I’ve added a bonus prequel scene for my upcoming release, Restored (28th October!) to the Extras page.
I’ll have a new Christmas story coming out in a festive charity anthology which is releasing on 1st November, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project. It’s all organised by the fantastic RJ Scott who has put an amazing amount of work into it.
The anthology, called Gifts for the Season, features 15 authors – all brand new stories – and the collection will be available for a limited period of three months (full details of authors and stories below).
You can (should you wish) pre-order now: https://books2read.com/GiftsSeason
My story is a 12k historical story called The First Snow of Winter which links to the Winterbourne series – it’s sort of a prequel story, featuring two characters who will appear as side characters in the next book in the series – the much touted (by me) but as yet untitled Jonny-and-Perry book.
Blurb for The First Snow of Winter:
Captain Sam Alderton returns to England from the continent with his life in tatters. Maimed and directionless, the last thing he wants to do is spend Christmas with his family and their close friends, the Huxleys—especially Jasper Huxley, who he almost kissed five years before.
Sam plans to avoid the festivities, but when the first snow of winter arrives, and he and Jasper are trapped alone together at Alderton Hall, they find themselves revisiting old traditions and painful memories together—and discovering that things may not have been quite as either of them thought five years earlier.
As a small FYI, I plan to bring all the Winterbourne stories together in a single print book once Jonny-and-Perry is out.
Full story and author list:
Joanna Chambers – The First Snow of Winter
Christmas Eve, 1814: a maimed war hero and the childhood friend he almost kissed five years earlier are trapped together by the first snow of winter.
Annabeth Albert – Must Be Santa
Tis the season for Operation Christmas Papa!
Eli Easton – Twelve Days of UPS
What happens when your Secret Santa is less intriguing than the delivery man who brings the gifts?
Suki Fleet – Sometimes, Always
When Echo’s Christmas Eve surprise for Peri goes a little sideways, it turns into a night they’ll both remember for the best reasons, for always.
Lane Hayes – Out For The Holidays
Good Things Happen When You’re Out for the Holidays!
Annabelle Jacobs – Driving Home For Christmas
A road trip, snowstorm, and only one big bed at the Inn…
Alex Jane – Homestead for the Holidays
Alone in a cabin in snowy Nebraska for Christmas
Amber Kell – A Santa for Trin
Everyone needs a bit of Christmas magic.
Garrett Leigh – No Place Like Home
As long as they’re together, love always wins
V.L. Locey – Dressed In Holiday Style
Can the spirit of Christmas save this budding love affair?
Clare London – Five Gold Blings
Where Christmas sparkle leads two lonely hearts.
Posy Roberts – Sojourn with You
This year, a place to stay is the best Christmas gift Sawyer could ask for.
RJ Scott – Single Dad Christmas
It would be a Christmas miracle if he loved me back.
Felice Stevens – The Gift of Forever
What do you get the man who has everything?
AE Via – An Unworthy Gift
What do the lonely do at Christmas?
Quick newsflash: I’m going to be bringing Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf out as audiobooks, with Hamish McKinlay narrating. The hope is to have the both books out for Christmas – watch this space for more details.
Hamish did the narration on Provoked, Beguiled and Enlightened and my audiobook listeners seem to have loved his performances (I know I did) so I’m super-excited to hear what he does with them.
This was something of an impulsive decision, prompted mostly by getting a number of emails recently from audiobook fans asking for more. Audio is a long-term investment for me as it takes a while to make back the costs, but since Hamish was available, I decided to go for it.
Next up, though, is Restored, which will release on 28 October .
Eighteen years ago, Henry Asquith, Duke of Avesbury had to leave his kept lover, Kit Redford, in order to devote himself to raising his young family. Now, a lifetime later, his children are moving on and for the first time in years, Henry is alone.
During a rare visit to London, Henry unexpectedly happens upon an old friend of Kit’s and learns that Kit did not receive the financial pay off he was entitled to when Henry left him. Instead Kit was thrown out of his home and left destitute. Horrified, Henry begs Kit to see him and allow Henry to compensate him. But Kit, who now owns a discreet club for gentlemen of a certain persuasion, neither needs nor wants Henry’s money.
