Here at Avon we are well aware of romance fiction’s popularity and potential to change the world, but it seems as though the rest of the world is starting to catch on and acknowledge the genre’s powerful force for social good. With kick-arse female protagonists who defy the old world stereotype of women as passive recipients of love, lessons on love and the complexities of human relationships, and sex scenes that involve mangos!, it’s no wonder the genre is now worth around $US1.6 billion in the US alone. ABC journalist, Antony Funnel, spoke with three romance authors at the recent Brisbane Writers’ Festival to discuss this literary phenomenon. Click here to read the juicy article.
Stephanie Laurens has been awarded the 2013 Ruby Romantic Book of the Year award for her Regency romance The Lady Risks All. The award is the largest reader-judged writers’ competition in Australia so this is a seriously big deal. If you haven’t yet read Laurens’ passionate tale then you must. It tells the story of the notorious and enigmatic Neville Roscoe who lives resolutely outside society until challenged by his desire of the one woman he cannot have. Introducing Miranda Clifford, a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability until tempted by a passion like none she’s over known. Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore.
For more about the book click here.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Australia’s favourite romance author, the lovely Anna Campbell, had her new book A Rake’s Midnight Kiss hit stores this month. Anna has been darting around the interwebz – being interviewed here, and reviewed there. And so we’ve collected a few of our favourite links for your enjoyment:
Australian Romance Readers Association has chosen Rake as its featured book of the month. They’re also giving away three copies of the book, so get in quickly
Beauty and Lace has a great chat with Anna here about men in boots, her journey to publication, and what being a woman means to her.
Culture Street asks Anna which literary character she’d like to invite to dinner.
Find out what Anna won’t do for love over at the Booktopia Australian Romance Author Showcase
Have you read A Rake’s Midnight Kiss yet? What did you think?
This month Booktopia has been celebrating Australian Romance Month!
To bring our favorite genre to the fore throughout July, Booktopia blogger Haylee Nash has been interviewing one author per day with ‘Ten Terrifying Questions’. Earlier in the month, Avon’s very own bestselling author of rural romance Rachel Treasure stepped up to the plate…
What is the best thing about being a romance author?
I get to play all day in my head with nice fellas and move them around, exactly where I want them. And I can do it all in my jeans and uggies with my hair stuck up in a crazy pony tail and they still love me. The characters also get to be my puppets for the more serious issues I want to raise within the romance genre… like rural suicide, rural decline, infidelities in relationships and the renaissance in agriculture that is happening at a grass roots level. That’s the best thing… to use romance as a device to draw people in, then get people to THINK.
Who (aside from a significant other) do you swoon over?
Denim with a dash of artistic creativity is the ideal. My country music lads always catch my breath… Toby Keith as mentioned above, Luke Bryan and top of the country pops in swoon factor is Tim McGraw… he’s so sweet to his wife Faith Hill, loves his kids and is fitter than a Mallee Bull for a man of his age. Dang he looks good in jeans and a t-shirt. And his voice! Oh… like a sticky date… to die for.
Tell us something very few people know about you.
On days that are challenging I wear Wonder Woman undies. Bat Girl sometimes gets a run too.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Channelled from above.
Romance is… the salt in the stew of life.
Books are… my addiction!
Your favourite character is… Oh, too difficult! It’s like asking me to pick a favourite child. I love them all! Just as a matter of timing, let me choose the hero of A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, my latest release. Sir Richard Harmsworth is a Scarlet Pimpernel sort of character who hides his deep emotional wounds under witty quips and an elegant shell.
What do you like about writing? I had to laugh when I read this question. I think it was Dorothy Parker who said “I hate writing but I love having written.” That pretty much sums it up, apart from those days that are like gold when you just sit down and the story rolls out ahead of you like a beautiful silk carpet. Sadly, there aren’t too many of those days! On the other hand, there’s such satisfaction in seeing a book that I’ve written on the shelves or hearing from a reader who has loved my characters so even the bad days are worth it.
