Friday, May 29, 2009

Sherry Thomas visits the Lair!

by Christine Wells

It's my pleasure to welcome back to the lair a historical romance writer who has received many accolades since her highly anticipated debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS wowed readers in 2008. Sherry is a double RITA finalist this year with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which is a strong contender for both best debut and best historical romance. You can read more about Sherry on her website.

Sherry's third novel, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is out now. Go and buy it. You'll be glad you did! Here is the blurb:

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith's. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won't rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

First of all, I have to say that I read Not Quite a Husband almost in one sitting, sending my children to bed early and burning my husband's dinner (he assures me he likes his roast pork a little char-grilled). Can you tell our readers about your hero and heroine?

Leo Marsden and Bryony Asquith are no longer married. In fact, since their marriage was annulled, legally speaking, they were never married. But of course it was an annulment based on lies--non-consummation and a manufactured invalidity with the wedding ceremony itself, as they lived in an era when divorces were hugely damaging, and annulments a much more discreet way to end a marriage.

Bryony is a physician and surgeon. The fact that she is a doctor plays an important role at several points in the story. Leo is a mathematician. I'm not sure whether his being a mathematician matters tremendously to the plot, but I want him to be a mathematician because I find that kind of brilliance sexy. :-)

Bryony and Leo are English but the story is set against the backdrop of an uprising in the North-West Frontier of India. What made you choose this setting?

LOL, it was what I could find.

The book is inspired by the movie The Painted Veil, which is set in 1920s China. In the movie, the remote, dangerous location is absolutely necessary for the couple to repair their relationship, because it forces them to be in close proximity and rely on each other in ways that they wouldn't in a big city.

So given that I had a certain time window in which to set my book, somewhere between 1894 and 1899, I went looking for colonial conflicts around the world. My original idea of central Asia did not work--it was not really a destination for Englishwomen. I looked as far as South Africa and New Zealand, but eventually decided to try my luck with the area where Osama Bin Laden may be hiding today, knowing that the Pashtun tribes of those mountains have a long history of resisting foreign influence.

And bingo, lo and behold, there was a spate of trouble in the North-West Frontier of India in 1897. I mapped them out and settled on the Swat Valley Uprising, because it happened so unexpectedly and violently--the British garrison in Swat Valley was caught completely by surprise. (I didn't want my H/H to be headed knowingly into danger, lol, can't have them be too stupid to live.)

I've noticed that the theme of estranged lovers recurs in all three of your published novels. It's one of my favourite tropes. What draws you to write about heroes and heroines with shared pasts?

DELICIOUS is more of a forbidden-love story, but PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and NOT QUITE A HUSBAND are definitely estranged-lover stories.

I think it is not so much heroes and heroines with shared pasts that draw me, but the idea of how do you deal with a relationship that has gone off the rails. How do you recover from that kind of disaster and rebuild? That fascinates me. It goes to the very foundation of what romantic love is. Is it a lesser entity--rising with lust and waning with time--or is it grand and beautiful, capable of the kind of forgiveness, understanding, generosity, and commitment that make life worth living?

I would like to believe the latter so I aspire to it in my books.

Laura Kinsale once commented that readers are hard on heroines, that if you don't write a "nice, kind, smart, sassy, beautiful, not-too-strong, not-too-weak heroine" you need to prepare yourself for flak. The heroines you write are strong, flawed and not always "nice". Do you think readers' tastes are changing a little? Or do you agree with Claudia Dain, that just as there are alpha and beta heroines, there are alpha and beta readers?

I never think about likeability when I read romance heroines. My two favorite heroines of all time are Louise from BEAST, by Judith Ivory, and Melanthe from FOR MY LADY'S HEART by Laura Kinsale. Neither of them would even look at me in real life, but I'd probably totally girl-crush on them! Whatever Laura Kinsale was doing, she was doing something right.

When I write, it's the same: I don't ask myself whether my characters are likeable, I only ask whether I understand why they are the way they are.

I'm not an authority on whether reader tastes are changing, since we did have these strong, flawed, and not always "nice" heroines before, in very, very successful books. Maybe it's like milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Readers can like more than one kind of heroine, just like you and me can like more than one kind of chocolate. Maybe the supply of dark chocolate has been low, so people have been consuming more milk chocolate. But now that dark chocolate is more readily available, people are realizing that they like it too. :-)

Please tell us 3 quirky things about you.

1) I have a dysfunctional sense of vocabulary. When I came to the U.S., I was thirteen, and had an English vocabulary of about 150. I had to quickly bring myself up to speed to handle school and then beef up my word bank to tackle the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is a vocabulary-heavy--or at least used to be--standardized test American high school students have to take). Words like "puissant" and "invidious" entered my vocabulary long before words such as "potty" or "nerd." As a result, it often has to be pointed out to me when a word is a 25-cent word, or an archaic word, or that I can just say "collarbone" instead of "clavicle."

