Day 4: Barbara Delinsky

Accidental Romance

How I discovered romance …

I came at it accidentally.  I never read a bona fide romance novel until I considered writing one.  Seriously.  I grew up on a budget, though books were always allowed.  Were romance novels on my radar screen?  No.  Were they prominently displayed in my local bookstores?  Not then, not now.  Hey, I’m from Boston – which has a gazillion wonderful features, not the least being resilience and grit, as we witnessed in April.  But literary open-mindedness?  Uh, I’ll pass on that.

Suffice it to say that it’s a miracle The Boston Globe even thought to write an article on three women who wrote romance novels.  But I happened to see the piece, and these three women made it sound like this was something I could do with three active young sons at home.  But first, what was a Harlequin novel?  I had to find out.

I went to my library, my local five-and-dime, and yes, the way-back shelves of my local bookstore, and read some forty Harlequin novels over the next two months.  And I loved them!  Reading these took me away from raucous boy sounds and dirty laundry.  I was totally hooked.

Writing about romance gives me the same escape as reading about it.  Why?  For starters, because romance novels are about characters we care for.  As I writer who lives with her characters full-time during the writing of a book, to be stuck with someone I dislike would be disastrous.  And yet, I can’t tell you the number of (non-romance) books I’ve read in the last year in which I didn’t like the characters enough to want to push to the end.  Since a romantic relationship involves two people, we’re bound to like one while the other grows and changes, so that we find ourselves totally on their team at the end.

For another thing, romance novels are filled with hope.  Dreams don’t always come true in real life – and they don’t always in a romance novel either – but something good always comes from the effort.  Even if we don’t end up with a particular guy, we learn more about ourselves and, with that knowledge, find a situation or guy who is far better for us.

For a third, romance novels are healthy.  In a day and age when our kids don’t always see the best role models, the field of romance sets a high bar.  This isn’t to say these novels are pure.  Some of the sex scenes I’ve both read and written are pretty hot.  But in my books, at least, it’s done in the context of love.  This is the lesson I want my kids to see.

I suspect that even if I hadn’t stumbled across that piece in The Boston Globe – even if I hadn’t decided to read my Harlequins and take a shot at writing one – I’d have come to romance another way.  Clearly, given the number of love stories I’ve now written, I’m a romantic at heart.  I like to think that my books have helped readers through rough patches in their own lives, maybe even have inspired them to aim a little higher.

Romance is a dream.  If we don’t dream, we don’t grow.  And whether in real life or my books, growth is what I’m about.

Questions for the Author:

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

Baggies of cat hair.  Chelsea was a medium-hair calico, and the brushes I used on her yielded a treasure of soft stuff.  My plan was to spin it into yarn and knit myself a pair of gloves, but I’ve yet to do it.  Chelsea died three years ago, and there’s something about seeing that hair in the raw that makes me feel like part of her is still here!

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

“Chrysalis.”  Though I’ve always wanted to title a book this, it never quite fit.  But the idea of morphing from one identity to the next does fit my life.  Who to play me?  Me!  I mean, what better way to reinvent myself than that?

What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?

For a birthday not too long ago, my sons and their wives chipped in to buy me a bronze statue of a bird-watcher.  It’s one step removed from a stick figure, but it’s definitely a woman, and she has binoculars at her eyes and is clearly engrossed in the act.  She’s in my backyard, watching birds at my feeder,  Each time I look at her, I think of these grown sons, all in different places now, calling each other to arrange for this gift.

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?)

Definitely Charlotte and Leo, from Sweet Salt Air.  So would you do it in the ocean?

Barbara is generously donating a signed copy of Sea Salt Air as a giveaway (U.S. only, apologies to international 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 midnight EST Aug 5 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Photo credit Kerry Brett

Barbara Delinsky has written over twenty bestselling novels with thirty million copies in print and her work has been translated into  twenty different languages. Barbara’s fiction centers upon everyday families facing not-so-everyday challenges. She is particularly drawn to exploring themes of motherhood, marriage and sibling rivalry.

