all my books it’s only the hero we have to worry about. I’d take Patrick Nolan from my Nolan Family Victorian series, who looks remarkably like Aidan Turner.  We’d go to a castle somewhere, but I couldn’t possibly tell you what we’d do as my husband might read this blog.  

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

Oh, where do I start? Firstly, as an unpublished author it gave me access to the world of publishing, which I had no knowledge of. It helped me hone my craft via the wonderful New Writers’ Scheme. It’s given me a great deal of fun at the meetings and conferences but without a doubt the greatest thing it’s given me is wonderful writer friends.  

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Set yourself a daily or weekly target and get the words down. Don’t worry if they aren’t quite right you can always go back and fix that. Learn your craft. Writing an 80000 + word book is not easy so stick at it.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest novel A Ration Book Daughter is the fifth in my WW2 Ration Book series but can be read as a standalone novel. You can buy a copy here, along with the previous books in the series.

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In the darkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.

Cathy Brogan was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy, a true Brogan daughter, stays strong for her beloved little son Peter.

When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. In the meantime, she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. He is kind, clever and thoughtful; their mutual attraction is instant. But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz raging on over London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves? 

Where can readers find out more about you and your East End books.

On my website which has them all listed, and if readers subscribe to my monthly newsletter not only do they receive a free short story but also have a chance to win advance copies of my books and other prizes.

About the Author

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Born and bred in East London Jean was a District Nurse by trade, serving for five years as NHS manager with responsibility for six community clinics and 200+ staff and finished her twenty-five-year nursing career as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies in a London University.

She joined the NWS 2003 and became a full member in 2006 after winning the Harry Bowling Prize. She had published seventeen sagas over three series, all set in East London and has books with both Orion and Atlantic.

An experiences public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, Jean has been an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships for the past fifteen years.

A Ration Book Daughter out now in supermarkets, bookshops, Kindle and audio.  

Connect with Jean:

Website: http://jeanfullerton.com/

Facebook: Jean Fullerton

Twitter:  @JeanFullerton_

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Elisabeth Hobbes

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Today I am delighted to welcome author, Elisabeth Hobbes, to the blog to discuss how and why she writes about romance.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write historical romance with a touch of intrigue and quite gritty, especially in my Medievals.  My characters tend to be ordinary people rather than nobility.

I’ve published ten Historical Romances with Mills & Boon covering the Medieval to Victorian periods, and a Second World War Romantic Historical with One More Chapter.  I have further books coming out with them both publishers this year.  I’m really enjoying the opportunity to explore the relationship between supporting characters as well as the romantic couple. My current WIP is set in Occupied Paris and focuses as much on the relationship between the two female main characters as it does with their respective love interests.

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Why romance?

Because any other genre, whether Historical, Mystery or Fantasy is enriched by a strengthening relationship between characters and a HEA. In fact some of my favourite authors mix romance in with their stories but would never be described as such. It’s pure escapism (I’ve never understood why that gets used as a pejorative) and I love the emotional attachment to characters you get as a reader. 

What inspires your stories? 

It’s never the same thing twice. A picture or an object can spark inspiration.  Sometimes it’s a place. Uncovering the Merchant’s Secret was inspired by one of my trips to Brittany and reading about the shipwrecks off the coast. It seemed such a wonderful setting.  I inadvertently wrote a trilogy involving one family after readers wanted to know what happened to the villain in The Blacksmith’s Wife after he walked out of that story. He became the hero of Redeeming the Rogue Knight. My Victorian marriage of convenience story The Silk Merchant’s Convenient Wife grew out of a workshopping session at the RNA conference where we were given a scenario to work with.

The inspiration for my recent release The Secret Agent came from watching Cabaret and imagining what it would be like to be part of the glamorous but seedy world of the clubs. My heroine Sylvie was inspired by some of the real life heroines who worked for the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, living undercover in occupied Europe and risking their lives daily to help free Europe.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I have to say Jane Austen or course.  I can read Persuasion over and over without getting bored. As I’ve said, I love stories where there are other elements besides Romance. Two of my favourite couples across any genre are Sam Vimes and Lady Sybli from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and M. Didius Falco and Helena Justina from Lindsay Davis’ Roman detective series.

