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Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

November is usually a good writing time for me. The taxes are done. I’m gearing up for Christmas so I usually have that impetus to get things done before December hits. I can take that 30 days to focus and write.

Many years I wrote during November and I didn’t register for NaNoWriMo. I got into the spirit of the thing. Until recent years where I’m much more likely to register. I don’t always make the goal. A couple years I baulked, usually do to workload in the day job. I have partial drafts of books. One is a contemporary romance– at least so far. I’m tempted to put in a ghost or a vampire, but basically it’s a truckie story. The other partial I have is the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell, called The Changling Curse. I haven’t got back to it to finish it. There are a number of reasons for that. That I already have too many draft novels that need to be crafted, revised and polished is the main one.

So this year, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo thing. I hadn’t done any planning for the novel. November just sneaks up on me. Anyway I had this idea in my head for a year or two that I wanted to write another Love and Pirates story, this time about Opeia Gayens, the mother and head of AllEarth Corp.

I started drafting. I got 5000 words down but then I had to stop. I had to work on another novel, getting it ready for beta readers. I thought I’d just come back to the NaNoWriMo project. I ended up nearly losing two weeks but I did go back.

It’s quite hard to write a story without enough ideas. Sometimes they just come to me. So I started drafting and I was thinking this is a bit lame, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I had that break from it (nearly two weeks) and reviewed the 5000 words I’d written to get me back into the story and went to bed. But obviously my subconscious was worried about the story because I had this amazing, comical scene unfold in the early hours of the next morning. I got up really revved, thinking this is it. And the resolution of this scene would skate me near to the end of the story. I was back on board. I had to write a lot to catch up, because I was way behind. But I didn’t let that worry me. I was on a roll.

This is the part that I love. Being so revved so in the story. I call it the zen zone where the creativity is sparking in the brain and the story cascades like it’s being downloaded. I walk around in a daze, send notes to myself as little ideas come to me. The ideas are flowing and writing 5000 words over the course of the day seems natural and easy. This is the buzz I live for. This is the orgasmic flow that is, lets face it, better than sex.

Often after experiencing the zen zone, I think I’ll never get it back. These days I know I can. Usually I get into the zen zone on  a writer’s retreat. This time I managed it at home, between uni, grandkids and other stuff. I caught up. I wrote 50,000 words! A complete story. I’ve even tinkered with some of those words. It’s a short novel, but longer than Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures.

Now the first cut is done, the harder work begins. Crafting the story I wrote. Opi Battles the Space Pirates is a SF romance. The most difficult part of a romance for me is writing the characters to sufficient depth. I’m queen of plot in comparison. My books tend to be plot heavy. The challenge now is to find out who Opi is and craft her better than she is now. I’d like to do that now rather than later…just in case it goes in the too hard basket.

NaNoWriMo for me then is not so much about how much I write, although I do find having a goal makes me sit at the computer longer than I really want to. I am an obsessive, goal oriented over achieving ADHD woman so that probably makes sense that I respond to a word count goal. But more than that it’s about writing, getting into the zone, giving myself permission to write and ignoring the housework and the DVD watching etc. Over 30 days you can achieve a lot. NaNoWriMo just reminds me of that.

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Since my previous post I’ve mulling over the so-called ‘passive’ heroine in romance novels. The stories I mentioned that didn’t have passive heroines in the previous post are fairly recent, say from the 1990 onwards. Also, the heroine I believe must be considered in context. The heroine in the Barbara Cartland novel discussed was an historical heroine. Would that account for her apparently passivity? Maybe. Then I thought of Georgette Heyer’s work and thought not so.

I have a weakness for Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances.(Heyer died in 1974 so her works are much earlier than 1990s)  They don’t have sex scenes all, but they evoke a period in time reminiscent of the great and wonderful Jane Austen. A fantasy world, I suppose, with particular tropes. (I am equally weak at the knees for Scottish historials with Lairds in them. Totally non-realistic. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy, right?).

