Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis. She writes for two racing publications, churning out feature articles, interviews and advertorials. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a husband, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee.
To Charm a Bluestocking is the first eBook in Renée’s Bluestocking series. She now answers the Booktopia Book Guru’s Nine Naughty Questions.
1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background – what’s your favourite type of romance cover and why?
All of them. I know, it’s cheating, but I love how the different styles of cover show you the sub-genre of the book inside. One of the beauties of romance is that there is a book for every feeling, and a cover to match. Want to languish in a soft emotional ride? Want a fast, steamy read? Want to escape to a glorified version of the past? Want to explore a different world? Romance has it all, and with the benefit of a satisfying ending.
2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?
There isn’t any way to make writing sound more exciting. Mostly, it’s me mumbling at my computer, with occasional colourful language. As To Charm a Bluestocking is my debut novel, I have to balance writing with a day job, and my family, which adds an additional challenge. Our household resembles a slapstick army, with a general attempt at organisation overruled by many personalities all making demands.
This summer, my eldest son played representative cricket, which meant every Saturday morning, and all day Sunday in the park. I took my laptop to every game and wrote the sequel to To Charm a Bluestocking over the season. Yes, I did look up from the computer to watch his overs, and cheer when required.
3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your characters, and have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?
No-one writes in a vacuum. A writer’s words are shaped by how their life is shaped, and it is these experiences that create that illusive ‘voice’ that editors speak of. I grew up in a family of story-tellers, and they provide an endless source of inspiration for characters. And not just the current generations, but far back into history as well.
The idea for To Charm a Bluestocking came from my father’s grandmother, who was one of the earliest female medical graduates in Holland. I thought about what challenges she faced, and which of those challenges would resonate with today’s readers – and thus the Bluestocking series was born.
4. I’m interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?
Romance is all about the happy ending (either happily ever after or happy for now), and erotica is just one end of the heat range in romance. Porn is just sex, with no emotional connection.
Are romance readers getting naughtier? Maybe they are getting more adventurous, and more willing to declare what they like, or explore new things. Or maybe the romance’s our parents and grandparents read were already naughty? I mean, have you read Victorian erotica?
5. Please tell us about your latest novel. Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?
To Charm a Bluestocking is set in 1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.
But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall, too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.
Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all – a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match – everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.
It is the first in a series of three, and I simply use the heroine’s name as a working title in my files. The next one, In Pursuit of a Bluestocking, is about Marie. She was happily engaged in To Charm a Bluestocking, but her life plan is about to be thrown into disarray.
6. What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve received after a friend or family member read one of your books?
One of my friends said that it was more racy than the cover suggested.
7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they’ll write ‘real’ books – what do you tell the haters?
Romance is a genre written by women for women. There will always be people who find that idea confronting. A recent study found that when a room contained 30% women and 70% men, the men in the room thought the ratio was 50/50. Romance is a genre that allows women to be front and centre of a book, and I think that concept is very real for female readers. Not only that, but the female character ends the book happy, sexually satisfied, and with a loyal hero who respects her. She doesn’t die, or suffer for the sake of art, like in every other genre. Romance also gives happy endings to marginalised people, such as LGBTI, minority races, and differently abled people, who are often only seen as minor plot points in other genres.
8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.
My automatic recommendation is Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, starting with The Duchess War. It’s utterly brilliant. I also loved Alisha Rai’s A Gentleman in the Streets – the heroine is a female billionaire. It’s feisty and erotic. Tessa Dare is delightful, her recent Castles Ever After series is great, although my favourite of hers is Any Duchess Will Do. Two great classic historic romance series are Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers and The Hathaways. For a historical that is closer to the present day, Alyssa Cole’s Let it Shine is set in USA in the 1960s. I’m looking forward to reading her latest book, An Extraordinary Union.
9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it’s particularly delicious!
I enjoyed writing the scenes where the three friends support each other during times of drama. Josephine’s first kiss with Lord St. George is lovely, because she starts to realise that she isn’t too tall and awkward. When her friend interrupts, she is torn between indulging in those burgeoning feelings, and relief at the chance to run away.
Thank you, Renée!
To Charm A Bluestocking - EBOOK
She wants to be one of the world's first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.
1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world's first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiance to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams...