Tessa Dare – It’s Not Just the Sweetness

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

ReadARomanceMonth.com   |   RARM 2015 Calendar    |    RARM on Facebook

The Triumph of Romance

Let’s take a moment to think about some delicious things, shall we?salted_caramels

  • Sea-salt caramels
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Ripe melon with chili powder
  • Chocolate-dipped almonds
  • Sliced nectarines with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar (try it!)


Are you still here with me, or have you run to the refrigerator/grocery store? ☺ Believe it or not, I didn’t list those foods just to make you drool on your keyboards, but because they illustrate—to me—an essential feature of romance.

It’s not just about the sweetness.

People often categorize romances as “feel-good books”—and they are! But for many who 23587120don’t read the genre, it’s easy to overlook the fact that romances evoke a lot of emotions other than happiness. There’s joy, to be sure. But the recipe for a memorable romance novel isn’t complete without a healthy amount of bitterness, pain, anguish, loss, guilt, or fear thrown in.  Just like the addition of salt, citrus, chili, or vinegar can make a fruit or candy even sweeter to the taste, the struggles our characters go through make their eventual happy ending that much more powerful.

The joy of romance isn’t about easy, unearned bliss. It’s about triumph. It’s about overcoming obstacles. It’s about fighting for love while saving the jewels/orphans/universe. 

Books about characters with perfect lives wouldn’t be “feel-good books.” Not for me, anyway. I come back to romance again and again for the joy of watching characters conquer the odds and reaffirm something we all understand: That the salt, bitter, and sour of life are essential to savoring the sweetness.

(And seriously, try the nectarines with balsamic and brown sugar. It’s amazing!)

Tessa recommends:

First, I’ve been recommending Alyssa Cole to anyone who’ll listen. My introduction to her work was the novella “Let it Shine” in the anthology The Brightest Day. It’s the story of an African-American college student and a Jewish boxer who were childhood friends and sign up to become Freedom Riders during the civil rights protests of the early 1960s.  Then I moved on to Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight—a novella with a romance between an African woman in King James’ court and the Highland laird who pursues her with unshakeable determination.  Cole’s writing is just fantastic. She has a way of bringing “the feels” in force, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Second, Regency romance lovers should keep their eyes open for Eva Leigh, debuting late September from Avon Books. Eva Leigh is a pseudonym for the author you may already know as Zoe Archer. Her new series, Wicked Quills of London, kicks off with Forever Your Earl, a romance between a female scandal-sheet publisher and the earl who offers her unprecedented access into the life of a rake…so long as she stops digging into certain rumors surrounding his troubled friend. The romance is both smart and sexy, and the banter has a His Girl Friday feel that I adored.

Questions for the Author:

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

“Surprised by joy” was how author C.S. Lewis described his religious conversion, and I think that phrase strikes me as an apt description of the emotion “joy.” The purest joy always comes as a surprise. Wedding days, childbirth, and so forth—these are joyous occasions, but they also have so much relief, work, and anticipation tied in with them that half the pleasure comes from it just being over.

One of the moments when I was surprised by joy was when I met my now-husband for the second time. We’d been introduced some six months earlier, in an entirely different context and country, so we weren’t unacquainted. But on our second meeting, we hugged in greeting—and it was the best hug I’ve ever had. When we discussed it much later, we agreed we’d both experienced the same thing—we embraced out of casual greeting, and suddenly neither one of us wanted to let go. It was a feeling of pure joy.  Love at second sight, I guess! Two months later, we were engaged.

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

The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA is one of my favorite places on earth. It has so many of the things I love most: rare books, beautiful art, and lovely gardens. I’ve spent many a joyful afternoon there with my children, their grandparents, and friends. It’s my happy place.

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

My favorite sound in the world is the sound of my son laughing while he watches America’s Funniest Home Videos. He loves that show, and he will laugh so hard, for so long. It is the most purely joyful sound I know. That show is also the reason I will never, ever purchase a trampoline.

