Day 22 Lisa Kleypas – Reality is Not the Point

 Life Occasionally Needs a Little Buttercream Frosting

Here’s what so many non-romance-readers don’t get: reality is not the point.

Crystal CoveNo one ever needs to reads a novel to learn more about reality; it’s what we live in, and it’s pretty difficult to avoid. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) If you want factual knowledge about the fascinating world we live in, read non-fiction or watch the news. But in our current culture, it seems as if a novel is only good, or good for you, if it serves some kind of instructive purpose. We’re somewhat embarrassed to admit that we do anything just for pleasure these days, and even more embarrassed to admit that we read or watch something in the deliberate pursuit of emotion.

But that’s what novels are for: to elicit emotion. And the reason we read romance is because we want to experience the best emotions: tenderness, passion, sacrifice, healing, joy, satisfaction. Is it bad to want that?

I’ve heard romance novels referred to as trash even by some of the genre’s most devoted readers. I’m sympathetic rather than offended because I understand where it’s coming from: we’re all swimming in the same reality here, and if you want to go against the current, you learn to poke fun at yourself, and your tastes, before other people inevitably do. Love is not trash, however, and romance readers are not dumpster-divers but rather connoisseurs of emotion. They tend to discuss their favorite novels–the flavors and complexities and textures–as meticulously as sommeliers at an international wine tasting.

Devil in WinterI have also heard romance novels compared to junk food. If that’s true, I’m here to tell you, my standard diet of reality occasionally needs a layer of buttercream frosting. The emotions engendered by a romance novel tend to soften the edges of those days when reality can get a little brutal. And the glow of happily-ever-after flatters everyone in its wake, including tired husbands with dark circles under their eyes and dishpan hands and muddy shoes from having just taken out the garbage. After I read a romance, I have no illusions that my husband is a rakish duke, and I don’t fault him for not turning into one. But to me, he is as sexy and romantic and wonderful as any romance hero could ever be. Because reality is more than just how things are . . . reality is also how we see them. And the two are not mutually exclusive.

Is it bad to read a book that was created to elicit emotion? Only if it’s bad to love music, art, poetry, dreaming, dancing, and everything about life that isn’t related to survival and Spartan practicality. Could you live in a world without romance novels, ice cream, twinkle lights, sandcastles, flower bouquets, hugging, holding hands and kissing?

Well, sure.

But would you really want to?

Recommendations: For a smart, witty and passionate historical romance, I recommend anything by Sarah Maclean, although my personal favorite is “Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake.”

Questions for Lisa:

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

We have a betta fish named Marcel, who has lived years beyond the average life expectancy . . . and it shows. Poor Marcel is homely, bedraggled, half-blind, and as feisty as can be. We are careful to keep him away from mirrors. No expense is spared in preserving the life of this fish—the best water treatments and silk plants and tank adornments, not to mention careful monitoring of temperature and nutrition. I’m dreading the day when he goes.

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

“The Days Of Wine And Fritos” . . . but I can’t think of an actress who could replicate my enthusiasm for salty snack food.

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

When my son was six, he took a black and white photograph that he called “tower of hands” . . . it was my hand on the table, and then his, and my daughter’s tiny hand on the very top. He gave it to me in a construction paper frame. It was at a time when my husband was traveling a lot (he was in sales); so often it was just me and the two children. The photo is precious to me because it represents the three of us sticking together while Daddy was gone.

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?)

I guess Evie and Sebastian from Devil In Winter . . . it was a historical novel, one of a quartet called the Wallflowers. I loved writing it because Sebastian had been the villain of the previous novel, so it was a pairing between a viciously articulate scoundrel and an innocent, shy heiress who stutters.

And one of the best romance novels ever written is All Through The Night by Connie Brockway . . . an amazingly sensuous and romantic story about a beautiful young widow who is secretly an infamous thief, and the man sent to catch her.


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!

Lisa Kleypas is generously donating a copy of Crystal Cove to give away (one 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 22 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.

