Day 3 Susanna Kearsley – Celebrating All Romance

All Romance is Real Romance

Susanna Kearsley Season of StormsFull confession: I’m writing this with the intention of challenging what you believe to be true about romance novels. I’ve done it before—it’s a soapbox I love to climb up on. I’m usually speaking to people who look down their noses at romance, who hasten to tell me they never read “those books.” But this time I’m aiming my argument closer to home—at those people, like me, who do read and write within the genre.

“Romanceland doesn’t like it when outsiders make sweeping generalizations about us. But there are plenty of insider versions,” observes Liz McCausland at her blog Something More: My Extensive Reading. That line, when I first read it, struck and stayed with me. Because it’s so true.

For all that we’re inclusive and supportive of each other and will rally to defend our whole community against any attack from the outside, you only have to read through the comments of any of our major blogs to find a general attitude that shorter series “category” romances are somehow on a level below longer “single title” novels.

“I don’t read Harlequins,” say the commenters…or, more tellingly, “I haven’t read a Harlequin in years.” And then come the kind of generalizations we bristle at when they’re from outsiders: “Those books” are badly written. They’re predictable. They’re unrealistic. The covers and titles (both things that we all know the authors don’t have any say in) are cringe-worthy. They’re the kind of books you read—and write—before you graduate to “real” romance novels.

Well, let me tell you something. I read a lot of category romance, and they are real romance novels. And I’ve never found the mystical dividing line that sets them off from single title books in terms of craft and voice and quality.

Length? Sure, I’ll grant you there’s a difference there. Complexity of plot? Sometimes (though adding extra chapters and more subplots doesn’t always make a story more complex). But craft and voice and quality? I’m sorry. I don’t see it.

From my soapbox, let me illustrate by giving you four excerpts, all from Harlequins I took from my own bookshelf:

“It wasn’t that I was reluctant to walk through the park with him. I was afraid that I wanted to rather too much…

‘You’re going to be difficult about this, aren’t you?’ I said.

‘Infinitely,’ he replied, his eyes creasing in the kind of smile that made my knees buckle.

Fool, fool, fool. ‘In that case, let’s walk.’

As we reached the park he extended his elbow so that I could slip my arm through his and we walked together along the path, not scuffing up the leaves, though, because they were still clumped together in sodden lumps following the rain.

Don wasn’t much of an arm-in-arm sort of man.

Being seen that close in public would have embarrassed him. Tucked in against the warmth of Cal’s body, I discovered just how much I’d yearned for this kind of warmth, closeness.

Walking arm-in-arm with Cal, I felt…cherished.

And, because I was enjoying it so much, guilty.”

(From City Girl in Training by Liz Fielding)

* * *

“What happened next happened fast, so fast she could never have put a sequence to events, even if a jury had demanded it. the firebirdShe looked at the wharf and then the cobbled street where people were usually passing by, especially at noonday. Bells began to sound in her brain, loud and all at once.

There were no fishing boats, no vendors, no children at play in doorsteps, no one. São Jobim looked as deserted as villages Laura had described to her in earlier letters ,when the French still rampaged in Portugal.

Startled, she turned to Colonel Junot, then tugged his arm. ‘Something is…’

‘…wrong,’ he finished, rising and gesturing to the Marines at the same time, moving fast but not fast enough.

He never got out another word before the shore erupted in flame and smoke.”

(From Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly)

* * *

“‘You have lost sight of who you are, little sister.’

He echoed her own troubled thoughts, and it only made her angrier. ‘I know who I am. It is Father who has lost sight of who we are.’

‘Is this what that barbarian has done to you? A dutiful daughter would never speak like that.’..

‘Our father has no daughter. ’ The moment the words left her lips, she crumbled inside.

Her brother stared at her, his eyes wide with shock. ‘Ai Li.’

This was the worst betrayal, the coldest, blackest thing she had ever uttered in her life. Honour and duty held them together. They each knew it from birth. To denounce her father, their family—hot tears burned in her eyes, but she couldn’t swallow the words and remain silent. She knew in her heart that everything she trusted was falling apart and she couldn’t keep it whole.

