book review · Books

Book Review: A Higher Education: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Rosalie Stanton

41ak7a7xgtl-_sy346_It is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions are a bitch.

In a sea of college freshmen, Elizabeth Bennet feels more like a den mother than a returning student. She’d rather be playing Exploding Kittens than dodge-the-gropers at a frat party, but no way was she letting her innocent, doe-eyed roommate go alone.

Everything about Meryton College screams old money—something she and Jane definitely are not—but Elizabeth resolves to enjoy herself. That resolve is tested—and so is her temper—when she meets Will Darcy, a pompous blowhole with no sense of fun, and his relentlessly charming wingman, Charlie.

Back at school after prolonged break, Will Darcy is far too old and weary for coeds. Yet even he can see why Charlie spontaneously decides the captivating Jane is “the one.” What throws Will is his own reaction to Jane’s roommate.

Elizabeth’s moonlight skin and shining laugh hit him like a sucker punch. And he doesn’t like it. Elizabeth Bennet is dangerous, not only because she has a gift for making him make an ass of himself, but because she and her razor-sharp wit could too easily throw his life off course, and he can’t afford for that to happen again.

Yet he also can’t seem to stay away.

This book was so much fun. Every time I found myself having to put it down I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and their sizzling interactions. (I’ll admit up front that I have never once read Jane Austen, sacrilege I know, but in my defense, I have tried).

From the start, I fell in love with Elizabeth. Brilliant, funny and with a wicked tongue she’s everything I love to see in a heroine. Mr. Darcy didn’t disappoint either and their interactions were amazing. I loved it every time they verbally sparred with each other. I’m surprised my Kindle wasn’t sparking at times.

Beyond the amazing characterizations, I was so happy that Stanton seamlessly included a wonderful mix of diversity into the story. Jane, Elizabeth’s best friend is African-American and eschews every stereotype but also doesn’t back away from handling racial issues within the story. Not only that, we are treated to LGBT characters who are not walking stereotypes but simply humans going about their lives.

Elizabeth comes across as less a raging feminist than a person who understands what it means to have to be a woman in this day and age and the sometimes monumental challenges that come with the territory. She makes her mistakes, owns them, and isn’t afraid to learn and grow, something I love her for.

It’s not often I enjoy a het romance this much (Jami Gold being the other exception), I might even have gotten teary-eyed at a couple of scenes. This is one romance I’ll be revisiting and likely soon.


book review · gay romance · lgbt · short story

Book Review: Rapunzel’s Surrender by Jacinta Laurenti


She is queen and a widow, and an invading army is approaching the castle. The enemy covets the mountain of gold buried under the fortress, and many of the queen’s subjects have fled.

As a bitter wind sweeps over the castle walls and whispers to the queen, a stranger arrives at the gate begging to be allowed in. She’s injured, but Rapunzel recognizes the woman’s face from her visions and her name from ancient tales.


Is she a spy? 
Or an enchantress? 
Or both?

The queen has Irmela locked in the dungeon, but despite the danger, her majesty cannot resist the stunning woman, and she traipses into the damp freezing recesses of the castle to interrogate her.

Irmela has a dark history but she and Rapunzel are connected as though a web of invisible thread draws them together.

While burning oil, brimstone and hot sand rain down on the castle, the queen is in turmoil. She battles not only an enemy and her family’s disapproval but also her own pride. She’s torn between duty and love and tells herself that giving her heart to an immortal is foolhardy.

But the ever-present wind, never willing to do Rapunzel’s bidding, might – after centuries of being its own master – offer her and Irmela its support.Rapunzel may not be in a tower, but she is a prisoner – of sorts. 

tl;dr: Lackluster world building, thin character development along with some unfortunate word choices make Rapunzel’s Surrender feel rough around the edges.

I personally felt a bit imprisoned by this short story. From the first chapter I had trouble connecting with Queen Rapunzel and bouncing from past to present to hazy visions brought on the wind never gave me a chance to get to know her. Unfortunately, this persisted throughout the story with point-of-view changes coming close to head hopping and leaving some scenes a muddled mess.

Then there was some very unfortunate phrasing during the actual sex that immediately turned me off to the whole scene. A woman’s vaginal secretions being called ‘broth’ pulled me right out of the whole story and it took me a bit to return to it and be able to take it seriously.