A lifelong New Englander, Barbara earned a B.A. in Psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in Sociology at Boston College. As a breast cancer survivor who lost her mother to the disease when she was only eight, Barbara compiled the non-fiction book Uplift: Secrets From the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors, a handbook of practical tips and upbeat anecdotes. She donates her proceeds from the sale of this book to her charitable foundation, which funds an ongoing research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.

When she’s not writing, Barbara enjoys knitting, photography, and cats, and she loves to interact with her readers. Please find her at

  • Nancy Huddleston

    Thank you for a new writer to try.

  • Raynelle Nazario

    Loved the ocean scene in Sweet Salt air! So much growth in all of those characters! Leo, I think being the one with the most.

  • Kim Cornwell

    Love meeting new authors! I would love to read Sweet Salt Air

  • Bette Hansen

    just love your books….keep em coming

  • Britney Adams

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful writing!

  • Melanie Backus

    Hope and love, we all need that! Thank you!

  • Ann

    Love “Sweet Salt Air” – the female friendship makes the story!

  • Thanks so much Barbara for being part of this and writing this wonderful essay! I feel so blessed to have such remarkable writers participating, and writing such insightful pieces. And sounds like you raised some winning sons. xoxo

  • Martha Lawton

    I love your writing and your books. I am glad the article in the Boston Globe opened your eyes to romance. Sweet Salt air was great!

    • Thanks, Martha! I hope you get to visit more of RARM’s writers this month. xoxo

      • Martha Lawton

        I am grateful for the opportunity… thanks for everything!

  • Shannon Watson

    I love your books. What a crazy way to start your career without reading one!

    • I know, Shannon! Isn’t that a great story? :o)

  • Patty Vasquez

    I like your statement, “…romance novels are healthy.” Not only are they healthy in terms of role models, but books are based on problems and solutions. Because your books are based on realistic situations, they often provide insights that can be applied to situations an individual might experience in their real lives.

  • Ann Mettert

    Do it in the ocean? You mean ala FROM HERE TO ETERNITY? No way!! All that sand in unmentionable places. 😉

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I love your books and especially your characters! There is nothing I hate more than reading a book and disliking a character so much that it feels like a chore to finish it. I think romance is the genre I enjoy most of all for the exact reason you mentioned… I love living with the characters as they grow and develop throughout the story. Great insights and I can’t wait to read Sea Salt Air!!!

    • The problem I have with too many “literary” books these days. ;o) Thanks, Courtney!

  • Laura Z

    I have enjoyed reading your books over the years, Sweet Salt Air sounds like a good one too.

    • Doesn’t it? Hope I have the chance to read it soon. Thanks, Laura! :o)

  • suepeace

    Very well said!! 🙂

  • MooMoo Cake

    So much of what you said clicks with me. Thank you for sharing and for the chance to win a signed copy of Sweet Salt Air. I’m love romance for the three reasons you listed and hope to get my hands on a copy of Sweet Salt Air so I can read about what they do in the ocean.

  • Donna Logan Brown

    Have read your earlier books and look forward to reading the more recent ones. Lucky for us you had such perseverance in finding romance to read. Your essay is insightful about the writer you are. Glad you are a part of RARM. Sweet Salt Air sounds intriguing.

    • I’m so grateful Barbara wrote this for RARM. Thank you for the comment, Donna! xoxo

  • Jen C

    What a great topic for today! I’m so frustrated today. Last night my SD card messed up and I’ve lost a bunch of information I need. In the midst of this fiasco, I said “Forget it!” and curled up with one of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood stories. Talk about an escape! And I was near the end anyway, so I just finished it up. I really needed that happy ending last night. And I’ll need it again this afternoon when I’m done gathering and re-installing all my lost info. Good thing I have a TBR pile! 🙂

  • rebecca moe

    Very nice post. I’ve always meant to start reading your books…this looks like the perfect excuse!

  • brhill2010

    Very nice post by you. Romance has gotten through a couple break ups and it revives the hope that there is also good in people. Thanks for the post!! I am going to have to check out some of your books!

  • MaryC

    Love your books! I started reading your books when you wrote for Silhouette as Billie Douglas.

