Day 23 Sarah Frantz – Romancing Ourselves

Celebrating Romance, Romancing Self

A month ago, my husband came to me and said that although he was proud of me, he wasn’t in love with the person I’d become.

While I appreciate his honesty and the courage it must have taken to tell me something so difficult, it was nothing I’d ever expected. We were the perfect couple, so much in love after so long. So to find that love just . . . gone . . . was devastating.

We tried to work it out. We tried to find something to save. But a week ago, my husband and I mutually decided our 24 year relationship was over.

Mutually. By then, it was what I wanted, too.

Because a lifetime of reading romance has taught me that I deserve to be loved for who I am, all of who I am. If my partner doesn’t want all of me, if they want to pick and choose the bits of me to love, then that’s not love.

Romance made me the person I am. Every bit of me.

I’ve always been most drawn to books with romance in them (the second and third Anne of Green Gables books, for example), but I started reading actual genre romance when I was twelve. I raced through my mother’s shelf of Mills and Boon, so she introduced me to Georgette Heyer. When I’d finished those, I asked for something else like that, so she gave me Pride and Prejudice. Fifteen years later, she watched me walk across the stage at my Ph.D. hooding ceremony—a Ph.D. I’d attained with a dissertation that had a chapter about the proposal scenes in Jane Austen’s novels.

Romance gave me a career I loved. I was chair of the Romance Area of the Popular Culture Association. I co-edited an academic anthology, New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays. I founded the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. And when that career didn’t fit me anymore, romance gave me another career, this one helping to create romance as Senior Editor of Riptide Publishing, a queer romance press.

But, more importantly, romance taught me how to communicate. Romance taught me how to have sex. Romance taught me that I deserve pleasure and that I have a voice worth listening to. Romance taught me to be true to myself. Romance taught me that love begins with loving yourself. Romance taught me that I’m pansexual, that I’m queer, that I’m polyamorous, that I’m kinky. It taught me to find myself, to be myself, and to be proud of that person.

Romance helped to build the relationship I had with my husband into the strong, lasting thing of joy that it was.

And romance gave me the courage to walk away.

Because I deserve to be with someone who can love all of me.

So, today, I celebrate romance for helping to create the person I am and also for helping me to love and take pride in that person. For teaching me to believe in love, and to believe in me, and for giving me the strength to wait for someone who believes in those things too.

The truth is, when we celebrate romance, we celebrate ourselves. And that’s worth everything.

Recommendations:

Of course, all of Riptide’s authors are wonderful and worth all the recommendations. But in order to avoid conflict of interest or having to pick favorites, I’m going to recommend two authors I adore and don’t work with: Laura Kinsale and K.A. Mitchell. My favorite of Kinsale’s novels are Seize the Fire and For My Lady’s Heart. And her audio books are to die for.

My favorite of K.A.’s novels is No Souvenirs, which I think is one of the most perfectly plotted books ever, and defies expectations every time it turns around. And for those who love hardcore sadomasochistic romance: Anah Crow’s Uneven is stunningly brilliant.


Questions for Sarah:

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

Quit a tenured academic position to edit fiction for a digital startup. When I say it like that, it sounds insane, but I feel like I’ve come home.

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?)

Well, obviously I’m not a writer, I’m an editor. But I came to that three ways: through my academic training – grading 200 composition papers a semester helped there, as did my training as a narratologist (someone who examines how stories are put together); through my reviewing m/m romance and BDSM romance at Dear Author; and through the generosity of my boss willing to take a chance on someone with no formal training as an editor.

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

I’m going to be utterly nerdy here: Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Vol 1. Because I read that my first year of graduate school and immediately wrote a paper using his theory of confession to analyze romance novels. Which ended up being my first published academic paper (after much revision). And it’s that path that led me to where I am today.

Sarah and Riptide Publishing are thrilled to offer five lucky winners one digital copy of any book in our catalog. 


