Falling in Love Again

My personal romantic hero (PRH) and I used to co-ordinate marriage preparation classes for our diocese, and were also hosts for one of the five evening sessions — the one on intimacy.

We spoke of the triangular theory of intimacy, and how most relationships started with passion and liking, and developed as the couple moved into commitment.

We also talked about levels of within each of the types. For full consummate love, the couple must be fully into friendship, passion, and commitment.

The science of love

We romantic novelists tend to write about the movement from the second stage of romantic love to the beginning of the third. Stage one is the initial physical response to the person — lust, usually. Attraction, the step after that initial physical response, comes next. Attraction is that heady feeling when passion and liking combine like sparkling wine as the hormones dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine light up the brain, producing elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention.

The science says it isn’t a permanent thing.  On average it lasts two to three years. At some point during this period, attachment, the third stage, comes into play as we get to know the person, faults and all. Our chemical helpers here are the hormones produced during sex and during moments of affection and commitment (oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins, if you want to be technical).

We used to tell the couples on the course about the research that suggests most people fall in love (that second, attraction, stage) multiple times in their lives — an average of seven relationships that moved from attraction to the beginnings of attachment. The trick of a permanent marriage is to fall in love with the same person over and over again.

Just after Christmas, PRH and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary. We are currently deliriously, utterly, and blissfully in love, and have been for several years. Maybe the fizz lasts longer as you age and slow? We must be up to around eight or nine times through the cycle by now, and it deepens.

I had lunch with another romance writer today, my friend Rue Allyn, who is visiting from America. She suggests that listening is key to a long-term marriage is to listen. Just to really, really listen. I agree, and would add commitment. It takes two, but if both parties are committed to permanence, and truly listen to one another, all they have to do then is keep breathing.

Paradise Regained

Just before Christmas, I released the novella Paradise Regained. The hero and heroine are married and have eight children. But the magic of attraction has faded. Can they get it back?

It is set in 1794, in Central Asia, and is the prequel to The Children of the Mountain King, a series that begins in 1812, when the hero of Paradise Regained returns to England to inherit a dukedom.

One of the reviews says:

This may be Jude Knight’s finest work—and considering her other wonderful stories, that is saying something. This story of love gone cold, love under attack, and love rediscovered touched me profoundly. Here careful research is only exceeded by the depth of her characterization and the beauty of her prose.

James yearns to end a long journey in the arms of his loving family. But his father’s agents offer the exiled prodigal forgiveness and a place in Society — if he abandons his foreign-born wife and children to return to England.

With her husband away, Mahzad faces revolt, invasion and betrayal in the mountain kingdom they built together. A queen without her king, she will not allow their dream and their family to be destroyed.

Amazon US * More buy links

Only 99c.

EXTRACT

James sent Peter with a message to Mahzad, inviting her to join him for a private dinner. The message didn’t need to say “and bed after.” Mahzad would guess.

Peter returned with a note and a glum face.

“Your humble servant begs leave to be excused, most excellent lord,” James read. “Your obedient wife, Mahzad.”

Like hell! He brushed Peter aside and strode through the halls, the people he passed taking one look at his face and getting out of his way.

The guards on the door to the zenana stepped aside and let him through without a challenge. Mahzad wasn’t in the central room. She wasn’t in her chambers, either. He emerged back into the great room, casting an eye around the ladies who were there. Cecily, who was sitting with Mahroch, made as if to get up.

Mahroch put out a hand to stop her. “Sit. You have caused enough trouble.”

James directed his glare at Mahroch, but the old woman was not discomposed in the slightest. She needed the help of a maid to rise, but she waved the girl off and walked with much of her old grace toward Mahzad’s chambers.

“Come, Lord James. You and I need to talk.”

“I need to see my wife.” He snarled.

“Not before we have talked.”

He followed her, of course, but his irritation was rising by the minute.

She deflated him by rounding on him as soon as they were in private. “James, I always thought you to be an intelligent man and one with enough sense to see what was in front of his nose, but I am disappointed in you.”

