Archive for 'romance'

On happy endings, sexy heroes, and revolutionary writing

Really enjoyed this recent post on Shondaland.com featuring the inimitable Julia Quinn. Here are some of my favorite bits.

SL: What do you think takes a romance novel from good to great?

JQ: There’s a joke romance writers like to make when we’re talking about our books. We’ll be talking about the plot, and then we’ll say in a confidential tone, “Okay, spoiler alert. They get together in the end.” This pretty much always gets a laugh, because if there is one thing we all know about romance novels, and indeed, if there is one thing that defines a romance novel, it’s the happy ending. 

This isn’t to say, however, that romance novels are formulaic. Far from it. You open with two protagonists who meet (or re-meet) and you finish with a happy ending. How you get from point A to point B is wide open. But no matter how varied the plots may be, they all end in fundamentally the same place. Which is why I think that if you want to take a romance novel from good to great, it’s all about the characters.

If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, if she doesn’t have a hollow spot in the pit of her stomach when things look bleak, or she doesn’t feel a thrill as they tumble into love, the book will fall flat. A romance novel is all about the emotional journey, and a reader’s emotions must be engaged. I’m known for writing humorous books, and I’m often asked for advice on how to be funny. (Short answer: I have no idea. It’s just the way I’m wired.) I always caution writers not to forsake the emotion in the pursuit of humor. A funny book will make you laugh, but a funny book that grabs your heart at the same time will stay with you forever. 

Photo: Julia Quinn

SL: What do you most hope people take away from your work?

JQ: I’ve said many times that I’m not going to change the world with my writing, but I can change someone’s afternoon. There is a time and a place for the Great American Novel, and there is a time and a place for clever, well-written entertainment. I love writing the latter, and I love reading it, too.

But lately I’ve been thinking that there is more to it than that. I often hear from readers who tell me that my books have shown them that they deserve better in their lives, that they deserve a partner who treats them well. And maybe that’s why my heroes aren’t typical bad boys. (Seriously, every time I try to write a bad boy hero he turns around and does something decent and nice.) I don’t want a guy who treats women like dirt, and I don’t want to write about guys who do that, either. Then it occurred to me — in some ways, portraying a healthy relationship in literature is the most revolutionary thing you can do.

SL: Going off of that, what makes a male character sexy in a romance novel?

JQ: There are really two parts to what makes a male character sexy. The first is focused just on him. There is the physical — he doesn’t need to be classically handsome, but he needs to be attractive to the heroine. He also needs, in my opinion, a stellar sense of humor and the ability to — at least some of the time — not take himself too seriously. But I also think that a vital component of his sexiness comes in how he sees the heroine. A guy simply cannot be sexy if he doesn’t respect women. If you want to be a hero in one of my books, you have to believe in the heroine and respect and cherish her strengths and abilities. It doesn’t mean he can’t get all protective and macho from time to time — I mean, who doesn’t love that? But ultimately, he’s got to think she’s the bomb, and not just because he likes the way she looks on his arm. And of course, it doesn’t hurt if he gets down on one knee and declares that she’s the missing piece to his soul.

To read the full interview, click here.

More about Julia Quinn here.

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You May Kiss the Bride giveaway!

A signed, print copy is currently up for grabs. It’s the first book in my Penhallow Dynasty series, and was recently named by Booklist as one of the year’s top 10 romance debuts. To enter, click here. And good luck!

Graphic: "A masterful Regency debut . . . A sheer delight." -Kirkus Reviews (starred) for You May Kiss the Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

To learn more about You May Kiss the Bride, click here.

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A giveaway from Sophie Jordan!

I first met Sophie at the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in 2016 — at the Avon Books party, to be precise. I’ll always remember her big smile, warm greeting, and how she pulled up on her phone the cover of her next historical romance, While the Duke Was Sleeping . . . and we ooh’ed and aah’ed over its gorgeousness. I invite you to feast your eyes!

Cover of While the Duke Was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan (Avon Books)

 

Now the wonderful Sophie’s offering a giveaway of The Laird Takes a Bride on her Facebook page! Would you like to enter? Click here. And good luck!

Image: cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

 

 

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Ending soon!

A Goodreads giveaway for The Laird Takes a Bride wraps up on Tuesday. If you haven’t already, would you like to enter for a chance to win a signed copy? If so, click here.

Graphic: Goodreads giveaway! The Laird Takes a Bride (Avon Books) by Lisa Berne

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Flash giveaway!

I devoured Joanna Shupe’s enthralling A Daring Arrangement, and I want to share the love! Stop by my Facebook page for a chance to win this advance reader’s copy. And good luck!

Image: cover of A Daring Arrangment by Joanna Shupe (Avon Books)

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Goodreads giveaway!

Would you like a chance to win a signed, print copy of The Laird Takes a Bride? Click here.

The cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

This giveaway ends on September 19, 2017

Heroes & Heartbreakers says it’s a “sometimes humorous, sometimes eerie, sometimes dangerous courtship . . . If marriage-of-convenience is your catnip, you’ll enjoy this one.” Want to read the full review? Click here.

 

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It’s done . . .

And now the manuscript for The Bride Takes a Groom, the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, is off to my editor!Photograph: the manuscript for The Bride Takes a Groom by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Plus, here’s an advance preview of the back cover!

Lisa Berne’s Penhallow Dynasty continues with a pair of star-crossed childhood friends who meet again years later—and find love where they least expect it . . .

Katherine Brooke may be a fabulously wealthy heiress, but she’s trapped, a pawn in her parents’ ruthless game to marry her into the nobility. Then Captain Hugo Penhallow—so charming, as handsome as a Greek god—comes into her life once more, and suddenly she sees a chance to be free.

As a Penhallow, his is one of the highest names in the land, but still his family is facing ruin. So Katherine boldly proposes an exchange: his name for her money. But only if Hugo understands it’s merely a practical arrangement, and that she’s not surrendering herself entirely.

Back from eight years in America and determined to give his younger siblings a better life, Hugo agrees. He’s never fallen in love, so why not? Yet neither of them guesses that this marriage will become far, far more than they ever dreamed of . . .

Would you like to preorder The Bride Takes a Groom? Click here. To save it on Goodreads, click here.

 

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Word of the day: Onerous

A suitable word for Monday, don’t you think?

Graphic: "onerous" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

 

I also used it in The Laird Takes a Bride, in a scene in which one of the “contestants” in a Bachelor-esque scenario receives the news that she’s been summoned to the castle of my hero Alasdair Penhallow:

When Miss Janet Reid, of the Lowlands, got her letter, she had only an hour before returned from a stroll in the manicured gardens to the back of her house, and in the company of a young man who had for the past months been courting her most ardently. (Her governess, Miss Sad Shovel as she liked to call her, had been discreetly trailing behind, her face just as dreary and spade-­like as ever.) Janet had been in­clined to encourage this young man over her other suitors, for he was terribly good-­looking, came from a fine family, and stood to inherit a handsome fortune from his father. Oh, and she liked him well enough.

But having read the letter, she changed her mind. And she laughed, and clapped her hands with joy.

A marriage to the laird of Castle Tadgh would be a far better arrangement — quite a coup, in fact. Besides, she’d heard a few things about Alasdair Penhallow, and he did sound like fun. And she was quite partial to fun herself. Not for her the staid life of your average miss, always sitting around sewing samplers, or plucking dolefully at harps, or poring over dull books. No, she was cut from a very differ­ent sort of cloth. Which reminded her. She went with her light tread to the drawing­-room, and announced:

“I’m going to Castle Tadgh. We need Miss Cowden to come in right away, and bring all her assistants, and plan to stay as long as necessary. I need a new wardrobe, and we haven’t much time.”

Her mother — seated across from Parson Tidwell, who had no doubt come on behalf of his tedious orphanage or his seemingly endless supply of poor people — at once lost her look of thinly disguised boredom and turned to Janet in astonishment. “You’re going to Castle Tadgh? Why?”

“So I can marry Alasdair Penhallow, of course.”

“The Penhallow? He’s offered for you?”

Janet Reid smiled. “No. But he will.”

Instantly her mother grasped the salient facts. “I’ll send a note to Miss Cowden right away,” she said, and with a nod to Parson Tidwell she rose, indicating that his presence was now, well, more than a little onerous.

Image: cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)As I mentioned in my recent interview with Lenora Bell, Janet Reid, a secondary but important character in The Laird Takes a Bride, was inspired by the indelible Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

This scene appears in Chapter 2, but if you like, you can read all of Chapter 1 here.

 

 

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Inside scoop: Katherine and Hugo

I’m looking forward to sharing with you the cover for The Bride Takes a Groom, the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series — it’s gorgeous! In the meantime, I thought you might like to see the visual inspirations for my heroine and hero.

Here’s how I originally envisioned Captain Hugo Penhallow:

Photo: the visual inspiration for Captain Hugo Penhallow in Lisa Berne's The Bride Takes a Groom (Avon Books)

And these two actresses together are a composite of Katherine Brooke:

Photo: Andie MacDowellPhoto: Shirley Henderson

 

The Bride Takes a Groom releases next spring. Would you like to save it on Goodreads? Click here.

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My current read . . .

I was lucky enough to score an advance reader’s copy of Joanna Shupe’s A Daring Arrangement, which releases next month. If you’re a Gilded Era fan, like me, you’ll love this beautifully written book!Image: cover of A Daring Arrangment by Joanna Shupe (Avon Books)

More about Joanna here.

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