Romancing The Romance Authors with… Victoria Walker

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Today I am delighted to be discussing the writing of romance and all things love-related with author… Victoria Walter.

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

I write contemporary romance novels and I’ve just self-published my first book. I have re-written it so many times and I love the hero, Jonas, so much I just had to get him out there! I’ve written another three books since and am querying with publishers for one of those at the moment. 

Why romance?

I grew up reading Enid Blyton, especially Malory Towers and the Famous Five. My year 6 teacher was pretty exasperated about my lack of author variety and tried to make me read Douglas Adams – which I did much later on and loved – but I knew that I could rely on Enid Blyton to tell me a story I wanted to read. That philosophy is probably why I like romance. It’s sometimes described as formulaic but you will never read the same book twice. I love the initial spark of attraction and the journey as it builds into a relationship between the main characters. There is always a will they/won’t they element to a romance that keeps me reading on, wondering if there will be a happy ever after even though I know there will be!

What inspires your stories?

So far my books have been inspired by places I’ve visited. Before I started writing my first novel, I’d been reading a lot of romances set in New York and for some reason thought that’s where my novel should be set, even though I’d never been there. So when I went to Reykjavik and fell in love with the place, I thought it was easily as romantic as New York and would be the perfect backdrop for a love story.

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

I love Jilly Cooper. She’s not perhaps a traditional romance author but some of her heroes are just knee-weakeningly gorgeous. I’m thinking of Luke Alderton in Polo when I say that. I also love anything by Sarah Morgan. I felt so lucky when I discovered her and could then plough through her back catalogue.

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

Oooh, it’s so hard to choose one but I’m going to go with Not Your Cinderella by Kate Johnson because I’ve read it at least three times and I love the chemistry between Jamie and Clodagh and Jamie is probably my perfect man and is strikingly similar to my husband now that I think about it. Apart from the royal element. I love the third book in the same series too, Not Your Knight in Shining Armour which has a fabulous heroine.

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The most eligible bachelor in the country? All Jamie wants to do is finish his PhD and live a quiet life, but since he’s actually Prince Jamie and he’s been famous since the minute he was born, that’s not likely to happen.

Clodagh doesn’t believe in fairytales, and no handsome prince is going to sweep her off her feet. She’s worked too hard to escape the wrong side of the tracks, and the last thing she needs is the world’s press finding out who she truly is.

But Jamie and Clodagh can’t fight the heat between them, and when the eyes of the world turn on them the pressure is only going to rise. Can true love conquer all? Can the fairytale come true? And what kind of girl wears a glass slipper anyway?

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 head to Snow Crystal resort and spend the weekend with Jackson O’Neill from Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. We’d take a sleigh ride through the forest, snuggled together underneath plenty of blankets, and end up at the chocolate shack for a Bailey’s hot chocolate. He’d take me onto the slopes and teach me how to ski. I’d be brilliant obviously but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I fell over and needed a hand to get up. We’d relax in a hot tub with a glass of rose before he’d cook an amazing dinner which we’d eat by candlelight in his cosy log cabin. And if we ended up in a nest of rugs and blankets on the floor in front of the roaring fire while the snow fell gently outside, that’d be the perfect end to the day and would probably see us through the rest of the weekend.

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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?

My favourite thing about the RNA are the people I’ve become friends with. Everyone is so willing to share their experience and are so supportive to new writers and have the unwavering belief that getting published is just a matter of perseverance. I’ve been on the New Writers’ Scheme for five years and I would never have managed to write a novel worthy of anyone reading it without the feedback from the reports or the access to the amazing conferences. 

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

Join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and go to the annual conference! And read as much as you write in the genre you’re writing.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Snug in Iceland is a winter romance which follows Rachel’s journey from London to Reykjavik as she is tasked with setting up a new retail store for the company she works for, Snug. Rachel relishes the opportunity to take a break from her everyday life, even her boyfriend Adam, to see if her absence might inject a spark into their staid relationship. Iceland captures Rachel’s imagination and she realises with the help of tour guide, Jonas, that there is more to life than the one she was living in London and she has to decide whether going back to the same life is what she really wants. There are lots of great Icelandic locations which readers have really loved so far with lots of reviewers saying they want to visit. Iceland is amazing. I can’t wait to go again myself. My husband is keen to go in the summer for a change but I think the magic is in the ice and snow.

