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The Wenches


  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam


  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

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June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)


    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement


    Bestseller Lists:

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    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

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    Chicago Tribune

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Books

« In Conversation with Christina Courtenay | Main | A Roller Coaster Ride Through Regency Paris »

Comments

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Theo

I've been gobbling up romance all my life. From Victoria Holt's 'gothic almost' to Heyer to The Wenches, but it wasn't until this last 15 years or so I realized what a trope is. I bought the books for the back blurb and the cover, but it turns out I enjoy most those who have a main character that needs saving. I think that's a big part of why I love Wench books so much. :)

Helen

Hi Anne

I don't go out and pick books up by troupe, but I must say that Cinderella is my favourite and always will be, if a book keeps me invested in the characters and turning the pages then that makes me happy, but there are so many different troupes and I pretty much enjoy them all :)

have Fun

Helen

Letha Stewart

I also enjoy the mail order bride stories but my favorites have to be wallflowers or other situations where the woman doesn’t fit the norm and blue stockings. Mostly because I love a man who is intuitive enough to look below the surface attributes to the person underneath and/or is not intimidated by a smart woman.

Mary T

I am a sucker for stories with animals or children in them, but I don't have a favorite trope. I love romance, but I noticed long ago that it is a rather narrow genre - there are only so many story types.

What makes the difference to me is character development. If I can remember the character, I will remember the story. Not surprisingly the character driven stories are my comfort reads. If I like the characters, I will revisit them.

Minna

I usually don't think about tropes when I'm choosing a book, unless the trope used in the book is obvious in the blurb.

One of my favorite tropes is Beauty and the Beast and my least favorite is the revenge trope. There are exactly 3 revenge books I like and the reason I like them is because in those books there are people who actually deserve what's coming to them and the main characters are working together. I can't stand those revenge books were some guy bent on revenge for less than good reasons uses some innocent girl to get his revenge -and then they fall madly in love. Really? I don't think so!

Mary Jo Putney

Anne, like you, I didn't know a trope from doughnut when I started writing! I wrote my first full length historical, DEARLY BELOVED, with a secret baby when I'd never heard of secret baby books. I'n with you on Marriage of Convenience books! I wrote my Bride Trilogy years ago, and only recently realized that I could have called it a marriage of convenience trilogy. *G* But as has been said, it really comes down to trying to tell the best possible story with the best possible characters.

Pamela DG

I enjoy most of the tropes, but I think I like I like Marriage of Convenience, Second Chance Romance, Older Lovers, and Spinster and the Rake most of all. They tend to have lots of variations that make the stories come to life. But the ones I seem drawn to write are Wounded Hero and the Widow with children. I like that tropes can provide a skeleton plot, but are flexible enough to bend and twist to my will. During this age of quarantine, I'll knock some rust off my stories and see if I can polish them up to the point I can share them.

Sue McCormick

I've been aware of tropes for a long time, and I find them convenient when I am discussing a book with other readers.

I DO NOT buy books according to tropes. Also, I don't have a favorite nor do i have a strong dislike.

The books I love, bury their tropes. If you look, they are there, but they are not blatant. I'm looking for "the best possible story with the best possible characters", as two of you have allready said.

Just A Reader

I’m just a nobody, eclectic reader on a long historical romance kick. While I do have a soft spot for wounded (mentally or physically) hero, I don’t seek it out. Convenient Marriage, too. Tbh, I’m more likely to avoid my dislikes and read almost anything else. I generally avoid: MC has fiancé(e) ... or almost has one. Can’t say why I so dislike that, but I do. Many books I’ve passed by, just for that one reason. Also I tend to avoid completely impossible social discrepancy. I know I’m reading fiction, I don’t mind suspending disbelief a little, but just can’t stop eye rolling enough to believe a duke marries a well-known courtesan or a parlor maid.

Honestly, good characters with good relationships draw me like a bee to honey. I don’t mean the MC romance, I mean friends, brothers, etc. especially among the males for some odd reason.

