I began writing romance to escape the mundanities of motherhood and the heart-breaking reality too often involved in school counselling. Indeed, in those first years, I developed a split personality; psychologist and romance author.
One was steeped in realism and the other swaggering heroes.
More recently, the split has diminished. I find myself less able to sugar coat the past and more interested in weaving psychology into my writing.
This was particularly true for Caught in a Cornish Scandal which I wrote against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Indeed, my characters absolutely refused to participate in the debutante balls which usually populate regency novels. Instead, financial desperation, smuggling and wrecking form the backbone of the plot.
Of course, this is a Harlequin, so rest assured it doesn’t get ‘too real’. However, there is an exploration of the narrow divide between the functional and dysfunctional, moral and immoral and the lengths which can be taken by those deprived of hope or choice.
My appreciation of ‘choice’ also shines through this novel. It is a vital aspect in psychology as one works with individuals to empower personal growth and change. However, this is challenging in a society rife with inequality.
In A Debutante in Disguise, my fourth book, Letty is desperate to be a doctor, gaining her medical training only by pretending to be male.
In my most recent book, Caught in a Cornish Scandal, Millie sees smuggling as the only way to gain financial independence and save her family. She lives among a population lacking education or choice.
Both plots lend themselves to adventure and romance and I loved immersing myself in these bygone times and the rough landscape of the Cornish coast. There is such romance in the past.
However, I recognize that while an escape to the past offers pleasure, the present provides choice. I am thankful for the options I have enjoyed and will work towards ensuring greater opportunity for those who lack such freedom.
Perhaps, in the ultimate reunion of my split personality, Millie and Sam refused my offers of balls and gowns, making their own happy ending and a unique choice truly reflective of my own values.