Sophie Weston is a long time member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and for a long time has been one of my favourite category romance authors. I’m absolutely delighted that Sophie is turning her hand to category romance again, and not only that, her new book is part of a collection with three of my other favourite authors – Jessica Hart, Liz Fielding and Anne McAllister. Tule Publishing is releasing the quartet at two-day intervals from 13th – 20th October…an absolute treat in store!
And I’m thrilled to have Sophie here today to talk about her own book in the collection, The Prince’s Bride. Welcome to Yorkshire, Sophie!
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Helena. It is very good to be here, with so many RNA friends.
Inciting Incident: She couldn’t say no…
It was that sort of invitation. Well, I mean, if someone asks you to write one book of a quartet and all the other writers involved have novels on your Keeper Shelf, and have shared a glass or twenty with you over the years, and, in one case, is the best person ever at giving head rubs to your neurotic sweetheart of a cat, well, would you say no?
But there was a problem. I hadn’t written a category romance for a long, long time. The last one I’d written had taken me 23 months, accompanied me to Australia and back, messed with my head, shattered my confidence, driven my friends crazy and still haunted my dreams.
Now, that had been a sheikh book. When I started, the auguries had been fine. I’d written one before, which readers loved. (Actually that story came to me while I was sitting in the lobby of a 5 star Cairo hotel and this magnificent creature in wrap around shades and a robe so white it hurt your eyes to look at, swept in. He was trailing an entourage, a mountain of baggage and a couple of respectful photographers. After that, the story pretty much wrote itself.)
Second time around was different. Suddenly we all knew more about the Middle East and it wasn’t romantic. Maybe I was less innocent, too. Anyway, my second engagement with a Lord of the Desert was a prolonged trial of fire. My friends called him El Sodh. They weren’t wrong. But I gritted my teeth and finished the book. Eventually. The problem was that, tit for tat, the book finished me for category romance. Or so I’d thought. But now, against the odds, I was really excited to try again.
The four of us agreed to work together and started roughing out ideas by email. Anne visited the UK and we got together in person and had a ball getting to know each other’s characters. Jessica took us to Castle Combe as inspiration for the village and manor house where her hero the baronet and my heroine, the prince’s bride had been born.
I’d found my hero quickly. He was a hard worker and a good friend, my Prince Jonas. A bit conflicted, maybe, but he didn’t take himself too seriously and he made me laugh. It was all looking good.
Except I’d been so worried that the hero would torpedo me, after El Sodh and his tantrums, that I’d concentrated on Jonas to the exclusion of Hope, his bride and my heroine.
That was a bad moment. Pure panic. I’d always known my heroine inside out before. But then I remembered sitting round the fire with Liz, Anne and Jessica, I could remember Liz’s generous Ally, Anne’s courageous Celina, Jessica’s open-hearted Flora so very clearly. Back then I’d known Hope, too. I went back and looked at our emails. Yes, they knew who she was. I’d just lost sight of her temporarily. I plunged her, protesting, into San Michele folk dancing. She emerged fighting her corner like a pro. She was back! Phew!
Dark Night of the Soul
But I had forgotten one crucial thing – category romance is very focused and, as a result, has a tight word limit. I’d been writing single title length ever since El Sodh. Nobody could solve that for me, not even author Kelly Hunter, who was editing the series, and gave me a great deal of help – including a concessionary word limit of 60,000, for which I am eternally grateful! – and advice.
But re-writing a book is like entering a dream, I found. When you close your eyes and sink into the experience, you’re on your own.
And the answer did, indeed, come in dreams. Every night I would read one of my colleagues’ books from the Keeper Shelf. So when I went to sleep, my brain was already firing to the rhythm of some of the best category romances that I’d ever read. Perfect.
When I finally delivered the much revised ms, I was really proud of it. So when it seemed to hit the spot with the editors and kind readers started tweeting things “Four of my favourite authors in one series!” and “A romance reader’s dream,” it really felt as if The Prince’s Bride had earned its place at the table. A moment of true bliss.
Here is the link to the Royal Wedding Invitation Series
Here is the blurb to The Prince’s Bride
The Prince’s Bride
Jonas Reval is the Principality of San Michele’s super eligible Prince Charming–at least he will be if the family has its way. But Jonas has been paying his dues in the family high-powered law firm for long enough. He wants to live life on his own terms, and that does not include romance.
Hope Kennard’s childhood was rocked by scandal and financial ruin. With the death of her beloved but misguided father, she left England to travel the world in search of peace and purpose. No commitments, no baggage, no regrets. This philosophy works for Hope until she takes a housesitting job in sunny, beautiful San Michele and has a fateful meeting with a handsome and intriguing man.
Hope senses Jonas has secrets, but she has a few of her own. Can two people stop running from themselves long enough to find love?
Buy link (which should go to your preferred bookstore)
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Thanks so much for giving us the background to The Prince’s Bride, Sophie. It was fascinating to find out how it all came together – and to hear about El Sodh :) I’m sure he was one of your heroes I fell in love with, and I can’t wait to meet your prince!
If you’ve enjoyed Sophie’s post, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!