So four books that I have been listening to on Audible a lot lately are, Venetia (abridged), Sylvester (abridged), The Quiet Gentleman and the Grand Sophy. I have lots of Heyer’s books in print, but these just happen to be on my Audible account and I replay them a lot. Venetia and Sylvester are read by Richard Armitage. Enough said. He does a brilliant job. Those two books got me breaking my Audible rule. I set out not wanting to buy books on Audible that I own in print. I confess I spanked myself thoroughly when I broke the rule, but you know…Richard Armitage!!%$$$###???

Then I decided I didn’t like the abridged books, so I bought The Quiet Gentleman (almost romantic suspense) and The Grand Sophy because they were heaps longer and I could go away into another world while driving long distances.

I thought about the heroines and about whether they were passive or not. There is definitely a spectrum here. Sophia Stanton-Lacey is the strongest, least passive and positively feminist heroine, in some regards. She is the centre of a whirlwind. The first time I read this book I quite missed that it was a romance, or meant to be. I had to read it again. I missed something. It’s quite a wonderful satire. Now more recently listening to it many times. I can’t  count them. I’m weak. What can I say? Sophy stands up for herself. She locks horns. Charles her cousin gets quite riled with her. He is probably the most aggressive out of the heroes in these four novels. Mind you he has to be or he’d be pulp on the bottom of Sophy’s shoes. I could go into the plot a bit more but why spoil it for you. Just read the damn thing or listen to it.

Venetia on the other hand has lived a very retiring life. She pretends to be passive but she’s got steel in her, resisting the boring neighbour who wants to marry her. She falls in love with a rake. Who might be a libertine but is not overly aggressive. They form a lovely friendship until they are separated by interfering relatives. But when she finds out about her past, which has been kept for her, she just goes for the goal. She makes the rake propose to her, against his will. I wouldn’t call that passive.

Sylvester features Phoebe, who runs away when she thinks she’s going to be forced to marry Sylvester, a duke, who snubbed her. I wouldn’t say she was feisty exactly but she’s very unusual and when they are thrown together her magic explodes. She laughs at the duke, tells him what she thinks (a bit like Margaret in North and South) and she’s quite clever. They have an accord. Sylvester is not aggressive at all. He’s a gentle man, but very capable of fixing mishaps. Phoebe also has courage and gets into scrapes trying to do the right thing, to right the wrongs she has done.

In The Quiet Gentleman there is no aggressive hero. He’s so laid back, he’s almost effeminate. In fact, he doesn’t think much of Drusilla at all. She’s quite plain, short and plump. She isn’t trying to win him either. There’s is a slow and gentle coming together.Drusilla is practical and also quite determined to prevent, St Erth being murdered. It is really quite interesting really. I have listened (as well as read) this story and I don’t know when the transition occurs. It’s just a slow warming of him to her. Apparently he’s so gorgeous he was out of her league in the romance stakes and yet…without trying in any way to fix him, he falls for her. While Drusilla seems a bit laid back, she rears up at the end and tells them all what’s what. I don’t consider Drusilla passive, but realistic. This story is also an excellent satire and Heyer is great with her character descriptions. What a gifted writer.

So I don’t think historical heroines in romance novels are passive either. Of course, there are some. But don’t say they are all PASSIVE. You’re wrong!

If you are a romance reader or writer, please consider taking my survey. It’s for my PhD on Feminism in popular romance fiction. Just click here for more details.

 

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Now that I’m back from Shanghai, I am back on the ball with the PhD.

An important part of my research is obtaining the views of romance readers and romance writers. I have been working on these surveys for a few months and they are ready to launch.

Now there are two surveys: one for romance readers and one for romance writers. Please use the correct link!

Yes. Romance writers can be romance readers but I have questions on their romance reading  in the writer survey so you don’t need to do two surveys.

I think the survey can take up to 15-20 minutes to do. I do it quicker but I’ve been looking at it many times. So do allow some time.

I am also going to select some people for a follow up interview. There is space to indicate your willingness to be involved in this is the consent form. The consent form is the first part of the survey.