All that said, from 2007-2015 I was on a World War II nonfiction kick. So perhaps next year I’ll be searching for the duke-with-a-fiancée- marries-a-courtesan books. 😉

Margot

I never heard of tropes and I wonder what trope my life has followed - if any. I guess you can experience several different tropes In a life time.
I like the stories if they are somewhat realistic rather than too much like a "fairy-tale" I like characters who are facing challenging times in their lives while meeting someone who helps them and in doing so find they love each other.
I try not to let the covers determine if I should read it or not. Some good books had covers that I did not like.

Denise Christensen Metcalf

My favorite is impoverished heroine/governess/companion etc. Probably from all those Victoria Holt books (Mistress of Mellyn is my favorite of hers). One of my all time favorite Regencies with this trope is the novella Precious Rogue by Mary Balogh. This also has the reformed rake trope which I love and a hint of revenge.

Anne Gracie

Theo that's one I enjoy, too. I like Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz's stories where the hero saves the heroine physically and she saves him emotionally. But a lot of readers these days want the heroine to save herself, which is fair enough, but sometimes it leaves the hero no place to be heroic.

Anne Gracie

Helen, I think Cinderella will always be a perennial reader favorite. I remember years ago, Jane Porter ran a workshop in which she asked participants to list their favorite fairytales when they were small — and then explored the tropes they liked to read and write. And there was quite strong correlation.

Anne Gracie

Letha, I also love a wallflower story. A man who can see the real heroine beneath the surface is, IMO, a real hero.

Have you read Lisa Kleypas's "wallflower" series? Lots of fun. And I'm very fond of Georgette Heyer's "Sylvester" where a 'little brown dab of a girl" ends up enchanting a duke in a "convenient marriage gone wrong" story.

Anne Gracie

I enjoy stories with animals, too — I'm sorry now that my heroine's Irish wolfhound didn't make it to the cover of my new book. But I agree with you — character development is the most important.

Anne Gracie

I'm not a fan of the revenge trope either, Minna. But then again, Amanda Quick's "Scandal" (I think that's the title) is exactly the plot you describe — and I love it. The hero is out for revenge against the heroine's father and brothers, and . . . reader, she changes him

Anne Gracie

Mary Jo, I'm glad I wasn't the only clueless one . And even though I know about tropes now, I don't start a story with a trope in mind (though it would probably be a more commercial decision if I did) — I always start with the characters and their situation and go on from there.

Anne Gracie

Ooh, Pamela, you've listed some of my faves there. My first book was most definitely a wounded hero story, and it looks as though my current story is shaping up to have an older heroine second chance at love romance. But we'll see.

And yes to polishing up your old stories and getting them out in the world. In this time of quarantine, the world needs more feel-good stories.

Anne Gracie

"The books I love, bury their tropes. If you look, they are there, but they are not blatant."
That's an excellent way to put it, Sue. As I said, I think the tropes are of most interest to publishers, marketers and booksellers, as well as some readers. I also think that fantasy and sci-fi, as well as romance, have commonly explored tropes.

I rarely start writing with a trope in mind; it's when I've almost finished writing a book that it becomes clear. Or I realize that I've mashed a few tropes together without realizing it.

Anne Gracie

A reader is NEVER a nobody! The "Hero has a fiancée" is a tricky one, I agree. I once wrote a book (The Perfect Kiss) where the heroine's best friend had been unhappily engaged (in a convenient marriage) to a man she disliked and feared (the hero) and the heroine set out to rescue her friend — and fell in love. Even though she was helping her friend (who ended up happily falling in love with someone else) a lot of readers didn't like the fact that the heroine was instrumental in breaking up the engagement.
And I have to say, Eva Ibbotson used this device several times, where the honorable hero was trapped in a betrothal to a terrible woman. Of course he was too honorable to break the betrothal, but Eva Ibbotson came up with several wonderful ways to release him and open the way for him to marry the heroine. The books were Magic Flutes and a Countess Below Stairs (aka The Secret Countess).