Attack being the best form of defence, he answered hotly, “Don’t tell me that you believe these scurrilous rumours about Mrs. McInnes. She is not my mistress. Not that I owe you or anyone else an explanation.”

Mahroch lifted an elegantly plucked eyebrow. “Not even my granddaughter?”

“Mahzad should know I would never dishonour her.” James relieved some of his tension by striding swiftly across the room and then back again. “Yes, and the rest of the citadel, too. It is a ridiculous conclusion to jump to. Insulting to me and to Mrs. McInnes. I can understand the Qajar commander but my own people?” His temper, barely in check when he’d arrived, was now at boiling point.

Mahroch was neither intimidated nor impressed. “Your own people, including your wife, would have been less inclined to make assumptions about your relationship with Cecily McInnes had she not been at pains to give the impression that you and she are lovers.”

“No.” That couldn’t be true. “She didn’t, did she? But why?”

The old woman dismissed his question with an elegant wave of one hand. “She had her reasons, and I am somewhat in sympathy with her, though I have put a stop to her mischief.” She bent forward, meeting his glare with her own. “But it remains for you to undo the damage that she—and you, I might add—have done.”

“What have I done?” James protested. “I have done nothing!”

“You will have to discuss that with my granddaughter, James,” Mahroch replied sharply. Her voice dried as she continued. “I suggest you spend at least part of the time listening. You will find her at the archery butts, I imagine. When she left here, she felt like killing something. Oh, and just a small hint. It would not harm your masculine essence to tell her how you feel about her.”

What was that supposed to mean? As James stalked through the citadel and down into the cellars, he tried to think about Mahroch’s last remark, but the injustice of the accusations against him kept shouldering out other considerations. Not least because, for a fraction of a moment back at the caravanserai when Cecily had offered herself, temptation had reared its serpently head. Only physically and he dismissed it, of course. He should be receiving credit for that, not suspicion and a cold shoulder for thoughts he’d never had and actions he’d not taken.

Cecily’s treachery didn’t bother him as much as Mahzad’s willingness to believe the lying woman. Felt like killing something, did she? James felt like spanking someone, and he blamed Mahzad for that entirely. He’d never raised his hand in anger to a woman in his life, especially not Mahzad, who had been his equal and his partner since the day they had escaped her father’s caravan.

Mahzad had posted a man at the doors to the range to prevent anyone else entering.

“Try to stop me,” James invited, and the guard wisely stepped to one side.

Inside, every lamp was lighted, but even so, the butts wavered in and out of shadows. Not that Mahzad was fooled for a moment. Arrow after arrow slammed into the centre of each target as she drew and shot, drew and shot, drew and shot, a dozen arrows at a time and then only seconds to reach for the next dozen and begin again.

***

For more about the hormones that support love: How love works

Facing both ways at once

In ancient Greek mythology, the god Janus had two faces so he could look in both directions at once — into the past and into the future. He was the god of any transitional state, including beginnings and ending, gates, doorways, and passages. He may have given his name to January, which will be on us at any moment.

The new year, whenever your culture celebrates it, is a time for considering the past and making plans for the future. For me, it’s a time of transition in other ways. We’re looking at a major upheaval in where we live. We’re planning to retire from paid employment.

The writing is a given. The upheaval in our lives has meant I’ve not completed as many books this year as I hoped. Next year, perhaps, though I expect the upheaval to continue at least until we are moved and retired.

Still, I’m pleased with what I have done. Look for my story The Gingerbread Caper in Christmas Cookies on Main Street, as well as the novella prequel to a coming historical series, Paradise Regained, which was published a couple of weeks ago. I also have a novella in Fire & Frost with the Bluestocking Belles due out early in February.

If you need some holiday reading, go see my blog post that lists Christmas Cookies and Paradise Regained, as well as others. I’m also going to put one up with books from friends.

Every good wish for whatever festival you happen to be celebrating, or just in general if you’re not celebrating at the moment. May your days be merry and bright, and may we all enjoy every good thing in 2020.

