Wednesday, February 29, 2012
You and No Other is the Crown Jewel in Cynthia Wright’s illustrious writing career. As a Romance Novel it fulfills all the requirements A Hero to die for, a stubborn Heroine. Great secondary characters (If one can call France’s most charismatic King a secondary character), forces willing to keep the couple apart, Court Intrigue, Family Dynamics and oh yeah a glorious setting. Re Reading this book almost 30 years after it was written did not diminish the sheer wonder of the story.
Thomas Mardouet, seigneur de St. Briac has it all. He is gorgeous, well established and a life long friend of the King of France. Secure enough to actually turn down positions at court. He is the hero every girl dreams of and many women secretly yearn for. Charming and charismatic he launches himself into the reader’s heart and never leaves. Thomas was happy with life, his family and friends.. when a chance meeting with a local wood nymph changes everything.
Aimee de Fleurance, oldest daughter to what seems to be a typical family of that era.. needing to broker a marriage for their oldest child that ensures financial security for the family and allows her to live the life she is supposed to live. Aimee, is not willing to settle for life as the wife of a man older than her father and rather decrepit and disgusting as well. Grasping at an opportunity to good to be true she rushes headlong into life at court. Except she is supposed to be her sister, whom the king has designs upon. Not the wood nymph who unknowingly insulted him.
So begins what I love to refer to as a comedy of characters. This book is by no means a comedy or a joke but it is humorous to watch the incredibly respectable Thomas get involved in one scheme of Aimee’s after another. From Aimee’s scheme to escape her family which lands her directly in Thomas’ path to Thomas’ desire to help a friend.. one unique adventure after another. These two are just plain fun!!
One of the reasons why this story spoke to me so strongly was the way they overcame their obstacles. And believe me they were fraught with obstacles, Aimee, escaping her family, hiding from the king.. Thomas, falling for Aimee and not having a clue, in a way, to him at least he was betraying a friend. Villains, politics and more. Each obstacle was overcome with a touch of elegance, a touch of slapstick and all round commitment to the characters. They weren’t put into positions that were false, you could see Aimee pulling one of her schemes and I could almost hear Thomas saying in a mock Cuban accent “Lucy you have some splainin to do”.. It’s not that it was overkill it was just fun. And Thomas, believe me he was just as bad.. his grand plan was the most bizarre and fun and yes erotic of all.
And over all the fun the story told a love story, one of respect and admiration, love and lust.. things we all want in our lives. A generous man who loves us..
There is of course something just so romantic about the setting of this book, from the French Court, which to me just yells romance to a castle in the French Countryside.. The setting was created for love. I can see my family history being replayed in this story.. But then that’s the French in me.. I see possibilities..
The thing is this book almost defines “pure romance”. The characters most definitely drive the story. To me that is what a romance book is about. There can be subplots and secondary characters but the story is told around the hero and the heroine. There are many many books today that are what I call plot driven. In some ways they are similar but there are those who prefer them because they don’t understand the true beauty of a book about people falling in love.. and this book, shares that with us wonderfully.
If you want to read more about Thomas and Aimee you can see them for a little bit in Of One Heart. I am so glad I revisited this charming couple, I find I already miss them. I know it won’t be another 30plus years before I read them again.
*grins* I don't usually rate my reviews.. but this book gets 10 swoons (on a scale of 1-5 of course) but seriously, this book is completely swoonworthy, have your swoon pillows ready
*** If you are interested reading about Cynthia's adventures through France as she fell in love with Francois I be sure and check out her website..
You can also find her on Facebook and twitter..
As we continue Romance month, and Cynthia Wright, this is a review of her second book of the Raveneau/Beauvisage series. Caroline was actually written first 1977, but then Wright wrote Silver Storm as sort of prequel to Caroline. It takes place in year 1783, just a year or so after the end of the revolutionary war.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Oh she had hoped that Barb was writing her review based on the original Silver Storm format and wanted to make sure that Barb knew that she had a similar response to the hero when read by today's standards but she mentioned that to Barb in the comments..