“Perhaps you should earn the money you owe me the way I had to earn it? On your knees, and on your back, taking my cock like a whore.”
Kit thought he had put his old hurts and grievances about Henry behind him, but when he sees Henry again, he discovers that, not only is the old pain still there, so is the fierce attraction that once burned between them. When, in a moment of fury, Kit demands a scandalous form of penance from Henry, no one is more surprised than Kit when Henry agrees to pay it.
As Kit and Henry spend more time together, they learn more about the men they have become, and about the secret feelings and desires they concealed from one another in the past.
Henry realises he wants to build a future with Kit but can he persuade his wary lover to trust him ever again? And can two men from such different worlds make a new life together?
What do you think of my new cover for The Dream Alchemist by the fabulous Natasha Snow?
I recently (and finally) invested in a new computer and Vellum software so will be doing a refresh on all my books format-wise. The cover for this book looked very old and tired so I also treated myself to a new cover and I LOVE THIS!
I’m very fond of this book which I first published (I think) 5 years ago with Samhain. will be doing a give-away in my July newsletter 😀
This story will be exclusively available to my newsletter pals. See subscribe button on this page. The newsletter with the link will be issued on 14 June 2020.
If you subscribed and didn’t get the email, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org as a couple of people have reported not getting this. If need be, I will add you manually and re-send.
David Lauriston and Lord Murdo Balfour have been living happily together for three years at the Laverock estate in Perthshire. But when some unexpected news arrives, Murdo must confront old demons he thought he’d put behind him forever.
It is finally release day for Master Wolf! Buy links here.
Obviously, I didn’t plan for this day to come in the middle of pandemic, however, I’m pressing on with a (somewhat muted) release.
In my last newsletter, I mentioned I would be having a grand goody box contest. Unfortunately, the UK is now in lockdown as we all #stayathome. And of course, people may not really want to receive (at least not right now) a goody box from a stranger.
So: I will give the winners of the contest a choice. They can either opt to receive the planned goody box at a later date once things have calmed down), or they can opt to receive an alternative prize*.
I have three goody boxes to give away: a gold goody box, a silver goody box and a bronze one. See the descriptions below plus the alternative prize* winners can elect for instead. The competition is open to anyone, anywhere the whole world 🙂
To enter, just email me at email@example.com with the subject heading Enter me in the contest! The competition closes at midnight (GMT) on 31st March 2020 and the winners will be informed on 2nd April 2020. One entry per person, whether via my newsletter or direct email.
*** Edited to add: Winners have now been selected and contacted (Alicia, Dee and Rosa).***
Gold goody box
Signed copies of Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf, Master Wolf keyring, Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf fridge magnets and postcards, Mrs Tilley’s Scottish tablet, Deans Scottish shortbread, tin of wolf paper clips, Enlightenment postcard, darling little rainbow love sweeties
Silver goody box
Signed copy of Master Wolf, Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf fridge magnets and postcards, Enlightenment keyring, Mrs Tilley’s Scottish tablet, Deans Scottish shortbread, tin of wolf paper clips, darling little rainbow love sweeties
Bronze goody box
Signed copy of Master Wolf, Master Wolf key ring and fridge magnet, Gentleman Wolf and Master Wolf postcards, Mrs Tilley’s Scottish tablet, tin of wolf paper clips, darling little rainbow love sweeties
Choice of unsigned print copy of Master Wolf or signed copy to be sent at a later date plus: if you are the Gold winner – $15 Amazon giftcard; if you are the Silver winner – $10 Amazon giftcard; or if you are the Bronze winner – $5 Amazon giftcard
Good luck, and I hope Master Wolf is everything you’re hoping for! Arooooo!
He must master the wolf within…
Edinburgh, 1820. Thirty years after leaving Scotland, Drew Nicol is forced to return when the skeleton of a monster is found. The skeleton is evidence of werewolves—evidence that Marguerite de Carcassonne, the leader of Drew’s pack, is determined to suppress.
