Tennis, Anyone?

Cara-Elliott-Bookmark Cara/Andrea here,

Like several of the other Wenches, I'm at the annual RWA Conference in NYC, which is always a whirlwind of activity, what with workshops, publisher meetings, editer pow-wows, and—perhaps most importantly—getting a chance to hug good writing pals from around the world and share gossip and laughs. I find that face-to-face connection is so fun, and so energizing. I always come home tired, but feeling that my creative batteries have been recharged by being around so many great, creative people.

But as I said, it's hectic here, and not always easy to get to a computer. So while we Wenches will be sharing Conference photos and stories very soon (Tonight is the Gala Awards Ceremony, and as Nicola, Joanna, Pat and I are among the finalists, we hope to report at least one Wenchly RITA on Sunday's news!) I am going to invoke Wenchly privilege for today and post an older blog. As it's the finals of Wimbledon this weekend, I thought it appropriate to talk a little about tenns.

So without further ado . . .

Tennis scene 1 Wimbledon comes to a close this weekend, when the last tennis balls skid over the grass courts. It’s one of the “Grand Slam” events, a quartet of tournaments that are the crown jewels of the sport’s elite competitions. (Remember, I warned you all that I am the resident “jock” of the Wenches.) As it’s one of the grand traditions of a game that often appears in literature, it got me to thinking . . .

In historical novels, the words “Tennis, anyone?” conjure up vintage images of elegant figures clad in pristine whites moving gracefully across a swath of verdant lawn. (I’m particularly fond of E.M Forster’s A Room With A View and its descriptions of pastoral Edwardian garden party elegance.)

But take note—Edwardian is the key time frame here. Or late Victorian to be perfectly precise. Any time period earlier and an author is . . . hitting the ball into the net.

I cringe when I read Regency or Elizabethan authors having their characters play a set of tennis outdoors on the lawns. Yes, tennis has been around for centuries—but the game we know today as tennis was not invented until 1874, when Major Walter Clopton Wingfield  filed for a patent on a new sport he called sphairistike, which is Greek for . . . uh, well, lawn tennis. (Not that Achilles was known for his drop shot.)

Tennis scene 2jpg Thankfully the Patent Office refused to patent the name (can you imagine trying to say “Sphairistike, anyone?” . . . especially after two gin and tonics.) But it did give him rights to the design of his court—which was first shaped like an hourglass, rather than the now familiar rectangle. Wingfield quickly published his rules as The Major’s Game of Lawn Tennis. The game was a hit with the younger sporting set, who were looking for something more vigorous than croquet to play at their country houses. It soon spread to the Continent and America, via Bermuda, and tennis tournaments became a popular pastime for the leisure class.

But back to the “real” story.

Tennis scene 3 The game of tennis (these days it is called real tennis, or court tennis, to distinguish it from the modern sport of lawn tennis) originated in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that the game was created by monks hitting a ball off the angled walls and roofs of their monastery or cloisters with their hands. (In France the game has always been known as jeu de paume—game of the hand.)

Court tennis 1 Racquets appeared in the early 16th century and by the reign of the Tudors, tennis was so popular in England and France that numerous indoor courts were built for the game. (In 1600, the Venetian ambassador to Paris recorded that there were 1800 courts in the city. That sounds awfully high to me, but perhaps it was true,  because it’s also recorded that high stakes gambling on tennis was so prevalent in 1369 that Charles V had to issue an edict restricting play.)

Interestingly enough, one of the first mentions of a female athlete in history was a tennis player. In 1427, it’s recorded that Margot of Hanault played at a gambling house known as the Little Temple and attracted crowds when she took on all challengers.

Tennis Court Oath Court tennis is often called the sport of kings, for royal names abound in the annals of the game. Louis X of France died from a chill he caught after playing jeu de paume.. Henry VIII, an ardent player, was said to have been executing a slice on the tennis court at Hampton Court as Anne Boleyn was losing her head. And on the Continent, Catherine de Medici was known to wear her hair styled in the shape of a tennis racquet.

Tennis also figured into the lore of the French Revolution. David’s famous painting of “The Tennis Court Oath” pictures the deputies of the Third Estate on the court at Versailles, swearing to fight for a constitution for France. (For the record, the monarchy went down to defeat in straight sets.) Napoleon and Wellington were also said to be aficionados of the game.

