Day 17 Virginia Kantra – The Journey and The Ways of Love

A Better Version of Reality

Some of my family members want to know when I’m going to write a “real” book. This is one of those well-intentioned carolinaquestions like So, are you seeing anyone special? or Isn’t Johnny potty-trained yet? that generally drive women at family gatherings to the bar.

But I know what those kindly relatives are trying to ask. When am I going to write a novel in which the characters love and strive and despair and are defeated, but ultimately emerge from their crappy experience sadder and wiser? You know, like “real” life. They think I’m wasting my time and that lovely, expensive education my parents provided writing books with couples on the covers and happy endings and (my relatives lower their voices here, in the hushed tones appropriate for funerals and unpleasant topics like illness and alchoholism) sex.

I think my relatives need a better version of reality. Or life. Preferably one that includes sex.

Which is why I celebrate romance.

Romance doesn’t ignore striving or loss. But it is not despairing. Romance is what gives two clueless kids fresh out of college the courage to commit to a lifetime together. Or two adults wounded by experience the hope to love again. Or a long-time couple the patience, the joy, the juice, to endure.

As readers and writers of romance, we choose to believe that we have the power and the right to seek our own happy endings. But we are not only concerned with the destination. We believe in the journey, in the ways of love.

Anne Lamott once said that writing can do for you what having a baby can do. It can soften you up. It can make you pay attention. The same can be said about romance. Romance can wake up your senses and rouse your heart. It can make you kinder, braver, more attentive.

Love can do all those things, of course—love for a parent, a child, a friend. I love writing about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers. But, yes, especially about lovers. Because every relationship is a fresh challenge for me as a writer. Every couple has to negotiate what they want in terms of life and love and sex.

Romance calls us to love the Other, the One Who Is Not Us. Romance invites us to accept the unfamiliar, to choose something outside ourselves. And paradoxically, that choosing can help us to become our best selves. To be the reflection of the beloved in the eyes of the lover—this is romance’s challenge and its heart.

You don’t get more real than that.

Do your friends and family share your reading (or writing) preferences?


I can happily read my way through last year’s entire RARM list. (awww – thanks Virginia! ~ Bobbi)

But I’d have to add Laura Florand (8/14) and Christie Ridgway (8/20).

Questions for the Author:

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

I got married at twenty-two to my college sweetheart. That was daring, since we had no money and no clue what we were doing, and our parents thought we were insane. And the last thirty-six years together have certainly been an adventure!

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

I’ve always been a writer. I wrote fairytales for my younger cousins, plays to perform on a friend’s porch with the other neighborhood kids, poems in high school (very bad poems). I was a college English major. But it wasn’t until my youngest child started kindergarten that I began to write full-time.

3 – Tell us about the (or a) book that changed your life. (Why?)

Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting was the first romance I ever read. I was thirteen—maybe fourteen?—and traveling through Europe with my parents. I absolutely loved it.

Virginia Kantra is generously giving away 5 copies of Carolina Man (entry form below). Domestic only, apologies to international friends.

Virginia KantraVirginia Kantra is the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty-five books of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance. Her deeply emotional stories have won numerous awards, including Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award. CAROLINA MAN, the third in her new Dare Island series, was a March 2014 release. In October, look for CAROLINA BLUES.

Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three mostly adult kids, Virginia lives in North Carolina. She is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.  Visit her online at

Buy Virginia’s Books:

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  • TrishJ

    I LOVE the Carolina series. I love that romance books leave me with a smile on my face. Sometimes the journey has its ups and downs or edge of the seat excitement, but I KNOW in the end, everything will work out. And a hunky hero thrown in makes romance books perfect! 😉

    • Aw…thanks, Trish! And yes, I can go anywhere with the characters as long as I know that happy ending safety net is there.

  • Debbie Oxier

    Love your books.

  • Carrie

    My mom is the one who got me hooked on romance. I was around 14, it was summer, and I needed books to read. She came into my room with a box full of romance novels. I picked up Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s THIS HEART OF MINE and have been reading romances ever since.