This survey is for my PhD, which is examining romance fiction. Please help!

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Writers

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Readers.

Thanking you all in anticipation. Donna!

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It is my great pleasure to interview, Debbie Phillips, the president of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA) one of the most organised and efficient organisations I have ever dealt with. They run a biennial conference for readers (with writers) of romance, as well as the annual romance reader awards, surveys of romance readers, signing events, author high teas, local area romance reader lunches and the list goes on. They are awesome. So if you like reading romance you should consider signing up to be a member. It’s a modest fee. And if your fancy goes to meeting other romance readers then you should head to Melbourne in February 2017!!

I was curious about the origins of the organisation so I asked Debbie to answer a few questions.

So, Debbie, how did the Australian Romance Readers Association start and when?

ARRA was established in 2007 to organise the first Australian Romance Readers Convention. That was our sole purpose at the time. Since then we have incorporated the association and have added other events to our activities.

It all started with a discussion on an online loop, where Maggie Nash suggested Australia should have its own romance readers convention. Other members of the loop thought that was a great idea and we set up an expression of interest form and set it out through our various networks. Then came the amazing moment when we received an email from Sherrilyn Kenyon saying she’d heard about the idea and could she come. (Umm, yes!) After that there was no turning back.

How long did it take for your membership levels to reach a critical mass?

Not long at all. We started out with just 16 members—the committee organising ARRC09—and by the end of 2009 we had over 120 members. Our membership today sits at 341. (Donna: OMG! that’s so many. So Fab)

Why is the Australian Romance Readers Association important to readers of romance? What does being a member do?

Other than the obvious benefit of the events we host each year, ARRA also provides a place where readers can find other readers (and authors) who share their interests. We have an online members loop where we chat throughout the month about what we are reading; we have a monthly newsletter that is jam-packed with articles and news about romance fiction; we have an active blog with regular articles from authors and publishers, with giveaways as well. We also have active groups on social media.

Being a member of ARRA means you are supporting that community. We have taken the $20 membership fees from our members and turned them into an enormous enterprise that is getting attention from around the world.

In addition to the biennial conventions we host a signing each August in conjunction with the Romance Writers of Australia conference. Taking advantage of the opportunity presented by so many authors in one place has meant we can keep costs low and offer a unique opportunity for local readers to come along and meet authors and get books signed.

We have also hosted special events with authors like Julia Quinn, Karen Rose and Maya Banks when they visited Australia. Being able to do that is something really special for both readers and authors.

What made ARRA decide to run biennial conferences? What is special about these conferences?

With the growth of online communities and social media Australian romance readers were able to see all the fun readers have at the RT conventions in the United States. For most readers a trip to RT was something they would probably never be able to afford. So we decided to establish our own convention here in Australia. We move it around the country to make it more accessible to readers.

They’re special because they’re total immersion in romance fiction for an entire weekend. You get to meet and chat with authors and readers for two whole days (longer if you come to some of the optional social events). And even better, it is a judgment-free zone! Everyone there gets your obsession with reading romance and you will not see a single eye roll.

Where have these conferences been? Can you give me some highlights of the guests you have had?

We have had the most amazing guests!

The first convention in 2009 was held in Melbourne. Keynote speakers were Stephanie Laurens, Sherrilyn Kenyon, MaryJanice Davidson, Dianna Love, Susan Grant and Liz Maverick. (All these speakers very generously paid their own expenses, so we could afford to have six keynotes!) There were also another 40 authors at the convention.

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Sherrilyn Kenyon (L) and Dianna Love (R) with reader Lami, ARRC09

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Back row: MaryJanice Davidson, Liz Maverick and Susan Grant; Front row: readers Pamela, Carrie and Sarah, ARRC09

The next convention was ARRC2011, held in Bondi. Our keynotes were Anna Campbell, Nalini Singh and Cindy Gerard. There were another 40 authors in attendance as well.

