On Writing Series Romances by Cheryl Bolen

tbwb cb bob1Series. Nancy Drew. Miss Marple. Sam Spade. All these series of books have two things in common: their hero/heroine is a continuing character and they are mystery novels.

What I fail to understand is why in the heck romance series are so crazy popular right now. You can’t have as your hero/heroine the same continuing character (except in rare cases, like the Real Vampire series by Gerry Bartlett). A romance writer’s promise to the reader is a happily ever after for her hero/heroine. Sure, I understand the readers love to revisit characters they’ve come to love.

My first two published books were both stand-alone romance novels set in Regency England whr cb bob2(1998’s A Duke Deceived and A Lady by Chance, 2000). These books are still among my readers’ favorites, and I believe it’s because of the rich secondary romance subplots these books offered the reader. Most authors nowdays hold off on secondary romances for subsequent books in their series.

In 2002 I made the move into series with my Brides of Bath. Originally, the series was to be a trilogy. Then after those three books were successfully published by Kensington Zebra (only in mass market paperback in those days), my publisher came back and asked for a fourth book. Unfortunately, I killed off a popular character from one of my subplot romances in the first book, The Bride Wore Blue, in order tbs cb bob4to come up with a fresh new plot. That fourth book is now titled To Take This Lord. (It was originally titled An Improper Proposal, which had nothing to do with the story.)

I won’t be killing off any more popular characters again.

Now, all these years later those four Brides of Bath books have been selling very well in new packaging as print and ebooks, and readers have been asking for more connected stories. The earlier books featured a pair of twin brothers in a secondary role tttl cb bob3as friends of the hero(es). The elder of the Steffington twins is a baronet. His minutes-younger brother is a scholar of some repute.

It is the scholar who has become the hero of my new Brides of Bath book, Love in the Library. He’s my first nerd hero. And I’ve had so much fun awakening his sexual desires. I’m hoping that the mystery and characters from the previous books, along with one sexy scholar, will make for a pleasant read.

Are you a fan of the series? Which one is your favorite and why?

*GIVEAWAY! 1 Commenter/1 eBook winner!

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EXCERPT:

“Now we’re stuck in this room together,” Mr. Steffington said. “Why could you not have been my sister as we were at the Duke’s Arms last night?”

“But you are mistaken, Airy. I wasn’t actually your sister at Duke’s Arms.”

“You know what I mean.” Her gave her an I’d-like-to-gag-your-mouth-with-a-used-handkerchief look.

Catherine attempted to out stare him.

Mumbling something incoherent beneath his breath, he looked away. Her gaze followed his to the four-poster bed.

Oh, dear.

“Of course, I shall sleep on the floor,” he said.

“Of course.” She shrugged. “It does look softer than most floors. And I shall insist you take the counterpane to fold into a little mattress.”

“Can’t take your blanket.”

“Oh, yes. I shall have the bed curtains closed to hold in the warmth.”

“They will also give you privacy.”

“True.  I shouldn’t like you to see me sleeping. What if my mouth gapes open like a moron—meaning no disparagement to those poor afflicted souls.”

“I cannot imagine you ever looking anything but ladylike.”

“Oh, Airy, that is so kind of you.” That he was incapable of staying angry with her, endeared him to her. The girl who would one day capture his heart would be very fortunate. Very fortunate, indeed.

As she directed a smile at him, his lashes lowered. She was certain his compliment now embarrassed him. He was not the smooth-talking, bed hopper she’d wager his twin brother was. She rather pitied the girl who married that twin. Reflecting over her own smooth-talking, bed-hopping late husband, she was now happy that he’d been possessed of those traits. Otherwise, his demise would have been too, too painful.

She sighed. Yes, the girl who married Mr. Steffington would be most fortunate.

“You must allow me to make your bed,” she said. “I am ever so experienced. Whenever my little nephews visit me, I make them a pallet on the floor of my bedchamber.” She set about to remove the quilt from the bed, fold it lengthwise, and place it on the floor beside her own bed.

Then her gaze traveled over him from head to toe. “I fear you may be too tall.”

“My feet won’t mind hanging off.”

She started to giggle.

He cracked a smile. “Allow me to guess. You are now imagining my feet talking.”

Still giggling, she nodded.

“You are possessed of the silliest sense of humor.” He eyed the pallet. “Perhaps you shouldn’t put it so close to your bed. What if I snore?”

