Day 28 Joanna Bourne – The Promises of Romance

Why I Celebrate Romance

I celebrate Romance because it makes promises we’re hungry for. Three promises.Black Hawk

The first promise is ­­ feelings. Big feelings. Small feelings. I’m not just talking about overwhelming love, though that’s the core of the story. Romance genre delivers friendship, loyalty, humor, affection, joy. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is as much about Elizabeth’s sisterly affection and loyalty to family as it is about falling in love with Mr. Darcy.

Romance tells us all these feelings are important.

The second promise is that small things matter. Romance isn’t just about the great drama on center stage. It unashamedly spins the fabric of everyday life.

Our hero and heroine may be engaged in desperate enterprise ­­ saving England from those desperate foreign spies, perhaps. But we also see them sitting at a table drinking coffee. That “White plates and cups clean-gleaming, ringed with blue lines” moment. We see our heroine choosing the right bath oil at the spa, shopping for soy noodles, cooking salmon on the the grill, or measuring out herb tea for a customer.

Romance has the genius of looking at both the exotic and the ordinary, the once­-in­-a-­lifetime and the everyday, the tremendously significant and the trivial. This may be why Romance can enter the intimate spaces of women and speak the detail that makes life satisfying.

The third promise is a happy ending. We enter a Romance novel knowing that the most dreadful realities will be excluded. In a Romance the villain is foiled, the scales of justice balance, and the hero and heroine ride away into the sunset and into a world made whole and meaningful by the very fact of their love.


Authors I love — Jeannie Lin, (The Lotus Palace,) Grace Burroughs, (The Captive,) Madeline Hunter, (The Accidental Duchess,) C.S. Harris, (What Angels Fear — this is first in a series,) Deanna Raybourn, (City of Jasmine,) Mary Jo Putney, (Dark Mirror — this is first in a series.)

Questions for the Author:

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

Leesee. Now this is maybe not the most daring thing I’ve done … but it does stick in my mind.

I was on a research vessel, doing marine microbiology sample collection, and we stopped in the middle of the Atlantic. I do not mean offshore Sunfish2somewhere with reassuring beach cottages on the waterline. I mean ­­ this was in the Middle of Nowhere, oceanicly speaking.

So naturally they stop the vessel and it’s everybody out for a swim. Everybody taking a long run and jumping off the side of this ship, down into the distant water. Which was probably full of sharks and krakens and worse things.

But such is the force of camaraderie that I went jumping off the side, too. And I went swimming around, having a good time, trying not to think about how I was in the middle of a huge deep ocean… and beneath me in the endless darkness, up from the depth arose, a sunfish.

Lookit. I used to catch sunfish in the pond on my Aunt Doc’s farm and they were little bitty fish the size of my palm. This was not that kind of sunfish.

This sunfish was SIX FEET ACROSS. And it was kinda raking at my feet and passing by and turning it’s belly to the sunlight and being curious.

It’s a good thing there was a ladder hung down the side of the ship so I could climb up because I would have dug holes in the hull with my fingernails otherwise.

So that was me trying my hand at being adventurous, and I will tell you right now it works better in books.

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 rogueknew?)

I always knew I wanted to tell stories. I used to line up my dolls and my floppy-­eared stuffed bunny and tell them long, rather rambling, stories. They couldn’t run.

I also told stories to my little sister ­­ she must have been about two at the time ­­ but she didn’t necessarily sit still for them.

So I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller. I didn’t ever think of doing it professionally though, not till I’d finished doing a lot of other things. For one thing, I was all the way grown up and far beyond grown up before I realized that not everyone walks around telling themselves stories in their head all the time. For another, I didn’t know you could make money selling stories.

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

I’m going to have to go with a nonfiction work here.

When I was eleven or twelve I read Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa. What I brought away from that book is that there are lots of different ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’, ‘moral’ and immoral’ depending on which culture you’re part of. There’s not one ideal, excellent pattern for a woman’s life.

This was a tremendously exciting and freeing idea for a young Joanna.

Joanna is generously giving away a print copy of Forbidden Rose. US readers only, apologies to international friends (entry form below).

joanna bourne, red shirtAfter travelling the world for many years Joanna has washed up to rest at the top of a mountain in the Appalachians. A two-time RITA winner, she grows dahlias and lettuces and invites hummingbirds to visit. Her dog and cat help her write. 


