Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
How Do I Love Romance?
I always smile when people tell me, “Oh, I don’t read romance books.” Ha! Though I’m usually too polite to take the air out of that balloon, I’m tempted to point out that from the very first work of Western literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh, c. 2150-1400 BCE, in case you are wondering!) romance has been an integral part of our storytelling—and I feel that’s because it is an integral part of our core humanity. Gilgamesh is all about family, friendship; it’s about courage and finding the strength to overcome doubt and fears to become a hero. And those themes have continued to be elemental tropes in literature of all genres throughout the ensuring centuries.
For me, one of the important elements of romance is that it shows—as the immortal poet John Donne wrote—“no man is an island . . .” Caring, compassion, kindness—in a word, LOVE—creates a powerful force that transcends the individual. Sharing a bond of love doesn’t diminish our own selves, it only makes us stronger! (But of course, I don’t need to tell RARM readers that!)
When I sat down to write this, I was going to say that I came to reading “romance” later than many people, But then, I realized that wasn’t true all at. As I thought back on my childhood favorites—books like Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind In the Willows—I realized all the stories that resonated with me, and made me smile, had love at the heart of them.
Okay, okay, I did finally move on from quirky, endearing animals to people! I opened the covers of Pride and Prejudice in high school and that was the start of my love affair with romance novels. P&P had a profound influence on me, and I know it colors my own writing to this day. What struck me then, as it does now, was how Austen so clearly saw the foibles of people, and was scintillatingly wise and sharply funny in depicting them. But beneath the wit and humor, it seemed to me that the essence of her stories was that love isn’t supposed to be perfect. We all have faults and flaws. It doesn’t matter. What lies at the heart of Love is that it makes us aspire to be better than we think we can be.
I can’t think of a more beautiful, inspirational or hopeful message.
Tatty teddy bears like Pooh or hunky heroes like Mr. Darcy—love comes in so many guises. Reflecting the spirit of Austen, one of my all-time favorite romantic couples are Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnut in The African Queen (played by Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in the movie). Charlie isn’t the poster boy of a heartthrob hero. He’s irascible, not much to look at, and claims to have not a speck of idealism. Rose isn’t exactly a femme fatale. She’s prim, sharp-tongued and judgmental. They squabble, they sulk—but more importantly they challenge each other to see beyond preconceptions. They slowly but surely see each other’s inner strengths and the essential goodness hidden beneath the prickly exterior. They share laughs, they become friends. And then they inspire each other to dare to dream big dreams.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I love romance
Andrea Pickens/Cara Elliott recommends:
First, I want to pay homage to my dear friend and romance legend Jo Beverley, who passed away this spring. For those of you who have never read one of Jo’s books—do so immediately! She is the consummate storyteller, crafting compelling characters and beautifully elegant prose, along with creating the vivid world of Georgian and Regency England through her meticulous research.
I’ve also become a big fan of Donna Thorland’s historical romances, which are set during the American Revolution. She writes really intelligent, nuanced characters, interesting settings, and intriguing plots—all with polished style and wit. (See Donna’s RARM 2016 post here.)
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
One summer during college I was traveling around Europe with my boyfriend by motorcycle (which actually isn’t quite as romantic as it might sound—imagine crossing the Swiss Alps in the dead of night in a July snowstorm, and you will have an inkling as to why!) That said, the trip did have some very special moments. One night we camped out in a meadow filled with sunflowers overlooking the Mediterranean. Awaking to see the sun rise over the sea, with the birds singing, and the soft fragrance of wild thyme wafting through the air was . . . truly magical.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
My younger brother and I were close growing up, but as he moved across the country right out of college, we don’t see each other as much as we would like. We talk a lot on the phone, but it’s not quite the same . . . so we try to do some special things together from time to time. He’s a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, but had never been to Fenway Park—so last month we shared the experience together. It was such a fun BFF day. Keeping the bonds of family strong is such a wonderful and meaningful thing for both of us.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
The sound of the ocean washing up against a rocky shore always makes me feel very romantic (especially with the right company!)
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn from Bringing Up Baby. Because life should be a mix of the serious and the zany!
Tell us about your dream date.
I can only have one???? (Ha, ha, ha.) Okay, I do have a swanky one in mind too, but I’ll go with the more casual choice: It’s summer in Tuscany. My dream date (you know who you are, sweetie) and I stop at a country market to buy fresh bread, local cheese and olives, just-picked sun-warmed fresh fruit—and of course, a bottle of chianti. And then as afternoon begins to give way to the pinks and golds of a perfect sunset, we walk up through the vineyards of Montalcino to the ancient town on the top of the hill. Finding the perfect vantage point on the stonewalls overlooking the countryside, we enjoy an alfresco picnic . . . and more than a few sweet kisses. Hey, I’m a romance novelist—of course there have to be kisses involved!
Andrea Pickens/Cara Elliott is generously giving away 3 e-book copies of A Diamond In The Rough (US only, apologies to international friends). To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Aug 15, 2016.
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
I began my writing career at age five with a number of lavishly illustrated Westerns, which were lovingly preserved for posterity by my first fan (Thanks, Mom!) However, I have since moved on to writing about Regency England, (clearly I have a thing for Men in Boots!) an era that has fascinated me ever since I picked up a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice.
I have a BA and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale, where I studied book design (As you see, I’ve always had a left brain-right brain love affair with art and the printed word.) These days, when I’m not tethered to my keyboard I enjoy traveling to interesting destinations around the world—however, my favorite spot is London, where the esoteric museums, funky antique markets and used book stores offer a wealth of inspiration for my stories.
p.s. I also write Regency-set historical romances, which are sexier than these traditional Regencies, under the pen name Cara Elliott. And I write Regency-set historical mysteries under the pen name Andrea Penrose (www.andreaprenrose.com)
Learn more about Cara Elliott:
Buy Andrea Pickens books:
Buy Cara Elliott’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!