August is Read A Romance Month and I was fortunate enough to be asked to take part in telling readers, or anyone interested, why romance matters. Where do I begin?
I can’t remember how I got my hands on my first romance. No one in my house was a reader outside of the Reader’s Digest and the newspaper. My mother didn’t have them hanging around the house, but I managed to find one somewhere. I was 13 (or thereabouts) and life wasn’t exactly wonderful. There were three adults, three kids, a dog, and probably a parakeet at the time, all living in a two bedroom, one bath, one level home.
Lack of privacy or even sanity is not conducive to a young girl smacking headlong into puberty. But when I had my nose in a book, I wasn’t cooped up in that house. I wasn’t bored in the suburbs, lamenting my crooked teeth, baby fat, and ugly clothes. Oh no. In the pages of a romance, I traveled the world. The Wild West, the antebellum South, the English countryside and ballrooms. I stood against the wind in the Highlands, and danced uninhibited through Versailles.
There was a world out there, with space and beauty and people falling in love. Those books became my life lines. Flash forward to senior year of high school. Life had turned topsy-turvy. My living situation had changed, but I was still a social outcast in school. Every ounce of determination in my body was focused on getting out of that town and taking life into my own hands.
The waiting might have done me in until I found a romance novel by Judith McNaught. I know some of her earlier work is controversial these days, but epics like Kingdom of Dreams, Whitney My Love, and all her other books got me through high school alive. (I read them as they were released, so that tells you how long ago this was.)
I’m not really a drama queen, and I’ve never been prone to depression, but I remember how miserable and unhappy I was. Those books kept me going. They helped me believe it was worth holding on until I could break free. They made me laugh and cry and sigh with longing and satisfaction. They saved my life.
I’ve leaned on romance novels quite often since those rough teenage years. When the baby wouldn’t sleep. When the marriage fell apart. When it seemed like the whole world was against me. Or even just when I was really happy. And now, writing my own novels has saved me again in more ways than I could ever explain here.
If my books could do for even one person what romance novels have done for me over the years, then I will have done something truly important in this life. I want to thank Julia London for sharing my name for this wonderful appreciation event. And Ms. McNaught, whom I hope to one day thank in person.
Romance novels matter, because they showed me that I matter.
Now to lighten things up with some fun questions:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
Unfortunately, my house is the ugliest thing in my house right now. 2012 is what I refer to as the water curse year. The water heater flooded the living room in January, then in late summer, both a pipe under the house and the drain on the AC system clogged. In less than nine months, I lost all flooring in the bottom floor and have been living on concrete ever since. Not pretty. But I have big plans, and by this time next year, my house is going to look amazing.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
Excellent question! For the title, I’ll go with something a friend asked me recently. “How Are You Not On Prozac?” Now, who would play me? I’d like to say some gorgeous and tall like Charlize Theron, but could never type that with a straight face. I’ll go with Melanie Lynskey, best known for playing Rose on Two And A Half Men.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
When I was about twenty years old, my first ever boss, who was an amazing woman, gave me a glass card. It’s very simple, with flowers painted on the clear glass, and says “If you look far enough… You’ll find what you seek.” I have always treasured this gift. Twenty years and three states later, I found my calling in romance novels. I guess the card was right.
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?)
This one is easy, since I only have one book available. As to other novels, it’s a tough choice between Bet Me and Welcome To Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. In my opinion, these two titles are perfectly written. I’d also have to give an honorable mention to Ain’t She Sweet from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Over the years, I’ve forget full plots of books I’ve loved, but Ain’t She Sweet stays with me.
Now, how would you answer that last question? If you’ve never read a romance, are you willing to try one? And don’t forget to follow along on the Read A Romance Month website. There are 93 authors participating throughout the month, talking about what romance novels mean to them.