But what really got her.. was that Barb used the old cover.. totally made me giggle when almost immediately she sent me the new one. Now I didn't want to mess with Barb's post but I DID want to make sure you all saw how pretty the new cover is.. as well know what to look for.. so here are the covers both new and old.. Enjoy
and on the right...
and here is the new one..
It really is a pretty cover..
And for your viewing pleasure a sneak peak at Cynthia's cover for her new book Brighter than Gold which she gave a brief synopsis on, in her interview with us..
Monday, February 27, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
The last third of the story was good, as finally nearer to the end, as in most romance stories things change for the better. Andre begins to realize that Devon is different then all the women he has known, she was in fact the love of his life. Having left her at his home, while he went to sea, he comes back months later to find out she was pregnant with his child, had a baby girl and left him to go with an old childhood sweetheart, whom she just considered a friend. He goes to find her, captures her back, but now he expresses his love and they get married at the sea.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Have you ever read a love scene so perfect, your heart is full, your body is about to explode, your eyes are wet and you actually want to cry out at the beauty you've witnessed? Do you forget you've been reading "mere" words instead of experiencing the most emotional, exciting moment of your own life? Do you have the urge to light up a cigarette to savor the moment when it's done?
Authors don't write these scenes with "mere words." We know there is no such thing as mere words. Words are arguably the most powerful form of communication in the world when it comes to playing with a reader's emotions.
Here are twenty steps to learning how to write love scenes that will live on in your readers' memories forever. Please note that I've used examples from my own work throughout -- not because I believe I'm the only writer who can write effective love scenes, but because I'm a self-promoter to the extreme. Following these twenty steps, I'll list some of the greatest authors of love scenes.
STEP ONE: Decide what you're comfortable reading and writing.
It's becoming very vogue to write romance novels so hot, they'll melt in your hands. Does that mean you should join the crowd? Not necessary. It's a rare thing that an author will write a book with a level of sensuality they're not comfortable with because they'll automatically choose characters that fit their own comfort level. But don't dismiss the possibility simply because you're unfamiliar with the genre or assume that you don't have what it takes to kick it up a notch. You might want to introduce yourself slowly to these steamier stories, if you have a story in mind that requires something a little more racy than you're used to. Read a little of everything to figure out what suits your writing style best.
I remember when I first started reading romances, I was a teenager and, at that point in my life, I was satisfied with both the Harlequin teen offerings as well as some of the raciest types of books around (Carter Brown Mysteries.) In my twenties, I got a little more conservative in my reading, yet in my own writing I realized that the stories I had in mind required more overt sexuality. I started reading a wide range of books, acclimating myself to sexuality in books again and finding out what I liked and what I didn't. I discovered that I liked Silhouette Intimate Moments because the emotional and physical love scenes were nicely balanced. A lot of the other category romances were too unbalanced (either all sex, no emotions or all emotions, no sex) for my tastes. I also found that I liked the more racy "romantic erotica" most, as long as the emotions and characterizations were on even ground.
STEP TWO: Let your characters decide the level of intimacy, not publisher guidelines.
I used to base everything I wrote on what the publishers might buy. I suppose it makes some sense to do that when you're not published. Target your publisher, then tailor what you write to that set of guidelines. Sounds logical, right? I'm not so sure. A part of me really believes that the reason I didn't sell all those years was because I was trying to write for everyone else except myself and what fit my characters. If you're writing for someone else, you're not writing what's in your heart... and it's going to show.
The same is true for love scenes. In every one of my books, the level of intimacy is a little different, depending on what that particular hero and heroine dictate. Restless as Rain and Forever Man are strongly what I dub "romantic erotica" because the emotions are as hot as the physical lovemaking. The characters in these books are very extreme, larger than life and they demand a sexuality that suits their personalities. In First Love, the sexual tension is definitely there from start to finish and the love scenes are satisfying without being overtly erotic. However, the hero and heroine in this book are in need of emotional healing, more so than sexual healing. Their lovemaking is part of that healing process, and it suited them to have emotionally sensual loves scenes rather than down-and-dirty, deep ones. Leather & Lace, my first published book, was completely different. The heroine in the book was very innocent and naive. When she thought of lovemaking, it was always in a more "romantic" sense and, because she was so private, having more low-key love scenes were appropriate. The sexual tension remained throughout, however.
