Fan2Author Interview: Joanna Bourne

b2b: There’s no way in Hell that I can tell you how I feel about this Author! I am truly not worthy! Her prose is awe-inspiring…

“She was a battlefield of possibilities.”

“The moment fell between them like a ripe fruit.”

“He wanted to slurp her down like she was milk and he was a starving cat.”

Ms. Bourne, how does one come up with prose that sticks to the reader’s mind years after you wrote it and they’ve read it? Holy Cow! I am so sorry! First, let me welcome you and thank you for finding the time to visit with me. This is a rare opportunity and a privilege, so I hope not to blow it! Okay, now you can answer the question…

JB: I jest use the iProse app, available through the Apple Store for $79.

But, more serious now. Story prose comes to you the same way the next sentence comes to you when you’re sitting with a cuppa coffee, chatting with your friends in a lively dialog.  You don’t think about the exact words you’re going to say.  They spill out of your mouth and later you think, “Gee, that was clever,” or, somewhat more often, “That was lame.”

I’ll add this though. Nothing is going to emerge in your writing, or your conversation either, that you haven’t put into your head sometime or other.  The bucket can only draw water that’s down in the well.

If you want to write good language, you have to read good language.

I was fortunate enough to hear Deanna Raybourn speak at our local RWA Chapter.  She asked, “Does anybody here read poetry?”  And, of course, my hand went right up.  Bang.  There I was, having something in common with Deanna Raybourn.

A second way to ‘fill up’ that creative well is to live alertly. You remember how Thoreau went out to the woods so he could live deliberately? This is how a writer lives all the time.  He opens himself to the world.  He notices.

So, if you want to improve your writing, you actively look at the shape of a roof against the sky.  You add it to the photo album in your head.  You take mental notes of what’s on people’s faces when a baby starts screaming at the next table in a restaurant.

So a writer doesn’t get his words and images from watching TV or reading books.  He doesn’t walk around in a gray haze.  He looks at the world.

b2b: [scribing Thoreau] Reading any of your books is like ‘living them’…I ‘feel’ everything as I read…Instead of writing “Barely touching.” You wrote “Barely, barely touching.” (Doyle and Maggie’s story) and that made me feel that touch!

When you’re writing it, do you feel it as you’re writing it? Or do you have second thoughts and agonize about it?

JB: Generating the rough draft is a highly emotional experience for me.  I ‘live’ the scene.

It’s like being dropped bodily into the fictive world.  The scene around me is colors and shapes, sounds, smells, textures.  I feel the anger or fear. If it’s sad, I cry. So embarrassing.

The agonizing second thoughts arrive with the second draft and the third draft and the . . .

b2b: [smiling, thinking: she's just like me!] The characters in your novels, and I include secondary as well as the villains, are all multidimensional, especially Adrian. This boy, later youth and now a man has so many facets to him; it would have been a shame if we never heard his story.

Let’s talk about “The Black Hawk”. How is Adrian different from your other heroes? And speaking of, who is your favorite hero (not including your work; I’m not making you choose) from the written word (oh, and no classics either)?

JB: The biggest difference is that Adrian is not really, or not completely, a ‘good guy’.  He doesn’t have an internal moral compass the way my other heroes do.  If things had gone just a little differently, Adrian might have ended up a ruthless villain, instead of a ruthless hero.

I try to show a progression of morality in his life, something I don’t do with the other male protagonists.  Adrian had to learn ethical behavior almost from scratch.  Even as an adult, he’s still working on the fine tuning of a conscience.  His life story is, in a way, that of a man building a soul for himself.

Now, I don’t say that’s how the reader has to interpret him.  But, for me, part of the fun of writing the whole life story has been to see a madly intelligent, off-balance, feral Adrian pulled out of his niche and grappling with the alien manners, morals and ethics of the wider society.

My favorite hero in fiction?

I like many of the old YA science fiction heroes.  I’m talking Heinlein, in particular.  These are men of ingenuity, practicality, and a nonchalant acceptance of duty.  Homo habilis engineeri.  The hero MacGyver.

Good writing can make me fall in love with any sort of hero.  But, all else being equal, I’m not so much attracted to the brooding, stalking the moors with a flapping cape type man, or to men who party like frat boys into their twenties and thirties.  But I find adult men with an intelligent competence tremendously sexy.

b2b: [scribbling to look up the translation of  Homo habilis engineeri] Who surprised you more while you wrote their story, Hawker or Justine?

JB: Justine.  Definitely.  I came into the first draft of Black Hawk with a pretty good idea of Adrian’s life story.  I had a ‘voice’ for him at all the ages I was going to write about.  Thank Goodness for that.  The structure of Black Hawk was so complicated I would have gone bonkers if I hadn’t had one of the protagonists tacked down.

So Justine was the character being created in Black Hawk.  I knew almost nothing about her when I started.  My original goal was to create a woman Adrian would care about deeply.  Somebody who’d be a match for him.

The dynamic that developed between these two surprised me.  I’d originally seen Adrian as much more aggressive in  the relationship.  Turned out that wasn’t necessary.

Adrian really needed a lady with a steel spine.  He could relax and be himself with somebody as hard as he was.  So Justine turned out a little different from the way I’d originally imagined her.

b2b: I’ve been looking forward to his ‘tale’ and wanted to thank you for sending me the ARC of it, but I hadn’t finished reading it. This past week I went through all three books (The Forbidden Rose, The Spymaster’s Lady and My Lord and Spymaster) preceding Adrian’s story and it just reminded me of how truly amazing, romantic and full of excitement all the stories are!

Have you had to cut many scenes from the book and if you did, which one did you dread the most? And can we have it for the Excerpts

JB: In the past, I’ve had to discard some good writing because it just didn’t ‘fit’ the story I ended up with.  That’s a sad thing for a writer to do, believe you me.  I’ve been trying to do more outlining and scene pre-construction.

As I said, Black Hawk was a tremendously complicated story to structure.  I planned that puppy within an inch of its life.  It turns out I didn’t have to discard any big chunks of writing. I’m delighted to be so efficient, but it does leave me without any appreciable outtakes. I will say that the hardest scenes to write were the two love scenes.

b2b: [scribbling-make sure to pay attention to the love scenes] What’s up next for Joanna Bourne? Will you be sticking with the same time period (1794-1818) or will you be venturing out?

JB: The next story is Pax’s story, placed in late 1802 and early 1803.  Home gamers will recognize this as coming after the events of The Spymaster’s Lady.  This is also just after the 1802 section of Black Hawk. 1802-1803 is an interesting year in history.  That’s the one-year hiatus of peace in the middle of the twenty-year war between England and France.

b2b: Oh, now you make me so happy! Something to look forward to!

A famous author once asked this question from another, and I thought to finish this interview with the same:

What do you consider the Historical Romance canon?

