Back to Top

Tag Archives: Pam Rosenthal

We’re very pleased to welcome as our first guest Pam Rosenthal, writer of historical erotic romance and erotica, and a frequent visitor to this blog.

“Where are the really sexy, well-written novels for grown-up, sophisticated readers? At long last, I found one…” The Contra Costa Times on Almost a Gentleman
“…a love story about people who love books nearly as much as each other.” Romantic Times BOOKClub on The Bookseller’s Daughter

“…will send genteel readers into seizures… adventurous, different, and unconventional.”Mrs. Giggles on A House East of Regent Street in Strangers in the Night

Welcome to the Riskies, Pam. In one of your comments on Risky Regencies, you said you came to write romance by an indirect route. What was that, and what appealed to you about the genre?
I came to romance from erotica — which wasn’t so well trodden a path a few years ago as it is now. I’m the author of one of the books Janet recommended as a year-end favorite. Some of you might remember the one with the bare-assed cover — CARRIE’S STORY, by Molly Weatherfield (and thanks, Janet, for bringing down the tone so eloquently).
It’s a very explicit and (imo) rather witty book — Carrie yacks non-stop in a mordant intellectual chicklit voice — which, given all the heavy doings she’s subjected to, is my way of making the SM subgenre poke fun at itself, while also poking fun at myself for my fascination with the SM subgenre. And which must have worked (I’m proud to say that CARRIE’S STORY is in its ninth printing and sometimes called a “classic”), leaving me to wonder how in the world I’d brought my mild-mannered self to such a pass.
So I started reading about the history of erotic writing. And discovered THE FORBIDDEN BEST SELLERS OF PRE-REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE, by the historian Robert Darnton. From which I learned that smut and enlightenment philosophy were both smuggled into France and sold surreptitiously by booksellers during the years before the revolution. The smut/enlightenment combo seemed right up my alley, my husband’s a bookseller, and the smuggling angle led me to believe there was a historical romance in there. And there was — THE BOOKSELLER’S DAUGHTER.

As for what appealed to me about the romance genre — this was sort of weird, because I hadn’t read any romance in a long time. But I knew how popular it was and I was especially curious about the bodice-ripper covers I’d been seeing during the preceding years. And somehow I was sure (correctly, as it turns out) that since I’d grown up in the Technicolor fifties surrounded by exuberant HEA mythology, my fantasies were quite romance-inflected already.

How did you get interested in the Regency period and what do you like best about it?
I was so naïve a first-time romance writer that I didn’t know how unpopular a venue France is (or was, with romance readers — I think they’ve lightened up now). But I’d had such a good time writing THE BOOKSELLER’S DAUGHTER that I didn’t want to stop writing romance — and if Regency England was the historical venue of choice, so be it and I was happy to reacquaint myself with Jane Austen.
I don’t have any smart takes on the period — yeah, it’s the clothes for me too. The men’s coats, the tight pants, the boots. Georgian architecture. Adam rooms. Wedgwood. I think of all that poise and balance as coiled-up energy waiting to burst forth as the industrial revolution and the nineteenth century British Empire.
I would say I’m attracted to the wit of the period, but I suspect that all periods have their great wits (hey, the soggy, earnest Victorians had Thackeray and Lewis Carroll). I think it’s interesting, though, how genre writers — historical and contemporary — seem to need some modicum of wit, to provide concision, momentum, a way of being modest, tough, reliable good authorial company.
And then there are ways in which I don’t like the Regency at all, for its snobbery and political reaction. Which is also a good reason to write about a period — a love-hate relationship can be an extremely productive and interesting one.

Tell us about your next book [Signet Eclipse, Sept. 2006].
It’s another sexy Regency-set historical. But this is the first of my historical books built around an actual event rather than made-up murder and mayhem. The Pentrich Revolution of 1817 was a genuine popular uprising — well, it was genuine and it wasn’t, because it was fomented in large part by an agent provocateur, in the pay of the Home Office.
My heroine and hero, Mary and Kit, run athwart of the provocateur plot on the way to solving their own problems. They’re already married, though they were legally separated before Kit marched off to fight Napoleon — but needless to say they’re still deeply, hotly, and most confusedly and contentiously in love. The erotica is quite explicit, but I think what I most enjoyed doing was the contentiousness, the way they argue at the slightest provocation, jostle for physical space and interrupt each other in mid-sentence because they know each other’s speech rhythms so well. There’s something delightfully provocative (half dance, half pugilism) about watching two people who know and love each other go for the jugular.
But until it’s listed in the publisher’s catalog, I’d better not announce the title because they could always change it.

