Celebrate Read-A-Romance Month!

August is READ-A-ROMANCE MONTH and I’m so happy to be a peripheral part of it thanks to Jennifer Probst, who mentioned me in her post and asked me to share my thoughts here. Over the course of the month, nearly 100 romance writers will be weighing in about why romance matters. Here’s my take.

Why Romance Matters…

When I read Jennifer Probst’s post about why romance matters to her, I felt an immediate sense of camaraderie and joy. I came to romance in a totally different way, but the outcome was the same. While Jen discovered romance novels in her teens, I was a latecomer to the party, reading my first (Whitney, My Love and The Duke and I) about five years ago. I was ravenous. I couldn’t believe these books were so good! I was raised on a pretty strict diet of literary fiction and it never occurred to me to pick up a book with Fabio on the cover. I mean…what was Fabio doing on the cover of a book? It just didn’t make any sense to me.

But once I started reading? I couldn’t stop. I devoured everything Judith McNaught, Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz, and Julia Quinn ever wrote. I was like a human vacuum, sucking up all the stories I’d missed over the past forty years. I was pretty committed to historicals for a while, but now I’m crazy about so many different types of romances. The past few months I’ve been hooked on everything from erotica by Charlotte Stein to old school romances by Rosemary Rogers and Johanna Lindsey. And I’m always up for a vintage Harlequin by Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear, or Anne Mather. Those three were so prolific, so intense, and wrote stories that were so heroine-centric. I love them.

I still think of myself as a reader first, and then a writer. I tend to read at least three books a week and I can no longer imagine my life without these seemingly incredible stories pulsing through my brain. As Jen pointed out, romances make us hopeful. I’m a pretty cynical person in some ways, but a romance always pulls me into this other place of tentative optimism.

The black moment, the seemingly irredeemable hero, the resilient heroine—these are no longer merely tropes, but have somehow become part of how I see the world. I actually believe that human beings can change. I believe that we all have the capacity for love and honor and compassion. And I didn’t believe any of that—not really, not deep down—until I started reading romance novels.

Lastly, here are some questions that READ-A-ROMANCE MONTH invited us to answer:

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

A bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln. I have no idea why we keep it. He sits on the hot water heater in the garage and stares at us every time we park the car.

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

From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Megan Mulry Frankweiler starring Ruth Gordon, about a wild old woman, singing if-you-want-to-sing-out-sing-out surrounded by souvenirs of a life well-lived.

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

So hard to say…probably my parents’ sense of humor and love of reading.

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?)

A romantic scene from one of my books that I’d recommend would be from IF THE SHOE FITS, when Sarah and Devon see each other again after a nasty split. They end up fooling around in the coat closet of the castle where Devon grew up, and I love all the urgency and blind passion—how they can’t keep their hands off each other—and how that physical response embodies all the deep emotion they’re trying to deny.

For romance novels in general, I’d recommend any of the authors I mention above, but especially the older Harlequins. They are like polished stones, spare and beautiful.

THANKS SO MUCH to Bobbi Dumas for organizing such a lovely celebration of all things romance! Here is the link to the site, which is celebrating with 93 romance writers over the course of the month: Read-A-Romance Month Link