Throughout the story, Rapunzel worries if she’s worthy of being a queen. Her actions clearly show she’s not. Inviting a known sorceress and possible spy into her room just because the wind once whispered her name and gave her sexy visions seems irresponsible in the extreme to me. Then again that may just be me. Perhaps if I’d been given a chance to get to know her instead of being told about her childhood I might have understood her motivations better. As it is her motivations are conflicting and contradictory. All in all, it felt like reading fanfiction of a fandom I’m not familiar with.

There is so much potential here and I feel bad for being harsh, but a good solid content edit would do wonders to clear up the confusion and put the focus where it should be.

All that being said, Laurenti has a nice lyrical style that needs the polish a good experienced editor could give.

You can get your copy here.

Books · gay romance · lgbt

Forbidden Enchantment Pre-Order

If you’re like me and have been anxiously awaiting news on when Forbidden Enchantment will be released—wait no longer! The pre-order is here with a tentative release date of Jan 10th!

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Sidhe cannot lie. Yet Cedric lies about everything from being happy to being human. Hiding his true appearance with glamor runes, he’s managed to live quietly among humans for nearly fifty years. But as he journeys to the capital at the behest of the empress, a chance encounter with the first dragon to be seen in a thousand years threatens to reveal all his secrets.

Talfryn commits a taboo every time he leaves the mountains. Yet for an outcast, long banished from the dragons’ last city, taboos are trifles. He’s more interested in acquiring items for his hoard. Drawn by the scent of a rare enchantment, he’ll risk everything, including his freedom, to find the source.

Don’t miss out on the excitement! Pre-order your copy now.


Books · gay romance · lgbt

Cover Reveal: Forbidden Enchantment

It’s finally here! The cover for my fantasy Forbidden Enchantment. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this story and these characters. While it still features many things you’ve come to expect from my writing, it’s also a little bit of a departure from my normal style, but in a good way.

Inspired by a prompt and the urge to write high fantasy that isn’t set in quasi-Medieval Europe Forbidden Enchantment is a fantasy with a bit of a twist. It features many queer characters including both protagonists. Here is an unofficial blurb for you:

Sidhe cannot lie. Yet Cedric does it every day. Lying about everything from being happy to being human. Hiding his true appearance with glamor runes, he’s managed to live quietly among humans for nearly fifty years. Now, he’s headed for the capital of the Empire at the request of the Empress. A chance meeting with the first dragon to be seen in a thousand years threatens to reveal everything he’s kept hidden.

Talfryn breaks taboo everytime he leaves the mountains. Yet for an outcast, long banished from the dragons’ last city, taboos are trifles. He’s more interested in getting items for his hoard. This means taking risks, including battling knights to get their enchanted shields. Drawn by the scent of a rare enchantment he’ll risk everything, including his freedom, to find the source.

Forbidden Enchantment will be coming soon from Less Than Three Press. I’ll keep you updated on release dates. ^_^


forbidden (1)

asexual · book review · Books · mogai · Uncategorized

Book Review: Perfect Rhythm by Jae

This past week, October 22-28, was asexual awareness week.

Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.

Asexuality is not a widely known orientation so when I realized Holly Drummond in Perfect Rhythm identifies as ace, I was absolutely thrilled. And a little worried.


51hkkc5gpul-_sy346_Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.

In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.

Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?

A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to be. Jae is a fantastic writer and I’m so glad I grabbed this book. I saw a promo for in on Tumblr and the mention of a lesbian from my home state of Missouri piqued my interest. Granted, I’d never read contemporary f/f before and I wasn’t certain what to expect.

What I got was a lovely, blossoming relationship between two amazing women. When I first started I braced myself, unsure if I’d be able to connect with Leo Blake, the main protagonist. I needn’t have worried. She is wonderfully down to earth and relatable for a pop star. She’s stubborn and full of pride but not so much that she won’t admit mistakes or try her best to rectify things that have gone wrong.

While I love Leo, Holly was the one I really connected with for obvious reasons. I really appreciated how Jae handled Holly’s asexuality, including being frank about how pressured we can feel in relationships.

So many parts of this book hit home for me and not just the setting. It was refreshing to read a story where the asexual character wasn’t ‘fixed’ by having sex or ever pressured into the act at all. I also greatly appreciated the content warning before the chapter that had a sex scene in it.