Which of your books is your favorite?
Right now the current one, because learning the history was a challenge and an entertainment. My husband and I visited the region where it happened and also spent a day in the National Archives at Kew, reading the Home Office papers — correspondence between magistrates, spies, the provocateur, and Lord Sidmouth, the HO secretary. These were microfiches of the originals, in very scrawled handwriting — the immediacy of the past gave us goose bumps.
But I’d also like to give a nod to SAFE WORD, the Molly Weatherfield sequel to CARRIE’S STORY. May I quote to you what an Amazon reviewer said about it? “I loved this book. Not just as porn, but as a real book . . . it made me rethink all those [SM] myths, and the impact that their beauty and their despair had on my own self-view. I don’t know how I can say more about a book than that.”
And (since I did a lot of rethinking in order to write that book) I don’t know how an author could want more from a reader’s response.

What do you like to read?
Mostly fiction, literary and not-so-literary both. Within that mixed bag, I think I’ve been looking for a certain kind of story since I got my first library card. The librarian of our local branch asked if I liked “family stories,” and I, being six or seven at the time, nodded dumbly, never having considered that there was any other kind of story.
And in fact I do like stories that situate people in a nexus of relationships foregrounding the familial ones. I worked hard to create an extensive familial world for Mary and Kit, who first came to consciousness of each other as children of rival Derbyshire landowners. So it’s not just a political world they learn to situate themselves within — it’s the continuing presence of their pasts and their families.
Books that I loved for this reason last year were all (coincidentally, I think) written by way-smart Englishwomen: ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith, WIVES AND DAUGHTERS by Mrs. Gaskell, and DEDICATION by Janet Mullany. Runners-up (also by Englishwomen as it happens) were by new-to-me authors Penelope Fitzgerald and Mary Stewart — and the latest HARRY POTTER was pretty nifty too. I also was happy finally to read way-smart Englishman Nick Hornby: I loved A LONG WAY DOWN and his essay/book chat collection, THE POLYSYLLABIC SPREE. The American wild card in the deck was Truman Capote’s gorgeous, distressing IN COLD BLOOD.

How do you do your research?
Well the unvarnished truth is that my husband Michael is doing increasingly more of it, since he jumped in when I needed him for this last book, to shed some light onto the darkness of British post-Waterloo domestic espionage. He’s been a bookseller all his life; he’s got a wide knowledge of what’s in print and a sharp professional instinct for what people will enjoy and what they need to know. So when I needed to understand how the British Home Office was spying on Britain’s parliamentary reform clubs (or for that matter, what the parliamentary reform clubs actually were), he found the resources for me and traced the references to the boxes of Home Office microfiche at the National Archives . . . I’m very grateful. Of course, we’re only starting to learn how to work together, but this last research trip to England — hiking around Derbyshire, finding the site of the Pentrich uprising, and reading those amazing documents — was our most fun vacation ever.
Oh, and he also writes my synopses — or takes my drafts and turns them into readable synopses (he wrote up his hints for synopsis-writing and I’m going to post them on my web site). I do write the novels, though. Honest.

What are you working on now?
I’m still finishing up the current one. My ideas for the next are still pretty embryonic.

Do you feel that your erotica is related to your romance writing? How?
I have the same attitude about physical sexuality in both cases. Which is that it’s less about body parts and more about how lovers see and know and understand themselves and each other in time and space. Which isn’t to say that I don’t write very explicitly about body parts or voyeurism or fetishism or bondage or any of those good things. But I do try to think how this particular pair of lovers in this particular situation will eroticize or fetishize or play domination games or get creative in bed.
The difference is that in the erotica, love wasn’t a given. I did have a sort-of hero and heroine, but they were each involved in a series of very baroque SM situations, and it wasn’t a given that they’d be together by the end of the two-part series — in fact I truly wasn’t sure how it would end until I was well into the second book. Of course I learned that when you put a lot of gorgeous people into a lot of hot situations some of them will, shall we say, conceive tendres for each other. Love made its way into those books whenever and however it wanted to — in certain cases I found myself most pleasantly surprised (and this was one of the things that made me think I could write a romance). The CARRIE books are about love, as it happens, even if obliquely.
And I think I brought something of that to the romances. A curiosity about voyeuristic and fetishistic psychology developed my skills with point of view. I like to keep it fluid and yes, sometimes oblique. I like to have minor characters take on the burden of narrative from time to time, I like to flash onto their stories, and I’m trying to learn how to make my main and subplots interact a little more. I find it sexier and more democratic that way.