“I am accustomed to men snoring.” Her hand clapped around her mouth. “I didn’t mean to imply I’ve slept with multiple men. Only one, actually.”

His dark eyes flashed with mirth.

And they both laughed.

“Why did you not warm to Lord Seacrest?” she asked. “I thought he was charming.”

Mr. Steffington frowned. “You would. He shamelessly flirted with a married woman!”

“Well. . .I’m not actually a married woman.”

“He doesn’t know that!”

Mr. Steffington’s deep sense of morality touched her. She gave him a puzzled look. “I hadn’t noticed Lord Seacrest flirting. He was merely being friendly.”

“Only to you. He was jealous of me.”

“Why would he be jealous of you?”

“Because I had the good fortune to marry you.” He shrugged. “At least, that’s what the man thinks.”

“Oh, Airy, that is so sweet that you think being married to me is a good thing.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Oh.”

Seconds later, she feigned a yawn. “I suppose I am rather tired.”

His glance flicked to her valise, then to his beside it. He cleared his throat. She was coming to learn that he cleared his throat every time he was about to say something he thought might be construed as too intimate. “Would you like me to leave the room whilst you dress for bed?” He was unable to meet her gaze.

“You don’t have to leave the room.”

His gaze absently lowered to her bodice, then whipped away. “Then I vow to turn my back and close and my eyes whilst you . . . ah, remove your. . . well, you know.”

“You don’t have to close your eyes.”

Those dark eyes of his rounded. “Oh, but I must. You’re a lady, and I’m a gentleman.”

She stood. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll pull the curtains around my bed and then disrobe.”

“Capital idea!” He looked exceedingly relieved.

She went to her valise, removed her night shift, then crossed the room and climbed on top the big bed.

“Here,” he said. “I’ll close the bed curtains for you.” It was much easier for him because of his height.

When he finished, she sat on the side of the bed and listened to his footsteps move away.”Thank you, Airy. Good night, sleep tight—”

“And don’t let the bedbugs bite,” he finished.

Once she had changed into her night shift and got beneath the covers she called out to him. “I’m decent now, but I find I don’t like the dark. If you weren’t in the chamber with me, I would be terrified.”

“Should you like for me to crack open your bed curtains?”

“Please.”

“I, ah, shall need to restore my shirt first.”

How she would love to see him without his shirt. “Don’t bother. I’ll close my eyes.”

“Are you sure?”

He needn’t know if she peeked. After all, it was quite dark within the cubicle of her bed. “Certainly!”

“Forgive me. I didn’t mean to imply. . .”

“Of course you wouldn’t.”

He quietly moved across the carpet. “Where should you like the sliver of light?”

“The foot of the bed will do nicely, thank you.” And would afford a glimpse of him.

Seconds later, a buttery vertical light striped the foot of her bed, and she watched as he moved back to his pallet with the powerful majesty of a panther. Firelight glanced along the tawny length of his long, lean, and wonderfully bare torso.

Yes, she thought to herself, her breath a bit ragged, the girl who snared dear Mr. Steffington would indeed be fortunate.

Cheryl BolenAUTHOR BIO: A former journalist and English teacher, Cheryl Bolen sold her first book to Harlequin Historical in 1997. That book, A Duke Deceived, was a finalist for the Holt Medallion for Best First Book, and it netted her the title Notable New Author. Since then she has published more than 20 books with Kensington/Zebra, Montlake, Love Inspired Historical and independently.

Her 2005 book One Golden Ring won the Holt Medallion for Best Historical, and her 2011 gothic historical My Lord Wicked was awarded Best Historical in the International Digital Awards, the same year one of her Christmas novellas was chosen as Best Historical Novella by Hearts Through History. Her books have been finalists for other awards, including the Daphne du Maurier, and have been translated into seven languages. 

Social Media: Blog / Website / Facebook

‘Love in the Library’ by Cheryl Bolen

litl cbSTORY: The Beauty and the Scholar…

Certain the “smart” Steffington twin is the person who can help her recover her late husband’s nearly priceless stolen Chaucer manuscript, Catherine Bexley tearfully persuades the scholar to assist her. A deal is struck. She’s particularly pleased that the Doctor of Letters is not interested in seducing her because she’s finished with men (owing to her late husband’s multitude of unfortunate alliances with… doxies). Regaining the manuscript and its subsequent sale will give her independence to ensure she never has to marry again.

