Day 31 Courtney Milan – No More Excuses, I Love Romance

100% Happy to be a Romance Reader – and Writer

I first started reading romances in my mid-twenties. I found the books almost by accident—I was visiting a friend whose mother had a big shelf of romance novels, there was a snowstorm, and I started reading them. the-small

I was instantly hooked. I didn’t want to examine it too much, and so when anyone asked what I thought about them, I gave excuses, not reasons. Romance novels were “mindless,” I told people. They were a good way to turn off my brain for a few hours and just have fun. They were just campy entertainment, and I read them to see why other people would read them.

In other words, I was embarrassed. I practiced all the usual tricks to hide my romance novels. When I bought romances, I would always pick up another book, too–one I could use to cover up the romances on the way to the register.

I don’t know what I was thinking—“Yes,” I might have imagined myself saying, “I definitely want to reread MOBY DICK. Oh, these books underneath? Er, they’re part of a…sociological study.”

Sure. A sociological study where I read the romances faster than the other books—and went back to reread my favorites over and over—while my pile of other books languished. They were “mindless” books, but I’d finish some of them and find myself thinking about them—not the characters, but what the book was saying about family and a woman’s role and what that meant. I thought about why I really loved one book but hated another one. They were “mindless” books, but they quoted Catullus and delved into science.

They were “just for fun,” but during one really, really hard year, they were the only thing that kept me from completely losing my ability to function as a human being. They reminded me that there were good people and normal human tga-areinteraction was something to be prized—that what I was experiencing was abnormal and that it would get better.

In short, it was a sociological study, but it was one of myself, not some “other women” who read romance novels. I stopped asking, “Why do some women read romances?” and started asking, “Why do I care what the guy at the register thinks?”

Maybe he would think that I’m not that smart because I read romances…but I don’t know him, and I don’t really care what he thinks. And even if I did, buying a bunch of books I didn’t want to read was a really stupid way to prove that I was smart. Once I accepted that about myself—that I loved romance novels and that wasn’t going to change—I was 100% happier. I stopped coming up with excuses for reading the books I did, and started coming up with reasons for loving them.

I love romance novels because they are about big things and small things: about politics and life and cancer and war, and about home and hearth and making a perfect cookie, sometimes in the same book. They’re a reminder that not everything important is frontpage news—and, in fact, some of the most important things are details. They’re about the importance of building community.

And—yes—in a weird, meta way, romances taught me to be okay with reading romances. They’re about learning to be honest with yourself, and loving the person you are, not the person other people want you to be.

Recommendations: I’m a huge fan of Ruthie Knox, Cecilia Grant, Zoe ArcherSarah Mayberry, Karina Bliss, and Maisey Yates–and many, many others.


 Questions for Courtney:

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

This is definitely my stuffed dog that I got when I was ten. She’s been through some really rough times, but we have a lot of history together, and sometimes, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, it helps to just put my arms around her and breathe.

But don’t call her ugly. She’s not ugly. She’s very dignified.

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

I would call it “Lucky” because I think I’ve been the beneficiary of some extreme luck.

I don’t know who they would get to play me. I am seriously pop culture deficient and can really only name a few actresses off the top of my head–and none of them will work. I’m not a fan of whitewashing in movies, so if someone has to play me, I hope they get someone who is half-Chinese.

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

My stuffed dog that I got when I was ten. See above.

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?)

There’s a scene in THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR in which my hero and heroine trade hairpins back and forth, and that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

For romance novels in general, in Tessa Dare’s ANY DUCHESS WILL DO there’s a scene at the very end of the novel that just took my breath away. I don’t want to say too much, because I’d spoil it for you, but up until that point I hadn’t known how she would solve the problems she’d made, and she fixed it so beautifully.


 

You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. 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.

Courtney is generously donating one copy of THE DUCHESS WAR to a US reader and one to an International reader (International readers enter here). Winners’ choice of either print or digital. 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 31 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 recommended books, please consider using the links from the site. Every bit helps and I do get a tiny percentage of sales. Thank you for considering it!


courtneyCourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, she’s been a New York Times and a USA Today bestseller, and her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a RITA finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.  You can find Courtney online at  CourtneyMilan.com

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a medium-sized dog, and an attack cat. Before she started writing historical romance, she experimented with various occupations: computer programming, dog-training, scientificating…. But her favorite job is the one she’s now doing full time–writing romance.

Buy Courtney’s Books on Amazon

  • Laurie W G

    Thanks for sharing! I need the HEA to brighten my life!

