Category Archives: romance

Cross-cultural Victorian romance alive with heart, hope and strength

After the Wedding: A Worth saga romance by Courtney Milan

The only thing more inconvenient than Camilla’s marriage at gunpoint is falling in love with her unwilling groom…

So begins the story of Camilla Worth and Adrian Hunter. I’ve always enjoyed Courtney After the WeddingMilan’s Victorian romance but I really loved this one. Humorous. Passionate. Angry. Heartfelt. As I read the final words, I was filled to the brim with the happy, bubbly, lighter-than-air feeling I get from a truly beautiful book. 

There is something heartwarmingly-everywoman about the heroine Camilla (Cam) Worth, her unquenchable spirit and hope for the future despite the fact that deep down, she doesn’t believe she deserves love. Camilla is the daughter of a treasonous earl, trying to stay hidden so as not to bring any further shame on her family. The hero, Adrian Hunter, is the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, an artist and a businessman, strong but gentle and always willing to believe the best of everyone. Brought together by circumstances beyond their control, they work together to wrest their futures back from the men who want to deny them control of their own destinies.

Adrian gives Camilla the right to be herself, and she finds the strength and anger to fight back against with the people who would put her – and Adrian – down. He helps her to look back, and she helps him to look forward. The result is a love match started for all the wrong reasons but finding all the right reasons to continue.

Aside from her memorable characters, Courtney Milan also always digs below the surface of Victorian England to uncover bits and pieces of history that still influence us today. In this case, it is china, as in crockery.  Britain was the workplace of the world for several decades of the nineteenth century, fuelled by a rise in domestic demand thanks to a growing middle and upper working class. There’s a delightful sub-plot in After the Wedding about the creation of a fine china design for display and sale at a trade exhibition.

After the Wedding got me thinking about diversity in Victorian England. A little bit of digging on the web got me the information that there were roughly 10,000 black men and women in London at the time, more around the country, as the result of English tentacles stretching into every continent. They were a distinct minority, under threat of slavery before 1833 even although slavery hadn’t been legal in England since the time of William the Conqueror. However, they were probably not as feared or hated as the Irish. As always in England, class played the largest role in social standing. If you would like to do more research about Black Britain, I found this article from History Today, a helpful overview, although, of course, it does not delve into all the ethnic minorities that make up British society.

After the Wedding is book 2 in the Worth Saga but can be read as a stand alone novel. I did, although I have remedy this fault in my bookshelf by downloading book 1, Once Upon a Marquess, to read immediately.

5 hearts all

Blurb

Adrian Hunter, the son of a duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist, is determined to do whatever his family needs-even posing as a valet to gather information. But his mission spirals out of control when he’s accused of dastardly intentions and is forced to marry a woman he’s barely had time to flirt with.

Camilla Worth has always dreamed of getting married, but a marriage where a pistol substitutes for “I do” is not the relationship she hoped for. Her unwilling groom insists they need to seek an annulment, and she’s not cruel enough to ruin a man’s life just because she yearns for one person to care about her.

As Camilla and Adrian work to prove their marriage wasn’t consensual, they become first allies, then friends. But the closer they grow, the more Camilla’s heart aches. If they consummate the marriage, he’ll be stuck with her forever. The only way to show that she cares is to make sure he can walk away for good…

Courtney MilanAuthor

Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets and smartwatches. As one does. You can find out more about her and her  books here.

 

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Getting a manuscript ready for submission

In the not to distant future, my romance novel will be published. This is the first in a series of blog posts about my path to publication. I hope it is inspiring and helpful to other aspiring writers out there.

I’ve wanted to write a novel worthy of readers’ delight since I first went to university, saw creative writing on the course list, and realised that real people wrote books. Maybe, just maybe, I could be one of them.

I struggled on my own for years before I found my tribe at the Romance Writers of Australia. With the support and guidance of various members, I’ve made steady progress. I finalled in one competition, learnt from others, and eventually finished my first manuscript. It placed second in the Emerald Award for unpublished manuscripts. I was thrilled but still plagued by doubts. The praise received was consistent; readers liked the setting, my heroine and the dialogue. The criticism coming back was also consistent – my hero was hard to know. Although I spoke to a few publishers, I never submitted, choosing to rework it instead. I say ‘choosing to rework’ and that’s partly true. Part of me was also retreating. If I wasn’t good enough to win, was I really good enough to publish? Would I make a fool of myself submitting it to publishers? Fear of failure can be crippling. It can also be a strangely comforting bedfellow, one which makes sure you never move out of my comfort zone.

