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The winner of the Advance Reader Copy of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS is Lori_Erokan. Please email Julia at juliaspencerfleming dot com and let her know if you want a book (include your snail mail address) or a Net Galley (ebook.)

 

 

 

Through evil daysI love a good romance. I’ve been reading them ever since I snuck The Flame and the Flower out of the paperback swap box at the Argyle Free Library. I was thirteen, and boy, did that that novel further my education. In the many, many years since then, I think I’ve read in every romance subgenre there is (except, perhaps, for Inspirational Amish single title. I’ve read Amish romance, mind you – Sunshine and Shadow remains one of my faves.) So it was a natural fit for me to create a heartfelt romance within my first mystery novel.

 

The book was titled In the Bleak Midwinter and it became a surprising success. Evidently, lots of readers shared my enthusiasm for suppressed passion alongside murders, arrests and life-threatening chases through the Adirondack mountains. So much so, that the eighth in the series, Through the Evil Days, is being released on November 5th (a very easy date to remember, remember.) I’ve taken my heroine, an Episcopal priest who unwillingly falls in love with a married police chief, from their small northern New York town to a tour of combat duty in Iraq and back again (with accompanying problems.) There have been lingering half-hidden glances; unwilling admissions of love; pain, rejection, reconciliation and consummation (that was fun to write.)

Karen Scott 2

However, as central as the relationship between Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne is to the story, I’m still writing crime fiction, not Romance-with-a-capital-R. Which means I get to play with and against many of the conventions of that genre. Russ is neither young nor rich (although he is, to use the description of Castle, “ruggedly handsome.” Clare is lively and personable, not pretty. Russ is married at the beginning of the series to a pleasant, attractive woman. (The H/H don’t cross the line into actual cheating, but even emotional infidelity tends to be a huge no-fly zone in Romance.) Their big fights end with them being mad, not falling into each others’ arms.

 

Karen Scott 4Now, in the upcoming Through the Evil Days, I tackle a romance trope that has always bugged the heck out of me: the Joyful Reaction to Unplanned Pregnancy. You’ve all read this, right? The hero and heroine have no plans to have kids. They’re surprised with an unplanned pregnancy. She instantly becomes Tiger Mother and he turns into Father Goose. In real life? Not so much. She says, “Oh, shit.” He says, “What did you do?” A vigorous discussion ensues. I wanted to take a look at that. In One Was a Soldier, my hero and heroine finally made it up the aisle, with the understanding that, among other things, the demands of her calling and his age meant they wouldn’t have children. So of course, at the very end of the book, they discover she’s pregnant. (Lawrence Block’s secret to good fiction: just keep throwing one damn thing after another at your characters.)

 

Karen Scott 3In a romance, the Hero would take a deep breath, readjust his perceptions, and say, “Great news, honey!” Russ reacts a little differently.

He collapsed into one of the ladder-back chairs. “How?” She looked at him incredulously. “I mean, I thought you had the birth control thing all covered.” He jammed one hand through his hair. “Jesus, Clare, I would’ve used condoms if there was a problem.” He squinted up at her. “You didn’t forget to take ‘em, did you?” He didn’t mean to sound suspicious, but it came out that way.

 

Karen Scott 1Clare’s scared of what her congregation will think, but soon has bigger problems when the bishop threatens to haul her up on charges of “conduct unbecoming of a priest.” She’s afraid for the baby – she’s being treated for addiction – she’s afraid for her job, and she’s afraid for her marriage.

 

Russ is mad, upset, inflexible and refuses to buy into the idea that he’s going to be a father. And he doesn’t do a 180 turn through the talc-scented magic of romancelandia. He has a long, hard slog through danger and disruption before he can even hope to come to grips with the way his life continues to be turned upside down by love.

Karen Scott 5

Will they arrive at agreement and acceptance? Will they be able to grow and change within their marriage? Will they get away from the stone-cold killers they stumble over at their remote lakeside honeymoon cabin? (Well, it is a mystery.)

 

And what do you think, readers? Do you prefer the H/H who start knitting booties before the EPT stick has dried? Or do you like them to have a more realistic approach to the event? Let me know, and one lucky commenter will get an Advance Reader Copy or Net Galley of Through the Evil Days !

