Blakefields Mansion by Jen Smith and Clive West

Blakefields Mansion

Principal category Romance
Word count (approximate pages) 91,000 (222)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $4.00

“Romance and intrigue in 1856 Yorkshire”

Autumn 1856 and young and feisty Isabelle Sedgeford runs terrified from Blakefields Mansion, leaving behind her friend Abigail who has fallen in love with a schemer and is being held prisoner for her own protection.

The two girls had expected an introduction to society, and possibly romance, but instead they walked into a hotbed of intrigue which extends far beyond the walls of the grandiose Mansion in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Izzy urgently needs to find someone she can trust. Of the gentlemen, none has yet proved his worth and integrity beyond doubt. Robert appears to be honest, but is undoubtedly devious. The Lord of the Manor and his friend are clearly hiding a secret. The owner of Stonecrest, the adjacent estate, has a blunt character and a dark stain in his past.

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Blakefields Mansion and its soon-to-be-released sequel, Stonecrest, are realistic historical romances that will draw you into their exciting pages and have you rooting for the Good and True among the many satisfying plot twists.

Do you love the works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens? If so, Blakefields Mansion is a fresh story with a familiar feel.

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A Clash of Titans: Love vs. Honor in the Romance Novel

Red rose besiegedAlmost as soon as we can understand stories, we are taught to recognize the conflicts that drive them. Heroes are pitted against villains; natural settings are pitted against the encroachment of humankind; the temptation to do the profitable thing is pitted against the drive to do the right thing.

Many genres are shaped by the conflicts that appear most frequently within them. The American Realist movement, for example, is well-known for its focus on the conflicts between humankind and the unfeeling vastness of nature. Meanwhile, Modernist literature can be loosely defined by its obsession with the conflict between the act of linguistic representation and the object being represented.

Those of us who aspire to greatness in the romance and erotica genres, however, are typically more interested in the age-old conflict between the characters’ feelings of love and the characters’ senses of honor. Although this conflict may seem like a very basic battle that has already been discussed thoroughly in Romeo and Juliet, it is in reality a complex and powerful theme that can be used to fuel a wide variety of plots.

‘Honor’ means different things to different people, and it certainly means different things to different narratives. In historical settings, ‘honor’ often refers to a heroine’s ties to her birth family and the duties that come with them. In modern settings, the part of honor can be played by a host of social requirements, from a lawyer’s obligation to stay distant from her client to a billionaire’s sense that he shouldn’t be too friendly with his housekeeper.

Whatever form honor takes, it is always love’s job to turn it on its head for the sake of desire. Love is a loose cannon; love mucks up the line of succession and interferes with professional obligations and generally relieves our heroes of their dignity at every turn. Although it can be sweet and gentle and monogamous, it doesn’t have to be. In terms of narrative structure, the CEO who yearns to be disciplined by his secretary is just as much in love as the Laird’s daughter pining for her pirate captain. The important thing about love in a romance narrative is not that it swoons or broods or writes poems in a particular way, but rather that it picks a fight with honor and wins.

A Gothic Novel’s Home is its Creepy Castle

Gualdo CattaneoHuman beings have never stopped being impressed by castles. From the days when they stood tall against Viking raiders to this modern age of ruins and tourist attractions, these magnificent buildings have been the scene of some of our most marvelous fantasies.

One genre of literature that owes a particular debt to those ancient builders is the Gothic novel. Although this genre is rightly considered to be intertwined with the rest of the Romantic movement, it deserves some special attention because of the unique mark it left on the literary world. This is the genre that gave us the dark, brooding antihero, the dark secret locked in a forbidden room, and (perhaps most importantly) the narrative of the captive heroine trying desperately to escape the confines of the terrifying castle.

Like the soaring outdoor settings found in other Romantic fiction, the setting of the Gothic castle transforms the novel’s characters through the power of the sublime. However, where Byron’s peaks and Shelley’s frozen wastes transform through an almost divine experience, the looming castles of Radcliffe and Reeve transform their occupants by exposing them to horror. Ghostly or Satanic figures, carnal temptation, sensational violence, and maddening isolation all drive the narrative’s heroine to her escape with her lover – or, as in Matthew Lewis’ famously scandalous novel The Monk – to her untimely and gruesome death. Many Gothic novels resonate with the theme of punishment for sexual self-expression. Sometimes, the character is allowed to escape and find redemption outside the castle walls. However, characters are just as often left to perish in agony, sometimes by Satan himself.

