Keli Gwyn
Falling in Love with the Romance Genre

Can you remember when you discovered
the wonderful world of romance novels?

My love affair with romance novels began when I was in fourth grade. My mom took us to the library once a week that year. I spent many an afternoon on my bottom bunk transported to other times and places. Long before I knew romance was a genre all its own, I sought and savored stories about couples falling in love.

Like many young girls, I dreamed of having a clever and courageous boyfriend like Ned Nickerson, hero of the Nancy Drew series. I read and reread the Little House books and imagined being loved by a man as patient and as devoted to me as Almanzo Wilder was to Laura. And although he didn’t get the girl I wanted him to have, I had quite a crush on Laurie in Little Women.

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During the long, hot California summers while our dad was off fighting forest fires, my sister Karla and I would spend countless hours with our noses buried in books. We discovered Barbara Cartland and read every copy of her books our local library had.

Call of the Heart by Barbara Cartland

One delightful summer during the mid-1970s, our mom would pile us in the station wagon for the short trip to the used bookstore in our tiny town. The Chicklets-sized cottage, crammed full of floor-to-ceiling shelves, had the musty smell of vintage books that made me feel right at home.

Vintage Harlequin Romances

We’d buy Harlequin romances by the armful. They were a bargain at ten for a dollar. Plus, we could trade them in on future purchases. Those squeaky clean stories, most of them written by British authors, were set in Europe and other exotic places. Little did I know then that I’d end up living in Germany years later, traveling throughout Europe, and seeing some of the very cities I’d read about as a teen.

In my twenties, I went browsing in used bookstores once again. I happened up a section of Grace Livingston Hill novels and thought I’d struck the Mother Lode. In one story, I had romance, history, and a Christian element. I blasted through as many of the books as I could find, eager to complete my set.

April Gold by Grace Livingston Hill

Fast forward to my mommy days in the 1990s. To my delight, I learned that Harlequin had started an inspirational line. When I read my first Love Inspired title, I felt like I’d come home. Motherhood kept me busy, but on rare occasions, I would treat myself to one of those books, stay up late, and read a story from cover to cover.

With Baby in Mind by Arlene James

Life moved on, our daughter got older, and my reading time increased. When I walked into our local Walmart in 2005, picked up Deeanne Gist’s debut novel, A Bride Most Begrudging, and devoured her excellent story, my love of romance novels intensified. I hadn’t realized the inspirational market had grown so much.

A Bride Most Begruding by Deeanne Gist

Reading Dee’s book rekindled my dream of writing. I knew just what I wanted to write: the very books I most love to read–inspirational historical romances. Although that’s what I’m privileged to do, I still read as many romances as I have time for, because I’m hopelessly smitten with the romance genre.

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Are you a fan of the romance genre? If so, when did it capture your attention?

Did a certain book spark a desire to read more romances?

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Keli Gwyn
Author Artistry: Lisa Jordan

Lisa Jordan first wowed readers in October 2011 when her debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, was released by Love Inspired. This book went on to win the 2012 ACFW Carol Award for Short Contemporary. I was privileged to be seated at Lisa’s table during the Awards Banquet and was one of the first to congratulate her.

Lisa Jordan and Me

Ever since I embarked on my writing journey, I read books differently than I used to. Sure, I fall in love with the characters and enjoy their stories, but I delve deeper these days. I admire an author’s voice and attempt to figure out what makes it so compelling. I study the techniques the author uses. I note the author’s way with words. I’ve decided to share my findings from time to time in my new Author Artistry posts.

I’ve had Lakeside Reunion on my TBR shelf for some time and was happy to finally have time to savor this moving story. The characters stole my heart from the start. Both Lindsey and Stephen are grieving. Having been torn apart by the results of a past mistake, they have many obstacles to overcome.

Lakeside ReunionThe story is rich, the pacing great, and the emotion deep. That alone would make the book a winner, but I kept my eyes open as I read, noting what Lisa did to add to the richness. I’m highlighting six of Lisa’s many areas of mastery, using examples from Lakeside Reunion.

Great Descriptions

Lindsey scanned the room, searching for Granddad’s steel-gray crew cut or Grandma’s cotton-colored curls. (p. 19)

In one sentence, the reader forms a picture of Lindsey’s grandparents, but it goes deeper than that. The fact that her grandfather wears a crew cut shows how traditional he is. “Cotton-colored curls” is a delight for two reasons. Not only do I see the color, but I also get the impression that her hair is fine and soft, like cotton balls. The alliteration is a bonus.

Clever Comparisons

 . . .Lindsey’s thoughts swirled like a shaken snow globe. (p. 25)

This simile made me smile. I can totally relate to that feeling, even though I’ve never thought to describe it that way.

Ty’s laughter seeped through Stephen’s heart like shellac over wood, filling in every gouge and crevice of his heart. ( p. 45)

I love it when authors create similes that are specific to a certain character. In this scene, Stephen has been working in his woodshop, so the reference to shellac is especially meaningful for him. Lisa goes on to use metaphor, comparing the gouges and crevices of Stephen’s heart to those in wood and adding such depth and emotion to the sentence.

Letters floated inside Lindsey’s head like a bowl of alphabet soup. She couldn’t piece them together to form coherent words, let alone sentences. (p. 75)

The writer in me loved this.

