Read my April 2009 interview in Love Western Romances with Ana Leigh (1929-2015), an outstanding New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical romance novelist. Her books have been sold worldwide, and today she remains an icon in the publishing industry.
Known for his continental charm and Alpha man dominance, Rudolph Valentino was largely responsible for the sudden surge to popularity of the romance novel during the silent film era. Read my May-June 1995 article published in the Romance Writers Report.
The Indigo Dream Catcher, my second collection of paranormal short stories with an extrasensory twist, is my latest fiction release from DiskUs Publishing, following Summer Solstice, an exploration of the human psyche in thirty interludes, each depicting a woman at a turning point. My three novellas take the reader into the starlit, musical backdrop of a sultry Memphis night, behind the scenes onto the offbeat field of professional soccer, and on a supernatural escapade through the streets of Paris, listening to the haunting melody of an unpublished poem by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. “Love Song” was composed in 1876 and left unfinished, an inspiration for the mystical plot. An academic history of the romance genre, a bio-bibliography on silent film actor Rudolph Valentino, and a collection of essays on American writer Jack London complete my author list.
Credit: E. Hess
Quest for Cupid
Women in pursuit of affection have controlled romance fiction throughout the centuries. Although the hero appears to dominate stories, it is the heroine who manipulates plot. At the heart of the female sexual fantasy is a desire for exclusivity, or at least, that’s what women have been taught. In certain situations, this belief can be proven incorrect, but that stereotypical assumption is usually taken for granted.
The quest for a lover’s mind, body, and soul supports the foundation of matrimony. A contemporary, legally binding relationship is a partnership, and perhaps, an ideal environment to raise children. Few educated couples want the right to possess each other, but this psychological drive persists, a throwback to the past.
Tension between illusion and reality causes conflict between an individual’s perceived and actual world. When expectations remain unfulfilled, fantasy takes over. Fantasy is a psychological safety valve that routes disillusionment into a comfortable, soothing place. Some call this an inner light, while others describe it as mere daydreaming.
Epiphanies rarely involve unconditional love. When a character’s behavior appears altruistic during a revelation, motivating factors tend to be self-glorifying, often defensive. Even in progressive countries like the United States, social transitions are never immediate. Romance novels reflect an ongoing period of adjustment and adaptation.
This touching story of interracial marriage in 1950s Greenwich Village reaches across the decades to inspire and educate. Garner depicts a nation still experiencing extreme social inequality, a period fraught with struggle and frustration for the African American community. Realistic and deeply moving, every scene reflects a true and abiding love established on the solid foundation of friendship, built meticulously with patience and tenderness.
The heady atmosphere of 1989 Berlin sets the stage for this thought-provoking journey into the heart and soul of a pregnant woman mourning the disappearance of her husband. Paula Closson Buck delves into complex and contradictory emotions that lead to the renewal of a past infatuation, a situation fermented in wariness. This brooding novel will appeal to an audience seeking knowledge about the Cold War, while enjoying an introspective look at what constitutes love and trust.
This glitzy yet surprisingly down-to-earth novel about a high-profile marriage on the rocks explores all the typical cliffs and crevices then plunges into the blue waters of a new relationship. Stratchan’s aptly titled book pits a successful feng-shui interior designer against a philandering talk-show host.
Helms tells the story of a stereotypical crush on a college campus with the potential to end a career. Academic ethics is the villain in this familiar scenario, creating a barrier that cannot be overcome without sacrifice. The first-person viewpoint, honest and straightforward, enhances the quality of this contemporary plot.
Set in nineteenth-century America prior to the Civil War, this well-researched novel depicts the horror of slavery and the violence of revolt in a heady mix of bloody realism and heroic romance. Vassar portrays Nat Turner’s literate son in his passionate quest for freedom and equality, a moving, revelatory, and disturbing narrative. This is the first book of a promising series.