Lisa KleypasAfter graduating from Wellesley College with a political science degree, Lisa published her first novel at age twenty-one. Her books are published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world, with 17 having been on the New York Times Bestseller List.  In December 2012, her book Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor was the basis for the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Christmas With Holly.

Lisa writes for St. Martins Press and is represented by her agent Mel Berger of the William Morris agency. You can find her online at


Buy Lisa’s Books Online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


  • Nancy Huddleston

    Nicely said. Books help me release emotions and then I feel better.

  • helena rizzuto

    I agree… We so often base everything off of reality. But sometimes, we just need to escape from reality. With all that is happening today, a happy, funny romance is what the doctor ordered. And its not trashy… its expanding your imaginative horizons:)

  • Laurie W G

    Fiction is make believe so leave me in peace as I enjoy my romance books. I love the wide variety that is available.
    If you as a romance writer can brighten my day and expose me to characters that I care about, WOW, what a great job!

  • Martha Lawton

    I love your novels. Friends and I call them hair twirlers. (you find your finger twirling your hair as the book gets better and better.) Thanks for you writing butter cream frosting books.

  • TrishJ

    Yup, books are my junk food, and I am addicted!! Thanks for all the great books! You have supported my habit for quite a while now.

  • mariannewestrich

    Salty snacks and romance books – who could ask for anything more?!?!?!?

  • Deb Hinshaw

    I loved Devil in Winter! I also agree that Sarah Maclean is a great author. I liked your post today, but the comment that grabbed at my heart was the one about the precious photo your son gave to you of your, his, and your daughter’s hands. My daughter gave me a drawing when she was 10 of a large heart and a border of hearts with the saying, “I love the word MOM.” I laminated it and have it hung up near my desk.

  • Britney Adams

    Love this essay! Who would want to live without romance, indeed!

  • Jen C

    “Here’s what so many non-romance-readers don’t get: reality is not the point.
    No one ever needs to reads a novel to learn more about reality” — I love this! After having to deal with some jerk-face dissing romances to me yesterday, I now have more ammo for return fire. Reality isn’t the point in other genres, either, even those that are respected by the general public (or English grad students, as was my disser.

  • Kim Cornwell

    I love to read and dream, to out a little magic in just makes it all the more enjoyable. I love your books and thanks for stopping by!

  • Mary McCoy

    Thank you for all your characters and stories. I enjoy Sarah’s books as well. Go Marcel!

  • Evelyn S

    I’m a big fan of your historical novels!! The Wallflower series is one of my favorites!!

  • Hannah Roberson

    Books are my escape from reality so I don’t that they aren’t realistic that’s the point. “Nine rules to break when Romancing a Rake” is my favorite Sarah Maclean book.

  • Ann Mettert

    I loved this paragraph:

    “Is it bad to read a book that was created to elicit emotion? Only if it’s bad to love music, art, poetry, dreaming, dancing, and everything about life that isn’t related to survival and Spartan practicality. Could you live in a world without romance novels, ice cream, twinkle lights, sandcastles, flower bouquets, hugging, holding hands and kissing?”


  • cynditefft

    I completely agree. Even if we’re living a life of happily ever after (married, kids, dog, the whole bit), romance affords us that excitement of firsts that we’ll never have again. *blissful sigh*

  • Melissa Sullivan

    I agree as well. I don’t read books for the reality of it. Cause working in a retail pharmacy is “reality” enough for me. Trust me. I read to escape and for the happy endings. Reading a good book during my lunch break is enough to recharge me sometimes to stand the next wave of customers. ^o~

  • Anne

    Thank you for the essay. I have enjoyed all of your books that I have read, just finishing Crystal Cove recently. I read romance to escape from life’s difficulties and I tell everyone that is why I read it. To just sit and read, whether the book makes me cry or laugh, that is just pure pleasure.