Rich Sensory Detail

“Granddad!” She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest. The softness of his red-and-black checked flannel shirt caressed her cheek. The faint odor of cow manure and hay settled in the threads of the fabric, whisking Lindsey back to a place where problems were solved with hugs, homemade oatmeal cookies and long walks along the creek. (p. 22)

I love the way Lisa uses sensory details to take Lindsey back in time, allowing Lisa to share some of the backstory without slowing the pacing or telling the reader how idyllic Lindsey’s childhood was.

His voice was as smooth and rich as dark roast. (p. 76)

Lindsey just offered Stephen a cup of coffee, so this simile is well placed. The use of the simile is also a great way to work in sensory details that go beyond sights, sounds, and smells. A reader can feel how deeply hearing Stephen’s voice is affecting Lindsey.

Personification

Lightening flashed, fingering the ground with charged tentacles. (p. 52)

Lisa gave lightening characteristics of a living thing. Often the characteristics given are those of a person, but in this case, Lisa went beyond that, giving lightening the characteristics of a sea creature.

Strong Verbs

The nubby fabric of the cushioned chair embossed the backs of her legs. (p. 34)

Once again, I can totally picture the imprint left on Lindsey’s legs. The use of the word “embossed” imprinted this image on my mind. It also showed me how we can put to use “write what you know.” I happen to know Lisa is a crafty lady who makes cards and does scrapbooking. Since I’ve embraced those hobbies as well, I love how she grabbed the word embossed from them, a technique we rubber stampers and scrapbookers are familiar with.

Witty Dialogue

“It’s tough, son, I’m sure, but you need to understand seeing you was as much of a shock to her as it was for you. That gal will be around for a while. She won’t up and leave her man in a lurch.”

Stephen frowned. “I doubt she’ll be friending me on Facebook anytime soon.” (p. 47)

Stephen’s witty comeback says so much. I love how Lisa used modern technology to add punch. Can’t you just hear someone saying that?

Just Plain Fun

She crossed the room and shook hands with Granddad, Grandma and Lindsey. “Rachel Warren, attending physician.” (p. 24)

Lisa is a member of My Book Therapy, a mentoring group founded by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. I like how Lisa paid tribute to them, giving portions of their names to the doctor caring for Lindsey’s mother.

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I was so impressed by Lisa’s writing that I could have cited many more examples. While I loved Lakeside Reunion, what I loved even more was discovering how talented she is. If I see Lisa Jordan’s name on a book’s cover, I’ll know the book is going to be a great read.

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If you read Lakeside Reunion, are there good examples you could add?

Which of the techniques above do you most enjoy seeing in a story?

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Keli Gwyn
Recommended Read: Waiting for Spring

Are you a fan of sweet historical romances with a hint of mystery?

If so, Waiting for Spring by Amanda Cabot is a story worth checking out.

And just look at that cover. Is it beautiful, or what?

Waiting for Spring

About the Story

After the loss of her husband and the birth of her baby, Charlotte has had a long, hard year. But when a notorious robber believes she knows the location of a long-lost treasure, she flees to Cheyenne and opens a dressmaker’s shop to lie low and make a living. When wealthy cattle baron and political hopeful Barrett Landry enters the shop to visit her best customer, Charlotte feels drawn to him.

If Barrett is to be a senator of the soon-to-be state of Wyoming, he must make a sensible match, and Miriam has all the right connections. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that Charlotte holds the key to his heart and his future.

Soon the past comes to call, and Barrett’s plans crumble around him. Will Charlotte and Barrett find the courage to look love in the face? Or will their fears blot out any chance for happiness?

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My Thoughts

I met Charlotte while reading Summer of Promise, the first book in Cabot’s Westward Winds series. Charlotte dealt with disappointment, disillusionment, and the death of her husband. A resourceful widow determined to make a new life for her young son, Charlotte has moved to Cheyenne and put her skills to work as a dressmaker, keeping her questionable past a secret. Enter Barrett Landry, a man of integrity being pushed into politics–as well as marriage to a woman his sponsors believe will improve his chances of being elected.

The fun begins when Barrett meets Charlotte. The two form a fast friendship. Duty-bound to marry the woman handpicked for him, Barrett fights his feelings for Charlotte. Knowing her past could destroy his chances of being elected, Charlotte denies her attraction and aides him in his plans to propose to the woman who could further his career. Despite their best efforts, circumstances push Barrett and Charlotte together as they’re forced to deal with her well-kept secret, one that tests their love and could threaten their very lives.

I enjoyed the interplay between Charlotte and Barrett, two well-intentioned, honorable people torn between doing what’s right and following their hearts. Each is willing to sacrifice happiness for the sake of the other. Charlotte exhibits strength, courage, and determination. Barrett is honest, compassionate, and principled–traits that serve him well in life but could spell his ruin in the political realm. Watching these two wrestle with the challenges they face makes for a moving read. Add the element of mystery–and a mysterious stranger–and things get even more exciting.

When I’m in the mood for a sweet story with well-crafted characters I’m sure to like, I know Amanda Cabot will deliver. That’s certainly the case with Waiting for Spring. Although meeting Charlotte in the first book of the series could add to your enjoyment, it’s not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy the second in the series.

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Questions for You

Do you enjoy romances in which a character is
forced to choose between two possible partners?

Does an element of mystery add to your enjoyment?

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Keli Gwyn
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