Buy Joanna’s Books:

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  • Dana Shoulders

    Not sure how the form will work since it says Day 28 Lexi Ryan….but it doesn’t matter anyway since I already have the Forbidden Rose on Kindle :). As for the post, I never thought about how much I like the ordinary, daily life part but you are completely right that those things are just as important as the sweeping drama. The important thing is that clearly you understand what works since your books are always a satisfying read.

    • Thank you, Dana – oh bother! Let me try that again…

    • Please try again!

    • Joanna Bourne

      I’m very fond of Forbidden Rose. That plot took a lot of working on and I had the book events and the real world events lined up side by side, hour by hour over the last couple days.

      It’s maybe the most ‘historical’ of my books.

      Let me say just one brief word about the audiobooks of my works. They’re narrated by Kirsten Potter, an actress and voice actor. They are PERFORMANCES of the book. Just lovely work.

      There’s one scene in Forbidden Rose where Doyle and Maggie are in the farmhouse pretending to be peasants. I wrote it to be a little funny … but Kirsten Potter turns it into Broad Humor. She takes what I did and transforms it. Brings it up to a whole new level.

      I was impressed and amused and amazed.

  • alisha woods

    like Grace Burrowes too

    • If you entered the contest, please try again – I had the wrong entry form attached to the post. (sorry)

    • Joanna Bourne

      Yes. Isn’t she great. Such large-hearted, insightful work.

      Sexy heroes, too.

  • MK

    I love, love, LOVE your books! I’m so glad you are a writer- you bring such wonderful stories to life. Thank you for all that you do.
    I, too, love Grace Burrowes, CS Harris, and Deanna Raybourne- fabulous writers all

    • If you entered the contest, MK, please try again – I had the wrong entry form attached to the post. (sorry)

    • Joanna Bourne

      It’s hard to narrow favoite authors down to three or four. But those guys are all first rate. Different from one another, but every one a wonderful, magical read.

      Thank you so much for liking the books. I sure do enjoy writing them.

  • Karin Anderson

    Ummm…if there was a fish bigger than me I’d be up that ladder in NO TIME!

    • RIGHT?! {yeesh}

      btw, If you entered the contest, please try again – I had the wrong entry form attached to the post. (sorry)

    • Joanna Bourne

      Ladder? I was ready to dig my nails in and claw my way up the metal shell of the ship.

  • cheryl c.

    Just yesterday I finished re-reading The Black Hawk. I just love that book. It was fun to savor the romance of Justine and Hawker again.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Y’know … when we write some stuff just comes to us. We see it and we write it out but we don’t plan it carefully. It’s just ‘given’.

      Some parts of the Hawker/Justine story were like that. I didn’t know they were going to happen until I wrote about them.

  • mariannewestrich

    Love the joys of ordinary day-to-day life showing up in my books. It makes it so much more relatable to me.

    • Joanna Bourne

      I feel a great sense of connection to the secondary and minor characters of the story and the world they live in.

      If I were in Ancient Rome or Nome Alaska or Shogunate Japan, I wouldn’t see the great political events of the day. I’d see what the streets were made of and what people ate and what they wore. So that’s what I ‘see’ when I’m writing a story. Flowers on a windowsill. Kites in the sky. Cuppa tea.

  • Martha B

    Love your books. Thanks for writing such riveting stories.

    • Joanna Bourne

      I am so happy you like them. The pleasure readers take in my work is a great reward. Makes it all a joy.

  • Kathy Nye

    I agree about the HEA. I can go on almost any voyage with a character if there is a HEA. Thanks from a grateful fan.

    • Joanna Bourne

      That’s the promise Romance makes. What ever happens during the journey — however hard it is — you can trust the book to bring you to a safe happy harbor at the end.

  • flchen1

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joanna! No need to include me in the giveaway–your signed copies grace my keeper shelf!

    • Joanna Bourne

      I am so glad. And so glad you like the stories.

      It’s a big responsibility, in fact, being on somebody’s keeper shelf. I will hope you find Rogue Spy a good read.

  • ashley

    I love romance novels!!!!!

    • Joanna Bourne

      They are such energizing, happy books. I feel good when I close a Romance book. I breathe a happy sigh.

