Grace Burrowes – Writing for the Joy

August is Read-A-Romance Month.


I hope you’ll visit every day in August to see what 93+ of your favorite authors have to say about the Joy of Romance.

(Check out the calendar. And follow RARM on Facebook!)

Do you love Romance? Let’s celebrate. xo

Once Upon a Joy…

One of the first acronyms I heard as an aspiring romancTremaine final crope author was “the B-B-M.” I have four brothers, and so my mind went to, “The big WHAT?”

I was partly right. The acronym stands for the Big Black Moment and refers to the point in the story when all hope is lost. True love—after 330 pages of struggle, bliss, and more struggle—is left bruised and alone in a deep, muddy ditch. That’s the scene where the reader glowers at the author, figuratively, and says, “This is a romance. You weren’t supposed to let this nasty business happen to two people who have finally, finally earned a happily ever after.”

Because true love must NEVER be left in the stinky old ditch, the reader hangs in there, as do the lovers, and the happily ever after arrives forty pages later despite the odds.   

Many writers say when they can “see” the Big Black Moment, they have the book. They know what goal they’re writing toward, they know how to wrap up the loose hello_450x2ends, they have the book. Nonetheless, it’s a hard scene to write. If I’m going to cry with my characters, this scene is usually the one that gets to me.


Because dealing with loss is one of the secrets to romance, and to a happily ever after. Think about it. Every romance protagonist we love has been handed difficult losses—of innocence, of dignity, of security, of loved ones, of a world that worked well for them. Like us, those characters muddle on as best they can, but their lives are diminished by the loss they’ve endured and the pain it still causes. They do the best they can, usually playing it safe, either by avoiding attachments, controlling as much as they can, or keeping their dreams small.

Then along comes love, in the guise of somebody who can see the hurt, and see how much a life lived in fear of more pain is costing the protagonist. Often, the two (or more) protagonists are dealing with similar wounds, but they’ve each tried a different means of coping with the hurt… and neither one is especially successful. The party girl is lonely, the lone wolf is lonely too. The tireless warrior duke is exhausted, the spunky spinster is so sick of being spunky she’s ready to say a lot of very bad words.

But love has arrived, so into that safe, small, lonely, Scot Ties the Knot DAREtired life, comes a whiff of something intoxicatingly sweet—acceptance. “I see you,” is the subtext of every meet scene. “I truly, truly see you, bad words and all.” So attractive are the people who see us and don’t look away, that intimacy can now come stealing back into a heart that had decided to never permit that folly again.

Courage and love are two sides of the same coin, and as a romance develops, the stakes for keeping the love demand more and more courage, until that miserable big, black moment, when even courage won’t seem to be enough. What’s lost in that moment is every dream, prayer, wish, and memory of a life lived from the heart, and what threatens is not simply the deep, slippery, stinky ditch of a small life, but a darkness all the more profound because now love is jeopardized along with safety.

Who in their right mind would write such hard, hard stories? Who would READ them?

My answer to those questions: Anybody with a heart can fall in love with romance, because tenacity, ingenuity, determination, and resilience—all wheels turned by love and courage—will get the story, and our lives, up out of the impossible ditch. Life at the end of the book won’t be perfect, but it will be filled with love and self-acceptance, and those are the sources of all true joy.

Romance is not about happy people in Happy Land, but courageous people in We Love Each Other Land. What brass ring could possibly shine more joyously than that?

So I write for the joy, and hope you read for it too, because the joy is what matters.

Grace recommends:

Tessa Dare’s Castles Ever After series is built on the premise that each heroine inherits a castle, and a connection with, or complication involving, a hero to go with it. The next title in this series, “When A Scot Ties the Knot,”  has an August 25 publication date, and like the other books in the series makes excellent use of the castle as a metaphor. A castles can be stronghold against all of life’s vicissitudes and keep every enemy at bay, or it can be a prison of our own making, and a gloomy, confining legacy. That an entire series can be unified by a single, complicated symbol is one testament to Tessa Dare’s skill, but then there’s her gorgeous writing, her dear characters, and of course, some sizzle hot enough to melt even a castle’s stone walls. (I loved this book, too, and the series! ~Bobbi)

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy. 

My day job had moved to Texas (literally), and I was left with an infant, a new mortgage (and thus no savings), and a new law practice. Paying the bills was getting dicey, anxiety was my new roommate, and the kid needed to eat. I got word that I’d won a contract to represent children in foster care proceedings—the best kind of lawyering there is—and relative to what I was making, the work paid well. I recall laying down on the banks of a river park in Frederick, MD, the sun’s heat at that perfectly benevolent temperature, and feeling so light I could have levitated with relief. I was one giant, “Thank you.” Never forgot that moment.

Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

My writing chair! A friend gave it to me and set it up for me, and that means as much as how comfy it is.

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

Birdsong at dawn. I live in the country, and sleep with windows and balcony doors open. I love the silvery, cool, happy morning carol of the song birds. There really is nothing to say but “Come on, Morning!” when the birds pipe you into the day.

And for fun, the joy of choice ~

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) – trying for a little diversity! ;o)

Christopher Robin, who knew a lot about love, and the sheer joy of a day in nature with friends. 

Grace is generously giving away an iPad to a US reader, and three signed copies of “Tremaine’s True Love” to international readers.

2011-RWA-GraceBurrowes (2)After decades of reading romance voraciously, Grace Burrowes started writing as an antidote to empty nest. She kept on writing because it’s an antidote to practically every challenge life presents. She has Regency, Georgian, Scottish Victorian, contemporary, and Scottish contemporary titles to her name, and loves to hear from her readers.

Buy Grace’s books:

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