In 2013 we hosted the convention in Brisbane, and keynotes were Anne Gracie, Kristan Higgins and Rachel Vincent. Our author numbers had jumped to 60 by then.

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Nalini Singh, Anne Gracie, reader Willy and Keri Arthur, ARRC2011

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Kristan Higgins, Rachel Vincent and Anne Gracie, ARRC2013

Last year we hosted ARRC2015 in Canberra. Our keynotes were Helene Young, Sylvia Day, Victoria Dahl and Kelley Armstrong. There were an additional 90 authors at the event, our biggest yet.

How do you decide who to invite as keynotes?

We ask our members who they would love to meet and then we compile a list and make our way down it. For every convention we are in contact with probably a dozen authors before we lock in our keynotes. All the authors we speak to are excited at the thought of coming to Australia to meet their readers, but unfortunately for some it just isn’t possible at that particular time. Authors are busy people! The list of authors who have regretfully declined our invitation is just as start-studded as the authors who have been at our conventions!

ARRA also gives out readers awards. When did these start? Are they well received?

The first awards were held at ARRC09. We hadn’t planned them at first, but when we saw the enthusiastic reaction to the convention we decided to establish the awards. Authors and readers alike love them. We hold them each year. In convention years the awards dinner is part of the convention. In the off-convention years we hold the awards dinner as a standalone event in Sydney.

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Inaugural award winners: Anna Campbell, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie Milburne and Stephanie Laurens, ARRC09

Can you tell me a bit about the conference coming up in Melbourne? I understand you have a guest coming via Skype!

Next year ARRC2017 will be back in Melbourne, and our keynotes will be Kylie Scott, Courtney Milan and Kristen Callihan. And of course there will be some 80 romance authors from around Australia.

Yes, we are thrilled to say Thea Harrison will be joining us for a Q&A. She had accepted our invitation to be a keynote speaker, but then realised that her health would preclude the very long trip to Australia. That’s when we decided to try a Skype session for the first time. If it goes well that will really open up the possibilities for the next convention.

If anyone is interested in more information on the convention, they can find it here. There’s a link to buy tickets as well.

What is included in the conference fee?

The conference fee includes entry to all the sessions over the weekend. Delegates can choose from a number of panel sessions throughout the weekend (see the program here). It includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea on both Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a special screening of the documentary Love Between the Covers, speed dating sessions, the chance for a special morning tea with an author host, an epic signing event, and of course our keynote speakers. Another highlight will be out gold tickets, which 21 lucky readers will find in their goodies bag when they register; these tickets entitle them to a private lunch with one of the keynotes.

In addition to that, there are a number of optional social events over the weekend that are ticketed separately. Readers can meet authors ahead of the convention at a High Tea on the Friday, or join us for the wind-down lunch cruise on the Monday. On Friday night there are welcome cocktails, followed by a trivia night, complete with popcorn and ice cream. On Saturday night they can join us at the fabulous awards dinner.

Are readers able to meet authors at the convention as well as hang with other romance readers?

Yes! Throughout the weekend readers have the chance to meet and chat with all the authors. Whether mingling at the cocktail reception or enjoying the awards dinner, you could well be sharing the evening with your favourite authors. During the day you can sit in on the panel sessions, chat with authors and readers during tea breaks, chat one-on-one with authors at the speed dating sessions, and then catch up with them at the signing as well. The whole weekend is about authors and readers hanging out and chatting!

Do you have any tips for romance readers and writers on how to meet?

Don’t be shy! Everyone there loves romance fiction just as much as you do, and they can’t wait to talk to someone about their favourite authors and books. (In fact, some of the authors are just as shy as some readers, and they are all absolutely lovely! So don’t be intimidated.) All it takes is “What are you reading at the moment?” to get a conversation started.arrc2017-banner_700

 

You can find ARRA here: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Thank you Debbie! Your answers were great. I had no idea all that was going on in the background. I’ll be there in February, but now I’m thinking after conference cruise? Why not?

