first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 8 September 2007
While at this year’s RWA conference in Sydney, I had the chance to sit down and talk with two of the romance genre’s heavy-weights, Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart. Both are New York Time bestsellers, both are multi-award winning writers, and both are truly lovely women. And they just collaborated on one of the year’s most charming novels.
The idea for The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes came backstage at the Romance Writers of America conference a few years back, after what Anne Stuart claims was “more than a little champagne.” Their co-author Eileen Dreyer made the suggestion, and Anne said she’d do it if Jenny did it. Jenny said she’d do it if Anne did it. The rest is history.
Originally a collection of novellas, the project eventually morphed into a collaborative novel: one story with three main characters. Each of the authors wrote one of the Fortune sisters, but the story happens collectively. Dee was Anne Stuart’s responsibility, Eileen Dreyer took care of Lizzie, and Jennifer Crusie wrote Mare. The scenes from the villain Xan’s point of view were also only written by one author, but Anne Stuart tells me her identity is a secret. Let me know if you figure it out.
The novel takes place in a sleepy little town where the Fortune sisters finally feel they belong. After a lifetime on the run from their aunt Xan, who is desperate to steal their unique powers, peace and a sense of belonging is something they’re willing to fight for. Then three men show up unexpectedly and strange things start happening. The sisters realise they are going to have to make the biggest decision of their lives: magic or love.
Fans of Stuart and Crusie will not need much of a recommendation from me to pick up this novel – the latest for both. The characters are warm and well-drawn, and though the time span is short, the story is well-crafted and believable. Some scenes will have readers laughing out loud, but the emotional depth – so integral to both Stuart and Crusie’s past works — is there in spades. This is Crusie’s first foray into paranormal territory, though Stuart has had certain otherworld elements in her stories before. There’s a lightness about the magic in the book; it sparkles and dances, a much more buoyant read than most paranormals. Consider it highly recommended.
If you like talking romance, make sure to check out Romance, Feminism and the 21st Century at this year’s Brisbane Writer’s festival. Featuring Anna Campbell, Anne de Lisle, and Christine Wells, and chaired by QUT professor Glen Thomas, the panel will discuss the position of romance novels in today’s society – why we read them, why we love them, and why the literary culture despises them. Sunday September 16th, starting at 4:40pm at the Queensland State Library. Tickets are $10 and available from Qtix.