JB: For a book to get into canon — for me — it has to have been around for maybe a decade; it has to have been innovative when written; it has to be re-readable.  I like it if the book had an effect on the works that came after it.

So this is not a list of books on my keeper shelf or the best books being written today.  Those are different lists. I’ve included only one book per author.  And I list books I like.  I’m not an academic or a reviewer, so I don’t have to be even-handed.

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen; Simply Love, Mary Balogh; An Unwilling Bride, Jo Beverley; Tregaron’s Daughter, Peter O’Donnell w/a Madeleine Brent; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte; A Woman of Virtue, Liz Carlyle; Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase; The Proposition, Judy Cuevas w/a Judith Ivory; The Windflower, Tom and Sharon Curtis; Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier; Alinor, Roberta Gellis; Angelique in Love, Serge and Anne Golon w/a Sergeanne Golon;  Outlander, Diana Gabaldon; Frederica, Georgette Heyer; The Sheik, Edith M. Hull; By Arrangement, Madeline Hunter; Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale; Curse of the Pharaohs, Barbara Mertz w/a Elizabeth Peters; Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell; The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emma Orcy; The Rake, Mary Jo Putney; Tokaido Road, Lucia St. Clair; Gaudy Night, Dorothy SayersKatherine, Anya Seton, My Brother Michael, Mary Stewart; Forever Amber, Kathleen Winsor; The Gamble, Joan Wolf; Shanna, Kathleen Woodiwiss

b2b: Holy cow! That’s some list! Just for fun, I underlined the one’s I’ve read as well…as for the rest, I’m sure that I’ll be looking into, checking them out and adding them to my wish list. After all, they come recommended by JOANNA BOURNE :)

Jo, you’ve been awesome! I had so much fun! Say the word and we’ll have you back ANYTIME!


Now, bookworms, Jo is giving away a spanking new, signed copy of THE BLACK HAWK to one commenter that answers her question (oh, and its open WORLD WIDE) and here it is:

I’ve cheated in Black Hawk and written my characters at several different stages in their lives.  Mostly, you can’t get away with that.
What age do you want your hero and heroine to be?

124 thoughts on “Fan2Author Interview: Joanna Bourne

  1. Hi Joanna

    I’ve been looking forward to Hawker’s story since I finished Forbidden Rose and it feels like it’s been forever.

    I like the way we’ve kinda watched him grow up and that we’ve met Justine before, it will be interesting now to read the story of how they got together. I’m kinda hoping we get a little catch up with the others as well.

    And Pax’s story next – intriguing.

    • When we write Romance genre, we’re writing courtship stories mostly. These are beautiful. I enjoy them endlessly. But courtship is only a short period of life. It’s one stage in a longer love story.

      Black Hawk covers a lot of ground outside the courtship moment. Hope folks enjoy watching all that.

    • Beebs,

      I love how you think! My feelings are the same. I loved the way Jo had him grow up right in front of us (still reading TBH) and I have no doubt that Doyle will still be by Hawk’s side as well as Jess and Sebastian, and I hope Annique and Grey poke their heads in there too :) Oh, and now she’ll give us PAX! This cannot get any better, man!

      Thanks for stoping by and good luck in the GIVEAWAY!

      • Oooooh! I’m so jealous that you’re already reading this. Lucky, lucky you. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages and now Joanna says we’re getting Pax next. Fangirl Squeee!


        Your writing is wonderful, I love, love, love these books.

      • Beebs,

        I’m at work right now and the book is at home, and I’m thinking I need this day to get going so I can read!
        My DH works second shift and I’m all alone at home..with Justine and Hawker and my two cats :)

      • Hi Beebs —

        You are so very kind. I’m glad you enjoy the books. There is nothing a writers wants more than the knowledge that somebody appreciates what she’s worked so hard to create.

        I do not so much revisit characters from other books. I do miss them and I regret not seeing them again. I know where these folks are and what they’re doing. But that doesn’t always fit into the action of the Work in Progress.

  2. I…may have fangirled you (and Adrian) shamelessly at the RWA Nat’ls booksigning. Thanks for being so friendly! And thanks for writing this book!! Mmm, Adrian.

    That is an awesome list of books! The Gamble made a HUGE impression on me when I read it in high school and in some ways inspired the book I just published…I really need to dig up a copy and reread it.

    • Hey Rose!

      I just discovered a new word today: “fangirled”! May I use it, please when I meet you?

      As for Jo’s list, again I’m in AWE of it and I’m going to go broke…
      Thanks for stopping by :)

    • Hi Rose Lerner —

      I was delighted to meet you there. I loved In For A Penny, did I tell you? I think I can understand what you mean when you say The Gamble is influential. Wolf, like Balogh, went beyond the Heyer sensibility to add a more human dimension.

      • Oh, wow, thank you! That’s fantastic to hear.

        Yes, that’s exactly it–I adored Regency trads and still sometimes miss them, but I think Wolf was one of the first to start writing longer, sexier, darker Regency stories. I loved those tormented heroes! And wasn’t The Gamble the one where there’s that scene with her hair…she’s just bathed and her hair is drying, and he touches it? Um, I realize that’s not a lot to go on–I can’t remember many details of the scene’s words anymore, but the images I created to go with it are still crystal clear to me over a decade later, it was written so vividly.

    • My googlefu is strong . . .

      From The Gamble by Joan Wolf:

      Then he did a shocking thing. He reached out, took a strand of my hair and ran his fingers along the length of it, all the way from my ears to its evenly cut ends. His touch was frighteningly enjoyable. “Your hair feels like silk,” he said.

      “It doesn’t curl,” I babbled. “Not even a curling iron works on it.”

      “What does that matter?” he said. “It is beautiful the way it is.” My heartbeat began to accelerate dangerously. He was looking at me out of narrowed blue eyes and I pressed back harder against the piano. I could feel the top of it pressing into my backbone.

      “My lord,” I said a little desperately, “I think it is time for me to go upstairs and get ready for dinner.”

      He was close enough to me that I could smell the dampness of rain on his skin and hair. After what seemed a long time, he nodded and stepped back, giving me room to get by him.

      Though I should be giving quotes out of Black Hawk.


      From Black Hawk:

      He tangled his fingers into her hair and held her while his
      mouth took hers. This time, he was not careful and gentle. He
      came to her, dark and overwhelming. He was the Mohawk of
      the alleyways when he kissed her. The street rat, not the gentleman.
      All the brutality of his nature, all that he controlled and
      denied and tried to tame, revealed itself.

      • Oh wow. I even remembered the rain and the piano! I thought maybe I was making the piano up, but no. Mmmmm, I NEED to reread that book.

        Also mmmm, Adrian! That conflict in him, how he’s been pushed into this world and tries his best to correctly play the game of being an honorable secret service agent, is part of what I love about the character. My very favorite moment in Forbidden Rose (although it had a lot of competition) is when he thinks that French people say his name right, and he always feels a little weird about how aristocrats pronounce the H. I think Black Hawk just shot to the top of the TBR pile!…at least, once it arrives from Amazon, I’ve got it preordered but I don’t think it’s shipped yet. :(

      • Hey Rose!

        I love it! You’re back! Now you both got me wondering about this book, so it’s now officially on my Amazon Wish List!

        I am not up to that part yet! I’m still reading it! That scene sounds so very, VERY good!

    • It was a real sit-down-and-struggle-with-it day or two before I decided to put ‘Awker in Justine’s mind and voice. I hate dialect spellings. And the substitution of a capital ‘A’ for a capital ‘H’ just doesn’t look right.

      In the end, though, I could hear that dropped ‘H’ so strongly in my head, I just had to put it down.

      • I hate dialect spellings too (and I love the way you give characters distinct voices and accents without them), but you know, sometimes you have to break a rule to do what’s right for the story.

    • We start out in Black Hawk with the protagonists about 13 years old. We have sections at various ages. We end up with the hero and heroine in their mid-thirties.

      Something for everybody. *g*

  3. Great advice on living an observational life to add depth to one’s writing.
    Thanks for the lovely interview.

    And I don’t care what age the characters are, as long as they’re the right age for the story.

    • Hi Elizabeth Essex —

      I first read this advice when I was a teenager, engaged in writing bad poetry. Robert Frost talked about how the art of writing was, first of all, the art of seeing. This impressed me a great deal.

      We’re surrounded by what you might call ‘secondary sources’ of reality rather than reality.

      Seems to me the more a writer watches TV or reads mediocre books, the more she falls into cliche.

      Yes. The ‘right age for the story’ gets to the core of it. In Black Hawk I’m writing the characters at different ages. It was fun to try to change the relationship to match the age.

  4. it really doesnt matter the age. Great interview and thank you for a chance to wina copy,I cant wait to read it!!

  5. As does not matter to me at all. I love reading about people any age. If I did have to choose I would say between 25 to 40 years old. Would love to win and read this book, so please choose me for the giveaway.

    • Hey Chris!

      Would love to ‘pick’ you this time too! BTW, I was so busy that I hadn’t had a chance to let you know that you WON Eileen Dreyer’s book :) I will post the winners today and send you an email, so you can send me your addy, promise! I hate when days get shorter :(

      Thanks for coming over, and who knows?! You just might be picked again…

    • I always wonder if folks want to read characters at one particular age. That is, do they feel Romance is sweetest for folks in their late teens , , , or for somebody more mature and wiser?

      I have the feeling folks are willing to read characters younger than they are, but not so much characters older. Don’t quite know why I think this.

  6. Age doesn’t really matter. For romance, I generally prefer adult since I don’t often buy into tween or pubescent love (don’t get me started on Romeo and Juliet or sparkly vampires). I’ve haven’t heard of these books but now I am intrigued! And, I agree with the canon list having read most; they are genre defining. What a great interview. It does sound like I would need to start at the beginning of the series as Black Hawk is not stand alone?

    • Hello Dee!

      Two years ago I walked into Borders and just loved the cover and the title of THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, so I took a chance on an ‘unknown’ author…I mean, who is Joanna Bourne and why haven’t I heard of her? Well, I read the book and couldn’t wait to get to Borders and stock up on the other two books this ‘unknown’ author wrote. Spent the next two days DEVOURING the other two books and the author became very KNOWN to me. I also make sure my friends ‘receive’ JB’s books for Christmas, Birthdays…

      I think the book could stand alone, however I just re-read them all and it just got me perfectly prepared for his HEA, so if I were you, I’d start with THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, go to THE SPYMASTER’S LADY and continue on with MY LORD and SPYMASTER. They were not published in that order, but to get the continuity, I always read them in that order :)

      OMG! And her ‘CANNON’ list just ROCKS! My Amazon wish list just got a boost!

      Thanks for coming over and good luck with the contest :)

    • I think I talk about this above someplace. I’ve tried really hard to make these books ‘standalone’. Reading another book in the series would enrich the experience, (I hope,) but it wouldn’t be necessary.

      That’s what I’m trying for.

      I hate it where you pick up book four in a series and you’re all at sea as to what’s going on.

  7. I like characters who are old enough to be mature, to have lived a little, made some mistakes, picked up some flaws and formulated some goals. Not too much to ask of someone whose head I’m about to enter! :-)

    Love the advice about living alertly, Joanna. I’m a hopeless contradiction of nature addict and relentless people watcher. The people watching only led to trouble once–but I got a good story out of it and filed it under ‘what we do for our craft.” :-)

    So looking forward to Adrian and Justine! And thanks for the interview, Melanie!

    • Thanks for stopping by and your welcome Deb!

      I loved all her answers and advice. As for the question, I’m open to any age, but do love it sometimes when the heroine is older. I also like, as in this series of Jo’s books, to follow a character from his teen years and watch him grow into a man. Same goes for Justine. The first time we meet her she’s so young, in years, but such a mature and determined girl, that you couldn’t help but ‘feel’ for her. The scene at the end of THE FORBIDDEN ROSE, in which she says good-bye to Maggie and Doyle and hands them ‘her gift’ is PRICELESS! Breaks my heart and I cry every time I read it :(

      I hope this link works. You can see my ‘dream casting’ of Justine and Hawker! And while you’re there you can LIKE me too :) We have our own FB PAGE! Can we say [in Charlie Sheen's voice WINNING!]

      Good luck in the giveaway :)

    • I’m reminded of the line from Keats that goes something like, “But he never can recapture that first, fine, careless rapture,” There’s something passionate and beautiful about the very young, in love. Older, wiser folks can never be so wholehearted.

      Older folks bring a depth of commitment to a relationship, I think. When they make promises, they know what’s at stake.

      I wish I’d put more of this sort of thought into Black Hawk. You know how it is . . . you finish and all of a sudden you think of all the nifty stuff you didn’t do.

  8. You are a new to me author and I can’t wait to read your books especially after this awesome interview! Thanks for sharing with us today! I have added your name to my wish list!

    I don’t care what ages the characters are really. Anywhere between 18 or 40 is fine by me. I do like when they show the characters when they are children it adds so much to the story and character development. I do like the older man as the hero in some stories. If he has a touch a grey that is excellent and kind of sexy too!

    Looking forward to reading your books. Thanks again for a great post!

    • Hi Johanna J —

      I hope you like the books. They have a ‘look inside the book’ feature at Amazon on these so you can decide if you like the writing.

      I have characters all over the chart as to age. If you like an older hero, you might look at Doyle in Forbidden Rose. He’s not actually the oldest of the male leads, but he ‘feels’ mature. He’s not wildly alpha. But he’s . . . centered. In a crisis, everybody would turn around to see what he had to say.