The Gothic castle still stands in contemporary fiction, from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth to the sad story of Sansa Stark in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Modern writers speak to an audience much more difficult to scandalize than the readers of The Monk and The Castle of Otranto; they therefore have much more leeway when it comes to what misadventures their characters will face and what lessons the characters will learn. From the coldly traditional confines of an ancient fortress to the tentacular temptation of the Lovecraftian milieu, writers of modern Gothic novels have a wide array of unnerving elements they can use to terrify and transform  their characters.

Coming Home by Lola Blake

Coming Home

Principal category Romance
Word count (approximate pages) 55,700 (150)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Can Sara find happiness or will her past consume her?

Sara has returned to her beachside home in Melbourne from a mental institution where she was receiving treatment after an apparent suicide attempt. Day by day we follow her convalescence and her attempt to reintegrate into her old life.

Thanks to the income of her husband, David, Sara is a woman of leisure, but she has a price to pay. The marriage is loveless and David is unfaithful, yet divorce is out of the question because of a prenuptial clause which would deny her the resources to look after her small daughter Lily. Sara’s best friend Beverly hovers around the family providing distraction and a sympathetic ear, but it gradually becomes apparent that she is not all she seems.

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As Sara’s routine re-establishes itself and her confrontations with David escalate in their ferocity, her inner life of thoughts and memories little by little tell us the story of her past. Aspiring to be a professional dancer, she realized it was her mother’s ambition she was fulfilling rather than her own, while her dream to be an artist, and wife to her one true love, Marcus, slipped out of her grasp.

Gradually the present and the past converge as Sara is increasingly consumed by old passions. Finally, as her life begins to fall apart, she takes a drastic step which serves both as an end and a beginning.

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A Romantic Getaway: Shakespeare’s Green World Narrative and Modern Writers

DCP_0710When we think of Shakespeare’s impact on modern literature, we’re tempted to think of only the loftiest works: innovative volumes of sonnets, daring new applications of metered verse, and  adaptations of the Bard’s plays that strike the perfect balance between modern relevance and historical accuracy. We are less likely to think of Weekend at Bernie’sCaddyshackWedding Crashers, or Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. We are even less likely to think of our own romantic works – partly for fear of flattering ourselves too much, to be sure, but also partly because some of Shakespeare’s contributions, like the green world narrative, have become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to ignore them.

The green world narrative is the common thread that binds Shakespeare’s plays to the bawdy romantic comedies of today’s silver screen. This narrative, which begins by setting up conflict in an urban setting, has our characters fleeing to a natural setting to escape whatever nastiness has corrupted their home in the city. However, the green world is almost always more than it seems, and it is the realm of faeries whose top priority is their own amusement (often at the expense of the heroes). Nonetheless, the strange and unlikely events that happen in the green world allow the characters to resolve the city-born conflict and come home to a happy ending.

In Shakespeare’s works, the green world narrative is most clearly on display in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Tempest. It is also the foundation for a number of modern romantic comedies – although Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle has been a particular favorite of mine ever since I realized that Neil Patrick Harris is thoroughly enjoying his role as a present-day Puck.

However, it is when I find myself sitting down to write a romance that I appreciate the green world narrative the most. It’s an incredibly flexible structure, asking only that I distinguish between an urban setting and a green world setting – and maybe put part of the plot-driving responsibility in the hands of a strange, eccentric, or even supernatural character. A green world narrative can be set in Boston or ancient Greece; faeries can be played by a range of characters from a shamanic healer to an eccentric neighbor. Letting the green world narrative guide your romantic or erotic work can help you stop worrying about what your plot will be and start developing vivid, memorable characters who your audience will cherish and cheer for long after they’ve put the book down.

Using Sublime Elements to Craft a Powerful Setting

Piano grande showing CastelluccioFrom Lord Byron to Charlotte Dacre, the Romantic authors are known for taking the use of setting to new heights – literally. Imagery of high mountains and deep chasms can be found throughout romantic literature, frequently in connection with a drastic change in a character. This taste for lofty settings can be traced back to an essay written by Edmund Burke which explores the concepts of the beautiful and sublime as they are used in art and literature.

Although Burke’s discussion of the beautiful is better remembered for the political outrage it incited than for its influence on writers, his discussion of the sublime is still important to students of writing and literature. Burke explains the sublime as that which astonishes the senses, inspiring awe, terror, and reverence in the viewer. Vast, tall, powerful, and unknowable, the sublime’s sheer magnitude has the power to change the viewer’s perspective. Burke’s essay implies that the viewer is bettered by the experience of the sublime. Inspired by Burke’s discussion of mountaintops and chasms as examples of the sublime, Romantic authors chose these settings as both a backdrop and an inspiration for their characters’ drastic personal changes.