2) I am incapable of writing anything based on my own life. I'm writing a contemporary romance on spec, and the heroine is 1/4 native-American. And I have been mulling whether to take out that 1/4 native-American part. Because, well, the ancestors of Native Americans came from Asia and I'm from Asia and I don't want people to think I'm writing about myself! Nuts, ain't it? That's how much I don't want the facts of my life to end up in my books.

3) I cannot eat alone without reading. There will be times when it's midnight, and I finally sitting down to my dinner, then I get up, while my food grows cold, and search all around my house for something I want to read.

Sherry has generously offered a signed copy of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND to one lucky reader who answers her question:

I am personally neutral on the "exotic-ness" of book settings--a well-done setting is a well-done setting, whether it is the familiar pleasure grounds of London, or the jungles of Amazon. But since NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is set rather far and away--the North-West Frontier of British India, today's North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan--I'd like to hear what are some of the great less-used settings you have read in romances, settings that truly come alive.

My personal favorites are Provence as portrayed by Judith Ivory in BEAST, and Hawaii in Laura Kinsale's THE SHADOW AND THE STAR. (In fact, recently, while planning for our long overdue family vacation, and looking over which island of Hawaii we wanted to go, I instantly recognized the landmarks on Oahu from THE SHADOW AND THE STAR, so of course that's where we are going! I'm going to re-read the Hawaii portions of TSATS before we leave.)


limecello said...

Hi Sherry! Thanks for visiting with us today!

Anna Campbell said...

Lime, how did you still beat me? That's just WRONG!!!

Welcome, Sherry. Congratulations on all your success and good luck for the RITAs! How exciting is that?

Christine, wonderful interview. We've had a run of great guests in the lair lately, haven't we? Clearly the word has got out about how strong the margaritas are!

Joan said...

Sherry, your book sounds FABULOUS!!!

Dang, I'm never gonna get this TBR pile manageable am I? Not with, as Anna said, all these great guests we, ask to the Lair.

And you're right...a mathematican IS sexy... 2+2 = Grrrowl..

limecello said...

Loved the interview, Sherry and Christine! I love books set in a certain period, but (I suppose) as long as the characters are English, I don't mind where in the world they are.
I forgot - I so want to get my hands on "Painted Veil" and watch it. I'm also really appreciative that you did research and prevented your characters from being TSTL.
As for great settings in romances... well, so this isn't actually romance. (Or I don't think it's labeled/marketed as such) but from what I remember, there are a lot of romantic elements in it - why else would I have read it? Anyway, it was the Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor. Set in ancient Rome, it's rather historically accurate, and another classics geek friend introduced a bunch of us to the series and we all read them.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Sherry - Welcome back to the lair. Private Arrangements was wonderful. I'm not surprised it's up for two RITAs.

I love the Painted Veil - the romance and the scenery - but it's so sad (sniff, sniff).

I'm brain dead as to exotic locales for romances, but have to say - I'm glad to see more variety in the settings of late.

Jane said...

Hi Sherry,
Congrats on the new release. One of favorite books of all time is Loretta Chase's "Mr. Impossible," which is set in Egypt.

Congrats on the GR, Limecello.

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, lurve Mr Impossible! Another favorite set in Egypt is As You Desire by Connie Brockway.

Fedora said...

Hi, Sherry! I've been hearing all kinds of good things about Not Quite a Husband from reading friends with good taste!

I'm terrible about appreciating settings, but I do remember Mr. Impossible's Egyptian desert and tombs. I also did enjoy a couple contemporaries set in San Francisco, just because they mentioned landmarks I recognized. It's always fun to feel "in the know" in that tiny way ;)

Congrats on the GR, Limecello! Are you cooking up something else tasty for him? How do you manage to do all that and study, too?!

PinkPeony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PinkPeony said...

Hello Christine! Congrats again, Lime! Welcome Sherry! Love the name Bryony and the fact that she's a doctor is a wonderful twist.
Exotic locales...I'd like to see more historicals written in Australia, Singapore, or Malaysia and I don't think I've ever read one set in Canada! One of my favorite romances, Tanamera, was set in Singapore during WWII. I'm looking forward to reading your book set in the Swat Valley. The British Empire was far reaching so there are lots of possibilities.

Christine Wells said...

Hi all, sorry I'm late to my own post! It's been a crazy afternoon. Kids are driving me mad.

Congrats on the Golden Rooster, Lime. Commiserations, Anna:)

Margaritas? I'm there! Oh, and I definitely need to read Connie Brockway's As You Desire. Love Egypt! And would you believe I lent out 2 copies of Mr. Impossible and he hasn't been returned to me? Next time, he's staying right on my keeper shelf where no one can take him away!

Helen said...