  • ki pha

    Hi Barbara!!! OMG I can say I stumbled into Romance accidentally too. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I am sure glad that I came into through your book. I was only 15 and had to read a book for English class and there it was, your book, Twilight Whispers at the store~ How I fell into a world of romance! Thank you Ms. Delinsky, for introducing me into the wonderful world of romance reading. Thank you! 🙂

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Hi Barbara, You’re the one; I blame or thank you for getting me hooked on Romance! I have read every one of your books and have watched your style change and your writing improve over the years and I mean this in the best way possible. We all have to grow in life and watching that growth in your writing is like having a best friend that you can be so proud of because of that growth!

  • TrishJ

    I fell in love with romance books when I had my children. At first I thought this would be something to keep me occupied while feeding my babies. But I was reading every second I had. Romance books are feel good stories. No matter what your mood or circumstance, a good romance book can pick you up.

    • Agreed, Trish. Thank you for the lovely comment. xoxo

  • Ruth

    One of the reasons that romance matters for me, is that the attraction of two main characters is not just consummated, but consummated in love. I admit, I like a steamy scene (or two!), but honestly, I find that boring when it is sex for sex’s sake alone. I want these two people who I have come to care about, who I have become invested in, to be bone deep in love with each other regardless of any outside forces or circumstances. Because, really, that Is what I hope for myself. And for my nieces. And let’s face it, it’s just fun to watch an infamous rake or a calloused spy or an uptight prig be brought low because of love and then be lifted up to be the better man because of that love. Oh! Chelsea’s cat hair in a bag? Thank God! My George Bailey was a source of laughter, steadfastness, and companionship for 16 years. I have some of his beautiful long, orange fur in a baggie…along with his collar and favorite toy, in my nightstand. I think it was really well done of the royals to name a future kind of England after him 🙂 Thanks for all you bring us in your novels, Barbara!

  • leah g

    I love that name for a book. I hope you find a story for it one day. I would totally read it!

  • Dawn Collins

    thanks for having all these interviews. they are interesting.

  • Sue G.

    What a sweet and thoughtful gift from your sons. I like when the kids do that. Mine are 20, 18 and 16 and are just starting to do things like that.

  • Ketta Peters

    Isn’t it funny how something you read can make such an impact on your life? Good for you, I know I’m glad you took action on what your read.

  • Marcy Shuler

    I recently read one of your e-book that had an excerpt from SWEET SALT AIR in the back and I fell in love with it! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.


  • Carla Michelle Peavler Alcorn

    Thanks for the post! Your books are great :o)

  • Jen Ferraro Stepke

    I think you are a wonderful writer. Thank you for the hours of enjoyment your books have given me.

  • Beautiful essay, Barbara! Thank you so much for sharing with us today.

  • Kim

    Great post! Harlequins were my first romances as well!

  • It’s so funny to me when I hear folks who don’t have an open mind complain that romance novels teach women to be victims. That article you read in the Globe–which encouraged you to find time for yourself to read and to write–it’s just one of the examples of how romances and the community they create empower women, not to mention how they also simply help us enjoy our lives more. Thanks for your books!

  • Becky Rabalais

    I too lost my mother to breast cancer. Thank you so much for donating the proceeds from your book to research. Totally enjoy your books!

  • Margaret Hughes

    Cracked up about your description of Boston and the wonder of the Globe writing that article on romance writers when you were just getting started – still amazes me though the stigma that is attached to the entire “romance” genre!

  • Morgan

    Another accidental romance reader! We are sure glad to have you!

  • librarypat

    I found romance books later in life and am enjoying them thoroughly. I have enjoyed your books, and when I worked at the local library, I made sure we had your books on our shelves. I was the only one at the library who admitted to reading romance. They all acted like it was beneath them. Funny thing was they were all reading romantic suspense and didn’t realize (or admit) it was romance. It is frustrating that the genre and its authors still do not get the recognition they deserve.

  • Rhiannon Rowland

    I picked up my first romance about 6 months after my son was born, I had nothing to do for a big part of the day, so reading took over! Will have to pick up Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors, I was just diagnosed with breast cancer in February.

  • Diane Giarrusso

    ooh! A new book for my list! I look forward to reading Sweet Salt Air!

  • Pamby50

    I look forward to reading this book. So many new authors to start reading.

  • Vickie P

    I have been reading and enjoying your books since…well, it’s been a long time!