Day 1 Stephanie Hyacinth – Celebrating HEAs Everyday

Hi friends, Bobbi here – To kick off RARM, I decided to include a “token romance reader” on the first day. Since last year’s RARM, I’ve become friends with a number of women who share my love of romance novels, yet Stephanie is so eloquently passionate about them that I decided to ask her to participate. I hope you appreciate her essay – and her unapologetic love of the genre – as much as I do. Remember, there would be no romance industry if no one bought the books. Writers write great stories, but if the readers don’t buy them, then there’s no romance genre. (And possibly no publishing industry, since it’s the romances that keep the industry afloat. Brava, romance!)

Celebrate Romance with a Professional Romance Fan

Reading romance and being a Professional Romance Fan (aka Pro Ro) for decades, I take a journey to happy ever after shyacinth w: booksevery time I pick up a romance novel. I want to read romance every day. You don’t want to talk to me on the days that I’ve been unable to read a romance novel. I’ve missed my subway stop, I’ve been late for work, I’ve dropped a cucumber slice on a page (so sorry Vishous!), I’ve laughed out loud, and I’ve not realized I was crying until the tears fell into my ear and then my pillow. I am an unapologetic  romance reader and a romance fan. There are no stealth book covers for my romance novels. There’s no need for me to defend anything. Romance writers and readers are a powerful force for good. We are team Happy Ever After!

I am not a writer; except for when it comes to writing thank you notes to authors I adore – and before the wonders of technology and social media, that’s what I did. I penned “love letters” to favorite authors; and they wrote me back! Now as a Professional Romance Fan and through the power of the Internet – I get to share my love and thanks with passion and immediacy. Though I admit to still sending thank you notes and letters to authors, and for one specific author, flowers (you know who you are).

Reading romance allows me to see into the lives of others without taking planes, trains, or automobiles – without Scotty beaming me aboard (though it would be so much fun if he could beam me to the Enterprise!). I may never live in Virgin River or on Dare Island, or be part of a family of Navy SEAL warriors in Coronado or Little Creek – but reading romance allows me to take those journeys. Where better than romance to learn about families of the heart, community, violence against men, women and children, heroism and terrorism, hatred and prejudice, hope and faith? Romance authors break down barriers and teach us life lessons with subtlety, humor, imagination, and powerful words. Romance authors ensure that no matter how hard the journey, the happy ever after is worth it.

I can read stories with very different, vibrant characters – all with the ability to grab my head and heart and keep me captivated until the very last page – be it Wrath (JR Ward), Lila Emerson (Nora Roberts), Jules Cassidy (Suzanne Brockmann), Lily Yu (Eileen Wilks), Ramsey Westmoreland (Brenda Jackson), Grayson Clark (Catherine Mann), Nola Landry (Sharon Sala), Tom Barlow (Kristan Higgins), or Luke Fletcher (Virginia Kantra). And the best part is it’s not up to me how authors tell their stories; and it’s not up to me how authors decide how the story turns out; it’s up to the writers. I’m along for the ride unconditionally. Write on!

Being a non-stop romance reader means my best choices are what books to buy and then figuring out how many stories I can read at one time. I’m up to four books. My To-Be-Read pile is a constant work in progress, and at this point, is more of a mountain than a pile. Being a Professional Romance Fan means that I get to constantly, profusely, and happily say thank you to every author I’ve ever read – for writing the books of their hearts and sharing them with me. In the beautiful and ever-changing world of romance, there’s a book for every reader and new stories to be told – and I am beyond lucky that I get to read them every day.

Recommendations

I think we’ve established that I’ve been reading romance for a very long time. I have what I call auto-buy authors – and that list is really, really long, and it starts with Suzanne Brockmann. In fact, if not for Suz I would have never met some of my truest romance reader-friends. Suz has launched a thousand friendships through her wonderful stories and her dedication to bringing people together. Please tell me you’ve read the first book in her latest, Reluctant Heroes series, called Do or Die – it’s great. Plus Suz takes the YA plunge with her daughter Melanie Brockmann Gaffney; they have co-authored a book coming out this fall called Night Sky. I can’t wait!