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Rachel Richards is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend Adam barely notices her most of the time and her life in London isn’t as exciting as it should be. When the company she works for, Snug, asks her to oversee the opening of a new store in Iceland, she jumps at the chance for a change of scenery.

Exploring Reykjavik with the help of Icelandic tour guide Jonas, Rachel discovers that life is out there waiting to be lived. As she falls in love with Iceland, she begins to see what is important to her and wonders whether the life she left behind is what she wants after all…

You can buy a copy of Snug in Iceland in paperback and ebook formats here.

About the Author

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Victoria Walker has been writing romantic fiction since a visit to Iceland in 2014 inspired her first novel. As well as writing, she spends her free time dressmaking, knitting and reading an inordinate amount of contemporary romance, occasionally punctuated by the odd psychological thriller and saga.
In the past she has worked as a cinema projectionist, a knitting and sewing tutor and has owned a yarn store, all things which will no doubt appear in her books if they haven’t already.
Victoria lives in the Malvern Hills with her husband and two teenage children. 

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://www.victoriaauthor.co.uk

Facebook: Victoria Walker

Twitter: @4victoriawalker

Instagram @victoriamakes

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Natalie Normann

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Today’s interviewee is a previous guest of the blog and lovely author and I am really looking forward to hearing more about her journey in romance writing. It is the fabulous… Natalie Normann.

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

I have been a published author since 1995. Most of my books in Norwegian have been historical romance series, but I’ve also written thrillers and children’s horror stories. Last year I published two contemporary romance books with One More Chapter, A Very Hygge Holidays series. Right now I’m working on a new story, and I’m having a blast with it. Never thought I’d be writing in English, so that’s a major change in my journey. 

Why romance? 

I love romance! I’ve always written what I love to read myself, and romance is my favourite genre. Nothing beats a well written romance with a happy ending. 

What inspires your stories? 

Food for one thing, I love writing about food. Not much of a cook myself, but I do like to eat. And I’m really thrilled to be writing stories set in Norway. Everybody knows about Nordic Noir, where the landscape is always dark and gloomy, and then someone horribly gets killed. I’m happy to write Nordic Romance that shows the beauty of Norway. 

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

I have a long, long list of favourites. I love Jane Eyre, have done since the first time I read it. I love the blockbusters from when I grew up; writers like Colleen McCullough and Barbara Bradford Taylor. After joining the RNA, I have discovered so many new and amazing writers. Jan Baynham writes wonderful sagas, Christina Courtney’s viking stories are just wow, Sue McDonagh’s contemporary romances set in Wales are a true delight, and I’m always looking forward to a new book by Fiona Leitch – to name a few. 

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

Actually I’d recommend another Scandi. Pernille Hughes wrote the delightful Probably the Best Kiss in the World, set in Copenhagen, one of my favourite cities. I’m really looking forward to her next book. 

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Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list.

From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.

Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…

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

Oh, that’s a tough one. I’m honestly the least romantic person you can imagine. But a man who can cook and handle a boat, would do me just fine. I haven’t decided on his name yet …

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

The RNA is  such a special place. When I came to my first chapter meeting, I was living in Cardiff, and the brilliant writers in Cariad Chapter couldn’t have been more welcoming. And during the pandemic, I’ve been able to Zoom with them from Oslo, so I still feel I belong to the chapter. I miss the conference something awful, I’ve only been to two, so fingers crossed there will be one next year. I love the support I have experienced from so many lovely people. I’m impressed at what the RNA has done, and I hope it will continue like that. 

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

Read a lot of different books so you find what you like. There’s a lot of subgenres and one is not like the other. Then, when you start writing, don’t take the three first chapters too serious. They will change. Also, the good thing about writing, is that you always learn more. It’s never boring. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A Very Hygge Holiday has two books, Summer Island and Christmas Island. The paperback for Christmas Island is out on October 14th. They are both set on a small, windy island on the Norwegian west coast. Summer Island tells the story of London Chef Jack who inherits a smallholding on the island, and has to find what what that means to him. In Christmas Island, Holly, Jack’s sister, needs to get away from her life, and decides that the island would do fine. She does not expect to be roped into celebrating Christmas the Norwegian way. 

We tend to take Christmas a tad too serious, I’m afraid. 

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In the bleak midwinter…
A really frosty wind is making Holly’s life absolutely miserable

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

You can buy copies of the books here and here.

About the Author

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Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Since 2007 she has written Historical Romance in Norwegian and recently published her 66th book. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English.