Well done Limcello he really does love you

What a great interview Sherry and Christine.

I have heard so much about your books Sherry and they are on my must get list I am putting in an order this week sometime and am going to add them. Not Quite A Husband sounds fantastic and set in a very different place.

One book that comes to mind is Victoria Alexander's The Perfect Wife which is set around Egyt and I loved that book I do love reading books set in different countries because I probably will never get to visit them so the books take me there.

Congrats on the new release Cherry and thank you Christine for inviting Sherry back to the lair.

Have Fun

Christine Wells said...

Joan, I've thought mathematicians were sexy ever since I read Flowers from the Storm. Sherry's Leo is very sexy indeed, although I don't know if it's his brains or his other qualities I admire:)

Christine Wells said...

Limecello, you might also like Lindsey Davis. My BFF introduced me to her books--set in Ancient Rome--and they're brilliant.

Christine Wells said...

Jane and Fedora, it sounds like we all love Mr. Impossible. I could read a Loretta Chase if it was set on Antarctica, myself. Can you believe she's never been to Egypt, yet she recreated the atmosphere so vividly in that book.

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, TWO MIs MIA? That's just wrong. I knew about one. What happened to the other?

Lime, I really like Lindsey Davis too. My crit partner Annie West is a huge fan of the Falco books and introduced them to me a couple of years ago. There's always an interesting mystery subplot too and she has the most wonderful handle on the textures of Roman life. Not that I'd know, but it SEEMS real!

Christine Wells said...

Fedora, I know what you mean about enjoying books set where you live. There aren't an awful lot of books set in Brisbane, Australia, but I did enjoy reading Nick Earls's Zigzag Street for that reason.

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, did you know there's a new Loretta Chase out next month? I've already ordered it. I loved her most recent book, set in Venice. Now that's an underused location. Bandita Cindy has a book coming out set there which sounds fantastic!

Christine Wells said...

Jen, it is very hard to sell an Australian historical romance. Our publishers don't like romance and American publishers don't want Australian settings. I think I heard one Australian editor say she was going to kill herself if she had to read one more convict story. I must say, Australian history has never appealed to me terribly much as a reader--maybe it's a case of familiarity breeding contempt?--but I'd always change my mind if it was a good enough story.

Christine Wells said...

Helen, you will love Sherry's books! I'm glad you're going to add Not Quite a Husband to your list.

Well, it seems like Egypt is winning on location so far!

Christine Wells said...

Anna wrote: Christine, TWO MIs MIA? That's just wrong. I knew about one. What happened to the other? Oh, I didn't tell you about that? Well, after someone who shall remain nameless ABSCONDED with my first copy, I bought another one. A friend who hadn't read historicals before she read mine said she loved them and wanted more in that vein so I gave her a couple of my faves to read. She moved out while her house was renovated and put all extraneous stuff in storage, including my Mr I!! So he's in a box somewhere and will stay there until her house is finished, and unfortunately there's a dispute with the builders...long story. I don't know if I can wait that long to re-read him. May be on to my third..

PinkPeony said...

Wow, Christine, that's really weird, but I'd still love to read a historical set in Oz.

Christine Wells said...

Anna, yes, I'm very excited about Loretta's next book. Is it my imagination or has the internet been fairly quiet on that subject? She is an auto-buy for me. I can't wait. Loved the Venetian setting, too.

Christine Wells said...

Actually, Anna, I think what Lindsey Davis also has going for her is this amazing voice of her protagonist. He's a cross between a seedy private eye and Bruce Willis. Everywhere he goes, he gets himself into trouble. I think it's wonderful the way Davis brings that period alive and makes it easily accessible to the modern reader. Annie has good taste!

Helen said...

Looks like I should move Mr Impossible up the TBR list I have had it for a while and haven't read it yet actually I have all of Loretta's books and the ones I have read I really loved I wish I had more time to read.

Christine if I can stretch the budget I will be ordering all of Sherry's books

Have Fun

Anna Campbell said...

Christine, another thing that those Falco books have going for them is the central relationship. I love the way there's that continual push and pull between Falco and his lady love with neither of them having the permanent advantage.

Ouch to MI in a box! I think it's cursed. How about three times is the charm?

Christine Wells said...

That's great Helen. I'm so envious of you having all that great reading ahead of you!

Christine Wells said...

That is a great point about Falco, Anna. I can't remember which book I was up to, but it was one I simply couldn't get hold of here and I lost momentum with the series. I must backtrack and renew my acquaintance with Falco.

As for Mr. I, I think it might be the curse of the mummy or something, don't you? LOL. But if any book is worth buying three times, it's that one;)

Lynz Pickles said...

Hi Sherry! I LOVED 'The Painted Veil', and your book sounds like it'll be just as good as its inspiration. I can't wait to read it! Except that I don't want another sad ending; I don't think I'd be able to take it.