I’m very lucky to have some close friends who write romance (and who I have met through the RNA) so I’m not going to choose a favourite. We all hang out on Facebook in the Unlaced Historical Romance Group so come say hello there.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Of mine I’d say The Secret Agent I miss travelling and it is set in Nantes which is one of my favourite cities which I think everyone should visit.

As I’ve said above though, I adore Persuasion and I think everyone should read that. I love a second chance story.

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What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances.

A woman of no importance, she manoeuvres in her restricted circumstances as her long-time love Captain Wentworth did in the wars. Even though she is nearly thirty, well past the sell-by bloom of youth, Austen makes her win out for herself and for others like herself, in a regenerated society.

Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel, even picking it apart for my English Lit A level didn’t manage to kill my love for it! Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I’ve just taken up paddleboarding so I’d like Captain Frederick Wentworth to get my sea legs sorted out on a weekend in Brittany. Once we’d spent an hour or so drying off on the beach we would drive in an open top classic of some sort to Concarneau which is a beautiful medieval walled town on the coast. We’d get Vietnamese caramel pork and kouign amann syrup cakes from the weekly market and sit on the battlements looking at the sea with a couple of mojitos. Can you tell I’m missing France at all!

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The sense of community is something else. I’ve met so many wonderful people who are incredibly generous with their time and expertise. I’ve made some great friends (who I would probably drag for coffee if we lived closer).

In terms of my career, I was able to take advantage of a 1-1 at the conference a couple of years ago and was picked up by Charlotte from One More Chapter. I sent her my opening chapters and proposal for the piece I won the Elizabeth Goudge trophy for and she offered me a two-book contract.  That book will be coming out later this year or early 2022.

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What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Read as many other authors as you can. One of the best books on writing romance I have come across is Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.

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What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.

I know you said one but I have to say, join the RNA and attend a conference if you get the opportunity. Being surrounded by like-minded people who understand what it is like to spend hours trying to find the perfect word while the washing piles up is a great feeling.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

The Secret Agent is set in Occupied Nantes and tells the story of Sylvie, a half French, half English woman who left France aged 14 after the death of her cabaret dancer mother.  She is recruited by SOE to work as a dancer in a nightclub while working undercover as a courier liaising with the French Resistance. She catches the eye of Dieter, a young German civil servant who she is instructed to cultivate in order to discover information.  In turn Sylvie is attracted to the club’s enigmatic pianist, Felix.  It’s partly a coming-of-age story as Sylvie has never fitted in to life in England with her straight-laced father and stepmother.  As Sylvie becomes involved in the life of the club she discovers the side of herself she had suppressed as well as a ‘found family’ that her relationship with Dieter puts into jeopardy. You can buy it in all formats here.

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Dropping silently behind enemy lines, Sylvia Crichton, codename Monique, is determined to fight for the country of her birth and save it from its Nazi stranglehold.

As one of the dancers at the nightclub Mirabelle, Sylvie’s mission is to entertain the club’s German clientele and learn their secrets. In a world of deception and lies, she can trust no one. Not even Mirabelle’s enigmatic piano player Felix… a part of the resistance or a collaborator?

But despite her SOE training, nothing can prepare Sylvie for the horrors she is about to face – or the pain of losing those she grows closer to undercover…

About the Author

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Elisabeth’s writing career began when she entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013.  She finished in third place and was offered a two-book contract and consequently had to admit this was why the house was such a tip.  Since then she has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon covering the Medieval period to Victorian England and a Second World War romantic historical with One More Chapter.

Elisabeth teaches Reception four days a week but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike four-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them.  When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.  She loves historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers and romance, and has a fondness for dark haired, bearded heroes.

Elisabeth enjoys skiing, singing, and exploring tourist attractions with her family.  Her children are resigned to spending their weekends visiting the past while she leans too far over battlements to get photos.  She loves hot and sour soup and ginger mojitos – but not at the same time.

