Day 15 Jennifer Ashley – Falling In Love With Romance

No Purple Prose In Sight

Wicked DeedsI used to loathe romance novels. Not that I’d ever read any. Why should I? They’re all trash, aren’t they?—“sex books” full of purple prose with stupid covers. Whenever I went to a bookstore, I’d even turn my head to avoid looking at the romance section, thinking “why on earth would anyone read those?”

I’d been an aspiring author all my life. I wanted to write fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries. I started noticing that whatever I wrote included a couple who had adventures together, or solved a mystery together, fell in love, and lived happily ever after. I enjoyed that.

In the books I read, however, while some had side romances in them, the romantic elements never lasted. Couples might be together by the end of book 1, but in book 2, they were apart again. Often one half the couple (usually the woman) was killed or otherwise died tragically. Or she ran off with someone else, or went to “find herself”, leaving the hero alone and cynical. The gist was “love doesn’t last past the passion; don’t bother.”

Hey, what happened to my happily ever after? As a reader, I felt cheated. I’d rooted for this couple for 300-500 pages, and that’s it? Oh, please.

Also well-meaning people gave me advice (bad advice, it turned out) that scifi, fantasy, or mystery books with too much romance didn’t sell. There is monumental evidence out there that they were wrong, but at the time, I believed everything I was told.

Well, I said, I’ll have write romances to get my need for romance out of my system. I’ll stick with historicals, because that’s close to fantasy. (At the time, paranormal romance didn’t exist or . . ahem . . . didn’t sell). I’ll write a few romances, get published and get famous. It can’t be that hard.

Tiger MagicConfident that I’d solved all my problems I went to the library and plucked a few historical romance novels off the shelves. I admit, the first couple I chose I didn’t like, which was discouraging. But when I went back to the library and looked again, I discovered how much width and breadth the genre had. There was so much to choose from! I picked out some romances labeled “Regencies,” because I loved Jane Austen and her period of history. (I had never heard of Georgette Heyer). Two of the books I picked up were by Jo Beverley, two by Mary Jo Putney.

And I loved them!! I found well-drawn, three-dimensional characters with believable problems, settings that were historically accurate and commented on problems of the day. There were love scenes in some of these books, which were well-written, believable, and emotional—no purple prose in sight.

I happily read more books in the same vein, and I discovered scores of wonderful authors whose writing and storytelling was engaging, strong, vivid, and just plain good. The authors I found included Mary Balogh, Amanda Quick, Laura Kinsale, Christina Dodd, Eloisa James, Betina Krahn, Megan Chance, and Barbara Samuel.

These writers told heartwarming, heartbreaking, realistic, historically accurate, engaging, emotional, and often funny tales of couples finding love. I laughed, cried, and cheered these people on. I started writing my own books (the first few were absolutely terrible!), and I couldn’t stop. I’d fallen in love with romance.

From then on, I never looked back. I fell in love first with historical romance, then when paranormal romance (romances that include supernatural elements such as vampires and shape shifters), I was thrilled to be able to pair fantasy and romance. I started paranormal series in addition to my ongoing historical romances.

What I’d like to emphasize was that my first impressions of romance were entirely wrong. I was so very sure that I, with my graduate degrees and love of literature, knew that all romances were “trash,” without bothering to read a word of them.

Romances are so much more. They come in many flavors, from full-blown comedies to angsty stories covering serious issues. The settings range from those rich in historical detail to small towns in modern America to gritty inner cities. Characters can be historical aristocrats, modern businessmen and businesswomen, ranchers, FBI agents, small-town cops, bikers, or vampires and shape-shifters just trying to make a living and keep the big bad evil off their backs. The heroines are not victims existing only to be rescued, or appendages to be gotten rid of in book two—they have careers, families, goals, ambitions, friends. You know, like real people.

So I say to all romance dissers out there—try it. If you don’t like the first book you pick up, try another, and another. I bet there’ll be something out there you’ll like. And who knows, you might just fall in love.


A new historical romance author whose first books have been released in the past year or so is Juliana Gray. Her books are witty, well-written, and a little bit different, with good twists on classic stories or well-known tropes.

