Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: How to Analyse Romance Fiction plus giveway

Harlequin Romance author Barbara Hannay explains what she looks for in a romance novel when she wants to learn about why a book works.

At the next meeting of our local romance writers group, we’re going to share and discuss our favourite romance novels. At home, before the meeting we’re going to try to analyse these books in depth. We want to try to understand why they work so well for us. And we’re sure this will help to improve our own writing.

Some time ago, when I was “teaching myself” how to write a romance novel, I found this kind of analysis particularly helpful, but I think it can be useful for readers, too, not only if you want to talk about books with other readers, but because it can actually deepen your enjoyment of the reading process. After all, readers are the other half of the book’s reason for being, and thoughtful, appreciative readers are a writer’s best friend.
So I thought I’d list the kinds of questions our group are going to consider in the hope that they might be helpful for aspiring writers or for readers.

Why does a certain book have special appeal for you?
Is it the setting? Does the writer draw you into an intriguing world you’d love to visit?

Is it the situation? Are you hooked by the events the characters are caught up in? By twists and turns of this story? Is this novel a perfect example of one of your favourite romantic themes such as friends to lovers, marriage of convenience, wounded hero or revenge?

Are the characters very appealing? Why do you like the heroine? Do you admire her? Does she come across as real?
Are you falling in love with the hero? How does the writer make this happen? Is the hero alpha, or of the gentler variety? Do you care about the characters and want them to get together? Can you work out why?
Are their actions well motivated?
Is the novel a page turner? Fast paced? Or leisurely and lush, so you want to stay in that world?
Is there one utterly unforgettable scene that you absolutely love? Can you work out why it works so well? Is it carefully placed in the novel for maximum impact? Is there a sustained lead up to this moment? Is it incredibly daring or sexy or emotional? Does it make you cry? Lump in the throat? Is it beautifully written?
Is the ending very satisfying? Can you explain why?

Is there something else – something indefinable – a special magic? When you look more closely, can you work out how the writer did this trick? Perhaps it’s simply the writer’s voice? Do you just love the way she (or he) writes? The touches of humour or description or sparkly dialogue?
OK – you’re probably wondering what book I’m taking along to my meeting. I’ve decided it will be my most recent “romance find” – Sarah Mayberry’s Superromance Her Best Friend.

I think, Sarah’s voice is the reason for my enjoyment. There is warmth and humour and lust and a wonderfully contemporary realism to her story. It ticks so many boxes for me. I’m going to share just share it.
It’s a friends to lovers story, an all time favourite theme of mine.
The heroine has a big and admirable goal and she works hard throughout the novel to achieve it.
The hero is sexy, but not in an overpowering way. He’s been married to the heroine’s best friend, but this delicate triangle is handled very deftly, without any clunking coincidences, or major regrets.

I’ve written 39 romance novels, but I love the fact that I can still learn from my gifted colleagues. What’s your current favourite? If you can tell me why, I’ll put your name in the hat, for a signed copy of my latest release Bridesmaid Says: ‘I do!

This is Book 1 in my Changing Grooms duet, and is released as Harlequin Romance and Mills and Boon Riva in October.

Book 2, Runaway Bride, will be on sale in America in December and in the UK in January.
To learn more about Barbara Hannay and her sparklingly emotional books visit her website:


  1. Christine Rimmer - because she's who I'm currently reading.


  2. Maya Banks because I always get her characters; they're consistent and people I would like to know in person

  3. Sandra Brown. Always loved her voice from the "early" days when she wrote for HM&B. Caroline x

  4. Kelly Hunter's Flirting with Intent. I love the setting in Hong Kong and Australia. I love the situation - he's a spy, sort of. But mostly I love the characters - he's a geeky, ADHD, computer boy and she's a brilliant, bright lawyer who really understands how people work. A total page turner, I was so happy when these two managed to find a happy ending with each other.

  5. No one particular favorite. I like anybody's book that makes me LOL several times, and makes me turn the pages quickly in anticipation of what's next (rather than wanting to get to the end to get it over with). They must, of course, have HEA endings (that's a given today, but back 40 years ago, some romances didn't have HEAs). I don't want to be bored with pages and pages of scenery descriptions either.

  6. I'm reading Donna Alward and really enjoying her lovely warm writing and descriptions.

  7. I don't really have just one favourite author. I'm usually hooked on how the characters deal with the situations. I too don't want lots of scenery description.

  8. I have always loved Jude Deveraux and Jennifer Cruise. I love Jennifer's witty sense of humor.

  9. Fantastic answers everyone. Thank you. Our group came up with an intersting range -- Diana Gabaldon, Rosamund Piclcher, Nora Roberts, Susan Napier, a very old category by Madeline Ker that involved a kidnap...
    I love Ros's analytical reasons for choosing Kelly Hunter. Those characters sound amazing. I'll be back later today (I'm in Australia) to choose a winner.

  10. Just off the top of my head in no particular order ~ ~ ~ Olivia Gates ~ powerful writing that sucks you into the story, Kelly Hunter ~ love her humor woven into the stories, Sarah Mayberry ~ for the reasons you mentioned, Donna Alward ~ just because she writes so wonderfully and she's the first author I met and Brenda Minton who has a voice that just speaks to me.

    I really hate making lists like this a s there are so many authors whose stories I love.

  11. PS ~ I've read and own all of Rosamund Pilcher's books. I have all of Georgette Heyer's books as well. Most memorable book I read this year wasn't a romance it was Room by Emma Donoghue. Boy did it make you think about the world in a different way.

  12. Thanks again everyone. Kaelee, I have every one of Rosamund Pilcher's books too. In fact I'm finishing The Shell Seekers tonight for the third time. She's my all time favourite comfort read.

    But for a winner for this discussion, I'm going to go with Ros, because she gave so many good reasons for liking Kelly's book.

    Ros, could you contact me at Barbara(dot)Hannay@yahoo(dot)com, so I know where to forward the books?

  13. Woops... I just remembered I said I'd put the names in a hat for a winner, so to be toatally fair, I'm doing just that.

    And the winner (as well as Ros) is... Chey!

    congratulations and please write to me at Barbara(dot)Hannay@yahoo(dot)com Chey.