How a small community can smother your characters

As a contemporary romance writer, I know that series set in small towns and tight-knit communities are insanely popular.

But there’s also a danger that, as a series grows, those communities can begin to smother the vibrancy of later novels and their characters.

This isn’t just a danger with small-town contemporary romance. It can happen in any series that focuses on a particular community, whether that’s the ton in Regency romance or a fantastical world completely of the author’s creation.

Here are the ways communities can alienate me, the reader, and my thoughts on how to avoid it.

Continue reading “How a small community can smother your characters”

Sisters are doing it for themselves

I don’t have any sisters. I have a “little” (i.e. younger, but now well over six feet of muscles that belong on a romance cover) brother. You might remember him from my post The problem with having an alpha male brother.

Sister gets little brother in a headlock
© Christopher Low/istockphoto

My brother and I never got along when we were kids, though I can’t imagine why. I mean, I put so much effort into parenting him because my parents clearly weren’t doing a good enough job of it. As his big sister, I made sure he knew exactly what he was doing wrong at all times. He didn’t know as much as I did, and I pointed out all the things he was ignorant about so he’d learn.

Yes, I was the kid who spent weekends playing “school” and planned lessons for the neighbor kids to sit through. I also borrowed my brother’s motorized mini police car and drove up and down my street handing out tickets to kids who rode their bikes too fast.

In other words, I was a friendless loser for much of my childhood. And my little brother has always been the exact opposite.

Having another girl in the house would’ve been torture. I had to be the best at something, and if I couldn’t be the best at making friends then at least I could be the best girl in the house. No one else could be a girl the way I could—that meant shopping with Mom and my grandma, going on dates with Dad, and just generally smelling good and avoiding roughhousing.

If I’d had a sister? I’d have had to discover something else to be best at.

Girl pretends to push brother off a cliff
© M. Eric Honeycutt/istockphoto

By having a second child, my parents forced me to suffer decades of sibling rivalry—but I never regretted that it was a boy child (I just, y’know, regretted his entire existence sometimes. Hey, I’m not proud of myself for it).

Growing up with my biggest rival living in my own home and sharing my parents’ love has given me a deep affection for fictional heroines who have to endure bratty siblings—even if those siblings are grown up.
Continue reading “Sisters are doing it for themselves”

Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

One of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Real Men WillSix months ago, uptight Eric Donovan went to a business expo and had a steamy night of passion with the manager of a local erotic boutique. Problem? He used his bad-boy younger brother’s name. For one night, he wanted to be someone else, without all the responsibilities and worries weighing him down.

When Beth Cantrell walks into the Donovan Brothers Brewery months later, she pretty swiftly realizes that the cute young bartender everyone’s calling Jamie isn’t the guy she slept with. Beth is furious and tries not to feel the shame and humiliation that she experienced the last time a man used her. But she struggles to hold onto her anger toward Eric as the attraction between them explodes again—only this time, they both want more than one night.

I love Victoria Dahl’s contemporary romances, but she’s really at her best when she’s writing characters who have spent their adulthoods trying to overcome the trauma of their childhoods. Beth Cantrell is one of those characters. She’s hiding who she really is in an attempt to become the person she thinks she should be—a sexually adventurous woman comfortable with all kinds of experimentation. In reality, she just wants a man she can let her guard down with, a man she can trust.
Continue reading “Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl”

Winner of the Victoria Dahl giveaway!

Bad Boys DoThanks to everyone who commented on my interview with Victoria Dahl, and a big thanks to Victoria for giving away a signed copy of BAD BOYS DO!

The lucky winner is…Patti W!

Patti, I’ve emailed you asking for your address. If you haven’t received it, please check your spam folder.

This week you can win one of Jeannie Lin’s luscious historical romance novels. She’s giving two of them away – BUTTERFLY SWORDS and THE DRAGON AND THE PEARL. So leave a comment to enter!

Interview with Victoria Dahl – & giveaway!

Victoria DahlVictoria Dahl could scribble a grocery list on a Post-It and I’d clear my schedule to read it. Her books are full of the same kind of sarcastic, witty people I like to surround myself with in real life. And her novels are emotionally gripping but still manage to be so hot I’ve found myself blushing and glancing furtively around when reading in public.

Her contemporary series this year is set around the Donovan Brothers Brewery in Colorado. The first, Good Girls Don’t, was released last month. The second, Bad Boys Do, comes out this month, and the last, Real Men Will, is released next month. I’ve had the privilege of reading them all, and it’s without a doubt one of my favorite series of the year.

I’m so glad you’re here, Victoria! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks so much for having me! And thank you for the very kind words about my writing.

1. You first got published writing historical romance. What made you decide to write contemporaries as well, and how do you manage to be so prolific and still so awesome in both?

Talk Me DownWell, at first, my historicals didn’t sell. I couldn’t get a contract. Then my paranormals didn’t sell. Finally, my wonderful agent suggested I try my hand at contemporary. I thought she was mad. I was terrified. But I tried it out, and that book was TALK ME DOWN, my first contemporary.

As for being prolific –I’m sure I can’t speak to awesomeness- going from contemporary to historical, and vice versa, is a bit like a palate cleanser. The change makes it easier to write faster. Just looking forward to the change makes it easier.

2. What would you say are the biggest differences between writing a successful contemporary and a successful historical romance (other than making sure you’ve set it in the right time period, of course!)?

Continue reading “Interview with Victoria Dahl – & giveaway!”