Monday, 6 April 2020

The Power of Writing


By Alyssa J. Montgomery

In September 2018 on this blog, I wrote an article about how romance novels can empower women. I mentioned how modern romances cover a whole host of hard-hitting issues women face such as rape, abuse and loss of children. I also discussed how romances are culturally relevant and promote discussions about love and relationships and it really hit me how much romance writers as a collective group have achieved and how much a story can not only impact on an individual life but on society in general.

Literature isn’t just a form of entertainment. It’s a powerful platform. It can provoke us into deeper thinking about controversial subjects, challenge the perceptions or prejudices we may hold and teach us so much—all while presenting us with a riveting story.

 (Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)
Some authors have specifically set out to ignite burning questions and their stories have become classics that are still studied.  Earlier this year, my youngest daughter had to write an essay on George Orwell’s 1984 – a book that I had studied over thirty years ago when I was at school. What a powerful story that is.

George Orwell used his literature to push his political viewpoint and I doubt there are too many romance authors who write with that intention. Having said that, there aren’t too many romance novels (Romantic Tragedies such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aside) that are perennially studied. But, when I thought about it I realised that there are a lot of contemporary romance novels that make mention of pressing issues that are relevant in our society.

I don’t think it’s necessarily been a conscious decision by the author to bring these issues to light. I feel it has most likely been an organic part of the story, relevant because of the characters’ beliefs, values, difficulties and general life experiences.

I have never set out to write romances as a platform to highlight some of the problematic issues of the world. After all,  by their very nature, romance novels centre on the development of the romance between characters and how each character becomes stronger because of the romance and none of us who read romance want to be diverted from that by a whole host of heavy hitting side issues. But if authors are penning believable contemporary romances, the characters must surely have been touched by some real issues that are present in modern society. Who hasn’t been?

                                                                                                  (Image Courtesy of Pixabay)
When I reflected back on some of the issues relevant to my characters I was surprised by the diverse range of issues that have been mentioned in my stories. I won’t list them all but Logan from Roses for Sophie was campaigning against the use of Blood Diamonds. Chloe from The Irresistible Royal was a lawyer fighting a legal case against discrimination in the workplace. The Formidable King briefly mentioned a dictator in Africa who used child soldiers. The Irredeemable Prince highlighted the need for ongoing measures to be taken against drug dealers. And, in my latest release, Seduced by the Billionaire (12th April release date), both the hero and heroine involved me in a whole host of issues relevant to society—all completely character driven!!

Despite all those issues, I wouldn’t think that they stand out in the readers’ minds and I hope they don’t because they weren’t essential to the romance but they were very relevant to who the characters are.

Are you aware of a romance novel you’ve read where you’ve learned something interesting, or one that’s highlighted a societal problem?


Love to Love: The feeling of emotional connection to characters in romance novels and the satisfying HEA in a story that has delivered entertainment, escapism and on some level has also been educational or thought-provoking.

Love to Laugh: At romantic comedies.

Love to Learn: I love learning as I read romances – whether it’s interesting little facts about life in historical times or in contemporary romances something about a city, culture, occupation or an issue that’s occurring in society.









Monday, 30 March 2020

The Curious Case of a Criminal Conversation

By Cassandra Samuels

Believe it or not, in the Regency period the term Criminal Conversation meant adultery, especially as formerly constituting grounds for the recovery of legal damages by a husband from his wife's adulterous partner.  

There were several such notable "conversations". In this blog post, I talk of a particularly juicy scandal in 1818 involving much more than a mere chat.

Ashton v. Elliot.

Colonel Harvey Ashton was in the army and was said to be a particular friend of Wellington. While away at war he married a Spanish woman, against the advice of his companions, but it didn't take long to turn sour. Margarita was actually the daughter of an Irish gentleman but born in Cadiz, Spain, and the pair re-married when they returned to London. Followed by their first child.

They moved just outside Paris and quickly had a second child (Wellington's godchild). It was in this town called Passy that she met Captain Edward Elliot. He was Ashton's friend but it soon became common knowledge that his attentions lay only with his friend's wife. He was barred from the house but still visited her in secret - through the back door.

The pair were not very careful and soon letters were intercepted and used as evidence in the case of criminal conversation in which Ashton sued for 10,000 pounds.
One of Edward Elliot’s Love Letters to Mrs. Aston, Bell’s Weekly Messenger, Dec 20, 1818.
(©2015 British Newspaper Archive)

Things looked bad for the pair especially when letters from Elliot to Margarita were read out to the court. Then, to everyone's surprise, Elliot's lawyer James Scarlett accused Ashton of sabotaging the situation and brought to the court's attention that Ashton had, 'neglected his lady in a manner the most shameful;'

He discredited the French servant's statements and brought his own many witnesses, painting a very different picture. One that painted Ashton as someone who frequented brothels and mean women of the street. He stated that Ashton had caused his wife to suffer from syphilis and the need for mercury treatment, nearly killing her.

When the jury made a decision it was that Ashton not be awarded the 10,000 pounds he had wanted but only 100 pounds because he had caused so much illness to his wife through his dissipated actions. So, although he won the case Ashton had the story follow him everywhere and his reputation sullied.


Love to love: Just sitting and admiring my garden and listening to the water feature bubble away.
Love to laugh: At a good Rom Com.
Love to learn: About wellness and looking after my mind and body.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Welcome to Our Guest Blogger, Cindy Davies!

Hello everyone, I'm Cindy Davies, romantic suspense author. Thank you for joining me today! You can read more about me on my website.  The novels I'm talking about today are The Afghan Wife and The Revolutionary's Cousin.




The Afghan Wife is set in Iran during the volatile times of the Iranian Revolution. Zahra, mother and widow, is coerced by her cousin Firzun to travel from Afghanistan to Iran, posing as his wife. When she's reacquainted with wealthy, handsome Karim, sparks fly. It's a strict society - she's off limits because she's 'married'. Then a dramatic turn of events means Karim can declare his forbidden love and offer Zahra and her son a new life in America.




In the sequel, The Revolutionary's Cousin, Zahra's cousin forces her and her son to travel to Australia with him, then abandons them at the airport. Unable to contact Karim, frightened and alone in a foreign country, Zahra tries to overcome her ordeals and make a new life. Although desperate to get in touch with her, Karim's destiny takes a different path in the USA. Will Karim's persistence and love for Zahra be enough to succeed in his quest to find her?



In both novels my heroine is often in danger. In Iran, she's threatened in the street. In Australia she's suspected of drug smuggling, approached by an assassin, has to identify a body... In the USA, Karim is investigated by the FBI. He meets another woman. Will he stay true to Zahra?

In the strict society of Iran it's 'immodest' to look into a man's eyes, but Zahra dreams about Karim's honey-coloured eyes! He forgets he's not in the States and embraces Zahra when she's upset. Shocked, she pulls away, secretly longing to stay in his arms and inhale the scent of him...

The Afghan Wife  was placed third in the RWAmerica NY Chapter Competition 2018, and I've recently been awarded a ten-week writer's residency in Devon UK to work on novel #3, Unaccompanied Baggage. (Editor's note: congratulations, Cindy!)




I hope I can show my readers that love can flourish whatever the cultural setting.

Have you ever been really attracted to someone when you were teenagers, then met again after ten years? Was the attraction still there?

Please share your experiences of being stuck and alone either overseas or in a strange town in Australia... How did you feel?

Cindy


Love to Love:
Happy endings... like my daughter's wedding in March 2020!

Love to Laugh:
About things which seemed important in the past and are now irrelevant.

Love to Learn:
About people from different cultures.