STEP THREE: Respect your readers. Give them what you promise.
I read a Silhouette Intimate Moments a couple years, when they first introduced their "mainstream" theme, that was a wonderfully written story. Ultimately, however, I finished the book so disappointed I had to write to the editors about it. This was a story that had all the ingredients of a fantastic read. So why was I disappointed? I was expecting a romance, a romance that would blossom and the characters come to life as they fell in love. What I got was a romance that was a shadow to the external mystery and characters that came to life mostly in the external aspects. I felt very little for the characters in terms of their love bond. When they married at the end, I was only mildly glad.
That same month, I read a Terry Brooks fantasy novel that contained a secondary element of romance that was never brought to complete fruition. I finished the book and immediately started the next in that series, completely satisfied.
So why was I disappointed with the romance I bought, but not with the fantasy? Because in the first, I fully expected a good, solid romance that was equally balanced with a good, solid plot. After all, I bought a Silhouette and I expected a romance, but, dammit, I didn't get it. I felt cheated. In the fantasy, I never expected a romance, but there was one there nevertheless. I felt I'd gotten something extra for my money and time.
The moral of this story: Respect your readers for the time and money they invest in your book. If you set them up for a romance, give it to them in spades. If you set them up for a heavy, emotional drama, give it to them. If you set them up for a steamy romance that keep getting hotter and hotter, deliver it. If you don't give them what you promised them, you'll leave your readers dissatisfied, maybe enough to avoid your next book.
STEP FOUR: Make love scenes real instead of hokey or overly sentimental.
Writing love scenes effectively is very hard to do, yet they're no harder to do write than an action scene. A friend of mine told me recently that the editor-in-chief of a major trade house skips the love scenes when she reads because so many are utterly boring. Isn't that sad? So how do you make your love scenes real? People and relationships are tricky things. The word "normal" in the real world is an impossibility because if you broke down each person into the components they're made up of, you'd find someone who is illogical, contradictory, good and evil. You'd find the makings of a hero and quite possibly the makings of a Mr. Hyde. When you're writing a character, you're exploring those illogical, contradictory, good and evil people and their relationships. You need those things to make a character three-dimensional.
The relationship between a man and a woman is, I feel, the most complex one in existence. Here you have two people, each with their own emotional baggage, screwball ways and contractions trying to (or fighting against!) merging their separate paths into one. The road to that point is utterly fascinating. You make your love scenes real by making your characters real. A fully fleshed out character will make your reader look at the world around them and the people in it in brand new ways. And a fully developed character will certainly make you want to find out what turns them on.
STEP FIVE: Use exaggerated awareness.
"Exaggerated awareness" -- the first time I heard this term was from Sandra Brown. I can't imagine anything else that fits what sexual tension needs to be in a romance more aptly. In romantic fiction, an exaggerated awareness between the hero and heroine is so crucial, it can't be overstated. In a romance, you take for granted that these two were destined, meant to be, fated, designed for each other by God Himself. Therefore, every single look, touch, sense is made larger than life between them. The sexual tension must reach the breaking point and satisfy the reader (and characters) only temporarily until happily ever after. When the hero touches the heroine, even accidentally, the reader can see sparks igniting between them. When he looks at her, a profound feeling comes over the characters and the reader. The emotional impact needs to be conveyed through their every encounter.
STEP SIX: Start sexual tension from the get-go.
Exaggerated awareness between your hero and heroine needs to begin immediately, the first time they come together in your novel, and it needs to increase in depth with each subsequent meeting.
I remember I was critiquing a story for an unpublished writer a couple years ago, and we were at least halfway through the story. At this point, I not only didn't feel many sparks between her hero and heroine during their encounters, I was utterly humiliated when they began making love (though the actual event was, thankfully!, thwarted.)