All the characters were wonderfully fleshed out and made the whole journey with Leo and Holly that much more interesting. I loved having plenty of time to get to know them. I know a lot of people call this a ‘slow burn’ romance, but it is still fast-paced by my standards. xD

Overall, I delighted in reading this book. It was thoughtful, funny and moving.

book review · Books · gay romance · lgbt · mogai

Book Review: Seer’s Stone by Holly Evans

October is my month to read and plan for NaNoWriMo. It’s a good way for me to get through my TBR pile … if it quit growing. Anyway, I decided to kick the month off with the brand new release Seers Stone by Holly Evans. Part of the Ink Born world, it is full of fun and magic.  Here is the official blurb:

My name’s Kaitlyn Felis, and I’m a treasure-hunting alchemist.
51nauuwe29lI was given the opportunity of a lifetime to work for a mysterious elf called Fein Thyrin. Not only did he give me my dream alchemy lab, one that came with a beautiful part-nymph assistant (she’ll be the end of me, in the best possible way) he’s also hired me as his personal treasure-hunter. To say I was excited is a drastic understatement.

First on my treasure-hunting list? The Seers Stone – it’s a thing of legends, and I’m going to be the first hunter to get my hands on it.

Seers Stone stars Kaitlyn Felis, a fun, feisty, flirty heroine who I quickly fell in love with. Her companion will’o-the-whisp, Wispy, is adorable and adds just the right touch of humor when things are getting a bit dicey. And they do indeed get dicey at points. Kaitlyn might be an alchemist but she also craves adventure and treasure hunting is the perfect outlet for that. While most of the time I find characters like her grating, she was amazingly well grounded and not above calling herself out on her own bullshit. Something I’ve come to love about Holly’s writing is the fact that her protagonists are allowed to make mistakes and be assholes, but they also acknowledge where they went wrong when the time comes.

I will also say that typically I don’t care for characters who sleep around. Mostly because of personal reasons. I’m demisexual and the thought of sleeping with someone I’ve just met is both baffling and terrifying. But this felt so much different. Kaitlyn is all about adventure and trying new things, and sex is just another component of that. It helped that encounters didn’t feel forced and the scenes were sweet and emotion-focused rather than your typical blow-by-blow erotica (don’t get me wrong, I love those too, when in the right place).

It was great to see Tyn again as well as a couple other familiar faces. As always Evans took us to some spectacular places as well as some rather creepy/depressing areas. It’s nice to see such a well-rounded world. Yes, there is wonderful beautiful magic, but there is also a rather dismal and terrifying underbelly as well. And magic definitely has its cost.

Overall, this was a fun, fast-paced read and I’m very much looking forward to more of Kaitlyn.


Limited Print Edition of Masquerade

Get your very own limited edition print copy of Masquerade.


Characters · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Blood on the Keyboard: Writing When it Hurts

Blood on the

Okay, so that title is a *little* misleading. I’m not talking about actual blood. Unless you’re like me and tend to have random nosebleeds. Not good for your keyboard. No, the hurt I’m referring to is more emotional than physical. But how so?

You’ve no doubt come across the adage to ‘write what you know’ and likely the opposing viewpoint that this is limiting to your narrative.

However, I’m going to give you a different take on this. Write what you feel. Here’s some overshare for you: I use writing as a coping mechanism to keep my brain from talking me into killing myself. Sometimes that nastiness bleeds over into my writing. Characters suffer and suffer horribly. Mostly because they are a stand-in for myself. I won’t get into the psychology of it. My doctors are aware and even encourage it. Why?

Because it gets those emotions out of my system. It allows me some space from it to look at it rationally.

Now, I know most of you are going ‘what the flying frick Bran, this isn’t what I followed you for.’ But let me show you how this coping skill of mine can help you be a better writer; by showing you how to face those parts of yourself.

Writing What You Feel

A lot of ‘write what you know’ advice focuses on events, places, and people in your life. And yes there is a wealth of material to be gained from your experiences through life; material I highly suggest you mine and refine for use.

