Day 13 Jennifer Ashley – Long Live Romance

First Romance Between the Pages

wildwolfcoverI recently attended the Romance Writers of America national conference. During the awards ceremony on Saturday night, we were shown an interview of a few authors who were asked to talk about the book that made them fall in love with romances. Many named a Kathleen Woodiwiss or Bertrice Small novel, or another of the early classics of the modern romance.

If they’d have interviewed me, I would have answered differently. The first book that made me fall in love with romance is one you wouldn’t expect. It was an early work (first published in 1924) of Agatha Christie: The Man in the Brown Suit.

While classified as a mystery, this book is in truth a fast-past romantic adventure. I’d never read a romance novel when I picked it up, and I’d only read Christie’s Poirot novels prior to that. So I was startled and then entranced as I dove into the story of Anne Beddingfeld, an ordinary English girl who, when she finds herself alone at her father’s death, does not go meekly into tame employment a young woman of her day would find, or search for a “safe” husband. No, she immediately becomes embroiled in a murder mystery, and spends the last of her meager savings to jump on a ship to Africa to follow one of the suspects. Stolen diamonds, murder, kidnapping, and attempts on her life follow her, but Anne is undaunted in her pursuit of the “Man in the Brown Suit.”

The “Man” turns out to be the heroic type—strong, gorgeous, athletic, running from a troubled past, and willing to make sacrifices to clear his name, not to mention save Anne time and again (she saves his life a couple times too, so they’re even). Of course, along the way, they fall madly in love!

At the time, I read only whodunit murder mysteries, dark thrillers, or high fantasy novels, but this book, unexpectedly, reached out and found the romantic in me. I read it time and again. The book also has wry humor, a cast of fun characters, and a travelogue of Anne’s journey through South Africa and Botswana (then called Bechuanaland) north to Victoria Falls.

the-man-in-the-brown-suit The novel is nearly a hundred years old now, and filled with clichés and stereotypes, but the underlying romance of it stayed with me. I found the same kind of adventure, humor, global travel, and romance in one of my favorite movies, Romancing the Stone.

So my true introduction to romance came from an unusual source (I had no idea that Man in the Brown Suit wasn’t a straightforward detective novel until I read it—Poirot was nowhere in sight). But I was delighted!

Since then I’ve always been attracted to adventure, danger, mystery, and intrigue mixed with a romance of two people willing to die for each other—but bantering and making me laugh or cry every step of the journey. It’s no surprise, then, that the first romance novels I wrote were pirate / Regency mash-up adventures.

And that my current historical and paranormal romance novels have subplots of intrigue and danger. Long live romantic adventure!

Recommendations:

Joanna Bourne’s Spymaster series: Historical romantic adventure. Dangerous men, and women perfectly able to face danger alongside them. Start with The Spymaster’s Lady.

Anne Gracie: The Autumn Bride; The Winter Bride (and more of the series to come). Not adventures, but Regency romance featuring an unusual collection of young women striving together to make their way in the world. Anne Gracie had me when the heroine of The Autumn Bride swings through an attic window to rob a house . . . what ensues is not what you’d expect.


Questions For The Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

Though I love reading about adventure, I’m not very adventurous myself. 🙂 On the other hand, I’ve been across the Pacific Ocean on a freighter, spent my honeymoon in rural Ireland and my first wedding anniversary in Switzerland. I’ve ridden trains along the Danube to Vienna, and lived in a tiny farmhouse in the middle of Bavaria. I’ve strolled along the Ginza in Tokyo, and watched the cos-play at Harajuku (also in Tokyo). I’ve walked along the streets of St. James’s and Mayfair in London, picturing those Regency men and ladies who fill the pages of my books. I settled down in the Wild West, where summers are harsh, and where the bad boys of the West really did exist and were chillingly violent (the modern-day ones still are). I find inspiration from all my travels, in all corners of the world. There are stories everywhere. I see it all, store it up, and bring it out in my novels.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I was eight years old. I loved reading, went to the library at least once a week, and always had books on my nightstand. It occurred to me one day that the people who wrote the books had taken “let’s pretend,” and written it down. I took out a sheaf of papers, fashioned them with folds and staples into a “book,” and started writing down my make-believe. One day, I thought, I’ll have a book filled with my stories on a library shelf with my name on the cover.JenniferAshley_PirateNextDoor_200px From that day forward, I was always writing. I became aware, at a very young age, of what publishers were out there and who published what. I have always written, not only to entertain myself, but with an eye to publication. After a long, long, long time, I started seriously striving to make my dream come true, and finally, after much perseverance, it did!

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

It was The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I don’t know if it changed my habits or made me successful, but the key messages in the book—1) put aside your pre-conceived notions and expectations of the world and examine it anew; and 2) strive to be a better person, instead of getting caught in the “you must be rich and famous or you’re a loser!” trap, were ones I needed to hear at that time in my life. They made me take a hard look at what I wanted and bettered my relationships with those around me. I was stuck in a mire, and reading that book freed my mind and helped me move on.

Jennifer is generously giving away one copy of either The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (historical romance) or Wild Wolf (paranormal romance) to one U.S. winner (entry below) and one copy to an international winner (enter here). Each winner can choose either title, in either print or e-book format.