Narrated by an articulate cat, this feline examination of human behavior offers a unique perspective on relationships. Burnham’s novel is a touching reflection on life in a conversational storyteller’s style. Hilarious commentary and imaginative asides create mood as well as atmosphere in scenes that reveal contradiction, hesitancy, and eccentricity from a cat’s point of view. Heavy on social pondering yet light on lectures, the narrative explores every pathway to potential happiness.
A remarkable woman reinvents herself and establishes a new career in this against-all-odds metamorphosis. Bricker charges her scenes with electric realism in a plot featuring a resilient entrepreneur who opens a clothing boutique that rents designer clothing. Not fully recovered from a bad marriage, this determined heroine confronts obstacles and recurring conflicts.
A missing heiress raised in Monaco travels to Yorkshire, England, to claim her legacy in this Edwardian novel. White presents a common historical situation, infusing the plot with vigor through the use of strong evocative passages and detailed characterization. Abduction, intrigue, and a priceless artifact add just the right amount of mystery to raise the temperature of this otherwise cool tale to a comfortable warm.
On a bad day, nothing is more comforting than traveling vicariously to the waiting arms of a lover who lives in another century. That makes sense to aficionados of time travel romance. Disruptions of contemporary society fade into temporary oblivion, overshadowed by a world far removed from reality. A scholar may assert that answers to today’s problems can be found by studying history. Learn from mistakes; repeat long-lasting good. Or, better yet, disappear into the past with an agenda and a date. Nothing is more appealing than finding an alternate plane where exhilaration and passion, often missing in day-to-day existence, renew the will to live.
Nothing irritates the literary critic more than a bad romance, but nothing enrages the literary critic more than a good romance, simply because it sells. This lucrative field attracts all age groups from every socioeconomic background. This is a world where personal problems fade into oblivion. Escape. Excitement. Entertainment.
A skillful portrayal of an early nineteenth-century literary icon takes this historical romance on an imaginative journey of the soul. Collins Hemingway reinvents the life of Jane Austen, imagining the course of events if she had met the man of her dreams. Pondering, polite, and reflective, this heartfelt novel delves into the hypothetical in a stylistic tribute that evokes the genteel atmosphere of the period.
Like James Bond, an undercover agent always gets the girl… well, at least long enough to impress the envious. Danger and excitement create a heady atmosphere—impending disaster with a ticking clock. Nothing is particularly romantic about chasing a felon or investigating a crime, yet high-stakes situations trigger emotions in people contending with dire circumstances. If the thought of a brief interlude in the midst of a life-threatening scene makes the heart do double time, then this is the sub-genre for all those bored romance devotees who cannot stomach sticky sweetness and drab sentimentality.
Scott presents a touching story with an unusual conglomeration of inspirational romance and subtle intrigue. Excellent character development, exhibiting the flaws and idiosyncrasies of real people, brings to life an interesting cast. Add just a dash of heady realism and this novel is clearly mainstream fiction, not for readers who avoid dealing with gritty truth on the path to idyllic bliss. A deserted, foreboding Irish graveyard on the cover is reminiscent of the creepy Gothics of bygone days.
The American West of the 1800s was a harsh test, subjecting a person’s mind and body to psychological and physical rigors far removed from our coddled, contemporary world. Often romanticized, the old Wild West is a vibrant setting for colorful characters toughing it out in a rugged, treacherous environment. Lawless and lethal, this period in American history propels the plots for countless movies and books, from spine-tingling entertainment to beloved classics. Expansion westward following the Civil War took many lives, leaving grief and desolation in its wake, yet passion flourishes on a precarious ledge and attracts loyal fans of the genre.
Consider that novels set in Regency England (1811-1820) feature a privileged world among royalty, where material needs are determined by birthright and romance flourishes in clandestine environments. Much has changed since the days of Jane Austen, whose prim and proper courtships dragged on for hundreds of pages with no one giving it up. Today, daring exploits and push-the-envelope stylistic devices fill their pages with all the drama and tension typical of mainstream America. No writer is required to adhere to the stifling rules established by the time in which Austen penned her world-renowned words.
