Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ruth Logan Herne Scores Fourth Powerful Success in a Row!

First Book In New Series

"Reunited Hearts" Most Powerful 'Hidden Child' Romance I’ve Ever Read!

Ruth Logan Herne
Love Inspired

The powerful writing exhibited in “Winter’s End”, “Waiting Out the Storm” and “Made to Order Family” brings a new vigor and realism to the very popular “hidden child” theme romance.

I must say it was a surprise to read a ‘hidden child’ theme romance from an author who featured a hospice story, with death and dying, in her first book, “Winter’s End”. I also didn’t expect it after the author’s last book, “Made to Order Family,” won the “Philosophy of Romance” Book of the Year 2010 award. What I was expecting was a powerful and unpredictable mainstream style story that just happened to meet all the requirements of a great romance.

Instead here’s what I encountered: “Reunited Hearts” was the power and realistic writing that made the author’s first three books 4 ½ star RT standouts. This powerful writing is evident on every page of “Reunited Hearts”.

So if you like the ‘hidden child’ theme, which is one of my favorites, you should find “Reunited Hearts” a great read. I believe that some readers will enjoy this book even though they don’t usually prefer the ‘hidden child’ theme.

A Personal Landmark Book

“Reunited Hearts” stands out is a landmark book in my understanding of the romance genre. I think the sequence of the author’s first four books reveals an important fact about the romance genre.

Power Can Only Take Some Romance Themes So Far

“Reunited Hearts” is just as powerful, in itself, as all three of Ruth Logan Hearne’s first three books. However this makes me believe that there is a price to pay for writing certian popular theme romances. As a “hidden child” theme romance “Reunited Hearts” does not hit the reader with the full force of a more realistic mainstream-style plot. Without that added force, and its perceived gravitas, (with readers and reviewers) it is hard for an author to achieve the power of the Herne's first three books.

Light Bulb Moment

After reading Herne's first three books, “Reunited Hearts” produced a ‘light bulb’ moment for me. This is because in a non-theme romance, the narrative has the power of reality. The reader cannot be sure exactly what to expect. With this kind of realistic writing it is easier for the reader to fall into the story and vicariously become part of the action. The author's first three books read like mainstream booke where anything could happen. They were realistic  books that just happen to fulfill romance genre requirements. Being able to do this so well makes Ruth Logan Herne an important romance author.

“Hidden Child” Expectations

With a ‘hidden child’ theme romance, the reader will always know she is reading a ‘hidden child’ romance. She cannot help but compare this ‘hidden child’ story to many others she has read over the years. I was doing this all the time I was reading “Reunited Hearts”.

How Does This ‘Hidden Child' Story Match Up?

In a ‘hidden child’ theme romance, readers are always asking the same questions:

Why was the child kept secret?
How wrong was the heroine for keeping the child secret?
How will the hero find out about the child?
How will the child react?
How will the heroine ever justify her actions?
How will the couple ever repair the breach?

Readers look forward to the scenes in the story that answer these questions. They are ready to compare those scenes to past ‘hidden child’ stories. In a light- hearted romane or romantic comedy, such themes are wonderful. The author is no going for gravitas.
However, when an author can write very powerful realistic romances like, “Winter’s End”, “Waiting Out the Storm” and “Made to Order Family”, I’m not sure certain that theme romances represent the best path to writing success.

Themes That May Best Be Avoided

I believe some themes can be written without a great deal of reader expectation and thus can deliver the full writing impact that the author is capable of delivering. Other themes are too well orchestrated. Some themes that I think are not the best vehicles for the dramatic style writer are, “Hidden Child”, “Runaway Bride”, “Mail Order Bride”, “Friends to Lovers” and “Baby on the Doorstep”.

In All Fairness

The themes I mentioned above are among my favorite romance stories. I also like, “Plain Jane” and “Beauty and the Brain” theme books. But these themes never produce the power of a “Winter’s End”. But then, I didn’t expect “Winter’s End” to deliver such power either. It was a romance but it did not read like a romance. It read like a mainstream novel. Therein lies the rub.

Should Dramatic Authors Also Write Popular Theme Romances?

That all dends on the author. If the author wants to write these themes so be it. After all, “Reunited Hearts” is one of the best ‘hidden child’ theme romances that I’ve ever read.

If it is true that such themes do not utilize an author’s talent to the highest and best use, then an author should at least consider the price that's paid when writing such a theme. It may well be that an author will have to exert a 5-star effort just to produce a 4-star book when writing these themes. As such, with the same amount of talent and effort the author could have produced a 5-star work.

