The perfect ending to a romance

I’ve written over 25,000 words this weekend (!) because I was desperate to finish book 3 of a new series which will be coming out next year. The words were just flowing from my fingertips and although I will of course lose some of them in the editing process, I’m glad to get so many of them down.

And yet the bit I found the most difficult?

The ending. Like, the actual ending.

Not the happily ever after bit – definitely got a gorgeous wedding scene in there. What I found difficult was deciding what the very last word on the page should be.

You see, when I finish writing a book, I want to leave my readers with a strong emotion. Usually it’s a sense of happiness, a feeling of rightness with the world. Sometimes I want to make them smile, and occassionally (!) I attempt to make people laugh out loud.

The strange thing is that I’ll never find out if I will succeed. My readers span the globe, but (so far) no one has finished one of my own books in front of me. I read the reviews and I am thrilled when someone enjoys my book – but that lasting emotion right at the end of the book. Do I hit the mark?

And that is why I spent two pages trying to finish this book. I knew I needed the right emotional beat, the perfect wording to end a very emotional journey for both my hero and heroine. But it took over twenty minutes to find the right ones, and they may change again in the editing process.

I’ve just got to do the best I can, and continue to improve my craft. After all, the perfect ending to a romance will always be:

And they lived happily ever after.

Writing deadlines

Well, I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m behind. Weeks behind!

I have a writing schedule that I do my absolute best to keep to, but sometimes, you know what, life gets in the way.

It’s just not possible to do everything, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think that there’s no way that you can ever catch up, and this morning, that’s how I felt. I’m 16 days behind on my writing schedule, and it’s a challenging deficiet.

But you know what? I’m an author. I get down words. I create worlds. I write romances between heroes and heroines, and I’m so grateful for the people in my life who make it easy for me to write.

Today I wrote over 12,500 words, and you know what? I’m now ‘just’ 12 days delayed, and although there’s still a vestige of panic in my old bones, it’s not deep.

Why? Because I’ll catch up. I always do, and that’s the beauty of being an author. You call the shots. Even this series which I’m working on, which is for a publishing house, there’s understanding and flexibility – because they wonderful people there are authors too.

There’s never enough hours in the day, and there’s always something else I could be doing. But I don’t want to be chained to the keyboard, so I’m going to go out and enjoy the sunshine.

A change is as good as a rest

I’ve been on holiday. It wasn’t one of those fancy cruises that you see on the TV, or one of those super glamorous hotels where you can dine on caviar morning, noon, and night, and get lost in your own bathtub.

Nope, I’ve been on what I call ‘an Enid Blyton’ holiday.

It’s the type of holiday from my childhood, and it’s one of my favourites. If you’ve never read Enid Blyton (and where have you been?), then pick up one of her ‘Famous Five’ books and you’ll get a pretty good idea what I’m talking about.

Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and Timmy of course (the dog), spend most of the twenty one books in that series have adventures in the most British way. Cricket, ices, bathes, hikes and camping: nothing is too average for the five, and it’s just what I loved about my childhood holidays.

I did play cricket on the beach. I did have swims in the sea, whether warm or not. We did go on hikes, and visit art galleries, and tour ruined castles, and eat buns sitting on the grass listening to grasshoppers and skylarks and feeling the sun on our faces.

I absolutely loved it, and thankfully my parents still do. We’ve just spent a week doing just that: ruined abbeys, and medieval houses, and Tudor manors, and of course, iced buns.

Taking a step back from my writing for a week was hard, but it’s enabled me to come back to it fresh and ready for action. I’m plotting out the third book of my next series, and I think it’s going to be my best ever! I cannot wait for you to read it – but in the meantime, why not try out the latest in my current series, Beached with a Baronet? 

Rain, rain, go away…

I don’t want to confirm any stereotypes of England…but it’s been raining for the last six days.

In June! SIX DAYS!

It’s so grey here near Bath that I’m finding it difficult to write. All my creativity seeps out of my ears and all I want to do is put my dressing gown on (check), put the kettle on (check), and curl up with a good book.

The trouble is, I want to read one and not write one – and I’ve got deadlines to keep! Thankfully my friends, family, and most importantly readers are getting me through. Their little notes of encouragement keep me putting finger to keyboard to create the next most amazing love story.

And as the last book in my Ravishing Regencies goes on pre-order (which you can grab here!), it’s a nice way to end one era and start to plan for another.

As I sit here on the sofa, looking out of the window at the rain, I’m reminded that there are so many amazing things that happens because of rain.

The trees are now green, that sweet smell of wet earth, and the refreshing of crops – all this can only happen because of rain.

So here’s hoping that this rain will bring after it a renewed sense of creativity. I can’t wait to get started on the third (!) book in my new series for 2020!

I love family traditions!

I’m just going to come out and say it: I love family traditions!

