Hello and welcome to the PHS #UKRomChat Column. Here at #UKRomChat we’re used to welcoming folk, but up till now it’s been to our weekly live Twitter chat. This week Eilidh K. Lawrence introduces you to the rest of the team and their history, and talks about some Raunchy Romans.
Hello Lovelies. It’s Eilidh K. Lawrence again. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I wrote our inaugural @UKRomChat PHS column. I’m pleased to report that as a result of the article, we have booked two new author guests. Not telling you who yet... Nope.
Jeanna Louise Skinner, the creator of @UKRomChat, and all-round genius, is super busy with her awesome supernatural WIP this month, but she’s popping by to say 'Hello' and tell you about herself. Jeanna, over to you…
Jeanna Louise Skinner
Like most people, I hate talking about myself, so this will be brief. My name is pronounced JEAN-NA not Jenna or Je-anna. I used to have my own business running Spanish after school clubs, after thirteen years of living in Spain, where I worked variously as a holiday rep, reception and reservations manager and airport manager for a big tour operator (where I met and married my lovely hubby). I write sweet, sexy romance with a magical twist—think Mannequin The Movie meets The Tudors—and I like to dip my nib in other genres with flash fiction, which you can find Cabinet of Heed & Ellipsis Zine. As well co-hosting @UKRomChat, I'm one half of Wonder Writers, a super-powered editing and mentoring service for writers in distress, and this year I'm a proud member of the RNA NWS. My patronus is a (sweary) sloth. Twitter is my Kryptonite.
February 2019 at @UKRomChat:
Our first February guest was one we had been keeping secret but dying to announce: Angela James, Editorial Director at Carina Press. We also learnt about Angela’s editing course, Before You Hit Send. As you can imagine, this was our busiest chat yet, and Angela was a wonderful, knowledgeable and engaging guest, with a wealth of advice to pass on to the #UKRomChat Family. When we started @UKRomChat, it was always our goal to bring in industry professionals, so this remains one of our proudest moments so far.
Next up was the brilliant Chris Buono. Chris told us all about his role as a Pink Heart Society Assistant Editor and Admin of the Aspiring Authors Group, and editing the PHS Facebook page. We also discussed his own writing, as a SYTYCW participant, and Wattpad and Inkitt platform author, which was super interesting for us, as we didn’t know much about these platforms. Now Eilidh’s working on a flash fiction piece for Wattpad! The chat was super interesting overall, with lots of great advice and tips, and we loved how well Chris interacted with everyone.
We were both ill in the lead up to the chat and had help prepping from some of our wonderful regular #UKRomChat-ters. On the night Lucy Flatman was Eilidh’s awesome assistant. She rocked co-hosting the chat. This is the second time a Lucy has come to the rescue, with Lucy Mitchell stepping in last year on a similar occasion when we weren’t available. We’d like to give a shout out to her for kindly staying on and working on several other chats with us.
As I write we’re enjoying a well-deserved half-term break. We’ll fill you in in a later column about what goes on behind the scenes to make @UKRomChat happen.
We are also looking forward to next week when the chat will feature our first returning guest, HQ Digital author Belinda Missen. Last year we spoke about Aussie baking-fan Belinda’s feel-good book A Recipe for Disaster and her writing journey which, by the way, is seriously the stuff aspiring-author dreams are made of.
The Ides of March
I (Eilidh) am old enough to have taken Classical Studies and Latin at a state school. Like Latin, I’m ancient. And I was such a geek. I once got 103% in a Classics test (bonus points for answering in Latin). So, you say ‘March’ and I think ‘Beware the Ides of’. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated on 15 March, or, in the Roman calendar, the Ides of March. ‘Et tu, Brute’ etcetera.
Ergo, this month we’re talking Ancient Romans! In particular, Roman Romances.
Last year, the fabulous Jenni Fletcher announced that Mills & Boon would be publishing her Roman novel The Warrior’s Bride Prize. Before that, it was my experience that novels set in Ancient Rome were intrinsically linked with the Christian/inspirational genre. I’m thinking Ben-Hur. Or the hugely successful The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, written by Francine Rivers in the 1990's, featuring a Christian slave girl, aristocratic siblings and the former chief of a Germanic tribe, captured and forced to be a gladiator. Gosh! From a historical perspective it makes perfect sense that fiction from the time of ancient Rome, set during the life of Christ; or during the spreading of His teachings by the Apostles, and the establishment and growth of the Christian faith; would feature Christian characters and themes.