Tennis racquet Classic literature abounds with references to court tennis. Perhaps the most famous is Act 1, Scene II in Shakespeare’s Henry V, where the King reacts to the French Dauphin’s insulting gift of tennis balls: “When we have matched our rackets to these balls/We shall in France, by God's grace, play a set/Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.”

A court tennis court is asymmetrical (so are the racquets) and the oddities reflect the game’s Medieval courtyard heritage. While all courts are approximately 110’ long by 38’ wide, no two are exactly alike. Each has its own unique little architectural details to bedevil the players, which is considered part of the charm of the game. However, the elements are the same. The ancient cloister roof is represented by the penthouse, a sloping ledge that runs along three sides of the court. On the fourth wall is a buttress called the tambour. There are openings in the walls called the dedans and the grille. A net crosses the center of the court, but it high at the ends and droops in the center because in past centuries, the monks had no way to tighten it. The floor is a hard, cement-like surface marked with painted lines that look more like football markings than the familiar lawn tennis layout.

Danzig2 As for scoring . . . oh, don’t ask. It’s incredibly complicated. Yes, the games and sets are scored the same as in modern tennis, but winning points is far more complex. As one top-ranked court tennis player admitted, ”If you haven’t played the game, it’s impossible to comprehend.” Suffice it to say, depending on where a ball lands, there are complex rules about playing hazards and chases, which are sort of games within games. (Cut to the chase is a term that comes from court tennis.) Sometimes the best way to win a point is not to play the ball at all! Even experienced players need a scorer to keep track of all the arcane permutations.

For modern tennis fans, this time of year marks the zenith of the game’s calendar. In May, the French Open—played on the glorious red clay courts at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris—is a much anticipated rite of Spring. And in the last two weeks of June, strawberries and cream at the grass courts of Wimbledon are a cherished English sporting tradition. So as you watch the modern athletes pummel the ball across the net, raise a toast to both the old and the new—and know that the roots of the game are far deeper than those emerald blades of grass.

So how about you—do you have a favorite summer game or pastime?

(P.S. There are ten court tennis courts in the U.S. Most are in Eastern private clubs, such as the Racquet & Tennis Club in NYC and Tuxedo Park, in Tuxedo, NY. However, there is one public court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.)

Love Stories, Old and New

CE-avatar Cara/Andrea here,

HeiressinLovesmallTo celebrate the launch of her new series (the first book hits the shelves at the end of the month) my good friend Christina Brooke is joining us today to talk about two subjects near and dear of all of our hearts—history AND romance.

HEIRESS IN LOVE is the first book in the Ministry of Marriage saga, On her website, Christina describes the MOM as  . . "the nickname of a cabal in which the leaders of the most prominent families in Britain negotiate, facilitate and approve dynastic marriages. Each family represented in the organization has a rich history full of rivalries, allegiances, legends and secrets. Their fortunes have risen and fallen for hundreds of years depending on their success in war, their religious leanings, or which heir to the throne they support. . . " Sounds delicious, doesn't it!

And now, speaking of marriages, I shall turn the keyboard over to Christina! (I couldn't resist added a lovely pic below of her storyboard for visualizing her characters.)

Heiress-in-Love-collage2 It’s such a pleasure to be here with the Word Wenches today. Thank you to my lovely friend, Cara Elliott and the rest of the Wenches for inviting me along!

Like so many of you, I love history and I enjoy researching the historical romance novels I write. I’d be the first to admit, however, that some aspects of the past are not at all romantic! That’s why I’m always enchanted to stumble over tales of ‘true romance’ in the course of my research. Today, I have three thoroughly romantic true stories to relate.

JaneDigby1 The first is of a very unconventional lady, Jane Digby. This woman has fascinated me since I read her biography years ago. Many have written about her, even during her remarkable lifetime, yet she remains relatively obscure.

Jane Digby was the exquisitely beautiful granddaughter of Coke of Norfolk, a man who repeatedly refused a peerage because he preferred his independence to kowtowing to any monarch. Jane was lively, intelligent and a trifle spoiled as a child. She was given a boy’s education (always a dangerous thing!) and later groomed for her debut by a governess. When presented at the age of sixteen she was dubbed ‘Light of Day’ and later ‘Aurora’ by her many admirers. Before long, Jane fell in love with—or perhaps, more accurately, became infatuated with—and married Lord Ellenborough, who was twice her age.

