Those of us who enjoy reading romance know there are a gazillion ways to tell a good love story. But we have wildly different opinions as to what type of story satisfies us best. Is it a family-driven contemporary? A suspense novel filled with bad guys on the loose? Maybe immersing yourself in a bygone era does the trick, or a love story sprinkled with a touch of magic.
Reading the same type of romance (what the industry calls “sub-genres”) all the time can be very enjoyable, but it can also get … well, boring. A few years back I read a lot of books by one author in one sub-genre and while it was comforting to revisit the same territory, after a while I was thinking, “Hmmm, these stories are sounding an awful lot alike.”
That’s why, when I started actually writing romance, I made a point to follow the story rather than stick to a specific sub-genre track. Instead of writing all my books as contemporary romantic suspense, for instance, I let my imagination lead me. Whichever character or event clamored the loudest in my head was the one whose story I crafted next. As a result, my series “Sinner’s Grove” revolves around the family and colleagues of an artists’ retreat on the coast of northern California, and the nearby town of Little Eden. The story begins in the late 19th century, before the retreat is even founded, and it follows two parallel story lines, one historical and one contemporary.
Frankly, taking that approach has been a pain in the butt for two reasons: one is that, as I mentioned above, a lot of readers don’t like “genre hopping.” They really enjoy contemporary stories, but could care less about delving into history, or vice versa. So I have had more than a few reviews that begin with, “I don’t normally read books like this, but…”
It’s also been difficult because when you’re writing about different generations of the same family (not to mention their friends and enemies), you have to make darn sure that all the puzzle pieces fit together properly. For example, the heroine of my third contemporary (which will come out next year) is the granddaughter of the heroine of The Depth of Beauty, which just came out. I need to make sure their stories complement one another with everything from when they were born to how they look and ways in which they are connected through family traits, inheritance, etc. it gets pretty confusing at times!
The best way to deal with those issues—single-track readers and complicated story lines—is to make sure I write the most entertaining, page-turning story possible, that compels the reader to follow the next installment, wherever it leads, even if it’s out of the reader’s comfort zone, because they know it’ll be an equally satisfying read. At the same time (and this seems counter-intuitive), I have to make sure each story stands on its own. I don’t like feeling as if I’ve arrived late to a party where I don’t know a soul. As a reader, I find that frustrating, and a definite turn-off when it comes to reading more by that author.
I hope that even if one particular romance sub-genre remains your favorite, you’ll take a chance on “Sinner’s Grove.” It’s worth a genre hop or two to find out what happens to these characters and their offspring – you’ll enjoy the journey, I promise!
About the Author
Born and raised in northern California, A.B. Michaels holds master's degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in the public relations and marketing fields. An avid quilter and bocce player, she currently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry "sons" who don't seem to realize they're just dogs
About the Book
A stand-alone historical novel, The Depth of Beauty follows on the heels of A.B. Michaels’ award-winning fiction debut, The Art of Love.
Born to wealth and prestige, handsome and successful in his own right, Will Firestone is the crème de la crème of 1903 San Francisco society. But when a business venture draws him into the city’s reviled Chinatown, his notions of what matters in life are tested in the extreme. With the help of an exotic young mother and a mysterious orphan, Will embarks on a journey of self-discovery, where love, danger and tragedy will change his life forever.
The Depth of Beauty is part of a dual-genre series, “Sinner’s Grove,” which chronicles the family and friends of a world-famous artists’ retreat on the northern California coast. The stories follow both historical and contemporary tracks, and can be read separately or together for greater depth. Other titles in the series include the contemporary suspense novels Sinner’s Grove and The Lair.
He emerged from the trees to see Mandy standing at the water’s edge. She was facing the ocean, so he could only see the back of her. She had taken off her shirtwaist and her skirt, leaving only her chemise and a petticoat. Her feet were bare and her rich, dark red hair flowed down her back.
She was bewitching.
She was trying without success to skip rocks into the calm water. Will’s own heart skipped. He knew he should respect Mandy’s privacy and leave, but his attraction to her kept him rooted to the spot. He watched her arms, those same pale, graceful limbs the baby doc had touched during the presentation. His fists coiled in response.
He couldn’t stand it. “I can show you a better way,” he called out, walking toward her.
Startled, she turned, and when she saw him, she too froze. She glanced at her clothing sitting on a piece of driftwood, and Will reflexively took off his own jacket. “Here,” he said, beginning to cover her as if she were a child. He paused, looking at the swell of her breasts beneath the filmy material of her undergarment. They were rising and falling with her rapid breaths.
She was anything but a child.
He looked up and lost himself in her almond eyes.
Mandy was the first to break the spell. “What did you mean, a better way?” she asked softly.
He stepped back. “Skipping rocks. Hard to do in the ocean, but it can be done.” He looked down at the sand where they stood. “First, find the flattest rock you can. Not too big, about the size of your palm.” He picked one up and stood close to her again, reaching for her hand, turning it over, and placing the rock in it. “You hold it like this,” he murmured, taking her fingers and wrapping them properly around the stone. He absorbed the feel of his hand touching hers and wanted to hold it properly, as a suitor would, even though he knew he couldn’t. He looked around for another rock to demonstrate the throw. “You stand like so, pull your arm back and flick your wrist, so that it spins. See?” He demonstrated and they watched his rock skip four times before disappearing into the water.
Mandy smiled with delight and looked up at him. “I want to do that!” she cried.
“Then give it a whirl,” he said.
It took several tries before she was able to skip a rock even twice, but she reacted as if she had just climbed Mount Everest. “I did it!” she crowed.
Will couldn’t help but grin at her enthusiasm. “I’ll attest to it,” he agreed.
They stayed in companionable silence for a bit longer until, once again, Mandy brought them back to reality. “I don’t think you came down here to teach me how to skip rocks,” she said. “Why did you come?”
He had practiced his little speech on the way down the hill. Why was he so loathe to begin it now? He took a deep breath. It had to be done. “I heard that Ethel Steubens quit and that you’ve, um, stepped into her place, as it were.”
Mandy’s voice lost its levity. “Who told you?”
She nodded. “I should have known. He’s beyond worried about what Lia might think.”
“So, he’s correct? You’ve been displaying yourself in the … altogether?”
She looked at him with the knowing expression of a woman twice her age. “Do you mean, have I been modeling naked?” She squared her shoulders. “The answer is yes.”
Something primal escaped him—something he had worked hard to control. “Well, you are damn well not going to do it anymore.”