But … I really wanted to be a published novelist. I wanted it more than I feared failure and humiliation. So I set myself a goal. By the next year’s conference I would be ready to pitch my revised and improved romance to publishers. I added 30,000 words to the story and thought about the story a lot, what worked, what didn’t. I also thought about what I would do if no one wanted it. I could self-publish. However, I really wanted to take my first steps in publishing with someone more experienced holding my hand. I wanted the support and the learning curve an author gets when working with an experienced editor and publisher. I’ve worked in the industry for years, so I know how valuable that experience can be.

When the annual RWA conference came around again in 2017, I was ready and prepared to face the threat of rejection again. I’d changed my title from the sweet-sounding Alpine Kisses to the sassier The Millionaire Mountain Climber. I put in my pitch request for the speed dating sessions with editors and agents. As a backup, I also made myself a list of romance publishers who accepted submissions direct from authors. I composed the list from the names of publishers who have attended RWA over the years as well as those who publish the books I like to read. I went online to their submission pages and copied their requirements. If the pitches didn’t go well, I had a plan B.

The pitches went okay. One agent was, frankly, rude, but said I could submit anyway. I did so, but didn’t hold my breath. Just as well because neither I, nor anyone else who pitched, ever heard back from her. One publisher was delightful and enthusiastic, and I submitted with some confidence. Another publisher said I didn’t fit their criteria, so that was a no.

However, with only one genuine show of interest, I didn’t like my odds. A month after conference, I hauled out Plan B and submitted to another ten publishers and one agent. It took time. Each one had different submission criteria. Some requested only the first five pages. Some wanted the first three chapters. Some wanted the whole manuscript. Everybody wanted a synopsis and to know a little about me, but not a one of them matched another. Each submission was unique. Some of the publishers I targeted were Australian; others English and American. I changed spelling according to the submission. While I didn’t get it all right, I reckoned it was respectful to at least make the effort. Those submissions took me another month, to the end of October 2017. I meant to submit to more agents, but decided to first see what came of round one. I also decided that if I didn’t get interest from anyone by end February, I would self-publish. I felt my story had legs now.

Next time: The call … make that the email.

Small steps beginning of big change

Sometimes, the iniquities of the world we live in overwhelm me. It’s easy to be dragged down into a space where it seems change for the better is impossible. Then an individual or organisation will do something to prove me wrong and remind me of the best qualities of humanity, like resilience, resourcefulness and hope. Last year the world seemed to going backwards, reverting to hate and bigotry, focusing on stirring up fears of  ‘otherness’ rather than looking for commonalities and humane, empathetic solutions.

This year bad things continue, but in this first quarter I have seen things to restore my hope. Teenagers marching in the US demanding better gun control. And the Romance Writers of America making a small but significant change to level the playing field of their important RITA awards for indie authors. This year, publishers and authors were required to enter a PDF not a paperback. Why is this important? Because corporations (like publishers) will always tread the conservative, proven path to success. Until proven otherwise by a massive bestseller produced at somebody else’s risk, they will confidently declare is no viable market for:Dreams Key Representing Hopes And Visions

  • wizard boarding school books in the 21st century
  • LBGTQI heroes and heroines
  • romances featuring POC
  • steampunk
  • authors from non-mainstream (read English-speaking, white, heterosexual) cultures)
  • etc. You get the idea.

The authors for these stories have found their voices in independent publishing (self publishing). Many critics still rail against the standards of indie publishing. It’s true the barriers to entry are lower. It is not true that the best of traditional publishing is better than the best of indie publishing.

The changes to the RITAs resulted in 22 indie authors making the finals – out of a total of 78 finalists, almost one third and the most ever. Other minority demographics are also better represented even if not to the same extent.

Jackie Horn has done an excellent job of analysing the data of the RITAs and what it means for diverse authors and characters. I recommend reading her post at Romance Novels for Feminists.

Small changes, big results. Go RWAmerica! Thank you for leading the way.

And go students of America! Thank God for the passion and idealism of youth.