  • PJ Ausdenmore

    Lisa, if anyone ever asks me again why I read romance, I’m directing them to your essay. Beautifully stated!

    Marcel is one lucky fish to have landed in your family. And those of us who read romance were blessed the day you first put pen to paper. Thank you for so many hours of reading pleasure.

    By the way, you’re not the only Fritos addict among us. I once won a radio call-in contest. The prize was a year’s supply of Fritos. Best prize I’ve ever won! Ever!

  • girlygirlhoosier52

    My real life is darned good, but ahhhh the first moments are romance are so wonderful to relive in a book!

  • Eileen Wetterstrom

    Love you Lisa. Enjoy all you books. Romance is the spark that opens your eyes.

  • Valerie

    love this… it is true though I know when I’m in need of some emotional release in my life I do tend to head towards the books I know are going to help me find the right kind…

  • Lee Ann Daugherty

    Good essay, Lisa! I say bring on the buttercream! As a long time bookseller and romance reader since my teens, I can honestly say that romance customers are the most faithful, loyal, passionately articulate book buyers out there.

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I love your essay, especially the last paragraph. You summed it up so well!

  • Kathleen O

    Always enjoy your books.. Sugar Daddy was the first book of yours I read.. then I started on all your books.. Great reading…

  • Kareni

    Many, many thanks for writing some of my favorite books, Ms. Kleypas. I’m looking forward to Joe Travis’ book, Brown-Eyed Girl!

  • Nicole Fortuna

    Love your books! My favorite was Devil In Winter. I agree that life does need buttercream frosting. I wouldn’t want to live in a world deprived of enjoyment.
    I don’t need reality all the time and don’t want it! I love the happy endings of romance novels.

  • christinejensen

    I too like my reality with a little buttercreme frosting 🙂 (really, a little sugar makes everything more palatable).

  • Kim

    I’ve read almost all your backlist and have enjoyed them. I’m looking forward to your next book, Brown-Eyed Girl, and hope another historical is on your radar.

  • glittergirl54

    Over and over again I am impressed by Romance Authors and their intelligence and wisdom. Your post again resonates with me. I agree with you we read romance for the escape from reality — to lick the buttercream frosting of life, to give ourselves a treat! Thank you so much for sharing your gift of writing and wisdom with us readers!

  • Hannah Weitzman

    I agree. Romance is for the pleasure it gives, not reality.

  • Patricia Murphy Hatten

    I completely agree. Everyday life gives me all the reality I want. In a romance novel, I can escape, for just a little while, into a world where everything turns out great in the end, and where there is always a “happily ever after.” That’s definitely not true with real life. I’m not ashamed to tell people that my favorite books to read are romance novels. I find them very well written, definitely not trash, and they provide an excellent escape.

  • All I can think to say is Brava!! This. So much this.

  • Mary Anne Landers

    Thank you, Lisa! You speak for so many of us. Only more eloquently than we can.

    Some say popular fiction should be about real people. I say it should be about what real people want to read. And most of us get when we’re not reading our fair share of reality. And then some! So let’s hear it for fantasy and escape.

    Keep up the good work!

    Cartoon by Steve Bestie

  • Patty Vasquez

    You are exactly right when you say that reality is not the point. I have a perfect example. At one point in my very long work day yesterday, we had a couple of police officers in our building escorting a crying father out the door after being issued a restraining order preventing any contact between him and his children. I’d been working with his son, who’d been withdrawn and quiet. And no wonder. By 8 pm, after several more hours of working with kids, all I could focus on was the sandwich I knew my husband had for me at home (bless him!) and the romance novel on the kitchen table just waiting to take me some place else for a little while. Some place not real; a place I knew would have a happy ending.

    I totally support your choice of Evie and Sebastian as one of your best romantic couples. However, Sara and Derek come awfully close in the final moments of their book, Dreaming of You.