    • Oh, that’s lovely! I’m a huge SEP fan. Counting the days until her new one. (Nine. 🙂 )

  • Judy Goodnight

    Reading romances was something that I shared with my mother. She introduced me to the early great romance writers like Mary Stewart. I still remember coming home from college for break one year and her handing me a copy of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss to read. I miss talking about romance authors & books with her.

    • Your post touched my heart, Judy! My mom was not a big romance reader (then), but before I got my driver’s license, she used to drive me out even at nine or ten at night to drugstores and grocery stores to find the old Signet Regency romances.

  • michelle fitzsimons

    Thank you for your essay! Made me laugh–cant wait to “hear” your “voice” as I begin reading your books:-). That is why I do LOVE RARM–every year I am able to find a new favorite! So glad there is such a diverse group out there who are brought together for the love of romance:-)

    • I’m so grateful to Bobbi Dumas for organizing this event and for inviting me to be part of it! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Sara Underhill

    Romances are definitely real books! They celebrate some of the best things in life, which are our close relationships with others. To be honest, some of those “real” books I had to read in college absolutely bored me to tears, so what’s the point in reading them unless I’m being forced? I haven’t read any of your books before, but I enjoyed this essay so I’m going to look for your books at the library!

  • Marcia Boswell-Carney

    Filling your book shelf with Virginia Kantra books is never a waste!

  • cheryl c.

    I love that you wrote fairy tales for your cousins and plays to perform in the neighborhood. It’s great when a child shows imagination and creativity like that.

    • The fairy tales for my cousins started as a way to bribe them to go to bed! And I collaborated on the plays with my sister. I think the first one we performed was based on Eleanor Farjeon’s re-telling of the Cinderella story, The Glass Slipper.

  • Tammy H

    I started out reading those old regencies, too, and I loved them. My Mom told me that if she believed in reincarnation, she’d have thought I came from that time.

    • It’s amazing how many authors I discovered that way and have followed through their careers – Joan Wolf and Mary Balogh, for sure.

  • Stephanie H

    I admit to being super excited about Day 17 because ” Virginia is writing!” Cue the happy dancing. I have enjoyed reading every Virginia Kantra novel ( andI have read them all). Thanks for writing.

  • Kathleen O

    Can’t wait to have to have Carolina Blue’s on my tbr shelf….

    • I’m getting pretty excited myself! I hope you like!

  • Agatha P. Townsend

    Waiting for Carolina Blue.

  • Kim

    Quite a few authors have mentioned always wanting to write. That’s interesting that you started at a young age.

    • I always wrote; but it wasn’t until our youngest child started school full time that I started writing seriously for publication. My first book was published when I was 42. 🙂

  • Mirmie

    I’ll repeat what I tell everyone who hasn’t already read a Virginia Kantra book – she writes believable, strong, heart-touching relationships – whether it be families, “buddies”, or best of all LOVE!! You can’t go wrong with ANY VK story!!

  • alisha woods

    Haven’t read that Mary Stewart book, but have heard of it

    • It’s a wonderful Gothic, with an English governess and a sexy French hero and a child-in-jeopardy. Lovely language, great suspense.

  • Patty Vasquez

    I have no family members who share my love of romance books, and one sister who rolls her eyes when I’m not looking. (But I’m a teacher and I have eyes in the back of my head; I know she’s doing it!) I have a friend at work who likes Jennifer Crusie, but aside from that, I’m on my own, which is why connecting with readers and authors on fb has become important to me. I recently read Carolina Home at the suggestion of Suzanne Brockmann, during her day on RARM. I loved it! I can’t wait to read the rest of the Dare Island books.

    • Thanks, Patty! I’m a huge Suz Brockmann fan – in fact, her Tall, Dark and Dangerous books were one reason I submitted to Silhouette Intimate Moments (Harlequin) when I was first starting out.

  • Sue G.

    I share my love of romance stories with my mom. I think my sister would like them but she has no time to sit and read. My best friend is one of those who think romance novels are “fluff” and not real stories. I try to convince her otherwise, but sadly, I don’t think that will ever happen.

    • Maybe you could ease your friend into romance via hopeful women’s fiction like Diane Chamberlain or Jojo Moyes (I just finished One Plus One, and it was perfect!)