  • Polly

    I loved that scene in Any Duchess Will Do, and I have thoroughly enjoyed buying and reading your books, both kindle and paperback.

  • Valerie

    Your commentary is interesting, especially as I am guilty of the same behavior, I read all of the time and I’m constantly making excuses to hide my books or am not always as open about what I’m reading calling it “brain candy” thank you for helping me to see A. I’m not the only one and B. It’s okay and healthy to like to read and what’s more not to hide…

  • MK

    What a wonderful essay- thank you for sharing! This month of author essays has absolutely rocked!

  • Kimberly Dacey

    I just recommended The Governess Affair as my feel good quickly book for exactlyt the scene you referenced above. Oh, Hugo….!

  • TrishJ

    And they saved the best for last! I love romance books for the HEA. I love when the h/H meet, when they fall in love, and the journey inbetween. Thanks for all your books. They are everything that is romance.

  • Karin Anderson

    Hehe. I did a similar thing when I started going to RomCon. I would just tell people “It’s a Book Convention.” No more explanation. Everyone knows I read romance, so it wasn’t like it should have been a surprise. We all have our insecurities.

  • Lisa Chinn

    And once you “admit” it, you find out there’s a whole community of smart women who read them, too – and not just on the ‘net. One of the happiest surprises of my work life was finding out another journalist, smart and sophisticated, read these books. We now have our own private book club and are friends for life! I also think the more you read the genre, the more discerning a reader you become. You learn who writes well, who develops character best, etc. I sometimes find myself able to discuss these books better and with more clarity than literary fiction. BTW, Courtney Milan, you are a great writer. Read all your books! Thank you!

  • Britney Adams

    Loved meeting Courtney Milan! Thank you for sharing!

  • Nancy Huddleston

    I’m glad your write and read romances. We all need love.

  • Rosemarie N.

    I love finding new authors to read. Your on my list now thanks.

  • mariannewestrich

    Another author to add to my to-be-read list. This has been a great month. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  • Cheryl Castings

    I have so enjoyed this month of essays that have reinforced my love of romance. Opening each new novel is such a joy for me. Thank you to the authors of romance. You enlighten, inspire, comfort, and gladden my heart.

  • Emily Wheeler

    I can relate to the initial “hiding” of your romance habit, but I also at some point realized I love romance way more than I care about what other people think about that fact. Now I wave my romance fangirl flag high & proud ;). Look forward to reading your books, have one waiting on my kindle at this very moment!

  • Nicole Fortuna

    I read Proof By Seduction a few months ago and I really enjoyed it. I liked Jenny she was a unique character and I liked the fortune telling angle. It was one of the more memorable romances I read so far this year and I look forward to reading more of your books.

  • Glenda

    I absolutely loved the hairpin scene in The Governess Affair!! It was so touching and absolutely set them on a wonderful path for their future!!! I love your books and am very glad you decided not to be embarrassed about reading romance and chose to write it as well!

  • Meredith Richardson

    You’re a new author for me but I’m looking forward to reading your work. One more author for my ever growing TBR list after this amazing month of Romance books 😀

  • Cat C

    I love this essay, just like I love everything you’ve ever published! I’ve definitely taken similar approaches to reading romance novels…I used to be embarrassed about reading so many romance novels, and tried to buy other, more “serious” books to balance them out–now I’ve accepted that they’re what I LOVE to read, they’re pretty much the only things on my e-reader, and I hardly ever buy any books that aren’t romance.

    There’s a slight typo in the giveaway–you’ll be giving away THE DUCHESS WAR, not THE DUCHESS OF WAR. That being said, if you wrote a historical romance with a heroine in the military I would totally read it–though, who am I kidding? I’ll read anything and everything you write. Best of luck with THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY!

  • Laura

    Glad you still have that stuffed dog. : )

  • Kathleen O

    Great essay.. I think your books are excellent.. I am not embarrassed about reading romance. I must admit there was at time, a short time, when I was, but I soon forgot all about being embarrassed when I talked to my very first romance writer Kathleen E Woodiwiss. I gave up going to a wedding, well the church part, to go to a book signing and had my copy of Shanna signed by her.. We talked for a few minutes and after that I thought, so what , let people think what they wanted. Romance writers are some of the best in the world..

  • Pamby50

    I could see a young Nancy Kwan playing you in a movie. Glad you stopped trying to cover up your romance books with other novels. I used to say to people who would roll their eyes at me, “Wouldn’t you like that man to park his shoes under your bed for a night?” Then sigh. Gets them every time. Looking forward to reading a book by you.

  • Evelyn S

    Great essay!! Can’t wait to start reading your books!!