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 was a little late to the party that is Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair, but when I read it, it just blew me away. The characters were so complex and compelling, and the emotions just ripped me apart. It was one of those books that had me racing through pages to get to the happy ending, but then forcing myself to slow down so I could savor every sublime page of Dev’s prose. I just loved it.

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)

Oh gosh. I want all of the above! I’m torn. Chris Rock is hilarious, and Top Five was one of the best movies I saw last year. Chris Evans is just dreamy. He’s Captain America! Enough said. But if I must choose, I think I’m going to have to ride the wave that is Chris Pratt. He has it all – good looks, roguish charm, a genuinely warm personality, and those forearms. Rrwar.

Tessa is generously giving away a signed copy of WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT to one U.S. and one international reader.

tessaTessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirteen historical
romance novels and four novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award and multiple RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards.  Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and two cosmic kitties.

Buy Tessa’s books:

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  • Aleen D

    So I took a moment and thought of those delicious things…and now I’m hungry! I could sure go for some lemon meringue pie right now!

    • Tessa

      Oooh, me too! Thanks, Aleen.

  • alisha woods

    chris pine and salted caramel

  • Make Kay

    Your books are always so fun and make me smile and laugh. I’m so glad you write romances!

    • Tessa

      Thank you, Make Kay! It really is the best job.

  • Sonali Dev

    You’re so right, Tessa! We’re not just about the sweetness, just because sweetness is our signature note. Romance is so much more. And thank you! You know this quote is going on my website, my FB page, just everywhere 🙂

    • :o)

    • Tessa

      I’d be honored! I can’t wait for your new book to come out.

  • Kareni

    Congratulations on being featured on the 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances list! Your comment about your second meeting with your now husband being in a different country has now piqued my interest. (Perhaps you should write a book ….) I’ve read and enjoyed many of your books, so thanks for giving me that joy. And now I want to try those nectarines!

    • Tessa

      I was so honored to be on the NPR list!

      As for my husband and I… well, the story is complicated geographically, but our courtship was pretty simple. 🙂

  • Linda Henderson

    I will say, those sea salt caramels look delicious. I agree about the sweetness. If a romance story was all sweetness it would bore me pretty fast. I like to feel all kinds of emotions when I’m reading a story. Happy, sad, mad, joyful and satisfaction at a happy ending.

    • Tessa

      So true. Unrelenting sweetness in a book can be just as cloying as it is in food.

  • catslady

    I’ve just discovered your books and have really enjoyed your stories!

    • Tessa

      Thanks so much, catslady!

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    Salted caramel, yum!! I do think reading about a couple and all their ups in downs does allow you to savor the HEA more.

    • Tessa

      I agree, Melissa! Well said.

  • Heather Doyle

    Love your books

    • Tessa

      Thank you, Heather!

  • Karen Mikusak

    I haven’t read any of your books yet, but I would love to win.

    • Oh Karen – what a great amount of joy you have in front of you! xo

  • Beth K. Vogt

    I love that a hug brought you and your husband together … 🙂

    • Tessa

      Me too, Beth!

  • “It’s about fighting for love while saving the jewels/orphans/universe”: fantastic! Thank you so much for the beautiful post and for the giveaway, but most of all for the amazing series Spindle Cove that is my favorite historical romance ever!

    • Tessa

      What high praise! Thanks so much, Marinella!

  • LSUReader

    Love at second sight–what a great story about you and your hubby. I always look forward to your books, Tessa.

    • Tessa

      Thanks so much, LSUReader. Every couple has a story – that’s what I love about romance. 🙂

  • jcp smith

    I’ve been meaning to read your books:)

  • Christyna

    “The joy of romance isn’t about easy, unearned bliss. It’s about triumph. It’s about overcoming obstacles.” Yes, yes, YES!! Perfect description!

  • Marissa Yip-Young

    Chocolate-dipped almonds

  • LaurieL

    I also love the story about the hug! It is so true about the ups and downs. Sometimes the trials a couple brings them through does make the HEA all the sweeter, or a relationship stronger.

    • Tessa

      Well put, Laurie!