 

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It’s been an interesting week of romance reading for me with two totally different books. One that triggered me and the other that blew me away.

First up was Haunted Dreams by Charlotte Lamb (1995). This is a Harlequin Mills & Boon and British author. This book had a lot going for it, particularly as the hero had a checkered past and the book discussed the conditions of the poor in Mexico, the picking over of dumps and the exploitation of kids. It also featured domestic violence. The hero’s father had been a drunk and violent towards his mother and him and his siblings. All this boded well for me, despite the fact that the heroine was very young (half the hero’s age) and virginal etc. Yet she had some depth to her because she had nursed her dying mother and then rejected by her father after he married straight after her mother’s funeral.

Ambrose (great name!) is a banking man and makes money. Emilie works for her grandfather and is essentially his heir. All well and good. I don’t normally like to do spoilers but hey, this time I have to.

This book triggered me, right at the end too. I had trouble reconciling this so I have come up with the notion that the book is flawed. I know Charlotte Lamb churned these buggers out and maybe she didn’t think this one through, because there were some perfectly good opportunities to make it work out better. OMG! I can’t believe I’m being critical.

Firstly there was a burglary. There was a good setup for this burglary I thought. Emilie had been given sapphires and diamonds for Christmas and the evil cousin was jealous and avaricious and even asked if they were insured. The description of the burglar could have been a woman I thought, but no. It was only an excuse to get the hero to stay over the night. Now random things do happen in life, but in fiction well not so much…not with the potential there to make it work in the story. So the burglary  was a minor inconvenience, even though the cousin was a thief!

Then there was the strangulation of the heroine by the hero and the words something like ‘I’d rather kill you than let another man have you’. That’s my trigger. This happened to be, not a strangulation, but a bashing with words similar to this. However, triggered as I was there was a way to pull back from the abyss and Ms Lamb missed that too. She plunged straight into the abyss without a yell.

Do you think in the emotional resolution to the story that the hero would be remorseful, that he would pledge on his life never to touch her again in that way, that it was his horrible background that made him an abuser etc. No. Not a bloody word.

The heroine was upset because he didn’t trust her. She didn’t want to get back to him because he’d refused to believe her. What the actual…??? He sees the bruises says something like I can’t begin to apologise but she says sweet FA. Surely to god, there’d be some request for a promise never to hurt her again or she’ll leave him. No. The bloody violence is not discussed, other than a thin apology. Sorry. That book sucked monkey balls. Well the resolution did.

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Then we come to Flashback by Amanda Carpenter (1984). Mills & Boon published in London by an American author. I had this book by me because I’d loved her Cry Wolf story about an artist. It was so emotionally intense that I wanted to read another one to see if that was similar or Cry Wolf had been a one off. Luckily I scored one in the Grace Collection. Funny thing was I reading either a book or an academic article that said Flashback was an amazing anti-war book. So that was it. I dived in. I was also trialing my new data gathering tool that I can hand write while reading for later input into a spreadsheet or database.

This book was amazing. It blew my mind. It is not your average Mills & Boon and even using Pamela Regis’s barriers to analyse it, I found it hard to pin down. It seemed to break all the usual tropes over the head with beer bottles.

I won’t spoil this one but I will note a few features. It has a foreword by the author. This is an unusual feature for the time. It expressed sentiment about the loss of life in war. So clearly the author’s intention was to have an anti-war message.

My premise in reading category romances is that they try to depict reality. Doreen Watt set me straight on this. Before Harlequin Mills & Boon brought in all the lines, the Mills & Boon were one line. I’ve found some stories that would be more intrigue than straight romance. There was one where the protagonists remembered their past lives.(Charlotte Lamb’s Dying for You). Well Flashback features a telepath. Yes, you saw correctly. A bloody telepath. This is probably why it was really hard to identify any barriers to the hero and heroine getting together. They were linked telepathically and it was an intense and emotional story. Amanda Carpenter writes very well and I’m glad to see that after having a break she came back to writing as Thea Harrison and she writes paranormal romance. I have to check her out. She’s snared me!