  • Nancy

    When I first started reading romance, around the age of 12 or 13, I was too young to feel shame about what I read. I just loved reading. I would buy piles of historical romances with half-naked men and women in beautiful dresses on the cover and wouldn’t blink as people looked at me askance. Within a year, I became a more socially aware teen who suddenly knew it wasn’t “accepted” to read romance. So I would turn the cover upside down at the register, I wouldn’t make eye contact with the cashier, and I would breathe a sigh of relief once I quickly walked out of the store. Fortunately, my shame didn’t stop me from buying and reading romances and eventually, I became an enlightened college student who remembered that I just love to read romances, no shame necessary. They make me happy.

  • Ann

    I find it sad that so many of us felt the need to hide our love of romance. Yes, I hid it as well, but now I READ ROMANCE!
    Thank you!

  • Patty Vasquez

    First, let me say, I love your books. The hairpin scene in The Governess Affair is special, but I think your style and voice in all of your books is really unique. Secondly, this is my 21st year of teaching school. My co-workers read books about literacy, leadership, and behavior this past summer. Bless their hearts. When the topic of what books did you read during summer break comes up- as it did this past week during teacher workshops- I just smile to myself. I no longer attempt professional reading during “my” time. When asked, I just tell my friends I read countless numbers of romances and happily ever afters and I’m recharged and ready for the new school year. I’m very proud of my choice of genre.

  • jcp

    I can so relate to your essay.

  • Melinda Utendorf

    Great, I can’t wait to read this one!

  • Hi Courtney! Thank you for sharing this great essay. I loved reading it. Isn’t it wonderful to just love reading romance and admit it? 🙂 Your books are on my TBR list.

  • Sue G.

    I have friends who make comments about my choice of reading romance but I don’t care. It’s my happy endings, not theirs. I love my romance and I don’t care who knows it!

  • Azucena Rodriguez

    Sadly, I am grateful for online shopping and ebooks. I really should not care what other people think of what I read. I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for the essay, Courtney 🙂

  • glittergirl54

    I have been following you since I found your books on the shelves at Borders and fell in love with the covers. I am glad you’ve found success going indie and I can now get your books because I invested in a Nook. Your books are intelligent and different and I thank you. Yes romance books are “about the importance of building community.” and finding love along the way of life. Life is an adventure, for some of us more adventure than other. (see that’s why you’re the wordsmith, not me, lol). Best of success and thanks for the giveaway!

  • someproseandcon

    Thanks for recommending some of your favorite authors (I love Knox, Mayberry, and Grant, and am very excited to try some of the others you’ve listed). And even more, thanks for writing “Unclaimed” — it’s one of my favorite romances that plays with the conventions of the romance genre.

  • Kareni

    I’ve enjoyed all of your books, Ms. Milan, and I look forward to more. Many thanks for a wonderful essay!

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    You know, my husband and friends know I read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, so now I really don’t care what anyone thinks about the types of books I read! 😉

  • Janie

    I loved “The Governess Affair.”

  • Marcy Shuler

    I guess I was lucky. Even though I was teased by friends/co-workers for reading romances, I never let it bother me. At least I was reading something…and they weren’t! 😀

  • Mary Zwierzynski Slack

    Courtney, please keep writing. I am glad I found your books after a recommendation on Facebook.

  • Anne

    Thank you for your essay. I have not read any of your books, yet. I will gladly add your name to my “new author to read” list.

  • M Kuxhaus

    You could get Kelly Hu, Kristin Kreuk, or Monica Young to play you. Will they need a stunt double for scenes with your attack cat?

  • Larena Hubble

    I enjoyed reading about how you bought other books to cover the romances. And it is interesting that several people have had to defend themselves for reading romances and the one book someone jumped on my case about was not a romance. I thought the woman had a screw loose but that is another story.

  • Eileen Wetterstrom

    And I am 100% convinced that you add to the genre! Thanks for your lovely essay. Your paragraph that states romance novels are about big things and small things struck a chord of complete agreement with me. Romance, itself, is the trigger that makes many wonderful things happen.

  • Sharlene Wegner

    Your Proof by Seduction was just recommended in a blog today & I plan on picking it up! I don’t get embarrassed about reading romance, but if the cover art has a man’s naked chest, I go to a female cashier! LOL!

  • Barbara E.

    Wonderful essay Courtney, I enjoyed it. I was never taught to disrespect romance books, somehow that all passed me by, so I’ve never been ashamed of my reading material. I discovered romances in my teens by picking up Georgette Heyer at the library and never looked back.