  • Thanks so much for being here today Joanna! Can’t wait to read your upcoming book! :o) And about that fish… {shudder}

    • Joanna Bourne

      It was kinda scary. (returns the shudder)

  • Debbie Oxier

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Very much happy to do so.

  • Priscilla Waller

    I’ve been a fan since I had the good luck to run across your first book. I fell like I could run into your characters in the grocery store. Oh except for the time difference, and the location difference, and I don’t really know any spies. Anyway, love the world you have created for me.

    • Joanna Bourne

      I now have a picture in my mind of Hawker carrying one of those grocery store baskets over his arm, picking out some wine to share with his friends and maybe a good French cheese.

  • Linda Morrison

    I’m so glad you decided to follow through on your love of storytelling. I’ve enjoyed each and every book of yours that I’ve read.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Linda — Storytelling is what I’ve always wanted to do. Making things up.

      I had to be either a writer or a master criminal. Guess I came down on the side of law and order …

  • Kelly

    LOVE the sunfish story!! I agree that being adventurous is much easier when it is fictional!!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Right. I really wouldn’t want to experience any of the things I put my characters through.

      You know, heroines in general do not lead comfortable lives. I wonder why we want to read about all these dreadful things happening to them

      • Kelly

        Because it isn’t us, AND they make it through it and end up with some handsome, sexy guy!!

        • Joanna Bourne

          Our poor heroines go through so many difficulties and turmoils before they end up with the hero. We writers have to make the hero worth ending up with.

  • Beverly Long

    Joanna, happy to be sharing this post with you today. I, too, think the sunfish story is fabulous.

    • Joanna Bourne

      There are experiences that still stick with you, years later. Somehow it seems to be the scary things that happen.

  • M Kuxhaus

    Such a delightful essay. I’m glad that ship had a ladder!

    • Joanna Bourne

      I think folks are supposed to be considerably tougher at sea than I am.
      (I wonder if landlubber is landlover?)
      I’m more suited to the writer’s life.

  • Pamby50

    I like to swim but no way would I go swimming in the middle of the Atlantic with a huge sunfish hitting me. Loved the story & looking forward to reading a book by you.

    • Joanna Bourne

      I don’t think I was in any particular danger, unless one could drown from sheer nervousness.

      Hope you do get hold of one of my books. If you’re not lucky enough to win the drawing, the books may be in your library, or you could ask your library to buy a copy.

  • Quinn Fforde

    Love that sunfish story!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Life is full of interesting events. Sometimes I like to sit in my mountain fastness and think. Sometimes I like to wander out and see what’s going on.

      You never know what you’ll meet. All part of Life’s Rich Pageant.

  • Sheryl N

    I love the story about going out on the research vessel. I bet it was so neat seeing that Sunfish! They are such a unique fish

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Sheryl —

      The whole study of Marine Science is fascinating. You get to see such beautiful things and work in such wonderful places.

      I might even have pursued it as a career if I hadn’t discovered that I always get very, very seasick the minute we pull away from the dock.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I love your story for the most daring. I”m surprised no one raced you. 😀 It’s nice to know that other people see stories in their heads too.

    • Joanna Bourne

      It’s lots of fun to have all these stories playing out in your mind. Nothing better.

      I suppose there are folks who ‘hear’ music everywhere they go and modify it and listen to what that would sound like. Folks who ‘see’ the colors of the world more vividly and fiercely than I do.

      They probably pity me for not being able to do that. *g*

      • Eileen Aberman-Wells

        I hear music in my head and it often helps me get through situations. Glad you are able to translate those stories in your head onto paper or word docs.

        • Joanna Bourne

          I envy you, and more than envy you, the joy of the music. I’m not precisely tone deaf, but I don’t have music in me. I dimly see what I’m missing.

  • Yaritza Santana

    I would have been screaming with the fish. I would have swam so fast you couldn’t even see me. Lol

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Yaritza —

      I think the technical term is ‘hydroplane’. *g* I certainly did.

  • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

    I love reading and I love romance. I’ve used my own life as well as what I’ve learned from all the romance novels that I have read to teach my daughter what to look for in a relationship. Thanks for writing. 🙂

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Meredith —

      Romance novels can be pretty astute about human relationships. It’s not all bells and flowers. The books are about the hard work and unselfishness it takes to create a couple. The books have a lot to teach us.

      • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

        I agree, however, if you feel like you have to make changes in the other person right away, then they are probably not the right one for you. Also, if it seems like you are making compromises all the time, then you should probably rethink keeping the relationship going. A person should change because they want to make themselves better for the other person, not because someone is trying to change them all of the time. Thanks for reading my comment!!!

        • Joanna Bourne

          Hi Meredith —

          Is there anything more complicated than the love relationship? So many pitfalls and uncertainties.

          Romance genre deals with so many of these themes. That’s its strength, I think.

          • Meredith Richeson Hillenbrand

            Yes, I think you’re right!

  • Sue G.

    Just love my happy endings! That is why I read romance!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Sue —

      Most definitely. Not tragic love. Not doomed love.
      Happy endings.

  • Emmel

    I think my favorite romances are those that show that variety of feeling that you mention. Love of family, love of friends, and love of self is just as vital as love of your partner!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Emmel —

      If a character has the sort of warmth and commitment to create a truly happy, long-lasting ending … well, I say that character is capable of many kinds of love.

      Sometimes when we write a Romance we’re writing about healing and balancing. Sometimes Romance genre is as much about the whole family as it is about the loving pair bond. We’re writing about all kinds of love.

  • Lorelei’s Lit Lair

    I like your 3 promises! You’re new to me. I enjoy sharing and discovering authors. Thanks for the chance!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi LLL —

      This Romance Month is a great place to ‘meet’ new-to-you authors. So many of my favorite authors are here.

  • Patty Vasquez

    The promise of feelings and the promise that small things matter are like two sides of the same coin as long as they’re both in place. And a very special coin it is when there’s a happy ending, too! You know I have the first four books in C.H. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr series and the first four books in Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series, too. Clearly I need to quit my day job so i have more time to read!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Patty —

      Yes. Real life keeps getting in the way of my reading life. This just has to stop!

  • Barbara E.

    I love everything about romance, but the thing I love the most is the happy ending. There’s enough to be depressed about in real life, I want to know that when I read a romance things will end how they should and people will be happy in the end.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Barbara —

      There’s a place for serious, important books. There really is.

      But lots of times I pick up a book to be happy or to chase away pain or escape from the worries that surround me. That’s when I go to Romance. It has what I need. It makes things better for a little while.

      Long lie the happy ending.

  • Mj

    I love your books, ones that I always look forward to reading when given the chance.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi MJ —

      Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoy them.

      They are now available in audiobook, if that is the flavor of your day. Lovely productions, too, all read by the same voice actor.

      I bring this up because the audiobooks (and every other audiobook at Tantor) will be available for download on September 1.

  • Glenda

    Love your books Joanna!

    I don’t know if I’d have had the patience to find the ladder if a monster fish like that surfaced when I was in the ocean. I’m impressed! 😀

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Glenda —

      I am trying to find proper adjectives to describe my rapid ascent from the briny deep. Not so much ‘patience’. No.

      Panic? Abject terror?

      Let us call it instead a dignified self-collection and measure calm, though that would be lying through my teeth.

  • WinnieP

    That is an amazing fish!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Winnie —

      I will admit that is not the actual fish that scared the myelin sheath off my nerves. That was some other denizen of the deep.
      Pictured is a public domain wikipedia fish.

      None of these sunfish are dangerous. They don’t eat people. This is, however, no compensation whatsoever when you yelp and make a fool of yourself generally in front of all your fellow biologists and the deck hands.

  • Kristan Higgins

    I’m a huge fan, Joanna…you’re one of the smartest authors out there! Great essay, too!

  • Dawn Anderson

    I loved your three promises! These things can make a good book a great one.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Dawn —

      I’m both a science type and a writer. I love to break down the inchoate feelings that are storytelling and try to organize, try to make sense of it.
      It never really works, this desire to explain. I have to admit, in the end, there’s a large element of magic in every good book.

  • Stephanie M.

    I loved your post. I’m fond of the second promise – small things matter. Your story about the sunfish made me laugh. I’m not sure I would’ve jumped in the middle of the ocean. I need to be able to touch the bottom. 🙂

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Stephanie —

      Being able to touch the bottom is an interesting thing. I have a fear of heights. Not debilitating fear, but it’s there.

      When I’m in a boat I feel very ‘high’ above the sea floor. Does that make sense?

  • catslady

    I’ve so enjoyed this series!!!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi catslady —

      I am delighted you enjoy it.
      (Can I say I have a cat who rules my own life. I think lots of writers have cats.)

