Phew! The Look of Love

On my journey to read differently, I’ve experienced all kinds of stories – adventures and suspense, drama and biography, chick lit of all shapes and forms – and out of all of these genres, it’s romance that continues to surprise me.

I like a good love story as much as the next girl, but until TBYL I’d never read a ‘romance novel’ as such, especially the type that feel like a one night stand, lusty, exaggerated and alway happy ending.

lookofloveThe Look of Love by Belle Andre (Harlequin) is one such book. It’s the first of Belle’s books that I’ve read, although I’ve it on good authority that her Sullivan’s series are staples of the romance genre, and the Sullivan famiy are super stars of the digital publishing revolution.

This instalment, the first in printed format, focuses on Chase Sullivan (what a name!) a talented and handsome photographer. After a chapter of introductions, bringing the reader up to speed as to where the rest of the Sullivan clan are at, we join Chase on a bitterly cold, stormy night on the road. Travelling to his brother’s boutique winery for a fashion shoot (of course) Chase comes across Chloe Peterson, forlorn, drenched, battered and bruised, her wrecked car useless in a ditch by the side of the road.

As you might expect, Chase rescues Chloe, and after only a moderate degree of resistance, their hot tryst begins.

This steamy tale, taking place in luxurious bedrooms, inviting spas and spring grapevines will have your heart beating a faster, and I’m sure it’ll make you a little breathless. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little bit predictable, but it’s saucy, and hot as hell. If you’re a fan of romance literature, this will be just your thing.

“Chase took her hand, hurried up the front steps and kicked open the front door, not stopping in the living room even though it meant waiting another few seconds for the pleasure he’d been craving. He wanted her in a bed, the way he’d been picturing her for forty-eight straight hours, naked and flushed with desire – and pleasure – for him.”

Phew!

As you know, I’m always interested in the process of writing, almost as much as the story itself, in particular when an author is as prolific as Belle Andre is. I was fortunate enough to find out a little more about how she puts her steamy stories together…

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What made you decide to pursue writing as a career?
I’ve been a huge romance reader all my life, devouring a book-a-day whenever I can. I was a professional musician for ten years (I played guitar and piano and also sang and wrote songs) until one day two fictional characters started having a conversation in my head. I wrote it down and then the next day when their conversation continued, I wrote that down, too! Before I knew it, I’d written my first romance. Two years later, I realized I needed to decide between playing/writing music and writing romance. It was an easy choice to pick books and every day I give thanks for having the most fantastic job in the world.


Your success in self-publishing has been extraordinary. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey and how you ended up pursuing self-publishing?
Thank you! It’s been a very exciting journey. When I first began to self-publish in the middle of 2010, ebooks and digital readers were still fairly new. I was excited about the opportunity to write the books my readers had been asking for – and as soon as I self-published my first book, I was stunned by how much fun the process was. I had always wanted to write a big series of connected books about a family, so I decided in the summer of 2011 to launch my Sullivan series with 8 books about the San Francisco based family, The response from contemporary romance readers for these sexy, emotional stories blew my mind.

Once my Sullivan series took off in a huge way and sold more than a million copies as self-published ebooks – because of my awesome fans around the world! – I was thrilled to have the chance to work with Harlequin on the print launch of the Sullivans, starting with THE LOOK OF LOVE, FROM THIS MOMENT ON and CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE this summer.


Have you got a favourite place or time of day to write?
I can – and do – write at any time of day or night, and I will write absolutely anywhere, as well. When the weather is good, I write outside. If it’s cold outside, I’ll curl up on the couch with my laptop. I write in airports and on planes and in the car while waiting for my kids to finish soccer and ballet practice.

I listen to music when I write and all I need to get into the zone is to pop in my ear buds. Within seconds, I can usually be right back in the thick of the emotions of my characters.


Can you tell us a little about your writing process, are you a plotter or a let the characters take the story where they will author?
I’ve always thought of my self as a writer who let the characters take me where they want to go! But then, by the time I get to the end of each book, I realize I’ve written a 50-100 page outline along the way. So I guess that means I’m a hybrid of both styles – I outline as ideas come to me, but I’m always open to my characters and scenes changing direction when they need to. I write between 10 to 25 pages a day in a fairly quick first draft and then I revise each book at least a half-dozen times before publication.

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If you’d like to find out more about The Look of Love by Belle Andres, you can visit the Harlequin website here…

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Rural soap opera: Jilted

I’m as surprised as anyone at the amount of romance literature I’ve been reading of late. It’s been a lovely change from some of the more somber titles I’ve read recently, such as this and this

Not only have I been enjoying the odd love story, many of them have been rural romances (a.k.a. chook lit), a genre currently at the height of popularity. Last month I enjoyed Wattle Creek, and more recently I had the chance to read Rachael Johns’ Jilted (Harlequin).