She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

Connect with Elisabeth:

Website: https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk/

Facebook: ElisabethHobbes

Twitter: @ElisabethHobbes

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Leonie Mack

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This week on Romancing The Romance Authors, I am delighted to be quizzing author, Leonie Mack, on writing romance and what romantic fiction means to her.

Welcome to the blog, Leonie. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write romantic comedies with big feelings and international locations. My second book, Italy Ever After came out on 11 May. My debut, My Christmas Number One was picked up by Boldwood Books in 2020 and released for Christmas 2020.

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Why romance?

The simple answer is: romance is what I most like to read. I love a story that focuses on a character’s internal journey to a place where they can commit to someone they love.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of different sparks of inspiration go into each story. For Italy Ever After, for instance, the character of Nick Romano was inspired by a time I walked past a primary school and heard a violin ensemble rehearsing. I imagined the teacher and there was Nick. I wanted to write a real getaway, an escape from daily life, so I chose a place that had made a real impression on me and then I had Lake Garda. The rest of the story fell into place, when you have a teacher and a lake – perfect for a music camp.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I used to read every Nora Roberts book I could get my hands on and her writing style greatly influenced mine. I also lapped up the Bridgerton books (back in the 2000s, when they were only books!) and others by Julia Quinn. I love that romantic comedies are so popular at the moment and some of my favourites have been by Mia Sosa and Sally Thorne and I love Lucy Keeling’s romcoms set in Manchester.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Ooh, that’s a really difficult question for an author. I deal in complexity! But I’d probably recommend The Hating Game. It’s a very popular book, but I think that’s because everyone can enjoy it!

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Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing. 3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other every day . . . and they hate each other.

Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. HATE. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight approach to his job and refusal to smile. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and desire to be liked.

Now they’re up for the same promotion and Lucy, usually a determined people-pleaser, has had enough: it’s time to take him down. But as the tension between Lucy and Joshua reaches its boiling point, it’s clear that the real battle has only just begun . . .

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Ha! I’m personally not all that romantic in the traditional way. I think that’s why I like romcoms. You can make the relationship progress in all sorts of funny ways that are often misadventures that show love can win in the end. But right now, after the year we’ve had, I’d love to have a weekend in the mountains with my husband to just hike. But if we’re talking a romance hero, I’d say snowed in with a bad-boy rockstar (LOL).

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

Accessing the network at the RNA is so important, even though I only became a member in 2020 and haven’t managed to attend a conference, yet. There’s always someone who has experience of whatever you’re going through and we will always support each other’s books because we all love love stories.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Stick with it! The publishing industry has changed so much over the past ten years that if you just keep writing and submitting your work, you’re fairly likely to find someone who loves it eventually. It’s definitely slow and may take years of writing books that never see the light of day, but celebrate those books as part of the learning experience and you’ll get there eventually.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Divorced mum Lou accompanies her daughter Edie on a music camp by Lake Garda, determined to discover her own talents while Edie develops hers. In a series of misadventures, she finally gets to know Edie’s seriously hot but very reserved violin teacher, Nick Romano, and she learns she doesn’t need a special talent to be loved for who she is. Italy Ever After is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lizzie Chantree

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Time for another heart to heart about all things romance with an author in the genre, and this week I am delighted to welcome back to the blog… Lizzie Chantree.

Welcome, Lizzie. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hello everyone. I write contemporary women’s fiction about love, romance and feisty entrepreneurs with some pretty unusual businesses. I have eight books published so far and have two more ready to publish. I have both French and American publishers, but I also self-publish in between, so that my readers don’t have to wait too long for another story. I really enjoy both elements of publishing and I now run seminars, where I talk about networking and how authors can broaden their readership and keep isolation at bay.

Why romance?

I love romance! I grew up reading Mills and Boon books from the local library and I adore a mischievous heroine and a swoon-worthy lead man. Romance books are full of laughter and real life issues and they are a wonderful way to connect with readers. I have met so many amazing book lovers since I began writing. Romance stories give us time to step away from any worries for a while and jump into some fun and excitement.

What inspires your stories?