Connect with Natalie:

Facebook: Natalie Normann

Twitter: @NatalieNormann1

Instagram: @natalienormann

TikTok: @natalieromancewriter

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lynda Stacey

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This week’s romancing writing guest is my neighbour, good friend and amazing author… Lynda Stacey.

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

Hi Julie, thanks for having me. The books that I write are suspense, however they always have an underlying romance. I like to mix the two, because in normal life, none of us can tell what will happen from one day to the next. So, to ensure that my heroine has a great story, along with a varied lifestyle… I throw everything at her, all at once.

Why romance? 

Because in life, we all love to be loved. I honestly believe that people are like pack animals, they want to be part of a group, a tribe, a couple. So romance is a lovely way to show my hero and heroines softer side, even though most of the time I like to give them truly kick ass attitude.

What inspires your stories?

I really have no idea. It’s normally a house, a hotel, a landscape. There’s always a place, or moment in time that I like to grab hold of. Once I have a location, then I tend to build the story around it.

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

I grew up devouring Enid Blyton. All of my age group did. I read every book repeatedly. 

As an adult, I love Lesley Pearce, Kate Morton and Nora Roberts, I’ve read almost everything they wrote and to be honest, one of my favourite ever quotes that a reader gave to my books was that I wrote like Nora Robert. It’s an accolade which I find both amazing and terrifying at the same time, because I’d love to be compared to her.

This was the quote:

‘Lynda Stacey is up there with Nora Roberts when it comes to writing jaw-dropping, nerve-twisting and addictive tales spiced with intrigue, passion and suspense.’

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

Oh wow, that’s like asking if I have a favourite child. If I were pushed, I’d probably say pretty much anything by Nora Roberts.

Maybe, Sanctuary. It had quite a few twists and turns that I really loved the island setting, along with a ‘will they, won’t they’ love affair that set my spine tingling, that was balanced with the underlying thriller, where you were never sure who was the killer.

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Successful photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her loneliest years there after the sudden, shattering disappearance of her mother. But now someone is sending Jo strange, candid pictures, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all – a photo of her mother, naked, beautiful and dead.

Jo returns home to face her bitterly estranged family, only to find an unexpected chance for happiness in the form of architect Nathan Delaney. But while Jo and Nathan hope to lay the past to rest, a sinister presence is watching from the shadows. And Jo will soon learn there is no peace at Sanctuary . . .

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 have to say, ‘my hero at home’, my husband Haydn is my everyday romantic hero. We’ve been together for 30 years, and I’m not planning on swapping him anytime soon. So, my perfect romantic weekend with him would be on the Maldives, where we could lie in the sun, scuba dive and drink cosmopolitan’s while watching dolphins leap through the waves and take in the sunset as it slips into the sea.

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

The RNA is amazing. I love everything about it. From the day I joined, I became part of a tribe. I got to meet and listen to some of the most amazing authors, who freely gave their knowledge, time, and wisdom. The small nuggets of information that you pick up are priceless and I can honestly say that being a part of the RNA put me on the right path. Without them I doubt I’d have ever become a published author.

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

Listen and learn, and no matter how busy you are each day, take a moment to congratulate yourself for every word you write. It’s one more word that counts and a word closer to writing ‘The End’.

And remember, every word you write means something – even if only to yourself.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book is called No Place Like Home. 

Sister’s Molly and Beth move to a remote, cliff top property that they inherit following their mother’s brutal murder. It’s a house that overlooks the beach, the sea, and the town of Filey and should be the most beautiful place on earth to live. But someone is out to kill them, and they have no intention of stopping. 

It’s a story of loss, of love and of family ties. A story that shows how extremely protective of her sister Molly is, but it also shows the way she struggles with the fact that she’s suddenly become an impromptu parent – to a very vocal teenager. 

Doing all she can to keep Beth safe, she realises that danger could literally be around every corner, she doesn’t know who to trust and, in the end, she finds herself living in a world where almost everyone around her could want her dead. 

Will Molly manage to survive, will she keep Beth safe? Or will life on the edge of a cliff suddenly become more dangerous than she’d thought?

It’s out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. (You can read my review of No Place Like Home here.)

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

About the Author

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Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Nancy Peach

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Today’s guest on Romancing The Romance Authors is a debut author whose publication journey I have been following closely so I’m very interested to see her take on writing romance. Pleased to welcome to my blog for the first (but surely not the last) time… Nancy Peach.

