Friday, August 21, 2020

What Elements Make Your Writing More Realistic?


This month our Round Robin blog asks: To make a story seem and feel more realistic to the reader, what elements do you include in your stories?

Oh, where to start? There are so many elements that I like to include but I will start with the setting. I work as much at creating my setting as I do my characters’ backstories. The setting is, after all, the stage you set your characters on.

Because my stories are mostly Regency romance, I tend to have a mix of city and rural settings. My characters spend summers at their country estates and the Season, aligned with when parliament was in session, in London, with the busiest time being between Easter and when parliament adjourned in July. By then most people who could afford to were keen to get out of town because of the smell.

Country estates are lovely to create and many of my imaginary ones come from illustrations in books like Country Houses From the Air or The English Country House and the very useful Georgian and Regency Houses Explained. I have floor plans for country houses and smaller but no less impressive town houses. From these I can create my settings with a measure of accuracy and viability. What might be included on any of these estates as far as farms and crops are concerned, are all gleaned from internet searches for letters and records of the big houses, some of them going back hundreds of years, and depend on what part of the country (being England, Scotland, or Wales) the estate is. Building styles change somewhat from county to county depending on what materials are available, or how wealthy the lord of the manor might be.

Typical Cotswold Stone house Jones&Campbell

Weather with all the light and shade that comes with it, plays a part in my settings, too. For information on that for a particular year I start with a visit to and to pin-point where my characters are for what special days to create a timeline I consult The weather can affect so many aspects of my character’s mood. If it’s warm and sunny, then likely she is too. If it’s raining, all sorts of events can transpire from that. Think Marianne Dashwood getting soaked in the rain in Sense and Sensibility. Rain heralded my hero’s arrival in Folkestone in my book His Dark Enchantress. It fit his mood and the seriousness of the situation in which his wife, my heroine, had been abducted.


Plants and flowers play a part, too, and for this I use a Reader’s Digest book of English flora, plus Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. It pays to know what plants grow in which part of the country because someone will surely call you out if have a daffodil growing where it never would or a lark singing in central London as this is a bird that likes open countryside.

How I dress my characters also comes into play and for this I use an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Costume, Fashion in Jane Austen’s London and just because, The History of Underclothes. YouTube can be particularly useful as well, especially clips like Undressing Mr. Darcy. I guess I’m a bit of a nerd because I do enjoy research and if I come across a particularly interesting snippet, it makes my day. Whether I can use it or not in a book becomes another thing altogether.

Now I’m off to see what elements these authors include in their writing. I hope you’ll take a look at them, too.

Skye Taylor
 Judith Copek
Diane Bator
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Rhobin L Courtright


Friday, August 14, 2020

A Last Resort



If you're looking for a light, funny, read for this weekend, try Brenda Sinclair's A Last Resort. 

What author wouldn't appreciate the use of her editor's getaway cabin in lush British Columbia? Emma Sullivan can't wait for the peace and quiet of the forest surroundings in which to finish her current work in progress.

Ha. She hasn't allowed for one man and his dog. Enter Lyndon Reynolds and Jake. From there work slows for both of them, until she discovers the man can - but I'm not telling what Lyndon can do. Get the book and read it for yourself.

Their growing romance is hampered by the arrival of an unexpected third party and some pertinent threads about home and family get thrown into the mix. 

And just to give you a taste, here's a little excerpt:

Emma’s traitorous heart skipped a beat at what sounded like a compliment. So, Lyndon was divorced. Perhaps he’d rescued Jake for company since he was single. Misplaced modifier. Lyndon was single, not Jake. Jake probably was also. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Authors seldom missed spotting poor grammar, even when it was their own. Finding himself single again, Lyndon adopted a cute rescue named Jake. She mentally shook herself as she silently rephrased her thought. Once an author…

Sinclair is nothing if not prolific. This is her 30th book. She writes both contemporary romance and western historical romance. For a list of her books and to see what she is up to now, visit her website at

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sophie's Choice by A.M. Westerling


I have always enjoyed fellow Books We Love author A.M. Westerling's books. Her latest, Sophie's Choice, a Regency romance, is the first title in her Ladies of Harrington House series. The other ladies are Sophie's sisters, Leah and Catherine. I look forward to reading their stories.

What first appealed to me about Sophie’s Choice was that it is set in Cornwall, one of my favourite English counties. I have fond memories of summers spent there as a child and later touring for my own satisfaction from the heights of Rough Tor on Bodmin Moor to the tip of Land’s End and all the neat little fishing villages up and down the coast.

The story involves smugglers and smuggling, for which Cornwall was notorious but I’ll leave you to discover that on your own. I really enjoy Westerling’s style, this snippet is about her heroine, Sophie:

The gravel pricked against the soles of her feet, delightful in its intensity and for the first time in weeks she felt alive, well and truly alive.

Haven’t we all done something like that at one time or another? And what about this for a description of a hero?

He was handsome, to say the least – tall, dark and lean with a rapacious air about him as if he would pounce on his prey at any moment.

That ‘rapacious air’ gave me the chills in the best kind of way and I was immediately drawn to Lord Bryce Langdon.

Along the way to their happy-ever-after ending, it’s a romance so of course there is one, Sophie squabbles with her sisters in a very memorable and realistic way. Think Lady Mary and her sister Lady Edith in Downton Abbey, or any of the March sisters in Little Women. Here are Sophie and Leah:

Leah, suitably chastened, slumped down against the squabs but not without a final dig at Sophie. “Oh, what a handsome groom Weston would make, he of the red spotted face and rat’s teeth.”

And this is what Sophie feels about her sisters:

Sophie gritted her teeth. Leah’s forward ways grated, however Catherine’s blameless demeanour wore thin as well.

There is depth of feeling in the portrayal of the Harringtons and they come over as a well-rounded family in an era when that wasn’t always the case.

The story evolves at a steady pace with quite a few unexpected twists and turns. If you are looking for an enjoyable weekend read, look no further. I fully recommend it.