There's only one of two reasons for a reader not wanting a love scene to take place: 1) they picked up a spicy book accidentally, or 2) the writer didn't set the stage for love scenes early or enough. If there's no tension between a couple, no exaggerated awareness, a love scene is going to shock and embarrass the reader as much as it will the characters. The last thing a writer wants is a sensual scene that's awkward. When a hero and heroine finally come together for a kiss, an intimate touch or lovemaking, the reader has to be exulted, panting for consummation, ready to claw tooth and nail to see that these two characters have a clear path to the bedroom and aren't interrupted while there! And, most of all, they'll be satisfied when all is said and done.
It's just as important to create an exaggerated awareness in a book where the hero and heroine have never met before. It should be conveyed as if something is missing in this character's life and they recognize that missing piece--even if it's only subconsciously -- when they meet their eventual soul-mate. For instance, in Leather & Lace, the hero has always longed for a woman who's a little shy and inexperienced with men, one who'd love children and the whole forever-after thing. He sees that in the heroine as soon as he meets her and it creates a breathless tension until they meet again. One more piece of that puzzle needs to come together every single time your hero and heroine are in a room together, or simply in each other's thoughts.
STEP SEVEN: Don't use purple prose, hokey euphemisms, words or phrases that make you uncomfortable. But do use words that are appropriate, even if you're a little uncomfortable with them. Your characters are trying to tell you it's a word they would use.
The key to writing a great love scene is to not get mired in either the emotional aspect or the physical for too long. Don't let your characters get so swept away, they're riding on a cloud of the author's "purple prose" rather than the emotions of the most intimate form of bonding imaginable. At the same time, don't let your characters get so involved in the physical act that it becomes, quite disappointingly, mere sex. Readers don't want to hear all those cotton-soft euphemisms any more than they want to hear anything inappropriate to the scene. They want each sense to be well explored -- seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. Don't neglect the "jarring" senses either, like talking, moving, thinking, because that's where the sense of reality enters in.
Here's a good test of whether a word is good enough to use in a love scene. Say it out loud while you're right in the midst of the love scene you're writing. Does it make you hot? Hotter? Or does it make you laugh out loud? If you laugh out loud, that's a pretty solid indication that it's not a word you should use because your readers will probably do the same. I've been stopped many times while reading love scenes by words and phrases like: "his manhood bobbed up and down like a flagpole", "his rod of pleasure", "her honey pot" or "they soared on the wings of love and exploded into infinity." I cringe or I laugh.
Along the same lines, you may consider certain words too crude, rude or shocking to use in a romance novel. But what if those words fit the character's personality? What if it's something you know they would say?
STEP EIGHT: Set the scene and the mood for yourself and your characters.
How do you get yourself into the mood to write a love scene? Set the scene in your mind. Set the scene in your own living room if it helps you. Take note of things in their natural form. Scents, sights, tastes, sounds, textures. Indulge in pleasure. Light scented candles, peel an orange, play romantic and/or sexy music, put silk or lace or velvet against your own skin. Dab your husband's cologne on yourself. Put on his jacket. Don't answer the doorbell or the phone!
STEP NINE: Don't forget the genre you're writing in.
Imagine the sensuality of a love scene in a romantic horror novel where the heroine both fears and is helplessly attracted to the mysterious, potentially dangerous hero. The heroine would be aware of the temperature of the room, the coldness, and the way she warms when the hero appears in the doorway. She would be aware of that shift of tension within and without her own body. She'd be aware of her palpable fear and excitement, warring with each other. She'd be aware of the shadows of the room, the shadows in his face, on his body. The moonlight spilling across the stone floor. She'd be aware of the hero's smell, primal and raw. She'd start at the slightest sound and would hear her own heartbeat and bated breathing in the eerie absence of sound that follows. His voice would both unnerve her and catapult her excitement...
You can apply these sensations to any genre of romance.
STEP TEN: Use your characters background and experiences in your love scenes.
Your characters will help you choose the words they would use in a love scene. For instance, when writing the first love scene in Restless as Rain, I found myself using "musical" references for the erotic acts they performed, since the characters were musicians. In Falling Star, the heroine is a dancer and she dances for the hero their first time, doing a sensual striptease that takes him past bearing simply watching her without touching her. In Forever Man, the hero is a mechanic and a "road warrior." He thinks in terms of revved engines, power, ultimate freedom. Both the hero and the heroine are extremely raw, violently emotional and, occasionally, vocally rough people, so their love scenes had to fit their personalities.