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

I’m just beginning my publishing journey so haven’t really fixed on a type yet, but my debut Love Life is published with One More Chapter and probably sits in the rom-com category. Love Life has a Pride and Prejudice style plot, but it’s also set in a hospice, which I think gives it a different perspective. I suppose that if I have a style of writing it is to tackle hard topics with a light touch. I am a big fan of finding humour in dark places and was longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize last year for my novel Sandwich which deals with dementia. 

Why romance?

Because love and romance are at the heart of all universal stories – in a way I think it’s impossible to write books and not write about romance. All the greatest authors have known that the most direct route to a reader’s mind is via the heart and many of the fictional characters we hold dear are the ones who have been affected by a doomed romance or a grand passion. Every genre, whether it be crime, historical or dystopian science fiction, has romantic themes running through it and without a hint of a love interest a story loses depth and fails to engage a reader. 

All of the above, plus I like writing sex scenes.

What inspires your stories?

Daily life – I enjoy finding inspiration hidden in the mundane, whether that be at home or at work. Being a doctor means that I am fortunate enough to witness many elements of human behaviour and interaction. It is a great privilege to have this level of access to people’s lives and relationships and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job. I am obviously very careful never to break confidentiality and none of my patients’ details will ever make it directly to the page, but a lot of what forms the basis of my books comes from making general observations about the human stories I see unfolding in front of me every day. 

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

Generally, those who introduce an element of humour in their writing. Whether it be sharply satirical like Jane Austen or gently comical like Beth O’Leary, or full-blown hilarious like Helen Fielding, Marian Keyes, Mhairi McFarlane and Lucy Vine. 

Having said that, some of the most deeply affecting love stories I’ve read recently have not fallen into the comedy category – Delia Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and Anthony Doerr’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ had me in absolute bits.

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

That is such a hard question to answer (frantically tries to narrow down enormous shortlist). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect package than Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare as an example of a modern contemporary romance, but the gold standard for me will always be Pride and Prejudice. I can’t possibly say anything about this book that hasn’t already been said, but each line is a masterclass in wryly observed understatement, like a permanently raised eyebrow. Jane Austen is a genius.

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The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.

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 would jump into bed with Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy and likely never be seen again.

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(PSA: Anyone who ever chooses Mr Darcy as the answer to this question will invoke the gratuitous photo of Colin Firth in a wet shirt. you have been warned.)

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

The RNA was my first introduction to fellow writers. Before joining I had no idea about the publishing industry, no knowledge of writing technique and no concept of how to turn my idle scribblings into a real piece of work. I stumbled across the New Writer’s Scheme in 2019 when I had completed a very rough draft of what was to become Love Life and couldn’t believe that there was a way of having my manuscript critiqued by people working in the industry and for it to be included in my membership fee. More specifically, the RNA was an invaluable source of advice during that first year when I was hopelessly naïve about publishing deals. If I hadn’t had their support at that critical point in my writing journey, I think I would be in a very different place now.

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

Keep writing and make sure you are always doing it for fun. It’s easy to get bogged down with whether you’re going to get an agent, whether you’ll be published, and whether you’ll be able to give up the day job and pursue a career as a writer. This makes the whole thing feel terribly pressurised and the reality may be that an ultimate dream of being a professional writer is either unattainable or takes an extraordinarily long time to realise. So, whilst you are waiting for international fame and glory, my advice is to treat writing like a brilliant, gloriously fulfilling hobby. By saying this I am in no way intending to diminish the experience or the process, but I see writing as a release valve, its primary function is to do me good and to make me happy. If what I produce makes other people happy too then great, but I try not to lose sight of why I write – I do it because it love it, anything else is a bonus.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Love Life is a romantic comedy featuring a hospice doctor, Tess, who is having difficulty recovering from the shock of finding her boyfriend in bed with another man. Whilst at work she encounters Edward, a man who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness and who, as a result, hates the hospice and all it stands for. Unsurprisingly Tess and Edward dislike each other in the beginning, despite having met before in entirely different circumstances, but as Edward’s mother becomes more unwell, they begin to discover common ground. The story also features a daytime television host battling it out with a Jane Austen character as dual narrators, an absent father, an over-protective mother, a problem with binge-eating, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, a brush with the General Medical Council and a fair bit of shagging. You can buy a copy of the book here.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Yorkshire lass in possession of a career, a house, and a cat, must be in want of a husb—
Oh get a grip!

