Day 30 Kathy Steffen – A Message of Love

Discovering the Gift of Romance

I fell in love with reading romance in an unlikely place. Living in a suburb of Chicago and newly married, I volunteered to work in a resale shop that depended 100% on donations. The proceeds from the sales of the shop went to the local animal shelter and being an animal lover, I felt this was the perfect way to support my community. I worked one evening a week and on every other Saturday, I worked an eight-hour shift. Many times we were busy, but often there were stretches of time when I sat in the store alone. I could only straighten merchandise and dust shelves for so long. The store had a book section and being an avid reader, I paid attention to what books were for sale.

I love all types of books. I began my love-affair with reading as a child and adored the Nancy Drew series. As a teen I jumped to Agatha Christie, devouring every book—and of course, in the order written. In college, the only genre I thought I didn’t like was Science Fiction, so I took a course called Science Fiction as the Great American Literature and added that to my list of loves. I’m now proud to say I have earned full-fledged geek status.

So back all those years ago, when someone came into the resale shop and donated an entire bag of romance novels, my curiosity arose. I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t read many romances. As I took each book out, I lined them up by author, and found several were series books. Thanks to Nancy Drew and Agatha, it felt good in a nostalgic way. I picked up the first book of one of the series. The book drew me in and I began reading. I was hooked! I ended up buying the entire bag myself and finished every book. Wow, did I have fun reading through that bag!

I found some important messages in the pages of those books. I continue to love and read romance to this day. Romance matters? Absolutely. Here’s what I’ve learned, and why I love nothing more than sinking into a romance:

People—good people—can have flaws, and that doesn’t make them bad. For someone who is a perfectionist (me!) and who mentally beats herself up if not careful (me!) it was life-changing to read about characters who weren’t perfect. Yet, I adored and rooted for them just the same. Who knew? It’s okay to not be perfect.

People can grow and learn. In fact, if a person does learn a lesson and evolve from mistakes, then they aren’t really mistakes. Characters in romances—unlike many people in real life—don’t always have to be “right.” They listen. Sure, some remain stubborn, but at least they contemplate. They find hope and work toward love.

Redemption is possible. There is always hope. I believe we can’t hear those two messages enough in today’s world. After I finish a romance, some of the challenges of the day or week are erased from my heart. Reading romance is good for the soul.

Women can have cool careers. From smoke jumpers to doctors, entrepreneurs who are passionate about their businesses, sculptors, artists, photographers, journalists, architects, and moms (and the list goes on)—these women make their own decisions and find fulfillment in many ways, including believing they will end up with the love of their life. These women don’t settle for second best in anything. Including love.

Women have the power to be happy and make their own decisions. Women can call the shots. Women can walk away and say no. Women can say yes! Women can forgive (including themselves!) and find the love they know they deserve.


As far as romance picks, Study in Seduction (Nina Rowan’s debut novel) is one of my favorites. Nina’s writing is just gorgeous! I am about to treat myself and dig into her second novel. I also enjoy Christine Merrill‘s historical series (I warned you, I love series) and the sense of humor that comes through in Chris’s writing is such fun. And both Nina and Chris are here, part of Read-A-Romance Month! (Read Nina’s R-A-R M essay here and Christine’s essay here.)

Questions for Kathy:

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

She’s far from ugly, but she’s not what you’d expect to find on a working desk…my Wonder Woman Barbie Doll. I got her as a visual for a talk I gave on my Muse and she did a great job and continues to do so. She kicks my butt if I don’t write. A heroine who fights for justice, love, peace and sexual equality…what’s not to love?

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

Stranger than Fiction (which is definitely my life, and part of a quote from a great author and insightful human being—Mark Twain) and Sigourney Weaver would be my choice to play me. She has been one of my favorite actors since she kicked alien butt in the movie series.

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

On our wedding anniversary my husband gave me champagne roses, one for each year of our marriage. I was so touched he remembered what flowers I carried down the aisle all those years ago. No gift has ever been more romantic or perfect.