Celebrate the life and career of an extraordinary historical romance novelist:
Ana Leigh (October 19, 1929 - April 12, 2015)
I met Ana in the early nineties and had the opportunity to interview her three times for articles that appeared in several publications. I remember her wit and sense of humor, down-to-earth comments that may not have been intended for the public, but what struck me as remarkable was her ability to find a spark, a burning passion that enabled her to create stories for future generations.
When I asked what lessons we can learn from those who tamed the Old West, she answered more than my question. She explained why some succeed and others fail.
“I think one of the outstanding things about the West and the people who chose to help settle the West had to be their courage. Those were admirable qualities that perhaps we need a little bit more of in today’s world, to really believe in what you’re doing instead of going through the motions, to put your life on the line to do it. There’s not enough of that today. And I think that’s why we have so many problems in the world. We don’t learn how to really depend upon each other. Those Westerners, those early Westerners, had to depend upon one another for survival. Technology, of course, is a great thing, but at the same time it’s not good for people when they are so dependent upon their technology that they can’t function without it. We really are missing something. These early people who packed up what they could in a little tiny covered wagon lived with what they could take along until they got themselves settled. They will always be my heroes because without them we wouldn’t be the nation we are today.”
Taitz explores much more than a revitalized, star-crossed affair in this innovative twist on the contemporary romance novel. Tradition meets glitz meets realism in a carefully contrived, perhaps even philosophical, look at what happens when well-intended individuals attempt to alter what cannot be changed. This perceptive glimpse of smothered passion, along with bad character traits, places this sophisticated title soundly into the mainstream.
Lajeunesse presents an enlightening, though often aching, reflection on young love brought to a catastrophic end and a poignant description of spiritual healing. Speeding back to 1968, then into the 1970s and 1980s, she journeys to the depths of a passionate woman’s soul in a touching delivery. Though marketed as a romance, this book is steeped in agonizing realism. A simple funeral turns into a situational catharsis, triggering an outpouring of memories and painful self-realizations for the protagonist.
Like poetry in prose, Jabry explores the psychological churning that accompanies the push-pull within the mind as a person experiences negative and positive feelings for another. She captures attention with well-crafted phrases and subtle play on words, offering a new literary take on the commercial romance novel. An experimental collection of articulate perceptions, this book delves into the process of tumbling in and out of love.
Obscure, subjective, esoteric, dubious. Like no other concept known to civilized humans, romance may be the most difficult to define. Complex and diverse, romance fiction in the publishing sphere encompasses far more than blazing erotica or clandestine patronage. As in all great writing, it’s the characters in the books we treasure that determine the best of literary romance.
In a gripping story of rebirth, McMillan escorts the reader into the recesses of a traumatized woman’s mind as she lingers between life and death due to injuries sustained in a car accident. From the Australian Gold Coast hospital where this resilient heroine is a patient, this exciting protagonist relives her life in Las Vegas ten years earlier, an escapade involving money, entrapment, and undercover operations. The theme is reminiscent of the esoteric writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a theologian and mystic who described visions of the afterlife and its intermediary, transitional phases.
A fairy tale wedding takes a turn into nineteenth-century America in this time-travel romance that questions the very definition of marriage. Though critics may label this novel as yet another Cinderella tale with a heroic rescuer waiting in the wings, the plot does not proceed along a typical path. Wright’s empathetic book is a captivating mix of feminist outrage and philosophical soul-searching, a simple story with profound meaning.
In this humorous slice of life set in rural England, a potpourri of domestic discontent, Cinderella complex, and cold-hearted reality leaves unforgettable memories. Moran takes liberties in her portrayal of a shy, insecure heroine, creating a character so believably human that she barely qualifies for fictional status in a mix of light romance and solemn drama.
Set in Israel after the 1956 Sinai campaign, this absorbing tale of young love straightforwardly reveals what happens when indoctrinated expectations clash with natural urges. Cultural dominance rooted in tradition meets free-spirited passion. Aharoni’s writing will capture the hearts of romance enthusiasts seeking down-to-earth drama rather than immersion in a mere storybook fantasy.