Once he learns the poor, delicate widow is in danger of losing her heavily mortgaged home if they cannot find the valuable hologram, Dr. Melvin Steffington vows to do everything in his power to restore the rare Canterbury Tales to her. It’s obvious the pretty little thing needs a man to help her. Not normally the twin to take note of pretty little things, Melvin can’t help but to observe that Mrs. Bexley’s physical appearance is much like the beauties so admired by his twin brother.

He hadn’t counted on the fact he would have to pose as her husband as they race against the banker’s ticking clock. He hadn’t counted on the mysterious thief attempting to kill him. Most of all, he hadn’t counted on how close he would become to the lovely widow or how the kissing of said widow would become the most pleasant experience in his entire seven and twenty years…

REVIEW: Mrs. Catherine Bexley, at the young age of 27, is just out of mourning for her husband.  He left her a home which is nice and comfortable.  He also left her a truly valuable possession that has just been stolen.  It is a 400-year old early edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one of only 3 in existence.  Unfortunately, her husband did not manage their money well and this book was to be Catherine’s nest egg that she could sell and be able to live a comfortable life.  Now that it is gone, she faces losing her home.

Twins, Elvin and Melvin Steffington are identical in looks but extremely different in personalities.  At the age of 27, first-born, Sir Elvin, is a Baronet and second born, Melvin, while being just a Mr. is extremely intelligent and has achieved his Doctor of Letters.  As he must earn his living, his goal is to work in a private library.  Elvin is a bit of a “lie-abed” man about town while Melvin is a man whose nose is always in a book and knows nothing about women.

The Steffington twins are good friends with Mrs. Bexley, and when she confides in Melvin about the loss of the Chaucer, they agree that he will help her try to find it.  She will then sell it and give him a percentage of the sale for helping her find it.  So, off they go on adventures in search of places where they think it might be.

As a thorn in her side, the extremely rich, yet obnoxiously boring braggart, Lord Longford, is constantly around trying to court Mrs. Bexley.

The relationship between Melvin and Catherine is just adorable.  Melvin is such an innocent that I simply wanted to give him a hug.  The comical parts of this book will have the reader chuckling often.  I would like to add that while I’m not a prude, I found it so refreshing to read a really good novel for a change that is what I call “clean.”  It’s truly representative of the time period.  I have not had the opportunity to read Cheryl Bolen’s novels before, but I can honestly say that she has risen high up on my list of favorite authors!

This is book #5 in The Brides of Bath series and is available today.

*Connie for b2b.

*ARC provided by the author.

‘Under the Mistletoe’ by Jill Shalvis

UTM JSSTORY: There’s no place like home for the holidays. And the Lucky Harbor Bed & Breakfast is bursting with festive lights and good cheer. But for Mia, Christmas is turning out to be anything other than merry and bright. Her recent break-up with her boyfriend Nick has made her return bittersweet. But then a surprise arrives, when Nick follows her to town bearing gifts-and asking for forgiveness.

Nick grew up without a family of his own so he’s overwhelmed by the love that Mia receives from all her relatives, gathered together to celebrate the season. Under their watchful eyes, Nick finds earning back her trust the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. If he succeeds, he will receive the greatest gift of all, Mia’s love for a lifetime.

REVIEW: I am sure that my lack of familiarity with Jill Shalvis and her Lucky Harbor series contributed to my full enjoyment of this story.

It was a bit harder for someone like myself to fully connect with already established community and family dynamic and although the story was well told and can stand on its own, I believe if read in order, I would have enjoyed it better.

The characters of Mia and Nick as well as the situation they find themselves in, were all a bit rushed for my liking. But then, this was a short novella, and there’s so much an author can do.

Mia and Nick had different backgrounds as adopted  children, and while she thrived in her family, Nick had a harder time of it. I wanted to feel Nick’s pain of being a neglected child, but didn’t manage because there was very little description of it. Yes I was told that he’d moved back and forth between foster homes, but there was just not enough of ‘feel’ into it.

Having past characters pop in and out of scenes was also distracting and confusing at times. Carlos was someone who I didn’t like much, but I bet you that the followers of this series were happy to see him appear. The same goes with the rest of Mia’s extended family, Ford and Tara, Mia’s biological parents; Chloe and Sawyer, the bride and groom of the wedding Mia’s attending.

In the end the story, for me at least, was just okay. For all you Jill Shalvis fans this will be a short, sweet, hot and sensual little novella that reunites a few characters you might have missed.

Book provided by NetGalley