And then there are Roman Romances…
First, some crossover. My mum is one of the two million, and counting people, who have read the “wonderful” The Mark of the Lion series. When entering the SYTYCW #AmishBlitz, I became aware of the Love Inspired Historical range. (Sadly, LI Historical has folded.) I tracked down another Roman trilogy for my mum to read, by Carla Capshaw. Mum had several piles of Mills & Boon's novels stacked against various walls in my childhood home. She likes Roman Inspirational Fiction. She likes Mills & Boon. I reckoned she’d love these books, and she did. The Gladiator, The Champion and The Protector all went down very well. These were published by Love Inspired between 2011 and 2013 and again feature gladiators and slaves, plus in the final, a socialite and her bodyguard.
*Has a Kevin Costner moment*
I also found the standalone Love Inspired romance Her Roman Protector by Milinda Jay, from 2014. Because I officially know more about Classics than there is to know, I was aware of the horrible Roman practice of abandoning unwanted babies to die from exposure. I was surprised to discover that Jay deals with this dark subject. Her hero, Marcus Sergius, is a soldier who rescues abandoned babies and takes them to his mother’s orphanage. When a noblewoman’s child is stolen, he comes to her aid.
I hunted for those four books! I ended up asking for recommendations, on the Harlequin Connection Facebook page, for e-retailers who stock Harlequin lines that don’t get print releases in the UK and ship them here. I got lots of wonderful tips and bought all four Roman Love Inspired books for Mum. Thumbs up for Harlequin’s Facebook groups. I’d recommend joining this group in addition to the Harlequin Writing Community. There is also a Love Inspired Authors and Readers Group.
On looking into it, I discovered that secular Ancient-Rome-set Romance had been around even longer than the LI titles. Leading the charge, former PHS editor Michelle Styles wrote The Gladiator’s Honour back in 2006, featuring the exciting pairing of a Gladiator, Valene, and a noblewoman, Julia Antionia, then three more Roman titles. Carina Press released two Roman Romances, in 2011 and 2012, by and Marguerite Labbe and Fae Sutherland, and M.K. Chester.
Fast forward to 2018, and we’re back to Jenni Fletcher. Jenni was the first author I approached when we were setting up @UKRomChat, to ask if she would join us for a chat. And she did! I am a massive fan of Jenni’s Historical Romances, so was thrilled when I saw her cover reveal.
Like super thrilled:
Turns out I’m definitely not the only person who got excited about Jenni’s visit to the Ancient Roman era. For the second year running, Jenni has been nominated for the Shorter Romantic Novel in the RNA’s Romantic Novel Awards, this time with Britannia-set The Warrior’s Bride Prize, the tale of secretly-Caledonian Livia Valeria and Roman centurion Marius. I contacted Jenni to congratulate her on her RoNA nomination and ask her how it felt to be nominated again, and about the origins of the book. She said:
“The first time I thought about writing a Roman romance was in the Lake District. The sun was going down over the remains of a fort on the shores of Lake Windermere and it just looked so beautiful and timeless. That gave me an excuse to suggest a holiday to Hadrian’s Wall, which my family were okay with because we got to go hiking too. A sense of landscape is so important to me when I’m writing and I’m interested in how we think of ‘home’. As a Scot with English/Irish parents who lives in England this book was particularly important to me so I’m extra thrilled that it’s been nominated for a RoNA.”
What a gorgeous image. Jenni also recommended Greta Gilbert to me, another Mills & Boon author of Roman Romances. With three M&B Roman-era releases altogether in 2018, and another, Seduced by Her Rebel Warrior (check out the cover, really, now! [Editor's note: dayyyyyyum!]), by Greta, out in March, it looks like this genre isn’t going anywhere.
Now hooked, and suddenly wanting to write A Roman Romance, I went looking for more titles. Currently the Amazon Best Sellers List in Ancient World Historical Romances is dominated by Highlanders and Knights, but the beautiful cover of A Gladiator’s Oath, by Tanya Bird, jumped out at me. It shows not another male torso (too much of a good thing…?), but the book’s kick-ass heroine Mila, armed with a very big sword. I tweeted Tanya to ask what drew her to Roman Romance. She graciously replied:
If you like your romances quick and very dirty, former @UKRomChat guest Rachael Stewart, who we adore, and who still sometimes pops by on a Monday night, has a new five-starred F/F/M novella The Centurion’s Wife out now on Kindle. Knowing Rachael and those “naughty” Romans, it should keep you entertained…
(Sorry, but you know how much we love a man in a skirt.)
In the April issue we’ll be learning more about Eilidh (over and above that 103%). See you then!
You can find the #UKRomChat team on Twitter as @UKRomChat, and get information about upcoming guests on their Facebook page and Instagram feed.
Have you read any romance novels set in Ancient Rome? What did you think? Did the issues raised seem appropriate for the time period? Do they mirror our own times? Did the hero get his knees out? Let us know by tweeting your answer and adding the hashtags #UKRomChat and #RomanRomances