Day 22 Grace Burrowes – Embracing The Romance of Genre

Romantic Complications….

I’m often asked how I can read romance decade after decade, as if it’s the same as reading the back of a cereal box—and the same cereal box. “Romance is a formula,” I’m told, and that’s to some extent true.Traitor Final Cover

Of course, all genre fiction has an element of formula, that why it’s, um, genre fiction.

I’ve tried mysteries, and while the good ones have a wonderful dramatic arc—I need to know who did it!—I miss the big character arcs of the romance novel. I’ve tried thrillers and many have terrific forward momentum and interesting characters, but those characters aren’t transformed significantly between explosions, averted wars, and derailed trains.

I’ve tried classic and popular literature, and while the prose might be lovely, and the themes profound, I also want that happily ever after.

I’ve tried sci-fi, and found some exquisite world building, but again, the character arcs are often not so dramatic, and—dare I say it—the prose is sometimes not on my wavelength.

I love all books. I love the sight, smell and feel of a book. I love that readers come in all varieties and I’ve found delightful reads in many genres.

But a well written romance… wow. I get my big character arc, usually times two, because a romance is not about one character who occasionally has some frolic and detour with an intimate partner (though I do find those scenes in other genres).  The romances I love are about two people whose shared love inspires the courage necessary to grow and change.

That shared love has such a large and unique presence in each romance, it’s nearly another character traveling a third arc, a captiveromantic arc weaving the characters and drama together.

And world building? I can find everything from lost asteroid worlds to early Egyptian royal courts to Victorian England in romance novels, beautifully rendered and carefully researched.

I find gorgeous prose in my romance novels, subtle subtext, exquisite dialogue and themes as profound (and often mirroring) those found in more literary fiction.

My keeper shelf is full of books whose dramatic pacing holds up to any thriller, and exceeds the pleasure of the “thrill read” for me because good romance authors gets me more heavily invested in the characters and their problems.

Every reader is different, and every book is different, but for me, as a reader, the keeper romance has everything I look for in fiction: Lovely prose, compelling characters transformed by their experiences, strong world building, dramatic pacing, meaningful themes and a satisfying, well earned happy ending.

Good heavens! If that’s a formula, then thank goodness so many talented authors have the ability to write it so well!

Recommendations:

Anything by Joanna Bourne (8/28). Her next release is The Rogue Spy (November 2014).

 Patience Jackson’s Kilts and Quilts series of Scottish contemporaries. Debut was in June 2014: To Scotland, With Love

Enhanced ebook re-releases of Courtney Milan’s Turner series of Victorian romances. Makes the ebook romance a multi-media adventure!


 Questions for the Author:

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

My Big Adventure: Joining my first tour group to see Scotland in 2013. Scotland is an adventure, of course, but to share the bus and hotel with 30 strangers in a strange land? I’m a warp nine introvert, and this was a bunch of musicians with a fondness for whisky…. Best fun I ever had! (Though I’m still a warp nine introvert.)

 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?)

The Writing Journey: I read romance voraciously for more than thirty years, sometimes limiting myself to a book a day, but then, when my daughter moved out…. Blessed emotional oxygen filled the house. The writing started then, and it hasn’t stopped.

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

A Book That Changed My Life—The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), by Thomas S. Kuhn. Big title for a small and very readable book. Kuhn looked at the historical “breakthroughs” in science and found they often weren’t breakthroughs at all. The truth is usually staring us right the face, coming at us from many sides, and still, we as a society and as individuals, will invent more and more elaborate theories to justify the bad science that authority, infrastructure and industry have invested in heavily. This little book helped support my sense that the emperor—be it a professor, politician, or CEO—is often wearing new clothes, and my instincts about how the world is shaped could well be spot on.

 Grace is generously giving away five print signed print copies of her August release, “The Traitor,’ three to U.S. readers (entry below), and two to international winners (enter here). 


grace burrowesI am the sixth out of seven children and was raised in the rural surrounds of central Pennsylvania. Early in life I spent a lot of time reading romance novels and riding a chubby buckskin gelding named—unimaginatively if eponymously—Buck. I also spent a lot of time practicing the piano. My first career was as a technical writer and editor, a busy profession that nonetheless left enough time to read many, many romance novels. A few academic degrees later, I’ve turned to writing romance novels, and if that’s not a happily ever after, I don’t know what is!

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  • Sheryl N

    I am a huge fan! Thanks for all the great books

    • Grace Burrowes

      Thank you for reading them!

  • Thank you for your words! I have the same problems with sci/fi and thriller. So, romance is really perfect, as you say. And thank for the international giveaway!

    • Grace Burrowes

      We’re all readin’ buddies on my planet. When I read thrillers, I find myself skipping a lot of the “thriller” part. Secret formulas, bombs, snipers… when do we get to the HEA?!