Writers who are intimately familiar with their subject produce more knowing, more confident and, as a result, stronger results. — Should We Write What We Know? BY BEN YAGODA 

I have worked in construction most of my life. Though that might be difficult to tell from what I write. I don’t write about construction or anything associated with it. But, I do use some of my experiences from my former job. Working outside year round in all kinds of weather, dealing with sexual harassment, watching someone die in an accident, millionaire homeowners who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. But more than that, I use the emotions those experiences elicited in my writing; the exhaustion, frustration, horror, and anger to name a few.

Instead of letting those feelings sit and fester, I wrote about them. I wrote about characters dealing with the same emotions even if it wasn’t the same situation.

When you write what you feel you are looking for those instances when something really spoke to or affected you. Something that made you passionate. You don’t have to just channel negative emotions, positive experiences are just as effective. Though it helps to have some sort of distance from the event, at least in my experience. You need to be able to look at it objectively and pull out the emotions without causing yourself undo stress.

Let me show you how. Once again this is probably oversharing, but being open and honest is the main part of this process.

Three Steps to Writing What You Feel

As William Trevor once said, “There is an element of autobiography in all fiction that is pain or distress, or pleasure, is based on the author’s own.” We all write ourselves into our characters. It’s only when we start fearing that inner editor that we can end up with flat prose, cardboard characters, and a boring plot. But sometimes that inner editor is our own fear at facing something painful.

I recently started a short story. It’s to be a freebie for my street team and features a pair of side characters from The Jeweled Dagger. It was supposed to have been a quick easy write up of around 5k words. I got about 1500 in and realized the main character Séraphin was grappling with something deeply personal to me. Something I myself have not fully dealt with; reconciling my religious upbringing with my sexuality and gender identity. All progress halted. I simply couldn’t write any further without having to face my own emotions on the matter.

Step One: Take time to explore the event/situation in your mind.

(Note: some experiences are too painful to explore alone, take care of yourself first and foremost).

I spent several days thinking about the situation. I know I have a deep faith in what I was taught growing up. I also know who I am now, but the shame, resentment, and trepidation don’t just go away overnight. Séraphin faces a similar conundrum. His faith in his country or the pull to fully be himself. This lead to the next step:

Step Two: Let yourself feel.

This is probably the hardest part of the exercise, allowing yourself to face full on those emotions and accept them. It is going to hurt. I’m not too proud to admit that tears have been involved. But this is where that fearsome inner editor can be challenged, that voice saying ‘no one wants to hear this’ can be silenced. Your experiences and emotions are valid and real and have every right to make it onto the page.

As for me, this led to the realization that I cannot have it both ways. Either I conform and shutter away a huge part of myself or I leave behind what I grew up believing and find a new way. I spent time analyzing my feelings and then looking at how it related to Séraphin’s situation.  This gave me what I needed to continue writing, which is the next step.

Step Three: Write it all out.

Sometimes this can be as difficult as part two. Writing is letting go, it’s a form of bloodletting, a draining of our psyche rather than our veins. It is scary and painful and glorious all at once. Let it be. Let yourself cry while you write out the pain. Let yourself shiver in your chair while you detail the fear. Grin from ear to ear as you relate the joy. Most of all feel.

I let Seraphin have his doubt, shame, and resentment. I let him feel what I felt and reach his own decision (I’m not giving that away, sorry).

So now a short story that suddenly became too personal has helped me deal with my own insecurities and has that much more emotional punch now. Honestly, every single story you write should have at least something like this in it. If you’re not passionate about your story, no matter what genre or length, readers notice.



book review · Books · lgbt

Book Review: Blood & Ink by Holly Evans

51n2bwvpdrilIt has been quite a while since I’ve read urban fantasy yet this past month I’ve seemingly been on a UF kick.  While it’s not high on my list of go-to genre’s (mostly due to lack of MOGAI representation) I have enjoyed it in the past. Which is what makes Evans’ book all that much more fun to me.

When I picked up Stolen Ink a few weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect and found myself completely wrapped up in the story and characters. I read nearly the entire thing in one sitting. Thankfully, I’d had the forethought to buy the second at the same time as the first. I delved right in as soon as I had a spare moment. And again the story and characters held me captivated from start to finish. I even took my Kindle to the pool with me so I could keep reading. Evans was kind enough to indulge my Twitter flailing.