  9. I like my hero and heroine between the ages of 30 – 45. Now, depending on how well written the story is, that varies greatly. I do not read YA and currently I am reading a story where the H/h are in their early 50’s. It is proving to be very refreshing for a change.

    This is a new series for me, but, darn, looks wonderful!

    • I am so glad to hear from somebody who likes hero and heroine of that age. The last quarter of Black Hawk is the ‘Second Chance at Love’ wrap up of Justine and Adrian’s story. I was a little worried this would seem on the upper side of age groups people wanted to read about.

  10. While I suppose any age is OK, I tend to not get books where the heroine is very young and virginal. I am WELL past that age myself so find it hard to relate to the character.

    This book looks really good!

    • I hope you’ll give Black Hawk a try. The hero and heroine start the book out young. But they’re far from innocent.

      I did write a story where the heroine was deliberately young. That’s Spymaster’s Lady. I was writing a bildungsroman. The point of the story was that this young girl must set aside all past loyalties and make a momentous decision. So she had to be somebody at that point in life.

      But she tries to garrotte the hero at one point so she’s not a timid young thing, really.

  11. Thanks for the shopping list!

    They should be at the age when they’ve reached an impasse with themselves and are primed to receive their levelers (as does Captain Staple in The Toll-Gate). (scurrying back to current ms to see if I’ve applied this)

    • This is the wonderful thing about interviews. You find yourself saying something that makes moderate sense . . . and then you suddenly think, “Wait. Did I DO that? Have I been following my own advice?”

      This is one of those humbling moments and the reason mothers and pre-school teachers are such wise people, even though the manuscript will not turn around and say to you — “Why should I? You don’t.” — which little kids do all the time.

      • Heh. I tried hard to be a hands-off parent — so much so that it became a habit and is probably irreversible by now. (Or maybe I was just lazy.)

        But I *love* writing interfering relatives. ;~)

      • I delight in domestic romances with extended families and all that love and angst.

        Wish I could add that to a story sometime. It’s hard to write though.

    • Hello Barbara!

      LOL re shopping list! I just had to do the same!

      My Amazon Wish List has drastically grown between yesterday and today! [looking up Toll-Gate & Captain Staple, as she types this msg.]

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the giveaway!

  12. I like heroines to be in their mid-late 20’s and hero to be in their 30’s. By those ages they should have a good sense of themselves and be ready for a relationship.

    • I like this age group too. My heroines are about five years younger than that, generally. But I’m dealing with the historical time period.

      Folks formed permanent attachments and married younger. In a way, my 22-year-old in 1790 may be the equivalent of a 28-year-old in 2010.

      Hmmm . . . I wonder if that’s so. Are the 1800-era people more mature because they undertake serious responsibilities younger? i.e. The twenty-eight-year-old has four kids and a business to run while her husband is at war. Or can they act responsibly because their choices are limited and constrained?

      • I often wonder if people in the past felt that death loomed just around the corner all the time, so they had to seize the day. Maybe not so much by the 1800s, but not too many centuries earlier, life was so short and brutal it made no sense to hesitate (and yet some people did… makes for interesting exercises in character mindsets).

        And yeah, if you don’t have the leisure to dither about what to do next, you just deal with what’s tossed your way.

    • Diane,

      I think that’s a perfect age for romance, but the earlier we go in History we find that the age gets younger and younger. My parents were married at 16 & 17 (in the ’50’s); well it was in SERBIA, so maybe that doesn’t count? Still, I think in the girls in their early teens and for that matter boys too, had to grow up very quick. When I look at some ‘kids’ today in their 30’s I’m stunned how immature they are (NOT all, there are exceptions and those ‘kids’ need to be given credit), but ‘kids’ in their 30’s in 1802-03 were NO KIDS! They were men, and women, fully developed intellectually as well a physically. The responsibilities were many and they had no choice what so ever. It was sink or swim, or be carried with the tide!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck in the giveaway!

  13. I’ve really enjoyed seeing Adrian at different stages of his life. I still remember the scene in The Spymaster’s Lady, where Adrian had been gravely injured. I assume that was Justine’s doing. If I recall correctly, Justine wasn’t actually shown in The Spymaster’s Lady, but her actions greatly impacted Hawker.

    As for the ages of the hero and heroine, I like ages 24-26 for the heroine and 32 for the hero. I never really enjoy stories where the heroine is older. I know; such a double-standard.

    I look forward to The Black Hawk.

    • Hi Kim —

      Yep. That’s Justine who shot him. I knew a lot about her when I wrote that, (I didn’t know her name which is one of the reasons nobody says her name,) but none of that backstory belonged in Spymaster’s Lady.

      In Black Hawk we run up to events about six days before the opening of TSL. We get to see how Hawker got in that particular uncomfortable situation with a bullet in him.

      It is not a double standard to like what you like in terms of ages for the heroine. These are fantasies. You don’t have to be ‘fair’ in your fantasies. If we are ever free, it’s in the kingdoms of our own mind.

      Says I.

      • That’s a great place to start in the new book. I know the story is told in flashback, so I imagine we’ll see the entire picture of Adrian and Justine’s past encounters. I don’t want to post spoilers of your past books in case there are new readers, so I’ll do it in code. :) Will we see more of the “gift” that Justine gave to Maggie at the end of The Forbidden Rose?

      • Hey Kim!

        I just addressed that ‘gift’ scene earlier today and I’m so glad we’re keeping it ‘hidden’ so other people can be surprised by it as we were :) You’re a ;gal’ after my own heart!
        I believe that every one of Jo’s books is stand alone, but to get the ‘feel’, the essence of it, I truly think they should all be read, and even if you read them as they’ve been published, you will still ‘GET’ the FULL picture. Awesome question, too :)

        Thanks for popping in and out and I hope you come often to ‘see’ us :)
        BTW I just opened an FB page for b2b so come on over, LIKE our page and check out our photos of ‘cast of book characters’! I have Adrian & Justine (in my eye’s)…

      • You are wonderful to be so careful about spoilers. Thank you. We do revisit that gift and the whole situation.

        I’m going to confess that I did a tricky thing that writers just love to do that readers do not always much like. I wrote a scene again, from a different point of view.

        The scene at the end of Forbidden Rose is in Maggie’s point of view. We narrow in on what she’s looking at and her attitude towards it and what’s important to her.

        I wrote this scene again about 1/4 of the way through Black Hawk. There we are on the same street in Paris, holding the same conversation, doing all the same action. This time we’re in Hawker’s point of view. He has a subtly different ‘take’ on everything that’s happening. It’s slanted just a bit to be ‘Hawker-like’ instead of ‘Maggie-like’.

        For instance, Hawker looks at the physical situation strategically. Is somebody going to show up to arrest them? Who could be watching? How would everybody be got under cover if something happened?
        None of this enters Maggie’s mind.

        I’ve wandered off the point here, I’m afraid. I just love to talk technicalities.