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 scene in First, There is a River where the heroine, Emma, sees Gage’s scarred body for the first time. Gage doesn’t want her to see any more of the scarring (it runs from his face down the length of his body) due to a riverboat explosion and fire where he was injured as a young man. To Emma, his scarring represents all he’s come through and triumphed over in his hard life. She tells him he’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. I actually cried when I wrote that scene.

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 celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.

Kathy is generously donating one copy of each of her books (FIRST, THERE IS A RIVER; JASPER MOUNTAIN; and THEATER OF ILLISION) to US readers (apologies to International readers).  To enter the domestic contest, 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 30 to be eligible, though winners will be announced at a later date.

Also visit the Awesome Contests page to register this week to win a Kindle Paperwhite and “A Month of Romance” (31 books) from Amazon Montlake, or  the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!

If you love Read-A-Romance Month and decide to buy, please consider using the books links from the site. Every bit helps and I do get a tiny percentage of sales. Thank you for considering it!

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the Spirit of the River Series: First, There is a River, Jasper Mountain, and Theater of Illusion, available online and in bookstores everywhere. Additionally, Kathy is published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines, and blogs monthly on writing at She writes from a log home in the woods of southwestern Wisconsin that she shares with her husband and three cats, and is currently working on a TREEbook for Medallion Press that branches story lines off of her award-winning book, First, There is a River. Keep an eye out for it in 2014.


  • Melanie Backus

    Thank you for your post. Hope and love get us through. Thank you for what you do!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Melanie! Firm belief of mine too (I just realized I can “reply” instead of comment, so sorry if you read this twice:)

  • mariannewestrich

    Wonder Woman has always been my hero – love how you define her strengths. I’ve definitely added you to my to-be-read list! Thanks!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks so much Marianne–glad to meet another Wonder Woman fan! (I just realized I can “reply” instead of comment, so sorry if you read this twice:)

  • Kathy Groft Steffen

    Thanks so much Marianne–glad to meet another Wonder Woman fan:)

  • Laurie W G

    I agree with all 5 of your romance discoveries.

    I haven’t read any of your books yet. I do like Christine Merrill.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Laurie. Glad to meet a kindred “romance” soul! (I just realized I can “reply” instead of comment, so sorry if you read this twice:)

  • Beautiful words! And I’ll surely read First there is a river, your description of the scene between Emma and Gage has hooked me!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Oh, thank you so much Marinella. I even got teary writing that paragraph. It’s one of my favorite scenes ever (and Gage remains one of my favorite characters to this day).

  • Cyndee Martin

    Wow! honestly I loved your essay (is that what we have been calling them all month!
    Thank you for describing what I love most about romance!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks so much Cyndee! “Essay” works for me:) I really enjoyed putting into words all those thoughts I had rumbling around in my head about why romance is so awesome! Thanks for your comments!

  • Anne

    Thank you for the wonderful essay! My list of new authors just got longer. I can’t wait to find one of your books!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Anne, thank you! I know just what you mean…my TBR pile has quadrupled in the last month since this started:)

  • Lisa Glidewell

    Great essay! I love learning about authors who are new to me. I can’t wait to read your books! They sound so interesting!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Lisa!

  • Sue G.

    I have never read Sci – Fiction Romance, but maybe I should give it a try. I’m always looking for new authors to try.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Hi Sue! I love trying new genres. I just read “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline (my writing partner–a guy–suggested it) and wow did I LOVE it. Not what I’d typically read, but it had a terrific romance in it too.

  • M Kuxhaus

    I love Nancy Drew! I always wanted Nancy and Ned’s romance to heat up, but it never did.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Ha! You and I are on the same page with that one 😉

    • M, did you see my NPR article? I mention Ned & Nancy too. (It’s linked on the About page, if you’re interested.) xoxo

      • M Kuxhaus

        I just read your article. Pride and Prejudice was my favorite book for quite awhile; but then I read Austen’s Persuasion. I loved it even more.

        • I love Persuasion! :o) Did you see Nalini Singh’s post? xoxo

  • Rowan Worth

    Yeah, I always looked as SF as good books, but they would have been better if the romance was stronger in them. ; )

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      I totally agree Rowan! I just made the comment to Sue that I just read “Ready Player One” which is SF/Fantasy and not typically something I’d read–but I absolutely loved the romance in that one.