This weekend I’m not actually at my desk because I’m enjoying one of my own family traditions: the garden party.

It all started almost twenty years ago when my grandparents decided to throw not one, but two huge parties for their 70ths. On one day they invited over 40 family members and we ate, drank, and made merry. The next day, they invited over 100 people – the entire village – and did it all again.

We all agreed that it was so wonderful that since then, they threw ‘the family party’ on the closest Saturday to June 3rd. It’s been a way for us all, flung across the globe, to come together and catch up. Each year, we enjoy each other’s company and enjoy some more family traditions: three generational games of sardines, huge puddings that no one can finish, and never having rain (nope, not in over twenty years).

Every year there are a few new faces, as people introduce life partners and have babies, and every year there are some missing faces. It’s bittersweet, but I can’t wait to be there.

Do you have any family traditions that you love – perhaps some that you hate? Tell me in the comments below!

The best historical romances

What makes a truly great historical romance? It’s something that (as you can imagine) I think about almost continuously. What’s missing from this? What’s going to make it the best book my readers have ever read? What’s going to make it stick in their minds, stay on their bookshelf, be recommended to friends?

Some say it’s characters

A truly great character, a hero or heroine that stays with you after you’ve put the book down. Foibles and failures, dreams and dangers, surely taking your time over creating memorable characters has got to be the secret, right?

Others say it’s setting

Many readers prefer to stay within a particular time period, so you’ve got to be careful and see what the market is doing. Are readers loving Regency or medieval, is it cowboys or dukes, or has the alpha hero beat them all out?

It could even be a massive twist

Some readers like their romances to follow the same sort of pattern: a meet cute, a disagreement, growing to know each other, starting to fight feelings, a sudden shock which reveals emotions, and the happily ever after. Others want to see a twist, reveal, or shock right at the end.

If you ask me though, it’s all three and so much more. I personally love it when authors naturally bring historical details into the narrative without it feeling like I’m sitting in a lecture. Others like strong female secondary characters, or pets, or an element of mystery.

Whatever it is you love, I’m probably writing it. Why not check out my latest steamy Regency series, my first ever medieval series, or my bestselling sweet Western series?

Keeping Spoilers Secret!

We all have that one book, TV, or film series that we’re desperate NOT to discover the spoilers for the ending. Right now in my house, it’s Avengers: Endgame. We just haven’t got around to seeing it, and we’re having to keep telling our friends not to talk about it when we’re around, just in case they let something slip!

For me personally, it’s Game of Thrones. There are only two episodes left, but because I live in the UK and the episodes come out on Sunday evenings in the US, there’s a difficult 18 hours when I have to avoid all my American friends on Facebook!

And it’s the same with book spoilers, especially when you’re an author. I am a huge fan of writing books way ahead of publication time – so the book that I’m writing won’t be published for 6-9 months.

That means that when I’m doing a Q&A with readers about book 4, I have to be careful not to let slip about anything from books 5-8, because I’ve already written them! My readers would hate that, and I would hate to ruin things for them.

The way I manage this is being incredibly precise with what I talk about. If I’m doing an interview, I typically request the questions ahead of time – even if that’s not possible. If it’s a live Q&A with readers, I make sure to always stop and think before I answer a question, keeping it as closely related to that specific book as possible.

Have I made mistakes? I don’t think so. I think the only slip up I’ve made is mentioning that a character will appear in a later book when my readers didn’t know that, but it wasn’t like I was resurrecting him from the dead or anything – it was just meant to be a nice surprise to see that character again, and they got a heads up.

But right now I have some really exciting news about my next series, and I HAVE to keep it under wraps! It’s honestly one of the most challenging secrets I’ve kept, but I promise you all, it’ll be worth it.

What about you – have you ever accidentally let a spoiler slip? Have you stumbled across a spoiler online? Tell me in the comments below!

Historical accuracy in romance

The age old question that many of us historical romance authors face is this: how much accuracy is needed?

It’s a difficult one to answer because there are two main groups of thought, both of which have their own positives and negatives.

Group 1: The Purists

“Write a historical romance without all the details 100% accurate? Nonsese!” They cry. “The whole point of a historical romance is to lose yourself in the time period, to feel as though you could actually be there!”

And in some ways, this is true. Nothing is more jarring when reading a historical book than for a character to use modern day slang, or for a historical character that definitely wasn’t alive then to appear on the page.

But the downside to absolute purist books are that authors can spend hours, days even, hunting down the exact time of cotton thread used in the sewing of a particular type of boot, which is actually only described in passing on one page. It’s a very exhausting way to work for the author, and readers don’t often realise how many hours of work have gone into describing the type of candle wax in a dinner scene.

Group 2: The Narratives

“It’s the narrative story that actually matters!” This group cries. “What does it matter if a character is wearing a gown that was popular five years earlier? It’s the emotions that the character, and the reader feels that matters!”