Writing feminist fiction

Signing books for Rosie, who came to hear me speak.

I launched the print version of my latest historical romance earlier this month. A local bookshop, Almo’s Books, hosted me, and laid on the supper. The photo above shows me, the book (Unkept Promises), and earlier books in the same series.

I really enjoyed meeting fans, and talking about my writing and the romance genre in general. One thing I said struck a chord with several of the people there. Romance, I told them, is inherently feminist. Here’s my logic.

Most of the people who write romance are women.

Most of the people who read romance are women.

Last, but by no means least, a romance story isn’t over until the woman in it gets what she wants.

The final point is probably the reason why the patriarchy has been putting romance down and trying to prevent women from reading it since before Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Romance acts as if men are not the most important people in the world. Romance thinks that what women want is an important plot point–no, more! THE important plot point.

Does that mean that romance is necessary to be a fulfilled woman? Of course not. I know many single women who lead interesting, productive and happy lives. But neither is romance a second best, a sell-out, a retreat from feminist values. If women can do anything, falling in love is one of those things.

I don’t write chick lit, or Mommy porn, or bodice rippers. I don’t buy into any of those demeaning labels. I write romance, and I’m proud of it. I write stories about two people who find one another, and in doing so, find a helpmate with whom to walk through life.

They face problems (which is what makes it a story), but they solve them together. They respect one another. They co-operate. Truly, what’s not to like?

I write capable women, and men who are strong enough to respect them. What could be more feminist than that?

Ask a busy person

You’ve probably heard the saying: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

Here’s some of my job list from today:

  • finishing my story for the Authors of Main Street box set
  • getting ready to go spend a week at our daughter’s place looking after her three children while she takes a much needed holiday
  • meeting realtors to choose a new one after the house has sat on the market for far too long (and it’s Spring, so a great time to sell, with all the fruit trees in blossom)
  • having coffee with the person who runs Featherston Booktown about my ideas for events in the next two years
  • finalising plans for the physical book launch of my novel at a local shop in two weeks
  • sending my three most recent books for deposit at our National Library
  • organising transport for our disabled son to take him too and from his national camp at the end of the month
  • fixing a mistake on the cover of the Bluestocking Belles’ box set that has just gone on pre-release
  • updating my books on Nielsen’s book table.

So by all means, ask a busy person. But the answer is no.

Here’s a wee bit from my Authors of Main Street story, The Gingerbread Caper.

Meg climbed the stairs, fishing for the keys she’d tucked into her jeans pocket.

Patrick was good-looking in a geeky kind of a way—tall, dark hair that needed a trim, earnest blue-grey eyes. He was lean to gauntness, but that would be the glandular fever. According to Aunt Margaret, he’d gone back to work before he was well enough, and suffered a relapse, so he was leaving Wellington so he wouldn’t be able to overdo things again.

Damn Aunt Margaret. When she told Meg about the lodger, she managed to make him sound old, feeble, and innocuous. “He’s something in government, sweetie,” she said. “A clerk. Something like that. He has had glandular fever, poor thing, which is difficult at his age. He needs somewhere to finish convalescing. He lives with a family who have children, and he isn’t finding it restful.”

At his age, my bony left foot. Patrick was no older than her, late twenties or early thirties. Even gaunt from his illness, even standoffish, he was hot. A clerk? Aunt Margaret’s ‘Something like that’ translated as senior policy analyst. He was cagey about what that actually meant. As if I was being nosey! She was, of course. Old journalist habits die hard.

He stumbled on the top step, and caught himself with a hand on her hip, snatching it away with a muttered apology as even the tips of his ears turned red. In another guy, she’d suspect a pass, but Patrick had already proved a klutz. Was that a result of the illness, too?

“No problem,” she told him. “This door is yours. Mine—or, rather, Aunt Margaret’s—is on the other side of the landing.” She turned the key while she spoke, and swung the door open onto the small flat—an open-plan living area and kitchen, a pocket-handkerchief bathroom, and a bedroom just big enough for a Queen-sized bed and a couple of bedside cabinets.