  • Joanne Ozment

    Started with Agatha Christie in high school. Now it’s all romance. I love my kindle but I miss going to a 2nd hand book store and going through the piles looking for a good book.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Joanne, you and I have a lot in common. I love my kindle too–I find I read more (!) on it, not sure why that is. I read all genres, but romance is my go-to, and I read romances at least 4-1. Okay, maybe 10-1 🙂

  • Erlinda Mejia

    My family moved a lot, new school every year, but I always made it a point to introduce myself to the school librarian first thing. They were wonderful, guided my reading from Pearl S. Buck to Daphne Du Maurier and Isaac Asimov. I discovered romance in my mid twenties and have been an avid fan since. Because in romance I found the historicals, contemporary, travel, science fiction, paranormal, mysteries, that I loved. Romance novels kept me sane when life was crazy, relaxed when I needed it and gave me hope that love will out. Thanks for sharing your talent and stories with us.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Erlinda, you are very welcome, and what a smart decision that was you made as a student! We moved quite a bit when I was growing up too, and I think that’s a reason I love reading so much. Nothing like a book to get you through some tough times. Thanks for your insightful comment!

  • Kareni

    Thanks for the fun essay, Ms. Steffen. I look forward to reading one of your books!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Kareni and glad you enjoyed it:)

  • Valerie

    I’m a fan of Nancy Drew as well! I also think it’s a good/interesting thing to remember that redemption is possible…

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      True Valerie, I love redemption in a story and in real life as well. I think Nancy introduced many of us to the love of reading 🙂

  • Mary McCoy

    Thank you for your post and your books! I always wanted Nancy to hook up with the Hardy Boys, Ned just seemed such a milktoast.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Hahahaha Mary, love it! You’ve got a point 🙂

  • Hi Kathy!! Thank you for sharing your essay today. That sounds like a wonderful way to read romance. 🙂 Your books sound good!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Brooke!

  • Kim Cornwell

    Love meeting new authors! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      My pleasure Kim. Thank you!

  • Meredith Richardson

    I loved your essay!! And I completely agree with you, women can have all kinds of careers and a lot of fun and even unrealistic ones in books which just makes it even more fun. We can live out our dreams in the books we read.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Hi Meredith–thank you and yep, wise words of yours about living out our dreams. I love to put myself into a new experience through books.

  • Britney Adams

    I also LOVE a book series!! I can’t wait to meet Emma and Gage and read their story in FIRST, THERE IS A RIVER! Thank you so much!!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Britney, thank you!

  • Pamby50

    I love reading a series. If you start a series and have to wait for the next one to come out, it seems like forever. Looking forward to reading yours.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Pamby! I have to tell you, some series writers just don’t write fast enough for me. I’m dying for the next one in many cases.

  • rebecca moe

    I used to read Nancy Drews in long weekend marathons! Great post–thanks for writing 🙂

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Rebecca, thanks for your comments. How fun, a reading marathon:)

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Hi Kathy, I am so happy to hear that you had to read your Nancy Drew’s in order. Do you still read other authors that way now?
    I know that writers almost always say that one book in a series can be read as a stand alone. But if it is a series by an author that I really enjoy and I know that I will be reading the entire series, I have to read it in the order it was written. I just feel that there are subtleties and nuances that would be missed otherwise.
    What do you recommend to your series readers?

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Oh Flora, yes, I’m with you. I HAVE to read a series in their order. I agree, I don’t want to know what is going to happen with the character until it does so I can get the entire picture of their development as I read. I really enjoy the JD Robb series, but now that I’m past book 20 I don’t try so hard to read them in order. I also love the Jim Butcher fantasy series. I am also enjoying a YA fantasy/romance series–starting with Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. One of my very favorites is the Tess Gerritson series (she doesn’t write fast enough IMHO:) and Maureen Child has some wonderful series romances of which I’ve read every one. I also love the Jami Alden series (The Geminii Men) although be forewarned–they are super hot romances.

