What is your favourite historical period?

I love history so much! It’s one of the subjects that I studied at university, and in the UK that’s quite a big deal: typically, you only study one subject at university but I loved history and literature so much, I studied both!

When I first started writing historical romance, I was studying my Medieval Studies Masters at university, and so it seemed perfect timing to write a medieval romance series (which became Conquered Hearts).

After the successful publication of that series, my publishers asked me to write a Regency romance, and so I actually kind of fell into it! I loved the time period so much that I ended up writing six months in that series.

Then one of my author friends – the wonderful Melissa Storm – invited me to write a book in her romance world, and I wrote five books of the foundation of a small town in Texas.

And then I returned to Regency which I loved so much.

It’s hard to pick a favourite time period: I know the medieval era the best, in Regency I have the most fun, and 1840s Texas has challenged me the most!

What is your favourite?

The perfect kiss

What makes a perfect kiss?

This is one of the questions that, as a romance author, I spend a huge amount of time thinking about. It’s important to me that my readers experience wonderful romance, soaring emotions – but also romance that feels real, like it could actually have happened.

That’s a bit of a challenge with historical romance, especially when gentlemen and ladies had so little opportunity to spend any time together before actually being wed.

I work hard to make each and every kiss in my books absolutely perfect.

So what is a perfect kiss? I asked some of my friends and here are their responses:

  • The perfect kiss is unexpected! You don’t know it’s coming and then it is SO sweet when it does!
  • The perfect kiss is one you’ve been waiting for, one that you’re desperate for and one you think you’re never going to get.
  • The perfect kiss is with the perfect person.
  • The perfect kiss is not too soggy!
  • The perfect kiss is your last first kiss.

I agree with absolutely all of this, and one thing extra: the perfect kiss is one that promises so much and only delivers 80% – it always leaves you wanting more!

If you’re wanting to experience a whole bunch of perfect kisses, then check out my books!

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!