Marguerite insists that Drew accompany her to Edinburgh. There they will try to acquire the skeleton while searching for wolf-hunters—wolf hunters who may be holding one of their pack prisoner.
But Drew has reason to be wary about returning to Edinburgh—Lindsay Somerville now lives there.
Lindsay who taught Drew about desire and obsession.
Lindsay who Drew has never been able to forgive for turning him.
Lindsay who vowed to stay away from Drew twelve years ago… and who has since taken drastic steps to sever the bond between them.
Marguerite’s plan will throw Drew and Lindsay together again—and into a deadly confrontation with Lindsay’s enemy, Duncan MacCormaic. They will be tested to their limits and forced to confront both their past mistakes and their true feelings.
But it may be too late for them to repair the damage of the past. The consequences of Lindsay’s choices are catching up with him, and he’s just about out of time…
Buy links here.
PS: I said a few weeks ago this book would be released on 23rd March – small change to 26th March for personal reasons
I’ve been needing to post this update for a while.
When I published Gentleman Wolf in August last year, I said that the second book, to complete Lindsay and Drew’s story, would be published in January 2020. I believed that would give me more than enough time to complete the book – my draft was already well advanced at that stage and writing was going well.
And then, it all went to pot.
There were various things that contributed. Some were writing-related and some were real-world-related. I’m not going into all that in detail. Suffice to say, Master Wolf is going to be a wee bit later than I hoped. Not a lot, but yeah – a bit.
The book is now more or less finished (yay!) but I wasn’t in a position to even set up a slot with my wonderfully patient editors until a few days ago and I wanted to hold off posting this update till I could be clear as to what the likely publication date would be. Thankfully, my editors are able to pick this up early next month, but I still need to allow time to go through their edits, make all the necessary changes, finalise files etc.
In view of this, my new planned release date is 26th March 2020. I’ll be putting the book up for preorder in a few weeks and will reveal the (awesome) cover (once again by the amazing Felix D’Eon) shortly before then.
I’m really very sorry that I won’t manage to deliver Master Wolf when I originally said I would, but hopefully when it comes out, readers will feel it’s been worth the wait.
Having been on a social media break for a couple of weeks. I popped briefly onto Twitter the other day, and within 2 minutes realised there was a bit of a kerfuffle taking place in relation to quality and accuracy in historical romance. It sent me away from Twitter again, to find the blog discussion that started the whole thing off.
The comments in the blog discussion that had prompted the tweets I’d seen related to diverse representation and the display of ‘modern viewpoints’ by characters in historical romances. I’ll touch on those points a bit later on, but to be clear, I’m making no attempt here to unpack the long and detailed discussion that took place. I didn’t even read every comment in the thread and only skimmed a very few of the reactions on Twitter that were clearly the tip of a larger iceberg. This post is no more than a few thoughts of my own on the topic of how readers consume historical romances, based on one particular reader.
That reader is me.
There’s an odd thing about fiction. It’s explicitly made up – and we know that going in – and yet the thing that we readers seek, above all else, is to believe in what we’re reading.
Which is kind of weird when you think about it.
A phrase often used to describe how a reader comes to a state of belief is that the reader has exercised a “willing suspension of disbelief” (a phrase coined by the poet Samuel Coleridge). One of the interesting things about that phrase is that it gives the sense that, whether or not to take that step – to willingly suspend disbelief – is firmly in the reader’s hands. As though it’s a conscious decision the reader must make. Should they release their hold on the objective certainty that the story is not real in order to fully enter the imaginative world they’ve been invited into by the author? Or not?
Coleridge talks about the reader’s “willing suspension of disbelief” constituting a sort of “poetic faith” – as though the reader is putting aside rational knowledge in pursuit of a more transcendent experience that can only be achieved following a leap of faith. That makes it sound – to me, at least – as though the act of suspending disbelief is a binary thing. Something that the reader either chooses to do or not do. But as a reader, I experience something much more subtle than that.
I have quite a complex spectrum of responses to the books I read, when it comes to reader belief. These begin with eyerolling, impenetrable scepticism, move through a wide range of increasingly engaged responses, and end up (in rare and wonderful cases) in complete and utter conviction. In these very rare cases, I will feel, when I reach the end of the book, as though I have returned from another world. Sometimes, the sudden knowledge (or recollection) that the characters I’ve just left behind don’t *actually* exist makes me feel forlorn.
So, what makes a reader suspend disbelief?
I think it’s different for every reader and every book. There are many things that play into this, for example, the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the depiction of any real-world setting/ the vividness of any fantastical setting, the consistency of the worldbuilding, the logical coherence of the plot, the rationality of the characters’ actions.
But just as important as all of these reasonably objective measures are the subjective measures that come from the individual reader.
Every reader comes to a book with a complex web of personal knowledge, opinions and biases of their own. And this complex web informs what that reader will consider to be ‘accurate’, ‘authentic’, ‘rational’ and ‘logical’. Every reader also has their own set of priorities – what matters most to them in deciding that a particular book ‘works’ for them. And we readers have our moods too. Sometimes we want to read something challenging, other times something comforting. All these elements interweave in ways that are honestly difficult to unpack when the reader comes to articulate why they did or didn’t like a book. This can result in readers seeming to hold inconsistent views, damning one book for its historical inaccuracy while praising another that is objectively just as inaccurate.
So, does historical accuracy matter in historical romance? I would say… it depends. In reality, it matters a great deal to certain readers, doesn’t matter a jot to others, and varies in its importance to the rest of us depending on the individual book’s qualities and the individual reader’s many complex preferences and priorities.
Accuracy, diversity and modern sensibilities
I mentioned earlier that the blog discussion had raised two particular issues, namely the relatively new increase in diversity of character representation in historical romance and complaints from some readers about overly modern sensibilities being displayed by characters – these two issues were unhelpfully conflated at times in the discussion.
The diverse characters issue strikes me as a pretty obvious no-brainer. Historical romance has been really horribly homogenous for a very long time. Diverse representation – already far too scarce in the whole romance genre – feels even more scarce in historical romance and to my mind it’s clear we need more, not less of it.
Complaints about ‘modern sensibilities’ are slightly different, I think, though I need to exercise some care here, since ‘modern sensibilities’ is one of those phrases that is capable of a number of interpretations, some of which I may have some sympathy with and others I definitely won’t agree with.
My view is this: I am all for characters with progressive ideas and values – something I’ve always loved in historical romance is to see characters battling against the societal norms they have grown up with. However, having said that, I will admit to not much liking characters who appear to have wholly 21st century mindsets and who seem not to struggle at all with being at odds with the society they live in. I like to see the characters in historical romances having to wrestle with the norms of their time and I don’t mind seeing them making bad decisions along the way, if they come to regret those choices / change later.
One last thing I want to mention in this already too-long post: we are all creatures of our time. And creatures moving through time. Books are written, time passes. When I pick up a historical romance book, I will be reading about another time, in my own time. One of the first historical romances I read was Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer, set in the late 18th century, first published in 1932, and read by me in around 1987, when I was a teenager with an interest in politics and left-wing views.
Now, Heyer’s books are wonderful but they are absolutely brimming with objectionable class snobbery and an apparent unshakeable belief in the rightness of aristocratic privilege. I minded this – but I also loved Heyer’s books, and I found I could sort of “filter out” what I didn’t like, internally managing my objections.
This sort of ‘filtering’ is not something that can always be done though. Some issues are too glaringly awful to be filtered out. I recently picked up another old favourite from my teenage years, written in 1983 (Daphne by Marion Chesney). I had completely forgotten that the villain – who wanted to marry the heroine – was a homosexual man who wanted her as a ‘cover’ wife. The distinctly unpleasant homophobic tone made this book a wallbanger in 2019, but to my shame, I can’t say whether I even noticed in 1987.
So there you are – that’s my thoughts on the complex process of reading historical romance. Tl;dr: accuracy matters, quality matters, and representation matters… but none of it amounts to much if the reader doesn’t believe.