JenniferAshleyNew York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ashley has published 83 novels and novellas since 2002. She writes paranormal and historical romance as Jennifer Ashley; urban fantasy and paranormal romance as Allyson James, and historical (Regency) mystery as Ashley Gardner. Her hobbies include building dollhouses and dollhouse miniatures, playing guitar, cooking, and traveling. More about her works at her websites: www.jennifersromances.com and www.gardnermysteries.com

Buy Jennifer’s Books:

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  • lisa

    Thanks for your cooments. Love your Mackenzie series and your recommendations!

  • Debbie Oxier

    Thank you. Would love to win one of your books.

  • Angie Frawley

    My mom also taught me the love that was to read Agatha Christie!..But I’m a die hard historical romance fan now!!..Gotta say Lord Ian is still my fav!!

  • Kathleen O

    Thanks for the chance of getting to know more about you and your books.

  • Meghan

    You’ve a new author for me, so I can’t wait to read your books. Just the cover of Wild Wolf is intriguing 🙂

  • Patty Vasquez

    Ian MacKenzie is a great character. I teach in a school that includes kids on the autism spectrum and I really appreciate how well you describe him and the fact that he gets his HEA. I read one of my mom’s numerous horse books when I was in my teens, Bold Venture by D.V.S. Jackson, and that forever confirmed my love of romance. I have an old library copy of the book on my keeper shelf now. It’s very dated, but still gives me a thrill when I read my favorite parts.

  • LisaVH

    Hmmm…you have me intrigued with Man in the Brown Suit. I may need to pick that one up. I love how one book can lead you to something completely new and unexpected. I have jumped genres a few times that way.

  • Sue G.

    I’m jealous of all your traveling. Hubby and I hope to travel more once all the kids are out of college! Only 5 more years! 🙂

  • Kim

    Love your books ; )

  • Kristen J.

    Your Travel sounds so fun! I’d love to travel all over the world some day.

  • Debbie Fuller

    I love your books. Your characters are so unique and I love the adventure and the romance. Keep writing.

  • May

    I love the MacKenzie clans. It was so much fun to read!

  • Jennifer Ashley

    Thanks everyone for your comments so far! I do recommend Man in the Brown Suit–it’s fun and a little campy. 🙂 I love travelling and hope to do more. Writing takes up much time these days!

  • Sandy Porter

    Wow, guess now I will have to find Man In A Brown Suit!! I have read some of Agatha Christie’s books might have read this one but if I did I don’t remember it. Love learning more about the authors in this Read A Romance Month. Thanks so much for your insight!!

  • Sandy Xiong

    The first book that made me fall in love with romance was Julie Garwood’s The Wedding. I have never heard of The Man in a Brown Suit or its author. I will have to look it up now and add it to my reading list. I adore your historical romance series though…one of my favorite! I have yet to give your paranormal romance a try though…

    • Jennifer Ashley

      Definitely try Agatha Christie! Everyone should read at least one of her books at some time.

  • Jennifer, I love your Shifters Unbound series! Great stories and wonderful characters!! Please, send me Eric… 😉

  • Sheila M

    Thanks for your discussion of The Man in the Brown Suit. I have added it to by TBR pile! I love Agatha Christie but have never read this.

    • Jennifer Ashley

      It’s one of her more obscure works, I believe the fourth novel she ever wrote. Most people focus on her Poirot and Miss Marple books. But that’s too bad, because Agatha Christie had a great imagination! Some of her lesser known short stories could be classified as horror–very creepy. 🙂

  • oh, i love learning all these things about “my” authors. 😀 J – you rock!

  • Kim

    I’m enjoying the Mackenzie series. The first romance book I enjoyed was Shanna.

  • Sheryl N

    Just want to say that I think that The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie is my favorite all time book and I reread it often. I can’t get enough of the Mackenzies!!

  • cheryl c.

    I completely agree with your book recommendations. I have enjoyed both Anne Gracie’s and Joanna Bourne”s books.

  • alisha woods

    love Anne Gracie books too. Have THe Winter Bride on my TBR shelf

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I’m a fan of Anne Gracie, too! And The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is on so many “favorite” lists! Thanks for your post!

  • Ellen

    I love seeing what brings other people to romance books. I wouldn’t have thought of Agatha Christie. (My first were books of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.) Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Glittergirl

    Ah Jennifer, it’s no wonder your books are so fun and different. I have been a big fan since I first discovered you with a pirate book and have been busy collecting ALL of your backlist as you are THAT GOOD! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next :D. Thank you for days of reading pleasure!

    • Glittergirl

      Oh and I think The Madness Of Lord Ian MacKenzie is the best book you’ve written so far!

  • Elizabeth Gray

    I haven’t read many of Jennifer Ashley’s work, but I loved the Immortals series, with Joy Nash, and others. I have every one of Agatha Christie’s books leather bound. Hope to one day read more of them.

  • Judy C

    I love your books.

  • Emmel

    Yes, Joanna Bourne and Anne Gracie also write wonderful books, as you do!

