Friends to Lovers Regency Romance

When I started to write Charlotte’s story, I was certain she would be the peeress and the man she would find happily ever after with had to be someone for whom a title held little appeal. It was also known to me from the very beginning, that in order for her to trust, she would have to know the man for a long time – hence, the best friends to lovers trope. I have a few scenes from Charlotte and Matthew’s childhood adventures which didn’t make the book, but they really helped to give me a sense of how deep their friendship runs.

When I found this quote on-line and was taken to Seventeen magazine’s website for romantic Valentine’s Day sayings, I knew it described Charlotte and Matthew completely. What I love about the protagonists of Capturing a Countess’ Heart is that they can truly be themselves without any reservations or angst. Their primary goal isn’t love, it’s besting or beating each other, or simply being together. When the spark hits them, it gets confusing, but the knowledge that at the bottom of every flurry of emotion is true friendship gives them the edge and confidence they need to move forward. So much fun to write.

Whether Charlotte and Matthew are racing through their lands, helping Matthew navigate PTSD at a party, or dealing with a revenge-thirsty duke, they are happiest and most themselves when they are together. They are also stronger together.

How do you feel about the friends to lovers trope?

Five Years of Writing

The seed for Capturing a Countess’ Heart was planted late one night when I finished a swoon worthy Amanda Quick novel. I researched the author for a few minutes and realized how very normal her start was. My immediate next thought was, “I can totally do this”. Within minutes, I had my protagonist, Charlotte, and I knew I wanted her to be the one with the title. And, I wanted her to struggle with the idea of giving herself up to love.

The next morning, once I did the morning routine with my two small children (at the time) and did the daycare and school drop-offs, I drove to work in silence. Except, my mind was filled with colourful thoughts and images of how I would bring my Countess to life.

Within that short twenty minute drive, I made up the basic plot for the novel, developed the title and the title of the entire series, The Chronicles of the Heart, because the other three books would also have Heart in the title.

All of this happened within a day. Five years ago.

The next four years were spent writing whenever and wherever. Mainly, that meant during my daughter’s nap times (she was little then and still napped) and once the kiddos were in bed. I completed three drafts this way.

Then, I put the novel away for a month while I sent it to dear friends to give me any feedback they could to help improve it – advising them my feelings would not be hurt. Because, as any writer knows, I need time away from my project in order to come back to it with an objective mind. I was very clear that I didn’t have a budget for an editor, so I had to approach each draft ruthlessly once my friends gave their honest reviews.

Each time I saw an area for improvement I loved it so intensely because it meant I would be able to elevate my work. And, each time I hit a roadblock, the universe would inadvertently answer my question by bringing me the information I required. It truly was inspirational.

By draft five, my children were older, and I started to bring my laptop to soccer practices, gymnastics or dance classes, to piano lessons…anytime there was a block of time available to me, I took it. So, I never waited for inspiration to come, I became disciplined to write what needed to be written, to edit what needed to be edited in the time I had, not when I felt I could do it.

At this point, I had the confidence to start sending out my manuscript to agents, publishers and a few contests. And, it would go through a few rounds of “send us more”, but ultimately was not accepted by agents or publishers. And, while it didn’t win any contests, it would come in the top half of all submissions and be returned with tonnes of coaching from the expert panel of judges. Each rejection from publishers and agents also came loaded with questions and ways to improve the novel. I took every single comment as free editing and gleefully set out to write the best novel I could with all of this free advice from people in the industry.

Drafts six, seven and eight were edited in this fashion. Then came, the now what? I knew I wanted to publish, but I was so overwhelmed because I didn’t know where to start.

Then, as seemed to be the case with this entire journey, divine intervention came to help me and the universe brought me this post by the author who reintroduced me to my love of historical romance, Claire Delacroix, who also writes under Deborah Cooke. Find her blog at Deborah Cooke & Her Books. I couldn’t believe that the author whom reawakened my love of historical romance eight years ago had now written a step-by-step outline on what to do to publish your own work exactly at the moment I needed said list.