It’s not about Stars & Reviews

I know writing is not about stars and getting the best reviews. If anything it’s about sales and pleasing readers and editors.

“Reunited Hearts” is the book which has made me question the advisability of some authors writing certian theme romances. I’m make no claim that 5-star serious books will outsell 4-star popular theme romances. An author has many career choices to make. The choice of themes is just one of many of these.

About the story

The hero, Trent Michaels, is a West Point, Army, war hero who has just left the service to take a very good job helping a defense contractor win bids. Trent takes this job because it is in his old hometown and because the defense contracts will help revitalize the whole area.

The heroine, Alyssa Langley, was once so in love with Trent, that when she found out she was pregnant, she didn’t tell him because it would have destroyed his dream of going to West Point. She remained silent and Trent achieved is dream.

As the story opens, Lyssa is a widow with lots of emotional baggage. She also has two children: Trent’s child Jaden and her deceased husband’s child Cory. Alyssa has moved back in with her parents which she did not want to do but had to because her husband left her with too many debts. She is essentially broke.

Trent and Alyssa meet as the story opens. No waiting for the big scene! The narrative starts quickly and never lets up. The story is emotional, well founded, with both the hero and heroine being shown to be worthy people.

I think “Reunited Hearts” has just the right inspirational balance. The biggest variable in a Love Inspired romance is the inspirational element. I think it is very difficult to get the inspirational content correct.  “Reunited Hearts” gets it right.
The story takes place in Allegany County, New York near where the author lives. This location is very interesting and the author makes it even more so.

Another Important Romance from Ruth Logan Herne!

Winter's End

Waiting Out the Storm


Made to Order Family


  1. Vince, thank you so much for this well-thought review! I stopped over two days ago and didn't have time to leave a comment, but I'm sincerely touched by your praise AND your philosophy about romance.

    Two bits of inspiration pushed me to write this story. The first was that West Point doesn't allow cadets to have a child. Or be married. And if a cadet 'wanders' from the moral code, he or she must either not claim the child or leave the academy. And that set me to wondering what would drive someone to the point of saving another's future by sacrificing her own.

    The second driving inspiration was the story of Little Boy Blue. (See his story here: )

    I first read that story as a young mother in '87. I was outraged. So saddened by the idea that parents could be callous enough to dump a child. And the blue sleeper... Oh, Vince it broke my heart. And for years no one knew who Little Boy Blue was or how he died, just that he was found on Christmas Eve, a small victim, un-named and unknown.

    So "Clay" ended up being my "Little Boy Blue" in Reunited Hearts. And Trent is the child forged from callousness and goodness, an overachiever who's driven by regret, loss and gratitude for people's generosity in Jamison but tired of being the anomaly.

    Thank you for loving it. I know that writing a 'themed' romance carries a tag alongside, but I was so pleased with how this turned out, and I'm glad you felt the same way!

    You rock, dude.

  2. And my word verification was "Spiedi" which reminds me of the pork sandwiches they sell at festivals in New York's Southern Tier.

    Oh my stars, delicious! And it's almost time for Maple Syrup festivals!

    Oh, YAY!!!!

  3. Hi Ruth:

    I read the Little Boy Blue story and I’m sad to say we have had two such stories here in Oklahoma. One was in 2005 called the Baby Precious case and another was a Baby Doe case. I think there have even been a few more in the area. These incidents are so sad and too common. I think this underlines the popularity of inspiration stories of all kinds.

    I think the reason why your “hidden child” story was so powerful is because you had such compelling reasons why the child was hidden in the first place. “Hidden Child” romances are fun to read but I usually don’t believe that the story could of have actually happened. “Reunited Hearts” could have happened and that make it stronger. I think it also helped that you did not play any games with the reader. You had the child recognized at once by the hero and at the very start of the book. That was a great choice IMHO.

    I still have to think about writing themes. I think the most powerful romance is one that reads with the realism of a mainstream novel, like Steinbeck, but incidentally meets the romance genre requirements. I think “Winter’s End” does this as do the other two books.

    I do think that “Marriage of Convenience” is a theme that can be done with full power. There actually are many MOC cases every day.

    I can’t wait to see what you do next. Do you have a “Prince Next Door” in your pen?


  4. Loving Ruth's book and would also like to comment on your post Vince. Marketing at Harlequin tells us that these themed books are better sellers and Secret Baby is one.

    And sometimes the characters have to tell their story just the way it is.

    I would have a best seller if I could write a Marriage of Convenience, Cowboy, Secret Baby, Best Friend to Lover, Baby on the Doorstep, Runaway Bride, Eliza Doolittle and the entire Kitchen Sink book. Working on it now!