Dr Tess Carter is no starry-eyed Jane Austen heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the proud and disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears; he’s certainly handy in a crisis.

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

About the Author

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Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamourous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com  and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch. 

Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.

Connect with Nancy:

Website: https://nancy-peach.com/

Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer

Twitter: @Mumhasdementia

Instagram: @nancy.peach

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Jacquelyn Middleton

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Today’s romance-loving guest, joining me to chat all things love and literature is author, Jacquelyn Middleton.

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

Thank you for asking! My books are character- and relationship-driven stories about people dealing with the triumphs and disasters we all experience. They’re also love stories for hopeful romantics—I say hopeful because my novels are always optimistic and ‘happily ever afters’ are more important now than ever before. But life is messy, relationships are messy, and my books aren’t afraid to go there too. 

I’m also an own voices author—I’ve had anxiety, panic attacks, and depression all my life, and I include mental health in my books. I’ve always felt that there should be more representation of mental health in novels. And by more representation, I mean realistically and empathetically portrayed mental health. I’ve seen many novels where mental health issues are treated like a character trait and nothing appears on the page to show its reality. Anxiety and depression aren’t disorders you can try on like a trendy pair of jeans. My goal is to entertain AND bust the stigma—one book at a time. If one person with anxiety or depression comes away after reading my books and feels understood and not alone, I’ve done my job. 

I’ve written and self-published five books to date, and several have won awards including the Best Canadian Author award from the then-Canadian chapter of RWA in 2019 for my third book, Until the Last Star Fades. My most recent book, The Certainty of Chance, is a Christmas love story set in London and it releases on October 14.

Why romance?

To quote Madeleine in my book, The Certainty of Chance, “I love love.” There’s nothing better than an amazing love story with a happy ending. Love IS everything. Can you imagine a world without it? With all the awfulness out in the world, we need stories that celebrate love and hope more than ever before, and romance does that and more.

There are some folks in the book world who think romance novels aren’t as difficult to write as other genres and they couldn’t be so wrong. Writing emotional and heartbreaking scenes (not to mention realistic and heartfelt sex scenes) takes talent and lots of practice. Love is one of the most complex emotions we have. Many of us aren’t great at communicating love or other associated emotions, so it makes sense that it’s also very difficult to write. I think since most romance authors are female, there is a tendency to pass the genre off as fluffy, socially unimportant, and easy to write. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s also worth pointing out that the romance genre was one of the first to showcase diverse characters and provide a platform for own voices authors to explore different races, religions, abilities, health challenges, and more. Consent and birth control are regularly featured. Today’s romance is very progressive, and has moved on considerably from the novels with Fabio on the cover that our parents and grandparents read years ago. And for the most part, women have lead this charge towards change.

What inspires your stories?

So many things! Basically, I write what I want to read, so my ideas usually come from what interests me: travel, songs, magazine articles, even real life experiences. I enjoy writing stories set in places I love and have visited. London, New York, Dublin, Manchester, the Orkney Islands—they’ve all shown up in my books. 

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

I have so many! Emily Henry, Abby Jimenez, Zoë Folbigg, Mhairi McFarlane, Sally Thorne, Mia Sheridan, Christina Lauren, Karen Swan, and Renée Carlino. 

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

This is such a tough question! I think I’ll go with my all-time favourites, which I keep coming back to: Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan, You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane, and if I can sneak in another, I’d say Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. It’s more of a women’s fiction/romance hybrid, but it’s SO GOOD! I own multiple copies from multiple countries. It’s beautiful. Okay, I know I cheated here, but picking one was impossible.

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Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend. Now, ten years later, she is betrayed and broken. With her marriage in tatters and no career or home of her own, she needs to work out where she belongs in the world and who she really is.

So begins a year-long trial as Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with each of her best friends in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris and London. Exchanging grouse moor and mousy hair for low-carb diets and high-end highlights, Cassie tries on each city for size as she attempts to track down the life she was supposed to have been leading, and with it, the man who was supposed to love her all along.

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

Oh my goodness, there are SO many! Ahh, I’d love to have a weekend with Henry from Christmas at Tiffany’s, but he’s quite adventurous which isn’t really my thing at all! I like my comforts, so I’d probably prefer to hang with out with Ben from You Had Me at Hello. This story takes place in Manchester, so I think Ben and I would indulge in the best of the city. We’d go for a meal at San Carlo and then to see a play at the Royal Exchange. If we scored tickets, perhaps we’d go see Man United play at Old Trafford. I’d love a weekend full of theatre, food, and football! 