A new e-published author writing in paranormal and building quite a following is Carrie Ann Ryan. She publishes her own wolf shapeshifter novellas and books.

Questions for Jennifer:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

That would be my cats. They are messy, smelly, rambunctious, and only adorable when they’re asleep. But we rescued them from a bad situation, they’re happy now, and they’re staying.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

Chaos. or Diary of a Mad Writer. Not sure who would play me, but they’d have to be able to act geeky and have messy hair.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

Too many to choose. I’ve been very blessed to have wonderful people in my life who give to me all the time.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

I’d pick The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, with Cameron and Ainsley in the billiards room, when he asks her how many buttons of her bodice she’ll agree to undo for him.


Jennifer is generously donating one  audio book CD of Tiger Magic to a U.S. reader and one signed print copy of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzieone to an International reader (International readers enter here). U.S. readers, to enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 15 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Jennifer AshleyJennifer Ashley is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 70 novels and novellas in romance, mystery, and urban fantasy, under the names Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James, and Ashley Gardner (mysteries). Her books have won numerous awards, including Romance Writers of America’s RITA award for best romance novels, and the RT Reviewers Choice award for best historical mystery. Her books have also been translated into more than a dozen different languages. Jennifer lives in the sunny Southwest. Learn more about Jennifer’s books at;; and

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  • Melanie Backus

    I like “happy ever afters ” and falling in love.

  • Laurie W G

    People are always telling me to read other genres besides romance. I have tried them. However, I always return to my romances. I need the HEA! My free time to read is my escape. I want a positive ending. I can read the news for scary encounters or depressing details.

    I’m glad you discovered a love for romances. You listed several authors that I faithfully follow. I will check out your books soon.

  • Kim Cornwell

    I’ve never read any paranormal romances, buy I can always start. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Meredith Richardson

    I seem to go through phases when it comes to romance book genres. I’ll spend months stuck on historical then jump to paranormal and then I’ll *blush* become obsessed with pregnancy and stories involving babies… what can I say they are so adorable hehe

  • brhill2010

    The one thing I love about romance is that you can have an adventure and not leave your living room or where you are reading. I love detail that a author gives and the background in the stories. Thank you for being a romance writer!!

  • PJ Ausdenmore

    One of the things I love about romance is that there’s something for everyone and for avid readers like myself, something for every mood. I’m so glad you finally gave romance a try, Jennifer. I can’t imagine my library without the Mackenzies!

  • Nancy Huddleston

    Love your books. The paranormal one’s are my favorite.

  • Britney Adams

    I love happily ever after!

  • Funny story! I have already bought the first books of your Dragon serie, and I’ll read it soon! Thank you for the international offer!

  • Mary McCoy

    Thanks for your stories! I agree with you re the billiards room bodice buttons scene!

  • Kareni

    I’ve enjoyed your historical books, Ms. Ashley; my favorite is The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. More recently, I’ve started following your Shifters series. Thanks for all the pleasure you’ve given me!

  • Anne

    Thank you for sharing!!

  • Erlinda Mejia

    Historical romance was my first love! Now it’s all romance. Whatever you feel like reading, paranormal, vampires, military settings, adventure, mystery, investigative or comedy, it’s all in romance books. Thank you for providing so much enjoyment!

  • Karin Anderson

    I’m still insanely in love with Ian, so The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is my favorite book of yours. 😀

  • Nicole Fortuna

    I used to read a lot more in the mystery/thriller genre but I was never satisfied because there was no HEA. I gave in and started buying romance steadily ten years ago. Now I feel satisfied when I finish a book!

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I was a literature major in college, but I don’t remember actually being exposed to romance novels at the time. When I first started reading romance, I only read contemporary, but once I read my first historical I was hooked!

  • Sandi in OH

    Unlike many what I call book snobs, you were will to read one of “those dirty romance books.” I had a friend like that. I always knew she looked down of my reading material and I didn’t care. Now she reads romances. Go figure.

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I’ve always enjoyed reading any type of book, but I love romance novels. If it doesn’t have romance, it’s just not complete!

