Read Around the Rainbow: AI vs Me

For this month’s Read Around the Rainbow, we’re dealing with the hot topic of AI. As you can imagine, given the controversy surrounding the potential impact of AI, this spurred plenty of discussion.

We each decided to choose a gay romance trope or subgenre and ask AI to write a short story, and then we would create our own for comparison. I chose Regency Romance as it wasn’t too challenging for my technological limitations.

Part of our group discussion centred on which AI content generator to use, a hot topic for a technophobe like me. I randomly chose one that didn’t require too much personal information on the signup form. Interestingly, unlike other generators, it refused the prompt of writing a gay romance ‘as it might be offensive and inappropriate’, a somewhat chilling response. It was fine with MF Regency and hilariously and alarmingly, once I omitted the word ‘gay’ and instead suggested male character names, it wrote exactly the same story but with name changes.

So my prompt was to write a 400-word Regency romance set in London using the character names James and Luc. Here it is.

James had never been one for the glittering balls and endless rounds of social engagements that defined London society. But when his friend Luc invited him to a ball hosted by the Duchess of Devonshire, he couldn’t say no. He had known Luc since childhood, and he trusted him implicitly. So he put on his finest clothes and made his way to the ball, hoping to avoid the worst of the crowds.

But as soon as he arrived, James knew that this was going to be a night to remember. The ballroom was filled with the cream of London society, all dressed in their finest clothes and glittering with jewels. But as James made his way through the throng, he couldn’t help feeling like an outsider. He was a newcomer to society, and he didn’t know anyone.

That’s when he saw him. Luc was standing by the refreshment table, looking just as out of place as James felt. James felt drawn to him, and before he knew it, he was standing beside him, striking up a conversation.

They talked for hours, dancing and laughing and forgetting about the rest of the world. James was struck by Luc’s easy charm and quick wit, and he found himself falling for him, hard.

As the night wore on, James realized that he was in love with Luc. He had never felt this way before, and he was both exhilarated and terrified by the feeling. But he couldn’t deny the pull he felt towards him, and he knew that he had to see him again.

They arranged to meet the following day in Hyde Park, and James spent the rest of the night dreaming of their next meeting. When they met in the park, it was like they had never been apart. They talked and laughed and walked for hours, lost in each other’s company.

As the days turned into weeks, James and Luc fell deeper in love. They spent every moment they could together, stealing kisses and dreaming of a future together. But they knew that their love was forbidden, and that society would never accept them.

Despite the odds against them, James and Luc refused to give up on their love. They knew that they were meant to be together, and they were willing to fight for it. And as they stood together in the fading light of a summer evening, they knew that they would face whatever challenges lay ahead, as long as they were together.


So far, so generically Regency. I’m sure I could have got something a bit more specific using particular keywords if I was in any way adept at this, but it was interesting to see what it came up with from a basic description.

For my story, I got the idea of using existing characters from my ongoing Regency Twelve Letters series. I decided to contrast the process of AI prompts with the (much slower) imaginative process, choosing characters that are already rattling around in my head.

So my short story is about the meeting between James Beaufort, the baddie in Gentlemen’s Agreement, book 4 in my series and Luc, the MC in book 5, The Misfit. These two have an intense fling in the background of Gentlemen’s Agreement until Luc realizes that Beaufort is a wrong ‘un.

The story isn’t exactly a romance and is a couple of hundred words longer than the AI-prompted piece. I think that illustrates the point that if you feed key terms and a word limit to AI, it spits something out automatically. Suggest an idea to a human brain and, after time for consideration, it comes up with something organic and offbeat, which is the entire point of creativity.

Vauxhall Gardens, London, Summer 1815

James Beaufort was partial to music. His status as an important man in his middle years accorded him access to exclusive recitals at private gatherings in Mayfair. But when it came to his favourite composers, he was prepared to sacrifice some dignity.

At a loose end on a balmy summer’s evening, not compelled to cram into an overcrowded salon for the sake of marital or political duty, it amused him to while away the twilight hours at Vauxhall Gardens before retiring to the gaming tables at Watiers Club on exclusive Piccadilly. Mozart’s compositions interpreted by the finest musicians would justify the interim sacrifice.