      • Hey Jo!

        I knew I was going to have so much fun with your visit! I ‘cast’ Justine and Adrian last night and you can check it out on my FB page at b2b.

        Hope you approve:)

        And I do agree w/’fantasy’ concept! I, on the other hand like the ‘older’ heroine and the ‘younger’ man story (but that’s only because I lived the story myself-my DH is 12 yrs younger than I!) so I tend to gravitate to stories like that, although there aren’t that many…

      • It is so delicious when folks ‘see’ the characters. A lot of times I just go, “Yes! That’s him!” Readers can find a face sometimes better than I can.

  14. Thanks so much for the insight. I enjoy different points of view of the same scene. It’s actually like real life.

    Best of luck with the new release!!

  15. I’ve been looking forward to this story for so long! It has been interesting watching the hero and heroine in the other stories in the series; I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. I like imagining the characters from the descriptions provided in the book…and for me Clive Owen IS Adrian. Yeah, I know he is older than I’d imagine Adrian (who I imagine at 28 to 33) but there is a certain something about his face; the cheekbones, eyes….Oh wait-distracted…

    • Oh *giggle” —

      I held a contest on my blog a while back, asking what face folks ‘saw’ for Adrian. I offered a few examples.

      The choices were just all over the map. It goes to show that every story is a collaboration between reader and author. I offer what’s on the page. The reader takes it from there.

  16. My ideal age for the heroine is late 20’s and early 30’s for the hero. I’m not sure why I like these ages, but it seems like the right age for historical characters to settle down. I don’t like my heroines too young because they are less experienced and tend to be more silly, and 30’s seem to be the age of a hero in his prime.

    • Y’know, this seems to be something of a trend in Romance character ages. I had no idea. I’m certainly going to feel better about writing heroines in their late twenties.

      Good to know.

    • Hey Rosie!

      I like that age as well. It makes a lot of sense, but for some reason, (pick a century and it will apply) girls matured at an early age, and were forced for various reasons to marry young. If we’re expecting our authors to tell us a believable tale, then we have to know that the age of their heroines will be between 17-20, and all heroines over that age group will definitely be ‘on the shelf’ and I LOVE those stories as well!

      I also like the vast gap in ages stories like Jane Feather’s “Love’s Charade”, The heroine Danielle de St. Varennes, is a 17 year old French aristocrat who has been surviving on the streets of Paris disguised as a boy and the hero is Justin, the Earl of Linton, a 34 year old English peer. I just loved the story, and before any of you get at me about the age dif. you need to read this story to understand how it all worked and how the author handled it.

      So, I guess it all depends on too many factors and personalities, likes or preference of an individual. What I like you may not :)

      • Sorry to butt in, but I actually have a slightly different take on this. A few years ago while researching In for a Penny, I read a source (An Open Elite?: England 1540-1880 by Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone) that did a statistical analysis of aristocratic marriages in the era based on, I think, church records and found that actually the average age for an aristocratic woman to marry was something like 23! I did read it a long time ago and don’t remember details so I’m hesitant to say this authoritatively, but I think the common trope that young women who weren’t married by 20 were considered “on the shelf” might not have its basis entirely in fact. Look at P&P–Charlotte Lucas at 27 is considered something of an old maid, but Jane and Elizabeth at 22 and 20 aren’t particularly worried yet.

      • Rose!
        You may BUTT in anytime, and I so hope you would! You make me happy when you butt in ;)
        And I will stand corrected by you anytime, anywhere! BUT, I also think this could be cultural. I’m Serbian, and if you saw that movie “My Fat Greek Wedding”, that was me! After my 18th Birthday, my family kept pushing me to marry, or else I’ll be ‘left behind’. My parents married at 16 and 17 (in the 50’s). BUT, I have to say, I have done no research on this and will deffer to yours :)

      • Which of course doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of women who married younger! And I love a good “on the shelf” story. But some aspects we take for granted in Regency historicals are more fun genre conventions than absolute historical fact.

  17. I love, love, love your writing. I’m sorry I had to skim the interview here because I didn’t want too many spoilers! As soon as I read the book, I’ll have to re-read it. :)

    As to ages of the hero and heroine, I prefer them a little older and not to have a huge gap in age. The closer, the better. I am so, so glad that the era of dazzlingly gorgeous heroines (usually super petite and believing herself terribly plain while the hero is way oversized) of eighteen who act like they’re thirty-five has mostly gone the way of the big mis plot.

    That said, I’ll follow where you lead, Ms. Bourne. I cannot say how much I admire your writing. It’s so beautiful and vivid and all-engrossing and exquisitely intelligent. <3

    • I have to blush a little, but I do thank you.

      There are no real spoilers anywhere in the thread, thank Goodness. Maybe just a few small ones. And the interview itself is mostly talking about writing in general.

      I will say that Black Hawk has a hero and heroine who are almost exactly the same age.

      As to being gorgeous . . . Of my heroines, Annique is quite beautiful; Jess is lovely to Sebastian, but she’s not going to turn heads generally; Maggie is plain.

      Justine, in Black Hawk, is pretty. She can dress up to be elegant or even striking, but she’s not startlingly lovely.

      What these women have in common, I think, is that they look interesting. I like to think my heroes appreciate that more than gorgeous. *g*

      • That did sound a wee bit grumpy. :) I don’t mind beautiful heroines as long as she’s a grown up about it. I realize people sort of get used to their features, but people treat people based on their looks, so she has to have some inkling that people find her appealing. I also like plain heroines quite a bit. I love reading what about their face draws the hero to notice her, whether it’s before he has any interaction with her that might start the wheels of attraction turning or after.

        Anyway, I really did mean what I said. You are an amazing writer and I adore your work. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with the world.


      • Hi Anna —

        I think the fall-back position in Romance is to have attractive people on stage. Very natural this should be so. Pull up the hundred top movies or TV shows and you’ll find them full of good-looking folks. We want to read about and look at beautiful people. We’re so . . . shallow.

        I like to throttle back on all this attractiveness a little because I want my folks to succeed through brains more than looks. My only really good-looking characters have been Annique and Hawker.

        What you’re pointing out, I think, may be that if the author hands gorgeous good looks to a character, that needs to be part of the story. You are so right.

  18. Hi Joanna! I think I’m about as thrilled to read this interview as b2b was to write the questions. I have just recently “discovered” you, and am continually blown away by your stories, your characters, and your writing. Some authors can write one of those well, but it’s an amazing author who can do all three (in summary: I think you ROCK). =) Okay, now that I’m past my fangirl gush, I really don’t care what age my hero and heroine are. It seems more natural to read about heroines who are close to my age the older I get, but really as long as the character is well written, it doesn’t matter. I also normally don’t leave comments for other authors, but I would so love to win THE BLACK HAWK. =)

    • Hey Ashley!