One of my favourite authors is Eva Ibbotson, and her novel 'A Company of Swans' is set in the Amazon. She makes it, and the characters, come alive beautifully. I've lost track of how many times I've re-read it at this point. I also adore books set in Canada when they're done well... I'm Canadian so I get grumpy if they don't meet my expectations. I'm looking forward to a certain book set in India now, though...

I totally do the same thing when I eat alone too. Except that these days I tend to station myself in front of the computer and read an ebook, since holding a real book open with one hand while feeding oneself is quite a difficult task. (:

Laurie G said...

Sherry, Congrats on your 3 books! Where have I been?

I do like books set in the Hawaian Islands. HelenKay Dimon set a couple there recently. Elizabeth Lowell- Eden's Burning too.

I also like remote islands: Heather Graham used one in Night, Sea & Stars. Christina Skye used several in her Code Name books.

Alaska, it's so wild & untamed yet gorgeous!

New Zealand the same reason.... loved the background in LOTR.

Finally, Panama & Costa Rica They just sound tropical yet romantic to me.

The Brunette Librarian said...

Sherry! Woo Woo! :) Happy to see you!

I love all kinds of environments for stories, but gotta admit, one of the ones that sticks out in my mind was a farm. Not a lot of romance goin' on around pigs and chickens so I think that's why it has stuck out so much for me.

I <3 all environments though, it's nice to change and read something different. :)

Christie Kelley said...

Sherry, first welcome to the lair. Next major congrats on the double RITA nominations. And lastly, your book sounds fabulous!

Christine, great interview.

The setting of the book isn't all that important to me. I don't care if the book is set in a foreign country or even some made up country as long as the story and character are intriguing to me. The setting can add some nice touches as long as it doesn't take over the book.

Karen H said...

Hi Sherry, Great interview and congratulations on the new book. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

I really enjoy reading books set in Australia. In the early 1990's, Connie Mason wrote a terrific trilogy about The Penrod family set there in the early 19th century. Great reading with excellent geography & history for the area!

BTW, thanks for the movie rec of 'The Painted Veil'. I rented it from Netflix and really enjoyed it. Yes, it was sad at the end, but I really liked the meeting between the heroine, her son and her former lover right at the end. She proved she wasn't as spineless as everyone thought!

Kirsten said...

Hi Sherry, and welcome to the Lair! The book sounds fabulous. I love exotic settings with lots of historical detail. My favorite books from days of old were Bertrice Small's O'Malley series, and the Kadin, with the sultans and harems of India (if I remember my settings right).

Amazing that with your book set in the Swat Valley, we are seeing the same tragic violence there today.

Sherry Thomas said...


Congrats on the Golden Rooster! And you know what? The more I know about Rome, the more fascinating I find it.


Where are the margaritas?! LOL.


Don't forget 2 x 2 =... I am ready to rip off his shirt already.

Donna M,

I came out of The Painted Veil in total despair--I felt I'd been sucker punched. Ergo my determination to write NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, to make up for it.


I'm trying to write Mr. Impossible right now! :-) LOL, without the Egypt setting though, and with a Scarlet Pimpernel twist. Wasn't Mr. Impossible an impossbly fun book?


Your friends really do have good tastes, lol. :-)


I think it has been asked before why, given that Harlequin is based in Toronto, are there so few category romances set in Canada.

Maybe up there they think the US of A is exotic? :-)


Yes, there are a world of Mr. Impossible lovers out there! I would be one of those thieves. Hehe.


Now that Egypt has come up again, I wonder why Egypt is one of the more popular not-Britain locations? Is it because Europe was going through a total Egyptomania back in the Regency?

Lynz Pickles,

Oh good gracious no! You won't find another sad ending in NOT QUITE A HUSBAND. It was written to give THE PAINTED VEIL the happy ending it should have had!

And I thank you for bringing up Eva Ibbotson. I don't know how I didn't put her down in my example of unusual locales. I recently read MADENSKY SQUARE, set in pre-WWI Vienna, and I have been raving about it everywhere I go.


Have you ever read Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire? I think it was in part set on South Sandwich Island or some such remote isles close to the South Pole. Not exactly a tropical paradise mind you, but remote islands alright.

And I totally concur about New Zealand. What incredible scenery. One of my favorite Hindi movies is also set partially there. If you have a chance, check out Kaho Na Pyaar Hai. One of the most drool worthy leading men you'll ever see.


I think some of LaVyrle Spencer's books might have been set on farms, I'm not sure.

But you are right, we sure don't see historical romances on farms much. :-)

Although, from what I hear, Laura Kinsale's upcoming book--can you tell I'm a rabid LK fangirl yet--features a prize bull in the kitchen. So definitely there's farm nearby.