The variety of concertgoers at Vauxhall Garden’s Rotunda didn’t disgust him unduly. Taking his seat, Beaufort simply ignored their vulgarity with a barely-concealed sneer as he waited for the performance to begin.

Cobham’s in fine form tonight, he thought, briefly closing his eyes as the violinist launched into the concerto. Beaufort surveyed the players as the musician was accompanied by the rest of the orchestra. He noted a few celebrated faces and decided to linger after the concert to spread some mutually beneficial bonhomie.

Beaufort was cognisant of his impressive good looks and enviable position as a well-connected senior civil servant. His gaze drifted over the musicians, rapt amid their performance, and he lingered over an unfamiliar face. The violinist was young, perhaps in his early twenties, the exertions of his craft causing his thick dark hair to fall over his olive-toned brow. His nose was aristocratic, and his chin held a stubborn strength contrasting with his tremulous, expressive lips.

Beaufort admired the slender artistic fingers that held the bow with such skill. The young man was clearly a rising talent, holding his own amongst more established musicians. But that was not why he commanded Beaufort’s focus.

He considered the lad’s spare frame under the cover of evening clothes, a working musician’s uniform. The coat was slightly shiny at the elbows, the revealed shirt cuffs slightly frayed. There was an intriguing dichotomy between financial struggle and creative passion. Beaufort felt a tell-tale flicker of excitement.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a lover, he surmised. Beaufort had to be discreet about his occasional affairs, especially those with men. He didn’t want to alienate his wife altogether. More to the point, he couldn’t afford to incur the censure of her wealthy and influential relatives who had secured his government post. Their support, allied with his raw ambition and considerable charm, allowed him within tantalising reach of the seat of ultimate power.

Lulled by the unfolding music and the striking young man, Beaufort calmly considered his options. Is he worth the risk?

A smile played over his distinguished features. Beaufort was a gambler by nature, not only in the rarified surroundings of gentlemen’s clubs. He was currently engaged in the ultimate speculation, backing Napoleon, England’s most notorious foe, against his own political colleagues. Just thinking of the odds should make him sick with fear. Instead, it made him feel more alive than ever.

If his wager paid off, he would be rich beyond his wildest dreams. His wealth would liberate him from the narrow regulations of society, unconfined by his marriage, no longer answerable to a collection of stuffed shirts.

The music swelled before fading, allowing Mr. Cobham to excel in a solo passage. The young violinist lowered his bow, awaiting his turn to recommence playing. Beaufort watched him greedily. Momentarily distracted, the musician met his gaze.

He had beautiful eyes, wide set and deep brown. They were still dreamy, spellbound by the music. Beaufort allowed himself to imagine that was exactly how the boy would look when he allowed him his release.

Those dark eyes surveyed Beaufort and widened unmistakably. He could have purred with satisfaction at such a swift and satisfactory response. That settles it, Beaufort judged. The thrill of high-stakes gaming hells could wait for another night while he pursued more earthy rewards.


My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to read how they got on versus AI!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : A. L. Lester : Nell Iris : Lillian Francis : Fiona Glass : Holly Day :

Read Around the Rainbow: As a reader, what’s more important to you, the story itself or the way it’s told?

I’m sure we’ll get some hugely interesting insights from the blog ring on this month’s topic, suggested by the lovely Addison Albright.

For me, as a reader and a writer, this question poses a conundrum.

Personally, when reading, I can’t separate one from the other.  I hasten to add this is purely down to personal taste and has nothing to do with the author! We all have our individual preferences in writing style. A story may hugely appeal from the blurb or a recommendation but might not feel accessible when reading. Then, of course, there are those offbeat stories that just grab us because we’re caught up in the storytelling. To be honest, while reading, I’m pretty relaxed about my reaction to a story either way.

But when writing, this occupies far too much of my attention! When I have a storyline in my head, I agonise over its telling to a ridiculous degree. I try to do my best by my characters to depict them in a way that grabs the reader. I want my audience to be equally invested in the story’s outcome.

As someone who reads and writes MM romance, I appreciate there are countless ways of depicting a love story, whatever the subgenre. I enjoy reading romantic suspense as much as I relish historical stories and anything laced with a sense of humour. But I’ll try anything at least once!

With my author hat on, I completely understand that my writing style won’t appeal to everyone – and there’s not much I can do about that! But that doesn’t stop me from digging deep to make my couple’s romance as meaningful as possible and hoping that the reader will love my boys as much as I do.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are five other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to discover how they feel about stories and storytelling!