What do you not like about writing? Because I love my characters so much (check out a previous answer), it’s always really painful to finish a book. These people who have lived in my head sometimes for years are no longer my daily companions and I miss them! There’s always a mourning period before I fall in love with the characters from the next book.
Next on the to do list? I’m busy with the latest Sons of Sin book, the Duke of Sedgemoor’s story. I’ve been building Cam up as a hero since I started the series so it’s wonderful finally to have a chance to give him his happy ending – although he has a rocky road to travel before that happens!
Anna’s new book, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, is out on the 1st of August. If you weren’t lucky enough to win one of our advance copies in last week’s competition, preorder a copy here.
The finalists for the 2013 Ruby Romantic Book of Year awards have been announced and Stephanie Lauren’s The Lady Risks All is a finalist in the Long Romance category. Stephanie Laurens has us swooning in this ‘stand alone’ romance: a sexy, passionate tale of an oh-so-proper lady and the dangerous man who gets her to throw caution to the wind in exchange for a love like none she’s ever known.
The winners will be announced at the 2013 RWA annual conference so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed. Check out www.romanceaustralia.com for more information about the awards and below for a bit about our favourite finalist.
Neville Roscoe, notorious and enigmatic, lives resolutely outside society, bound only by his own code of honour – until challenged by his desire for the one woman he cannot have.
Miranda Clifford is a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability — until tempted by a passion beyond her power to deny.
Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore … or keep.
We just received three (three!) advance copies of Anna Campbell’s new Sons of Sin novel A Rake’s Midnight Kiss but instead of giving in to the temptation to run home NOW and read them from cover to cover, we’re selflessly giving them away to three lucky Avon blog readers*. All you have to do is email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us which is your favourite novel by Anna Campbell (if you can pick just one) and why in 25 words or less. Stop reading and email us. Now.
Now that you’ve done that, here’s a bit about the book:
It Takes a Lady
Brilliant scholar Genevieve Barrett knows how to keep a secret. Her identity as the author of her father’s academic articles has always been her greatest deception-until a charming housebreaker tries to steal the mysterious Harmsworth Jewel from her. She doesn’t reveal that she recognizes her father’s devastatingly handsome new student as the thief himself. For Genevieve, this will be the most seductive secret of all …
To Catch a Thief
Sir Richard Harmsworth has been living a lie, maintaining a rakish facade to show society that he doesn’t care about his status as a bastard. Yet long haunted by his unknown father’s identity, Richard believes the Harmsworth Jewel will confirm his claim as the rightful heir. But when Richard sets out to seduce the bookworm who possesses the stone, he instead falls for its beautiful owner. But even as she steals Richard’s heart, Genevieve will be in greater danger than her coveted treasure …
This competition closes on Friday the 5th of July.
*Please note you must be based in Australia to enter.
Romance is… so many different things to different people. A certain smile, a touch of the hand, a protective arm–even a scowl can be romantic in the right context!
Books are… essential. No other word for it. How could I live without books?
Your favourite character is… always the character whose story I am writing now. All the others are in my past.
What do you like about writing? The sheer joy of getting to the end and discovering the journey was fun!
What do you not like about writing? All the things that keep me from writing – writing stories is a compulsion.
Next on the to do list? Final touch-ups on the next 2 Casebook of Barnaby Adair novels, Montague’s story, and Malcolm Sinclair’s story, both for release next year.
Stephanie’s new book, The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh is out now. The 2nd in the Cynster Sisters duo, our #1 New York Times bestselling author thrills with this fantastic tale of a Cynster who’ll stop at nothing for love. Click here to find out more.