  • MK

    I love Joanna Bourne and Vourtney Milan too! Along with you- 3 of my favorite authors. I love sci fi and UF, and some mysteries, but romance is the genre i best enjoy

    • Grace Burrowes

      MK, you might also like Carolyn Jewel then. She’s a little steamier than I am, but the stories sparkle, the characters stay with you, and the prose is most exceedingly excellent.

      • MK

        Yup, I DO enjoy CRolyn a Jewel. Cheers!

        • MK

          Argh. Fat fingered that name on my iPad! Carolyn Jewel.

  • Kathy Nye

    I enjoy watching you and your writing career blossom. Thanks for sharing so much with your fans.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Kathy, you and I have to catch up, you fitbit fiend you! I’ve wondered how the approach of September has found you this year, and hope the answer is: HAPPY!

      • Kathy Nye

        Very happy! Thanks. And I agree we need to catch up.

  • Krysten Mich

    I love to read most types of fiction (history, sci fi, mystery, etc), but I will always come back to romance 🙂 I absolutely love all of your books! Definitely some of my favorites!

    • Grace Burrowes

      Krysten there is a part of me that will read any good prose, but when I find good prose in a love story–what housework?

  • alisha woods

    loved To Scotland with love, but need a kleenex

    • Grace Burrowes

      Alisha, when I read that book I thought, “Surely she won’t… she can’t… she’s not going to…” She did, and that was exactly what had to happen for those characters. Can’t wait for the next one, which comes out in January.

  • Emmel

    I love the way you note that romance has that emphasis on character and the emotional journey. I think that’s why we have our subcategories of romance like romantic suspense, historical, or paranormal. We’re willing to take all the various genres of fiction and blend them together, always with that focus on character and relationship that is the hallmark of romance!

    • Grace Burrowes

      Agree, Emmel. I think most people would like to read about PEOPLE. I certainly do!

  • Hi Grace. Dare I say that I have not read your books? Yet? Which one would you recommend that I start with? Kuhn’s book sounds like something my sons would enjoy reading very much.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Kathyrn, I’d start with The Captive. It’s indicative of what I can do now, not where my writing was five years ago. Many readers prefer “The Heir,” my first book, which introduces an eight sibling series that went over quite well. Among those books… for lighter stuff, Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight, or Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish. The Soldier also has something of a following.

      • Thanks! I’ll check out The Captive. I like the look of The Soldier cover–I’ll have to read that one too.

  • mariannewestrich

    It’s funny but I tend to switch genres depending on my mood and what’s going on in my life at the time. But as long as they all hold romance, I’m good!

    • Grace Burrowes

      I read a lot of non-fiction now, something I wasn’t as prone to do when I was younger, but then, a lot of that nonfiction is research. I’m so grateful for the ability to read, and for the written word. Where would I be without it?!

  • Donna Finlay

    Grace – your books are always keepers! I love the new series but it will never replace the Windhams as my favorite series. I do hope you’ll revisit the MacGregors when Fiona has grown enough to have her own romance.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Donna, several people have asked about her. Must provide her some cousins, I think, to accompany her into the later Victorian period. That would be new ground for me, but the part of the era more readers are used to reading about. I love the Windhams too, though. I’m thinking of a series for Uncle Tony and Aunt Gladys’s four daughters…

      • Donna Finlay

        I love that idea! One of the things I really like about your books is that they are very well written. I never find inconsistencies or grammar errors. I know I’m old but it is distracting when you are reading along and someone who is a sister earlier in the book is now referred to as a niece and then later back to sister. The only trouble I have with your books is lack of sleep because I can’t put them down. Looking forward to The Laird next month!

        • Hope Stern

          Great comment Donna, and Grace? YES, please Fiona…and keep that mind working okay?

  • Erin F

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post! Congrats to Grace on her success and I do really enjoy her books. I totally agree on the character arcs/growth. That’s what makes a romance so “real” for me 🙂

    • Grace Burrowes

      Makes life real, and sometimes makes life real hard, too. THAT’s when a fictional HEA can be such a comfort!

  • Patty Vasquez

    Your description of the shared love between characters as the third character in a story arc is spot on. It really can take on a life of its own!

    • Grace Burrowes

      Patty, it has taken me a while to see that perspective, and it won’t work well for every romance. In my present Work In Progress though, I realize that the conflict is between The Relationship (they won’t have a future), and The Truth. If they can’t find a way to be honest with each other and greater society, the relationship dies for lack of integrity. If the are honest, the relationship dies amid scandal and legal impossibilities. That works, but it doesn’t fit in any of the GMC, conflict box rubrics.

      • Patty Vasquez

        The Relationship v. The Truth ends up being The Elephant In The Room. One of the greatest parts of RARM is being able to be inside an author’s head for a small moment in time. The glimpses of your internal dialogue as you work through a story and with your characters is fascinating.