Ofelia Grand : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : A. L. Lester : K. L. Noone :

Read Around the Rainbow: How do you feel about blurbs?

I gather that some of us approach blurbs with a sense of trepidation from the feedback about the topic chosen for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog. I have to say (very quietly) that I don’t mind writing book blurbs. I hasten to add that they’re not my favourite admin task, but as a less is more kind of writer (one of the reasons I write novellas) describing something relatively brief is a mild blessing compared to other lengthier challenges that have me tearing my hair out.

I wouldn’t say this generally, but in this instance, I think it helps that I write historical stories. Once I’ve popped in the date and era, my MCs name, their love interest and the setting, I’m halfway there! Of course, it’s not easy to cram a coherent précis of a complete story in a few paragraphs (or even less for a short blurb), but it can be quite a fun puzzle to extract the essentials from my story.

When the necessary facts like time and place are added, I find that latching onto the nearest relevant tropes can be helpful for me as a writer and for readers to conclude if the story is their cup of tea or not. For the blurb of my upcoming story, The Misfit, released on April 1st, and currently in the 20% pre-release sale at JMS Books, I tried to include Society of Gentlemen, Friends to Lovers and Second Chances to describe Luc and Harry’s love story.

So my checklist for blurbs tends to include background facts, a summation of the overall storyline and any useful tropes. It’s up to you to decide if I’ve managed to include all the above in the blurb for The Misfit!

At the start of 1816, Luc Gerrard is summoned home to rural Essex from his sanctuary in the West Indies due to a dangerous downturn in his mother’s health. When she recovers, Luc is determined to pick up his musical employment in London’s theatres, concert halls and ballrooms.

He receives support and even friendship from a surprising source, the circle of gentlemen who spirited him away from certain arrest due to his connection with his former lover and Napoleonic plotter, James Beaufort.
Luc juggles his pride and finances while attempting to gain an orchestral position at Drury Lane Theatre for the upcoming spring Season. Bittersweet memories are revived when he inevitably meets his longtime companion and sometime lover, Harry Kent. However, charming, easy-going casual Harry seems changed by Luc’s absence.

Can Luc re-establish his interrupted career with a little help from his new friends? And might he and Harry find a lasting connection?

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are six other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts to discover how they feel about blurbs!

Lillian Francis : Holly Day : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : Amy Spector : Nell Iris :

Read Around the Rainbow: Someone insults your main character. How do they react?

There was a great deal of discussion about this month’s Read Around the Rainbow blog topic until lovely Addison Albright came up with the final wording. I am so looking forward to reading about everyone else’s MCs and the different ways they respond to being insulted!

When we were chatting about this idea, I couldn’t help but think of the ensemble cast of my Regency romp Twelve Letters series and how each of them would react to an insult. For those of you unfamiliar with the series so far, my cast consists of three increasingly established couples living in Regency London.

They are Daniel Walters, a Bond Street tailor and Jo Everett, a gentleman but not wealthy, then Jo’s best friend, Captain Ben Harding and Dr Edward Stephens and finally, the immensely rich and business-minded Nathan Brooks and (mainly reformed) Regency himbo, the Honourable Percy Havilland. In the first book, Twelve Letters, which is set in spring 1814, Percy is the youngest in his early twenties, with most of the group in their mid-twenties and Nathan, the oldest in his mid-thirties.

The series and the central relationships progress with Queer Relations, set in autumn 1814, Coming of Age set in spring 1815, Gentlemen’s Agreement set in the autumn of the same year and upcoming stories The Misfit and May Wedding are set in spring 1816 and 1817 respectively.

Daniel, a working man serving the tailoring needs of the gentlemen of the ton, can’t really afford to be insulted. So it’s probably a good thing that he’s such a mild and generous person. I’m sure during his working days, he’s received many a ticking off from gentlemen who refuse to believe they’ve put on a couple of stone since their last fitting and blame Daniel for making their clothes in an incorrect size. Then there’s the fashionable trend of gentlemen delaying to pay off their account, often for several years, ending up owing fortunes to shopkeepers. Such types have to be dealt with firmly but tactfully. If anyone can manage that without being insulted or causing offence, it would be Daniel.

