A Bourne writer

Like a piece of French bread and a sip of water at a wine tasting, sometimes I need to slip in a little “palate cleanser” between romantic suspense reads. For this I usually curl up with a good historical romance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my military/bodyguard/spy/law enforcement stories. I write them. But sometimes I need a change of pace. Give me a little Lisa Kleypas, Kieran Kramer, or Tessa Dare to pull me into a world of innocent heroines and social constraints that would never work in a contemporary RS novel.

That said, one of my favorite escapes is a book that combines the world of intrigue in a historical setting. And one of the masters of the historical romantic suspense is Joanna Bourne.

Actually, Bourne is just a master writer, period. I would pay to read her grocery list.

One reason is that her words flow like poetry, painting a picture or creating a feeling without pulling the reader out of the story.

“One cannot put the fruit back on the tree. One cannot unbreak the egg. She could not, not ever again for all of eternity, unknow what she knew of his body. Someday, when she was old, she would take this knowledge out as if it were a letter she had treasured. By then, the pain would be thin and crackly, like old paper.”

“Fear seeped from the mortar of the houses, from the cobbles of the streets. It was like coming again to the home of an old grandmother, with each visit finding her a little weaker, a little more mad.”

Her plots are surprising and well-designed without being confusing, and her characters are so real I still wonder what they’re doing now.

Bourne’s books are set in France and England in the decades after the French revolution of 1789, essentially the same period as the popular Regency romances, but with a different historical slant. She brings together spies for both nations as enemies, reluctant conspirators, and wary lovers.

One of the things I enjoy about historical books is the chance to experience a slice of history while being entertained. Bourne does her research, and it shows without being too heavy-handed.

Her book The Forbidden Rose (Berkeley Sensation, 2010)—from which I took the excerpts in this post—takes place entirely in France during the reign of Robespierre, when political alliances changed with the wind, and one might face beheading for any number of sins, real or imagined.

A fascinating and scary time to be in France.

Historical romantic suspense is what I turn to when I want something a little different, and I think Joanna Bourne—who needs to hurry up and write more books, please!—is one of the best authors in that realm.

What subcategories of romantic suspense do you enjoy, and which authors are your favorites in that group?

Like your intrigue with a historical bent? Check out the upcoming release from Kiss & Thrill’s own Manda Collins!

Photo Credits
Wine glasses: SLICES OF BREAD AND TWO GLASSE © Kostas Tsipos | Dreamstime.com
Cobblestones in Paris
and Versailles Gardens: © Gwen Hernandez

About Gwen Hernandez

Author of SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES & the Men of Steele romantic suspense series. Manufacturing engineer turned writer. Scrivener instructor, runner, reader, explorer, Kung Fu sifu, AF spouse, mom, vegan. gwenhernandez.com

Posted on January 3, 2012, in Author Spotlight, book recommendations, Gwen Hernandez and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Beautiful post, Gwen. I’ve had Joanna Bourne in my to-be-read pile for some time. As soon as I’m done with this critique, I’m going to dive in. You’re helping me prioritize my New Year’s resolution – so thanks!

    I love all genres of romantic suspense: historical, contemporary, futuristic, steam punk… I love stories about ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, stories in which characters who are at cross-purposes have to work together to survive, and then find love along the way.

  2. I love Joanna Bourne’s books also. She’s an amazing writer with a real flair for transporting you into her scenes. I also enjoy paranormal suspense because reading about Alpha werewolves and vampires can be the perfect escape–especially when I’m revising my own work.

    • I agree, Sharon. And her characters just suck me right in. Paranormal is probably my next in line after historical. For some reason I like shape-shifters. A man who’s actually part animal can be alpha in a way that just wouldn’t play in a contemporary RS. 😉

  3. Wonderful reading your blog today, Gwen. Bourne is indeed a master.

  4. Intrigue during the reign of terror makes me want to reread Dickens A TALE OF TWO CITIES! Who could ever forget the chilling Madame Defarge?

    Over the holidays, I took one of Brenda Novak’s book recommendation–ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott. Opening line: “Once my wife asked me: if you knew this was our final day together, what would you say to me?” Get ready for a fast and furious read!

    Happy 2012!

  5. I love the passages you chose, Gwen. I remember reading ‘The Spymaster’s Lady’ for the first time. I remember sitting on my couch, my mouth agape, reading passages to my husband (as if he would be so enthralled about tea kettles and such). It took me ten minutes to get through a page, the prose was so lovely. She wrote somewhere that you have to read poetry to write poetically. Put the water in the well, as it were. I have always loved poetry, and have published a few poems in the past, but I still have a lot to aspire to. Its wonderful to have writers to learn from. And she is so generous with writing advice on her blog.

    I am excited for Manda’s book as well!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Leigh! I can so relate to reading like that. And your husband’s reaction. 😉

      • LOL about the tea kettles, Leigh. I remember reading a page long kiss (Lisa Kleypas) to my guy. He’d tuned out after the first ten seconds, but I was too enthralled to notice.

        All right then, it’s settled. I will read the fab Jo Bourne. I’ve been hearing the ranting and raving about her work for years, and it’s time to see what the fuss is all about.

        Speaking of Manda….I am so ready to interview her, and I cannot wait until we all learn HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE.

  6. Wow, Gwen, between your review and Leigh’s I’m linking to Amazon next! Great review and I love the passages you posted. Sorry to be chiming in late today…crazy holidays should be in the past. My favorite historical romantic suspense author has always been Victoria Holt. I think I’ve read every book she ever wrote.

  7. Great post, Gwen! And fabulous choice, though I am *so* not of Joanna Bourne’s calibre. Her writing is just so rich and wonderful.

    Like everyone else, I remember reading THE SPYMASTER’S LADY with my mouth hanging open because it was just so ground breaking.

    I like a good palate cleaner too–though since I write historicals I read contemporaries or straight mysteries to get the job done;)

    • Your caliber remains to be seen, but I have high hopes. 😉 THE SPYMASTER’S LADY was my first introduction to Joanna Bourne’s work, and I knew within pages that I’d found a must-buy author. She floored me with twists and deep POV and prose and plot…

      I just bought THE BLACK HAWK, and I’m so excited for Adrian’s story, but also reluctant to read the only book of hers I haven’t cracked open yet.

  8. Gwen, great post. The excerpts from Joanna Bourne’s stories are amazing.

  9. Thanks for the recommendation! I downloaded it to my Kindle to read on the treadmill this week.

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