I can be inspired from anything from the way someone holds another person’s hand, to a look that might pass between them. One of my books, the little ice cream shop by the sea, was inspired by seeing an elderly lady who was visibly upset in a café and a young waitress who tried to help her. After the first woman had stopped crying and left the café, I asked the waitress if her friend was ok. The waitress said she’d never met her before and from that grew a story about the kindness of strangers. 

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I have so many! Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Jackie Collins, Marian Keyes, Freya North, Lisa Jewell, Katie Fforde, Heidi Swain, Liz Fielding… I could think of so many more.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

If I could only pick one, I’d always go back and read Pride and Prejudice, time and time again.

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Elizabeth Bennett has a keen mind, a sharp wit, and no desire to marry for convenience. When she meets Mr Darcy, her first impressions are far from favourable, and he shows little interest in her. Nor do their opinions improve with further acquaintance. There seems to be little hope of romance; indeed, it might be impossible unless they can confront the flaws in their own natures. Perhaps their first impressions were mistaken?

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I’d choose Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, as he’s gorgeous, but also because he has principles and is adventurous at the same time. He’s a bit of a contradiction, which makes him mysterious. I’d love to explore his estate and find out more about his family history. It would be fun to see him being more relaxed and enjoying himself, like he is at the end of the book. I’d be quite happy sitting on his front lawn and writing for a few hours, with him beside me!

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What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I wish I had found the RNA sooner! It’s such a welcoming group to be part of and the support for new writers is second to none. If you are starting out, the RNA offer so much guidance, from courses to mentoring. For a more experienced writer, the RNA gives encouragement, room to learn and a feeling of being part of a huge and fun-filled team. 

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I’d steer them towards the RNA for advice and guidance, then I’d tell them about networking and how to build up a readership through mutual support and the love of books. Author branding is also very important for customers to be able to see at a glance which genre you write in.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Shh… It’s Our Secret. Shh… It’s Our Secret, is about a shy woman called Violet, who is trying to silence her inner critic and step out of the shadows.  Her best friends and sister support her, but she feels like they don’t see the real her, or understand that she has ambitions of her own and skills that could help them all escape from poverty.

To them, she is reliable, slightly dull and not very talented, but she is hiding a secret that could blow this theory sky high. Violet will have to eliminate old demons, learn to stand up for herself and show the world who she really is. The book is out now and you can buy it here in your preferred format.

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Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidentally discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?

About the Author

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International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

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Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizziechantree.com/

Facebook: Lizzie Chantree Author

Twitter: @Lizzie_Chantree

Instagram: @lizzie_chantree

Pinterest: Lizzie Chantree

Goodreads: Lizzie Chantree

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Helen Buckley

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Time to chat all things romance and the writing thereof with another RNA member, and this week I am delighted to be quizzing author… Helen Buckley.

Welcome, Helen. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write thrilling, dramatic contemporary romances about people in the public eye. There are lots of twists and turns, shock revelations, slow-burn romance, and of course, happy ever afters! I currently have a three-book contract with ChocLit and my next novel is due out in July.

Why romance?

I daydream in romance, so I am simply writing down the stories that are in my head. I’m an old-fashioned romantic who loves nothing more than two characters who come together after lots of challenges.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of things! Strictly on Ice, for example, was inspired by the TV show Dancing on Ice. As my current series involves people in the public eye, I get a lot of inspiration from popular culture and news stories.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

I used to love reading Catherine Cookson when I was younger, but now I tend to read contemporary romances, by the likes of Lucy Keeling, Marie Laval, Jojo Moyes, Amanda Prowse, and Dani Atkins, for example.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. That book broke me. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

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Will needed Lou as much as she needed him, but will her love be enough to save his life?

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 knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

My husband is my real-life romantic hero and I’d choose him above anyone else. We’d go to Rome and eat mountains of gelato.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I’m a fairly new member but it’s a great way to meet fellow romance authors, find out what they are working on, and there are lots of learning opportunities too which I am looking forward to taking part in!