Julia Author Photo

Julia Spencer-Fleming‘s New York Times bestselling books have won multiple awards, including the Anthony and Agatha, and have been Edgar and RT Reader’s Choice nominees. The next Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne novel, Through the Evil Days, comes out on November 5th. You can find Julia at her website, her readerSpace, on Facebook and on Twitter as @jspencerfleming. She also blogs with the Jungle Red Writers.

30 Comments »


  • Ruth
    October 9
    12:29 pm

    Apart from the understandable fact that I really do just love this series (and have brought it to the attention of friends and acquaintances, even though your books have been oddly obscure and hard to find here in Australia), this blog entry is Spiffing. I’m not sure what I love most: the utterly charming alternate title for the upcoming book (I’m guessing it’s too late to change TTED to ETPCSB? shame!) or the faaaaabulous illustrative covers (I should not have been drinking that Diet Coke while reading…).

    Nope, what I love most is how real Clare and Russ seem to be, when I read your books or listen to Suzanne Toren’s excellent audiobook versions. So the pleasure of these books, with the strength and originality of both stories and characters, lasts so much longer than the fleeting sugar-hit of most of romancelandia. For that, and this blog entry, thank you so much. (Prolly best stick with TTED) (I’ll read it, whatever the title…).

    (would I like an ARC? hell yes!) (but everything above is true, whether or not I win).

    Cheers!

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  • Leslie
    October 9
    12:36 pm

    Russ and Clare grapple with real problems of real people (while solving a murder rate that defies reality but is just about right for a crime series). I love them, I yell at them for their failings, I am in awe of their strength and resilience, and I can’t get enough of them.

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  • Much prefer the messy, realistic take on romance and marriage (and religion, too) in this series. So looking forward to the next title. I’m not a huge mystery fan or a pure romance fan, but the combination of the two is just killer!

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  • Amy Spiegel
    October 9
    1:56 pm

    I love your books for many reasons, especially because of the way you include the romantic, yet realistic relationship between Russ and Clare. On a different blog entry earlier this week, you discussed the scene in which Russ and Clare were trapped together in the dark, in the icy water. When I read that scene, I felt as if you looked into my heart and my mind when I was faced with a similar situation, i.e., attraction to an unavailable man, being thrown together in a dicey situation with said unavailable man. The spot-on and adult, mature way you were able to convey the complex and challenging emotions of that situation were, for me, breath-taking. I am in awe of your ability to create such a vivid, intense scene; a testament to your skill and talent.

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  • Jayne Martin
    October 9
    2:44 pm

    Don’t remember where I first heard of these books, I think over on CompuServe Books and Writers, but I am forever in their debt. Mysteries with a societal dilemma and an underlying love story? What could be better, and an obsession is born…to the extreme of making and sharing themed bookmarks and soundtracks with friends that I have happily “hooked” on the series, and which I call spreading the joy.

    I love that you don’t ever take the easy way out, not with Russ and Clare, not with Hadley and Kevin (although that girl needs a good shaking sometimes), not even with Linda. For all the joy you have given, I applaud you.

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  • Lori Cantrell
    October 9
    3:06 pm

    I absolutely love Clare and Russ, and love the realism of their relationship. But I only love it as long as Clare and Russ stay together. I think they should exhibit the same ambivalence other older couples would feel about the baby, but I don’t want too much realism. We all know that the success rate of second marriages is less than first marriages, and, of course, divorce rate among policemen and vets is much higher, too. So not too much realism, please.

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  • Lori Erokan
    October 9
    3:25 pm

    I picked up the first book purely for the title. My youngest daughter was in high school choir and they sang “In the Bleak Midwinter” every season. A mystery with that title? Hmm. About an Episcopal priest? Well, I’m Episcopalian…and then I was hooked. Have bought many copies of the first book and encouraged many people (husband, mother, sisters, friends, our minister’s wife) to give it a try–and they have thanked me! Typical romance novels are yucky, but the romance of Russ and Clare is not typical. They are authentic, flawed people, who have their own ways of dealing with problems. Can’t wait to see how they manage this one!

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  • LOVE this series, and love that Clare and Russ are such complex, real people. I fell in love with this series after hearing Julia at a New Hampshire Library Association conference, and have been a fan ever since. I’ve managed to hook a lot of my library patrons as well- we already have a list of people wanting to borrow TTED as soon as it’s available! Definitely keep to the more realistic track, but please let them stay together- they’ve been through so many challenges already!

