Wednesday, January 26, 2011


By Gwen Roman

Sometimes when you’re conjuring the opening for a novel, you make several attempts at getting it “right”. For TRAIL OF THE TUDOR BLUE, my debut romance novel, so deadly boring were those attempts they went straight to the trash. Still all those crafted words told me much of what I needed to know about my story – and what I didn’t know about what I needed to know. That is, those openings told me I needed to research.

TRAIL OF THE TUDOR BLUE, on the surface, is the story of a young woman who travels to Europe to reclaim a stolen necklace. The original opening scene featured main character Ardis Bellamy steering a sports car along a dark road cut into the side of a mountain. On the passenger seat beside her, a velvet bag held a priceless diamond necklace Ardis planned to get out of the country via boat. Hm. Sports car. Diamonds. Mountains. Boats. Clearly Ardis was Monte Carlo bound.

How did I know it was Monte Carlo? Blame it on Cary Grant. Blame it on James Bond. Blame it on the Travel Channel. Monaco fit my location needs perfectly. Problem was, I’d never visited the principality. And I’m research-averse. How could I gather the information I needed without spending torturous hours in the library reference stacks?

For me, the answer lay in dividing the research into small pieces I could manage in an already busy schedule. Solution: the internet during lunch. Well-crafted search phrases return a wealth of possibilities and can be executed in a matter of seconds. My first needs – maps of Monaco and the south of France, hotel information, access to the piers, ferry schedules – were straightforward enough. Official tourism sites often feature the best photographs of a location. User-enhanced travel sites such as and contain tips on good versus “bad” neighborhoods, where to find the best seafood, or when the yacht races are held. And travel forums can put you in touch with world wanderers and knowledgeable residents alike. Ask your questions; folks love to talk about things they know!

One caveat: Don’t be afraid to gloss over truth. While writing TUDOR BLUE, I was fortunate to have a sister travel to the south of France and visit Monte Carlo. Plus, she creates made-to-order fragrances; she’s got a great nose. So not only did she send me hotel brochures and train schedules and real estate listings for the area, she was able to tell me one thing I really wanted to know: can you smell the sea from the Monte Carlo promenade? According to my sister, you can’t. All you can smell from the promenade is dog pee.

How romantic. I opted to let that fact remain undisclosed. In TUDOR BLUE the promenade smells of the sea, the hero smells of citrus and sandalwood, and there’s always an empty slip for the boat – even if my armchair research or on-site source tells me otherwise. Because after all, it’s fiction. ♥

Gwen Roman is the pen name of long-time RWA member Jen McAndrews. Though currently working hard on her next full-length romance, she also writes mystery and young adult fiction, works full time, is obsessed by hockey, and wishes she had more time to read…or sleep!  Visit Gwen’s group blog at http://

Read an excerpt from TRAIL OF THE TUDOR BLUE here. 



  1. Happy release day, Jen! I'm intrigued by your excerpt and love the location! Virtual travel does have its advantages. One being, no intrusive pat downs by TSA. Good luck! I'm looking forward to reading it!

  2. Wouldn't it be the greatest thing ever to actually go to Monaco in the name of research. "Yes, sorry, can't make lunch, I'll be in France doing research." Love it!

    Can't wait to read Tudor Blue! :)

  3. Oh, there are so many things I could blame on Cary Grant...

    Congratulations on your release! Here's to selling so many books, research trips to exotic locations are but a drop in the bucket :)