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I would say read a lot of romance to help you understand the genre, and try to work on a series of books rather than just one – it’s more marketable.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A former Olympic skating champion takes part in a new TV show to earn some cash, but she gets more than she bargained for when she’s partnered with a love-rat rugby player, and finds that her ex-boyfriend is on the judging panel! Strictly on Ice is a dramatic, romantic, thrilling read about the world of ice skating and reality TV. It’s available in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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When falling in love comes with the risk of falling flat on your face …

Former Olympic skating champion Katie Saunders is well known for her ‘ice queen’ persona in the press. On the face of it, perhaps Katie should have forgiven her former skating partner and ex-boyfriend, Alex Michaelson, for the accident that shattered both her ankle and their Olympic dreams – but she just can’t seem to let it go.

When Katie reluctantly agrees to take part in a new TV skating show, it’s only because she’s desperate for cash. What she didn’t count on is the drama – not only is she partnered up with infamous love rat rugby player Jamie Welsh, but one of the judges is none other than Alex Michaelson himself.

As the show progresses, will Katie be shown the hard way, once again, that romance on the ice should remain strictly off-limits?

About the Author

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Ever since Helen was little she wanted to be a writer, to turn daydreams into books. She’s fascinated by fame, in love with Happy Ever Afters, and enthralled by slow-burn romances. She squeezes in time to write around looking after her two sons.

Sign up to her newsletter to receive a FREE download of her novella, The Wrong One, a sweet contemporary romance about being true to yourself. https://BookHip.com/RZSDFSW

Connect with Helen:

Website: www.buckleybooks.org

Facebook: Helen Buckley author

Twitter: @HelenCBuckley

Instagram: @helencatherinebuckley

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Victoria Springfield

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The weeks are going by so fast now, aren’t they? I can’t believe it is time for another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, the feature where I chat to an author of romance novels about what, why and how they write. But it is, and this week I am delighted to be talking to… Victoria Springfield.

Welcome to the blog, Victoria. Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write contemporary women’s fiction immersed in the sights, sounds and flavours of Italy.  I started writing my first book in 2018 and was lucky enough to get a place on the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019.  Later that year I met my agent, Camilla Shestopal at the RNA conference in Lancaster.  My debut novel, The Italian Holiday, has just been published by Orion under their digital-first brand, Dash.  A second book, set in a riding school in the Tuscan countryside, will be coming out in August this year.

Why romance?

Romance novels are often dismissed but love is one of the biggest influences on people’s emotions and actions.  Love can make one person curl up in a ball in a dark corner, another person to leap up and down on the sofa like Tom Cruise.  It can make people do crazy things, cause them to betray their friends and families or commit acts of self-sacrifice.  Love provides a writer with great material and I enjoy creating a happy ending.  I want people to put my books down with a big, contented sigh and the feeling that all is well in the world.

What inspires your stories?

I have been holidaying in Italy since I was a teenager thanks to my father who was a real Italophile.  The locations, the scenery, the history and of course, the wonderful food all inspire me.  Italy is such a diverse country – it was not united until the late 19th century – so the strong local identity of each location shapes my characters’ lives.  The story lines come from people I have met, conversations I have overheard and things I have read.  Once I start writing, the story itself inspires twists and turns as I go along.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

My favourite authors such as Mary Wesley, Joanna Trollope and Anita Shreve mix romance with other elements. I have recently discovered Erin Hilderbrand who is fantastic at dissecting human relationships; her books are mainly set on Nantucket.  Rosanna Ley is great; I really enjoyed The Little Theatre by the Sea set in Sardinia, and I always enjoy Sue Moorcroft’s books.  I want to read more from Nadia Marks, her Among the Lemon Trees, a mixture of family secrets and wartime romance has an Italian element but mainly takes place on a small Aegean island.  For a complete change I am trying some historical romance; I am thoroughly enjoying The Spanish Girl by Jules Hayes.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

I hope you have plenty of spare time because I am going to suggest Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.  This is by far the biggest book on my shelf but well worth the read. The book opens with the wedding of the heroine Lata’s older sister.  Lata’s mother assures her that she will find a suitable boy for Lata to wed, but Lata has ideas of her own.  By the end of the book Lata has three different suitors to choose from and has to weigh up the merits of romantic love, personal happiness and family obligations.

