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!

Dukes, Viscounts, Earls oh my!

It’s difficult to read a historical romance these days without getting utterly overwhelmed by titles.

Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, Counts: every single man seems to need a title to be attractive, and that can make things complicated.

Take William Lennox, Duke of Mercia, for example (spoilers: he’s a character in a new book that will be published next year!).

To his brother, he’s Will.

To his sister, he’s Bill.

To his friends who knew him before he ascended the title, he’s Lennox.

To his friends who knew him after he ascended the title, he’s Mercia.

This can mean that in one simple scene, depending on who is in the room, he can be addressed as Will, Bill, Lennox, and Mercia…and everyone in the room will understand what is going on.

The question is, do my readers?!?

It’s a constant challenge to make sure that my books are historically accurate but at the same time, understandable to those who are reading them. I don’t want to compromise too often, but there’s no point in writing a book if no one can enjoy it!

So yes: I’ve tried to simplify things. When my characters have titles (and yes, they have them rather often!), I focus on keeping the storytelling simple. They have enough complications with the wild heroines I send them…

Make sure you catch up with all my books here!

My most productive writing day!

I don’t want to jinx it (in case it never happens again!) but I have just had my most productive writing day EVER.

And I mean, ever.

Today, I wrote over 18,500 words. I know, it doesn’t look real, does it? It’s such a huge number, even for me – and I’m quite accustomed to writing around 10,000 words on a good writing day.

But what made this day different? If you ask me, I think it comes down to three things:

  1. I needed to get those words out. I was a little behind on where I wanted to be this month, and as I had a relaxing day with friends and family yesterday, I knew that today was going to be a day I really had to commit to getting the words down.
  2. I was plotting, not writing. I use what I call ‘deep plotting’ as part of my writing process. That means writing out what is going to happen, action by action, thought by thought, in a chapter. It’s not pretty prose, but it makes it a whole lot easier later.
  3. The muse was so with me! Whether it was the cooler weather, the fact that my wonderful husband gave me some alone time, or just that the muse was gracing me with her presence, but it all came together.

What’s next, I hear you ask? Well, I work a full time job so tomorrow it’s back to that – but I’ll be sure to try and get a few hours here and there to keep the story going. This one is due to be published April 2020 so I’ve got a bit of time, but I want to make sure it’s the absolute best!

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.

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!

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!

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!