Karen White – Romance, A Joy to Aspire To

It’s Read-A-Romance Month.


Visit every day in August to see what 93+ of your favorite authors have to say about The Joy of Romance. Do you love Romance? Let’s celebrate. xo

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Living the Romance

I’ve been married for twenty-seven years to the older brother of my high school BFF, Claire.  It wasn’t love at first sight.  I met him for the first time when Claire and I brought him breakfast where he’d slept overnight in line to get tickets for the Wimbledon finals (our families were living in London at the time).  The next time he saw me, I was lip-syncing to Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights in his parents’ living room and I’d just hit the wall after a miscalculated dance move.  Romance was definitely not in the air.

For the next six years while I finished high school and all through college, I would see Tim on my frequent visits to see Claire.  I was the annoying friend of his little sister, and he was the cute older brother whose snarky remarks were aimed at me.  One memorable parting shot I delivered (and later memorialized in my book The Beach Trees) was, “I hope your balls fall off on your wedding night.”

Not an auspicious beginning for a romance.  And certainly, as a lifelong romance novel reader, not what I imagined my finding “the one” would be like.  Where was the angst?  The drama?  The mystery?  Wasn’t I supposed to rush across a rainy moor in a dark cape in fear of my life before being swept up on horseback by my hero?  Tim’s allergic to horses so that was never a possibility, but still

I discovered the joy of reading romances when I was in middle school.  My father’s job white sound of glassmoved us to London and I took the Underground to school each day, passing a small bookstore on the way.  Before then, I’d been a Nancy Drew and Judy Blume reader.  Until I discovered Victoria Holt’s gothic romance Lord of the Far Island in that little bookstore and I was hooked for life.  In short order, I read all the Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr. Then it was onto the rich romantic sagas of Susan Howatch and Taylor Caldwell.  Which of course segued into the spicy romances of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers.  Gone with the Wind was discovered for the first time on the Bakerloo line between Regents Park and St. Johns Wood tube stations.

I lived vicariously through these characters, happy to escape my prepubescent life. Having a zero to none chance at my own romance, I lived the romances in my books.  It is through those words on the pages that I learned everything I needed to know about love and romance (and sex—thank you Ms. Woodiwiss and Ms. Rogers).

Those books taught me that the joy of romantic love was something to aspire to, somethinghouse-on-tradd-street that was hard to surpass.  Something that was available to everyone if they were patient enough to wait for it.  That was no small thing for a pimply, braces-wearing nerdy girl of thirteen to believe in.

Over the years I had crushes, and even a few boyfriends.  I certainly had feelings for those boys, but not the kind of joy that turns your heart to butter and sucks the air from your lungs.  The kind of romantic joy I’d read about.  If I’d read it, it must be true, right?

And then the Christmas of my senior year in college I visited Claire en route to my parents’ and Tim was there.  It was the same repartee, the same disdainful glances.  But there was something else, too.  Something that made my fingers tingle and my heart race.  Then the day came when I was putting on lipstick in the car while Tim drove and he swerved all over the road on purpose.  That’s when I knew right that he was “the one.”  As luck would have it, he was of like mind.

Maybe not the stuff of my old romance novels, but a love story none-the-less.  My joy of discovery had a much different storyline than anything concocted by the venerable Ms. Holt, but it was my story.   The journey was different, but my characters and I all managed to reach the same destination:  a happy ending.

And, for those who might be wondering, Tim reached his wedding night with all appendages intact, for which our two children are eternally grateful.

Karen recommends:

It would be too obvious to list Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams because I ADORE their books and own every single book they’ve written.   I was actually a stalker fan before I met them as fellow authors and friends.  I’m actually surprised that they agreed to work with me on THE FORGOTTEN ROOM. 🙂

I am equally obsessed with Mary Balogh ( marybalogh.com ).  I have had to search far and grand central 1wide so that I can brag that I own her complete body of work–including out of print editions (I’m REALLY not a stalker fan.  Really).  I have a weakness for Regency romances, but Mary Balogh is in a league of her own.  Her characters are so beautifully drawn, her story lines unique and un-put-downable.  But it’s mostly her writing.  She is a true wordsmith.  When I’m on deadline, I love to have one of her latest books to read before I sit down to write.  It’s like oiling the cogs in my brain.  I love everything she’s written, but especially loved her “Simply” series.  I’m currently reading ONLY ENCHANTING (part of her Survivor’s series) and it’s nothing short of exquisite.
Bobbi here: I told Karen that as part of her post I would recommend an anthology she was part of, and which is a perfect book to mention today, August 14,  the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. (Depending on the time zone, it was either the 14th or the 15th when Japan surrendered.) Grand Central is an anthology published last year which touched on both the 100th anniversary of the great Manhattan train station and the end of WWII. I wrote a bit about the book and other WWII-based stories in a Kirkus post I did in June and I was pleased that author Erika Robuck  (erikarobuck.com) did a secondary post for RARM. Thanks Erika! Be sure to read her lovely tribute to romance novels (here).

