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


In Which I Let Loose on “Control”

Yesterday, I went fan-girl crazy over a book called Control by Charlotte Stein. I have so many deadlines pressing down on me and this was absolutely not the time for me to spend an entire day reading a Slutty Little Bookworm manifesto. But I couldn’t stop. There was so much I adored about this book, but as is almost always the case with my reading pleasure, it came down to the language. Stein has voice, people. And I love it.

When I feel this happy about a book, I tend to get all effusive and I’ve already done that over on Twitter, probably embarrassing Ms. Stein with my enthusiasm. I also make A-B-C gratitude lists. (This might be a pastime I picked up in a 12-stop program in a former life; I can’t remember.) In any case, I highly recommend it, this alphabetizing of things you love.

So here is my Gratitude List for Control by Charlotte Stein, with excerpts from the book in italics:

A – Anywhere (It pours through me, and pours through him, and all I can think is this: I would find you anywhere.)

B – Books. Books. Books. Books in the bookstore alcove that Gabe has penciled in. Books piled all over Maddie’s messy apartment. Books under Gabe’s bed. Books the cousin made Gabe read in his youth. Just…books.

C – Cousins

D – Dirty Clothes (‘These are my – you know. Dirty clothes.’ Of course I’ve got no idea what that means. But I’d certainly like to subscribe to its newsletter. Just where does one find these so called dirty clothes, and what activities might one partake of while wearing them?)

E – Erection (‘Really? I thought my erection had turned invisible.’ It warms my heart, to hear him snark. Thank God no irrevocable psychological damage has taken place. Go us!)

F – French Movies (It’s all romance and tragedy and sex, people foofing around in French until you just want to drink coffee and have tortured affairs with the entire world.)

G – Grey Gardens (I think of Gabe’s comment about Grey Gardens again, as I go. Maybe his parents aren’t dead and I’m going to find them somewhere, dressed in their swimming costumes and carrying raccoons.)

H – Humiliation (I need to know how much humiliation you want, in order to get you to that place of shuddery, red-faced excitement, without the uncomfortable self-doubt and awkwardness, afterwards.)

I – I do too (I guess the I do, too was much more pathetic than I gave it credit for. I guess I’m much more pathetic than I gave me credit for.)

J – Jeannette. (I can believe that I adore Jeanette, in that moment. And I’m so happy, to have her as some sort of friend. I’m happy to be the dirty sidekick, to her semi-pure and half-decent heroine.)

K – Knickers (He’s still wearing the pink knickers.)

L – Licking (‘Here, let me make it better,’ I say, and he stops rubbing the injured party. He drops his hand, without me having to tell him to. Then I bend at the waist, and poke out my tongue. ‘Is this the good part of BDSM?’ he
asks, when I lick. Just a little.

M – Maddie. Madison. Dear Ms Morris.

N – Nancy.

O – Opening the bathroom door.

P – Plastic covered furniture.

Q – Quickly (I had to find places quickly, because by then I really  … I  … well.)

R – Right angles (I like right angles, I tell him, and his tongue touches his upper teeth.)

S – Slutty Little Bookworm

T – Toys. Toy drawers and Toy museums.

U – Under Gabe’s bed (‘They’re not mine.’ I love him for trying to deny it – it just makes the whole thing so much less awful, somehow. So much more like a game. Now I get to force him to confess.)

V – Vegas (‘If you liked it too much, then what did I do?’ ‘You ran away to Las Vegas and married it.’)

W – Wicked words.

X – Hmmm, I can’t think of anything X-rated…LOLOLOL.

Y – Youth (The way my dad used to chase me around and around it, just in fun – because I was still little and not yet unwieldy, and confusing. How I used to long to go back there, back to that first home where everything was good and happy.)

Z – ZOMFG about this whole damn book. Not that I even know what ZOMFG really means, but I think the Z is supposed to give a little extra oomph. Or as Gabe would say, “mmph.” (And I kiss him hard enough to force this noise out of him: mmph.)