Since it's Throwback Thursday, we decided to ask veteran romance author Jane Feather — whose latest, Trapped at the Altar, released this week — how she became enraptured by romance, specifically the timeless historicals that helped shape the genre. If you're on Twitter, check out the #TBTRom hashtag to see which classic romances readers hold near and dear to their hearts.
In the summer of 1980, after my family had been living in the US for three years, I was on vacation in a house on stilts on Hatteras Island, sometime before it became a really popular holiday vacation spot. My husband, myself and three young children were taking a short break before moving from New Jersey to Washington DC. I had just resigned from my job as a psychiatric social worker in Newark, New Jersey, and was not sure what I wanted to do with my life after the move. Would I resume my social work career or find something different? One morning I opened a closet in our house among the sea oats, and shelves of contemporary romances spilled out. It was my first experience of genre romantic fiction, and I devoured the contents of that cupboard.
I had always loved writing, although case notes were a far cry from romantic fiction. But when a good friend, who was also a literary agent, said that romances had finally gone beyond the bedroom door I was hooked. It was one of my life’s most exciting moments when my first book was accepted. But after awhile I started to feel I was too new to America to feel truly confident in writing within a contemporary background, there were too many idioms I was not properly familiar with, and I had loved historical novels for as long as I can remember. Daphne Du Maurier and Baroness Orczy had been my close companions for years. Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope had dominated English Literature classes at school, and my mother introduced me to Georgette Heyer and the wonderland of Regency romance when I was about twelve. I knew European history and had loved studying it, it’s fertile ground for plots, and it felt somehow right and natural to work in a field where I thought I had sufficient proficiency to get it right. Of course, I discovered quickly that it required a lot more than a sense of history and an enjoyment of sensual romance to bring readers into one’s own imaginative creation.
When I’m stuck for romantic inspiration, which happens more often that I like to admit, I’ll conjure the scene from Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, when the pirate claims his debt. Just a sentence, when Donna wakes to find herself naked in the bunk on the pirate’s ship while her clothes are drying, and Jean Benoit comes into the cabin and leans over her to remove the ear ring from her ear, the stake she had wagered and lost. One of the most erotic images ever written. And what follows is all left to the imagination.
I have another go-to image. From The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau. Again a line of pulsing sensuality. Caroline is in the bath, her married lover comes in and merely rolls up his sleeves.
Who needs more than that to set the spiral of sexual excitement unfurling?
- Jane Feather
Which classic tales got you hooked on romance? And be sure to grab a copy of Trapped at the Altar, available now. For more historical romps visit our Everything Romance page.