      I swear, if I ever get to meet Jo, I’m going to ‘swoon’! If they gave me a choice to meet Brad Frakkin’ Pitt OR Joanna Bourne, I’d ask Brad WHO?! And WHERE IS SHE?!

      Just a couple of days ago we had a discussion about book ratings on FB, so I was on Amazon and someeone gave THE FORBIDDEN ROSE one star, and I went BALLISTIC! And I quote: “The romance part of this story is almost non existent.” I was dumb struck! Could have knocked me with the feather at that moment, and I’d keel over! After the initial shock, I wanted to pen a comment, but the words coming out of my mouth were…not kind, so I need to calm down, and then I’m going to come down on her like ‘Moses on the Pharaoh’! [begging pardon of Moses]

      I was so curious as to what this ‘person’ reads so I went to check out the rest of her reviews…Guess what?! She gave LAURA KINSALE’s ‘Flowers from the Storm’ a ONE STAR!!! Quote: “This book was a struggle to read.” Of course it was! Your brain cannot take in the COMPLEX story or the the characters, and I’m not even going to mention THE PLOT!!!

      Wait ’till you hear their name on Amazon…incognito. How original is that?!

      My Tuesday rant-check!

      Thanks for coming over and good luck in the giveaway!

      • LOL. Bookworm, your responses sure are fun to read.

        I bought a bunch of books by Laura Kinsale earlier this year after reading Lessons in French, which was absolutely charming. I gave them to my daughter to read — because I don’t seem to have time to read much anymore — but anyway, to get to the point, I don’t have Flowers from the Storm. Mild cursing going on here. I guess I’ll try one of the others… I gather they’re quite intense compared to Lessons in French…?

      • Hey Barbara,

        Happy to make you LOL :)
        I can’t tell you how glad I am you bought LK’s books AND that you’re sharing them with your daughter! I hooked my daughter on romance books when she was in HS! LK writes with passion that I can’t even describe! I read all of her books, and not only once.

        You will love Maddy-girl (the heroine) and you will NEVER forget Christian. If you’ve ever read OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, and remember Jamie and Clare, then these two will stick with you too.

        Here is a part of the review of it by A Customer from Amazon :”…I encountered an author who assumes that romance readers have intelligence. Not only does she challenge her readers to follow the Quaker thee/thou speech, she also puts her readers inside of Jervaulx’s mind and forces us to see and hear the world through his stroke-damaged perceptions–a world where simple English words have little meaning. She then takes this one step further, challenging us to follow along with her, by letting us feel Jervaulx’s frustration and rage and letting us hear what he hears as he tries to understand Maddy’s thee/thou Quaker speech. Ingenious! I’ve read somewhere that Kinsale’s greatest skill is in taking a hero that no one could love and making you want to lick his boots by the end of the story. This is never truer than in Flowers from the Storm.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself! No wonder that chick couldn’t follow!The INCOGNITO said, among other drivel:”… I found myself skipping over the excessive descriptions more than once.” WHAT DA HELL?!

        I sometimes wonder at readers ‘skipping’ parts of the story. How do you do that?! Don’t you want to ‘smell’ the bread that’s coming out of the oven, feel the ‘squish’ of the shoes treading the mud as well as watch the couple ‘slowly’ coming to realization that they’re each others half?! Why read at all if you skip?!

        See, it appears that my rant’s not over yet…

      • Heh Heh. Thank you for ranting on my behalf. *g*

        I figger anybody gets to not like the books. I regret Maggie and Doyle’s feelings of passion and longing didn’t reach this reader.

        Speaking generally now — and this is only my opinion — a one-star review is justified if you’ve given the book a good chance and . . .

        It offended you in some significant way.
        It broke the contract between author and reader by some dishonesty.
        The author obviously did not take pains to deliver a quality product.
        It did not meet minimal standards of good fiction writing.
        It totally sucked.

        Putting up a one-star review because you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend, or it makes you feel powerful, or you just don’t like the genre, or because you wanted a different level of sexual explicitness,
        is trollish behavior and devalues the careful and considered reviews of everybody else.

  19. Hi Ashley —

    Thank you so much for saying all these kind thing.

    I understand completely about writing heroines close to one’s own age. We put so much of ourselves into the books. Why not that too? Why not the understandings we’re having right now in life? The experience of being 23 or 31 or 40?

    I’d even argue that writing a woman of an age we haven’t experienced yet is like writing a character from another culture. It’s a land we haven’t explored. It takes a great leap of sympathy and understanding to look across the divide of years and imagine.

  20. no need to enter me into the drawing as I already got lucky (yes ;) bragging here) and have read my ARC of Black Hawk & can say it is fabulous — the writing was great (of course) and how the history of their relationship (my pre-read worry) was handled was well balanced and perfectly paced & placed :) enjoyed the interview, Joanne always has interesting insight. As for the question — I have no preferred age for the h/h but at least like them to be mature adults. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to enjoy the stories with older heriones a bit more. :)

    • Y’know, I find the consensus I see here — that young virginal heroines are not top favorites — very interesting.

      I have an unscientific impression that ten or twenty years ago Romance was very much the realm of the ingenue.

      Has the audience for Romance changed? Are different people reading it?

      Or has the ‘worldview’ of the reader changed? Do we now see serious ‘courtship’ as something for after a bit of growing up and youthful experimentation?

      • I suspect it has at least in part with audience change. I think we tend to want to relate to the herione & have her be someone whe’d know & like (or be) today. It may just be when some of us started 20 years or so ago (when the “modern romance” novels started), we were all young and innocent. now, not so young, not so innocent ;) and the memory not so good either to recall being that way ;) therefore harder to relate to that sweet innocent girl or feel she would “know” enough to recongize “the one & only” for the HEA.

      • That kinda argues the people reading Romance in their late teens and early twenties come to the genre with a different sensibility.

        I think that’s true. I think the tough, autonomous heroine of UF and PR may be the wave of the future.

        OTOH — there’s . . . (let me whisper this,) Twilight.

  21. To anwser Jo’s question . I like my hero’s to be late twenties to early thirties and my heorine’s about mid twenty.

  22. Love the interview and love the comments too!

    I came to romance from a science fiction fan background, so I got a charge out of your Heinlein reference.

    I’m saying for ages of heroines 20s to early 30s, but in my first two (as yet unpublished) stories, I have my heroes approx. five years younger. They are contemporaries, but I’ve seen where it works in historicals too. I don’t know, I kind of like the ones where the heroine’s almost given up looking–it’s what happened to me.

    I only have one of your books, but this series is definitely going on the “to be acquired” list. juleejadams (at) gmail (dot) com

    • Older woman/younger man. Some of these are the most beautiful stories, and it’s really an interesting dynamic.

      Thing about S.F. is that it featured strong, active women before U.F. got popular. It was good stuff for a girl to read, growing up.

