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!


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: and

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