All flailing aside, this book was excellent for several reasons. I appreciated the added world building that I missed in book one. Learning more about the magic system was fascinating and I love her take on the fae and Sidhe. There were only a few little things that tripped me up here and there such as repetitive phrases, but overall nothing serious. The characters are lifelike, well written, and believable. The plot buzzes along but doesn’t leave you grasping for context or missing pertinent details.

Mostly I enjoyed getting to know Dacian better. While at times he gets pissy and aggressive, it’s never without reason and I love that he’s allowed to make mistakes and be totally human, selfish and then own up and deal with consequences. It is also nice to see side characters be fully realized with their own motivations and for Dacian to have to adjust his perceptions as he learns things.

Keirn is such a sweetheart and I feel so much for him. I’m looking forward very much to learning more about him in the next book.

The next book, Ink Bound, comes out August 4th! You’re going to want to pre-order this one, I promise you. I’m so glad I did. I can hardly stand the wait after finishing Blood & Ink.


book review

Book Review: Spectered Isle by KJ Charles

Disclaimer: I was given a free advanced readers copy of the novel Spectered Isle in exchange for an honest review.


The newest Green Men series is set in 1920s England. The Great War is over, the Twenties are roaring in, the Bright Young Things hold ever more extravagant parties. It seems as though the world has changed for good. But some far older forces are still at work, and some wars never end. The Green Men series covers a motley crew of occult experts, jobbing ghost-hunters, and walking military experiments as they fight supernatural and human threats, save the land, and fall in love.

I’ve enjoyed many of Charles’ novels including their Charm of Magpies Series. This novel almost feels a bit grittier in some ways. Saul is such a tortured soul who is determined to keep slogging along. From the first chapter, I developed respect for him and how he faced his struggles. The revelations on his background later in the book aren’t a complete surprise but they make sense.

Randolph Glyde took me a little longer to warm up to, but by the end of the book, I absolutely adored him and his rather sardonic take on everything. The two of them are excellent compliments to each other while maintaining their individuality. I really appreciated how their relationship grew. It never felt rushed, instead, it was very organic and at times heartbreaking as they each worked to overcome their particular insecurities.

At the beginning, the ‘accidental’ meetings become almost amusing though the undercurrent of attraction is always present. I really appreciated how Charles’ developed both the characters and then allowed them to come together without sex/intimacy being an instant cure-all for their self-doubts.

I also appreciate that the sex is never gratuitous or superfluous. Emotions are just as involved in the scene. The scenes themselves never stretch on too long but are very satisfying. The focus is not on the sex but on the characters, where it should be.

I also appreciated that these two men talked to each other. At one point Randolph takes Saul out to dinner and while the conversation isn’t written out you get the sense that they talked about a great many things. And this isn’t the only time this happens. They talk frankly and openly a number of times. It was so very refreshing to see two men—lonely, emotionally damaged men—actually talk about and admit how they felt. Even going so far as to admit being afraid (gasp).

In short, this novel was everything I’ve come to expect from Charles. Fascinating characters driving along an intriguing plot that is never short of surprises and emotional revelations. I thoroughly recommend this novel and all her others.

You can find KJ Charles here.

You can pre-order Spectered Isle here:



All preorder links will be here


Characters · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Writing a Healthy Romance

Romance novels often get blown off by the wider reading community (and especially the literary) as frivolous emotional porn (and sometimes actual porn) lacking any real substance or plot. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, like all genres, romance does have some troublesome tropes. Some of these tropes are perpetuated in common advice heard throughout the romance community. Particularly when it comes to what constitutes a romance plot and what ‘needs’ to happen at certain points.

There has been some backlash recently against overtly abusive relationships portrayed in some books. So how can we avoid troublesome tropes and instead show a loving, healthy relationship in our romance?

First, what is a healthy relationship? This might seem like a very simple question, but many of us are never taught (even in our personal lives) what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Showing one in a conflict-riddled romance can be a challenge, but one I know you’re up to facing. These points might even give you entirely new ways to write your next story. Just remember these points are character-centric, not plot points. Your plot can and will affect how the relationship develops, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an unhealthy relationship.points for healthy Romance

Take Responsibility:

What this means is that your main character knows their happiness is their own responsibility. They aren’t looking for someone to ‘fulfill’ them or ‘make them whole.’ The idea of two lovers being separate parts of a whole is very unhealthy for both. It is one thing for a partner to have personality traits that complement or support each other. It is very different to completely rely on the other for their personal happiness. It creates an imbalance.