I'm with you on the dukes marrying a parlor maid or courtesan. The people who want that don't realize how impossible life would be for the woman in that situation. They'd be as isolated from society as we are currently with the coronavirus. A number of my readers were disappointed that in my book The Summer Bride, Daisy, the cockney heroine didn't marry a duke or lord, but that would have been awful for her, trying to fit in, and deny who she really was. As it was, she got everything she wanted — and something she didn't know she wanted.

Anne Gracie

Margot, I'm not sure any of us follow a trope in real life — it's very much a thing for fiction. I quite like a "fairy-tale" story, as long as it's believable -- grounded in reality. And challenging times are a must, I agree.

Anne Gracie

Denise, I'm a big fan of the governess/companion trope, too. I think most of us can identify with a woman facing hard times through no fault of her own, and doing the best she can to survive — and then, along comes the hero. I'm quite fond of the curmudgeonly-at-first hero, who then sees in the quiet companion, a gem of a woman.

I haven't read the novella Precious Rogue by Mary Balogh, and went looking for it, but had no luck finding it on amazon. Might have to go to the used bookshops to find it. Thanks for the recommendation. Am very fond of the reformed rake trope. For which I again thank Georgette Heyer and her These Old Shades. And others, but These Old Shades was my first Heyer.

DeniseLM1966

Anne, Precious Rogue came out last year in ebook form in A Rogue's Downfall. I originally read it in a 1995 Signet anthology Dashing and Dangerous. It was repackaged in a Topaz anthology called Captured Hearts in 1999. I have the 2 Regency anthologies because I was collecting Mary Jo's novellas at the time.

Anne Gracie

Thanks so much, Denise — I now have it!
I also went on a hunt some years back for Mary Jo's novella backlist, filling the gaps in my collection.

Binnie Syril Braunstein

Anne - I do love some tropes. Marriage of convenience,mail-order bride historical or contemporary), tortured hero. Of course, anyone who knows me would realize that my all-time favorite trope is Beauty and the Beast. My own first novel (published second) was a Beauty and the Beast. And speaking of the coronavirus, I've been watching too much news and getting depressed. So I shut off the TV and picked up your "The Perfect Rake." Aside from being a wonderful romance, it's also leavened with humor. What reader would expect the handsome hero to fall for a woman who everyone else sees as very unremarkable? But she's not unremarkable in his eyes...So thanks, Anne, for giving me a much-needed break from the headlines. Tomorrow I'll be hunting down one of Mary Jo's Lost Lords or two...

Janice

I'm a sucker for a good governess (Jane Eyre, The Reluctant Widow), or companion (The Lady's Companion), or marriage of convenience story (A Civil Contract, Friday's Child). As you say, a woman making her own way in the world, or making the best of an initially negative situation.

I am less fond of some of the male tropes, such as Bad Boy Reformed by Love, because I have become too cynical; I just don't buy them anymore. Much as I love Devil's Cub, I cringe when Mary says she can manage Vidal; I can't admire a man one has to "manage". But I suppose she found some compensations :)

I think I define the word trope slightly differently than is done now; to me it's an element - an incident, a kind of character - that appears in the novel but isn't the same thing as the theme. A trope would be a thing like a balloon ascension; a runaway horse; a dilapidated house; a visit to Almack's; or a chase after the McGuffin. A theme would be like friendship turns to love; woman comes into her own -- more of an overarching thing. But it's been a zillion years since I had to analyze such things and I'm kind of rusty on the terminology. Time to drag out my old Thrall & Hibbard and see what those gentlemen had to say :)

Anne Gracie

Binnie, I think reading romance is the perfect thing to do to escape from the depressing coronavirus news. I'm so glad you enjoyed my Perfect Rake again — thank you. And Mary Jo's lost lords are another rereading treat.

Anne Gracie

Thanks, Janice. I have a slightly different interpretation to Mary's "manage" in Devils Cub — I think she's not afraid to stand up to him, and that she understands him as others have not. It's not like "manage" meaning "to train" or "control him. His mother indulges him, other women use him — Mary sees him and loves him for who he really is. But we can agree to differ.

As for the definition of trope — literary interpretations are different from genre ones, I think. I'm using the definition that's most widely used among genre writers. I'm guessing your Thrall & Hibbard would be the conventional literary fiction definition. But again, we can agree to differ.