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  • Liz
    October 9
    4:50 pm

    Thanks for the insight into “Through The Evil Days”. Clare and Russ are fantastic characters. I do wonder how on earth they will take care of a baby, and if Clare will remain a priest (the charges are serious). I want to see what happens!

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  • Cindy
    October 9
    6:21 pm

    I love the realistic approach, and I LOVE the sound of your series! However, methinks that the Romance with a Capital R genre is far broader than just the category (Harlequin-type) novel which tends to come with titles like those you mention
    above. There are grittier and far more complex romantic suspense, romantic mysteries and romantic thrillers, where the developing
    romance must be entwined with the crime plots; realistic romantic dramas, gay romances, love triangles, all
    all within the genre with a capital R. The one
    expectation, however, of the R genre is that at the beginning is the story question: will this couple overcome the huge obstacles in their way, and come together. And the reader will expect that by the end, there will be some form happy ending — or the characters will have an expectation of one. I suspect your Russ and Clare might fit this bill once all is told. Or, as a reader, I’d be hoping so!

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  • Carolyn
    October 9
    6:55 pm

    Oh no, you absolutely had to have Russ be Russ. This is the same man who messed up that whole dead wife moment, so we can assume when high personal emotion comes into play, he falls into his natural suspicious cop form. “There’s something really wrong right now, let me figure out who did it.” Which is great when it takes a cop, not so much when it takes a man who loves a woman. He’ll always come through eventually, but he’s got to muck it up first. Now, THAT’S real, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    I’m so looking forward to THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS, Julia. Thank you for your wonderful series, and I look forward to seeing you at the Poisoned Pen next month.

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  • Molly Allen
    October 9
    8:57 pm

    @Cindy: Fans of Russ & Clare (count me in!) might enjoy the romance/mysteries of Mary Elgin (similar to Mary Stewart). She only wrote three books (in the ’60s & ’70s): Man from the Mist, Highland Masquerade, and The Wood and the Trees. Long out of print but available used. Good characters, and atmospheric Scottish setting. Forty years later, they’re still among my favorites!

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  • Dana Wales
    October 9
    9:22 pm

    I finished the ARC last week and have been ripping through the whole series as I have never heard of you. I work for Powell’s Books in Portland,OR and will definitely be promoting you from now own. I love them! When selling your latest I plan on saying it is one of the best mystery’s I have read in 10 years! I’m currently on To Darkness of Death. I happened to hop on the big online bookstore who shall not be named (cause of my job lol) and found your Letters to a Soldier free for my ereader. TY so much I am so happy to have found it and your currently in the top 100 for woman sleuths in free eBooks on that site . TY so much for a great series with great writing!

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  • Just one time I’d like to see a pregnant heroine who doesn’t want kids to have an abortion and to be fine with exercising her right to choose.

    [That was not meant as a dig, Julia. Just general exasperation.]

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  • Florine Kreeb
    October 9
    10:21 pm

    Hi…I love the series partly because of the realistic approach to life. At their ages, the H/h would be talking about the blessed event in different ways. It happened to a son and daughter-in-law of mine and they now wonder what they were so scared and upset about!!

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  • Cindy
    October 9
    11:23 pm

    Dana — there are lists of books on Amazon and Goodreads with abortion plots and sub plots (ie: http://www.amazon.com/Novels-abortion-plot-subplot/lm/1Z2FND32C3JL6) and (https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/abortion) . Granted, there is generally angst over the choice to get rid of the baby, but what is a novel without character conflict? Or examination of the choice? It would hardly add much to a plot or subplot to say the heroine chose abortion, was cool with her right to choose, the end. It would just be backdrop then, I suppose …

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  • Cindy,

    I’m a big romance reader, so I know there are teriffic authors out there being very creative with the genre. I love Mary Balogh, Suzanne Brockmann, Janice Kay Johnson, Victoria Dahl and Susanna Fraser, among others.

    Dana,

    So right. It could be a great source of conflict in the right hands. I think a lot of us shy away from actually writing that story because it’s such a hot-button issue. (After forty years!)