  • mariannewestrich

    You had me at sea-salt caramels! 😎

  • Debbie Fuller

    Thank you for sharing and posting here. I agree with you.

  • Tessa

    Thanks, Bobbi, for inviting me to be part of RARM again! And thanks to all of you who have dropped by and shared the post.

  • Quinn Fforde

    I love your hug story! Thanks for the recs, too.

  • Kristan Higgins

    Love your books, Tessa! And I love caramels. I feel like we were meant to be together, somehow…

    • Tessa

      What a lovely thought, Kristan! I will bring caramels…

  • Julie Ford

    I love your books Tessa, thank you for sharing your talent.

  • Sheryl N

    I have to say that Tessa is a must read for me. I have loved all her books

  • cheryl c.

    Your sweet story about “love at second sight” with your husband made me smile!

  • Joanna Moreno

    Ripe melon with chili powder? heck yeah! Chocolate-dipped almonds? absolutely! Now I have to try the sliced nectarines with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar!

    And I agree with all my heart with you about the joy of romance isn’t about easy and more about overcoming what may come. HEA above all!

    • Tessa

      Glad someone else shares my love of spicy/sweet! There’s a Mexican condiment called Tajin that’s made of chili and lime crystals, and it’s sooo good on ripe melon or mango.

      I hope you do try the nectarines!

      • Joanna Moreno

        That’s exactly what I use on my fruit! You should try it on cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, mangoes, and oranges, and I do mean separately or as in a fruit salad. To die for =D

  • Courtney Cogswell

    That’s a tasty start to your post. I’m intrigued by the nectarines, I grilled some the other night and drizzled a bit of honey and cinnamon over them. Soooo yummy! I also loved the rest of your post (and your books). All of my favorite romances that stick with me have a fair amount of bitterness or strife mixed in which makes the happy ending that much sweeter 🙂 Thanks again for the great post and giveaway!

    • Tessa

      Ooh, your nectarine recipe sounds delicious!

  • gamistress66

    suddenly feeling a bit of a sweet craving, wonder why 😉 and agree, that a good book will satisfy more than one “taste”. looking forward to reading your next as they always satisfy 🙂

  • Michele Hayes

    I love your books. Thanks for the chance to win.

  • Dawn Anderson

    I enjoy books that have both a salty and a sweet side. By the way, your comment about the trampoline made me chuckle, so thanks for that.

  • Patty Vasquez

    I love how you’ve used foods- interesting, complex foods- as a metaphor for a good romance novel. It’s such an apt comparison! And I agree, Sonali Dev’s Bollywood Affair is the exact recipe for a memorable romance.

    • Sonali Dev

      Thank you, Patty!

  • Erin F

    oooh… a good book, some caramels, and hot chocolate! Heaven 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  • Glenda

    One of these day’s I’ll try the chili on watermelon. Or pineapple. I just haven’t made it past the ‘sprinkle salt on it’ stage for some fruit. Love your story about love at second sight with your husband! 🙂

    • Tessa

      Some of my husband’s relatives eat green (sour) mango with salt and soy sauce. That is one I can’t get into!

      • Glenda

        Yeah, I think I’ll pass on that one!

  • Eileen Aberman Wells

    Oh my!! I’m fangirling here!! Your books are wonderful. I especially enjoyed the videos you used to make with your kids toys, when the kids were younger. I enjoyed your post and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Wasn’t Sonali’s book wonderful!! I felt the same way and look forward to her next one. Thank you!!

    • Tessa

      thanks so much for all your nice words, Eileen! I’m so glad you enjoyed the books and the videos. 🙂 And always delighted to meet a fellow Sonali fan. 🙂

      • Sonali Dev

        Dying! Thank You, Eileen!

  • Joan Varner

    I enjoyed your post and your points are so valid about having many emotions in the romance stories that will lead readers to the joy of the HEA>

  • Nicole Potter

    I’m so going to have to try that recipe! That looks delicious!! And I read romance for the same reason – two characters that overcome all odds to be together! 🙂

  • Alyn Yang

    My son loves AMF too! I enjoy watching them with him and hearing him laugh. Another thing we do together is watch Vine videos. His favorites are always the ones with animals.