Questions for the Author:

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

It was the day after my final exams my senior year in college.  I was obviously ecstatic to have four hard years successfully behind me, and an exciting job lined up in Washington, DC starting in August.  The time between would be spent in Europe where my parents were living, and I had a couple of days to do absolutely nothing between exams and packing up my apartment.  I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt so relieved and light-hearted, so full of hope and joy.  One of my best friends from business school, John Reich, called me up and asked if I wanted to go dancing.  John was a finance major (I was marketing) and we collaborated on many group projects.  He was gorgeous, played on the university baseball team, and we had the same 12-year-old-boy sense of humor.  We never dated (why? I still ask myself) but we always had fun together.  He picked me up in his grandmother’s circa 1970 convertible Cadillac and we went cruising the streets of New Orleans for a while before picking a teeny-bopper nightspot and dancing like fools.  John and I fell out of touch after graduation, but I know he lives in Florida now with his wife and two daughters.  But I still remember that completely joyful day, and John, and that beautiful white car with red leather seats. So much, in fact, that the Cadillac will appear in my 2016 release Flight Patterns.

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

My “happy place”, hands-down, is my beach house in the Florida panhandle.  I go there for a month at a time, and always on deadline.  The wide front porch gives shade while offering gulf breezes, and is the perfect hang out spot for me, my characters, my laptop, and my dog, Quincy (soon to be joined by his baby sister, Sophie).  Although it’s my work space, there’s something so warm and wonderful about being near the pristine white sand beaches and salt air that really stirs this writer’s well.  It also helps that no family members are allowed to join me while I’m on deadline—and they’re happy to accommodate.  Ask any writer if there’s any glamour or social niceties in a writer’s repertoire when she’s on deadline and you’ll understand why my family gives me a wide berth during those weeks!

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.
I come from a long line of piano players, and my mother was a piano major in college.  My grandmother had a beautiful upright piano in her living room, one with yellowed ivory keys, and I remember her playing on it and singing along to the classic forties-era standards. We moved around so much because of my father’s job so my mother’s piano was a Chickering upright and when she wasn’t taking care of us four kids, she’d sit down and play one of her favorites like The Warsaw Concerto or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  I always think of her when I hear these two pieces.  I’ve played piano since I was five (although since I’ve started writing, I’m woefully out of practice), and my daughter started when she was five.  If I’m in a mall or restaurant and a piano is playing, I always pause to listen.  There’s something about piano music that always makes me nostalgic, bringing back happy memories from my childhood.
What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

I read Time at the Top when I was in fifth or sixth grade.  Those weren’t happy years for me.  I was the new kid in town and didn’t have a lot of friends.  I was also in the middle of my “awkward” years which included bad hair and braces.   Books became my refuge and I’d immerse myself in them to escape my loneliness.  That’s when I discovered Time at the Top.  It was about a lonely girl about my age who lived in New York City with her widower father.  And then one day she pushes a button on an elevator and was taken back in time and into a new life.  That book changed me because it taught me about possibilities, and how all tough times are transitory.  I shared that book with my daughter when she was in middle school, and she treasures it as much as I have.  And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my first published novel was a time-travel.

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)

I’m still in love with Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)–who can forget how dashing he looked in his uniform?  But Chris Hemsworth would be my Chris of choice today.

Karen is generously giving away five copies of one of her titles to US readers.


GreenShirtCropAfter playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, Karen White knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O’Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first book. In the Shadow of the Moon was published in August, 2000.  Her books have since been nominated for numerous national contests including the SIBA (Southeastern Booksellers Alliance) Fiction Book of the Year, and has twice won the National Readers’ Choice Award.

Karen is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Her nineteenth novel, The Sound of Glass, was published in May 2015 by New American Library, a division of PenguinRandomHouse Publishing Group.

Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and a two spoiled Havanese dogs.

Find her online:

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