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  • I’m not at my usual computer and will have to save this to read later, but I promise I will eventually come up with a comment even more brilliant than my last one. ;-)

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  • Jennifer W.
    October 10
    1:14 am

    I really, really love Russ and Clare. Their relationship has been through so many ups and downs. I know I will be up all night on the release date of the new book just to see what happens with them.
    As to the realism of their reaction to the pregnancy, it is understandable that they aren’t overjoyed. These characters really make me feel their emotions. I know Russ is feeling confused and afraid and impotent about this pregnancy. Clare is facing the loss of her career over this. I know it isn’t something she would proceed with lightly. It seems to me looking back on this series that Clare is always the one making the big sacrifices. I would really just like to see Russ suck it up and be supportive of Clare and her decision. I don’t mean he has to take up knitting baby booties, just not make things worse for her.

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  • Dotty Ryan
    October 10
    3:18 am

    Baby makes three and they all lived happily ever makes for a really boring story. Conflict is what drives a a plot and reveals the personalities of the characters. So far, Clare and Russ have had more than enough conflict to keep this reader interested and wanting to find out what will happen next.

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  • I adore the fact that both Russ and Clare are people who react like normal people to both ordinary and extraordinary situations. Mystery with romance for the win, absolutely!

    Mind you, I just re read In the Bleak Midwinter two days ago and was infuriated (again) by one specific decision of Clare (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, in case anyone reading is a new comer to the series). It came perilously close to TSTL territory and was one of the (subconscious) reasons it took me so long to get A Fountain Filled with Blood.

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  • Hey Julia, great piece!

    off-topic, but can I ask whether Through The Evil Days will be downloadable on Kindle? I’m primarily a Kindle reader these days and it’s frustrating when when the books that I want aren’t in an e-book format.

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  • Karen,

    All the books, including THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS, are available on Kindle. And, now that Headline is publishing my work in the UK, both paper books and digital are available at amazon.co.uk!

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  • AztecLady,

    There are definitely things I would do differently if I were writing IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER now. (You’ll notice I’ve never had another villain explain her or himself to Russ and Clare!) However, I stand by Clare’s impetuousness. I really wanted to portray a detective whose every step was not logical and well-thought-out. Clare has made, and continues to make some dumb mistakes by going with her gut instead of her head.

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  • @Julia Spencer-Fleming: Oh thank the Lord for that! I really have a hard time reading dead tree books now, lol.

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  • I think there’s a little more realism in romance than this post suggests. Plenty of romance authors (even those who write surprise-baby stories) play with genre conventions. Unplanned pregnancies tend to create conflict between the characters, not insta-joy. A negative or accusatory reaction on the part of the hero isn’t unusual.

    I’m not saying there aren’t happy endings and baby epilogues, but the road can be rough. I remember a recent review for a category romance in which the heroine failed to connect with the baby and struggled with new motherhood. That stands out in my mind as risky.

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  • @Jill Sorenson: I agree, to a point. I don’t read a lot of category, but the was majority of what category I have read, are pretty damn unrealistic. Or perhaps the word is “idealized.”

    Either way,often when babies are found on the doorstep by a single woman (or man) with a full and demanding career, the conflict is not whether or not she feels maternal, but rather how she’ll make it work because of course she wants to be the baby’s mother.

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  • @Jill Sorenson: I agree, there is some great romance out there playing with conventions, tropes and reader expectations. I just read a Janice Kay Johnson book (she’s my go-to single-title author) wherein the heroine finds out she’s the product of date rape. She and her mother have had a strained relationship her whole life, and the novel spends as much time on the heroine’s reaction to the horrifying discovery and her struggles to connect with her mother as it does on the relationship between the H/H.

    And, of course, I could just as truthfully make the claim that there are lots of mystery writers who fall back on time-worn tropes and cliches in their stories. Both genres have voracious readers, requiring publishers to put out a constant stream of books to meet the market. I suspect whenever you have conditions like that, you’ll find writers taking shortcuts. And, fortunately, writers striking out with original and exciting work.

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  • I have to send everyone to the recent article on abortion in romance, which includes the book Karen recently wrote about, Flirting with the Camera: http://romancenovelsforfeminists.blogspot.com/2013/10/romancing-abortion.html

    I hate insta-pregnancy-happiness and enjoy realism, but also don’t want romance characters to be total a-holes, so I’m slightly nervously looking forward to seeing how this pregnancy plays out!

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  • @Lori Erokan: Lori, did you see that you won the arc?

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