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

I’m an overseas member living in Toronto, so I haven’t been able to take part in any in-person events, but I enjoy the emails and discussions online. It’s wonderful just to associate with fellow romance authors. Many literary folk don’t ‘get’ romance, so to have that shorthand with my colleagues is invaluable. Pre-pandemic, I travelled to the UK at least twice a year, so I’m hoping down the road I might be able to engage more in-person.

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

Write! I know everyone says that, but for a good reason—it’s true! It’s also important to read a lot. It’s the best way to learn. There are also some great books for writers that get into structure, plot points, character goals. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel, The Certainty of Chance, releases October 14 in ebook and paperback. It’s a beautiful, poignant Christmas love story about Madeleine Joy, an American woman, who becomes stranded in London when an Icelandic volcano erupts and its hazardous ash closes European airspace indefinitely (this really happened back in 2010!). She gets picked up by a London cab driver named Julian Halliwell and fate throws them together the week before Christmas. Madeleine is dealing with the upcoming one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death and isn’t feeling very Christmassy, while Julian is all about the holly and lights much to Madeleine’s dismay. It’s a heartwarming story of love, loss, serendipity, and the belief that what’s meant for you won’t pass you by. You can pre-order it here.

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Madeleine Joy is feeling more meh than merry. When an Icelandic volcano erupts six days before Christmas, hazardous ash congests European airspace, canceling flights indefinitely—including the thirtysomething’s connection to Paris. Stranded alone in London, separated from her sister, and with the devastating one-year anniversary of her best friend’s tragic death just days away, Madeleine has never felt less festive. And as if things couldn’t get worse, the cute guy driving the cab to her hotel won’t shut up about carolers and tinsel…

Julian Halliwell is one of life’s sunny optimists. A former music journalist, he’s embraced his love for London by starting his own black cab business, enthusiastically ferrying passengers from one historic landmark to another. But life hasn’t always been easy for Julian. Having navigated several life-changing setbacks including a cruel betrayal by his former fiancée, Julian remains hopeful that he’ll meet somebody kind, who shares his love of music, his corgi named Winnie, and of course, the magic of Christmas time in London.

Despite being an unlikely match, fate seems determined to throw them together. But can the grieving American find joy again in a world where the lights have all but dimmed?

About the Author

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Jacquelyn Middleton is a multi-award-winning author of love stories for hopeful romantics–‘hopeful’ because her novels are always optimistic and she believes ‘happily ever afters’ are more important now than ever before. But life is messy, relationships are messy, and her books aren’t afraid to go there, too. If you enjoy character and relationship-driven stories about people dealing with the triumphs and disasters we all face, Jacquelyn’s books are for you.

In 2019, she was named BEST CANADIAN AUTHOR at the RWA’s Toronto Romance Writers ‘Northern Hearts’ Awards for UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES. She is also the author of LONDON BELONGS TO ME, LONDON, CAN YOU WAIT? and SAY HELLO, KISS GOODBYE.

An own voices author, Jacquelyn has dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression all her life, and is dedicated to depicting mental health challenges realistically and empathetically in her novels.

Jacquelyn’s books have been featured by The Hollywood Reporter, NBC News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Hypable, and the Huffington Post.

A life-long Maple Leafs fan and Anglophile, Jacquelyn previously worked in television broadcasting and as an award-winning freelance writer. She loves comic cons, London, and theatre, and lives in Toronto with her British husband and Japanese Spitz.

Connect with Jacquelyn:

Website: https://www.jacquelynmiddleton.com/

Facebook: Jacquelyn Middleton

Twitter: @JaxMiddleton

Instagram: @jaxmiddleton_author

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Julia Ibbotson

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Today I am delighted to be joined by author Julia Ibbotson to talk about romance writing and what it means to her.

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

I’ve always written since childhood, but while I was starting to find my feet as a published author, I wrote a variety of books: a children’s novel (S.C.A.R.S, a fantasy medieval time-slip with knights and dragons!), a recipe/history of food/memoir book (The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen) and a trilogy set partly in Ghana spanning from the 1960s to the 1990s (The Drumbeats trilogy). 