Lata’s search for love plays out against a backdrop of infighting and tragedy as India prepares for its first election after gaining independence from the British Empire.  There is a lot to digest with the political shenanigans and a subplot involving a battle for the affections of the captivating courtesan, Saeeda Bai.  The recent BBC television series included many of the hundred-plus characters from the book but it could only scratch the surface – they should have made fifty episodes!

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A modern classic, this epic tale of families, romance and political intrigue, set in India, never loses its power to delight and enchant readers.

At its core, A Suitable Boy is a love story: the tale of Lata – and her mother’s – attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great general election and the chance to map its own destiny.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I was tempted to choose a handsome, brooding Italian but I am going to step back in time and choose Emma’s charming old-fashioned Mr. Knightley who would knock at my door and whisk me off in a horse-drawn carriage to Donwell Abbey.  After a tour of the grounds, we would enjoy dainty cakes washed down with copious amounts of tea from fine china cups in front of the roaring fire.  Later, I would descend the stairs dressed in a sweeping gown for the evening’s ball, where I would miraculously dance beautifully.  The next day a groom would appear with two striking horses.  I would try sidesaddle; Mr. Knightley would look particularly dashing in breeches and leather boots.  We would fall through a portal into the Italian countryside and trot through the same vineyards, meadows and woods as the characters in my forthcoming second novel before spending the night at the home of a handsome Italian count.  Spurred on by the count’s flirtation with me, Mr. Knightley would at last cast off his English reserve…

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

The RNA provides a wonderful sense of camaraderie; I am continually astonished by how helpful and friendly everyone is.  I have been missing the chapter meetings but now I am crossing paths with people on social media.  If I had not joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme I am not sure I would have got published.  The reader was able to pick out specific passages in my manuscript to show me where my writing could be more engaging and vivid.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Do what works for you and do not worry if someone else is writing 3,000 words a day.  Also, get away from the computer.  For me there is something about the rhythm of swimming or walking that untangles my plot problems.  I have been known to scribble things down whilst I am wrapped in a towel in the pool changing rooms.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

The Italian Holiday is an uplifting seaside romance which weaves together the stories of unlucky-in-love Bluebell and kind widow, Miriam who meet on a coach tour of the Amalfi Coast, with that of local girl, Michela, who is returning to Italy after a year working in London.  Whilst Bluebell and Miriam are making friends and exploring the region, Michela’s plan to work at her cousins’ restaurant in Positano is scuppered by a family crisis.  Instead, she lends a helping hand at her parents’ tiny café bar in the quaint town of Minori, surrounded by memories of her first love, Stefano.

The three women have to learn to embrace the changes in their lives and seize their chances of happiness.  The book explores love, friendship, family ties and – thanks to a mysterious poppy-print dress – how a change of clothes can change your life.

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Sun, sea and spaghetti…

Italy was Bluebell’s dream destination, but taking her granny’s place on the Loving and Knitting magazine competition holiday she’d won wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. For one thing she didn’t knit and for the other…well being single probably discounted her from the love category too. But a free holiday is a free holiday and it’s the perfect escape from her lacklustre life.

Michela didn’t think she’d be returning home to Italy so soon, a new job at her cousin’s restaurant on the harbour of Positano was a dream gig, miles away from the grey London clouds. This time though, she vowed not to fall into old habits, Stefano was the past and now her future in her old hometown beckoned.

But under the Italian skies a whole host of possibilities await and maybe happy-ever-after is just a plane-ride away…

You can buy The Italian Holiday as an ebook here.

About The Author

Victoria Springfield

Victoria Springfield writes contemporary women’s fiction set mainly in Italy.  Her feel-good stories follow unforgettable characters of all ages as they find adventure, friendship and romance.  After many years in London, she now lives in Kent with her husband in a house by the river.  Victoria joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019.  In 2020 she signed a two-book deal with Orion Dash.  The Italian Holiday set on The Amalfi Coast is out now.  A second book, set in a horse riding centre in Tuscany, will be published in August 2021.

Connect with Victoria:

Facebook: Victoria Springfield Author

Twitter: @VictoriaSwrites

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