In your romance books, were you aware that you were taking risks? In retrospect, what can you see that was risky about them?
Aside from the risk of saying on these august pages that there are ways I quite dislike the Regency period? Or of exposing my most cherished and fraught sexual fantasies? Or the risk of seeming preachy, along the way to presenting an episode of popular rebellion?
Well sure. All risk all the time. I mean one spends so much time (and I’m slow) writing a book that says, in one way or another, I think this is hot or I think this is interesting. And then a reader comes along and says you think what? Making one feel like a total idiot. But isn’t the risk the point of the thing? I hate roller coasters, but I seem to like putting myself through something very similar when I write a book.

Baltimore is a strange, quirky sort of city. It’s the birthplace of Betsy Bonaparte who married Napoleon’s brother Jerome. Napoleon was not amused. Poor Betsy never got a crack at being a European bigwig though her extremely French ooh la la fashion sense appalled the fashionable set of Washington. I blogged about it here.

Baltimore brought us the Star Spangled Banner (which I blogged about very recently), Edgar Allen Poe, John Waters, the endearment hon (pronounced in the very odd regional accent), The Wire, and many other strange and wonderful things. And every year it brings the Baltimore Book Festival and I’ll be talking and reading there tomorrow on the Maryland Romance Writers’ Stage. It’s a huge three-day event which takes place in the Mount Vernon district. Lots and lots of books, beer, writers, kids’ activities, readings, food, and many good things.

I’ll be on panels talking about vamps, erotic romance, and keeping the history in historical fiction. We have some terrific guests including local writers like Stephanie Draven, Laura Kaye, and Christie Kelley. My out of town friend Miranda Neville will be there with me tomorrow and my other buddy Pam Rosenthal will talk on Saturday evening. We’ll all read from our books which you’ll be able to buy on the spot courtesy of Ukazoo Books (Baltimore is also rich in indy book stores).

There will also be drawings and giveaways and a bunch of us who are talking about vampires on Friday are doing a gift basket that has various treasures packed into a True Blood lunch bag (I think it would put me off my lunch, but there you go)–books, chocolate, jewelry, and one of my Austen mugs. I hate being involved in chocolate-heavy events. I just know I’m going to absent mindedly eat it.

So if you’re in spitting distance of Charm City, please visit the Baltimore Book Festival. You’ll have a lot of fun.

If you had to plan a book festival, who would you invite?


Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, was born on this day in 1904.

Although he published the book in 1949, his interest in mythology, particularly Native American mythology, was sparked by a visit as a kid to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Madison Square Garden.

It’s from his work that the concept of the Hero’s Journey derives, something Campbell describes as

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Yes, it sounds like Tolkien, but I love it as a reality check for writing fiction, and one of the few writing books I like is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.

Here are a few more quotes from Campbell I thought you’d enjoy. To my very great amusement, when I followed the link to Campbell quotes, the first thing I read was:

Sensuality Redefined
The New
Push Up
Demi Bra

with an appropriate illustration, before it rearranged itself as an ad at the side of the page. Here are the real Campbell quotes:

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.

Love is a friendship set to music.

I’m off fairly soon to the New England Romance Writers Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference, where I’m doing a workshop on servants, signing, hanging out with other writers, and shutting myself away to write.

Pam Rosenthal, who was nominated for a Rita (go Pam!) for The Edge of Impropriety, is having a contest–the prize, a copy of my August 2009 release A Most Lamentable Comedy. Go read an excerpt and enter now!

What are you up to? Reading, writing, nominated for a Golden Heart or Rita? Tell us!

I want to talk about covers. Specifically, covers for reissued traditional Regencies. I’m looking into the idea of republishing my backlist and interested to see what others have done.

Some authors have gotten new cover art much in the style of the Zebra and Signet Regency covers. Shannon Donnelly has some very nice ones; here’s an example. The concern I have with these is the possible perception among readers that these books contain no more sexual activity than kissing. I’ve had some irate reader mail about my Regencies that had sex scenes and some Amazon comments to the effect that sex does not belong in traditional Regencies (or even that sex did not occur during the Regency!) Janet and I once had a chat about how readers might not expect a bondage scene in a book with this type of cover. 🙂

There are some lovely covers using period fashion plates. Here’s one through Belgrave House and another by Candice Hern. I think they’re great but they do seem best suited to the sweet traditional Regency.

