Thursday, 27 May 2010

What makes a keeper?

I'm a big buyer of romances. I pick them up on amazon and on ebay, occasionally in the few remaining on street book shops and fairly frequently in charity shops (thrift stores, I think, if you're Stateside).

All too often, I find my charity shop purchases make their way back to the charity shop having left me with a feeling of disatisfaction. Clearly their original owner had ditched them too, leaving them to drift from home to home unloved and uncared for. Which has left me wondering - what makes a keeper? And is one reader's keeper, another's poison?

For me the top five are probably:

1. Conflicts that could be sorted out merely by having a conversation, when there is no good reason for them not to share. It has me feeling tense and wanting to shout "just SAY it!" - and not in a good way.

2. Dialogue that sort of makes an effort to be historical, but either gets the era wrong (sounds 1920s in the 1820s) or sounds so clunky you want to cry. How is it Georgette Heyer could manage scrupulously observed regency vocabulary and still keep her conversations lively and flowing, but other people turn into a hideous parody of a BBC costume drama?

3. Heroes that are so unlikeable and humourless that the heroine should either just whack them over the head or take herself off to a therapist to ask why she is persisting. A bit of humour goes a long way... actually come to think of it, that applies to heroines too!

4. Over veneration of naivity, innocence and purity in a heroine. Other people might find that sweet - I just want them to get a bit of gumption. Or maybe I just don't identify with angels. Georgette Heyer was onto that - why do you think Frederica and not Charis was the heroine, in the novel of the same name?

5. Two dimensional characters - see points 3 and 4 for examples!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Elegance and Espionage

I have a confession to make. I have made a leap backwards and I'm now lurking in the Georgian period. In fact, I have strayed from London and made my way to Paris. The year is 1764 and I am walking down the cobbled street of the Rue du Dragon, dodging through the shadows after my hero Quill and my heroine, Marguerite.

Yes that's right, I've started writing my historial romance, which I'm hoping will be in a colourful world of espionage, masquerades, crossing and double crossing.

For inspiration, I am indebted to a number of reference books including Elizabeth Sparrow's Secret service : British agents in France, 1792-1815, Caroline Moorehead's Dancing to the precipice : Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution, Frank McLynn's 1759 : the year Britain became master of the world, Judith Summers' The empress of pleasure : the life and adventures of Teresa Cornelys and Lucie Moore's Amphibious thing : the adventures of a Georgian rake.

It's been fascinating trawling through some of the real life colourful characters who populated the 18th century, and piecing together the political and social structures which shaped the world of the late 1700s.

Underlying the complex relationship developing between Quill and Marguerite are tensions between Britain and France following the Treaty of Paris, and the shadowy activities of the Secret du Roi.

Development of the story is moving along slowly as I've just been a teensiest bit side-tracked by one of my other loves, paranormal romance. Whilst Marguerite and Quill grow inside my head I'm also working on a novella aimed at Harlequin's Nocturne Bites series. More on that soon!