      • Sue G.

        I’ll try suggesting them! Thanks!

  • LSUReader

    I love this post! Romance is one of two book genres I read frequently. The other is mystery/thriller. Why is it so easy for critics to complain about “unrealistic romance novels” when they don’t respond similarly to other genres? I don’t think I’ve ever read a column suggesting the public should stay away from the novels of Lee Child, Robert Crais, Linda Fairstein or Michael Connelly because they result in unrealistic expectations of crime or the justice system. Thanks for the post, Virginia.

    • Thanks for reading and for commenting! I’ve always loved the relationship component in mysteries, starting with Dorothy Sayers.

  • Lynda Hill Schuessler

    My mom and I share a love of romance. I’m a lover of mystery and romantic suspense as well. As Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ says in her tag line – “Because life’s too short to read depressing books.”

  • rebecca moe

    Sadly, no one I know in “real life” shares my reading tastes–though I’m training my daughter to! She’s not quite ready to go beyond closed-door scenes, though. (And that’s not just her mother speaking.–she will actually skip those parts, if they occur in the books she’s reading. I’m sure that won’t last much longer, though!)

    Love your Dare Island series! Can’t wait for book four 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Rebecca! How old is your daughter? Some of my favorite children’s/YA books had strong romantic storylines – like Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Mara, Daughter of the Nile (historical) or Meggin Cabot (contemporary).

      • rebecca moe

        She’s fifteen (I almost said fourteen–I would have been in big trouble then!) She adores Meg Cabot–we went to Baltimore last September just to see her at their book festival! She’s read all her YA, and the Boy series so far. Kristan Higgins is another favorite–not YA, but she cuts her scenes before they get too detailed. 😉 I’ll pass along your other recommendation, though–she loved learning about ancient Egypt in school. Thanks!

  • Debbie Fuller

    All these essays are giving words to use to answer all those who question my reading material. Thank you to adding to my arsenal.

    • I’m finding them pretty inspiring reading myself! 🙂

  • Dixie-Lee Rabbe Campbell

    The personal romance engagement stories are very romantic to read… very original ones that maybe the authors may write some of the ideas into stories of their books. Thanks to all those romantic real life couples in love sharing their stories !

    • I draw maybe a little TOO much inspiration from my own life. I was writing Matt and Allison’s engagement scene in Carolina Girl when I realized he’d just given her the ring that my husband gave me!

  • Emmel

    My daughter has turned out to be a romance reader, and it’s wonderful to see her, a teenager, come to love the same type of books that I do. I started reading romance myself because my much-older sister handed me one when I was a teenager. It was her first “peer” activity with me, and I had to overcome my stereotypical images of romances to find out that I love this genre. So it’s nice to be able to pass my love of romance down to my daughter the way it was passed down to me!

    • That’s lovely, Emmel. My daughter reads romance, too, but usually only the ones I recommend.

  • Sheila M

    Admiring the sad and dismal is a shortcut for people to claim that they are sophisticated and intellectual.

    • I’m not sure when “depressing” began to equal “important,” but I think you’re right.

  • Ellen

    Nine Coaches Waiting is one of the first romances I ever read, too. (It was in our junior high school library.) I think my sister recommended it to me. We still swap books that we enjoy. (Many of them are romances.) Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey, MY older sister gave Nine Coaches Waiting to me. How cool is that?

  • Martha B

    Oh, I sooooo glad that you’ve ignored your well meaning (?) relatives and do NOT write books that meet their expectations. I have pre-ordered Carolina Man; I wish it came sooner!

    Backing up, my father-in-law has a classic line I’ve borrowed time and again. “Why would I pay to read someone else’s misery?” I whole-heartedly agree.

    • Thanks so much, Martha! I can’t wait for release day, either. Which, given that it’s still a month and a half away, is probably not good. 🙂

  • Marcy Shuler

    My family doesn’t read romance. My local friends don’t either and have given me the title ‘smut queen.’ LOL I’ll take it. I read for my own happiness, not for them.

  • Joan Varner

    I have 3 best friends, one is not a reader at all, one only reads mysteries or suspense but my 3rd friend reads romance just like me. We have successfully ignored the other 2 when it comes to recommendations. LOL! Thank you.