  • michelle fitzsimons

    Lovely words & worlds in your books–keep them coming, Grace:-)

    • Grace Burrowes

      Did my 2000 words today, Michelle, and have no intention of stopping.

  • Janice P

    There are so many aspects to Grace’s books that I love. My favorite is the vocabulary, as it challenges me to expand my own. I also love all the traits mentioned above, so hats off to you, Grace, as you’ve mastered them, and I can point out in all your books the lovely traits. The Windham books have wonderful, intertwined arcs. I could go on and on….. Love them!

    • Grace Burrowes

      Thanks, Janice, and you’re in a good company regarding the Windhams. Many readers have told me, “It’s a nice story, but the best part is we got to see Devlin again!” Right. He’s in a half dozen scenes and he nearly steals the book. Thanks, dude.

  • Hope Stern

    Huge fan also!! I love all the series but I must say this new one is unbelievably moving and yes, even hard to read. Now I know why you are so prolific, you have been writing 30 years! I am happy to say that you are my go to author for many of the reasons you state above “But a well written romance… wow. I get my big character arc, usually times two, because a romance is not about one character who occasionally has some frolic and detour with an intimate partner (though I do find those scenes in other genres). The romances I love are about two people whose shared love inspires the courage necessary to grow and change.” I adore your work Grace and I adore that you share so much of yourself to up and coming or just attempting writers…. Romance, such a great place to find escapism and wonderful people that help you too.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Hope, thank for all the kinds words, and you bring up something else about the romance community that some Harvard economist needs to wrap her head around: It’s a business model of abundance and cooperation among the authors (and largely, the readers too). not scarcity and competition. The fastest authors can’t write a book in less than six weeks (usually), but most readers can gobble them down in a few hours. So what is the reader supposed to do, while waiting the next six weeks for their Keeper Author to produce? READ SOMEBODY ELSE! Most authors would rather have you reading anything than drifting into the clutches of Tetris, paintball, or some other distraction. The pie really is big enough for everybody, and writing is too hard to be doing it solely for the money. Says me.

  • Nita Gill

    Kuhn! I used that book in my critique of a book on the history of archaeology in college. It was fascinating having a look at the different archaeology theories after reading Kuhn’s book.

    I adored The Captive. Such lovely writing and characters.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Kuhn’s book needs a catchier title. “The Emperor’s Scientific New Clothes,” or something. Everybody should at least take a peek at how long and how hard as a society we fight to hang onto a misguided truth. Amazing insights, there.

  • Kylan Alexander

    I fell in love with Gayle and haven’t stopped falling for your heroes! 🙂

    • Grace Burrowes

      Anna says she saw him first. Nobody was more surprised than I was when he came duking along in the Scottish Victorians. Family tradition, I guess!

  • Dorothy Salvagin

    Lucky for me everything I look for in fiction is what I get in each of your novels. Thank you.

    • Grace Burrowes

      Thanks, Dorothy! I feel the same way about Joanna Bourne’s books, and Tessa Dare’s, Meredith Duran’s, Mary Balogh’s, Loretta Chase’s, Carolyn Jewell’s, Julie Anne Long’s, and many others.

  • bonnierz

    Hubby constantly asks me, “How can you keep reading romance? It’s the same book over and over.” I have tried to explain several times, but he just doesn’t get it. Crazy as it sounds, I love it when a book makes me cry.

    • Grace Burrowes

      How can he keep watching baseball? It’s the same three strikes, the same three bases, the same guys standing around scratching in roughly the same positions (and locations), one team wins. one team loses… Don’t get me started on basketball…

  • Kim Giardina

    Huge fan, and thanks for all the keepers you’ve written! I often stray into other genres, but the romance arc and happily-ever-afters are what always bring me back to good romances!

    • Grace Burrowes

      There are some books out there with a lot of romance in them, but when they don’t deliver on that HEA… oh, geez, so I want my money back! I still read the last page before I’ll buy a lot of books. Without that HEA, the read simply isn’t as satisfying to me.

  • Laura Lee

    The Survivors series has been a favorite and the books have a place on my keepers shelf. I’ve tried other genres, too, but I keep coming back to romance, especially historical romance.

  • Brenda E

    Great post, thanks!

  • Michelle Fidler

    I can’t gobble any book down in a few hours. Most people don’t read that fast! I try to finish at least three a month. I agree that people who say that they can’t wait a whole year for another book in a series need to find other books to read.
    I do love Tetris and own a handheld game that I play a lot. Cozy and historical mysteries are my favorite genre of fiction. I like Amanda Quick’s books because a lot of them feature a mystery. I own one of your books.

  • Julie

    Thank you, I love your books.