So this story doesn’t feature another woman to make the heroine jealous. She lives with her mother and is very close to her. So she’s not an orphan caught in the hero’s web of sex and intrigue. She lives almost as a recluse. The telepathy drives the story. There is no sex scenes. It’s so damn intense it doesn’t need them. I think I need to measure my blood pressure after reading it. And what happens to the heroine in the end. Jesus. Mary. And Joseph!

Anyway, read Flashback.

Thea Harrison released her titles again with Samhain. Here is a link to the book. Here.

Also check out Thea Harrison. Here.

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Recently, I was offered the opportunity to drive to Victoria and pick up a collection of Mills & Boon books. These were Grace’s books, her romance collection. Grace died about a year ago. This collection consisted of six 80 litre tubs of Mills & Boon. I couldn’t even lift one of these tubs. They are like gold to me for my PhD studies of feminism in popular romance fiction.

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This collection is so exciting for me. So many books. I had so much fun just looking at what was there, discovering. Grace’s collection as originally larger, but some were given away before they ever came my way. However, what I did get held amazing variety.

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Grace’s friend, author Lisa Ireland, told me she didn’t know Grace was a such a huge romance reader until after she died, but her family were well aware. Lisa said that Grace had a wicked sense of humour and a quick laugh. And she was determined. She defied her diagnosis for a very long time.

This collection spans the mid 70s until 2012-13, with lovely gems from the past with lots from the future. I believe Grace loved books, her books as much as I cherish this collection. I hope I’ll get to read them all. I believe Grace grew this collection because she loved the genre, loved reading and a bit like me, a bit of a hoarder. The hoarding baton has passed to me.

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Her brother John said of Grace.

What can I say about Grace Fastuca? How to sum up her life? Grace many Aunty a universal word. The fun Aunty, the wise Aunty. Whether you were or weren’t family.

Grace didn’t judge anyone. Many people have said how she helped them be a better person and this wasn’t just about staring death in the face. It was about taking a person a face value. Not talking down to people, really hearing what they say. About being in and making the most of every moment.

Ten years ago Grace was told she had six months to live and would miss her 40th birthday. So what did Grace do about that? She organized a very memorable 40 minus 3 party to be enjoyed with family and friends.

When Grace wanted to enjoy moments away from the hustle and bustle she went to Anglesea. Nothing can be said that will do justice to the connection she felt for the area, not to mention the amount of Mills & Boon books she bought at second hand stores there.

Grace knew as much about your life as you wanted her to know and vice versa. She was and will continue to be a great inspiration to everyone who knew her.

Grace was one of the funniest people I have ever known. As time passes we all realize how much we miss her laughter, her voice and her ability to cut through it all.

Everyone deserves an Aunty Grace.

Thank you Grace for this lovely collection which means so much to me. I must say that this collection complements the one started by Doreen Watt, from a gift of a selection of retro Mills & Boon to start my reading, which was augmented by Lifeline Book Fair purchases again assisted by Doreen. And also a collection given to me by Debbie Phillips, mostly of Silhouette romances. It is also amazing!

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It took me a few days to sort through this amazing collection. First I just had to look and get excited as I looked at each one. Touched it, wondered over it and then reached for the next one. Then I started roughly sorting the books.

IMG_6500There were many double Harlequin Mills & Boon and I just didn’t know how to file these as they were two different authors and there were so many books. These found their way back into the tubs for later sorting. Then there were a handful of non-genre books and single title books that were more historical romance. These I’ve put aside. I filled one tub with medical romances as I’m not focusing on them. Matthew argues that I should look at them too. I might just not now. Not enough shelves for starts. Then I put them in alphabetical order. I found books from authors I knew about but didn’t have books for. I found I had piles of books from particular authors who I didn’t know but where obviously quite popular, like Sara Craven, Sandra Kendrick, Anne McAlister,  Lindsay Armstrong etc. I also gained a few from authors I did have books for like Charlotte Lamb, Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair and Penny Jordan. My collection of these authors has expanded.