Talk about universal guidance!

The past year has been focused on following that list. I have learned so much about formatting and book covers to the myriad of tiny details required for every single step and every single platform. I’m still navigating publishing on Apple Books – you’d think it would be the most user friendly one!

And, now, here I am. A book published and currently writing book 2. The second book in the series is already easier to write because of everything I learned during the writing of book 1. It has been an absolutely incredible journey and one I am so happy to have said yes to.

My hope for you, if you are someone who is toying with entering any kind of creative/artistic endeavour, is that you take the plunge and answer the call of your creative soul. The universe will provide the answers as you go, as it did for me, and you will have fun every step of the way.

Historical Romance and Women

I am a feminist at heart. In my soul, I believe the female form is sacred and is therefore equal to the male. Therefore, I have struggled with my love of the romance genre.

As an English teacher, I studied many, many classics and works of “literature” – no commercial fiction, and certainly not works that followed a “formula”. During that time, I learned so much about writing and the beautiful ways in which words strung together illuminate the soul.

How then, could I reconcile loving a genre that was supposed to be formulaic, that put men and women in rigid roles and the core of which was something as mundane as romance and love?

Because romance written by women, for women, is sacred. The stories of women learning who they are so they expect to be loved on their terms is exactly what we need.

Romance was tarnished for me by the typical fairy tales of my childhood where the damsel was saved by the dashing prince. As an adult woman, I didn’t wish to be saved. But, I believe we have all collectively felt the change of direction in modern day fairy tales for little girls which show empowered young women taking ownership of who they are in order to achieve the life they want. Which is great for the generation of girls who will be growing up with different stories as their foundation and mothers who give them the foundation to truly be themselves.

But, what about us? The women who were fed the bogus stories as little girls and now yearn for stories of women being themselves and knowing in their core they deserve a life that honours every one of their desires?

Enter Romance being told by these very women, for every woman.

Modern storytellers provide us with rich characters who know what they want (and, if they don’t, they discover it), and refuse to compromise on their worth and how they deserve to be loved. They provide us with characters who access both their divine masculine and their divine feminine. Strength and softness – physical and emotional.

I’ve read that the reason Romance was not given its due is precisely because it was for women, and therefore the holders of the keys to literary greatness (white men) scoffed and belittled it, thereby relegating it as a lesser genre of writing – as a fantasy of how men and women can never be.

Romance inspires more than feelings of lusty, love (although, those are fun too) – it really showcases how deep emotional intelligence can significantly improve the lives of individual people. The characters in romance novels experience loss, grief, fear and shame…and they overcome these through relationships. Through communication that is open and honest, they thrive and rise and are willing to be open to love. These characters are willing to face their fears and be vulnerable. They believe in the power of love so fully, they fearlessly jump in and feel all of its glories.

Historical Romance then becomes tricky because there are so many entrenched gender rules that characters must abide by in order to be historically accurate. However, any kind of knowledge about women in history shows that women in every time period struggled with and against the norms set out for them by society.

I love historical romance because even though the characters know the rules they must follow, their human spirit – the need for connection and vulnerability and love – is so strong, that most times the rules need to be broken in order to achieve that. Therein lies the fun of historical romance. Modern women can read about women in a different time period whom were not free to be themselves, and yet find a way to do so and be loved on their terms.

We seem to be very accepting of the tales and love stories of witches, wizards, shapeshifters, vampires, soul-finders, etc. each time we read a work of fantasy or dystopian literature. So, why is it so difficult to accept that true love, vulnerability and an elevated unbreakable connection can exist between two human characters?

What has your experience of reading romance been like?

Capturing a Countess’ Heart

Two more sleeps and my work is out in the world ~ what a lovely thought.

Pre-order on Amazon and Kobo.

Hope you love reading it as much as I loved writing it. Here’s a short “what’s it about?”

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