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BOOK CLUB: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

BOOK CLUB: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

the one that got away1) What was the genesis of your story?
A bunch of romance author friends and I were comparing Presents alpha heroes to the likes of Christian Grey and Gideon Cross. Dominant behavioral traits defined them all, yet Presents heroes didn’t really dominate in the bedroom. Was this a line constraint? Given the success of books like FSoG and BTY, would it stay a line constraint? After a hard day at the office, did a 21st century alpha hero really just want to come home and sub?

We talked about incorporating D/s sexual dynamics into sexy category romance. Would the sex scenes need to be fully realized and described? Could you load up the subtext and go easy on the details? Would glossing over those details limit exploration of character? Limit the resolution? Would readers feel short-changed? I really wanted to explore these questions, preferably within the framework of story.

2) What is the theme or overriding concept, as you understand it, behind the KISS line?

I put this question through to KISS Senior Editor Bryony Green.

Bryony: Harlequin KISS is flirty, fun, fresh and contemporary! It is a brand new series that reflects the way 25 – 35 year olds actually find love today. It’s about spirited, independent women – their lives, work, friendships and how they meet the guy who’s right for her. And when you’re talking about women who know what they want and don’t need a man to make their life complete, these men have to be super-hot and alpha in a totally 21st century way! The guidelines are here:

3) The balloon covers indicate a fairly light hearted romance but the story of Evie and Logan is fairly dark. Did the tone evolve or did you know going in, that this would be a darker romance.

I knew going in that this story would be darker and more experimental than my usual. I got the go ahead from editorial and started writing. The cover came later. More on the cover later.

4) Was there any thought to Evie and Max having a romance? Why or why not?

The first scene I wrote for this story was that of a newly engaged Evie meeting Max’s family for the first time and realizing that she’d once been madly in love with his brother. I liked the inherent conflict. Max’s brother would be the hero. It could have gone either way at that point, but that was the direction I chose. Given that Max wasn’t going to be the hero, I needed that initial engagement to be one of convenience so that he could walk away unscathed. Cue the set-up of Evie and Max agreeing to marry in order to access his trust fund. I don’t often work backwards to get to the set-up, but this time I did.
5) Logan’s feelings toward Evie were conflicted due to his past. What changed in the intervening time? His control or his feelings overcoming his desires?
For me, what changes for Logan is that he learns how to trust. Logan trusting in himself more, as he tries to navigate an intense love relationship without doing damage. Logan trusting that Evie can hold her own with him and rein him in, both in the bedroom and out, should he ever go too far.

6) The dark feelings that Logan had exhibited themselves in a sexual manner yet the sex scenes are rather restrained and there was no attempt to work those control issues out in the bedroom. Was that intentional? Why did you choose to go that route?

Initially, I wrote sex scenes for the story that included pain play and breath play. This let me explore bedroom control issues more (though I never fully resolved them) and shone a different light on character. It made Logan more confronting and the story very dark. If I’d had to label the story at that point, I’d have called it erotic romance. Not a problem. I’d gone into this story perfectly willing to pick at the edges of what was sexy category romance and what was not. I took the breath play out. Reworked the characterization. Took the pain play out. Tweaked. Put it back in. Tweaked. Took it back out (drove myself nuts…).

Other factors came into play. I’d written the story with a Presents Extra audience in mind but then my publisher told me that the story was going to open for KISS. Fantastic, but the potential audience for the story had just become a mystery box. I saw the cover (And it’s sweet and romantic and contemporary and… doesn’t fit the story at all). My story had identity issues. My cover had… balloons.

I have no sway over cover concepts. And this cover was pulling double duty in representing not just my story but an entirely new series. Some KISS stories don’t have explicit sex scenes in them at all.

I took another pass at the story. By now I’d pushed just about all of the sexual pain play and a lot of the sexual power play into subtext. Would readers feel short-changed by this decision? I’d soon find out. I’d wanted to find out.
*note to self: Next time you get curious, Kelly, step away from the manuscript and go visit Madagascar. Plenty to satisfy curiosity there.

7) Do you intend to write more for the KISS line or the HP line? Or, in other words, what are your next writing plans?

I’ve another KISS story on the go. Amnesia. I love this trope. It’s my duty as a proud category romance author to twist this trope at least once. As for writing straight Harlequin Presents, I’ve never actually written for HP editorial, even though 3 or 4 of my stories are packaged as such. It’s complicated. Will a simple ‘I’ve no plans to write for HP editorial’ suffice?

I have a single title contemporary romance in the works and a fifteen thousand word story that’s coming out in May as part of an Entangled Anthology called When Honey Got Married... . Collaborating with Kimberly Lang, Anna Cleary and Ally Blake on this project was an absolute joy. Four linked stories. One big Louisiana society wedding… My story’s called Nina Tempted The Lord. Yes, really.

Thanks for the Book Club pick, Jane, and the opportunity to answer a few questions


Over to you readers. What were your thoughts on “The One That Got Away” by Kelly Hunter.

REVIEW: Loving Our Heroes by Jessica Hart, Amy Andrews and India Grey

REVIEW: Loving Our Heroes by Jessica Hart, Amy Andrews and India...

I feel a bit bad about reviewing this book negatively because part of the proceeds go to a charity but I didn’t know that when it was offered on NetGalley so I will just review it like any other book, regardless of the good deed a purchase will bring about.  Maybe just donate that one pound directly?