And in many ways, they are right. Our readers typically assume that we know what we’re doing when writing historical romance, and that means that small slips in accuracy go unnoticed if the story is strong enough.

The downside of this, however, is that for those lovers of the time period, they will quickly notice when something isn’t quite right, and that can mean they put down your book in disgust – and not only never pick one up again, but advise others that they don’t even bother.

So what’s the answer?

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I saw in an author Facebook group this week that someone got themselves tangled up in knots about whether a certain word could be used in her book based in 17th century England if it had not been invented until the 1800s – and the heated debate showed that there are strong feelings on both sides!

On the other hand, have you ever tried to read a 17th century novel – one written during that time, I mean? Sure, there are plenty of words that you recognise, but could you tell your addle-plot from your borachio, your gapeseed from your mulligrubs? Some of my favourites are nipperkin or pickthank.

You see, if historical accuracy is taken too far, then the story actually gets completely lost. So I’m all about balance: I sit between the two camps.

What do you think?

The Perfect Kiss!

Have you ever read a romance book and thought – ohhh. That is the perfect kiss!

Maybe it was a movie. A TV show that made your toes tingle and your heart skip a beat.

I think most of us remember the first kiss that really touched your heart, really made you believe in romance. For me, it was the first kiss between Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.

Honestly, if you haven’t watched the trilogy, I heartily recommend it! 9 hours of absolute Edwardian bliss, completely PG rated, but so romantic that it actually makes me want to move to Canada and watch it forever!

But I digress. I was thinking today about what makes that moment so perfect for me as a viewer, how it makes me come back to the films again and again, because those are exactly the ingredients that I want in my stories! And I think it comes down to five core things.

1. Genuine chemistry. 

There’s no amazing kiss without chemistry, and that’s built up through conversations, looks, touches, near misses, and time. Without the chemistry, it’s just biology.

2. A setting you didn’t expect.

A truly memorable kiss happens in a place that you didn’t expect – either at a time when you think they’re going to fall out, or a dramatic place. Think Darcy and Lizzy.

3. A reason NOT to kiss.

Hell, there’s no heat in a kiss if you’re not fighting the impulse to pull back! Family disagreements, previous relationships, other engagements – there’s got to be a leap of faith.

4. The suggestion of a follow up.

Just one kiss!?! No way – there’s always got to be the suggestion of a follow up, of a deepening connection. The kiss should mark the beginning of the next stage of the relationship, not the pinnacle.

5. Slight imperfection. 

Okay, so there’s no perfect kiss – and that’s what makes it perfect. You want that little hint of real life, something that reminds you that it could be your life – that kiss could be yours.

Think that I’ve missed something? Not referenced your favourite kiss? Let me know in the comments below!

Planning a historical romance series

One of the biggest challenges of being an author is planning a historical romance series. I know that there will be people who disagree with me, but I think this is true for three reasons:

  1. Planning a series, any series, is complicated. You have way more characters to keep track of, you need to ensure that things like time of the year or even years in a decade don’t get all loose, and that your characters’ descriptions don’t change!
  2. Writing historical fiction is complicated. Depending on the level of detail you want to bring into your books, there’s a huge amount of research that you have to put in before you can even think about writing a word!
  3. Creating believable romances is complicated. This is especially true for a series because romance readers always want a ‘happily ever after’ – so how do you get them interested in reading the next book?

Put all of that complication together, and what have you got?

Yeah. It’s complicated.

But planning a historical romance series doesn’t have to be something you avoid, just because it’s complicated. What you need to do is have a really clear strategy to combat those three problems. Here is how I make sure that planning a historical romance series doesn’t need to be the end of your writing career – before it’s even begun!

Keeping track of everything

For me, it’s spreadsheets. For some authors, it’s notebooks. I’ve even got an author friend who has a whole wall whiteboard that she sticks post-it notes on! The point is, find out the best way that you need to keep track of everything – from character names, ages, descriptions, and emotional arcs – and treat that as your Bible.

Have more than one copy of it. And then never let it go.

Commit to the research

Especially true if you’re writing a series, if you know that you’re going to be creating 3+ books in the same historical time period, remember that all the research that you’re doing is essentially divided by three because you can use it as least three times. That makes all those hours worth it.

I’d also recommend typing up your notes so that you can use the ‘Find’ function to hunt down slightly remembered details. You’ll thank me later.

Link your books together

There are a whole bunch of different ways that you can do this for romance series. I’ve used seasons of the year, siblings, and secondary characters becoming primary characters. I’ve read childhood friends and neighbours on the same street. Whatever you pick, it will need to be something cohesive enough to make it clear to your reader that there’s more of your ‘world’ that they can explore, without being so restrictive that your readers get bored of you.

So is that it?

I wish. Planning a historical romance series is one of the most rewarding and challenging things that I think an author can do. Think I’m wrong? Tell me in the comments below!