Christie K,

I'm like you. I am neutral on settings. But I do insist on a setting well done, especially if it's going to be set somewhere unfamiliar. I don't want wallpaper exotic locations.

And yes, I do agree with you about the setting not taking over the story.

I have also heard of the funny phenomenon called Yorik the tour guide. Apparently as the Vikings rowed ashore to their homes, the hero would start pointing out to the heroine--possibly abducted--all the historical landmarks. LOL.

Karen H,

Would you believe that is a vast improvement the movie has over the book? I read the synopsis of the book online and was very distressed to find that the heroine apparently slept with the former lover again when she got back to the big city.

Which has totally sunk W. Somerset Maugham as a romance writer for me, mind you!

Sherry Thomas said...


Yes, it was amazing to see Swat Valley jump into the news like that. I remember sending some news links to my editor during the writing of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and she was quite disturbed by what was going on.

But even then I didn't anticipate that the trouble would continue to expand in that exponential manner. So sad.

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Sherry! Welcome to the lair! Not Quite A Husband sounds fantastic, & I'm completely in love with stories that feature an estranged couple getting to know each other for real this time. :-)

I'll pick it up ASAP!

Can I ask how much (and how in general) you research? Especially when you're writing about a place of which you have no personal experience? I find that unless I've been to a place I just can't quite make it feel real on the page. I try to read guidebooks & such but without the mental skeleton of the place already in my head it's just so much information I don't have anyplace to put.

I have deep admiration for people who can develop a mental image based on nothing but somebody else's words & imagination.

So how do you make a place you've never been come alive?

Sherry Thomas said...

Susan Dey,

Oy, NQAH was a tough nut for researching.

On April 18, 2008, I sent the following email to Meredith Duran, whose debut historical, The Duke of Shadows, is set in India and flawlessly researched: "Would you happen to know of some good first hand account of late 19th century travelers who went to those mountainous regions in the very northwest of the Subcontinent? Like the north of Kashmir, Hindu Kush, or Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, or those Afghan places where Osama Bin Laden used to hide out. Not pretty places like Simla or Dharamsala, but the really difficult terrains and environments, places preferably close to the Korakoram, a plus if they are forbidding and lawless."

Meredith promptly replied, with a pdf of AN ALPHABETICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BOOKS BY VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN WOMEN TRAVELLERS PUBLISHED BETWEEN 1837 AND 1910, which contained 1441 titles! Those women went everywhere! After a couple of hours of careful sorting through, I hit research gold, with A Sportswoman in India: Personal Adventures and Experiences of Travels in Known and Unknown India, by a big-game hunter named Isabel Savory who went to India in 1899. I would rely on this book to provide for the details of traveling in mountainous regions with an entourage of coolies.

Around the same time I begged Meredith for help, I was also googling like mad on my own. Google Books is the best thing that ever happened to a historical researcher. And I was lucky to come across The Risings on the North-West Frontier, which detailed a spate of uprisings that happened from 1897-98 at the very extremity of the British Raj. Even better, I discovered a book that dealt in depth with the Swat Valley Uprising of 1897, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, written by none other than Winston Churchill himself, as a very young journalist.

The visuals were provided by and Google Earth, both wonderful repositories of information.

The most difficult thing to research, which drove me absolutely bananas, was 1)the precise route that my H/H would take, something that I cannot figure out by merely looking at a map and 2) how long it took to travel that much distance at the end of the 19th century. A lot of Google Book search was required to turn up the requisite info.

I have a writing handicap myself: I can't see anything in my head. Nothing at all. So I pay a great deal of attention to other authors' writing that actually produce imagery in my head. And when I write, I write in such a way that at least I can picture it from the words.

I guess in a way, it's also an advantage? Because I figure, if I can now see it from my writing, others probably too. :-)

Sorry for the long and possibly disjointed answer. Time for some breakfast, I think. :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Sherry--welcome back!

You have fabulous covers, and this latest is no exception. Your setting sounds wonderful, too. I'm glad to see a little variety reappearing. We used to have books set in different parts of the British Empire, and I miss that.

Christine, a fun interview!

Nancy said...

Limecello, congratulations on the rooster.

Nancy said...

I just had a major blip in Blogger by accidentally hitting some key that caused the blog I was drafting to publish. Obviously, it's gone now, but apologies to Sherry, Christine, and anyone else who saw and was confused by that errant posting.

Unknown said...

Hi Sherry its nice to see you here! Congrats and good luck on the RITAs!

As far as setting goes I am brain dead right not, because I am still working in my kitchen and haven't had time to read a book at all this week (cry), maybe one day I will get to read again. (so bummed this week)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Welcome back to the Lair, Sherry. It's always a pleasure to have you with us.