  5. Hi Tina:

    I agree 100% about having to write theme romances. I often buy books for their theme. I will always buy a “Beauty and the Brain” theme. I will buy most “Runaway Bride” stories. I will never buy a sheik story or one where the hero is a billionaire. I will usually buy a Plain Jane story because I like the idea of a hero making the heroine more beautiful by loving her. Sometimes I will even stop in the middle of one book because I have a craving for a given theme romance.

    The publisher knows marketing and what sells (or what has been selling in the past).

    However, this was not the issue. My observation was that it is much harder to write a very powerful, 5-Star, serious romance if it is among certain themes.

    I believe the way to power is to write a romance that reads like a mainstream story and have the story just incidentally comply with the romance genre requirements before it ends. Of course, this is hard to do.

    And sometimes the characters have to tell their story just the way it is.

    Tina, I think these characters have you hoodwinked! It’s fiction. It didn’t happen. There is no ‘the way it is. : )

    BTW: I have suggested that someone write a ‘hidden child’ theme romance where the child knows he is the hero and heroine’s son but they don’t know it. This has to do with the witness protection program, a fire, a snoopy child who has read secret files, and the extreme danger that would result to everyone if the parents ever found out the child’s true identity. The child has to keep his secret and still try to act as matchmaker so he can have his real parents for real.


  6. They do have me hoodwinked!! Good observation! LOL.

    OOOOHHH, love that hidden child them.

    "I believe the way to power is to write a romance that reads like a mainstream story and have the story just incidentally comply with the romance genre requirements before it ends. Of course, this is hard to do."

    Add to that mix, your publisher already has six books submitted to her with the same story line as yours, LOL.

  7. I mean theme...the one you came up with Vince!!! Excellent!!! I saw it first, Ruthy!

  8. Oh my stars, you two have a blog going on your own. You understand there are more back and forth comments here in a few hours than many blogs see in a week? Some in a month? And from two of the smartest and savviest people I know.

    Vince, I love that idea. What a great twist. In fact they used that 'form' for "August Rush", a movie (not well done, but a great inspiration for that very kind of story) where the child goes searching for his parents, sure that his orphan state is a mistake, and tied to them by 'music' in his head.

    And of course, Dad was a Celtic rocker and Mom was a concert cellist, so music is the tie-in. And Grandpa faked the adoption papers and told the teen mom that the baby died....

    And Vince (you'll appreciate this, knowing my inner ego) I sat there thinking, "I could do this so much better!"

    Because it is a great, fanciful, destiny-driven story.

    How funny that you told TINA FIRST!!! VINCE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKIN', BIG GUY??? :)

    But that's okay, I got another idea yesterday from a movie the NOT-ERSTWHILE son-in-law had on about a teacher in a gang school setting.

    And that's got Ruthy written all over it, doesn't it????

    And I agree, give me a compelling romance that reads with the texture of mainstream and the speed of category because time is of the essence these days!

  9. Hi Tina:

    You wrote:

    Add to that mix, your publisher already has six books submitted to her with the same story line as yours, LOL.

    This is a problem when you write for one line. They know what their future needs are and you may not. One HR author mentioned that she was asked to do an amnesia story and she had been avoiding this theme. She sent three chapters and a proposal in and they turned it down and said to start over. She has over ten books published with the line. It’s a hard business.

    I do think the odds of having six similar story lines is more likely in the popular themes. But then, I know Maureen Child did three marriage of convenience stories in a row. She likes the theme. That’s why I think MofC is not one of the themes to avoid.

    When you do write a mainstream style story I think you have the lowest chance of having similar books at the publisher. I can’t believe there would be six ‘hospice’ theme romances already at the publisher.

    Also, how many friends-to-lovers have you read where the two lived in the same home as more or less brother and sister? Making that work is very strong because of its originality.

    I like to say that one’s voice should be such that only that author could have written the book. Perhaps the same could be said for themes. Write the popular theme with original twists that only that author could have written. But, still, the line could still have too many of that theme already purchased.


  10. Hi Ruth:

    Thanks for the heads-up on the ”August Rush" story. It’s an interesting twist.

    I had in mind that the child was not looking for his parents. Perhaps he was snatched by the mob because a mob wife wanted a child. He overhears that he is not his parents’ child. He also knows if he let’s on what he knows it could get his real parents killed. The real parents are not married. Perhaps they both teach at the child’s school. This would be hard to do. But if they were teaching at the same school when the child was born, it might work.

    Anyway there are plenty of ideas. It’s making them work that’s hard.

    I think you make the hard, (hospice) look easy. And that's something I like to watch.