  • Tin

    Your bookstore story reminded me of what my guy friend did for me: I live in a small town and have very little access to paperback romances, so I usually ask friends (or my husband when he is traveling) to get me books.

    The particular book in question was The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville — I don’t know what happened but as he was going to pay for the book, he dropped it and exclaimed out loud: “Oh no! My Wild Marquis!” — he lol-ed when he realized what he had said. We lol-ed when he told us the story. To this day, he and his fiancee still gift me romance novels whenever we visit each other.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Courtney. Like you, I am a proud reader of romance novels. ^_^

  • Melanie Backus

    Thank you for introducing Courtney. I say, “Read what you love and write what you love!” Keep up the good work!!!!!!

  • Mary McCoy

    I love the hairpin scene! Thank you for all your books!

  • Tawnya Bentley

    I think you are the oldest person I’ve heard about getting hooked on Romance. Sorry there was no polite way to type that. I was allowed to start with what my mother referred to as page turners (she won’t read sex scenes) when I was 16. My daughter started asking after Fifty shades of Grey came out when she could start reading the romances I read. Right now she reads the YA romances and etc., I told her 15 for the normal ones I read, as far as erotic, when she can purchase them herself, 18.

  • Jen C

    Yes! “I love romance novels because they are about big things and small things” — When try to explain why I love Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series to people, I find myself telling about the utopia of this small town were everyone helps each other and it’s a great, beautiful place, with really terrible things that happen and deep, gut-wrenching situations and tragedies play out. Yeah, hard to explain. But you did it so nicely. Short and sweet — “big things and small things”. This is my new explanation of why I love romance series. 🙂

  • Anna

    I started reading romances in high school (hiding them under the covers), but have now progressed to being a proud romance reader!

    Also, I loved that hairpin scene!

  • Ann Mettert

    I hope to try your books soonest. 🙂

  • Kim

    I also used to be embarrassed about buying and reading romance. Life is too short to regret and be embarrassed by something that I love.

  • MooMoo Cake

    Romance novels have taught me a lot. About myself and the world I want to live in. I’ve enjoyed your books but haven’t had a chance to read The Duchess War and appreciate the chance to win a copy here. Thanks for the great post!

  • leah g

    I haven’t read your books yet, but they sound pretty fun. I will have to check them out!

  • Brenda E

    Hi Courtney. All I can say after reading your blog, is..hey, been there, done that. Thanks for putting into words how so many of us feel. Will be looking for your books.

  • rebecca moe

    I’ve only read a few of your books so far, but they were absolutely wonderful! The rest are on my TBR list. Both of your recommendations above are spot on, though–I’ve read both yours and Tessa’s books.

    Thanks for posting! I loved your Moby Dick fake rationalization, It sounds like something my brain would have come up with 🙂

  • Joan Varner

    I enjoyed your essay. Thank you. I have a couple of your books on my Kindle and they will now be moved up on my TBR pile to read next.

  • J.J.

    “Proof by Seduction” was your very book I read as I was being lured into the world of romance books. I guess you could say the book was fitting at the time cuz I was ruined… utterly n happily rrrruuined. 😀 :v

  • Katy M

    I’ve loved all the books that you’ve written! Just had to let the fangirl squeel that.
    I think the last paragraph of your essay is wonderfully insightful. I’ve spent almost a decade learning, forgetting and relearning to do those things. Romance has definitely helped me through some rough patches and is a go to when I have a bad day or week or month… So, thank you for writing great romances that I can get lost in and store a little knowledge from at the same time.

  • BookLady

    Thanks for sharing your adventures in reading romance. I love reading romance and never made excuses for enjoying it. I have added your books to my TBR list.

  • Janie McGaugh

    I enjoyed your article. I have The Governess Affair on my TBR “pile”; I’ll need to move it up to check out that scene.

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I really enjoyed the Governess Affair. I can’t wait to read more of your books. I also enjoyed Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare.

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Great post today, Courtney; I could so relate everything you said, including the terrific ending of Tessa’s book!

  • ki pha

    Thanks for a great post. I know how it feels about purchasing a book and not feeling comfortable about showing them. I suppose I still have those insecurities in me, though I still walk high a proud with them to the check out counter. It’s uncomfortable having brows raise from the counter and people in line at the large pile of romance books purchased but, I learned to just smile and smile. And then walk out with my purchase with a relived sigh (aroll of the eyes?) and a deep breath.

  • Thank you so much for sharing not only your thoughts, but your experience too. Beautiful ending line. Thank you for the international part of the contest too!

  • Kim

    Thanks for sharing your essay. I’ve enjoyed reading your books.