As I haven't travled as extensively as some of my Lair-mates, (KJ, Aunty Cindy, Joanie), I confess, any and all settings intrigue me, as long as the author doesn't bore me with so many details the actual story gets lost in descriptions. I'm one of those people fond of negative white space in my books, (heavy on dialogue and action).

pjpuppymom said...

Welcome back, Sherry! Congrats on your RITA nominations! Great interview and your new book sounds fascinating.

Since I live in the US and not many historical romances are set here, just about every romance setting is an exotic locale. :) I also loved the settings of Meredith Duran's The Duke of Shadows, Chase's Mr. Impossible and Kinsale's The Shadow and the Star. They were all set in areas that I have never visited and the authors did a masterful job of bringing them to life through their words. I haven't read Chase's latest but I'm currently reading an ARC of a certain Bandita's wonderful upcoming book set in Venice, Italy, a mysterious and fascinating world that I have visited and am enjoying again through her story.

Unknown said...

Sherry, I am sooo looking forward to your next book. You've already become an auto buy for me. :) Congrats on the Rita finals!

Mary Jo Putney wrote a couple of books with exotic locales some years ago. The China Bride, set in China (duh), and there was another (I forget the title) but it was about the Silk Road and set in some place that is Uzbekistan today.

Barbara Monajem said...

I really loved M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions. More recently, Loretta Chase's recent novel that took place in Venice... I always like to read about exotic locations. Bring 'em on!

Maureen said...

Congratulations Sherry on your new book. I have read stories with all different types of settings and I do remember a couple that were set in Venice. One was by Loretta Chase and the other by Lydia Joyce. They both really brought the setting to life in the story.

Eva S said...

Hi Sherry,
congrats on the release! I love your two previous books and this one will be mine someday too!
I love unusual settings and now I've got many new books on my wishlist, thanks! Some of my favorites are Dinah Dean's Russian series and a very interesting book by Anne Carsley: The Winged Lion. A love story in Sumer a very, very long time ago!

Becke Davis said...

"3) I cannot eat alone without reading. There will be times when it's midnight, and I finally sitting down to my dinner, then I get up, while my food grows cold, and search all around my house for something I want to read."

This is so true! I literally can't eat when I'm alone unless I'm reading.

Favorite exotic local for me is Egypt, maybe because of Agatha Christie's influence on my formative years.

Love your books, Sherry - I'm looking forward to reading the new one. Just thinking about Delicious made me realize it's lunchtime.

Becke Davis said...

Anna Campbell said...
Jane, lurve Mr Impossible! Another favorite set in Egypt is As You Desire by Connie Brockway.

I heartily second this.

M. said...

Now I'm intrigued what Sherry would do with a South African and New Zealandese (?) setting!

One of my favorite historical romances of all time is Christine Monson's 'A Flame Run Wild' with a large part of the story set in the Holy Land during the Crusades, with scenes on both sides of the battles. Tremendously well-done, with a heroine considered 'unfeminine' according to the people of her time and several cultures. Another Monson title I love is 'Rangoon', set in Burma, with a hero of mixed heritage.

Greatly looking foward to NQAH even though sadly, the Swat valley was in recent news again for due to renewed conflict.

M. said...

Oh, and for the Falco afficionados and the curious out there:
I just finished the most recent release (April 09?) 'Alexandria', and to me it was like vintage Falco. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Minna said...

exotic locales for romances... Well, Australia, Hawaii... And these places may not be very exotic to me (except for the last one, maybe), but I'm yet to see a romance set in Finland, Sweden, Norway or maybe Iceland.

Aikakone - Keltainen

MAARIT Tuuli & Taivas (Wind & Sky)


Neiti Kevät

Pave Maijanen - Lähtisitkö

Tomas Ledin - Sommaren är kort

Sherry Thomas said...

Am back. I ate not only breakfast, but lunch too! LOL.


I am blessed with great covers, aren't I? And I think you are right about the variety of settings contract in the first part of the century. Didn't it used to be de rigueur for historical romances to go all around the world in one book?


Oh, no! I hope you'll be done with the kitchen in no time and back to reading. A week without a book must be some sort of human rights violation.


I also get impatient when the description go on for paragraphs and paragraphs.

My husband gave me a valuable piece of advice earlier in my career: He told me that some of my sentences were too long.

Have been trying to say more with less ever since. :-)


How lucky you are to get to read a book before it comes out!

Italy is a great setting, isn't it?


Thank you for reading me!

Is that MJ Putney book Silk and Secrets? It was just reviewed on AAR a few days ago.


I'm bringin' 'em. :-)


I didn't know Lydia Joyce also wrote a book set in Venice.

Some I'm suddenly reminded now of Shana Abe's The Dream Thief, which is set in Eastern Europe. And she did a bang-on job with the setting.


Thanks for reading me.

Sumer? You don't say! I've got to note down that book.


LOL, it's always lunch time with DELICIOUS, if not tea time and dinner time.