“I’ll leave you to it. There’s tea and coffee on the bench, and milk in the fridge.” She waved towards the kitchen, where a welcome basket of baking and another of fruit waited by the kettle, coffee plunger, and teapot. Canisters of tea and coffee bags lined the shelf above the bench. “Come down whenever you like. Dinner is at 6.30pm, if that’s okay. Aunt has a folder of ‘Things to Do’. It’s on the coffee table.” Another wave.

“Thank you. I’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

He had a sexy American accent: Canadian or US—she had trouble guessing, sometimes. Probably the States. They had a reputation for good manners.

Did she need to tell him anything else? She thought about it while he waited, watching her with just a hint of apprehension, as if she might suddenly do something alarming.

“Okay, then,” she said, breaking the silence. “See you later.”

As she turned to leave, Mr. Major slipped past her ankles and streaked across the room to disappear into the bedroom.

“Drafted cat! Sorry about that. I’ll just get rid of him for you.”

“You can leave him if you want,” Patrick said. “I like cats.”

“No one likes Mr. Major,” Meg warned. “Mr. Major is a fiend from hell.” The counter bell rang—someone was in the shop and young Emma was 30 minutes late getting back from lunch. “I have to go,” she said. The man was a grown-up. She left him to the tender mercies of Mr. Major, the cat-monster, and hurried back downstairs.

Retelling my author story

Conferences rock. There I am in the purple Regency duchess outfit, complete with ostrich feathers, holding the certificate for one of the 4th places I won in the Koru Awards at the Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference. The Awards dinner, and all the other socialising, was great. I had a fabulous time. But the real gold of the weekend was in the workshops, and I’ll be mining it for months, if not years.

One workshop set me retelling my author origin story in a way that tells more of a universal tale, harnessing the tropes my life has followed. Mine is a reinvention story. What’s yours?

scene break

Have you ever wanted something so much you were afraid to even try? That was me ten years ago.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a novelist. I even started dozens of stories, over the years.

But life kept getting in the way. A seriously ill child who required years of therapy; a rising mortgage that led to a full-time job; six children, my own chronic illness… the writing took a back seat.

As the years passed, the fear grew. If I didn’t put my stories out there in the market, I wouldn’t risk making a fool of myself. I could keep the dream alive if I never put it to the test.

Then my mother died. That great lady had waited her whole life to read a novel of mine, and now it would never happen.

So I faced my fear and changed it–told everyone I knew I was writing a novel. Now I’d make a fool of myself for certain if I didn’t finish.

My first book came out to excellent reviews in December 2014, and the rest is history. Many books, lots of positive reviews, and a few awards later, I feel foolish for not starting earlier.

I write historical fiction with a large helping of romance, a splash of Regency, and a twist of suspense. I then try to figure out how to slot the story into a genre category. I’m mad keen on history, enjoy what happens to people in the crucible of a passionate relationship, and love to use a good mystery and some real danger as mechanisms to torture my characters.

Dip your toe into my world with one of my lunch-time reads collections or a novella, or dive into a novel. And let me know what you think.

scene break

I have an origin story for my imprint, too.

I wanted to call my imprint Olive Press, since my mum’s name was Olive. But a bit of research convinced me it was a bad idea: already used, and all for Christian self-help books and Bible study guides. I don’t want to go misleading readers!

So I named it after my mother’s childhood home, which in turn was named after her family’s ancestral village, and I chose an olive tree for the symbol.

 

Doing something small for love

My goodness, weren’t we young, then?

When asked her favourite story theme, a friend of mine always says that she wants to read about people who do great things for love. My answer is the opposite. I want to read about people who persistently do the little things for love.

A few days ago was the fiftieth anniversary of the date on which my personal romantic hero and I first began to talk about marriage. I remember that Christmas we joined a group to go carol-singing around for the old-folks, and we were both struck by the elderly couples who listened, holding hands. That could be us, one day.

