#StrongRomanceHeroines, Piatkus, Reading, Respond to Reading, Responding to Reading, Romance

Respond to Reading: The Rogue Not Taken


I fell across Sarah MacClean‘s writing about two years ago, when I fairly devoured her Love by Numbers trilogy.  I loved the way in which she managed to write about strong women, without drifting away from the reality of a woman’s life in regency England.

So when I heard that she had a new series – Scandal & Scoundrel – I was rather excited.  The Rogue Not Taken, as well as being a fantastic name for historical, didn’t let me down.  MacClean’s ability to highlight the fragility of a woman’s reputation in the regency era is one of the things that lifts her romances up out of the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a romp where the heroine singlehandedly takes on society and wins as much as the next person, but they’re incredibly unrealistic.  The social disgrace and near ruination of a family, due to Sophie’s flouting of social graces, makes this a far more interesting read.

Sophie’s not the stereotypical heroine.  She’s stubborn, messes up a lot of the time, and the one time she acts without thinking, sets off a catastrophic series of events, and yet you can’t help but sympathise with her.  Her dilemma, as a young lady whose family were given a title, as opposed to having been born into one, seems heartfelt.  She’s got absolutely no wish to be in society, and can think of nothing better than returning to the home of her childhood and marrying the baker’s boy – especially when society is unmentionable cruel to her and her sisters.

Of course, she meets someone who purposefully spends his time scandalising society, and despite the fact that neither of them can stand the other, they end up being thrown together.

As a hero, King’s spent his life furious with his father for a tragedy in his youth and it’s coloured his attitude towards everything.  In short, he appears to be a bit of a dick.  There was a twist, towards the end of the book, that I really wasn’t expecting.  It set on its head an accepted regency romance trope, and forced King’s internal conflict to drastically change.  Suffice to say it was a genius move on MacClean’s part.

In fact, the whole book reads a bit like a social commentary on gossip columns of today; it made me think about celebrity, and in particular notoriety, and was so engaging that I can’t wait for the next book!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Q&A, Reading, Tule Publishing, Writing

Q&A with Ally Blake

I first blogged about Ally Blake, back in 2013, whilst I was more than a little obsessed with the Modern Tempted (aka Harlequin KISS or M&B RIVA) line.  Since then she’s written a book via Facebook and released a number with Tule Publishing.

Her latest, Love Me Tender, is the first full length novel in her Cinderella Project series, and after inhaling it, I caught up with her to ask some questions.


Serafina Scott is loyal and intelligent, making sacrifices for the father that she loves. What comes across is her incredible strength; what do you think makes a #StrongRomanceHeroine?


From a light, perky, shoulders-back-and-smile-through-it-all heroine to a tough, abrasive, no-backing-down-for-anyone heroine, a heroine who is true to herself will always be a strong one.

Serafina’s truth is her love for her dad.  He’s been her staunchest supporter and she’ll always be the same for him come hell, or high water…or true love.

Being part-Italian, I really loved the way that tiny details imbued Sera’s heritage; what made you decide to make her roots Italian?

Oh yay!  I’m so pleased that rang true for you.

Since watching The Godfather I knew I was going to marry an Italian :).  The language, the dark features, and all that innate swagger. Sigh…  My husband is half-Italian so I did just fine.

For all that I’d never purposely intended for Serafina’s father to be Italian.  He simply appeared on the page watching Toto movies on his tablet.

That last part (and many of the “tiny details” I added along the way) definitely came via my Italian father-in-law.  He had zero interest in the internet until he realized the connections it gave him to his Italian roots.  He’s already Skyped a zillion more times than I ever will!

Conflict is always central to any romance’s narrative, but the tragedy in Murdoch’s past makes him really stand out. How do characters’ internal conflicts and histories jump fully formed into your mind, or do they surprise you as you write?

My characters ALWAYS surprise me as I write.

I might have a tiny inkling at the beginning as to where their conflicts spring from, but their deeper truths are revealed to me as they are revealed to the reader.  Piece by piece, layer by unpeeled layer, until they are laid bare and vulnerable.


One of my favourite characters in the novel is interfering fairy godmother Hazel. How important do you think secondary characters are within romances?

For me, secondary characters are of utmost importance.

The hero and heroine are two-dimensional to one another when they first meet, as they are to the reader.  Seeing them with their families, co-workers, and best friends lets us see who they really are once their guards are down.

The hero and heroine also reveal so much more of how they are feeling to those close to them than they will to one another…which makes for delicious fun!

Love Me Tender is part of The Cinderella Project, (the prequel being Kiss Me Quick). Are we going to get to see other characters star in their own books?

You bet!

Hazel – along with her new match-making business (The Cinderella Project) – is the through line: after trying to take over Kiss Me Quickshe simply refused to be left behind.  And as readers keep getting in touch asking when this character is getting a book, or that one, what had started out as a one book story has fast morphed into a half dozen in my head!

As for now, Tell Me True is due for release early next year with Hold Me Now coming a couple of months after that and already a few favourite characters have put in appearances 🙂


Love Me Tender and its prequel, Kiss Me Quick, are available now.

Ally Blake has spent more than ten years in romance publishing. In that time she has travelled the world with her ever-patient husband researching fabulously noveliscious locations, had three bright bumptious kids, happily represented the romance genre on The Project and A Current Affair and in New Idea and eaten more M&Ms than should be medically possible.

To find out more about Ally – and release details for the next books in the Cinderella Project series – check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado, Mills & Boon, Reading, Thrills & Swoon



Every now and then, a book inspires me enough for me to write a veritable glut of pieces about it.  The latest book to do this is Sarah Morgan’s First Time in Forever.

Like the Frozen song of the same name, it tells a story of love and redemption, and of feeling free for the very first time.

I’ve written two pieces about it – once for Mills & Boon, which focuses on the conflict within the narrative, and once about the importance of setting, and would recommend that you read it also.