Loved Murder on the Nile myself. Went through a binge of A. Christie books several years ago.


Hee, I can't quite imagine what I'd do with South Africa but must have them climb Misty Mountain and ride whales in New Zealand. ;-)


Great songs. I especially liked the first one.

Janga said...

I just finished Not Quite a Husband, and it has joined Private Arrangements and Delicious on my keeper shelves. For me, characters matters most, and I always rejoice when I encounter characters like Byrony and Leo who inspire rereading.

I think both different settings and familiar ones have much to offer, so I don’t prefer one over the other. I do think “exotic setting” is a relative term. From my vantage point in Smalltown, U.S.A., a novel set in NYC can seem quite exotic.
Loretta Chase may take the prize for extraordinary settings. I remember her using India (The Sandalwood Bride), Albania (The English Witch, The Lion’s Daughter), Egypt (Mr. Impossible), and Venice (Your Scandalous Ways), and even her English settings are not always the typical ones (Miss Wonderful, Not Quite a Lady). Anne Stuart used Japan and Morocco in her Ice books. Betina Krahn also used Morocco (late 19th century) in The Book of the Seven Delights. Outback books were standard fare when I started reading Harlequins in the 60s, and Jo Goodman (Sweet Fire) and Richards (Beautiful Lies) have used Australian settings more recently, and Teresa Medeiros (Once an Angel) used New Zealand.

Nancy said...

Lynz, we love Eva Ibbotsen. We read a number of her books to the boy when he was little.

When I'm here alone, I tend to eat in front of the TV, which is very bad for monitoring consumption but at least is entertaining.

Nancy said...

Holy cow, Janga! What a summary of settings. I'm impressed that you can come up with so much so quickly. I agree with you that "exotic" can be a relative term. I also grew up in a small town, and the first time I wanted to visit NYC with a friend (for a comic book convention, reveling in super-heroes with fellow geeks), my mom acted as though we were headed to Sodom and Gomorrah.

This was before the days of cell phones, and the bus home broke down, so she was convinced my friend and I had been murdered.

I don't think she ever came to appreciate the energy and the cultural offerings of New York.

Nancy said...

Sherry, a friend who used to work in marketing thinks a lot of the constriction in time periods and settings has been a sales approach that puts books on par with cereal. He once said the job of a sales force is to sell their employer's product, not dictate what it is.

If only. I love Elizabethan England, but good luck finding it on the romance shelves.

I know publishers have to make money. I just think they could expand their reader base and total sales if they broadened their appeal a little.

A few years ago, paranormals were a small niche market, and now they're pervasive, just as an example.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Sherry, welcome back to the Lair. After your last visit, I purchased Private Arrangements and adored it, as well as Delicious when it came out later.

I've just acquired Not Quite a Husband and look forward to that as well.

Congratulations on your Rita finaling. What's up next for you?

Beth Andrews said...

Welcome back to the lair, Sherry! Your books sound fabulous and those covers? Gorgeous!!


Congrats on your double RITA nominations *g*

chey said...

Hi Sherry,
Congrats on the new release.
I've read some great books set in the arctic.

Anna Campbell said...

Sherry, heeeeeeeeere comes a margarita!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Sherry, sorry I'm so late in welcoming you to the lair. I just got up and have served breakfast to the brood, and I'm enjoying reading about everyone's take on exotic locales.

Actually, I'm setting neutral, too. Sometimes the exotic location can overwhelm the love story but when it's done right, it can really make a book stand out. I love it when the author brings the setting in as metaphor for the characters and their emotions so that it's not just a backdrop, it weaves into the love story itself. I think you do that brilliantly, Sherry, as does Loretta Chase.

I have heard many recommendations of Eva Ibbotsen's books. I must put her on my list.

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Sherry, thanks for visiting with
us & thanks to Christine for being
today's host!

One of my favorites with a far-
flung setting is Mary Jo Putney's
The China Bride.

Congratulations, Lime!

Pat Cochran

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, I second everyone who votes for Eva Ibbotson. One of my comfort reads is her A Countess Below Stairs. I don't know how many times I've read that and it still makes me smile.

Christine Wells said...

Oh, I also love Mary Jo Putney's Silk series, which is set in all sorts of exotic locations. She's another writer who knows how to use setting beautifully to heighten the romance.

Christine Wells said...

Oh, yes, eating and reading. It's ok if you can't eat without reading. Gets more dangerous when you can't read without eating! Given the amount I read, that would be disastrous.

Sherry Thomas said...


Thank you!

I think you are so right in that both the familiar and the far away have something to offer. London must be one of the most oft-used settings for historical romances. And yet, when I read Laura Kinsale's The Shadow and the Star, the first portion of which is set in London, I felt immersed as I had never been.

It took me a long time to realize that places mean different things to people too, and no one ever experiences the same place the same way.