  • Michelle Fidler

    I have cats too and they sometimes make messes. Your cats have a happily ever after, too, if they were rescued. I love mysteries (cozy and historical). The romance part is secondary, if any, but I do like the characters to have happy relationships. In one of the Teashop Mysteries by Laura Childs, Theodosia’s former boyfriend, Jory, wound up murdered and his body was put in an aquarium! Before that I had skipped a book and didn’t know that they broke up, so that also surprised me. In another cozy mystery series the guy decided to give the girl some space (which she didn’t want) because her ex-fiance showed up and he thought she still had feelings for him. I guess they put in drama so it’s more like a T.V. show.
    I like Regencies too and some contemporary romance, but mostly historicals. I like paranormals, mostly Y.A. (vampires!) and ghosts in cozy mysteries.
    Thanks for offering the book on C.D. instead of Audible. I don’t own a computer so I can’t download stuff.

  • Ann Mettert

    How many times have we heard don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Should also say–or genre. I always said I didn’t like fantasy until Harry. Tho I did actually try it sometimes. 🙂

  • Absolutely love your books! Thanks for sharing. I did the same thing with romance, and I remember scoffing at my 11th grade lit teacher for saying she read romance novels. Then I fell into the genre by accident and now I can’t imagine what I did before 🙂

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Hi Jennifer, your journey to Romance really resonated with me because I also have a highly academic background. However, after so many years in academia, I felt burned out on “fine” literature and had to give up reading for sometime. Romance brought me back! No apologies and no regrets; life is too short for only sad stories.

  • BookLady

    Great post! It is very interesting to learn what inspires an author to write in a particular genre. I have always love reading romance, both historical and paranormal.

  • Polly

    Well…. Jennifer might THINK it is Cam and Ainsley, but really, Ian and Beth’s conversation about love and desire, and the scene that follows, in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, is a scene I love. And it has buttons…

  • Eileen Wetterstrom

    I love the pairing of historical romances and the paranormal. And of course, the happily ever after ending is a must. I’ll keep your books in mind as I read. Thanks for your essay.

  • Pamby50

    I will be adding you and the book you recommended to my list of new authors to explore.

  • Larena Hubble

    I love how you became a romance writer. I love your books.

  • Allison Siegel

    I love your shifter series. Can’t wait for more!!!

  • Elizabeth Gray

    I was first introduced to Jennifer Ashley with the Immortals series she wrote with a few other authors. Loved the series, and wish there were more. Hope to read more of Jennifer’s books in the future.

  • Jen C

    I love love love how varied the romance genre can be. I can read a serious contemporary, a funny contemporary, a western, or a regency, or one in a vampire universe, one in a totally different vampire universe, one in a different universe. And ones I couldn’t have even thought of if I tried. 🙂

  • MaryC

    Love The Madness of Ian Mackenzie – have it in print and audio.

  • rebecca moe

    Love the Mackenzies! They’re one of my favorite fictional families 🙂

    I wish more people would just give romances a chance before dissing them.

  • Ann

    I, for one, am really happy that you tried the “trashy” romance!!

  • glittergirl54

    Oh Jennifer, I am sooooooo glad you fell in love with romance =D. You; Hannah Howell and Shelly Laurenston/G A Aiken are my favorite authors! Your writing satisfies all my reading needs — historical, paranormal, sci fy, and erotic romance. You write it all and write it well. Thanks so much giving in to reading romance and for not giving up trying to write it. You’ve excelled at it and you have a forever fan in me.

  • Marcy Shuler

    I’m glad you fell in love with romance because I adore your Mackenzie series!

  • Melissa Sullivan

    Hi, Great post! I loved your first book in the Mckenzie series. I’m trying to get my older sister to read romances. I keep sleeping her romance books and calling them under genre’s. For the person who claims, they’ll never read a romance book i’ve gotten her to read 2 so far. hehehe I’m hoping she’ll one day wise up and see the joy of romances.

  • Glenda

    The first romance I ever read was a truly horrible bodice ripper I ‘borrowed’ from my mother when I was about 15. I don’t remember the author, I just know that it was so badly written with such an awful story that I was put off all romances for over 20 years. I ended up giving them another shot in part because I noticed that some of my favorite SciFi and Fantasy novels had a strong romance as an integral part of the story. Nice to know I’m not the only person who has done so.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Glad to see another romance fan was procured and is now a successful author 🙂 I’m making it my personal mission to convert as many people to romance lovers as possible! Great post…looking forward to checking out your books.