Minna

Haven't read that one. My favorite revenge books are The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith, Three Fates by Nora Roberts and Suloinen myrkynkeittäjä (The Sweet Poison Cook) by Arto Paasilinna. That last book is not available in English, but it is available (besides Finnish) in Swedish (Den ljuva giftkokerskan), French (La Douce Empoisonneuse) and Russian (Nežnaja otravitel'nitsa).

Mary M.

My favorite novels, Regency or not, feature humor (tongue in cheek, preferably), initiative (on the part of H or h or both), and interesting setting and action appropriate to the time and place (so I learn something new and accurate). A clever dog or spunky cat—even a bird or mouse—is icing on the cake. (Looking at you, Anne. Oh, those brides!) But I don't see an easily titled trope in all that.

The trope I dislike on sight, though, is "The Duke's ". Too often it signals a wannabe Regency writer who assumes dukes grow on trees and will automatically be considered succulent by the naive reader, never mind the unchecked period factoids, modern language ("okay" is not okay in a Regency story!), and (too often) spelling and grammatical errors, as well. Useful trope, as it signals me to move on. Nothing against dukes, mind you, just lazy authors.

Kareni

I will definitely look with interest at a romance that has a hero or heroine with physical or mental challenges, but I am open to all tropes if the story is engaging. There are a few settings I tend to avoid (namely Scotland and New Orleans), since I read TOO many romances with those settings in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. It took a long time for me to read The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie as a result which was clearly my loss.

Thanks for an enjoyable post, Anne.

Joan Wolf

I never came across the word 'trope' before but I have certainly written a lot of books that featured one or the other of them. My favorite is the young lovers trope , the one where hero and heroine have been friends since childhood. My first book featuring this trope was A London Season and a lot of my readers still talk about Jane and David. My last young lovers book was my most recently published one, The Heiress. The best book I ever wrote - The Road to Avalon - features young lovers too. It's a storyline I am really fond of writing.

Annette N

I am not into a trope. I found romance books by accident....after being a naysayer for years. I found Judith McNaught. I was blown out of my socks. And since then have found quite a few authors who are my favorites.

I want to love characters. That is more important to me than plot. (I don't want a plot that is improbable, but I am drawn to characters) I am a fan of Amanda Quick and the old Julie Garwood books and Susan Elizabeth Philips because they made me laugh and I always thought the characters would make good friends.

To be honest, I do not want darkness. I am not able to deal with much anxiety. (it is just the way things are for me now) Yes, danger is ok, but not too much, please. I have loved books with any trope you have mentioned. That is not as important to me as whether the author is a writer I admire and whether there is a sunny atmosphere. You know you can have danger and tension without darkness. Look at Murder She Wrote.

I recently have found some mail order bride books which are very appealing. I have loved the beauty and the beast, cinderella, in fact there have books within all the tropes which have appealed to me.

I guess the final point - I like good books and the trope is great but not the end all for me.

Anne Gracie

Hi Mary, I'm not so sure that the proliferation of dukes in titles is laziness. I think it's more a commercial decision. Readers apparently love dukes and having a duke in the title helps sell books. Though I do agree with you about the use of anachronistic words like okay, etc.

I'm glad you enjoy my humor. I tried for a while to go dark and dangerous (on advice from an editor) but that kind of hero just doesn't work for me, so I just go where the characters take me.

Anne Gracie

Kareni, I'm glad you overcame your ennui for books set in Scotland and read The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. But I do understand how some settings can pall. I used to get annoyed with a lot of the Scottish settings in the 80's as they were too unrealistic and felt a bit twee to me.

Anne Gracie

Joan, welcome to the word wenches — you have many fans here, I know — including most of the wenches. I, too enjoy the young lovers trope — and again, I thank Heyer for this, with her Convenient Marriage and Hero and Sherry, her youthful hero and heroine. I don't have your Road to Avalon — I will chase it up. When I was first discovering US published romance, prior to writing it, the books were very hard to come by in Australia. It took a savvy romance reader and businesswoman to establish a bookshop that specialized in imported US published romances. Romance still rarely makes an appearance in the bookshops here. Thank goodness for e-commerce and the reissuing of beloved old books, I say.

