TJ Bennett is the author of “Dark and Daring Romance” and a former Romance Writers of America Golden Heart nominee. TJ writes “outside the box” historical romance featuring richly detailed settings and unusual subjects. Her critically-acclaimed debut novel, THE LEGACY, was rated a “Buried Treasure 2008” and a “Desert Isle Keeper” by the influential reader site All About Romance. The Historical Novel Society deemed THE LEGACY “a solid historical romance from a promising debut author.” THE LEGACY, set in 16th century Reformation Germany during the Peasant Revolution, was also a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence contest, the Book Buyers Best Award, and the Holt Medallion. TJ’s newest release, THE PROMISE, follows a mercenary during Charles V’s Italian campaigns. THE PROMISE was awarded TOP PICK status by Night Owl Romance and given four stars by Romantic Times BOOKReviews, which called TJ an “author to watch.” Eye on Romance’s Historical Romance Writers’ reviewer says TJ is a “master at writing historical fiction.”
FF: Welcome to Fresh Fiction, TJ. Tell us a little more about your work.
TJ: I’d like to thank Fresh Fiction for having me here today to talk about my latest release, THE PROMISE. This is a story of love, redemption, and the power of a promise. In 1525, a German mercenary (a Landsknecht) in the service of Emperor Charles V must overcome his own wounded heart and convince a reluctant widow to marry him in order to keep a promise to a dying friend. A gypsy’s curse on every man who loves her forces the Spanish beauty to rebuff him, but their passion for one another is stronger than the mysterious misfortune that seems to plague any with the courage to defy the curse. THE PROMISE features the brother of my printer hero from THE LEGACY, my debut novel.
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If someone doesn’t glue me down soon I’m going to hurt myself. Why all the extra energy? Lot’s of reasons. Despite this economic downturn and the lull in publishing, romance has not only survived, it’s thriving!
Take that, literary snobs! Okay, that isn’t nice, but it’s how I feel. Would someone please tell me what is so bad about losing yourself in a passionate love story? One that ends with a Happily Ever After? Hot heroes to die for, heroines we’d like to befriend and that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we read The End. How can anyone have issues with that?
Not me, and I don’t defend romance either. I blow off the snarky comments with a shrug of my shoulders and a suggestion to the naysayer that perhaps they might want professional help to deal with that cynical chip on their shoulder. Okay, maybe that is a wee bit defensive, but it’s true!
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Oldest? Middle? Youngest? Only?
Does your position in your birth family determine aspects of your personality? May psychologists believe that it does. A glance around my own birth family (6 siblings), as well as the family I gave birth to (3 kids), tells me there’s a nugget of truth in birth-order/personality theories.
An added bonus: yet another character-creation aid for writers. When I dreamed up the various members of the Santangelo family in A Little Light Magic (Leisure Books, May 26), I kept birth order personality traits in mind. Here’s a quick rundown:
Nick Santangelo (hero of A Little Light Magic): The classic oldest child. Conservative, responsible, workaholic, protector, doesn’t like to take risks. Nick’s a business owner, which is not unusual for an oldest child. He’s used to making decisions and giving orders (having practiced in childhood on his younger brothers). He doesn’t often let loose and just have fun – everything’s tied up in work and responsibility for Nick.
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I love a great many things about romance, but I like the fantasy aspect the most. Daydreaming is such a wonderful pastime, isn’t it? And it’s free! I did get to indulge in a big way while writing SAVED BY THE MONARCH.
Since I’m scared to death of flying, I make a point to do it at least once a year. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my intrepid heroines, it’s that life is too short to let fear win. When I travel, I see as people wait for their loved ones at airports, or for strangers holding up signs with names. And since I’m a writer, I see book ideas everywhere…
What if someone went on vacation to Europe, to a small kingdom her parents had left behind when she’d been a very young child? And what if the surprise of a lifetime waited for her when she arrived?
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Recently Samhain Publishing released a true book of my heart, BUTTERFLY TATTOO. This edgy and genre-bending contemporary romance is my seventh published book although it was the very first one that my agent shopped on my behalf. The winding path this novel took before becoming published is a true study in how important relationships are, not only in publishing, but in all walks of life.
I thought it might be interesting for my friends and readers to learn the crazy relationship connections that are involved in my road to publication. The story begins with Louisa Edwards, the editor who ultimately bought my first book, PARALLEL ATTRACTION. Louisa is literally one of my favorite people in all of publishing. We’ve worn a lot of hats together, and it’s almost amusing as time goes on to see just how many caps and beanies we can swap.
While Louisa was still an editor at Penguin Putnam, I placed three authors with her, and we always felt that our tastes overlapped and blended almost mystically. So when my agent Pamela Harty—a super goddess among agents, by the way—shared BUTTERFLY TATTOO with her, Louisa fell in love. I mean, head-tripping-over-heels, crazy in love. She fought hard to acquire the novel, but ultimately the book was just too edgy and ahead of its time. Still, Louisa’s love for BUTTERFLY opened a critical door for me and just a few months later, it led to her snapping up my paranormal series that debuted with PARALLEL ATTRACTION.
