Day 19 MJ Rose – Change Is Good, Escape is Wonderful

Filling Us Up When Nothing Else Can

SeductionWhen I was in my late twenties, I worked in advertising as the creative director of a large New York City ad agency. One of our clients was Harlequin Books.

I was in charge of creating television commercial for the brand for more than two years. As part of my job I read a lot of the lines I was doing ads and TV commercials for: “Super Romances” and “American Romances” (hard job right?). In addition I also traveled to five cites each year to attend focus groups with avid readers.

Every other month we agency folks sat behind a two way mirror, sipping burnt coffee and eating donuts while we watched a dozen women, also sipping burnt coffee and eating donuts while they talked about their reading habits.

Why did they read romances? What did they get out of them? How many books did they read a week? A month? How did they chose which ones to read? How did they feel about the books? Did it make them happier or more dissatisfied with real life?

What is on the page can obliterate reality. Offer an escape. Fill us up emotionally when we are barren or hurting. Satisfy us when nothing else can.

I had been an avid reader al my life and knew those things intuitively but it was different to hear other readers talk about how much books mattered to them, fulfilled them, entertained them and even taught them about life and love.

I realized that whatever we think we know about ourselves, we always learn more from books. And I came to understand in a very serious way how important books are for many people’s mental health. How a novel can block out the world and offer an escape. How disappearing and traveling to other worlds we’ve never been to before and experiencing other relationships can enhance and improve our own.

After listening to hundreds of women, I was inspired to try to write my first novel. I asked the Harlequin editors I’d met for their writing guidelines and over the next six months tried to write a novel for them.

When I was done, I submitted it. For weeks I waited anxiously to find out if it was going to be accepted. Finally I got a letter from the editor. She said I clearly had talent. That my characters had a lot of depth and personality. That my story showed creativity and was very original. But ultimately, I hadn’t written a romance. What I’d written was too erotic and had too much of a mystery at its heart. She encouraged me to try again.

And I did. Twice more. But it was the late 1980s and what I wrote was always too erotic and too suspenseful.

Romance has changed a lot since I was twenty eight. It’s opened up and is more embracing and the wonderful authors I read now explore so much the terrain that wasn’t kosher when I tried to visit it back then.

And as a reader I am so very very happy about that.

Lisa Renee Jones, Shayla Black, Lexi Blake and Lorelei James are some of the author’s I’d recommend for the kind of breathless reads that keep you turning pages, escaping, learning and just plain being entertained.

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

A very worn 10 inch monkey stuffed animal, and tied around his neck is a white linen man’s handkerchief. My father gave me the monkey for my birthday when I was five – he called me monkey face when I was little. A year later he  gave me the handkerchief  because I was crying – I  didn’t want him to leave on a biz trip. He said that I if I used it to stop the tears whenever I missed him, I wouldn’t miss him so much.

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

La Vie en Rose and I wish I could say Audrey Hepburn would play me because I love how she looks but I am guessing it would be Bette Midler even though I don’t nearly have that great a sense of humor. But she can do misery and determination and Jewish great!

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

Every day that is worry free.

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?

The kiss in the back of the cab in Lip Service (I didn’t even have to think about it). And it’s not a romance novel but the whole of Endless Love by Scott Spencer.


You are reading this essay at Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.  Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!

MJ Rose is offering a replica of the necklace from the cover of Seduction as a prize for the drawing, made from jet beads. (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.). U.S. readers, to enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 18 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


MJ RoseM.J. Rose is the internationally bestselling author of 13 novels. You can find out about her most recent, Seduction, a novel of suspense, at


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  • Kim Cornwell

    I love meeting new authors! Thanks for stoping by!

  • Jen C

    Uh, yeah, ditto my comment on Alyssa Day’s post for today. Great job, M. J.! (And what a fun job you had and now have!) 🙂

  • Karin Anderson

    I love all four of the authors you recommended! As the world evolves, it can become more welcoming to new ideas.

  • Melanie Backus

    Keeping my fingers crossed! I love a good book!!!!