  23. Been thinking about all this while walking in the rain… Apart from the obvious “when it’s the right time for the two of them,” I think it depends partly on the sub-genre. Contemporary heroines are usually at least 25 but not usually over 35, although I expect this is expanding upward. Historical heroines tend to be a little younger. I think it’s all about cultural perceptions. I tend to write more or less within these perceptions, but as a reader, I don’t really care how old they are, and if there’s a substantial age difference, I usually go through a bit of worry: “Oh, but he’ll probably die first, and that would be so sad,” countered by, “But she might just as easily die in childbirth, so it’s close enough to 50/50.” But that doesn’t spoil the romance for me.

    I’m thinking of Heyer’s The Conqueror, where Raoul is quite a bit older than his Saxon bride whose lovely name I have forgotten for the moment, or Leonie and Avon in These Old Shades. As for young h/h — Hero in Friday’s Child is a very young, very satisfactory heroine, and the growth she and Sherry go through is appropriate and convincing. Older ones — In Jenny Crusie’s Faking it, there’s a sub-plot about the mother and the FBI agent who are both older — 50’s, maybe? — and it’s utterly delightful. I don’t recall how old Cordelia and Aral are in Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, but in my mind’s eye they aren’t young, particularly Aral.

    I guess the limits related to culture perceptions are safest, but not necessarily best.

    • I’ve entirely forgotten the plot of ‘The Conqueror’. Heyer’s non-Regencies didn’t attract me the way her Regencies do.

      I don’t have ‘Honor’ handy, but Aral and Cordelia are both established as military leaders, are they not? They’d have to be at least in their thirties. And they have the gravitas I associate with intelligent maturity.

      I’d like to write one of those older love stories really well someday. I’d like to just pull out all the stops and make a Romance. But something like that takes a lotta chops. I am going to have to keep working on this.

      Poor Leonie. The whole time I was reading Shades — terrible title — I worried about what she was going to do when she lost Avon. Made it all sorta poignant.

      Roberta Gellis wrote this much-older-man story in Alinor and Roselyn.

      I loved the ‘Faking It’ sub plot. And there’s a wonderful secondary story in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ ‘Nobody’s Baby But Mine’ with an older couple. Both of those are beautiful, tender and intelligent. But they’re both running underneath a main story with younger hero and heroine.

      I like to see people at all ages in books, doing different things, including falling in love. Must be lots of folks like us out there. We may be seeing a time when some of the conventions in Romance loosen up a bit.

  24. What a delight to find this column. I am definitrly a fan and have re-read my copies of all your books,4 or 5 times, Jo. My favorite is still TSL but all were fantastic! I was thrilled to find this site since I have been googling “black hawk review joanna bourne” every day for the last three weeks hoping for some crumbs about Adrian and Justine. Only 13 days and 5 hours to go! :)

    I like all kinds of heros and heroines, but I think my favorites are heroines in their late 20’s and heros who are older still. I like my characters to have lived a little and mature enough to be able to deal with adversity and have a real sense of self.

    Thanks, B2B. I’m new to your site but I’ve enjoyed it, bookmarked it and will be a frequent visitor.


    • Good Heavens. You’re another one who likes the late 20’s for heroines. I haven’t counted, but this seems to be almost a consensus.
      This is a veritable groundswell. I’m going to have to tell my agent and editor about this the next time I see them.

      I am so delighted to ‘meet’ somebody who’s read the books, and I am beyond flattered to think of somebody reading the books more than once. What an honor.
      I do hope you like Black Hawk.

      I know there is at least one review coming. Somebody was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of a review because I was moping around Twitter, feeling discouraged with the WIP.

      I have been taking that review out and stroking it and chuckling, “Oh, my precious” over it.

    • I’m going to drop in shameless promotion by saying that Black Hawk has one section with the protagonists this age. i found that VERY hard to write.

      And it is for exactly the reasons you mention. You have to show experience and hardship, but also passion and a sense of the madness of romantic love.

  25. I cannot wait to get Black Hawk (pre-ordered on my Nook for months.) I agree with the preference for older heroines; in fact I found that one reason I liked Tessa Dare’s second trilogy far more than her first was that the first was very young women who made young women mistakes (and as I am constantly dealing with my own daughter’s teenage passages of the heart, I feel I have had enough.)
    On the “right” age for marriage; I would love to see a proper historical study of what the expectations were for age of marriage at different periods for aristocratic women. (There have been good books, including Stone’s, that look at actual age of marriage.) There is a wonderful historical study of the Lennox sisters, the five daughters of the Duke of Richmond; as I recall, one ran away at the age of 21 with a man her parents disapproved of, two were engaged at 15 and married at 15 or 16; and Lady Sarah Lennox was involved in a highly public romance with the young George III at 15, and by the age of 17 or so felt she was on the shelf and a failure, and agreed to a very infelicitous marriage that she eventually fled with a lover. So the comfort level of Jane and Elizabeth in P and P (and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, and Emma,), may be because at somewhat lower levels of society–the gentry–age expectations were different.

    • Y’know — for some reason we always expect the past, especially the Georgian era, to be decorous and restrained. But I read Tillyard’s ‘Aristocrats’ and, like , ‘Wow’. And then there’s the whole Caro Lamb thing and Emma Hamilton . . .

      I look at what folks actually got up to and I doubt things were quite as prim and proper as we sometimes assume. It occurs to me that we may look at history through the lens of the Victorian age. How much Victorian prudery do we apply to the Georgians or Tudors?

      • Its really hard to tell, isn’t it? Just look at Tillyard’s book; Lady Sarah and her (and lover’s) daughter are sent off to a small house on the family estate and socially isolated; yet her sister Emily seems to have managed to take a lover and produce at least one or two children with him before her husband dies and she marries the lover. And those are two women raised in the same family–in fact, Sarah was raised by Emily, although its their brother who decides how Sarah shall live. Of course there is the distinct implication that since the child was a girl, everyone was perfectly willing to pretend that it was her husband’s–it’s Sarah who forced the public scandal.
        Heyer’s books are full of older women who were young in the Georgian era and just scandalize the younger generation in the regency. I don’t know what she based it on…I don’t think of the Tudors as particulalry prudish, and certainly Restoration England under Charles II was anything but! And while Jane Austen’s books seem pretty proper, there is her famous letter about spotting the adulteress at the ball…she apparently wasn’t as mealy-mouthed as her descendents wanted to portray her.
        But I also think there were class distinctions, that would be interesting to tease out. Probably women with family wealth and settlements felt more free to take lovers than women who were completely dependent on their spouses for support–and perhaps working women also felt more free. It would be fascinating to study sexual mores in those periods.

      • I keep thinking there are dozens of good Romance story ideas lurking among the Lennoxes. Every once in a while I’ll read somebody and hear an echo of that Lennox reality and know the author has done her homework.

        If a woman was willing to forgo the high life of the capital and had even the smallest control over an income, she could pretty much live it up as much as she wanted.

