Every romance reader’s fantasy comes to life in Jenn McKinlay’s The Good Ones, and no, we’re not talking about the very handsome cowboy on the cover. Heroine Maisy Kelly has inherited a gorgeous old Victorian home, which she intends to convert into a romance-only bookstore. Aforementioned handsome cowboy is Ryder Copeland, the architect Maisy hires to help her achieve her dream. The adorable, smart and refreshingly lighthearted romance that follows is as much a love story to the characters as it is an ode to the genre itself. Here, McKinlay shares how she crafted her clever new romance.
Have you ever held up a mirror to a mirror and seen the infinite scroll of images of yourself holding a mirror reflected within? Yeah, I love that. It totally bends my brain in a different direction, sort of like when I try to grasp quantum physics. I get it for like a nanosecond and then it’s gone, but that nanosecond is super cool. Writing The Good Ones was a bit like holding up that mirror.
The opening scene of the book finds our heroine, Maisy Kelly, reading one of her favorite romances. A knock on the door interrupts her binge read, and she is understandably disgruntled to leave Jake Sinclair, her fictional boyfriend, to go answer the door. After all, the book cover shows Jake in jeans, a white t-shirt and a cowboy hat, sitting on a picnic table in the middle of a field. What woman would want to leave that to answer her door? But Maisy does answer and standing there is a man in jeans, a white T-shirt and, you guessed it, a cowboy hat. It’s Ryder Copeland, the restoration architect she’s hired to refurbish the house she’s inherited into a romance bookstore. Maisy is undone by the coincidence. Now take a peek at the cover of The Good Ones. Yep, just like holding a mirror up to a mirror, it goes on and on and on.
Needless to say, I had great fun with all of the meta aspects of writing The Good Ones. And unexpectedly, the process of writing the book gave me the opportunity to think about the genre I love from a completely different perspective. As I began thinking about all of the authors and the books that had shaped my love of romance over the years, I found the book becoming even bigger than I had anticipated. The Good Ones became, as a reviewer from Booklist stated, “A beautifully written love letter to the romance genre from someone who understands just how important these books are to their readers.” Until I wrote about Maisy and Ryder, I don’t think I appreciated how much romance novels had shaped my life.
It also gave me the opportunity to give a nod to a lot of my favorite authors, starting with Jane Austen. The recovering librarian in me truly enjoyed that. Because my personal life does pop up in my books in one way or another, I had to include a subplot about the days-old kitten, King George, that my family rescued while I was writing the first draft of the book. And, naturally, having written the Bluff Point romance series previously, that had to be slipped in as an Easter egg, too, by having Ryder mention the hero of one of those books as his friend but also having Maisy recommend the books to a customer in her romance bookshop. Truly, there were so many elements to play with while writing The Good Ones—it was an embarrassment of riches.
Of course, when you read fiction, you’re required to suspend your disbelief. It’s on the writer to make you do so. I knew while I was writing The Good Ones that many of the meta elements I had included, such as the guy on the cover of the book Maisy is reading looking just like the cover of the actual book, would either pull my readers out or tuck them more deeply into the story. It is my hope that these references were another level of entertainment, like being taught a secret handshake, and that they acted like markers on a trail to help the reader find their way back out once the story was done. The Good Ones was a hoot to write and I’m happy to say that the fun continues at the Happily Ever After bookstore in The Christmas Keeper, coming October 2019!