STEP ELEVEN: Choose your point-of-view very carefully.
I've heard many, many people advise writing every love scene in both the heroine and hero's point-of-view. Naturally you know what works best for your books. Given that I'm a never-say-never type of person, I wouldn't advise anyone to never use two viewpoints in the same scene. Regardless, I caution against it. First of all, why spend the entire book trying so hard to stay in one viewpoint at a time, only to hop between two suddenly and wantonly? You'll confuse and possibly annoy the reader instead of deepen the connection. It makes more sense to make a decision from the very beginning of the book: Will you write in two points of view in any given scene or will you write in one at a time?
Second, you can't give both of their reactions to every single thing alternately. That would definitely be annoying and overkill. Therefore, when you give both points-of-view in the same scene, you're shortchanging one of the characters "alternately." When I write love scenes, I write it in one point of view. After each love scene, I give the pertinent reactions of the other person (the one who wasn't in POV during the scene) in introspection. I feel you heighten the intrigue of the individual characters by staying consistent with POV.
STEP TWELVE: Decide if you want to write chronologically or like an author on acid.
Another thing I've heard is authors say they make notes of where love scenes should fit in while they're writing, then write all the love scenes last. My opinion? I've never seen this go-where-I'm-inspired, chaotic way of writing work effectively for any author. If you leave out scenes and write them last, you change everything by adding it. You have to alter everything a little bit because you need to make sure the scene in question blends with all the others.
This is an illogical way to work. Your book won't be seamless if you don't write chronologically. It'll sound like the author (the characters too?) is on acid. Keep in mind that each sensual scene should be an outreach, a layering of the characters, showing their growth toward each other. If you just drop things in later, you lose the mood, the momentum and the cohesion from once scene to the next. Writing chronologically, everything will fall into place naturally. The progression and tension increase without taking the reader out of the book to wonder if the scene actually fits.
STEP THIRTEEN: Remember, it's all in the details.
Another trick to making sexual tension prominent between scenes is to focus on a certain aspect that intrigues the opposite character. Each characteristic, quirk or little act builds on what's happening in the story and makes it more powerful.
For instance, in my novel Fire & Ice, the hero is obsessed with the heroine's mouth from the beginning. You can imagine how he reacts the first time he actually kisses it.
In another of my novels, an erotic obsession began early in the book with the heroine watching the hero drink from a bottle of beer. This common act is palpably exciting to her. As soon as he leaves the room, she picks up that bottle and puts her own mouth on it. The hero comes back to find her drinking his beer. This increases the sexual tension between them until the fantasy finally becomes reality.
STEP FOURTEEN: Dialogue is sexy -- use it to its fullest.
Can you imagine having sex in utter silence? Wouldn't it be embarrassing? The same is true in writing love scenes. Using dialogue within a scene of sensual awareness can heighten the erotic edge immeasurably. Just a few words can prompt enough excitement to make your reader unbearably uncomfortable.
STEP FIFTEEN: Definitely use humor in love scenes, if it works.
Don't be afraid of humor, even in an introspective or dramatic book. Tenderness can sometimes cross the line into sentimental and, depending on the situation or characters you're creating, humor could ease the tension long enough to give the reader a magical glimpse into the depth and three-dimensionality of your characters.
STEP SIXTEEN: Ask yourself if you should "raise the stakes" physically or emotionally... or both.
Another thing I've heard both editors and writers say is "You have to raise the stakes with each encounter", be it with a look, a touch, a kiss or lovemaking. Again, this is a theory I don't fully agree with. We're writing romance, not pornography, ladies. There isn't a fine line between these two genres at all. Romance has an equal balance between sexuality and emotional bonding. Pornography has sex, little or no bonding. The biggest problem with the "raise the stakes" theory is that the stakes involved in a romance are emotional, not necessarily physical. If it matches your book to continue to raise the sexual stakes, go with it, by all means! But remember that it's not always appropriate. It might be more appropriate to raise the emotional stakes instead. Or to raise both the emotional and sexual stakes.