  • Erin F

    thank you for such a fun post! That’s exactly what I enjoy about romance too 🙂 thanks for sharing!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Erin —

      Romance is a fun subject. I so enjoy talking about it.

  • Sheila M

    I discovered your books recently and just kept turning page after page. I don’t appreciate the lack of sleep 🙂

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Sheila —

      Thank you so much. To be called a ‘page turner’ is one of the greatest compliments you can give an author.

      I have a new book coming out November 4 — Rogue Spy — I hope you’ll like it.

  • Laurie W G

    I found your research adventure to be quite fascinating and scary. A 6 foot sunfish! The possibility of sharks keeps me out of the ocean, I swim in a pool.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Laurie —

      Ok. Ok. I’m going to admit I feel a little ookie swimming in the midst of all the teeming nature of the ocean or lakes or rivers. I do like to be able to see everything under the surface. *g*

  • Marie

    Thank you for the great post! The promises you described are some of my favorite parts of romance books. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Marie —

      Romance genre is the hopeful genre. The books that leave you feeling good on the last page.

  • Janie McGaugh

    I enjoyed your post and am impressed with your swim with the sunfish. It would have freaked me out, too.

    • Joanna Bourne

      It is particularly enjoyable (not) to freak out in the middle of the ocean. Adds a while new dimension to the sport of freaking out.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Kudos to you for your swim with the sunfish…I am petrified of fish due to a traumatic childhood event courtesy of my dad and brother. If you live in the Appalachians, you may be familiar with fish hatcheries. I grew up in Western NC outside of Pisgah Natl Forest and my dad used to take us to visit the fish hatcheries, let us feed the fish and then hold us out over the fish as they swarmed for the food. My brother loved it, I definitely did not. Henceforth, no more fishy waters for me, pools and hot tubs only! However, I love to look at amazing fish and water creatures from the safe confines of aquariums. Feelings, small things matter and happy endings pretty much exactly sum up why I love romance. These three things keep me a happy, sane and optimistic person and I don’t think I would enjoy life nearly as much if I didn’t have my romance worlds to dive into and devour. I am new to your books so I will look forward to checking them out. Great post!!!

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Courtney —

      Been to many hatcheries all over the world (that interest in Marine Biology) and I will admit the humungous (using a technical term here) mass of fish is a little scary.

      It’s natural, I think, for people to love happy endings and brave protagonists. Just look at folk tales. For every one with a tragic ending, there’s three where some ordinary guy or gal faces impossible odds and wins.

      Hope you enjoy the books. *g*

  • Kim

    Does your sister enjoy your new stories? 🙂 I’m looking forward to your next book.

    • Joanna Bourne

      Hi Kim —
      I do so hope you enjoy Rogue Spy. We authors never know whether a new book is going to ‘work’ until it’s out on the shelves.

      My sister — that sister — is one of my beta readers insofar as she has time. A most astute and jword-conscious beta. She really helps me out.

  • rebecca moe

    I love your adventurous story! That would have totally freaked me out too–I’ve seen those at the aquarium in Tampa. I know they were smaller, being in captivity and all, but they still freaked me out from behind the glass. I can’t imagine sharing actual space with them!

    Thanks for posting!

    • Joanna Bourne

      There is a poem —
      “Better to drink life in one flaming hour
      and reel across the sun
      than to sip pale year and cower
      before oblivion.”

      But, ya know? — in that hour when you’re doing scary things, the cowering in a corner bit looks attractive.

      • rebecca moe

        LOL! Yes it does! 🙂

  • I love your personal adventure story! I always think that. Out in the ocean. What is just under there, that I cant see. But it could be just right there….. haha
    Good for you making friends with the sunfish. Hope he did not develop a complex though because of your speedy retreat. haha

    • Joanna Bourne

      I have a good many things I worry about — all arranged in neat lists and prioritized.

      I have to admit that sunfish mental health is not high on my list of worries. I suspect a great deal of curiosity dwells in the minds of fish. Like — what is that dangling legs down from the top of the water and can I eat is?

      The ‘Can I eat it?’ is rather the most important bit.

  • Judy Goodnight

    I think it’s those three promises that keep me reading romances.

    • Joanna Bourne

      I’m in Romance genre fr the feel-goods. I’ll admit it.