Not even here in Longyou.

She turned and fled from the altar room.”

(From Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin)

* * *

“’You want me to come for dinner?’

‘Dinner. Nothing else. We’ll review the cases and that’s it.’


He wasn’t sure why she was asking so he went with the more obvious answer. ‘I promised you I would look over them and I’m keeping my promise.’

She looked away and there again was that look. It screamed for him to tread softly and so he would.

‘Just dinner.’

Victory, he thought. He was so relieved he wanted to shout. But he didn’t. ‘I’ll do burgers.’

‘I prefer fish.’

He hated fish. ‘I’ll do fish.’


‘Okay.’ He sighed. ‘I’ll write the directions. You can call when you’re on your way.’

It was hard to do but he turned and walked away. He wanted to show her that he had no plans to crowd her or push her again…

Quite frankly, he wasn’t sure why it was so necessary for him to involve her in his life. She was prickly, a workaholic, close-minded about things he wasn’t and downright difficult. And she was coming over for dinner tonight and he was so happy he whistled.”

(From The Doctor’s Deadly Affair, by Stephanie Doyle)


So, what do you see in those excerpts? Because I’ll tell you what I see: I see four gifted writers with four distinct voices whose level of craft, to my eyes, matches anything found in a longer book.

And they’re not alone. There are many, many good writers out there doing great things with category length romance, both traditionally and independently published, and they deserve to be respected.

So be warned: for as long as I hear other writers and readers within our community talking about category romances as though they’re something “less than”, and dismissively announcing they don’t read “those books,” I’ll be standing right here on my soapbox, doing what I can to change their minds.

You want to join me?


Some authors I’d recommend  to anyone are :

Liz Fielding  Liz created a RARM post you can read here.

Jeannie Lin 

Carla Kelly 

and Stephanie Doyle  And Stephanie’s RARM post is here

Questions for the Author:

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

I’m really not the world’s most daring person, except when I travel. I’ve had many adventures on my trips, but nothing can really top the trip I took when I was sixteen and my sister was nineteen and we went on our own to Hong Kong for five days. (Our family was living in South Korea at the time, so the airfare was pretty affordable). My sister—who was a daring and generally fearless sort of person—led the way, and we explored that city to the fullest and had an absolute blast, though now that I’m a mother I shudder to think of my own teenage daughter doing the same…

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?)

It’s a matter of record that, although I started writing novels as a child, I’d still be stuck writing first chapters and never finishing anything if it hadn’t been for my sister, Kathryn, who finally handed one of those endless first chapters back to me and dared me to finish the book before Labor Day. Her dare (and her belief in my ability to do it) was the push I needed to confront my fear of failing and sit down and write. With the help of a copy of Phyllis A. Whitney’s Guide to Fiction Writing borrowed from my local library, I not only finished that first book by Labor Day, winning the bet, but I broke through the wall of self-doubt that was holding me down, and discovered I could write. I haven’t looked back.

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

This is a hard question to answer, because there are so many books that had a deep impact on me and changed me in various ways, but I think I’d have to say A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute. It’s a book written in two interwoven threads—one told in third person, set in Malaysia in World War II, when the heroine, Jean, was taken prisoner by the Japanese; and another set in postwar London, narrated in first person by the elderly lawyer who’s helping Jean manage her finances.

Not only is it an unforgettable story, but the way in which Nevil Shute uses the dual-stranded method to tell it showed me the power and possibilities of that way of storytelling, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason why I started writing dual-time books myself.

Susanna Kearsley is generously offering two copies of her Rita-award winning book, The Firebird for domestic readers, and two signed copies of The Firebird for international readers, all bundled with a bonus copy of a category romance. U.S. readers use the entry for at the bottom of the page. International readers, enter here.

Susanna_KearsleyNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards. Other honors include finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award, National Readers’ Choice Awards, and the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize. Her popular and critically-acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audio books. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.

(She also won a Rita in 2014 – yay, Susanna!) ~ Bobbi

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