The marriage was not a success and it seems our Jane fell in and out of love (or infatuation) at an alarming rate. She was an intimate of Countess Lieven and Princess Esterhazy but unlike her contemporaries among the ton, she seemed incapable of maintaining discretion over her affaires. Jane eventually ran off with a German prince before her husband divorced her, and she later enjoyed various liaisons throughout the courts of Europe. Her lovers included a Greek count, the King of Bavaria and an Albanian chieftan. Some might call her promiscuous, and perhaps she was. However, I see Jane as an intelligent, passionate woman who was desperately seeking the love of a lifetime and would not settle for anything less.

JaneDigby2 Jane wound up in Syria at the age of fifty, but her great love story was yet to begin. Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab, the Arab nobleman who escorted Jane’s caravan to the ruined city of Palmyra, fell in love with her. He was young enough to be her son, but their love endured until the end of her life. Across the foot of the English-style gravestone where Jane was buried, Medjuel added a large block of pink desert limestone brought from Palmyra, where Jane spent the happiest days of her life. On it, he engraved in Arabic with his own hands: “Madame Digby el Mezrab”. He never remarried.

The second is a poignant story of love unrequited that might be familiar to those of you who are addicted (as I am) to the Antiques Roadshow. A young gentleman named Humphrey Prideaux made the Grand Tour and in 1740, had his portrait taken by the celebrated eighteenth century Italian artist, Rosalba Carriera. This pastel hangs in the morning room at Prideaux Place in Cornwall, so if you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop in and say hello to Humphrey.

Rosalba_Carriera What Humphrey never knew was that while capturing his likeness, the artist fell in love with him and wrote him a passionate letter, which she secreted behind the portrait. It wasn’t until the pastel was cleaned in 1914 that the letter was discovered. This story illustrates one of the many aspects I love about writing historical romance—that love so often remained unspoken due to barriers that seem easily surmountable to modern people.

And lastly, a romance with a happy ending. This charming tale has inspired many a romance novel, I believe! The story of the arranged marriage between Lady Sarah Cadogan and Lord March, later the second Duke of Richmond.*

William_Cadogan The first Duke of Richmond was an inveterate gambler and while in The Hague, he won an enormous sum (five thousand pounds, I believe) from Lord Cadogan. Lord Cadogan couldn’t afford to redeem the debt but he had two daughters who stood to inherit a fortune from their mother, a Dutch heiress. The fond papas agreed that the debt would be canceled if Lady Sarah Cadogan’s hand in marriage was given to the duke’s eldest son, Lord March.

Eighteen-year-old Lord March was called back from college and a bewildered Lady Sarah Cadogan (aged thirteen) was brought from her nursery for the ceremony. Lord March is said to have exclaimed: “Surely you are not going to marry me to that dowdy!” The ceremony was performed, however, and March immediately went off with his tutor on the Grand Tour.

Richmondandsarah Three years later, March returned to London. Instead of seeking out his ‘dowdy’ wife, he went directly to the opera, where he was staggered by the sight of a most beautiful lady. He turned to the person beside him to ask the name of this exquisite creature. He was told he must be a stranger to London, because it was the town’s reigning Toast, Lady March! Lord March lost no time in introducing himself to his wife. One hopes she punished him a little for his rudeness on their wedding day before she forgave him! Whatever the case, the couple lived together affectionately for the rest of their lives. In fact, when the Duke of Richmond (as March became) passed away 38 years later, Lady Sarah died of shock and grief soon afterward.

I love marriage of convenience stories, which is why I’m writing an entire series of them. My Ministry of Marriage series kicks off on June 28 with HEIRESS IN LOVE. In this story, a very prim widow must marry a rake to restore a fractured estate and keep the little boy she loves. Publishers Weekly gave HEIRESS IN LOVE a starred review, saying “Each scene is more passionate and sensual than the last.” You can read more about HEIRESS IN LOVE on my website:

What about you? Do you like marriage of convenience stories, and if so, what are your favorites? Would you like to share a tale of ‘true romance’? Two lucky readers will each receive a signed copy of HEIRESS IN LOVE!

*This story is told by Sir William Napier in The Life of Charles James Napier. Additional detail may be found in Lady Russell’s The Rose Goddess and other Sketches of Mystery and Romance.

Tell Me A Story . . .

APenrose-bookmark Cara/Andrea here,

With all the new developments and buzz about e-books and e-reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about the written word. Which, for some odd reason, also got me thinking about books and the spoken word. I wasn’t one of those kids who went out for the school plays, so the occasional times that I do public readings from my novels, I’m more than a little nervous.

