The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Friday, 23 February 2018

February Round Robin: Creating characters


The topic for this month is all about creating characters. ‘Your characters come from your mind, from other people you've witnessed, but can you create their lives without them revealing something about yourself? Have they ever taught you something?’

For me, stories are first and for all about people and the conflicts and emotions between them, that’s why it is so important to create characters that the reader can relate to and want to follow through the pages of a book until the final resolution. But where do these characters come from, and how do they spring into life and become as real, endearing or infuriating as the people you meet in real life?

Before I share my ideas about this month’s topic, please let me introduce you to Rosalie Heart, the heroine of my romantic novel LITTLE PINK TAXI, which was released this week by Choc Lit.

Hi everybody! My name is Rosalie Heart. I live in Raventhorn, a beautiful but run-down castle in the Cairngorms of Scotland, together with Geoff McBride whom I love like the father I never knew, and housekeeper Lorna. Oh yes, Geoff says ‘others’ live at Raventhorn too, like the ghost of Isobel McBride for example, although I suspect that he’s must making it up to attract tourists. I love this place. I may not have been born here, but this is where I grew up, and I never want to leave.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Apart from the fact that I love Raventhorn, here are three other things you must know about me. Number one: I can’t cook, but I love cakes, especially chocolate brownies. Number two: I set up my own cab company called Love Taxis after mum died, and there is no other job I’d rather do than drive my pink taxi.  And number three: when in my cab, I love singing – although I have been told that I sing as well as I cook!  

I believe in kindness, in helping others and staying loyal to your friends and family.

How much did I make up about Rosalie’s character, and how much is based on people around me, on chance encounters, life experiences and personal beliefs and preferences? Is Rosalie completely made up, a little bit made up, or completely fictitious?

The truth is, a bit of both. I have never driven a taxi – whether pink or of any other colour. In fact I don’t like driving all that much. I have never lived, or even stayed, in a Scottish castle, even though it would be my dream to do so. I do however share quite a few things with Rosalie. I can’t sing. I love chocolate cake. I believe in kindness and loyalty. And for many years I struggled with the loss of my mother.

So Rosalie is a little bit like me, but she is even more like the woman I would like to be. Her life is completely alien to mine, and yet she shares some of my dreams and the painful experience of losing a loved one. She is a lot braver than I ever was. In fact, when I recently had to drive back home on a deserted hill road in ice and fog late at night, I kept asking myself what Rosalie would do She is used to driving in the snow in winter, so she wouldn’t panic. And it did seem to help!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The topic for this round robin got me thinking about my process for creating characters. I have never based a character solely on someone I know, have met or heard of in ‘real’ life. However, I don’t believe it is possible to completely make up a character.

Ever since I can remember, I have always spent a lot of time observing people, listening to conversations, picking up bits and pieces of information. Every time I have been in a slightly comical or peculiar situation, I have always made a mental note of remembering all the details of how I felt, how the people around me reacted, in order to be able to write about it later.

Even though they are not based on me, my heroines have feelings, dreams fears and insecurities that I have had at some point in my life. In particular, now I think about it, they all have had to deal with the loss of a loved one – often their mother, which resonates with my own experience of having lost my mother to cancer very early on in my life. So the characters I feel the closest to have qualities and flaws I find funny or endearing, or have experiences I’ve had or would like to have.

On the other hand, the ‘villains’ or less sympathetic characters have personality traits I find irritating or unattractive. After all, you know the saying ‘if you annoy me, I will put you in my book (optional: and I will kill you!)
LITTLE PINK TAXI is available here.

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline.

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too.

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …


Please take a look at what these authors have to say about this month's round robin!




Thursday, 8 February 2018

Unexpected murder...Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane

I am delighted that Jenny Kane has accepted to be my guest today to talk about her latest release Romancing Robin HoodA very warm welcome to you, Jenny! What can you tell us about Romancing Robin Hood?

Many thanks for inviting me to visit your fabulous blog as part of my blog tour to promote my part modern romance/part medieval mystery novel, Romancing Robin Hood.

After years of writing light hearted coffee shop reads, the last thing I expected I'd be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!). Yet, that is exactly what I happened when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn't so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn't see this coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance all about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is nuts about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. Not only does Romancing Robin Hood tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched myself as a student many moons ago.