  • Dana Shoulders

    I totally agree that you have to try quite a few until you can determine what you like. Kind of like kissing a lot of frogs, but much more fun :).

  • Very well put! I too wasn’t always a reader of romance, but once I started, it’s something I really enjoy now.

  • leah g

    I love reading stories of other past romance cynics. I love that you did such a turn and write it now also!

  • Sue G.

    I love Carrie Ann Ryan. She is so funny and I wish I had 10% of her energy. It amazing me all that she does!

  • Cheryl Hastings

    I love that scene with Cameron and Ainsley!!

  • Ketta Peters

    I was aware of your shape-shifters, but I wasn’t aware of your historical romances. The McKenzies sound wonderful.

    • WONDERFUL! The Seduction of Elliot McBride was one of my favorite books in a year of stellar historicals! xoxo

  • MooMoo Cake

    Before I discovered romance novels, I would cherish the few pages describing even a hint of romance that i found in every other book or so that I read. I loved the HEAs but I also wanted more pages on the devel

  • Janie McGaugh

    I think most people (men, too) would enjoy reading at least some type of romance novel, if they’d give it a chance. I had gotten away from reading romances for a number of years (going through a science fiction/fantasy phase), and my father was the one who got me back into reading them by giving me a Mary Jo Putney book he’d picked up and read (and enjoyed). The reasons for his picking it up are somewhat convoluted, but my father, who was an English professor, would read almost anything.

    • Janie, I LOVE this comment! xoxo Mary Jo Putney is posting this month, too. I’m going to have to try to get her to see this…

  • Barbara E.

    I loved the post. That’s why I love romance novels so much because there are so many sub-genres available, there’s something for everyone. My myself, I read quite a few different ones, it’s fun to have variety. 😀

  • Bernadette Long

    You had such an interesting start in the business! I’m glad that you came around to romance, in all of its forms.

  • Katy M

    I’ve never looked down on romance, but I do remember being too embarrassed as a teenager to go into the romance section. I would sneak any romance my mother had, but they weren’t always what I wanted. So I would look for Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, Linda Howard and Sandra Brown books in the mystery and fiction section.
    It was at a used bookstore that I discovered historicals by Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught. They even had some new titles one from an author named Eloisa James. When the used bookstore didn’t have all the titles I was looking for, I finally braved that romance section at the bookstore – and found other titles by authors I thought were mystery/fiction writers! LOL. I haven’t looked back.
    By the time my local Borders closed down, I didn’t think twice about asking
    employees for books with romantic titles and covers depicting characters with
    their clothes half off – and I didn’t take care to put the cover face down on
    the checkout counter anymore either.
    I’ve been reading your books for less than a year and have only read your historicals so far, but I love them so much. I also love paranormal romance so your Shifters Unbound series is on my wish list (come on library!). I hope you never stop writing romance!

  • Patty Vasquez

    I loved the Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. I work in a school with students who are on the autism spectrum. I truly appreciate how special- and normal- the kids are. Thank you for giving Lord Ian a happily ever after.

  • Kim

    I love that story of how you came to love romance! I know quite a few people who don’t understand or share my passion for romance novels.

  • Rebecca Berus

    I enjoyed hearing about how you fell in love with romance and I really enjoy your Shifters Unbound series. It’s great!

  • Stephanie Fredrick

    I hate the when the HEA seems to disappear in book 2 or 3. So many series have lost me because suddenly one of the couple changes and needs space.
    I have loved your books and its fun to see how you came about writing your romances.

  • Tin

    Hi, Jennifer! This was a wonderful piece. I especially loved it when you said “If you don’t like the first book you pick up, try another, and another.” — I think the romance genre is so varied that there is bound to be a book/story out there that they will relate to and will resonate with them.

    I’m a life-long romance reader and I’ve enjoyed seeing the genre grow.

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I discovered paranormal romances a few years ago and I am hooked. I especially enjoy shifter stories. Thank you for so any good books, I enjoy both your historical and paranormal.