STEP SEVENTEEN: Emphasize the physical, but not at the expense of the emotional. Equalize the two as if on an analytical balance.
I admit it, I love reading "sexy books" (as my father-in-law is so fond of calling romance novels!) It might make me strange, but I absolutely adore writing love scenes too. Why do I love them? Because I'm a nymphomaniac or a bored housewife who just doesn't get enough? I'd probably be more interesting if I could claim either of those, but the truth is I read and write romance novels because they're about relationships.
Love scenes employ a wonderful combination of raw physical need and breathtaking emotional intimacy. The most exciting thing about writing a book to me is not action scenes or heart-pounding excitement from page to page. Writing a novel is about creating a character and making him or her so real, you'd never know that it's fiction if the book package didn't have a line that reads "All characters are fictional." All action, all heart-pounding excitement stems from the characters. If I can make you laugh and cry, want to throw your arms around my character(s) or even throw a chair at them, I feel I've done my job. If I make you want my hero so bad, you're all over your husband that night, I'm ecstatic. I've created a three-dimensional character that a real person can interact and feel with.
The reason I love romance novels with a high degree of sexuality is because these are two characters who get to know each other down to appendix scars. Every emotion is emphasized and the reader feels everything the characters do. I can fully immerse myself in them and live vicariously through them. I know everything they know, go through everything they go through, feel everything they feel and I'm privy to everything they think.
Sexy books that don't emphasize the emotional in the same scale as the physical are disappointing. It's simply not enjoyable to me and most lovers of romance to read about two people going at it like dogs when little or no emotional ties connect them. Sure, the two may end up together, but how can the reader feel as much for them as they want to? In that case, the reader becomes a voyeur and not simply someone who longs to get inside another mind and who loves to fall in love.
STEP EIGHTEEN: Remember, less can be more.
You can't write out every love scene in detail, but what if you still want all of them to be sensual? Sometimes a very short scene can sum up an erotic encounter better than two to five pages of graphic detail can. Writing succinct love scenes isn't easy, but it's a useful skill to learn. Some of the most erotically emotional scenes I've ever written were not graphic. But they were equally satisfying to both the characters and the reader.
STEP NINETEEN: Don't write sex for the sake of sex or simply to fill pages.
Some of romance novels I've read from traditional publishers are very exacting, especially in category romances. First kiss must occur by this page, first lovemaking by that page, and if the rest of the plot is a little weak, throw in a couple more love scenes as filler. It's sad that publishers require authors to compromise a story just to fill pages or because sex, sex and more sex is the theme of that particular imprint.
The heart of every romance novel should be the emotional bond between the hero and heroine. Everything else is a layer of that emotional bond--be it children, internal or external conflicts, and, yes, lovemaking. Don't lose sight of that as you write your love scenes. Make each love scene count, make it advance the plot and make it necessary to building the emotional bond into something unbreakable.
STEP TWENTY: Reveal something with each love scene.
As we said, don't use love scene for the sake of filling pages or just to write sex. That's cheating everyone. Love scenes should be as crucial to the plot of a romance novel as any other element of the plot. Don't just throw them in for no good reason. Reveal something with each of these love scenes. Reveal the character(s), advance some element of the plot, reveal hidden emotions -- even if only from one character to the reader and not to another character -- like an admission of guilt... or of love. If you can completely take a love scene out and it won't affect the story in any way, you've probably got an extraneous scene on your hands. Treat it the way you would any other extraneous scene. Cut it ruthlessly and don't look back.
Love scenes can be a chore. They can make editors and readers skip to the next chapter to avoid the boredom, purple prose or embarrassment. Or they can be written so perfectly, your heart is full, your body is about to explode, your eyes are wet and you actually want to cry out at the beauty of what you've created. You'll forget you're writing words instead of experiencing the most emotional, exciting moment of your life. You may even have the urge to light up a cigarette to savor the moment.
by Karen Wiesner