  • Ruth Lee

    I agree with Jennifer, if there is a romance in a story (book, movie, music, etc.) I’ll read, enjoy it, share it! I remember watching Terminator and sighing after the love scene saying isn’t that lovely and my hubby and son looking at me like I’ve lost my mind or I’m not really watching the movie 🙂 Romance/love/HEA just makes me happy.

  • Barbara E.

    I’ve read quite a bit of Agatha Christie too, they’re wonderful books. The first romance I can remember reading is a Georgette Heyer book I found at the library. After the first one, I read every one I could find and fell in love with romance. That was 45 years ago.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I’ve read your books as Jennifer Ashley but I hadn’t discovered any of your others…I’ll be checking those out soon for sure! I’m intrigued by your description of The Man in the Brown Suit as well too, I’ve read most of the Miss Marple books but I hadn’t read many others by Agatha Christie. It sounds delightful 🙂 Thanks for the great post today, I really enjoyed your perspective on romance.

  • donnas

    People don’t realize how many non romance books really do have a strong element of romance. I love it, and every time I read one that has it in it and is not classified a romance I get very happy

  • Martha B

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the books Mackenzie & McBride family stories. Now with Daniel Mackenzie’s story, I look forward to more books with that ‘younger’ generation. So many possibilities! Thank you.

  • Kathryn Trask

    Anne Gracie is a great recommendation. I agree the heroine was an amazing climber! Thanks for the great books you also write.

  • Joan Varner

    Romantic adventure is always fun to read and it can be found now in all sub-genres of romance which I just love. Thank you for your post.

  • Glenda

    I’m amused by how many books like The Man in the Brown Suit have romance at their heart but are not ‘officially’ romances. Thanks for the insights. 🙂

  • M Kuxhaus

    I’ve read (and enjoyed) The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. I had my library request the next in the series through interlibrary loan, but it never came! There was some nonsense about they could only request one book (for the entire library and patrons) per week, and then the county had to give the library to the school because they couldn’t afford it any longer, and the school fired the librarian so the superintendent could put in someone he liked – so my request was probably mislaid. So much drama! I realize the obvious solution would be to purchase Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage for myself, but I have so many books (already purchased) on my to-be-read pile, that I can’t justify it to myself yet.

  • mariannewestrich

    So good to learn about new-to-me authors. Thanks!

  • Ellie

    I’m curious to try historical romance. It will be a new adventure for me!

  • Stephanie M.

    Thank you for your article. I will add you (and all your other pen names) to my TBR list.

  • Tammy H

    Thanks for the chance!

  • Sara E.

    A friend recommended the MacKenzie series to me and I spent an enjoyable weekend reading them all. Love the characters and I’m eagerly anticipating more stories.

    • Stephanie Stevens Chalbeck

      “Ditto”

  • Laurie W G

    Wow! What an exciting life you lead, lot’s of material for your books.
    I would love to try your historical romance, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie.

    Thanks for the recommendations too.

  • Donna

    So interesting that you’ve talked about The Man in the Brown Suit; I just read that book for the first time a few weeks ago! Of course I loved it! My first HR was also fairly adventurous – Gwen Bristow’s Celia Garth. Celia ends up spying for the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Excellent post; thank you!

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    How interesting that an Agatha Christie book introduced you to romance. I assume the reason so many mention Kathleen Woodiwiss or Beatrice Small is an age thing. They and Johanna Lindsay were some the first to write novels defined as romance. Enjoyed reading your post.

  • Jen C

    I first ventured into romance after reading Charlaine Harris’ Dead Until Dark. The romance line in that book (and the series) hooked me and I wanted more!

  • Judy Goodnight

    I’m a big Agatha Christie fan and loved The Man in the Brown Suit as well. It’s been years since I read it; must be time to dust it off & open it again!

  • rebecca moe

    I love the Mackenzie series! Thanks so much for writing! 🙂

  • Janie McGaugh

    Like you, I really discovered a love for romance in an indirect way one summer when I didn’t have anything else to do and got into my father’s and brother’s Zane Gray and Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and read them over and over. It wasn’t until sometime the following fall that I got my hands on my first Georgette Heyer book, and that’s when I fell in love with the romance genre.

  • Ann Mettert

    I always loved Agatha Christie too. 🙂

  • MK

    I’m a voracious reader, but I think I would be a terrible writer. Cheers to you for writing such wonderful books!

  • Erin F

    thanks for such a fun post! I’ve never read Agatha Christie and now I’m definitely going to have to correct that 🙂

  • Cindy from TX

    I love Agatha Christie too! She was one of my first favorite authors and I’m still in love with her books today.

  • Adaffern

    I loved Agatha Christie’s books but don’t remember The Man in the Brown Suit, it’s going in my TBR pile.

  • librarypat

    I have enjoyed both your historical and paranormal books. I have read quite a few of Christie’s books, but not THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT. Now I have another book on my Must Read List.

  • Gretchen

    I love dollhouses! I grew up building them with my grandfather. After college I had time to get back to it and tried out some furniture too. They turned out pretty well, but then I had kids and ran out of space for the building of them, as well as the time. When my kids are out of the house again, I will get back to it!