  • Jerry Marlatt Pierson

    I enjoy your books. Thank you for your giveaway and a chance to win.

  • Melody Gonser

    The recipes look fantastic. You can get all sort of things by reading romance. Thank you for the giveaway.

  • Anita H.

    I love your story about meeting your husband for the second time. That totally sounds like a good romance novel complete with a HEA! 😀

  • NarnianGriff23

    Really love the interview and everything looks lovely ^^ that library sounds like someplace I should put on my bucket list.

  • Melisa Safchinsky

    Can’t wait to read When a Scot Ties the Knot! And now I want some salted caramel… 🙂

  • Rochelle

    some interesting food combos to try for sure. I really enjoy your books and was delighted to get to meet you at the workshops of the RT convention this year. Can’t wait for When a Scot…

  • Betül

    After watching Jurassic World I am all in for Chris Pratt!

  • Molly

    I love your books. I can’t wait for your new book.

  • Sharon Forbes

    I really enjoyed your post here. I am going to have to get some nectarines and try them with balsalmic vinegar and brown sugar, it sounds really good! Have you tried bacon marmalade? I just ordered a small jar and got it in the mail yesterday, it is so good!!

  • Carol Luciano

    Oh my gosh, salted caramels & lemon merangue pie are 2 of my favorite sweets.Tessa, I have loved everyone of your books that I’ve read. Thanks for posting and sharing.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  • Sue G.

    I love Lemon meringue pie. Perfect balance of sweet and tart! Mmmm mmmm! Nice write up. Thanks.

  • “The joy of romance isn’t about easy, unearned bliss. It’s about triumph.”

    I love that! I find romance novels to be supremely satisfying reads rather than feel-good reads because there’s just something wonderful about the way people come together in the end.

    Also, fruit + chili powder = MAGIC.

  • Dorothy Salvagin

    I’m a huge fan. Keep ’em coming.

  • Sharlene

    Love lemon pies and your books. 🙂 Can’t wait to read the next in the Castles Ever After Series. The first two books were delightful.

  • Bernadette Long

    I believe that you and your husband were destined to be together:)

  • marypreston

    I do love a book that plays with my emotions – all of them.

  • Pamby50

    The first thing I see are those sea salt caramels. I was interested in where you were going. That into each life there must be something to balance all the sweetness. I love that the second time you met your husband, you both knew. Great post and love Bollywood Affair.

  • flchen1

    I very much enjoyed CS Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and quite a few of his other writings–such a wonderfully articulate writer! And what a fabulous moment it must have been when you and DH second met! LOL! Love that story too!

  • Texas Book Lover

    Your books always make my day better! I too absolutely loved The Bollywood Affair.

  • Martha B

    One of my favorite books is Any Duchess will do. Thanks on behalf of readers everywhere!

  • Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Schroedle

    If the romance novel that I am reading has me experiencing a wide range of emotions, then it goes in one of my keeper bookshelves.

  • Marcy Shuler

    Your ‘surprised by joy’ moment when you hugged your now-hubby is so sweet!

  • Sheila M

    I agree about the complexity of the emotions evoked by romance books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Kai W.

    Looking at those desserts got me thinking of the lemon squares. YUMMMM!!!

  • Chelsea B.

    One of my top favorite authors! <3
    Yes to all of your delicious things. Mmmmmm…..Especially Lemon Meringue!

  • Sharlene Wegner

    I am loving your Castles series so far! And the covers are gorgeous!

  • kirsten west

    I don’t know if I could get behind the ripe melon with chili powder, but I completely agree with the context! Love your books.

  • Lisa Hutson

    That is a little different way to look at it. Romance reading is kind of like that. haha I love it. Or maybe its just that I was distracted by the picture of the salty caramel?

  • Angela H

    Sea Salt Caramels and chocolate dipped almonds are two of my favorite things.

  • Diane Sallans

    I do love stories with a Scotsman!