Here are some other styles of covers I have found on Smashwords when searching for “Regency romance”. As far as I know, these are not reissues but they show a range of possibilities.

I like the use of period artwork, especially portraits. I pick books more by whether the characters seem intriguing than by the level of sexuality, so an attractive and interesting portrait will catch my eye.

I loved the first cover for Pam Rosenthal’s RITA-winning THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION, which featured a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence. IMHO this cover is sexy; it also promises quality writing and a period feel. Yet the book was reissued with this much less subtle cover. The Smart Bitches and their guests discussed the merits of each; opinions were mixed but I think pretty evenly divided between the classier vs the cheesier cover. I only hope the two covers helped the book reach a wider readership!

So what do you think? Which sorts of covers do you like and why?

How important is it that a book cover reflects the level of sensuality of the book, versus other elements?

What sort of covers do you think work best for books that fall somewhere between the sweet traditional and the sexy historical?


I’m home from the RWA conference in Washington, DC, after having a lovely time. I am still so tired from the festivities that all I can do is produce random thoughts.

1. The time started out in a very exciting way! We Riskies (except Janet who was squiring folks around on a Washington DC historic house tour)
were interviewed at XM Radio (more on that in upcoming days!)

2. I danced with Janet (and the Harlequin Historical editors) at the Beau Monde Soiree. But just one dance. We would not wish to set tongues wagging.

3. The Harlequin Party was held at the Ritz Carlton in a ballroom with a great dance floor and the same DJ as in San Francisco (He’s so good!). The theme was Harlquin’s 60 year anniversary, and they set up bars with a theme of the decade. For example, the 1960s bar served Singapore Slings. A video display of old covers was flashed on the wall and on monitors throughout the room. Needless to say, it was a wildly wonderful party.

4. Harlequin was a big presence at the conference and well they should be with the wonderful year they are having, sales-wise. They gave all conference attendees tote bags with a vintage Harlequin cover on them. Keep an eye out for more Vintage cover products, soon to be on sale in Barnes and Noble and Borders and such. Harlequin partnered with a stationary company to produce a bunch of very cool notebooks and things like that. To a few lucky early arrivers at the Harlequin party, I snatched a set of post cards with vintage covers on them. Here is an idea of the covers that will perhaps be featured.

5. The Mills & Boon editors (including Harlquin Historicals) are the BEST!! Not only did Joanne Grant (Historical) and Kim Young (Romance) attend (and dance in spike heels) at the Soiree, they also “made an offer” to aspiring writer and Golden Heart finalist (and later the winner) Jeannie Lin to buy her manuscript Butterfly Swords. Joanne and Kim gave a great workshop on avoiding cliches, a download of which should be available to purchase. (check the RWA site for more on that). I could go on and on about how much fun these two ladies are, but the other editors were equally as friendly. Sheila Hodgson (Medicals) greeted me like an old friend at our Mills & Boon Reception and editorial directo, Karin Stoecker, met me for a friendly drink. (Joanne, Karin, and Sheila also toasted me with champagne in 2006 after my RITA win). Tessa Shapcot (Presents) sat across from me at the Harlequin Historical lunch and was a delight to chat with.

6. Our Riskies get-together did not go as planned. Harry’s Pub was not conducive to such a gathering, but we made do in the Lobby bar and I had a great time chatting with Santa and Keira. Andrea Pickens and Miranda Neville, both past guest authors, also were there. Santa and I even did an impromptu plot-storming session. (Miranda Neville, by the way, helped me solve a sticky plot problem, as well, when we were just chatting at breakfast Sunday). Another Risky interviewee, Pam Rosenthal, won the RITA for BEST HISTORICAL Romance!!!

7. My very favorite part of the conference is running into old friends and making new ones. I love the mystery of why I sometimes see certain people everywhere (either Sandy Coleman and Amy of All About Romance were stalking me or I was stalking them, not sure which, but everywhere I went, they did too.) and others hardly at all. And I also love walking through the halls and greeting old friends.

8. I had great intentions of touring around DC with Keira and Amanda on Sunday, but I was so exhausted that I went home early and barely budged from my spot on the couch. So sorry, Keira and Amanda! I hope you had a good day.

How about you? If you attended the conference, what were your most memorable moments? If you didn’t attend, what else can we tell you about it?

Oh, I also met with Emily Cotler of Waxcreative Design so look for some new stuff at my website real soon. There is a new contest there right now.

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By