Gulp. Speak aloud? The sweat starts to trickle down my spine.

Regency-reading I always take pains to practice the selected passage aloud. The first attempt usually comes out as a croak. The second is a herky-jerky stumbling over the sentences. Finally, after countless tries, I’m usually able to get through it without too many embarrassing hitches.

For those who haven’t tried it, reading aloud is NOT easy. Oh, mumbling the words doesn’t take that much effort, but to capture the mood and the nuances of a story, to make each of the characters come alive, is a daunting challenge. At least it is for me. And it made me realize how, with CDs, DVDs, TV, i-pads, Kindles, Nooks, and the internet to keep ourselves amused, reading aloud—or storytelling—has become pretty much of a lost art these days.

Regency-reader-1 Regency-reader-2 Of course, that was not so in the Regency. We have only to look at the novels of our beloved Jane Austen to see countless examples of how the practice was woven into the fabric of everyday life. Fanny Price, like so many poor relations and paid companions, was expected to keep her aunt’s boredom at bay with the soothing sounds of the spoken word. The Bennet sisters had to sit through Mr. Collin’s pompous readings of religious texts. And then there were the solemn Sunday church sermons and passages from the Scriptures to remind people of their moral duties.

Gillray On a lighter note, we are constantly reminded of how one of the main sources of evening entertainment for a family was reading a novel together after the evening meal, with each family member taking a turn. Poetry was also popular—though I imagine not many parents allowed their daughters to recite Lord Byron’s Don Juan or The Corsair aloud!

Beowulf.firstpage The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the oral tradition of storytelling has been an integral part of the human experience since the dawn of civilization. Starting with the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates from around 2000 BC and is considered one of the first works of literary fiction, we see the archetypal theme of “hero and a quest” take form. (Ha, you see, romance was at the root of our imagination even back then.) This continues with Beowulf and the classical Greek epic poems of  The Iliad and  The Odyssey. And the rise of Greek theatre, with its chorus, was another way of telling an oral story.

It’s interesting to note that during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church developed “mystery plays” to convey stories of the Bible and other morality tales to the masses, most of whom could not read or understand the Latin of Church services.

Medieval-storytelling The Middle Ages also saw the rise of the troubadour tradition, which combined epic poetry and song. Guilem de Peitieu, 9th Duke of Aquitaine, is credited with inspiring the concept, and the French courts went on to develop the concept of Courtly Love, and their stories refined the notions of chivalrous behavior that have been passed down to this day. Eleanor of Aquitaine brought the tradition to England when she married Henry II. Her son, Richard the Lionhearted, was one of the most celebrated troubadours of his time, and was much admired for his artistic skills—as well as his prowess on the field of battle. During this time, we also see the rise of the Arthurian legends. (Love, honor, jealousy, sex, betrayal—the romance is heating up!)

Crusades-Troubadours Dante, Milton . . . I could go on and on, bu
t let’s fast-forward to the present, where the idea of going and listening to someone read aloud seems something of an oddity, a quaint, old-fashioned throwback to the past. I suppose that audio books are the closest thing we have to a modern version of the oral tradition.

Storytelling-1 Which brings me full circle to my own experience. After coutless sessions of practicing until I’m blue in the face, I have come to two realizations: One—I made a wise career choice in steering away from the performing arts. Two—much as I want to like listening to stories, I much prefer to read them. I am one of those people who just doesn’t follow a narrative well by listening. It seems to go in one ear and out the other. My mind wanders . . . I forget what I have heard . . . a particular voice doesn’t mesh with my idea of the character. I need to see the printed words on a page, (yes, I still prefer books to e-readers) to go at my own pace, to hear my own voices for the characters.

Greekchorus I shall end my “story” by sharing a few quotes I came across while doing a bit of research for this piece—for me, they capture the essence of why we are captivated by stories, both written and oral:

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in. —Harold Goddard

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. —Ursula K. LeGuin

The universe is made of stories, not atoms. —Muriel Rukeyser

What about you? Do you enjoy listening to books or storytelling, or do you need to see the words on a page to get the full enjoyment out of a story?