  • Michelle Fidler

    Reality also isn’t the basis for cozy mysteries but I love them anyway. In the cozies I read the amateur sleuth always has to solve a murder (and does it much better than the cops) and sometimes stumbles upon a dead body. A lot of times the sleuth lives in a small town, like in Murder, She Wrote. In real life small towns don’t have tons of murders or the population would really decrease! Fiction is usually an escape and some of it involves fantasy or the paranormal, etc.
    I think I have two of your books (Regencies), including one of the Wallflowers books in hardcover.

  • rebecca moe

    My reality DEFINITELY needs a coating of buttercream frosting!

  • Angie

    With so much drama in the world, why on earth would I want to read depressing fiction? Bring on the romance!!

  • Melanie Backus

    Love,love,love the romance! Keep it coming!

  • Cyndee Martin

    Lisa, I love your books! and you are so right about not wanting books that are about reality! when life gets hard I turn to books, so thank you for writing books I can enjoy and escape with!

  • Jessica Laas

    Reading a good romance keeps me sane. With my hectic life I am thankful I have such great authors to choose from. Thank you.

  • Lisa I am a huge fan of yours, I love your books.

    I agree 100%. I have told people for many years, I read Romance for the escape. And that is why I now write Romance, to give others that read my Romance an escape.

    What I have always found interesting is, if you say you watch movies or TV for escape no one bats an eyelash. But if you read Romance, you get that look. The one that says a) you read trash b) you are not very smart c) you don’t live in reality; etc…..

    To me its simple Romance is about one the best things in life, love and always having a happy ending.
    In life you always get the ending, its just not always a happy one.

  • Stephanie M.

    Who needs reality when you have romance waiting for you!?!? I love books. 🙂

  • Becky Rabalais

    “The emotions engendered by a romance novel tend to soften the edges of those days when reality can get a little brutal.” AMEN!

  • Beth Re

    Lisa, I love love love the wallflower series, I re read it.
    I get what you are saying about who needs more reality

  • Larena Hubble

    I love getting lost in a romance story and letting reality fade away at least for a while. Sometimes that is what is really needed.

  • Carrie Marie

    idk how i didn’t know you have a book featuring a stutterer, but i must read it now!

  • Meredith Richardson

    I love what you wrote about romance books eliciting emotions because they do. They allow us to dream and hope, but they also help us see the good things that we take for granted in our own lives.

    • Meredith you are right. Romance books bring to light the Romance in our lives that we don’t always take notice of. Which just makes our “reality” that much sweeter. 🙂 🙂

  • Pamby50

    I couldn’t imagine a world without romance novels, holding hand, kissing, hugging, flowers and ice cream. I can see the picture Tower of Hands in a construction paper frame. Looking forward to reading one of your books.

  • Anita Medeiros

    Hi Lisa, I agree 100%with you. Who would want to live in a world so boring with out emotions? My favorite books are the ones that make me cry, laugh, love or hate the carector’s. That is what ROMANCE novels are all about!
    I have been a fan of yours for years, and that is because you evoke in me all of those emotions. THANK YOU!!!! please keep writing for us. =)

  • Ann

    Romance novels are the great escape!!

  • Laura Randall

    Your wallflowers series is my favorite! I reread it when I need a lift. Thanks!

  • Erlinda Mejia

    Romance novels are about survival and thriving, taking chances and being brave, happy endings and consequences. Things usually work out in a romance novel. Love ’em, love ’em, LOVE ‘EM!

  • Marcy Shuler

    I like buttercream frosting! 🙂 I worked for over 20 years on a locked Psych unit and romances kept the ‘real world’ away when I returned home.

  • Cindy A

    Two new books to find and read!!!!

  • Ketta Peters

    The Wallflowers series just went on my wishlist — I do love historicals.

  • Sharlene Wegner

    Thank you for sharing your words. I agree that reading novels gets you away from reality for a time & to elicit emotions. Hope your fishy hangs in there a while longer. We have had a long string of hamsters & they have a short lifespan, but we love them anyway!