  • Nancy Huddleston

    Glad you didn’t give up.

  • Valerie

    I love your commentary on Bette Midler… as well as the title of your movie

  • Meredith Richardson

    I’m glad you kept trying a didn’t quite writing because you are an amazing author. And you’re right that romance books have changed a lot over the years. They can be light and funny, dark and erotic, filled with suspense and drama. That’s the best part of romance novels… you could read 100 and still find 100 more stories that are completely unique.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    Glad you didn’t give up! I am going to check out your books.

  • Mary McCoy

    Thank you for your books, and I love your dad giving you the handkerchief and the monkey and why.

  • Ann

    So glad that your editor kept you on the writing path!

  • Britney Adams

    Change is good! Glad you kept writing!!

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I hope you revisited the books you wrote in the 80’s and tried having them published again, I’m sure they would pass inspection now!

  • Kareni

    I’ve enjoyed a couple of your older books; now I’m going to have to give one of your newer titles a try.

    What a lovely necklace! Thanks for making it available as a prize.

  • Ann Mettert

    I haven’t read one of your books in awhile…too many books, too little time. I’ll have to get on that. 🙂

  • ki pha

    You should definitely take a look at you earlier works! Because us readers would love to see them and see how erotic they were to be unpublished then. So please share, even if a little bit of it, just tease us. 🙂

  • Beth Re

    I totally agree with the escape I read to escape
    It helps me cope

  • Pamby50

    Harlequin Books has changed a lot since you worked at the ad agency many years ago. You should send those books back to Harlequin again. Looking forward to reading one of your books.

  • Courtney Chance

    I would love to See your early work!

  • Marcy Shuler

    Aww…the story about your stuffed monkey with the handkerchief around it’s neck is so sweet.

  • rebecca moe

    Wow–what a gorgeous necklace! Thanks for the post.

  • Glenda

    Awww! Love the monkey story. 🙂

  • Donna

    I first discovered you via the perfume blogs that I read. I love it when my two favorite hobbies intersect! Love your work. Thank you!

  • Katy M

    I’m so glad the romance industry has changed and broadened, and I hope it stays fluid over the years to come so many great writers can have their voices heard.
    That necklace is GORGEOUS! Yes, I yelled that. I would love the chance to own it. Thanks for your essay and the giveaway.

  • Beautiful cover and what a pretty necklace! Thank you so much for the opportunity to win. I enjoyed your post today!

  • Rowan Worth

    Wow, that’s a spectacular necklace!! What a prize offering!!! I love the changing face of romance–I love hearing how different genres are dead or certain books won’t sell…and the readers continually prove folks wrong!

  • Janie McGaugh

    I am so glad that romance has evolved over the years.

  • BookLady

    Amazing how romance novels have changed through the years! There is definitely something for everyone in this genre. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about romance and thanks for the fabulous giveaway.

  • Amy Livesay Hart

    I adore the necklace! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Kim

    I love the diversity in romance! There’s a book and genre for everyone. I also love Lisa Renee Jones!

  • Marcia Berbeza

    Isn’t it interesting how times have changed? I look back at a lot of those old Harlequins and think “White Bread.” There was a sameness about many of them although there were a couple of authors I adored. Stephanie James (Jayne Ann Krentz’s first pen name), and Diana Palmer to name two that I have continued to read over the years. But they obviously didn’t stop with the 200 pg. premise. Glad you found your niche!

  • Larena Hubble

    I know I love romances because they help me escape. I love getting lost in the pages of a book and having reality fade away.

  • leah g

    It took me a while to realize it too but I definitely can tell when I haven’t taken enough me time to sit and read. I feel grouchy, and stressed and don’t sleep as well. A little mental escape and life looks so much better.

  • Bernadette Long

    You’re right about reading romance and how it’s good for our mental health. It helps keep me sane in my crazy world!

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Thank goodness you did not give up, M.J.! I think that the world of Romance publishing needed time go catch up with you!