A couple of years ago, I attended a New Jersey Romance Writers conference and picked up a free book by new-to-me author Laura Kaye called Forever Freed. After that book, I started searching for all her wonderful stories – and now I’m reading her newest series the Hard Ink novels, and I love them! Another author I’m really enjoying is Rebecca Zanetti – I especially love her Sin Series featuring the Dean (the gray boys) Brothers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t toss out a running list of my must-reads including anything by: Virginia Kantra, Catherine Mann, Sharon Sala/Dinah McCall, Jesse Hayworth/Jessica Andersen, JR Ward, Nalini Singh, Rachel Lee, RaeAnne Thayne, Lindsay McKenna, Cindy Gerard, Robyn Carr, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Ruth Ryan Langan, Marjorie Liu, Jill Shalvis, Eileen Wilks, Eileen Dreyer, Anne Stuart, Jeannie Lin, and Kristan Higgins. What can I tell you – the list is long!


Questions for Stephanie

1. Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

For some it may come as a surprise, but I am shy. The most daring thing I do is I try to be less shy. For me, the best way to be less shy is to smile a little more and breathe deeply.

2. Tell us about your journey to becoming a romance reader. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I have always been a reader. My grandmother Maria was a reader and when I was a child, she would tell me and my brothers, “If you’re bored, go read a book.” And if and when we professed boredom, she would make us read the dictionary! We had a huge dictionary that rested on its very own desk and came with a magnifying glass. We were never bored. She was the first person to take me to the library and help me apply for my first library card. She read everything and did so in two languages (Spanish and English). When I was 11 years old, she sat me down in her rocking chair and gave me my very first romance novel – a Harlequin Historical. I’ve been reading romance ever since. Thanks granny!

3. Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

When people think of a summer read it’s usually a frothy, fun, beach read. When I think of a summer read, I always pick a deeper, dark, disturbing, and yet hopeful story. In fact, I’ve been picking one “dark” book every summer for about the last 25 years. One summer I chose a book by Lawrence Thornton called Imagining Argentina. It’s a harrowing story of fiction that takes place during the late 1970s when thousands of Argentinians disappeared without a trace to certain death in the torture chambers of the ruling military. The main character, Carlos Rueda’s wife becomes one of the “disappeared” and when this happens he starts having these waking dreams of what has happened to others – yet he is unable to figure out what has become of his wife. His dreams are magical and intense. The writing is crystal clear and quite extraordinary. There is unbelievable cruelty and tremendous courage. Hope endures.

The reason Imagining Argentina is so life-changing for me is that I remember watching on television, the actual mothers of the disappeared, all dressed in white, fearlessly protesting their missing family members in Argentina and Chile – and I tried to imagine such courage. When I read the book, I felt empowered to think about what I would do about injustice especially when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. It brought to mind the idea that everyday people can do extraordinary things. Though I’ve never read the story again – I don’t think I could — its power is ever with me.

Professional Romance Fan Stephanie is generously  donating (1) $10 Amazon Gift E-Card for the winner – and (1) $10 Amazon Gift E-Card for the winner’s friend, domestic only with apologies to international friends.

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Stephanie Hyacinth ProfRomFan PhotoStephanie  Hyacinth is a fundraising professional by day and a Professional Romance Fan 24/7! She is a Vassar alumna. She likes her drinks bubbly. She finds pleasure in shoveling snow, though last winter tested her. She’s a sucker for good cashmere, dogs, pretty jewelry, pens and paper, and funny kids. She is a Star Trek fan and a comic book lover (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D/Sleepy Hollow/Firefly fans unite!), and adores kung-fu and well-made action movies. She is a loyal friend – and  you want be part of her tribe. She dances every day.