War & Peace in Medieval Scotland

AP-avatar Cara/Andrea here,

Today, I'm welcoming my good friend and HWW Michelle Willingham back to the Wenches to talk about her new foray into history. Michelle's Medieval Irish heroes have captured the heats of romance readers and won critical acclaim, including a RITA nomination for Taming Her Irish Warrior in 2010. However, in her new series, which debuts in North America next month with Claimed By A Highland Warrior, she journeys into new territory, heading north and east to Scotland! The new setting naturally involved lots of new research and travel, and Michelle is here to share some of what she learned. So, without further ado, I shall pass the pen to her!

Claimed The Scottish Wars of Independence have been romanticized over the years, both with the stories of William Wallace (depicted in the movie "Braveheart") and the idea of the Scots fighting for their freedom from English rule.  I'll admit that I was drawn to the time period because of the raw, Highland warriors. 

Upon researching the wars, I discovered that English garrisons were set up all over Scotland to help Edward I gain an advantage.  The king laid siege to many castles, seeking to dominate and destroy Scottish rebels.  He used newer technology, such as a trebuchet he nicknamed "War Wolf" when they hurled large boulders at Stirling Castle in 1304.  Sulphur and saltpeter, the elements of gunpowder, were combined to help bring down the walls.

Scotland4 This past summer, my husband and I went on a research trip to Scotland. One of the things I learned about the UK is that their roads are NOT the same as U.S. highways. A location that's 100 miles away could very easily take four hours to reach. But despite our GPS (which mistakenly believed we were driving through a cow pasture), it was fun to brave the one-lane roads, taking our lives into our hands as we passed the tractors. I spent hours in the Edinburgh museum, photographing what artifacts I could and asking the guides questions about medieval weapons and clothing. Interestingly enough, the few surviving medieval artifacts were crosiers and other religious items.  There were almost no everyday pieces on display.  Perhaps the Highlanders valued their clan and the people more than "things," or perhaps they were primarily made of wood and didn't survive.

17640 A few times, we took the "scenic" route, where the streets had no name and the sheep wandered into the road. We stopped in places where there were no phone or power lines, and when we reached the Highlands, it was like going back in time.

Edonan Although the majority of the battles were not held in the Highlands, I chose to set my fictional clan, the MacKinlochs, a few miles outside of Glencoe.  This was partly because I wanted them to somewhat removed from the worst of the fighting, and yet, they would still have been faced with the English garrisons establishing minor fortresses to help Edward I.

Scotland-1 In Claimed by the Highland Warrior, the heroine Nairna MacPherson was married at the age of fifteen to Bram MacKinloch.  They spent only a single night together in 1298 before Bram's fortress was attacked by the English.  Young and hot-headed, Bram charged in to meet the enemy and was taken as a prisoner of war.

Deer In most cases, medieval prisoners were either ransomed or killed if they proved to be of no use.  But I wanted to create a longer separation between my characters, with years apart.  They needed to grow and mature from childhood sweethearts into a strong hero and a plucky heroine.  It occurred to me that the prisoners of war could be used as labor forces, to build stone walls around the English strongholds or possibly even more permanent structures.  And so, I doomed my poor hero to be imprisoned for many years alongside his younger brother Callum, as a slave to an English Earl. (Yes, I am a mean author. Yes, Bram is a tormented hero.  Who wouldn't be, if you had to lift rocks all day long?)

12742 When Bram is reunited with his wife, he's tormented by the nightmares of his imprisonment and his inability to free his brother.  He can't quite let go of his survivor&#3
9;s guilt, but Nairna helps him to overcome his past and they do fall in love again.

The story of a marriage reunion with a prisoner of war isn't a new one, but it offers so many emotional levels to explore.  What's it like when the man you married is now a virtual stranger?  How do you merge your life with his and try to make the marriage work when you haven't seen each other in seven years? 

I'm giving away a signed copy of Claimed by the Highland Warrior to one lucky commenter.  Just tell me, if you were separated from your significant other, what would you miss the most?  Or if you don't have someone in your life, what traits do you value?  For me, I'd miss the way my husband can look at me and sense what I'm thinking. That, and I'd miss him opening jars for me.<G> 

Springing Into A New Genre

AP-avatar Cara/Andrea here,

The first day of spring is almost upon us, marking the start of a season that celebrates the world around us blossoming to life. Both the old and the burst forth with new buds as the sun stimulates growth. So it’s fitting that March has been month of new blooms for the Wenches. At the beginning of the month, Mary Jo announced her exciting entry in the Young Adult genre with Dark Mirror, a magical historical paranormal that sweeps readers from the Regency to World War II.