I then found my direction as I went back to my roots of Anglo-Saxon (medieval) language, literature and history, which was the mainstay of my first degree, and I wrote A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon time-slip with mystery and romance. All my books so far (apart from S.C.A.R.S which I self-published on Amazon) are published by Lume, who gave me a deal after just two months on the RNA’s fabulous New Writers’ Scheme. They’re all available on Amazon.

I loved going back to my research and seeing the more recent archaeological discoveries that have altered our perceptions of the so-called ‘dark ages’, the early Anglo-Saxon period. There’s a bit about this in my website blog. I devoured the research and even now I have to pull myself away from it to actually write the books! So, I’ve got two sequels to A Shape on the Air (in the Dr Dulac series) sitting on my computer ready for action (The Dragon Tree and The Rune Stone). At the moment, I’m writing a new series of time-slip mysteries (the Lady Mildryth series) and the working title of the first is Daughter of Mercia. All with lovely hints of romance, of course.

Why romance?

To be honest, I think most novels have romance somewhere in them! But personally, I really think that close personal relationships are the food of life, and I like to write about real life and emotional truth. I guess that’s really the thread that weaves through all my books. I don’t write genre romance or ‘happy ever after’, although maybe ‘happy for now’ endings, and there is a certain amount of gritty realism in my novels. I want my readers to feel they can identify with the main characters and their search for happiness – it’s not always an easy journey but I want readers to feel that there is hope, so they are ‘feel-good’ stories in a wider sense.

What inspires your stories?

Time and place, and the strength of women to rise above adversity. My Drumbeats trilogy spans 30+ years, starting in the 1960s, a fascinating period to write about, allowing me to do lots of wonderful research! And the ‘place’ is Ghana, West Africa, which I know quite well as I lived there for a while. It’s an intriguing, fantastic country and culture, exotic and so interesting. I wanted my readers to feel that they were really there at that time. 

My Dr DuLac series and also my new Lady Mildryth series are time-slips partially set in the early Anglo-Saxon period, the 5th and 6th centuries in the midlands of England. That period inspires me so much, as it was a time of great change and new beginnings for this country, and I try to make the books as authentic as possible, with lots of details of Anglo-Saxon life at that time, with all its conflicts and confusions, but also with its mundane daily life as a backdrop. I don’t write kings and battles; I write more about everyday people and their lives.

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

Well, I love time-slips, of course, and read a lot of Nicola Cornick, Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley and Christina Courtenay. But I also love straight-forward historical novels like those by Dinah Jefferies and Philippa Gregory, with all their vivid recreations of time and place. They really allow you to escape and transport you to another world.

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

Only one?! So hard. I love Jane Austen but I’ve resisted the urge to say ‘Pride and Prejudice’! I would recommend ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris: delicious, gorgeous, magical, and romance in its widest sense. Who could forget the wonderfully drawn characters with all their strengths and weaknesses: Vianne and Anouk, Joséphine and Armande, Fr Reynaud, and of course the mysterious and intriguing Roux. And I love books set in rural France; this one is very evocative and makes me feel as though I’m really there, even smelling the chocolate pralines. I can’t believe it first came out over 20 years ago!

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In the small French village of Lansquenet, nothing much has changed in a hundred years. Then an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, blows in on the changing wind with her young daughter, and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church. Soon the villagers cannot keep away, for Vianne can divine their most hidden desires.

But it’s the beginning of Lent, the season of abstinence, and Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock. Perhaps even a witch. If Vianne’s chocolaterie is to survive, it will take kindness, courage and a little bit of magic…

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’m going to be very cheeky (is this allowed?) and say my own hero, Rev Rory, the hot vicar from A Shape on the Air!  He’s strong, yet sensitive, understanding yet at times confused, clever yet sometimes a little ‘dense’ in terms of Viv’s feelings – well, I guess they both are, really, otherwise there wouldn’t be a ‘will they, won’t they?’ thread. He’s the sort of man you could trust and rely on, yet he would also be exciting and fun to be with. I think he would be very interesting to spend a weekend with. Where would we go? It has to be a romantic winter walk through the cobbled streets of York, then a candle-lit dinner at a top, but cosy, restaurant. We’d stay at a beautiful historic hotel with open fires, heavy beams and inglenooks. 