  • Karin Anderson

    Mmm…swap buttercream with White Chocolate and I am SO there!

  • Romance books do so well at bringing out emotions…and not just love! I’ve read some books where I feel several different emotions in just a few paragraphs.

  • Sandy Xiong

    I don’t know how I would survive without romance novels. They keep me from being insane because of what it can gives me to think and dream about. I don’t think I can forget about romance because it gives me humor and imagination to life.

  • Chanpreet

    I used to be ashamed of telling people I read romance, chick-lit, and womens’ fiction. I’ve gotten over it. I no longer hesitate to tell people. I made a fool of myself just last week talking to someone at a chocolate and tea tasting. Hopefully it was enough to sway the woman to pick up the book. And that’s all it takes. Just one book and you’re hooked!

  • Glenda

    It’s kinda sad that so, many people are afraid to admit to reading (or watching movies, or whatever) to escape reality however briefly. Reading helps keep me sane–ok, sort of sane. 🙂

  • Raine Dawson

    A huge thank you to Lisa for her post, what a wondeful/fun way to describe romance. I would not want to live in a world without romance in literature, it’s an escape to laugh, cry, get angry, frustrated,and finally smile. Lisa’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ trilogy are three of the most heartfelt novels full of raw emotion that I have read (many times). These books had me sobbing, laughing out loud, and yes, yelling at the characters like a crazy girl. Life would be dreary and hopeless without books-and most importantly romance books!

  • stampin_sue

    I like how you compared a romance novel to buttercream frosting.

  • leah g

    I like your essay a lot. I totally agree, there is a place for non-fiction (which I love) but there is also a place for novels which make you feel something and there is nothing wrong with romance novels which elicit hope and love.

  • ki pha

    I still don’t know why people would call romance novels trash….. Why are they so against romance. Can’t a lady live a bit in her own imagination. And I’m sorry if that bar is too high for the dudes to reach but people….Can’t we dream for one bit before thrusting us with reality. But when an author says it….especially when that said author writes in that genre……Don’t know of anyone but that’s just disheartening to know.

  • Barbara E.

    Reading romance definitely makes life sweeter, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t read my stories. 😀

  • Cheryl Hastings

    While I don’t love butter cream, I do adore Fritos…so that’s what I will compare my romance addiction to!! Big fan of your books and I, too, love Sebastian.

  • Brenda E

    Absolutely love your Hathaway series, Lisa, and can’t wait to read your other books.

  • M Kuxhaus

    The tower of hands blows my mind. How did he take the picture with his hand in the photo? Sounds super-talented to me!

  • Kim

    Great post! It’s nice to have some buttercream frosting to soften reality at times. I often find that life is like a rollercoaster and you can’t experience the joy of highs without the lows.

    I LOVE Sebastian and The Devil in Winter! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read that book!

  • Vonda M. Reid

    Great post. Couldn’t agree more! Sebastian and Evie are one of my most memorable couples.

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    What a wonderful Blogpost, Lisa! You touched on virtually all of my most favorite authors: Connie Brockway’s “All Through The Night” is a masterpiece. Also I agree that anything by Sarah MacLean is wonderful. I was so lucky to be at the RWA Ceremony when she won her RITA this year; It was so much fun! Finally you picked Evie and Sebastian from “Devil In Winter” as one of your books to recommend to a first time reader. That is one of my all time favorites of all books, and not just yours.
    (Diva) Flora

  • Jessika Zee

    I agree instead of a glass of wine at the end of my workday I usually grab a book & escape, it’s the best. Thanks for the blog. Please exclude me from giveaway. I already have Crystal Cove, it was great!! Have all the Friday Harbor & Hathaway Series 🙂

  • Kathy Valentine

    i love your books lisa!!! i have read everything you have put out!,please keep writing and keep reading!!!!

  • Courtney Lewis

    I adore Lisa Kleypas – she doesn’t know how to write a less than amazing book in either the historical or contemporary categories. What a terrific post!