Friday, August 02, 2013

Read-A-Romance-Month

Romance Matters
by Darlene Marshall

I’m thrilled to be participating in National Read-A-Romance-Month.  I heard recently from a fan that her 96-year-old mother enjoys my books, and re-reads them often. They’ve become comfort reads for her, and I’m trying to write faster with that particular lady in mind.

We have a shorthand in Romanceland, a language for readers and writers in our genre. If you tell people about your “comfort reads”, they understand it’s those books you can read over and over again, just as one visits old friends or returns to a favorite garden. I’ve always felt if we can share the concept of comfort reads, we can share the concept of a comfort community, a group that knows exactly what you mean when you say “I love romance novels because it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

If you’re reading this, you are likely a member of that comfort community of readers who appreciate romance. I have friends, well meaning friends, who ask me when I’m going to write a real book. Mind you, this is after 10 years of publication in historical romance. They can’t understand why I would write “those” books with the (to them) embarrassing covers, and same plots, and you’ve heard it all before.

In Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels*, Sarah Wendell of  “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” says, “…many people who disdain the romance genre and look down on the women who read it presume that reading about courtship, emotional fulfillment, and rather fantastic orgasms leads to an unrealistic expectation of real life…That accusation implies that we don’t know the difference between fantasy and real life, and frankly, it’s sexist as well.”

She’s right, and she’s far from the only person who feels that way. Author Maya Rodale says romance novels, “depict stories of women choosing to live and love to a higher standard, and they are rewarded for it in the end.” (Emphasis mine)

I like books that reward women for being strong, and I like a happy ending.  25 years ago my husband survived a major heart attack, but it was a long recovery process and I had two toddlers to care for as well. When I could grab a few moments for myself at the end of the day, I’d pick up a romance novel. For that brief space I could escape what I was experiencing in my real life, especially the crushing fear that I would be widowed and raising my sons without their father. Thankfully, my husband is doing just fine and our sons are grown, but I remember how romance novels comforted me, helping me through the most difficult period of my life.  

When I began to think maybe I could write a book and sell it, I asked myself, “What stories do I like?” and the answer was (with apologies to Garrison Keillor) stories where the women are strong and the men good-looking, where the heroine can have adventures, save herself and him, and end up with happiness at the end.

That’s why I read romance novels, and that’s why other readers come back to the genre.  We want a story that entertains, that brings us into other worlds, and that leaves us satisfied at the conclusion.  A well-written tale is worth reading, no matter what genre, but for comfort reads you can’t beat a great romance.

This blog post is also an opportunity to recommend authors, particularly ones I’ve enjoyed in ebook form. The first author is mystery writer Barbara Rogan whose new release A Dangerous Fiction has the beginnings of a lovely romance and it’s got an older than 20-something heroine, which I also enjoyed. When you’re looking for something a little steamy, one of my favorite erotic romance authors is Anne Calhoun. Her work is thoughtful, hot, and romantic, a great combination.

*Full disclosure—I’m quoted at least three times in Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels.  I think that rocks.

QUESTIONS FOR THE AUTHOR:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

If I’m going with craziest, I’ll have to choose the lovely (real) sword my brother gave me a few years back. It perches atop a bookcase across from my desk and reminds me when I’m writing that if I get stuck, have someone rush into the scene swinging a cutlass. Works every time!

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

The story of my life might be called “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!” or a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:  “And Though She Be But Little, She is Fierce!”

I would want to be played by Emma Thompson, a great actress whose comedic talents are underappreciated. If she played me, there would definitely be comedy.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My sons bought me an illustrated copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. They clearly know their mother well.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

I would pick Daphne and Alexander from my newest release, Castaway Dreams, and I would pick the scene where the couple is adrift in a lifeboat, learning how to tolerate one another and survive. It was fun for me to write, and I think it showcases my “voice” as a romance author.

If I was picking a romance author in general, I'd fall back on the recommendation so many other readers and authors offer, Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. It's one of my comfort reads, and a great example of the genre at its best.

Thank you, Romance Matters, for inviting me to participate in Read-A-Romance-Month. This has been great fun, and I’ve loved reading what the other authors and writers have to say about my favorite genre.

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