Understandably this is a big trope in romance: finding the one who ‘completes’ you as a person. It’s also fraught with issues. Putting someone in the position of being responsible for your happiness isn’t just unkind, it’s unloving. The moment they can’t emotionally, mentally or physically provide that happiness, what happens? Romanticizing that kind of relationship can potentially mislead our readers into thinking they either must find someone to fulfill this or do so themselves.

This doesn’t mean you cannot write this trope, but I strongly caution you to evaluate why you are doing so. Can’t your main character be happy on their own and still find joy in their relationship? Or perhaps they can find their own happiness with support from their lover? Possibilities abound.

Not A-Fixer-Upper:

We’ve all run across those stories where the love of the main character is all that it takes to make the love interest change and become law abiding, gentle, loving, what have you. Bullshit. Like, really. Total BULLSHIT. Unless the love interest is actively wanting to change and the main character is there to unconditionally support them (or vice versa), this is just … no. We humans are very stubborn and stuck in our ways, and any change undergone to gain someone’s love is often superficial at best and deceitful at worst. In a truly healthy relationship neither partner is going to seek to change the other. They like each other for who they already are. That’s what drew them to each other in the first place. They respect each other. Respect. Remember that word. It’s important.


Jane just loved it when John would take her menu away and order for her. He always knew exactly what she wanted. It was so romantic.

Urk. ‘scuse me, had to gag.

Jane, I hate to break it to you but either you are a doormat, or John is overbearing and controlling and you need to hightail it. Even if John really did know exactly what Jane wanted, this relationship would still be unbalanced. And probably not only when it came to ordering food.

A healthy relationship is balanced when it comes to decision making (and yes that includes ordering food). When both partners truly respect (there it is again) each other they will discuss decisions. Respect also comes into play when each partner realizes the other might have more experience in certain areas. If John is a 5-star chef, he might be off the hook. Maybe. Even then he needs to respect Jane’s personal preferences. The ‘alpha’ male portrayal is often (not always) a thinly veiled abuser. Men who must dominate in a relationship aren’t being loving or respectful of their partner. This includes MOGAI relationships too.

If you find yourself writing a lot of these kinds of characters, women characters especially, this might be a sign of internalized misogyny.

Conflict Management:

Oh boy, there’s the big C. Conflict. Romance novels thrive on conflict and tension. But is it the right kind of conflict? Hang on. I’ll explain.

As writers, we understand that conflict is often (not always) the driving force of a plot. James Scott Bell in his book Conflict & Suspense on page 7, says that conflict is a “clash between at least two incompatible sides.” Too often in romance the ‘incompatible sides’ are the main character and the love interest. Which leads to conflict. Lots of conflict.

Conflict is natural in a relationship. However, it should be seen as a time to learn and grow. Too many times in romances a petty argument has both sides slamming doors and proclaiming the relationship over. This is not a healthy relationship. If each truly cared about and respected the other they would deal with their frustrations together. If the two are so incompatible as to constantly be in conflict then why are they even together?

A better method is to have the conflict come from outside the relationship. This allows them to grow together in a partnership as they work together to resolve it.

Show and Tell:

No, no. Not the showing and telling in your prose. Deep breaths. There you go. This showing and telling has to do with your characters and how open and honest they are with each other. Understandably, being open about certain things comes after a relationship has begun or is in it’s early stages. Being able to honestly communicate and respect each other’s feelings is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship. Repressing emotions isn’t healthy and only leads to later conflicts. Not the right kind of conflict either. Again, respect comes into play, on both sides.

This one is a bit mutable depending on your plot and characters, their personalities, where they are in their relationship and how much they trust each other. However, if they respect each other at all, they will be honest and open about their true feelings. They will also find responsible ways to express those feelings. Again, this may also depend on your plot and the characters’ personalities.


This is related to taking responsibility for their own happiness. In order to maintain a healthy relationship the partner must first take care of themselves mentally, emotionally and physically as far as they are able. This will allow them to be properly supportive of their partner.


An established relationship should feel like a close partnership, with each individual taking into consideration their lover’s thoughts and feelings before making a decision. This means they need to talk openly about things that concern them and make room in their lives for the other person.