Burke’s reflections on the aesthetic value of the beautiful and the sublime continue to resonate with authors today. Emphasizing a setting’s sublime elements and your characters’ reactions to them can bring power to a setting and depth to a story. A work set in the vast, windy expanses of the Great Plains, for example, can use the profound vastness of that space to make the high society heroine realize she’s not that far removed from the humble ranch hand. Or, perhaps losing their way in the impenetrable blackness of the Scottish Moors at night makes our characters realize that their arranged marriage could be so much more. Typically, a character’s experience with the sublime brings about a sense of insignificance; whether this sense of insignificance frees or destroys the character is entirely up to the writer.

Symbiosis

 

Carpenter bee visiting a hibiscus flower

Carpenter bee visiting a hibiscus flower

The word comes from the Ancient Greek and usually means a mutually beneficial relationship between different species.

The bee wants the nectar and the hibiscus wants to be pollinated.

However the bee, in its eagerness, seems to be taking the relationship one step further.

Its passionate, diving embrace of the flower’s pistil looks more like romance.

At His Pleasure – An Erotic Historical Romance

At His Pleasure by Melissa Harding

 Principal category Erotica
 Word count (approximate pages) 31,100 (70)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

 

Special deal on Melissa’s raunchy medieval romp!

Compendium of the first 3 books in the popular ‘Ruling of Bess’ series:

His Word Is Law

Bess is a creature of the forest – free-spirited and happy with her life. One day, as is the custom, she is bride-captured by the local lord of the manor, the handsome and powerful Raoul. Bess must be taught civilised ways and that means the acceptance of her husband’s absolute rule and the consequences of disobedience.

Her Shaming

Bess’ disobedience has gone too far and Raoul must be seen to properly punish her or risk unrest among his subjects. Much more severe measures are called for than normal – no mere spanking will do. Raoul has grown to admire his new wife’s spirit, though, and doesn’t want to hurt her. What will win through?

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Eyes Like A Hawk

Seeing it as a way of escaping her confines for a few hours, Bess takes an interest in falconry. Unfortunately, getting carried away with the occasion, she then goes against the strict instructions of her husband, lord and master. As a result, Raoul is forced to take her to task in the most severe of manners.

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Obey Thy Master

Obey Thy Master by Melissa Harding

 Principal category Erotica
 Word count (approximate pages) 31,000 (87)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

The complete O+Bay Club series (3 books for the price of 2)

Measure of Control

The prequel to the O-Bay Club. Set in the 50’s, Lily is a bored housewife who is trying hard to get the attention of her somewhat remote husband Lawrence. Eventually he resorts to spanking her and, when she takes refuge with her best friend Charlotte, the two husbands join forces. Then, along with some workmates, the men set up a club to ensure punishments are both fair and moderated. The O-Bay Club is born.

The O-Bay Club

Michael is invited to join a male-run club whose sole function is the correct training and disciplining of the membership’s female partners. Betty soon learns the consequences of pushing Michael too far – punishment by committee and in public, too!

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Curbing Her Compulsion

Beverley’s a fashion-conscious lady so, when the landlord of the pub she works at asks her to ‘smarten up a bit’ for the new posher clientele, she sees it as an opportunity to refresh her wardrobe. Unfortunately the credit card bill is too much for her husband and he decides to take her along to the next meeting of the dreaded O-Bay Club for some much needed disciplining.

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Curbing Her Compulsion

Principal category Erotica
Word count (approximate pages) 10,800 (36)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

The story of the O-Bay club concludes

Beverley is very interested in clothes and fashion, so when the landlord at the pub where she works asks her to dress in a more sophisticated manner to accord with the pub’s new look, she is hurt and overreacts, splashing out on expensive designer clothes.

In the past, Beverley has paid for her ‘clothes habit’ out of her wages, but when her husband Raymond catches her in a lie about what she’s been doing, he not only puts a stop to it but also takes her to the O-Bay Club. This Club, which he has just joined, affords him a place to give his wife a public spanking away from home.

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Unable to pay for her extravagant purchases, Beverly tries to steal cash from Raymond’s wall safe but he catches her in the act and once again takes her to the O-Bay Club. This time the punishment is administered by another man, who does not have the same emotional attachment and can therefore give her a particularly hard time.

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