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

The NWS is a fantastic opportunity and gave me the confidence to pitch for publication. But the support and friendship is amazing; you feel as though other members understand exactly what you are feeling about being a writer, the highs and lows, whether they are debut writers or successful established authors. You can always ask for advice and folks are happy to help. I’ve learned a lot about social media and book promotion which I wasn’t great on before! There are great learning opportunities too to help you refine your writing skills, through the conference sessions and now our online Learning Hub courses, which started during the lockdown. And the RNA is a very ‘broad church’: many of us write other than ‘genre romance’, romcoms or what used to be called ‘chick-lit’ – we also write historicals, alternative history, thrillers, psychologicals, crime, and of course time-slips/dual time – Anglo-Saxon, Viking, medieval, Tudor … 

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

Not one, but those here are linked! In any genre, persevere, have faith in yourself but listen to advice. In the romance genre, even loosely (!) join the RNA – there’s a wealth of advice and support there. And go with your gut instinct: at times there will be conflicting advice, even amongst industry professionals. Listen to what they say but make up your own mind. Don’t get too distressed about rejections. Many highly successful authors have had loads of rejections from agents and publishers, so keep going even when you feel like deleting your whole manuscript! I nearly deleted A Shape on the Air after a depressingly negative critique, but before I could do so, I received an amazingly enthusiastic one – and ended up with a publisher for it! Even industry professionals differ and remember they’re looking for what’s selling at that moment – and they’re still subjective individuals with their own taste and preferences. Finally, join the Society of Authors who also give brilliant support and advice on contracts and other legal issues.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest, The Rune Stone, is the third in the Dr DuLac series and it awaits publication (hopefully out soon!), so in the meantime you could start with A Shape on the Air! The latter is about Dr Viv DuLac, an academic and medievalist, whose story is woven through her connection to the 5th century Lady Vivianne who is betrothed to the loathsome Sir Pelleas. Both are fighting traumatic relationships and a desperation to save their own secure world. Can they help each other across the centuries? There’s a mystery for them to solve before they can find love and stability. There’s a strong supportive warrior and a hot vicar in the mix too!

The Rune Stone continues the story of both women and their new lives, but there’s a twist of misfortune to battle against that comes to light through the discovery of a rune stone in the churchyard and Dr Viv and Lady Vivianne’s lives again become intertwined as the mystery of the ‘rune curse’ evolves. It gives me shivers even as I think about it!

I hope you read A Shape on the Air and enjoy it (and the rest of the series when they come out) and I’d love to hear your reviews on any of my books, however brief, on the Amazon page – they mean so much to us authors! Many thanks. A Shape on the Air is available here.

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Dr Viv DuLac, a medievalist, is devastated when her partner Pete walks out (and with her best friend too) and it seems that she is about to lose everything. Drunk and desperate, her world quite literally turns upside down when she finds herself in the body of the fifth century Lady Vivianne.

Lady V has her own traumas; she is struggling with the shifting values of the Dark Ages and her forced betrothal to the brutish Sir Pelleas, who is implicated in the death of her parents.  Little does Viv realise that both their lives across the centuries will become so completely intertwined.

Haunted by both Lady Vivianne in 499 AD and by Viv’s own parents’ death and legacy, can Viv unlock the mystery that surrounds and connects their two lives, 1500 years apart, and bring peace to them both?

About the Author

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Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and the concept of time. She sees her author brand as a historical fiction writer of books that are evocative of time and place, well-researched and uplifting page-turners. Her current series focuses on early medieval time-slip/dual-time mysteries. Julia read English at Keele University, England, specialising in medieval language, literature and history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. After a turbulent time in Ghana, West Africa, she became a school teacher, then a university academic and researcher. Her break as an author came soon after she joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2015, with a three-book deal from Lume Books (Endeavour) for a trilogy (Drumbeats) set in Ghana in the 1960s. She has published three other books, including A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon timeslip mystery, with two more sequels written. Her work in progress is the first of a new series of Anglo-Saxon mysteries (Daughter of Mercia) where echoes of the past resonate across the centuries. Her books will appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, and Christina Courtenay. Her readers say: ‘Julia’s books captured my imagination’, ‘beautiful story-telling’, ‘evocative and well-paced storylines’, ‘brilliant and fascinating’ and ‘I just couldn’t put it down’.

Connect with Julia:

Website: https://juliaibbotsonauthor.com/

Facebook: Julia Ibbotson

Twitter: @JuliaIbbotson

Instagram: @julia.ibbotson

Pinterest: Julia Ibbotson

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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.

A Comfortable Alliance eBook

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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