  • Marcy Shuler

    I like the list of what you’ve learned from romances. SO true!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Marcy!

  • Ann

    Great post! Love Nancy Drew.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Ann. I still have a soft spot for Nancy Drew 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    Thanks for your essay today. Gotta love a Wonder Woman Barbie Doll!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Stephanie!

  • stampin_sue

    Your reading history sounds a lot like mine – except I didn’t take a class on Science Fiction. I had to discover it on my own as an adult. Looking forward to reading your books.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Sue! And good for you for discovering SF on your own! There is nothing as fabulous as reading a good book, no matter what the genre.

  • Marcia Berbeza

    I am a school librarian and I can remember having to defend WHY I kept placing series on my shelves as opposed to “quality” literature. A series is a guaranteed good read. It provides certain elements that you can count on. It provides enough diversity to entertain, but the elements that we loved from the first book are retained. With “quality” literature, all bets are off. You can fall in love with a character only to find that they have been killed off, bad things can happen to your favorite character with no end in sight, they end up in desperate circumstances. When you read a Nancy Drew, you knew that good would prevail, no one was going to find Nancy and beat her and then rape her. You were guaranteed a safe read. EVERYONE deserves a safe read. While we may enjoy “quality” literature, sometimes we just want that guaranteed good read that provides comfort. Thanks for providing more safe reads!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Hi Marcia, and what wise words from you. Literature is so subjective. I read literary titles too, but nothing feels as good as a great story of good and hope triumphing and redemption as a possibility. And nothing beats a good read. I love it and you are absolutely right–everyone does deserve a safe read. Thank you for being a school librarian–what a wonderful profession!

      • Marcia Berbeza

        Why thank you very much. But I am a fortunate woman, because I do have a job I love! 🙂

  • Ketta Peters

    Excellent lessons learned, really liked your post. Hearing about your husband’s thoughtful memory brought a smile to my face. I got First, There Is A River last November, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so I’m moving it up my TBR pile!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thank you so much Ketta!

  • leah g

    I love your essay. Thanks for sharing. Its great how things just fall into our lives! and thank you for all the recommendations.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      It’s my pleasure! Thanks for commenting Leah 🙂

  • Brenda E

    Loved what you said about redemption and empowerment, and I totally identify with the Stranger than Fiction choice in titling your life story. LOL. Will be looking for your books.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Brenda!

  • Karin Anderson

    Yay, Nancy! You should read Secrets of the Nile (Nancy Drew & Hardy Boy Supermystery). 😉

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Ooo, that sounds like a good one! Thanks Karin!

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I still remember my first Agatha Christie book, Murder at the Vicarage. I now read more romance than mystery. Books are a great way to unwind.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      True that! My favorite escape:) Thanks Beverly!

  • Glenda

    What a great story of how you got into romance!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Glenda. It was a memory that I hadn’t thought about in years, and when writing this, just poured out. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Patty Vasquez

    I love your point that women can have cool careers in the pages of a romance novel. This is an idea I hadn’t considered before, but stories mirror real life. I’m glad authors explore lots of different jobs for women!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Very true, Patty–stories do mirror real life. In many ways fiction tells us truth:) Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Larena Hubble

    I enjoyed reading that and I agree with the women in romances having some great careers. It is fun to see what they can do and I find it interesting to read.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Larena! I love “experiencing” a new career through a character:) Thanks for stopping by!

  • MooMoo Cake

    The messages you picked up from romance novels are why the genre is so universal. Thanks for participating in this event. I’m definitely adding you to my growing list of authors to find and I look forward to reading the scene you describe with Emma and Gage.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      You are absolutely right; universal is the perfect word and I am thrilled to be part of an event that celebrates romance:) Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

  • BookLady

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on romance. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie books.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      It seems that Agatha and Nancy got a few of us hooked on reading. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Ann Mettert

    Liked your thoughts on romance.

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Ann! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Kim

    Great essay! I loved reading Nancy Drew!

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Kim! Glad to meet another kindred reading-spirit:)

  • Jen C

    Great piece! 🙂

    • Kathy Groft Steffen

      Thanks Jen!