In 2013 Mills & Boon relaunched their RIVA line with Modern Tempted (called Harlequin KISS in the States), an imprint that held echoes of the Temptation novels of the 80s and 90s, and the sexiness of the Modern Heat series from the 00s.
Whether as RIVA or as Modern Tempted, I adored the books and was incredibly upset when the line stopped publishing two years ago.
So this month I’m taking a look back at the authors of Modern Tempted, at the books they wrote then, and what they’re up to now…
I adore Hart’s heroines, and probably my favourite is Frith from Hitched!:
What I, engineer Frith Williams, know about weddings could fit on a piece of confetti…
So how did workaholic me end up wedding planner for my tabloid-darling sister? Don’t ask! Time to make (yet another) To-Mess Up list:
1. Venue – surely the added distraction of unbearably charming venue manager George Challoner is a bonus?!
2. Seating Plan – it’s in disarray! I need a +1 and George is the only singleton around. Must remember not to fall for that lethally irresistible smile!
3. Catching the Bouquet – I might now be an expert on weddings, but broken hearts don’t mend easily. I’ll still never contemplate my own…
This novel completely changed the way I look at heroines. I love the fact that Jessica Hart gives Frith an atypical career: she’s an engineer! The way that her career is explored as being a really important part of her life, as well as the challenges that it causes for Frith with her family.
It’s a really great example of challenging gendered expectations in a way that isn’t preachy or stuffed down the readers’ throats. And addition to that, we have a totally charming hero in George, a wedding to plan, and the most beautiful backdrop and setting!
Hart’s other Modern Tempted books include:
- Ordinary Girl in a Tiara (After Caro gets dumped by her posh fiance, the last thing she wants to put herself back into the spotlight, but then her best friend begs her to help stage a scandal. Soon she finds herself masquerading as the girlfriend of Prince Philippe…)
- We’ll Always Have Paris (Simon’s known as the financial guru to go to for commentary on the global economy, so can Clara persuade him to take a chance presenting her television show on the romance industry?)
- Mr (Not Quite) Perfect (Allegra’s pitched a story about transforming an everyday guy into the perfect guy, and now she’s got to find the man to makeover! Her flatmate Max is so frustrated with the constraints of what Allegra thinks is perfect, and he’s determined to show her that perfect comes in all shapes and sizes!)
So what’s Jessica been up to since the end of Modern Tempted?
She’s been writing historical timeslip novels, under the name Pamela Hartshorne:
- Time’s Echo (Grace can’t quite believe it when time twists and turns in York in such a way that she finds her life inextricably intertwined with that of Elizabethan Hawise Aske…)
- The Memory of Midnight (Tess finds herself living two lives, in two different worlds, and caught between her own past as a wife to overbearing husband Martin, and Elizabethan Nell’s sadistic husband.)
- The Edge of Dark (When Roz finds a beautiful necklace, she soon realises that the flashbacks that come with it, come from a different era altogether!)
- House of Shadows (The doctors say that Kate’s amnesia will fade and her memories will start to return… So why is it that her memories seem to belong to someone who lived over four hundred years ago?)
A book can change your life. One day Jessica Hart read Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour, and thought: ‘I know, I’ll do a Ph.D. in medieval history.’ Mad. But once she’d decided she wanted to go back to university, she had to find a way of funding herself.
Like everyone else, she’d heard about Mills & Boon. Like everyone else, she assumed they were easy to write. She’d always been good at writing. Hadn’t she knocked out poems on the school bus? Hadn’t her essay about her cat, Sooty, been read out on BBC radio for schools? She was practically a writer already. Ergo, she would knock out a book, M&B would hand her a fat cheque, and she would be able to pay her university fees. Easy.
Er, not so easy, as it turned out. she had three rejections before A Sweeter Prejudice was accepted just before Christmas 1989. She wrote four more books before rashly selling her flat in London and moving to York to do that Ph.D. Jessica knew nobody in York. she bought the first house she saw, and lives there still, with the city walls and the Minster at the end of the street. For the next few years she divided her time between writing romance and researching how people in medieval and early modern York disposed of their rubbish (it’s more interesting than it sounds, honest). She finally completed my Ph.D. in 2004.
More recently I have started writing mainstream ‘time slip’ novels which combine my research with everything I had learnt about writing over the years. She now juggles a number of different identities (romance writer, author, editor, tutor, historian), which makes for an interesting life at times.
Although she started writing for money, the more she writes, the more interested she is in how romance works and why. One of the things she likes most about being a romance writer is making connections wit readers around the world. Over the years she has developed a profound respect for the romance genre, and is proud to be part of the romance writing and reading community. It’s true, she still yearns sometimes for those wide horizons, and she heads for them whenever she can, but it’s her books that do the real travelling now, and they have gone further than she ever could.