  • Donna

    Just stopping by to say how much I enjoyed your post, and I thought your comment re: The Relationship vs. The Truth pretty profound. You have raised the bar in romance writing with your strong character development and their timeless and relevant situations. Please don’t include me in the draw since I have The Traitor and I want as many people as possible to read that excellent book!

  • Quinn Fforde

    Yes, no other genre incorporates everything like romance.

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I keep gushing over the book covers in your new series! Gorgeous! I love paperbacks, because you can’t get that same effect on an ereader!

  • Sue G.

    For me I love the characters. Most story lines are similar but characters are always what grabs me!

  • Adaffern

    I love your books and look forward to reading the next one.

  • Barbara E.

    I’ve been reading romance for many years, and although my taste has changed in some of the types of stories, and I’ve branched out from just historical romance, I’ll always go for those fantastic romances with the happily ever afters.

  • librarypat

    I like your description and comparison of fiction genre. It is so very true. My husband was stuck waiting for me and didn’t bring anything to read (can’t imagine doing that). He picked up the romance I was reading and started it. When I finished my appointment, he said he understood why I read them. They are easy to read and enjoyable. When I worked at the library, I was always listening to a book on CD in my car. I started sharing them with him. Most were romances with a few historical fiction and mysteries thrown in. He enjoyed them all. He did mention I should have warned him about certain scenes in the first romance he listened to.
    There are some excellent authors in the romance field and I wish they got more recognition and respect. You and the others research to make sure your details are accurate and craft characters and stories that draw us in and give us much enjoyment. Thank you.
    (Patricia on rafflecopter.)

  • Joan Varner

    The character development, the obstacles they must overcome, their growth and the romance are all part of the world within each romance novel. Thank you for your books.

  • Gretchen Miller

    Yes romance is fab to read but love all types of genres.

  • Debbie Oxier

    Thanks.

  • Theresa Fischer

    I have tried other genres also, and found them not to my taste either! There is just something about a romance novels storytelling that I can’t find in other genres!

  • Patty Wilcox

    I like and read other genres but I like the book better if there is a romance in the other genre as well. (Sci Fi plus romance, mystery plus romance and so on.)

  • Sue Gorman

    I adore mysteries, chit lit, contemporaries and biographies. But, a romance novel is unique. You can imagine yourself in Regency or Victorian England with the beautiful gowns, parties and the handsome men. There’s usually angst, passion and the HEA….it’s the getting there that’s the interesting part…..and what makes romance so much fun to read!

  • catslady

    My favorite historical writer!!!

  • Glenda

    Well said, Grace!!! Thank you!

  • Vero Stro

    Grace, your books are a pleasure and I never get tired of reading them! Thanks

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Very well stated. Loved your post!!

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I look forward to reading your books! Great essay and I also have to try and limit myself to one book a day or else I get nothing else done. Formulaic or not, I enjoy almost every book I read and although I occasionally dip into other genres, romance is my pick 99% of the time. And I have read some particularly good ones that make me laugh out loud, cry, gasp, etc. I am also extremely thankful that so many writers have gotten the formula right 😉

  • rebecca moe

    Thanks for the great post! I love your books, though I’m woefully behind in them–darn the massive TBR pile!

  • Sheila M

    Thanks for explaining what I feel. I read romances because I like getting to know the characters.

  • M Kuxhaus

    The best books, movies, and television programs all feature romance. Cereal boxes never have romance…

  • Tin

    I love the idea of “emotional oxygen” — I think it is a vital thing to have in life. ^_^ (Love, love, love your books — your current series is “wow” ^_^)

  • Gretchen

    Love your books! Love the stories, love the covers, and love reading about you! It probably sounds stalker-ish, but I always feel like if we met we’d hit it off right away!

  • Stephanie M.

    I enjoyed your post and always love the cover of you books. There’s a formula? Regardless of this formula, each author puts their own spin on it and makes the story unique and I love them even more for it. 🙂

  • Laurie W G

    Love that you took the initiative and traveled to Scotland. I’d love to visit that country one day soon.

    I just finished my first book by Courtney Milan, UNCLAIMED. I have a Joanna Bourne book on my TBR pile. I will move it to the top!

  • Damaris

    Also an introvert!! Can definitely relate. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Adding it to my TBR list.

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    Seems I am enjoying what all the authors are saying about romance and you are no different! It must be what makes you such good writers. Thanks for taking part in RARM!

  • flchen1

    So true, Grace–thanks for sharing about your love for romance! I agree with your recommendations, too 😉

  • monica87

    I have your series on my to-read list, heard so much about your work. Always love finding new authors. Your trip to Scotland sounds super fun! I’ve always wanted to go there. *sigh* And I’m a big sucker for great world-building in stories. It’s all in the details.

  • Judy Goodnight

    “The romances I love are about two people whose shared love inspires the courage necessary to grow and change.” Yes, yes, yes!