        I like to write about folks who are outside the social restraints of the ‘ton’. They’re merchants or they’re in the anonymous middle class or they’re French and the usual rules have been suspended for the duration.

      • Judging by what I’ve read in City of Laughter by Vic Gatrell, Heyer got it right. Prudishness seems to wax and wane, and it was on the wane for quite a bit of the Georgian era. Class seems to have been part of the formula, too, as well as occupation (the artistic circles sound like the most fun to me :) There’s a wonderful engraving from 1798 called A Row in a Cock and Hen Club (a club where both men and women were allowed). I’m just dying to write (or read, that would do fine, hmm, Jo, I’m sure your take on this would be delightful) a scene in one of those. In that particular engraving, all the women have lovely bountiful breasts, and the guys are, well, just guys of all shapes and sizes. Then there’s another engraving from 1829 where the Cock and Hen Club seems much more respectable, although that may be partly because they’re not brawling…

      • I will have to track down Gatrell. I’m basing part of Pax in London, so I have to refresh my memory and a new book would hit the spo.

        The engraving sounds like Rowlandson. Is it? He’s very bawdy. Very.

        The artistic circles sound wonderfully cool. Oddly enough, the circles I feel myself drawn to are the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris. Not so much lighting up at that period otherwise, but I do love me some Pre-Raphaelites.

      • The engraving is by Richard Newton. It’s nowhere near as bawdy as some of Rowlandson’s. As Gatrell puts it, “the girls’ breasts are drawn with amiable attentiveness.”

  26. I am another huge fan of Joanna’s writing, and pre-ordered Black Hawk as soon as it was listed. When The Forbidden Rose was published I re-read The Spymaster’s Lady and My Lord and Spymaster before reading it, and I think I’m going to do the same again. You are correct, Joanna, that each can be read as a stand-alone but, because of the wonderful way you write, each book complements the others and makes the experience of reading each in the context of the others very rewarding. I love the idea of re-reading scenes seen from the viewpoint of other characters!

    As to the age I want my hero and heroine to be – I don’t mind, as long as both are mature (in character rather than in years). I think that sometimes your characters feel older than they are because they’ve lived so intensely. I am perfectly happy to read about romance at any age: for example, Mary Wesley wrote very well about older characters and their motives and feelings (she was old herself when she was first published). I’m also happy with difference in ages, again as long as both characters are mature.

    I’m looking forward to The Black Hawk – counting the days!

    • I hope you enjoy Black Hawk. I’ve tried, as I say, to make it standalone, but it is deeply interdigitated with the other books.

      I have not read Mary Wesley. Can it be she’s less known in the US than in the UK. She looks so interesting though. I will put in an order and try some of her books. An Amazon review says, “Jane Austen plus sex.”

      Sounds like my kinda read.

      • She is a very English author. The book I had in mind was Jumping the Queue, which is about a middle-aged woman, but several of her books have feisty older characters.

        Difficult to choose a favorite but I think it’s The Vacillations of Poppy Carew. Or maybe Harnessing Peacocks? There have also been some good dramatisations of her books, including one of The Vacillations of Poppy Carew starring Tara Fitzgerald.

      • I will look for these on Inter Library Loan, Because they seem the kind of books that might be in the library system. If I strike out there, it’s time to buy. *g*

  27. I’ve been waiting for Adrian & Justine’s story since your last book, and I’m so glad the The Black Hawk is finally here.
    I realized the answer to your question changed as I get older (and wiser!). My favorite for hero and heroine ages used to be early twenties, then mid- to late-twenties. I now love them to be in their thirties.

    • Oh. Now that’s a whole ‘nother question. Do we like older heroines and heroes as we get older?

      Above, there’s a cogent comment about feeling annoyed with the angst of very young love — because the house is full of teenagers emoting.

      I wonder if there are certain kinds of love we just ‘grow out of’ and may not want to revisit.

  28. I like it when they are in their late-twenties or in their thirties. I can’t stand it when the heroine just turned 18. Can’t wait to read Black Hawk! Like so many others I’ve been waiting to read that book for ages.

    • Hi Claudia —

      *wince* I did put Justine and Adrian together, in love, very young. But . .. but . . . they’re not really young, whatever the calender says.

      Anyhow, I hope you’ll give Black Hawk a chance. I do wait till my folks are entirely mature and grown up before I reward them with a happy ending. Most of it is the sheer difficulty of loving an enemy when the world is at war. I have to wait till the war is over. But some of that final HEA is only possible when they’ve healed from wounds of the past.

  29. I love them to be the “right” age, but that changes story to story. Sometimes inexperience makes for great fodder and sometimes the older heroes and heroines forgetting what they know (or ignoring) all for love make it just right. So, can I chime in with it just depends.

    • I like this. There’s room for all sorts of stories in the genre. Some folks have fairly stringent requirements for what they can enjoy reading. They may want a particular age for the hero and heroine. They may like only stories set in Scotland or the West or Modern day.

      Most folks can be lured into a less familiar setting with a really good story. That’s me. Tell me a good story and I’ll follow you anywhere.

    • I am getting the feeling that 20s and 30s is prime time for Romance. I like that age myself. As you say, they’ve had time to mature up a bit. They’re probably less constrained by the rules of society by that age.

      And a few more years make people more . . . more themselves. An eighteen-year-old may still be finding out what she is. By thirty, for better or worse, we generally know.

    • Hi Amy —

      I am delighted to talk about writing with somebody who doesn’t, or hasn’t yet, read any of the books.

      As I say above, there’s a ‘look inside the book’ feature at Amazon. You can see if you like the style of writing before you commit yourself. *g*

  30. I don’t think I have a strong opinion about ages… except I find it a little sad when the characters are older, because they’ll have less time together. But being the older woman myself, I also get a bit of a kick out of older woman stories.

    • Hi Whitney — and that pins down my own reaction. I’m willing to explore options.

      Y’know, I can pick up a book and the first page or two will tell me whether this is writing I can enjoy. I’ll flip to a place or two in the middle to check, but this is just generally confirming. The 600 words up front are pretty indicative.

      If I like the author’s voice, I’ll follow it pretty much everywhere.

  31. A “nonchalant acceptance of duty” – love that description of real men.
    So happy to see Gaudy Night on that list. Now back to my own editing… I find dialogue nuances so very difficult to do – I could definitely use a JoBProse App for that [g]

    • Five or six of Sayer’s novels are love stories. Have His Carcass, for instance and Busman’s Honeymoon.

      She is so good. So intelligent. So discerning.

      But Gaudy Night comes closest to Romance genre.

  32. I think we’re likely to get more of those older woman, younger man tropes. As I say someplace or t’other, lots of new alternatives in publishing. This is going to give us a broader range of stories. I’m pretty sure DA has a tag — ‘Older Woman/younger Man. AAR might also.

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