Brown (1024x1280)Sarah Frantz is Senior Editor at Riptide Publishing, a queer romance press. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Michigan and co-edited two academic collections of essays, Women Constructing Men: Female Novelists and Their Male Characters, 1750-2000 (Lexington, 2009) and New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays (McFarland, 2012). She is founder and past president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance and has published academic articles on Jane Austen and on romance authors J.R. Ward, Suzanne Brockmann, and Joey W. Hill. As a fiction editor, she edits across the queer spectrum in all romance subgenres. She can almost always be found procrastinating on twitter: @SarahFrantz

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  • Kathy Nye

    Thank you for sharing. We are all worthy.

  • I am so honored to know you and now, to be edited by you. I admire your mind and your heart. Romance has taught me many of the same things it has taught you. My husband of 20 years loves the person I have become as a result of my passion for reading and writing romance novels, but it is definitely an ongoing, ever-changing dance for all of us. THIS: “Romance taught me that love begins with loving yourself.” (Did I use that comma after ‘now’ correctly in the first sentence?) xxm

    • I’m glad your husband is growing with you. We grew together for 22 years, too, and I wouldn’t give them up for anything. *hugs*

  • Sarah Ficke

    As usual, your words shine a light on the best things about romance. So many detractors say romance gives readers (meaning women) unrealistic expectations, but the good ones don’t because they’re about the difficulties of communication, trust, and intimacy, and how valuable all of those things are. Reading romance isn’t about learning to cling to any romantic relationship; it’s about building the right romantic relationship for yourself. I hope some day more people will come to realize that.

    • Thank you for this. 🙂 Yes, I’ve never felt that romance taught me unrealistic expectations. Precisely the opposite in fact. It taught me to stand up for myself, to demand the best, because I deserve it. And if that’s unrealistic, then oh well, I don’t want to be realistic.

  • jgenao

    wonderful post, sarah.

  • mariannewestrich

    Wow! Such a powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  • Carolyn Crane

    I so love this essay, Sarah!! Romance is about being loved for who you are and the freedom to evolve and grow and find true things inside yourself and be loved and loved and loved. Thanks for this.

    • *loves* You’re welcome. Thank you for reading.

  • AJH

    You’re my hero, Sarah.

  • Anna

    “Romance taught me…that I have a voice worth listening to.” What a profound thought! Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome. I’m glad it resonated with you. 🙂

  • Erin F

    Best of luck to you Sarah. It’s very inspiring to read this. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

  • Sue G.

    Sorry about your marriage ending but at least you two went about it in a grown up way. I have a friend whose husband wasn’t so nice about it. Good luck and enjoy your life fully!

    • Yeah, we’re both trying to stay friends. It’s working so far!

  • Patty Vasquez

    Life is a journey, we tell ourselves and each other. Isn’t it nice that we have great romance novels to keep us company, affirm our choices, and even guide us on the way?

    • Indeed! I don’t know what I would have done without them. Be a completely different person, I suppose…

  • Erica H

    I really enjoyed the honesty of your post. Very very powerful!

  • Hannah B

    Hi Sarah, I really enjoyed your post. I love romance and I buy many many of my books from Riptide Publishing. Love the authors on Riptide. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Yay for Riptide! 🙂 As I said above, I’m so lucky to work there and I’m so so proud of the books we produce. I’m glad you enjoy them! The best compliment.

  • I am so glad you are here at RARM, Sarah, and thank you so much for opening up with this powerful essay. Holding your situation to the light and wishing all good things for you as you move forward. You’re such a great voice for all romance and I am honored to know you and have you here.

  • Martha B

    I was saddened to read the opening paragraphs. I was also humbled by your transparency and willingness to share your news here. I totally agree with your statement…” I deserve to be loved for who I am,all of who I am.” That to me is the core of a romance. Unconditional acceptance AND love for who we are (not who we want to be). Here’s to celebrating the people we ARE!