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We’ve all got tropes we like – assassin heroes, marriage of convenience, small town romance, older man/younger woman (or vice versa), uber alpha heroes, beta heroes, certain historical periods (me? I love me some wallpaper regencies), friends to lovers, whatever your preferences may be – we’ve all got em.
Relentless is a story of opposites. In Abbie, we have a woman without political power. In the world I built for my Federation books, the haves are Ranked. As in they are members of the ruling Families who hold the reins of political and economic power across all the Federation Universes. Everyone else is unranked and therefore able to rise only so high.
So Abbie is unranked. She’s also a barrister, a public defender if you will and she has spent her adult life working to bring a more representative form of governance to her home ‘Verse. She’s small and fiery and full of passion and conviction.
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My mother and I don’t always see eye to eye, but the one thing we always have agreed on are romance novels. We absolutely love them. One of my main memories as a child was going to the library with my mother every Sunday, where she’d exchange her stack of hardcover romances for a new stack of books. As soon as I was old enough to have run through the Judy Blume books, I made my way over to romances. And was hooked. Little did I know that I would be writing them one day. (And that my mother would be reading them. But that’s another article, entirely!)
Like many writers, I took the long way around to becoming an erotic romance author. I graduated from Stanford with an Economics degree in 1994, but really, I knew I was never going to become a management consultant. No, I wanted to be a rock star. So I recorded 4 CDs, played 1,000+ shows throughout North America, had a turn at being a star in Brazil, and then said, “Okay, what’s next?” Somewhere along the way when my bank account was looking worse for the wear, I worked as a Director of Marketing for a dot com. No, I didn’t get rich, but I did decide that come hell or high water I was going to make a living with creative pursuits. So I wrote two books on the music business, sold them, joined a local writer’s group and uttered the words, “I could never write fiction. I can’t believe that characters just start having a conversation in people’s heads. How weird.”
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What is it about the topic of sisters that causes so much controversy? My new Regency-set historical, Mastering The Marquess, is partly a story about a pair of sisters, and the life-threatening situation they confront together. Meredith, my heroine, will do anything to keep her little sister Annabel out of harm’s way—even if it means putting her own life at risk. And she does that without blaming Annabel for their predicament, or feeling resentful that she must potentially sacrifice her own chance for happiness.
Meredith’s selflessness didn’t seem odd or out of character to me, likely because I have an older sister who has always been uber-protective of her siblings. She would take on a herd of charging elephants without a second thought if it meant keeping me or my brothers safe. But to my surprise, a few readers of Mastering The Marquess expressed discomfort with Meredith’s willingness to sacrifice herself for Annabel. They thought their relationship was too perfect—that real sisters fought more, and that Meredith should, at the very least, be resentful of Annabel. That took me aback since I can count the number of times I’ve fought with my sister on one hand, with a few fingers still left over. Maybe I’ve been lucky and I just happened to win the grand prize in the sister lottery, or it could be that we’re just a pair of really irritating goody two-shoes!
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The Heroes of Touch a Dark Wolf, Lure of the Wolf, Kiss of Darkness, and Bride of the Wolf by Jennifer St. Giles.
Looking over the four scowling, muscled men surrounding me at the picnic-style table, it seemed to me that their drop-dead sex appeal sucked all of the air from the ranger camp’s dining hall. I fought for a deep breath, started the recorder, and delved right into the interview. The sooner they realized I wasn’t here to steal something sacred from them like their sword or the TV remote, the better off I would be. Provided I could lie that well. The truth was I would have stolen any moment I could in a dark corner. It was my first assignment for Cosmos PQ and I’d felt like a lamb coming into a den of lions when I walked in the door, but now that I’d met them…well that was changing. Jared and Navarre were warriors from the spirit world and Sheriff Sam Sheridan along with Deputy Nick Sinclair were humans from Twilight’s Sheriff’s Department. Before today my closest encounter with the paranormal was hot romance novels, but I had an open mind and always believed where there was smoke there was fire. And boy was there some hot stuff blazing here.
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So my May book is the third in a four book series set in Georgian England. The series is The Legend of the Four Soldiers and the book is To Beguile a Beast. The other three books are about soldiers coming home from war. But To Beguile a Beast doesn’t have a soldier hero.
Sir Alistair Munroe is a civilian naturalist.
The other three soldier heroes were in the British army when their regiment was decimated by the French and their Indian allies. They volunteered for the army or bought a commission, but in any case, they chose to be there.
Sir Alistair just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And while the other heroines in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series are aristocratic heroines, Helen Fitzwilliam, the heroine of To Beguile a Beast is no aristocrat.
Nor is she a lady.
Click to read the rest and to comment on Elizabeth’s blog.