I think your friend's analysis of selling books like cereal is very astute. There used to be many, many, many publishers. Now they are all folded into five or six conglomerates.

Used to be, you don't go into publishing expecting megabucks. But once the corporate mergers happened, publishing divisions had to start justifying their bottom line.

And then the regional distributors started going belly up--as in, the people who delivered books to different outlets used to know what sold at different outlets. They were gone.

Then the airport bookstore approach--carrying only the top selling 15% of books--proved successful.

It's hard to say that those industry changes caused by themselves the limited variety in romance, but they probably had some impact.

Also, readers were probably fed up of the globe-trotting historical romances a la Rosemary Rogers. Regency was a pretty nice change.

But maybe it is broadening again.


Thank you for reading my books.

What's next for me is Mr. Impossible. The Sherry Thomas version. Let's hope I don't screw it up royally. We don't have a fixed title yet. Maybe I'll call it Mr. Implausible? Hehe.


Thank you. Thank you. And thank you. :-)


Wow, yes, the great underutilized north. It would be difficult to rip your clothes off in a fit of passion, but I'm sure igloos must conveniently abound. :-)

Anna C.,

Now I want another! ;)


I just read MJP's Uncommon Vows. Not exactly an exotic setting--a medieval--but very fine book.


ROTFL about the dangers of not being able to read without eating.

Then I thought, my goodness, you should never have said it. Not even thought it. Because now some day, Banditas will collectively empty their pantries while their eyes remain firmly glued to the page.

I'm going to bar the passage to the kitchen next time I sink into a great read.

Anna Campbell said...

Gosh, Sherry, that went down in a hurry! Here's another one and it's Demetrius's special mixture - people come from far and wide to try that. They say all roads lead to Rome? Nah! All roads lead to our bar!

The Mr Implausible idea sounds fantastic! Can't wait!

Jessica Scott said...

Sherry is a fantastic author and I'm just thrilled for her success. If you haven't read her books you are missing out on some amazing writing. She's by far one of the best, freshest voices out there

Christine Wells said...

Ha, Sherry, the lair is already stocked with margarita makings and Tim Tams. That would be very dangerous!

LOVE the idea of Mr. Implausible. Looking forward to reading your next book:)

Thanks so much for being with us today. We've had a great time!

Lynz Pickles said...

Anna: yes, A Countess Below the Stairs (though my version's entitled The Secret Countess, which is clearly not the better title) is my favourite book by her. I leant my copy out about a month ago but I still haven't gotten it back... *sighs*

Sherry: Canadians do not think the US is exotic! Well, at least not Torontonians like me. I don't think anyone who lives near the border could, not when we can pop down for day-long shopping trips. That just takes the exotic allure out of anything. Plus almost every TV show is set in the States.

I've wondered about the lack of Canadian settings, too. I'd love to see a romance novel set in Québec City - it's so beautiful and full of history. Of course Toronto and Ottawa are, too, but adding in the French language just makes everything more fun. Montreal would work, too. Sadly, the only good Canadian romances I've encountered are teen books published by Canadian companies, and I doubt they're available outside of Canada.

Christine: LOL, I can't imagine how obese I'd be if I couldn't read without eating. I wouldn't be able to fit in this chair, that's for sure. And possibly not in this room. Thank goodness it doesn't work like that!

Kammie said...

Congratulations on being a double RITA finalist! One of my favorite stories, Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase, is set in Venice. There's also a movie that I love with the same setting, Dangerous Beauty.

Blodeuedd said...

Hi Sherry :)

Well I did love this book I read that was set on Afghanistan in the 19th century, it just came alive, but I am glad the heroine made it out

Mari said...

I am old fashioned, I guess, but I like most of my romances to be set in the US or the UK, although I really like when they have interludes or jaunts to exotic locations.
I am glad that someone suggested a book set in Egypt. That sounds interesting, I'll have to look into that.

Sherry Thomas said...


I love a place where the booze flows freely. ;-)


Thank you! That is high praise indeed.


LOL! I totall forgot about the fact that the US is so close for Canada. I lived in Detroit for a very brief bit, and Canadian dollars were accepted at lots of places. Canada did not seem very exotic then, and I see what you mean by US wouldn't either to folks just north of the border.

I visited Montreal once and it was lovely, just like Europe, except with wide roads and big-ass cars. :-)


I also enjoyed Casanova, which was also set in Venice. Heath Ledger turned in an irresistible performance.


(Boy is that a name that make me check my spelling three times.)

I'm glad my heroine made it out of Swat Valley! :-)


Oh pleae, do give Mr. Impossible a try. I know a book must not be loved by everyone, but I really have not come across anyone who did not enjoy Mr. Impossible.


Thank you so much for having me again. The banditas are a riot and I cannot have enjoyed myself better!

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