Monica Danes always wanted more than the village of Biddlestone had to offer. After a failed courtship to a man of her parents’ choosing, she fled for the city of Bath and never looked back. Today, Monica is the undisputed queen of the theater—a wealthy, independent woman. But when she is called home in the wake of tragedy, Monica returns—intending to leave again as soon as possible.
Thomas Ashby has been a groom at the Danes estate since he was a boy—and has been enamored with Monica for almost as long. He knows he isn’t a suitable match for his master’s daughter, despite the special bond he and Monica have always shared—and their undeniable attraction. But now that she’s returned, Thomas has one last chance to prove himself worthy—and to show Monica a life, and a love, she won’t want to give up...
About the Author
I live with my husband, our two teenage daughters and my beloved black Labrador, Max in a small market town near the famous Georgian City of Bath. I have been writing contemporary romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superrormance since 2012, and Victorian romance for eKensington/Lyrical.
When I’m not writing, you’ll find me with my head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with my family. And in the evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and represented by Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency in the US.
Why do I write romance?
That’s the question!
My love affair with romance novels started when I was around nine or ten when I discovered the Sweet Valley High books by Francine Pascal. In fact, as a Brit living in South West England my entire life, I can honestly say that’s when my love affair with all things American started!
I was the dreamy-eyed bookworm of the early 1980s – yes, the big glasses, the big hair and the big clothes, that was me J The adventures of twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield and their endless boy and friendship problems drew me in and steadfastly kept me there for a couple of years until I discovered the books that inspired me to put pen to paper…the Sweet Dreams books.
Please tell me you remember these books and it wasn’t just sad little me who devoured them one after another. I already had my favorite librarian at our local public library but with these books, I specifically remember her keeping back the new ones for me whenever they arrived. She was my first heroine!
I wrote my first book around the age of twelve and remember punching holes in its “spine” and holding it together with pink ribbon, lol! How I wish I’d kept it – the hero was Brad and the heroine, Claire. That’s all I remember J
After that, it was a few years of sneaking my mum’s Mills & Boon novels (Harlequin) into my bedroom and reading way past the light being turned off. There was one story in particular that moved me enough to make me decide I wanted to write when I grew up. Snippets of that book still linger in my memory but I have no idea of the author or the book. I can’t even really remember the plot but what I do remember is the emotion, the way it made me feel. For me, as romance writers our job is to do equally that, evoke emotion.
To make the reader really feel – make them laugh, make them cry, make them feel. If my readers tell me I have moved them in any way, I am a happy, happy lady. My job is done J
Nowadays, my favourite romance or women’s fictions authors are Nora Roberts, Jean Fullerton, Robyn Carr & Phillipa Gregory.
Big shoes to fill, huh? Of course, what would be the point of writing, of all that blood, sweat and tears if we didn’t reach for the stars? I want to deliver bigger and better books with each novel I write J
I often get asked how much research goes into my Victorian romances and I find this really difficult to answer. As I write romance rather than historical fiction, I focus on the central relationship more than anything––which basically means the emotion. To my mind, the emotions of people during the 1800s would have been more or less the same as today…even if their problems and concerns were entirely different.Historical research…how much? How little?
My research begins once I have decided on the theme of my book – for What A Woman Desires, my latest Victorian romance, the central theme is “Home is where the heart is”. So what did this mean as far as research is concerned? Well, first and foremost, I had to know how homes were run in the late 19th century. A home of the poor as well as the wealthy, because I had already decided my heroine was from a middle-upper class family and my hero from a lower class.
Obviously we are all lucky enough to have access to the World Wide Web nowadays, but I still think it is imperative to read as well as visit places as much as possible. I read plenty of Victorian non-fiction while writing this book as well as visiting No 1 Royal Crescent in Bath (although this is set to the Georgian era, it gave me a nice sense of place), the Bath Fashion Museum and the Theatre Royal. My favorite Victorian research book this time around (and the most helpful) was The Victorian House by Judith Flanders.
For my next Victorian book (and current work in progress), I am researching children’s boarding houses during the late 1800s as my heroine will end up working at one in bid to add something fundamentally important to a life she views as mundane and without purpose. I have cried over some of the stories I have read and hope I manage to capture the heroine’s passion and care for children as well as her love for the hero.
I spent a lot of time talking to the Bath Record Office and read books on the boarding houses as well as the Workhouse in the city. The problem with research is often knowing when to stop! If you enjoy history, the temptation to keep researching rather than getting on with the writing is hard to resist.
Through my reading and visiting, I have become more and more interested in delving backwards as well as forwards in time from the Victorian era. I wouldn’t be surprised if I write a Georgian and Edwardian series in the future. Watch this space!