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I had just collected two new book cases so the books went straight in there. My lovely partner, Matthew, lugged the books inside. To my surprise I found them in the lounge and then I was a lost woman and all my plans for the day went out the window. Although they don’t all fit in the shelves atm.

I had to take a break from the sorting as it was physically demanding. All that crawling around on the floor, squatting, crouching, leaning over etc. I scored some Helen Bianchin and then I realized that she was an author I read when I was 19 when living in New Zealand. When I looked through the books I  saw that I had that book. THAT BOOK! And then when I looked up Helen’s bibliography I realized it was her first. It is a great book too. I love it. So I lay back on the couch and read The Willing Heart by Helen Bianchin, then Vines of Splendour and a more recent one, The Marriage Arrangement. I do note though as I’m collecting books in Australia, that there is a bias towards Australian and New Zealand authors. No problems there.

In amongst the Mills & Boon were some older Harlequins, and quite a few Silhouettes. These I have merged with my Debbie Phillips collection in the other book cases. I think there’s a thousand books there. I don’t know. But it’s awesome and the collection will be put to good use in the PhD reading and for enjoyment and my hoarding genes are well aligned.

 

 

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I first read some Mills & Boon romances in may late teens. I was a young, stay at home mum to be pretty bored and poor too. I didn’t read masses of these books. I remember dark Latin lovers, girls marrying their rapists in two cases. It was the late 1970s. Perhaps that was par for the course. I was captured by science fiction and fantasy so I read a lot of that in the intervening years. As I reflect back on this I wish I had kept reading romance. It might have helped me in a lot of ways such as relationships, self esteem and sex. But alas I had a preference for outerspace and other worlds not as useful for those more personal issues.

My reading did expand into paranormal romance, historical romance and science fiction romance, probably in my late thirties. Outlander (Crossttich here) combined all three of my favourite things, a bit of SF& F with the time travel and Scottish romance, with a fine touch of the paranormal elements. My romance drug of choice was: Scottish historicals (and English too), Regency romance and paranormal romance with lashings of urban fantasy. I must say I came across Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey. I was so excited as this book was SF romance. Not very politically correct these days but I still love it and I don’t care. Suck it up detractors. Challen rivals Jamie Fraser and Darcy in my mind.

It wasn’t until I was published with Escape Publishing (Harlequin’s Australian Digital Imprint) that I started reading contemporary romance fiction again. (I’ve even tried to write some, but I want to put a ghost or a vampire in there). Mostly this was to explore what was on offer with Escape but to learn about the genre too. I read some amazing stuff that gave me a love for contemporary romance that I hadn’t had before.

Here are some of the books I read:

A Man Like Mike  by Sami Lee

Bound by his Ring by Nicole Flockton

A Basic Renovation  by Sandra Antonelli

What Love Sounds Like  by Alissa Callen

Finding Elizabeth by Louise Forster

The Lies We Tell by Elizabeth Dunk

Rescue Heat by Nina Hamilton

Short Soup by Colleen Kwan

Grease Monkey Jive and Floored by Ainslie Paton

You can find these titles here.

They were all so good. Do I sound surprised? Not so much surprised by the quality just that I really liked reading these contemporary romances that didn’t contain any weird stuff. This was new to me.

Then we come to the PhD and I’m focusing on contemporary romance (either written in the 1970s or in the present) and maybe that’s a bit weird, you know. Yet, it’s an genre I don’t know well and I am curious…about the past…about the present…

To put boundaries on what I’m reading I am containing the genre to Mills & Boon category romances and like products. But I don’t forget that there’s so much more out there.

The sobering thought for me is that I’ll never be as knowledgeable as the avid readers of romance. I can read what I can and examine it with certain parameters in mind, but I can’t duplicate 20 to 30 years of avid romance reading. I’m lucky that I know a couple of these knowledgeable readers and they are so helpful but they keep me humble.

 

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