So, apparently, August is Romance Appreciation Month. I did not know that was a thing. I probably should, because I write romance, and I write about romance, and, when I’m not doing any of those things, I am probably reading romance, but, until now, that has not penetrated my brain. I do follow Read a Romance Month, and eagerly looked forward to the onslaught of essays sharing the love of my favorite genre in all its forms, but it wasn’t until today, when, coincidentally, I needed a blog topic, so good timing.
That book in today’s deskscape is the actual copy of The Kadin, by Bertrice Small, that I stole from my mother’s nightstand and sneak-read under the brass bed in the guest bedroom. Only a few pages into that book, at the tender age of eleven, I knew I had found what I wanted to read and write for the rest of my life. By the time my mother found her book missing and followed the flashlight beam, I knew squat doodle about the romance genre. I could kick myself now, for not picking up those early copies of a magazine then called Romantic Times, which, soon after, alternated with Rave Reviews, which covered all genres, with a smaller romance section than Romantic Times. but, then again, I was young, my allowance may not have covered the expense, and my parents probably would have had something to say on the matter. Also the whole not knowing romance novels were really a thing, thing,. but I digress. I stole the next Small book from that same nightstand (by now, my mom was on to my larcenous ways) and, by the time Adora came out, I received my own copy as a gift, because everybody involved knew I was going to read it anyway.
It wasn’t until I attended a summer program for young creative people, at Wesleyan University, that I purchashed my first non-Small historical romance. By this time, I knew that romance was indeed a thing, and had a handle on some of the differences. All Harlequin books were romance novels, but not all romance novels were Harlequins, and jokes about not letting Harlequin get me did not sit well, even if they were meant to amuse. Hmm, let’s see, published by one of the biggest publishers on the planet, in the most popular genre of all genre fiction? Yeah, I can see what a horrible fate that would be. At the time, Harlequin meant exclusively contemporary category (how times have changed) so the odds weren’t high that I would have what they wanted, but none of that did anything to quell the absolute assurance that writing historical romance was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Did I know what period? Eh, not really. The historical I started writing at seventeen could best be described as nebulous Tudoresque, and, when I first put fingers to typewriter keys, I wasn’t sure what era I wanted to write, so I remained purposely vague as to the actual setting, a remote estate far, far, far away from anything. The pages from that book now reside in a storage unit where they can’t hurt anybody, and, as I work on the second draft of Her Last First Kiss, I have not only a calendar covering the dates of the story, but researched the phase of the moon for the night when Ruby and her Hero have their titular first kiss, because I needed to know exactly how much of him she’d be able to see (spoiler: not much.) Between the minute my mom busted me under the guest room bed and this morning, when my Kindle saw me through wash and dry cycles at the laundromat, I have read a lot of romance novels. No, I am not going to try to count them.
I have had four of my own published and hope to add to that number in the very near future. When I first knew I wanted to be a writer (or was a writer, depending on how one measures these things) I thought that mystery and hard science fiction were the only options, but I couldn’t connect with either, no matter how hard I tried. Romance, though? That was, and is, air in my lungs and blood in my veins. I am sure there are mystery writers who feel the same way about their genre, and I know there are SF writers who feel the same about theirs. Truly, I hope every writer finds their home and lives in it.
For me, that is romance. One dearly beloved aunt always expected I would grow out of my desire to write romance, which I announced proudly in my early teens. If that hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it’s going to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Taking two characters, each with their own wounds, baggage, and inner demons, through the trials of life, until they can make a life together, and, together, taking on all comers – that’s my catnip. That’s my jam. That’s air in my lungs and blood in my veins. I can’t not write romance, and believe me, I’ve tried. I tried when I thought my options were limited. I tried when people in my life had strong opinions in other directions. I tried when I thought I couldn’t write, or shouldn’t write, or had lost the right to write, and failed miserably in all such attempts, because the power of love, and the power of romance fiction, really is that strong.
I love that there is a romance appreciation month, because it celebrates the awesome power of romance for the reader and writer alike, and because it gives me a focus for my blog entries over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.