Posted Aug 3 2015, 12:05 am
As part of the Read-a-Romance-a-Day month, I’m here to tell you why I read romance.
The Romance genre — like the times – keeps changing.
They’ve evolved from the Barbara Cartland virginal heroines and Fabio covers to stories featuring women who lead successful lives with and without men. Romance fiction continues to sell over a billion dollars a year, and still, there are people who call it pseudo-fiction. People who enjoyed reading romance novels used to tear the covers off books or hide them under their pillows. Critics denounced them as fluff, called them bodice-rippers and formulaic, or looked down their noses at you. If you admitted to writing romance novels, you might have been met with a polite smile just before you were asked when you planned to write a real book. Even today, people who meet romance authors all want to know if we’re writing the next 50 Shades.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, romance fiction still doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The truth is, romance fiction is about more than sex, more than fantasy. It’s about choices. It’s about empowering women. It’s about believing in the strongest emotion we humans have the capacity to experience – love.
Let me tell you why I read romance fiction. I grew up in a time when proper young ladies waited until they got married to have sex. The result of that unfortunate bit of brainwashing is that it took me about two years to learn to like sex and still more years to figure out what I wanted and expected from my husband in bed. I read contemporary romance novels in which the heroines not only initiated sex, they did so because they wanted it – not because they had to, or because it was expected.
They chose the terms.
I read romance because it taught me that real men aren’t just muscle and fist. Real men have the confidence and the faith to nurture qualities like independence, fearlessness, and sexual satisfaction in the women they love. Jamie Fraser of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is called the king of men not because he’s a warrior – though that certainly helps — but because he never tries to conquer the needs and desires of his wife. Rather, he builds and nourishes them.
Respects them. Respects her.
Real life is full of such despicable atrocities, it’s easy to lose hope and grow jaded. Work, children, financial problems can weigh heavy on our minds. I read romance fiction to recharge, to remind myself that real joy comes from love in spite of all the problems and that, in turn, encourages me to turn to my husband and reconnect, to remember that we’re partners –the hero and heroine of our story.
Romance fiction taught me it was okay to want to work and have a family. It taught me not to apologize for who I am and what I want to achieve. It taught me not to settle.
Reading romance fiction has led to a new career in writing.
Reading romantic fiction inspired me to write the kind of stories that make you feel. Through those endeavors I’ve met friends like Jeannie Moon, Jolyse Barnett and Jennifer Gracen, my partners on the Christmas in New York series from Tule Publishing Group. We also have a Summer in New York series, which gives characters introduced in the Christmas books to their happy endings.
If that’s not a reason to respect the genre, what is?
Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy.
Sheer joy came for me one night in the late hours while the whole house was asleep. I’d wanted to write a book for half of my life and just couldn’t do it. I’d start and stop, start again and give up. Finally, I’d decided to approach it as I did a project at work. I wrote chunks out, the big important scenes. And then I wrote the way I wanted it to end. This one night, I had this incredible feeling… a surge of excitement…anticipation. I’d decided to stay up late and connect the ending to the rest of my scenes and suddenly … I’d done it. I’d written an entire book. After all those years and false starts, I’d finally done it. I couldn’t sleep. I sat up all night and just read my own words. I was a writer for real.
That moment was the moment I believed it. Nothing’s come close to it — not even publishing my first novel.
Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.
I find joy between the covers of a book. Doesn’t matter where I am in physical space, if I have a book with me, I have peace.
Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.
Don’t laugh, but I adore the sound of stones or gravel crunching under foot. My grandparents had a large property that wasn’t paved. When I was little, no matter how hungry we were, the rule was we had to wait for everyone to finish their work. The scents of fresh bread or homemade pizza had our stomachs rumbling, but we’d wait — not patiently — and finally! we’d hear the gravel crunching under heavy boots, it was like Pavel’s bell. Time to get the table set and the food served and at long last, we’d sink our teeth into all that hearty food. My grandmother made her own pizza and pasta and bread. Nothing’s better!
What recent book have you read that brought you joy.
Until You by Jeannie Moon. I’ve read this story several times now and never fail to be impressed by the layers of emotion. It has a powerful message and fills me with such hope.
And for fun, the joy of choice! Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer
Chris Hemsworth! I like the look of his… hammer HA!
I hope you’ll check out the latest stories from my friends Jeannie Moon, Jolyse Barnett and Jennifer Gracen. I also hope you’ll check out Trisha Leigh’s young adult novels. She mixes history with such fully developed characters, you’ll expect them to knock on your door in living color.
Patty Blount is the author of contemporary romances as well as several young adult novels including the award-winning Some Boys. She’s an active member of the Long Island Romance Writers chapter of RWA and loves to read when she’s not writing.