Finding Those Characters…
For a lot of romance writers, each new book starts with the characters…which is logical as romances are, more often than not, character driven. For me, being logical is a stretch too far and many of my stories start with a premise, or situation, and everything grows from there. The problem with this process is finding the right characters to tell the story.
Worse, I have to find the perfect main characters – the hero and heroine who will not only find their happy ever after, but be interesting, complex and amusing enough that the reader wants to follow them through every one of their 90,000 word journey!
So how do I do it? Well, it all begins with the tiresome (!) job of browsing the Internet for my hunky hero…and then the inevitable job of finding my heroine. When I started planning What A Woman Desires, I was lucky enough to have my premise given to me by Monica Danes, a secondary character in the previous book (The Temptation of Laura), being inspired by Emily Blunt and established in my mind. I loved Monica and was determined to give her a book of her own.
But who would be her hero? Monica is middle class but working as an actress. I wanted to take her back to her roots, back to her home and family, forcing her to confront all the issues from her childhood that have shaped the woman she is today. So, by taking her back home, I took her back to a man she had loved from afar…the family’s groom, Thomas Ashby.
Working class, ruggedly handsome and a man of the world, Thomas was inspired by Tom Hardy in Lawless. Yum! The two come together in push/pull situation of Monica wanting to return to Bath and Thomas needing her to stay for his own family’s stability.
The two of them were a joy to write and I hope that shows on the page––as an author I have to have faith that my process will work and, continue to work, as long as I continue to write.
What are your most memorable fictional characters and why? Your answers might inspire a new book the right way around for me this time!
Keeping My Writing Fresh…
The market is full of romance books – mainstream romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, medical romance, cowboy romance…the list goes on. So how does a romance writer attempt to stand out from the crowd? To keep her or his precious readers interested and anticipating their next release?
I am lucky enough to write three romance sub-genres for two different publishers – I write Victorian romance for eKensington/Lyrical press, mainstream romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance. The fact that I get to alternate between the three keeps me interested as a writer and, I hope, keeps my readers looking forward to seeing what type of romance releases next.
As I am currently writing my sixteenth novel, the issue of what keeps my writing fresh is a big one. I hope because I live so close to where my Victorian books are set and that Bath is a different city from London, I bring a different feel and atmosphere than many other historical romances.
For my contemporary work, I am the first author to have books in the Harlequin Superromance line with all British characters in a British setting. Again, I hope this makes my books different than others on offer.
As for the stories themselves? My Victorian romances tend to focus on the lower classes and their problems, rather than balls, dances and upper class propriety. I like to research how the ‘real people’ lived in the late 1800s. The problems they faced, the changing world around them, domestic changes, moral changes, the fact that more and more women wanted to stretch further than keeping a nice house and a happy husband. I like that I am building a reputation for writing darker Victorian romances and the feedback from readers and reviewers has given me the confidence that there is a space in the market for me and my work.
The Harlequin Superromance line runs to 85,000 words so are the biggest of Harlequin lines. There is room outside of the central romance to explore. I have touched on domestic abuse, money laundering and drug abuse––issues you wouldn’t normally expect between the pages of a romance novel!
I personally feel that romance writing has as much scope and freedom as any mainstream novel…as long as the relationship of the hero and heroine is always at the forefront. I hope your visitors agree and try one of my books!
What A Woman Desires is my third Victorian romance for eKensington/Lyrical Press and I am in the process of writing my fourth. I love the Victorian era! Many people initially think of Queen Victoria in mourning, Dickensian poverty or cruelty, or ladies dressed in high-neck dresses, looking down their noses at anyone even thinking an immoral thought, let alone acting on one.My Favorite Victorian books, films and TV shows…
These passing assumptions are not entirely true…although they are true of some people and places from that time. If you have read any of my previous books, you will know my Victorian romances tend to be darker than most on the market, and focus on the lower classes of society, rather than the upper-middle and middle classes.
It is my mission to prove even people not born into money deserve a happy ever after!
Many authors, including me, garner a lot of inspiration from what we read and watch. It is because of my favorite books, films and period TV series that I became so interested in Victoriana. I am lucky enough to live just a short drive from the city of Bath, England in one direction and the beautiful Cotswolds in the other. It would’ve been a sin for me to not take advantage of my location in my books.
What A Woman Desires and my previous books (The Seduction of Emily & The Temptation of Laura) are all set in and around Bath. Here are some books and viewing I highly recommend…albeit most of them are set in London. Enjoy!
- Tipping The Velvet, Affinity & Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
- A Glimpse at Happiness by Jean Fullerton
- The Victorian House by Judith Flanders (non-fiction)
- Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun
- North & South – (British TV)
- North & South – (US TV) – these are two VERY different stories!
- Bleak House – (British TV)
- The Young Victoria – film
- Gangs of New York - film
GiveawayEbook of What a Woman Desires and Paperback of Christmas At The Cove2 Winners