Jo, Daniel’s partner in life, is equally good-natured. If personally insulted, he’d probably react by apologising instantly. However, if anyone criticised his group of friends, let alone Daniel, he’d probably get quite cross, which would be very noticeable in someone usually so easygoing.

Ben is far more irascible than Jo, who never rises to the bait of Ben’s uncertain temper, which is probably why they’ve been friends since their school days. Although disabled from serving in the Napoleonic Wars, Ben is a crack shot and handy with a sword, so insult him at your peril! He even threatened to challenge poor Edward to a duel before he decided to fall in love with him instead.

Despite excelling at his profession, and being unmoved by injury and illness, Edward is a gentle soul and any insult would cause him much heart-searching. However, his relationship with Ben has probably caused him to be less thin-skinned since Ben’s bark is far worse than his bite.

Our final couple, Nathan and Percy, would take insults very seriously. Any gentleman of the ton would be even more cautious of insulting Nathan than they would Ben. Not that Nathan is particularly martial, but he’s physically imposing and forbidding and has excellent connections within the world of finance. A would-be insulter might pause before considering the consequences of vital lines of credit refused or suddenly discover that no one wishes to offer them that crucial loan.

Percy, tall, slim, blond, youthful and beautiful, is deceptively angelic in appearance but won’t take slights lightly, whether to himself (I mean who could criticise such an exquisite) his close friends or his beloved family. Having weathered a family scandal and subsequent gossip, Percy takes no prisoners. Unlike Ben or Nathan, the effects of an insult might not be immediate, but revenge will be served eventually and with devastating relish. Fair warning, the guilty party would have to watch their back for the next thirty years or so!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are six other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about how their main characters respond to insults!

A .L. Lester : Ofelia Grand : Holly Day : Addison Albright : Fiona Glass : Kristin Noone

Read Around the Rainbow: How to Romance a Romance Writer

When lovely Nell Iris suggested the topic for this month’s RAtR blog, it seemed perfect for the end of January in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. All the same, I was momentarily stumped as to what to write.

Good friends often jokingly tease me that since I write romance, I should conform to the image of an archetypal romance writer. They have in mind an iconic image of a grandly dressed and bejewelled lady arrayed in yards of pink tulle with matching accessories (including pink hair and a pink-tinged lapdog). Not exactly practical for someone who lives by the sea and is found in waterproof coats, woolly hats and gloves for at least half the year!

So I’ll admit it. When it comes to normal everyday life, I’m not a romantic. I was very relieved when during our group chat about the topic, others in the blog ring chimed in that they weren’t natural romantics either. That admission caused me to think about this from a different angle and gave me some inspiration for this month’s blog. Rather than focusing on romancing a romance writer, I started to ask myself, what sort of person writes romance?

From our informal exchange of opinions amongst our blog group, the answer is as varied as we are! All kinds of people write romance, from the profoundly romantic to the adamantly practical and the endless variations in between. What’s interesting is that so many diverse personalities are drawn to writing in the romance genre.

I love reading as well as writing romance for lots of reasons, but the escapist comfort of romantic love can be a welcome respite from the complicated and often harsh outside world. I also enjoy the range of wonderful writing styles that can be found amongst all my fellow bloggers and beyond.

Love tokens, hearts and flowers and the romantic trimmings may have little or no place in my life by preference, although I’ll never say no to a glass of bubbly! But curiously, as soon as I enter the imaginary world of my stories, romance takes over completely. When I’m devising a story, I’m totally engaged in the dynamic between my central couple and wholeheartedly believe in their growing feelings for each other. I put all my energy into ensuring their Happy Ever After, even shedding an emotional tear or two along the way.

This romance writer might not be easily romanced, but I will always happily engage in my own or other writers’ imaginary romantic world-building.

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about Romancing A Romance Writer!

A .L. Lester : Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Holly Day : Addison Albright : K.L. Noone : Fiona Glass :

Read Around the Rainbow: What Are Your Writing Plans for Next Year?

For this month’s Read Around the Rainbow, we have a very timely end-of-year topic chosen by the lovely Ofelia Grand. I have to say, I’m looking forward to reading about everyone else’s upcoming stories and mentally adding them to my TBR list!

If you’d asked me this question a couple of months ago, I would have looked at you blankly, perhaps with a hint of panic! But it’s funny how things slowly come together when you’re busy focusing on other tasks.