In the intervening years, we’ve had our sorrows and our joys. We’ve been through times of colliding and others of drifting apart. Always, we’ve found our way through to a renewed commitment, a deeper love.

Looking back, I can count some real crises, when one or both of us was called upon to do something great for love–to leave a cherished job, to move the length of the country, to believe in one another and our love when everything around us tried to pull us apart.

What allowed us to keep going was a habit of looking after one other, of showing our love every day in little, even hidden, ways. Doing the little things, even when we didn’t want to.

As a writer, I am often emotionally and mentally absent even when I’m physically present. My personal romantic hero reminds me to eat, brings me coffee, reads a great review when asked, takes on most of the cooking so I have more time for writing, brings me flowers, does all the shopping (including spending the time needed to read all the labels to cope with my food allergies).

He loves me, and he shows me he loves me every day.

And I love him. I take a break to watch silly videos he has found on YouTube, laugh at his jokes (even if I’ve heard them before), make him a drink when he comes in from the garden, admire the newly mown lawns, send him text messages during the day to say I love him.

Doing the little things every day, even when you don’t feel like it, isn’t always easy. It should become a habit, and that helps. But it’s easy to forget, which is why it matters. Being loving to the one you love, every day of every week, month after month, year after year–come to think of it, that is doing something great for love.

Now, we are old. And when we walk, when we sit together in church, when we go to the movies or listen to carol singing, we hold hands.

Now is the winter of our discontent

Winter snow on the Tararua Ranges, which bound my valley on the west. Over the hills to the east is the coast on which I’ve set my fictional Valentine Bay

Here in New Zealand, we’re waking to frosty morning and chilly days. I’d like to hibernate my way through winter, but that’s not about to happen.

Instead, I’ve finished my novel Unkept Promises and put it up on preorder, nearly completed To Wed a Proper Lady, and made a good start on The Granite Earl and the Ice Princess.

More about Unkept Promises in a minute, but first, here’s the start of another project — next to get my full focus. It’s the as-yet-unnamed novella for the next Authors of Main Street Christmas project, due out in November. I’m returning to Valentines Bay for this one, in which a professor on sabbatical to finish writing up some important research finds himself intolerably distracted by the local baker, and an author who is helping out her injured aunt by looking after the bakery can’t get any of her real work done because of an irritating academic.

Patrick had read the same paragraph at least four times, and still could not make head nor tail of it. Worse, he’d written it himself, and reviewed it in the last two edits.

It was all Her fault. Even when She was being relatively quiet, as she was now, he was intolerably aware of Her. She irritated him so much, that even breathing the same air, She left him without enough to fill his lungs. And when She forgot herself and began singing to whatever infernal noise She had playing through Her headphones! Well! He’d defy a saint not to turn murderous.

When he found out that the nice old duck who owned the place was laid up with a broken hip, Patrick should have cancelled his booking. Or demanded his meals delivered to the little flat he’d rented above the bakery. Or any arrangement that would have allowed him to escape this torture.

He gave up on the page and took a sip of his tea. Cold. That was all of a piece, though — he looked at the clock above the bakery counter to check — it had been one hour since She bought it.

She was watching him. Glaring, really. Before glaring back, Patrick quickly checked his reflection in the shop window alongside. Hair tidy. Shirt collar and glasses straight. No. Nothing there to arouse Her animosity.

I’m trying for a romantic comedy this time, rather than romantic suspense. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Now. Unkept Promises. If you read historical, and like stories with slightly darker shadows than the frothy ball dress style of story, give my Golden Redepennings a try. Unkept Promises is the 4th book in the series.

Which brings me to the next part of the quote in the title of this post: Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer. That’s how I feel about finally getting Unkept Promises up on pre-release and away to the proofreader.

Unkept Promises

Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series

She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed

… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy.” Herman Melville

Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.

Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.

Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.

Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.

Buy links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/947394
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07TXXK53N/

See my book page for the previous three books, and The Golden Redepennings web page for more about the series. And all my novels, including these, are on 50% discount at Smashwords this month.