Discover Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic from a new perspective in this exciting remake. Pearl takes her characters into forbidden territory, breaking the rules and restrictions imposed on nineteenth-century society in Massachusetts. Tasteful and reserved, the book takes only a conservative step forward in its liberation stance.
A fantasy cruise ten years into the past allows a glimpse of the nautical path not taken in a woman’s life as she sails away from her desired destination, a fulfilling relationship. Impellizzeri’s literary experiment showcases everything that is right and wrong about married existence, while turning on an alternative lighthouse as a beacon of optimism in a fascinating fiction debut. Realistic portrayals mingle with strange phenomena in this heady mix of contemporary romance and psychic twilight.
Dedication and sacrifice bring former academic rivals together in this medical drama set in an 1891 Washington, D.C. hospital. Camden reveals the terrifying impact of tuberculosis during a time when treatments were experimental. A death sentence for most, the disease ravaged the U.S. population leaving pain and grief in its wake, a scenario described in explicit detail throughout this empathetic historical romance.
In STARLIT OBSESSION one night of passion with a songwriter leaves Jade Ramone longing for a man out of reach, until she returns eleven years later to renew their friendship in the quiet, discreet hours of a sultry Memphis evening. The memory of his touch still haunts her dreams and stirs her fantasies. Cass Donovan is her obsession, a lover who romanticized her youth. This title is available for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble NOOK.
With sophistication and a pen name, Jade interviews Cass for a magazine. Compelled by attraction neither can ignore, she discovers insatiable passion in his arms. He remembers the girl he loved and releases her with reluctance when ethics forces them to keep their relationship professional. Domineering parents and a broken marriage have tarnished Jade's outlook, making her insecure. Cynical of the music business, Cass has abandoned his career. Under the sobering influence of maturity, can they find young love once again?
Harlequin tradition meets contemporary intrigue in a heartwarming novel. This sweet romance features an ambitious veterinarian with no patience for demanding men until she meets an emergency room doctor who shares her lack of enthusiasm for relationships. An underlying element of danger enhances the tension in a quaint small town inhabited by a few undesirable saboteurs.
Holden tells the story of a young woman in jeopardy. Taken into an underground world and forced into submission, she falls in love with her captor, a leader who treats her with respect and kindness as he changes her into a vampire. This Lothario plot line with its romanticized kidnapping can be endured only within the confines of urban fantasy.
ROMANCE WRITING: LITERARY HISTORY AND COMMERCIAL CATEGORIES explores this exciting and lucrative field in publishing, a guide for aspiring beginners and established professionals. Windows of opportunity have opened to talented writers with persistence and determination. The message of the romance novel is not a complicated one. It is above all else a love story from its legendary roots to its contemporary sub-genres. This title is available for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble NOOK.
Prolific authors who consider themselves storytellers, rather than literary greats with an inclination to change the world, often resent the analysis of a commercial endeavor. Romance novelists are entertainers. They write from the heart with inspiration and hope. Scholars who try to decipher their words usually fail, and complications set in when a critic examines the various types of romance. The literary criticism of romance has led to numerous scholarly books, some of which cast a gray sheen on the business through a dark filter. Just like an uplifting rose-colored glass, these negative distortions do not give an accurate picture of reality. Reality to the millions who enjoy romance novels is the pleasure derived from reading and the feeling of contentment that lingers afterwards. Reality to the published author is an advance and quarterly royalty statements. Accomplishment and creative achievement are deeper motives for pursuing this spectacular profession, a glamour job with awards and acclaim.
Erotica: Not Handcuffed to Romance
Is erotica an extension of the romance genre or a sexual interlude taken out of context? In the twenty-first century, a date, even a first date, may involve consensual sex, yet neither party is manipulated for physical submission or psychological domination.
Within the imaginary realm of fiction, an encounter can be showcased without a plot, allowed to flaunt an unusual fetish, an eccentric desire, or an extreme behavior.
This type of scene, by definition, is not romantic, nor is it a story.