To my surprise, I now have a firm plan for almost the first half of 2023. How did that happen?

I have to say it’s very reassuring to have five projects in place. That’s enough to make me feel as though I’m on track but still leaves my imagination plenty of scope for the rest of the year, together with writing time for submission calls I’ve already signed up for and any others that might catch my eye.

So, starting in January, I’m looking forward to the fourth and possibly final (you never know!) main story of my Regency Twelve Letters series. I threw myself into writing Gentlemen’s Agreement as I love spending time with my ensemble cast, Jo and Daniel, Ben and Edward, and Nathan and Percy, and I wanted to do them justice. So this is a longer story than usual for me at 30k words, hopefully, full of fun and happy ever afters.

For February, after spending recent months writing about the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it’s a nice change to revisit Elizabethan London and Gregory and Jehan, my couple from last year’s Valentine’s story, The Spice of Life. They feature in the follow-up short story, A Touch of Spice, together with their friend William the trouble magnet.

For the rest of the spring schedule, I already have a couple of stories semi-written or scribbled down. The Misfit, a spin-off story for my Twelve Letters series, is well underway, and I’m hoping to get that roughly finished before the end of the year, time and inspiration allowing.

Talking of inspiration, a fully formed Twelve Letters short story appeared in my head recently with a working title of A May Wedding, taking place in the year after The Misfit. Whenever I think I’m done with my Twelve Letters boys, they jump into my mind and reel off another story! Not that I’m complaining.

As well as those stories, there might also be a box set of my previously published Regency stories coming out in the spring, which is an exciting prospect. Whenever that might happen, it will be lovely to have them all together in one volume!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about all their writing plans for next year!

A .L. Lester : Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Holly Day : Addison Albright : Amy Spector : KL Noone :

Read Around the Rainbow: Writing Advice I Take With a Grain of Salt

This will be a fun topic for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow, suggested by the lovely Addison Albright! Before I start on what advice I have learned to politely ignore, on balance, I have to say that I’ve been given loads of wonderful writing advice that I happily take on board. I am especially thinking of poor long-suffering Ofelia Grand, my go-to when I inevitably get stuck in technological writing hell!

Also, I do have considerable experience in being on the receiving end when helpful pointers are rejected. During my years as a teacher and as an online story moderator, I’m always taken aback when people are deeply affronted about reminders to put stories into paragraphs. Or capitalising the first letter at the start of the sentence and then adding a full stop (or period) to end it, because apparently, that hampers their self-expression. Takes all sorts!

In terms of controversy, I will not dare to approach the Oxford comma (as that’s always baffled me), and I still don’t understand why popping the odd sentence in the passive voice is meant to be the source of all evil! As writers, we are bombarded with a bewildering array of hints and tips, not only in terms of grammar and style, but the whole gamut of marketing do’s and don’ts, some of which seem completely contradictory.

And the advice doesn’t stop there! The way we plan out our stories is a source of debate, with plotters and pantsers at the extreme ends of the argument. I have to say that I always assumed I’d be a dedicated plotter, as in ordinary life, I would be lost without steadily ticking off items on my daily to-do list.

So, with relish, I started outlining my plans in detail, making careful notes and organising my story to within an inch of its life. And what happened? Zip, nada, nothing. I soon realised that when it came to the actual writing, my mind went as blank as the page. And my muse went off in a huff and deserted me completely!

It was all a bit bewildering having to approach writing from the opposite direction than I expected (and that’s probably good for me!) I have learned not to panic when I don’t quite know where I’m going in a story (let alone have the plot and characters in a colour-coded planning document). Before going near my laptop, I allow the story to gradually percolate in my head and just keep a notebook handy to jot down the odd bit of dialogue or a random scene that I would forget otherwise.

I might get the odd twinge of panic at this alarming lack of method, but I’ve accepted, to my surprise, that I’m definitely on the panster end of the structure scale – whether I like it or not!

My post will be linked on the last Friday of every month with posts from fellow blog ring members. There are seven other writers blogging in the Read Around the Rainbow Webring this month… find their posts about the writing advice they’ve avoided!

A .L. Lester : Nell Iris : Ofelia Grand : Holly Day : Addison Albright : K.L. Noone : Amy Spector :