Six books, only. Six apparently simple novels ,an unfinished seventh, and a few fragments. And their author? The spinster second daughter of a late eighteenth century provincial clergyman, dead at 41. Yet there isn’t a city today,anywhere across the globe, that won’t, in some way and to some degree, be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of the best known of all those six books – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
So – what is her magic, her particular power? What is that draws movie makers, and other writers, and legions of devoted fans all over the world, to want to read her, imitate her, pay tribute to her, film her creations, and even try to live the life she portrayed, dressing in bonnets and muslins and mittens? She inspires, among those who love those six books, not just awe and adoration, but frequently a bizarre possessiveness, which only serves to emphasise her particular ability to speak to the individual alongside the universal. There aren’t Dickensites or Tolstoyites or Bronteites, after all. But there are Janeites, proudly identifying themselves as precisely that.
There are also whole libraries of words, written since her death, trying to identify the secret of her not just abiding, but ever growing appeal; but for a newspaper piece, I’m going to narrow the matter down to three elements.
And the first of those three is her subject matter, from which she never strayed. Her preoccupations were timeless, and of perpetual fascination, and pre-occupation, to the entire civilised world; quite simply, they were romantic love, money, and class. Her heroines are all young and pretty – even Anne Elliot, the oldest, is only 27, and Marianne Dashwood is a mere 17 – and her heroes are either young blades in their ebullient twenties, or established youngish men, like Mr Knightley or Colonel Brandon, of 35. So, we have lovely youth, for starters, and where there is youth there is boundless sexual energy, which has to be – this is 1813 after all – either excitingly repressed or, equally thrillingly, part-released in dancing and riding and walking and stately flirtation. There are rules for romantic conduct in the Regency, and they create a magnificent tension.
But nothing like the tension around money. The seeming game of romance in 1813 was, in fact, deadly serious. It was actually about marriage, since gently born women of the period were wholly and wretchedly dependent upon men for their livelihoods. Marriage was not an option, it was a necessity; hence the hideous sabotage of women by women in the Austen canon. Louisa Musgrove is attempting to seduce Captain Wentworth for her very life – she would not have considered herself free to think of Anne Elliot’s pain.
But even that grim necessity aside, Jane Austen was as acutely aware of the sex appeal of wealth, as E.L. James has recently been. Would there have been the same erotic appeal of that trilogy last year, had it been set in a sordid bedsit above a takeaway? Would Mr Darcy, snobbish, stiff and humourless – good grief, the poor boy is only in his twenties! – have had half his allure if he hadn’t owned half Derbyshire, a mansion and a private income of ten thousand a year? All these heroes of Jane Austen’s have money : Mr Knightley and Colonel Brandon run their thriving estates at Donwell and Delaford with quiet competence; Captain Wentworth has amassed his prize money; Edmund Bertram is given the living and parsonage house at Mansfield Park. And the rakes, the unprincipled adventurers, are punished with poverty – Wickham, Willougby, Henry Crawford. Jane Austen says herself that the penalty for disgraceful behaviour “is less equal than could be wished”, but early 19th century poverty was a harsh fate indeed, not least because it entirely neutralised, in the broadest sense, anyone’s pulling power.
As, in a different way, did class. Snobberies may be nuanced differently now, but there isn’t a reader who doesn’t relish the joyous vulgarities of Mrs Elton, or the stuck up stupidity of Lady Catherine de Burgh or the gossipy follies of Mrs Jennings, never mind those with a beady eye upon the minutiae of social structure, like Sir Walter Elliot or Aunt Norris. In Emma, indeed, a large part of the plot turns upon class, and Emma’s conviction that she can manipulate the rules. There isn’t a writer on earth who can extract as much mileage as Jane Austen can, out of the inflexible, subtle, and infinite complexities, misunderstandings and offences that the class system imposes so inexorably upon society.