Last Minute Proposal by Jessica Hart

Loving Our Heroes by Jessica Hart, Amy Andrews and India GreyI’m not a huge fan of reality tv shows as the basis of romance stories but I don’t know if there is anything worse than the reluctant reality tv show contestant who spends the first day saying that she wants to leave and who won’t engage in any of the activities without constant complaining.  What are you even there for?  The reality show consisted of two challenges. The first is for Tilly, the heroine, to do something that Campbell, the hero, excelled at which was an outdoor challenge.  The second was for Campbell to do something that Tilly was good at which was baking cakes. Tilly was a cake baker/decorator.

Neither of them sound authentic.  At one point, the producer of the show tells them that another couple has a GPS “That’ll give them an advantage, but we’ve got it here, and I can give it to you, too, if you like.”  How is that an advantage if everyone has one?  But regardless the response is worse.

‘What’s a GPS?’ asked Tilly

It’s a satellite navigation gizmo,’ said Campbell dismissively.  ‘Some people can’t get from A to B without them.”

Campbell is supposed to be former marine. I highly doubt he a) turns down GPS and b) calls it a gizmo.  And seriously, does anyone under the age of … 70 not know what GPS is?  And then Tilly is surprised at the fact that the camera is on them at all times.

“That’s great!’ she said enthusiastically.  ‘There’s real chemisty between you two.  The viewers will love it!’

‘What viewers?’ Tilly said blankly.

‘This is a television programme,’ Suzy reminded her. ‘That’s why we’ve been filming you.’

‘What, just now?’ Tilly cast a hunted look around.  Sure enough, one of the cameramen was filiming them from a few feet away.  ‘I thought it would be just when we were doing stuff,’ she whispered, hurriedly turning her back on him.

Ugh. Seriously?  But nothing about this book makes much sense. Neither Tilly nor Campbell are supposed to be the reality show contestants. They are both fill ins.  As if reality TV shows are desperate for candidates and will take any number of walk ons.  Plus, while the cameras were on the two every second during the outdoors trip, the cameras only showed up for the cake reveal in the second half of the competition not while Campbell was baking the cake or while Tilly was training him.  There was no consistency in the competition.

The one interesting thing in the story was seeing how different Tilly was based on her surroundings.  Outdoors, she was a ninny and worried constantly about her weight.  In her kitchen, she was confident and vibrant.  Campbell was your ordinary hard ass who softened at the end. D

Mission: Mountain Rescue by Amy Andrews

This is a reunited lovers story but the whole story felt very manufactured as if the great authorial hand came down to direct my attention.  Holly fell in love with Richard but because of their age difference and his job as a soldier with the UN, Richard broke it off. Holly was devastated but decided to do something with her life. She goes out and learns to be a midwife and she is sent to Tanrami on a humanitarian mission. Lo and behold, Richard is part of the military detachment there to protect the aid workers. The two get captured and taken to the mountains (hence the name “Mountain Rescue”). I felt detached from the story.

I didn’t believe that Holly had any interest in nursing (she was Humanitarian Barbie in my head) and Richard was portrayed initially as this hardened soldier and then transformed into Medic Ken in Tanrami, collecting water specimens and beating off the bad guys.  Maybe Medic GI Joe?

Nothing seemed to evolve naturally.  Holly and Richard need to get back together so we’ll send pretty fastidious Holly to be a midwife and then she gets to go on an aid mission.  Richard and Holly need to be together in a high stakes moment.  Let’s have them wander around unprotected and then get captured.  There needs to be medical jargon.  Let’s have some woman in the mountain village camp undergo a difficult birth so the words “cannula” and “episiotomy” can be used.  And let’s not forget that Richard, a soldier, has three different kinds of fluid in his pack “Saline, Haemaccel, Hartman’s.” (conveniently he is no longer just a soldier but a medic).  It also is amazing that Holly is the “only midwife in her student group who had witnessed a dystocia delivery.”  Richard has a big trauma that prevents him from accepting Holly’s love but in the mountains, he finds absolution in Holly’s arms.  Maybe if I enjoyed medical romances more, I would appreciate this story line but I found it too bland and unbelievable to be entertaining.  C-

Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire’s Pleasure by India Grey

Orlando Winterton is an RAF pilot who is losing is eyesight due to Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy.  He finds Rachel at the base of his brother’s grave, drinking and moaning about her sorry fate. Rachel is a famous pianist who is supposed to marry a famous conductor, the culmination of her mother’s plans.  Orlando thinks Rachel is a spoiled rich girl who won’t get her hands dirty when she protests that she can’t even cut a vegetable because her hands are precious.

I thought the confict set up was interesting. Rachel views herself as weak and helpless whereas Orlando is big and strong and capable .  They are both cowards and strong in their own ways.  Rachel emotionally picks herself up and allows herself to fall for not only Orlando but a baby that comes into their care.  Orlando, on the other hand, afraid of what others think of him and devastated by his disease, strikes out against people and becomes more isolated.  I wish that the story had been longer to tease out the contrasts, but  because of the truncated length, there is no sincerity in the emotions.

I did enjoy the story uses dramatic irony although I think it may have been overused.  Orlando thinks that Rachel holds him in disgust because of his eyesight and Rachel thinks Orlando believes her to be a useless git.  While I liked the emotion and the writing in this story more than the other three, it relies too heavily on worn tropes and sensationalized emotions.  C

None of these books feature a military person in active combat except for maybe  Medic Ken.

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