Obviously, plot wise it may seem like a good idea for one or the other to go galavanting off to save the day.  But this is a partnership. They’ve agreed together that they wish to be in each others lives. Could they not face the challenge together and further strengthen their relationship? If not, is there another way the partner left behind could show support or help? If you start looking, I’m certain you’ll find many ways to use this to your advantage.

Agree to Disagree

Your characters are people with their own opinions and beliefs. They aren’t going to agree on everything, and that’s just fine. If they did, it would be not only boring but either unrealistic or unbalanced.

This one is a little trickier because so many romance plots call for there to be something that drives the two lovers apart. Often times this is a disagreement over something, a closely held belief by one or the other, or ideas on how to proceed with a solution to the issue they are facing. Many times instead of talking to each other like adults, there is either no communication or spiteful arguing where one of them leaves until they are forced back together to finally confront the issue together. While this does increase the tension, it strains what could be a healthier relationship.

I challenge you to find alternate ways to introduce tension and reduce the amount of quarreling between the lovers.


Your lovers are going to meet challenges. They have to, to test the strength of the relationship. If they are truly committed to each other, they will remain loyal and be ready to work through the challenges together.

Joy in the Other

Why did they choose each other? What is their real reason for wanting to be in the relationship? Is it for selfish reasons? Or only out of sexual attraction? Do they actually enjoy being with the other person? Why? What drew them together? What is keeping them together?

Every relationship is different, and will always have things both partners need to work on. No relationship will be perfect at each of these points, but by working at them together you’ll find yourself writing much healthier relationships that people can still identify with.


Now let’s look at how to incorporate this into the theory of 12 Key Romance Scenes as proposed by Michael Hauge.


  • The Ordinary World: Your main character in their element. Show who they are and that while they may have a ‘need’ they are secure without needing a partner to feel complete. (Again, not all characters will be able to do this. They might grow over the course of the novel to learn that they are whole within themselves but that doesn’t exclude loving their partner).
  • The Meet: Just what it says. Somewhere in the beginning they meet each other, and depending on your plot there may or may not be instant sparks of attraction. This is a good point to establish mutual respect at some level, even if it is an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.
  • Reconsideration: Here, many writers (Mr. Hauge included) would advise you to show that the pair are incompatible for one reason or another, or have there be an openly negative response by one of the characters. Why? Let them enjoy meeting each other and want to get to know each other. This doesn’t mean things will be perfect right off the bat. You can always have plot elements that will keep them from being able to get together. It doesn’t have to be the relationship itself that is a source of contention
  • Wise Friend Counsels: Let’s make this Wise Friend Listens instead. Let your character know their own mind and make the decision for themselves. Too often women aren’t allowed to decide for themselves whether or not the relationship is for them. Their well-meaning friend will tell them why the man is ‘the one’ for them. This is often a sign of internalized misogyny on the author’s part, and needs to be very closely looked at before allowing it to stand in your story.
  • Acknowledge Interest: Your main character has realized they have deeper feelings than they thought.
  • First Quarrel: This can go several ways depending on your character’s personality, but use caution and remember that if they truly are invested in the relationship they will respect each other. This could be a good point to show that, and instead of pushing them apart it could draw them together as they talk through whatever is affecting their relationship.
  • The Dance: A lot of writers would advise you to show the relationship development, except it’s always on the fence whether or not the relationship will actually work. There is no set rule that says this must be the case. There are plenty of ways to create tension without that tension constantly being on the verge of tearing the relationship apart.
  • The Black Moment: The relationship is dead? What? Why? Instead of having something internal kill it, why not find some external reason that keeps them apart or makes the relationship impossible. If it is something internal it could be related to the character’s fatal flaw, something they have to overcome.
  • Reunited: Don’t fall for the ‘fated lovers’ trope. Let them come together willingly and because they WANT to be together, not because they were ‘meant’ for each other. There obviously will still be obstacles to overcome, but don’t force them together. Let them come back to each other organically.
  • Complications: This is where those obstacles really come into play. The outside forces aren’t about to let this stand for whatever reason.
  • Finally together: Now they can face their issues as a couple, showing that they have grown together and can face the problem head-on. Their respect for each other allows them to defeat the issue and move on to …


Happily Ever After: There is nothing wrong with allowing your characters their happy ending. With the issues this world is facing, people crave something positive and uplifting.


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