  • Marcy Cordova

    Not many people in my life are readers, and most that are don’t read romance. That’s why I love Facebook though…I can connect with my favorite authors and other fans. 🙂

    • Absolutely! Love Facebook…although it’s getting harder to get some of my friends’ posts!

  • Glenda

    My immediate family and most of my good friends a voracious readers. However, my kids refer to romances as Mommy porn at times — though my daughter will borrow books on occasion. Some of my friends to admit to reading romances but I have a couple who only read ‘serious novels’. -.- That’s OK. I’ve made lots on online friends thanks to romance blogs. 🙂

    • Maybe you can break them in gently with romances that aren’t packaged as romance, with Jenny Crusie or Marion Keyes. 🙂

  • Quinn Fforde

    No, I seem to be surrounded by sci-fi men. I am educating them about my choices, however. Everyone needs love and romance! Good post!

  • Congratulations, Virginia. My husband and I celebrated 34 years this year. We married even younger. I was 18, barely. Not pregnant. And my parents were not thrilled even though they liked him.
    We were just so young. And only now, do we really realize how lucky we are and how stupid and naïve we were back then. haha
    Thank goodness.

    • Oh, I know! I look at our kids and think, We couldn’t possibly have been THAT young. Except, you know, we were!

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I recently took out a young adult book from the library. I hadn’t read it, but I had read other romances from the author. I encouraged my teenager to read it. She said it was OK, but she could tell it was one of “my” books, because it had a happy ending. I asked her what was wrong with that?

  • mariannewestrich

    I love reading romance (especially the steamy sex) and no, my family does not enjoy what I read or understand it. They whisper about me and my books, too! 😎

    • Silly them. They don’t know what they’re missing!

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Many of my friends and family are readers, and actually quite a few read romance as well. My mom and aunt both read a lot and I remember borrowing books from them as an adolescent, especially romances. And there began my lifelong affair with romance novels. I occasionally dip into other genres, but I still like those to include at least a small amount of romance. I’m addicted to the happy ending and feel extremely frustrated when I don’t get it. I’m not sure how I haven’t read your books yet since I am also a fellow North Carolinian…but they are immediately being added to my to be read list! Thanks for your great essay and I can’t wait to get started on your books 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    Most of my family reads books in their spare time. My mom and I used to trade paperbacks when I would see her. Now she is in Canada and it makes it more difficult. My sister and I enjoy a certain author and most of the time I will order the hardback, read it and then send it to her to add to her collection. Our dad also likes the same author and it leads to interesting discussions at the Thanksgiving table. I love your Dare Island Series and look forward to Carolina Blues in Oct.

    • Thanks so much, Stephanie! I adore writing this series, and Jack Rossi is one of my favorite heroes.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Carly Phillips made the same statement about being asked when she would write a “real” book around the time Fifty Shades came out. She couldn’t believe her relatives would read/appreciate that book but not hers. Growing up I was often disciplined for reading too much. I never let it stop me!! I am still as avid a read now as I was as a child. Now many, many years later, my 84 year old mom is always found with her nose in a book. She’s like I was back then. LOL – life can sure be funny sometimes. I love reading romance! It’s not the only genre I read, just my favorite. Keep writing Virginia!!

  • M Kuxhaus

    I’m the reader in my family. My sister, mom, and dad are all missing out. Luckily, my brother-in-law and nephews love to read.

  • Kortney

    My oldest sister and I share reading styles. We both love romance books and we share similar authors that we love to read.

  • Wendi Rogers

    I am the only one in the family who reads Romance or Science Fiction. I very much appreciate the second paragraph.

  • Pamby50

    No one in my family understands why I read romance & that is ok. I am so glad you keep writing.

  • Terri C

    If I read a book and there isn’t a happy ending it was a waste of my time. Thanks for happy endings!

  • Brianne Sherwood Wolman

    I totally agree on the power of happy endings – people can be challenged by life on the way to the ending, but I want them to be happy – gives a lot of hope for real life.

  • flchen1

    Virginia, I’ve loved your books since your category titles–thanks for sharing about your journey!