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Author Spotlight: Sex and Secrets: Think of England and the Country House Party

By On Jul 16 2014, 9:00 am

The country house party. Symbol of a golden age of privilege, epitome of that brief, glorious time before world war when life (for a tiny percentage of the population) was as good as it probably ever got. Think Brideshead Revisited or Downton Abbey (early series), with handsome young men in cricket flannels, witty young ladies in dashing gowns, croquet on the lawn, attentive servants, hunting parties and endless, limitless luxury.

Nice for some, eh?

The country house party was an essential, and eye-wateringly expensive, part of the social whirl. Entertainments would involve shooting, drawing-room games, gambling (bridge and baccarat), flirting, political manoeuvring, marriage-arrangement, and of course sex. Lots of sex.

If you’re thinking the Edwardians were too polite for that, forget it. One had to behave with decorum, of course, one should not brandish one’s affairs in the public eye. But for many, adultery was a hobby, even in some cases a job. Bedrooms were openly arranged for the convenience of illicit love affairs. I have not been able to substantiate the story that some hostesses would have a bell rung ten minutes before the servants came up with morning tea, in order to allow guests time to get back into their own beds. But it’s apparently true that the notorious womaniser Lord Charles Beresford burst into a bedroom crying “Cock-a-doodle-doo”, fully expecting to find his latest lady love, and leapt onto a bed already virtuously occupied by a bishop and his wife. (There’s a menage opener for you.)

I set my m/m romance Think of England in a country house for several reasons. It’s written very much in the spirit of pulp adventure, with treachery, villainy and espionage. So a country house, isolated and miles from anywhere, meant that my heroes were trapped – forced to socialise, forced to collaborate, forced to all kinds of things that wouldn’t have crossed at least one of their minds. The impossibility of leaving and the need to keep up appearances make for all sorts of desperate circumstances. And mostly, there’s the sex. Because the essence of the country house party – the keeping up of polite appearances and the hot, sweaty reality concealed behind them – gives endless opportunities both for villainous goings on and for the most delicious romantic entanglements….

Lie back and think of England…

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Product Warnings

Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

Jenna Bayley-Burke @ RWA Conference Literacy Booksigning

By On Jul 11 2014, 12:00 am

Jenna Bayley-Burke will be signing copies of Drive Me Crazy at the RWA Conference Literacy Booksigning, San Antonio, TX

Author Spotlight: Librarians Are Magic

By On Jul 2 2014, 7:30 pm

I love libraries. As a college student I worked in the main library of the University of Illinois. The stacks are massive—two buildings, ten floors, endless rows of books. Old books bound in decaying leather that leave a rusty residue on your hands and jeans after you pull them from the shelves. I always wondered what secrets might be hidden behind the aged doors tucked into lonely alcoves and marked “Do Not Enter.” Could there be tomes of arcane magic tucked between the farm reports? Ancient spells hidden in the rare book room?

So of course the supernatural world of my Bad Witch books includes librarians—yes, librarians. Magic librarians, responsible for recording and safeguarding magician history. Even vampire librarians. A librarian’s greatest wish is to join the Order of St. Jerome and become a chronicler, so that he or she can do their job for all eternity and tend a glorious, enormous library of magic. I picture Simon’s library much like the enormous U of I stacks—a little musty, just a shade too dark, and so quiet you can hear a pin drop. (Or the sound of a student worker cursing, because she wore flip-flops and rolled a book cart over her foot.)

Becoming a chronicler is considered a great honor, something that a librarian works toward his entire life. So what happens if a librarian has spent his entire life preparing to become a chronicler, and he suddenly learns that he has a soul mate? And not just any soul mate, but the beautiful, charming woman he’s been secretly pining after for years. That’s Michael Black’s dilemma in The Importance of Being Emily (included as a bonus in the print edition of Poison in the Blood—it’s two books in one!). Michael learns, much to his surprise, that his soul’s perfect match is the meddlesome seer Miss Emily Wright. Michael has sworn himself to the Order, and to have a life with Emily means turning his back on everything he’s worked for. As a seer, she can’t join the Order, and he’s faced with a tough decision: Immortality, or true love?

The Importance of Being Emily and Poison in the Blood tell Emily and Michael’s adventures in a Victorian England filled with magic and murder, and how they find their happily-ever-after despite their star-crossed state. And Poison in the Blood has bonus cute baby librarians, or as they warning calls them, “adorable plot moppets”.

I’ll be reading from Poison in the Blood at the August 5th Lady Jane’s Salon in Naperville, Illinois, and I’m giving away a Samhain swag bag at the event. I hope to see some of you there!

Author Spotlight: It Isn’t Sex That Sells

By On Jun 25 2014, 9:00 am

Non-romance readers think romance novels are all about the sex. Even if they include descriptive love scenes they are not. They are about romantic love and commitment. For the purpose of this discussion let’s separate out erotica from the romance genre and stick to romance novels.

If they’re not about sex then why include sex scenes? I’ll speak for my own writing and no one else’s. I include them because it seems natural to the story. I like subtle, passionate well-written love scenes that reflect what’s going on both physically and emotionally with the characters.

Often the characters aren’t married to each other the first time they have sex. That’s simply a reflection of the times we live in. I write contemporary romance. My novels don’t necessarily reflect my own moral views. I’d wager most fiction doesn’t reflect the moral views of its readers. Most readers of murder mysteries, for example, aren’t killers in real life. A police procedural, however, shows how a murderer is caught. (Usually with some fictional license taken.) In the same way, a romance novel shows how a romantic relationship develops in a believable but not necessarily realistic situation.

In my novels, sex is the binding element. The characters may have already forged an emotional or psychological bond with each other. Certainly they are attracted to each other both physically and emotionally. There’s usually some reason they resist acting on the physical component of that attraction, a reason they fight it, delay it, refuse to give into it. Is this sounding at all like a real life situation you might have experienced?

There comes a point where they do give in, however. That bond they already had with each other becomes more intimate and meaningful because that’s what sex does. There’s always an emotional component whether any of us want to believe it or not. There’s no such thing as “just sex.” Not in a good romance novel and not in real life.

If we could have “just sex” with someone and walk away and forget about it, there wouldn’t be stalkers or jealous rages; murders by exes or sad songs about love gone wrong; we wouldn’t be popping anti-depressants in record numbers either or wonder why we feel so used up before the age of thirty. Sex, even a one-night stand, leaves an imprint on our hearts and our psyches.

Sex outside of or before marriage always complicates things because emotions are complicated. But if a writer has done the work of building the potential for a lasting relationship between the characters, a sexual relationship will be the glue that holds them together and helps them overcome obstacles together. That’s how they find their happy ending.

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