In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist, Mathilda of Twyford, is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as being forced to live under their roof, Mathilda suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion. (I won’t elaborate or it will spoil the story)

Blurb

When you’re in love with a man of legend, how can anyone else match up?
Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a teenager. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History—but Grace is stuck in a rut.

Grace is supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval criminal gang—the Folvilles—but instead she is captivated by a novel she’s secretly writing. A medieval mystery which entwines the story of Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood—and a feisty young woman named Mathilda of Twyford.

Just as she is trying to work out how Mathilda can survive being kidnapped by the Folvilles, Grace’s best friend Daisy announces she is getting married. After a whirlwind romance with a man she loves as much as the creatures in her animal shelter, Daisy has press-ganged Grace into being her bridesmaid.

Witnessing Daisy’s new-found happiness, Grace starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? Grace’s life doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks—a rival academic who she is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to… If only he didn’t know quite so much about Robin Hood.

Suddenly, spending more time living in the past than the present doesn’t seem such a good idea...

***
I must confess I'm rather enjoyed weaving this darker subplot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood. I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are!

Here’s an extract for you.

Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched out her arms and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, still clapped in irons, abandoned and rotting. Mathilda battled the voice down; knowing it that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated Mathilda on her level headedness, and now it was being put to the test. She was determined not to let him down now.

Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless...

...Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.

No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript...

***
You can find all the buy links for Romancing Robin Hood here

(Please note that this is a re-released, re-edited and re-covered novel)

***
Many thanks again, Marie.
Happy reading everyone,
Jenny xx


Bio
With a background in history and archaeology, Jenny Kane should really be sat in a dusty university library translating Medieval Latin criminal records, before writing research documents that hardly anyone would want to read. Instead, tucked away in the South West of England, Jenny Kane writes stories with one hand, while designing creative writing workshops for ‘Imagine’ with the other.

Jenny spends a large part of her time in her local Costa, where she creates her stories, including the novels Romancing Robin Hood (LittWizz Press, 2018), Abi’s Neighbour (Accent Press, 2017), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent, 2016), Abi’s House (Accent Press, June 2015), the best selling contemporary romance Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and the novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds, (Accent Press, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle, (Accent Press, 2015).

Jenny also writes medieval crime fiction as Jennifer Ash.

The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw will both be published by Littwitz Press in early 2018

Jenny Kane is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.
Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor   @JenAshHistory     @Imagine_Writing
Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl  
Facebook for Jennifer Ash -https://www.facebook.com/jenniferashhistorical/?ref=bookmarks  


Jenny Kane also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee. (www.kayjaybee.me.uk)


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cover Reveal of Little Pink Taxi!

I am delighted to unveil the beautiful cover that the Choc Lit has designed for Little Pink Taxi, my contemporary romance which will be published on February 20th.


In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order for the special price of £0.99 from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Pink-Taxi-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B078KCQ5G3/

Here is a taste of the story:

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline. 

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too. 

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Friday, 29 December 2017

Announcing the release of Little Pink Taxi!

I am delighted to announce that my new contemporary romance LITTLE PINK TAXI will be released by Choc Lit on February 20th. The cover is still under wraps until January 9th, but the book is available for pre-order for only £0.99.

Here is a taste of the story, which is set in the Cairngorms in Scotland...

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 

Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline.

Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too.

On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

You can pre-order Little Pink Taxi here


Here are a couple of photos which inspired the story...
  Cairngorms National Park, photo courtesy of Pixabay

My inspiration for Raventhorn castle, photo courtesy of Pixabay
Thank you so much Choc Lit for helping me fulfil my dream of seeing Little Pink Taxi published!


Friday, 17 November 2017

The Truth about Me, You and Us


Genre: Contemporary women’s fiction

Release Date: 25 August 2017

Publisher: Accent Press

Sometimes the hardest person to be honest with is yourself…

Five years ago Helen Walters walked out on her ‘perfect’ life with the ‘perfect’ man. Wealthy, glamorous and bored, she longed for something more.

Now a talented artist with a small business, Helen creates crazy patchwork crafts to support her young daughter, Megan. Penniless, content and single, she is almost unrecognisable.

But when her past unexpectedly collides with her new life, Helen finds herself torn. She knows what the easiest choice is, but is it what she wants?