Set in the small town of Hope’s Junction, just south-east of Perth, Jilted is romantic in both its setting and plot:

After more than ten years away, Australian soap star Ellie Hughes returns to the small country town of Hope’s Junction, determined to remain anonymous while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda. But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community, and it isn’t long until the people of Hope’s are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie’s visit and why she broke the heart of local golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together again, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them, and the fall-out of Ellie’s leaving. But Ellie isn’t the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter. When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

It is unashamedly country…

“Flynn’s grandmother sat at the family’s big oak table knitting another tea cosy to be sold at the CWA craft stall”

…and seems well aware of the phenomenon that is country romance…

“Wearing denim jeans, a long-sleeved black tee and his faithful Akubra, he looked every bit the iconic Aussie farmer, leaning back on the picket fence that surrounded the homestead. Her heart fluttered like a real-life romance heroine. It was no mystery why ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ was huge hit with women her age. Flynn’s kind of rustic attractiveness trumped gym-buffed men in suits any day.”

Of course, small town charm isn’t all a novel needs, and Rachael’s story delivers a captivating and moving story of young love, heartbreak, friendship and family. Ellie is guilty of stark betrayal, but as is revealed, her behaviour was not without good reason. This doesn’t change the fact that Flynn’s young heart was ten-years ago shattered. To forgive her completely would be to break a serious promise that he’d made to himself many years ago.

With the help of her Godmother Matilda (my favourite character) Ellie faces her demons, reveals the truth, and waits to see if it will be enough to mend a broken relationship.

Rachael’s novel is touching in ways I hadn’t expected, and it’s quite charmingly Australian, in its references to footy, Fanta and community theatre groups. It’s pretty clear that Rachael Johns is writing from what she knows, and it works well.

I was really lucky to be able to send a few questions Rachael’s way. Here’s what she had to say about her novel, her process and her genre…

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What attracted you to the rural romance genre? Is it something you plan to do more of in the future?
It’s a genre I love to read, but more than that, it’s what I live. As a resident of a small rural community I longed to bring the stories of the bush to readers. I find small town life fascinating – everyone knowing everyone means so much potential for gossip, conflict, etc, but small towns are also very supportive of their own and I wanted to portray this angle in my books.

I definitely plan to write more rural-based books. There’s so much potential for stories in the bush, so many colourful characters just begging to be written about!


In the novel, Matilda’s background really intrigued me, I wanted to know more! Were you tempted to include more about her past adventures?

Oh I would LOVE to have developed Matilda more, but word count restrictions prevented this. She’s probably one of my favourite characters in the books. I enjoy travel (although haven’t done much for far too long) and I imagined Matilda travelling off the beaten track and writing about places that aren’t traditionally tourist spots. I think Matilda’s life could be a whole novel on its own. And her bathroom is my favourite place in her house – when I grow up I want to have a bathroom like hers, where you can get lost for hours reading quirky quotes and fun sayings.


Do you think Ellie and Flynn live happily ever after?
OF COURSE!! She’d be mad to let that spunk go again!  I imagine them a very happy, playful couple who just adore spending time together – even if that’s doing housework or the gardening (eugh). In my mind they have a couple of kids and Ellie sets up a drama school in the middle of the bush.


What do you make of the surge in popularity of the romance novel, and in particular erotica?
I think romance has always been popular – it’s the biggest selling genre in the world. More recently, it’s just become more acceptable to say you read romance and more mainstream publishers are standing up and taking notice. YAY! I suppose in terms of erotica, you’re talking about Fifty Shades of Grey – but really, erotic romance has been thriving for years, the hype of Fifty Shades has merely brought it into the mainstream.

As for WHY romance is popular… I believe it’s because people like happy stories. There is so much doom and gloom in the world that when you sit down to relax, it’s nice to read an uplifting, cheery novel. Romance novels are about people conquering problems and conflict and finding their happy ever after. I think secretly everyone’s looking for a happy ever after.


What’s next for you?
I’m SO glad you asked. I have two books out on New Year’s Day actually – a contemporary romance Stand-in Star with Carina Press (set in Hollywood) and another rural romance Man Drought with Harlequin Australia. Man Drought is set in a rundown country pub and is a story about coming to terms with the past and grabbing hold of the future!

I love to connect with readers and can be found on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Have you treated yourself to any rural romance lately?

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