This journey of the spirit, involving both the loss of love and the gift of love, takes one on an exploration of human motivation and biological need. Two couples embark on the confusing and often obstructed path to a fulfilling relationship in this dual story line, featuring four separate yet deeply connected individuals. Fans of daytime drama and connoisseurs of confessional fiction will love this sophisticated take on a popular stylistic technique—revelation of the heart.
This realistic and detailed medical romance features a young intern seeking abiding love and the calm resolution of a tormented childhood tainted by sexual abuse. In a break from tradition, the character of Dr. Tori Taggert replaces the stereotypical infatuated nurse who succumbs to the advances of a powerful physician, providing a fresh take on the popular hospital setting. Hanes explores the psyche of a woman fighting to come to terms with her difficult upbringing while advancing in a fast-paced career.
This exceptional story is a tender portrayal of love without the artificial frills of a capitalistic venture. At the heart of Pierce’s novel is the real source of inspiration in imaginative endeavors. Eschewing the typical perception of attainment in the fine arts and its emphasis on money or fame, this perceptive author presents the natural development of an idealistic, spiritual motivation for creative work. The book probes the genuine emotions that spur creativity and examines the false pretenses that stall artistic fulfillment.
In this soul-searching romance, a woman distinguishes between loyalty and love. Set in 1984 and told in a consistent, unbroken flashback twenty-five years after the events have occurred, Bradford loses none of the immediacy necessary to sustain interest. Perceptive and edited with care, this outstanding novel reveals more of the heroine’s thoughts and feelings than the stereotypical skin-to-skin intimacy that glosses over the emotional aspects of a relationship.
A police detective falls in love with the assassin assigned to kill her, a man who chooses to protect her with his life, defying the demands of his own people. This evolved species of humans feeds on the bioenergy of others, turning a social acquaintance into a potential victim. Sensual, sexual, and spellbinding, Hofman’s original take on the urban fantasy strips layers off its characters, revealing the depths of ardor and insanity.
In ROMEO Veronica Swanson, a soccer investor from Wisconsin, falls for Derek Fallon, a charismatic forward from Manchester, England. She signs him to the Madison Maelstrom, a losing team. Headstrong and stubborn, Derek solves her financial trouble in unorthodox ways. He plays the game with fanatical zeal and stirs the growing crowd with lunacy. Soon every game is a sellout, and his female admirers dub him “Romeo,” pursuing him with the adolescent adoration of a rock star's band of groupies. This title is available for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble NOOK.
The out-of-control situation escalates until Veronica and Derek must survive under the same roof in a relationship comical and emotional as they ward off the fans. Young adult fiction with a racy edge.
The exciting world of competitive ballroom dance sets the backdrop for this involved story of an old relationship renewed in the limelight of reality television. Behind the scenes is the rocky romance of a man and a woman with little in common other than shared talent and an undeniable physical passion that transcends reason. In this tale of star-crossed lovers, Albertson explores the definition of love itself.
Through the preliminary darkness of the storm and the light of the overwhelming aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lauber’s novel explores the depths of the human heart in its struggle to reclaim honesty and dignity. Her sophisticated romance presents a down-to-earth portrayal of existence in a big city fraught with tension and unrest.
Spanning more than one hundred years from 1800 to 1918, the drive to succeed on a gold-rich island is the motivating force behind multiple characters in this admirable undertaking by Ling. Lush narrative, intellectual conversation, and emotional introspection convey the experience of this exotic locale. Sarawak is the focus, a northwest section of Borneo governed by a family known as the White Rajahs from 1841 to 1946.
A gripping story about an aspiring singer in 1960s Las Vegas, this poignant novel is a down-to-earth, rather than idealistic glimpse of a vulnerable young woman learning how to succeed… and how to stop trusting people. Guided by financial and emotional need, the heroine’s interaction with an abusive hotel manager keeps her dependent, succumbing to his advances in a misguided attempt to sustain herself in an aggressive business. Depicted with realism and tenderness.
Set during the tumultuous 1800s, this is the story of a gifted apprentice doctor and his forbidden relationship with a Native American teenager who remains faithfully at his side. Vibrant characters come to life in a situation we can only imagine in our contemporary society of advanced medicine and high technology. A love for the ages.