Which leads, very comfortably, to her second extraordinary strength. Which is her voice. The sheer voice of those novels. It isn’t just the sentiment in that celebrated opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice that is so arresting, it is the tone in which it is uttered – cool, amused, restrained and very slightly ironic. She is right in these novels – Elinor Dashwood’s and Anne Elliot’s real suffering is vividly portrayed – but she is outside them too. These are her people, but they are also her puppets. Of course, she says, teenage Marianne Dashwood would never have forgiven herself if she’d managed to sleep the night after Willoughby inexplicably dashes to London. Of course Mr Elton and Mr Collins make absolute fools of themselves, proposing to the wrong girls for the wrong reasons. This is how they are: they can’t help themselves. But they need to be teased about their behaviour, don’t they? Of course they do! There is such a fundamental maturity in this attitude, and this way of expressing herself. There is, in her style, a profound recognition of the need to live as truly to yourself as you can, but always within the constraints of society. You can tell, from the way she writes, that she loves cleverness, and modesty, and self control. But she also loves wit. And because she is half in and half out of her novels, she not only leaves us free to possess them, but also to see what she sees, as freshly as if she were looking over our shoulders, pointing things out.
And now, the third element. Which is that whatever age you are, Jane Austen has something for you. I would go further, in fact, and assert that a reader never comes away from reading her empty handed. It is partly the apparent simplicity, which in fact lightly masks an immense complexity of situation and relationships, but it is more that the shading of the books is infinitely richer than is at first apparent.
You can read, as I did, Pride and Prejudice at 13, and be perfectly satisfied with it as a delightful story of “husband hunting butterflies” (a description once applied to Jane herself). But then, as time goes on for the reader, the interesting shadows appear, and lengthen, and darken. Kitty lightly mentions a flogging in the barracks at Meryton. The appalling possible fate of the Bennett girls, should they not find husbands to support them, creeps to centre stage. The consequence, to her family, of Lydia’s heedless elopement, never mind the fact that she is only 15, emerges, to universal horror. And where does Darcy’s wealth come from, but from the pits of Derbyshire? What were the daily lives, of early nineteenth century miners?
Like the hints of naval warfare, of the slave trade, of the terror of destitution, whose grinning skull haunts all the books, these quiet clearings of the throat amidst the lighter love tangles, are what lend these novels their ever deeper power. The stories may be about the young, but these are novels for grownups. Jane Austen registered the delights of life, but she also knew all about the pain, especially the private pain.
The pain, say, of making mistakes in public, the pain of rejection, the pain of not being pretty or handsome or tall enough, or delightful and gregarious enough, or rich enough or confident enough, or young enough; the pain of not fitting in, of being an outsider, the pain of being dependent and constantly obliged to be thankful and grateful; the pain of having a dead mother or an idiotic mother or a father who doesn’t seem to love you ; the pain of boredom and uselessness and pointlessness; the deep, deep pain of disappointment, and of longing….
It’s all there, as well as the fun. And if these six novels have lasted, as they most triumphantly have, then all I can say is – they deserved to.
This blog post was first published as an article in The Telegraph.
As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice this year, we are very excited about the launch of The Austen Project: a major new series of six novels pairing six global bestselling authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works – Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.
The Austen Project will launch with the release of worldwide bestseller Joanna Trollope’s reimagining of Sense & Sensibility in October. Combining her popular touch with literary cache, we think Joanna Trollope is the perfect author to launch The Austen Project and reinterpret an endearing and iconic novel. Click here to read a Guardian blog post from Joanna on why she loves romantic fiction and read on to find out more about her take on Sense & Sensibility.
When Fanny Dashwood descends on Norland Park with her Romanian nanny and her mood boards, Belle Dashwood’s three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret must face the reality of life without their father, their home, or their money.
As they come to terms with life without the status of their country house, or the comfort of an inheritance, Elinor and Marianne are also confronted by the cold hard realities of a world where sometimes people’s attitudes can change as drastically as your circumstances.
With her sparkling wit, Joanna Trollope casts her clever satirical eye on the tales of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. By casting ‘Sense & Sensibility’ in an elegant and fresh new light what might appear to the modern eye to be all romance, bonnets and betrothals becomes a wonderfully witty coming-of-age story about the stuff that really makes the world go around, and how when it comes to money, some things never change…