The Lawyer and the Romance Novelist

by | October 16, 2018 |

How does this one go? Let’s see …. High-powered divorce lawyer who doesn’t believe in love meets master carpenter who moonlights as a romance writer, sparks fly ….

No, this post isn’t about meet-cute scenarios. It’s about a romance novelist who is also a lawyer. In real life. Seven of them, in fact.

I have long noticed that writers come to the romance genre from a variety of professions. I hadn’t quite noticed the trend in lawyer cross-overs but Maia Silber, current Rhodes scholar and freelance journalist, did. I was delighted to meet her last weekend at a wedding, and she mentioned her Washington Post article featuring lawyers who are romance writers,

Six of the seven following names I got from her.

Heidi Bond writes under the pen name Courtney Milan, and she clerked for Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy.


She published her first novel in 2001 and now writes full-time.

She has the further distinction of being one of the women who came forward last year to accuse 9th-Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski of sexual harassment leading to his fall from grace.

(Guess who clerked with Judge Kozinski and is a professional friend of his? Brett Kavanaugh.)

Alesia Holliday writes as Alyssa Day and worked as a trial lawyer before turning to writing full-time.

Her Poseidon’s Warriors Series set in Atlantis currently has 14 titles.

Julie James (pen name) is a lawyer-turned-screenwriter-turned-author who writes contemporary romance.

Her latest:


She clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals, and she uses her knowledge of the criminal justice system in some of her novels.

I just finished her Love Irresistibly (2013). Its set in Chicago and features two attorneys. The conflict between them isn’t because they’re on opposite sides of a court case. Rather, it’s a story of whether they can get over their career ambitions enough to establish a real relationship.

Julie Kenner practiced civil and entertainment law before writing full time. She writes the Stark Saga under the pen name J. Kenner. I’ve just begun Book 1 in the Stark Trilogy Series Release Me. It’s shaping up to be dark, angsty and erotic.

Her latest:


She also writes the Shadow Keepers Series under the pen name J. K. Beck.

Grace Burrowes (pen name) is a child welfare attorney who also writes contemporary and historical romance.


A theme shared among these novelists is that even in the best outcomes of the legal system, both sides end up hurt. In their writing lives then, these lawyers-turned-romance-writers welcome the relief of the good guy always winning.

This bring us to HelenKay Dimon who – as she says herself – spent twelve years in the most unromantic career ever: divorce lawyer. (We’d come to one eventually!) She’s been writing full-time since 2007 and gets her happy ending every time.


Thanks to Maia for making four of these writers known to me. I had already read a number of books by Courtney Milan and Grace Burrowes. However, I didn’t know they both had law backgrounds.

I’ll add here Alisha Rai who I had the pleasure of meeting when she participated on the panelist Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and the Romance Novel I hosted at Duke University in February 2017.


Alisha works in the Washington D.C. area and when the Muslim ban of 2017 went into effect, she and some of her colleagues went to the D.C. airports to offer pro bono legal aid to travelers suddenly stranded. She calls herself “a person first, a writer second.”

For more names with only minimal overlap with the list above: See 10 Romance Novelists with Law Degrees

I can relate to the whole dual career experience. Just as Burrowes and Rai, I believe, continue to practice law, I have never given up my academic teaching-scholarship life to write romance full time.

I am aware of only one other tenured academic, namely Mary Bly, who writes romance under the name Eloisa James and teaches at Fordham University. However, I don’t think she has continued her scholarship in early modern drama beyond a book published in 2000.

I know there are any number of adjunct faculty in colleges and universities around the country who write romance, but I’ve never heard of any who are also engaged in academic scholarship. Could there possibly be as many Full Professors-turned-full-time-romance writers as there are former lawyers?

For my academic career see: Linguistic Odyssey: The Hero’s Journey

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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