Anne Gracie

Annette, I agree with you — the book and the characters are what matters most, not the trope. I'm not a big fan of darkness either — I'm a bit of a wimp, to be honest. But I do think there needs to be some darkness in a book to underline or contrast with the happiness, when it comes. There's no sunshine without shadows. It's a balancing act, really.

Anne Gracie

Thanks for those titles, Minna. I love that people from all over the world contribute to the wenchly discussions.
And translations are becoming more common, so with any luck we will see those books becoming available in English.

Vicki L

Hmm....I've been pondering this for the last day or so. I don't usually think about tropes when I choose a book but it is true that sometimes I have "a moment" where it seems most of the books I find on BookBub or at a used bookstore have a theme! Right now I'm into a lot of mail-order brides and convenient marriages.

Same theme but slightly different from each other since frequently the convenient marriage people at least know each other slightly before marrying. Also having a moment for contemporary books set in the English, Scottish, etc countryside.

As for the dark...opaque dark, slightly dark but not DARK DARK is okay with me. Sometimes you do need some dark times for both MC's to work through.

Generally it is the story, the characters, the writing that keeps me going or coming back to an author. I don't even notice the tropes. Unless an author consistently writes a certain one.

Like Carolyn Brown has written quite a few road adventures with 3 or 4 related/unrelated/varying aged females. You know there is always at least 1 or 2 or 3 romances that will happen. Sometimes there is a bittersweet ending. The H/h get their HEA but maybe someone else makes decisions or the end of someone's life rolls arrives.

One famous H/fiancé breakup so H/h can get together is in The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer). Love that book. The H/h clash so much that you don't really realize (only on the first read) what the end result will be.

Minna

You can find these books by Arto Paasilinna in English: The Howling Miller, The Year of the Hare and A Businessman's Guide to the Finnish Sauna.

Anne Gracie

Vicki, yes, sometimes the writing is so good and the story so engrossing that you don't think about the trope. I also love The Grand Sophy, and yes, the romance in that book is *very* well hidden — almost entirely buried in subtext. And again in that book, as with the Eva Ibbotson books I mentioned above, the hero is too honorable to break the engagement — only the woman can honorably withdraw -- and so the trick is to drive her to the "breaking point" -- engagement breaking, that is.

Anne Gracie

Thanks, Minna -- very helpful.

Teresa Broderick

I read everything!! If I was pinned down to pick a trope I'd say older couple falling in love or second chance at love. This was a great post.

Karin

Anne, the funny thing is I have the paperbacks of your first two books pictured up top, with those original covers! I love some tropes so much I will even overlook poor editing and what they call "wallpaper historicals", not that your books have either! That's why I often select books based on the blurb, which usually reveals the main trope. I adore Cinderella stories and marriages of convenience.

Anne Gracie

Glad you enjoyed it, Teresa. I think you might enjoy the "older couple" thread that is finally reveled in my upcoming book.

Anne Gracie

Karin, how cool that you have my Gallant Waif and Tallie's Knight in their original US covers. Thank you! Those books are now nearly 20 years old!

The blurb is such a handy tool for revealing tropes, isn't it? For me, the authors name comes first — some authors are auto-buys — but after that, I'll often pick up a book based on an intriguing back blurb. And I think the Cinderella trope is endlessly appealing — for conempotrary novels as well as historicals.

Karin

Joan, my favorites of yours with young lovers are the connected pair of books "No Dark Place" and "A Poisoned Serpent". Besides the great story and characters, I loved the medieval setting. Thank you for many hours of enjoyment!

Mary M.

Oh, I like a strong duke as well as anyone, Anne. Just not when it's a title lure (which I agree it is, in fact that's my point) to under-researched, sloppy writing. Many of those 99 cent anthologies on Amazon, for example. Been there, not doing that anymore. Definitely not referring to the Wenches, I trust your dukes!

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