    • Yes! Thank you for reading. I’ll be okay. 🙂 I hope you have or soon find someone to love you for everything you are. *hugs*

      • Martha B

        Yes I’ve been truly lucky and blessed to be loved for who I was and for who I am. I’ve been married for 34 years. My husband tells people (who want to know our story,) that’s he’s had TWO wives but only one marriage. Seventeen years ago, I had neurosurgery to remove a brain tumor. That’s a long story for another time. The result? The “Martha” I had been died the day of surgery and a “new” Martha emerged. I had months/years of rehab learning to walk, talk, think, and even dress myself! The kindest, most helpful thing he told me was one month after surgery.

        He said, “The Martha I love, is still inside you. Don’t give up…I’m not going anywhere. We’re in this together. We’re in this for the long haul”. I truly believe that his love helped me to heal and recover as well as I have. His love and my faith sustained me.

        • Wow, sounds like you’ve been through a lot. Congratulations on getting through it. And sounds like you’ve got a keeper there. 🙂

  • Marie

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and powerful post. As a frequent reader of Riptide Publishing’s books, I appreciate your team’s dedication to making such excellent material for readers to enjoy. Best wishes for the coming days.

    • Thank you! And yay! for Riptide. I’m so so lucky to be working there.

  • Wendi Rogers

    Thank you, for sharing this part of your journey.

    • And I’ll stress that my husband knew this and came to me as soon as he figured it out, which must have taken a lot of courage. But we both agreed that the authentic and satisfying part were equally as important as honesty.

  • Joan Varner

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing your journey.

  • Pamby50

    You are so right. We deserve to be loved for who we are. I hope that in the future you meet the one person who loves all of you.

    • Thank you. Being polyamorous, I know I’m loved. 🙂 So that’s good.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I enjoyed your post, especially the things you learned from romance. Yes we do deserve to be loved and treated well. Those are not unrealistic, they are common sense.

    • Well, one would hope so. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Thank you for reading.

  • Stephanie Fredrick

    Beautiful description about what makes romance so special. I started reading romance at a young age and it shaped all of my relationships. I never stayed in one long until I found my hubby because I never felt that connection that I had learned from reading.

  • As I said on Twitter, all the hugs, Sarah!

    Romance has taught me a lot about myself, too, and what I want from love. And gave me the courage to speak up to get it, too.

    • Thank you. 🙂 And yes, me too. And that’s always a good thing, right?

  • Courtney Cogswell

    What an open and honest post–not what I was originally expecting but I truly appreciate what you had to say. I believe that reading romance has shaped me into a person who is unwilling to settle for anything less that everything I deserve. Like several of the others who commented below, I refused to settle down until I found someone who loves and accepts me for all that I am. I think romance breeds strong women who know what they deserve and should expect. If your relationship was no longer what you needed or deserved, then you are right to leave it and find someone who loves your for all that you are and will become. What a strong and powerful essay that really made me think about how much courage it takes to be true to yourself. Thank you for your amazing words and I am positive that you will find your someone that you deserve who loves and accepts you as your are and can grow and change with you in the future 🙂

    • Thank you so much for reading. And I’m so glad something I said resonated with you.

  • rebecca moe

    Wow–what a post! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • M Kuxhaus

    I’m so sorry to hear about your marriage.

    • Well, me too. Thank you. 🙂 But…it’ll all work out in the end.

  • Sheila M

    Thank you for sharing what is a painful story but one that shows the beauty of romance and what it teaches.

    • You’re welcome. Thank you so much for reading.

  • Ruth

    “Romance taught me to communicate” – I LOVE that. Romance is such a great genre and your post shows exactly why. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Guest

    What does that mean, “wasn’t in love with the person I’d become.”? Does that mean he’d fallen out of love with you? That there was some specific trait you’d developed that pushed him away? Isn’t “I’m proud of you but…” an huge insult? I don’t understand why you’re sharing this without providing us with context/ clarification. How do you miss that your partner of 24 years has fallen out of love with you?