My review
I really enjoyed Kate Field's debut The Magic of Ramblings and was really looking forward to reading her second novel. I wasn't disappointed. From the very beginning I got hooked on Helen's story, and fell in love with the characters, especially Joel who is a wonderful, gorgeous hero. I had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen and what Helen would decide to do in the end...Would she go back to Daniel and play happy families, or would she choose Joel and start a new life with him? The Truth about Me, You and Us is a really lovely romance that I highly recommend.

BUY LINK

ABOUT KATE FIELD

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.


Twitter: @katehaswords

GIVEAWAY
2 paperback copies of the book are up for grabs!
(open internationally)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Dancing for the Devil: new edition, new cover and new price!


I am delighted to announce that my historical romance set in Scotland has been re-released as one novel (instead of three short ones) by Áccent Press, and is now available both as an ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Here is the blurb

Can her love heal his haunted heart? - Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847.
Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land. Discharged from the army, he is haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad. And he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunn's ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable – a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.


Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master – the man she calls McGlum. Will she be reunited with Cameron McRae, the dazzlingly handsome aristocrat she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers, or will she risk her heart and her honour to help Bruce discover the truth about his past and solve the brutal murders committed on his land?




Friday, 20 October 2017

October Round Robin: What is your favourite time period and why?


The topic for this month's round robin is:  In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change?


Since my first published novel in 2015, I have written more historical romance - both novels and short stories - than contemporary romance. There is something about historical romance that draws me back time after time. Perhaps it's because of my inability to cope with modern technology  - iphones, ipads, satnavs, social media platforms and various other gadgets I don't know much about and have absolutely no interest in, yet I know I would feel compelled to include in a contemporary novel since they are so much part of modern life.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
I may love writing historical romance but the genre poses specific challenges, of course. It can be difficult to make sure the characters, the period and setting, and of course the love story between the protagonists, are plausible. Research is always important whatever period you are setting your story, but it's even more so for historical fiction.

My first challenge is to make sure I get the tone, the language and the thought process of the characters right, and for this I try to take into account the more rigid social order of the times my novel is set. That includes the constraints imposed on women, the importance of religion in everyday life, the relationships between men and women, as well as the broader historical background - such as political struggles and wars.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Both my novels ANGEL HEART and DANCING FOR THE DEVIL feature Napoleon's cuirassiers at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo. There is a wealth of material about these battles, Waterloo was a particular useful site for my research. It also has details of many battles fought by the British army around the world, including the Punjab wars where my hero Bruce McGunn fought.

Reading social or political pamphlets or extracts of newspapers of the time helps me find out what was going at the time of my story, and what and who was popular, fashionable, or reviled. By reading fiction of the period I can pick up popular expressions, slang or understand the way people addressed one another at the time. If you fancy taking a look at some Victorian slang, click on Victorian Slang, but be warned, it's not for the faint hearted! For lots of fascinating posts and articles on the Victorian age you must read The Victorianist.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Secondly, I try not to get mixed up with the various items of clothing people wore at the time, and that includes underwear! There are of course lots of material detailing items of clothing for both men and women, but for a quick glance at outfits for writing a particular scene I find Pinterest very useful. This site here has great information about female underwear in different time periods and these have beautiful photos and descriptions: Fashion of the 1850s and Romantic Era Fashion and Hair.

When writing historical fiction, you must also pay attention to distances. Travelling by horse or carriage took a lot longer in the early nineteenth century, especially in bad weather and considering that the state of the roads could be appalling. It's the same for sea crossings.

My latest historical romance - DANCING FOR THE DEVIL - mainly takes place in the Scottish Highlands where I have unfortunately never been. Here are just a few sites I found useful, including this one on the Clearances. For general information about the Highlands, these were very useful: Highland dress and weapons, Scottish Folklore and Songs, and the Scots Tongue.

Of course, I just don't rely on the Internet and the material I find online. I always look out for great books too, all kinds of non-fiction books about fashion, travel and folklore. These featured on the photo below have been invaluable when I was researching DANCING FOR THE DEVIL. Visiting historic houses is always inspiring too, for ideas about design, furniture, everyday items. I always love looking at family portraits and old sepia photos, and make notes of unusual names.

Finally I would say that the biggest challenge for me is to avoid overloading the story with lots and lots of historical details. However frustrating it may be to leave out fascinating or quirky facts I came across during my hours of research, I need to remind myself that I am writing a love story, not a social or historical treatise!

Below is the list of authors taking part in this month's round robin.