SweetRevengeCover-cropped And today I’m delighted to announce my debut into the world of historical mystery with Sweet Revenge, which takes place in London during the spring of 1813. The book hits the shelves on April 5, and along with a new genre, I have a new name—Andrea Penrose (Oh, don’t ask! Publishing is very complicated these days, and I apologize if it’s confusing. But be assured that I will continue to write romance as Cara Elliott—I’m simply putting another hat on my head . . . and hoping my brain can carry the load!)

Here’s a small taste of the story (chocolate plays a big role in the story, but more on that next month!):

Lady Arianna Hadley’s desire to discover her disgraced father’s murderer has brought her back to London from exile in the Caribbean. Masquerading as a male chef, she is working in one of London’s aristocratic households in order to get close to her main suspect. But when the Prince Regent is taken ill after consuming Arianna’s special chocolate dessert, she unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a dangerous scandal.

Chocolate-engraving-1 Because of his expertise in chocolate, the eccentric Earl of Saybrook, a former military intelligence officer, is asked by the top brass at Horse Guards to investigate the suspected poisoning. But during his first interrogation of Arianna, someone tries to assassinate both of them, and it quickly becomes clear that something very sinister is afoot within the highest circles of government. They each have very different reasons for wanting to uncover the truth, yet to have any chance of doing so they must become allies.

HG2 Trust. Treachery. Arianna must assume yet another identity as their search takes them from the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair to the slums of St. Giles. And their reluctant alliance is tested in more ways that one as it becomes clear that someone is looking to plunge England into chaos . . .

Like Mary Jo, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about moving into a new genre. One of the first things my friends asked was what’s the difference between writing a mystery and writing a romance. It’s something that I thought about a lot as I started on the project. Pamela Regis, author of the A Natural History of the Romance Novel, describes a romance as a story of courtship ending in betrothal. So, by its nature, the primary focus is the relationship between two people—traditionally the hero and the heroine—and the story revolves around how, and why, they come to fall in love. Their characters are developed and defined mainly by their interaction with each other. And these days, that interaction often includes explicit sexual scenes. (Please remember my earlier comment about publishing being complicated . . .)

Pistols A mystery, as the name implies, revolves more around the actual plot. A conundrum is presented to the reader, and the story is all about solving it. While romance tropes call for a HEA (Happily Ever After) mystery tropes revolve around the notion of justice—that in the end, the villain gets his just desserts. Put more simplistically, it’s about good stopping evil from running amuck—though sometimes the ending can be more ambiguous than it is in romance.

Lawrenceportrait So I explained to my friends that in a mystery, characters tend to grow and change through their interaction with the problem they are trying to solve, rather than solely through their dealings with each other. Tension and conflict often come from the moral choices that confront them. That said, there are often intense relationships between characters in a mystery, and they definitely help shape one another. It’s more a question of nuance and degree. Yes, things get very personal, but the problem—ie, the mystery—is always that third presence, however shadowy, in the scene. The characters cannot react to each other’s actions and thoughts without seeing them through the prism of the problem. As for sex, unless it is an integral part of the plot, the bedroom door tends to stay shut.

Lady's-face When I sat down to start work on < em>Sweet Revenge, I thought a lot about how I wanted to develop my hero and heroine within these new parameters. For me, the chance to explore the nuances of character and motivation is one of the core reasons why I write. I find it infinitely challenging to try to create textured, layered people who have the same conflicts and contradictions as real life individuals do, and then put them in situation where they have to conquer her own weaknesses and doubts to triumph.

Horse-Guard-B&R As a romance writer, I love drawing two disparate people together. But I’ve also tended to have mystery/adventure elements in my plots because I’ve always loved the the layers of tension and twists in a well-crafted plot. So I wondered if somehow I could strike a happy balance between the two. We'll see what the critics think! It’s always a little frightening—and at the same time exhilarating—to try sometime new. But as spring unfurls in all its glorious colors, the season reminds us that it’s good to spread new roots and lift fresh branches toward the sun. Growth keeps us vital!

What about you—do you enjoy reading across genres? Have you a favorite one? Have you tried any new categories lately? I make my first foray into steampunk recently and really enjoyed it. And while we’re on the subject of styles, what do you think about explicit sex in books? 

I'll be giving away a copy of Sweet Revenge to one reader who leaves a comment here between now and Sunday, so be sure to chime in!