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!
Loving the Adventure
A summer babysitting job for a neighborhood mom came with an unexpected perk—a shelf of Harlequin romances I was free to enjoy while the kids played in the backyard. But that wasn’t all. One of my mom’s friends dropped off a box of sexy paperbacks, which I devoured like Oreo cookies. Often with Oreo cookies.
I quickly realized that the books I loved most not only featured a swoony hero, but also an unusual setting that served as an integral part of the story. England was fine, but a little too familiar—unless it was a remote English castle under siege by Norman invaders. I lost myself in stories of heroes who were Caribbean pirates, heroines who were whisked from the maid’s quarters of San Francisco mansions, circa 1906, to the Yukon gold rush. A romance set in ancient Egypt, with a heroine who was a priestess, still lingers with me to this day, even though I’ve long since forgotten its title.
My favorite author at the time was Valerie Sherwood, who wrote big sweeping romantic epics that often centered on real historical events. Not only did I get to enjoy a pulse-pounding love story, I learned something, in a much more enjoyable way than my freshman history class.
Romance and I drifted apart while I was in my twenties and early thirties. When the urge to read a good romance returned, I was disappointed to see that the historical epics and varied settings I’d loved had fallen out of vogue. So I turned to contemporaries, which were set in large cities and small towns, on the rodeo circuit, in the seamy underbelly of New Orleans, foreign countries, Hollywood, and much to my delight, professional sports.
Once more, I was immersed in worlds I’d never been before. Authors such as LaVyrle Spencer, Pamela Morsi , Curtiss Ann Matlock and Susan Elizabeth Phillips used fascinating details to bring their story-worlds to life and when I began to write my own books, I wanted to capture a little of that magic.
A background as a features writer had turned me into a research geek, which came in handy. It also helped that one of my favorite romance tropes was the Fish Out of Water. My first novel was a historical Fish out of Water romance that landed a well-born heroine in the East End slums of Victorian London, where she not only learned the ways of a pickpocket, she fell in love with one. I followed it with a contemporary sports romance about an American figure skater heroine whose last chance at gold means moving to Moscow to pair with Russia’s sexiest male skater, who happens to be the first man she ever loved. That book launched my debut series, Red Hot Russians.
Writing the series, I’ve learned a lot about one of my favorite sports, and a country I’ve never visited. It’s taken me to the Winter Olympics, behind the scenes on a reality TV show, and I look forward to future books and series ideas that take me into more exciting new worlds.
As a reader, I’m always looking for the next adventure. This year I’ve read books set in a prison, in the thick of a political campaign, and high-end downtown Toronto. Up next is a carnival. These might not be places I’d like to go in real life…definitely not prison, though downtown Toronto sounded pretty nice. But what better way to experience them than in the hands of a skilled author, who will not only give me a look at a new and interesting world, but also a dreamy hero…and a happy ending.
I’ve read one book in Holiday’s 49th Floor series, as well as her novella in the 1980s themed “Mix Tape” anthology and love her voice. She’s clever, humorous and gently snarky, and her well written characters and settings drew me in.
Kyle’s New York City-set Art of Seduction series for Harlequin Blaze, features heroines (and one hero) who make their living in the arts. The book’s first book Triple Threat stars a playwright and a Hollywood actor, determined to be taken seriously. The other books feature a tattoo artist, a fashion photographer and a ballerina.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
I’m one of those crazy people who adores snow, and to watch it fall over a nighttime city, is to me, the epitome of romance. One night my husband and I went to the bar on the ninety-fifth floor of the John Hancock Building in Chicago, sat by a window and watched the snow coming down. It was early December, and the building across from where we sat was lit with red and green. Dense white snow, good wine sipped in a sophisticated late night bar, with the guy I love. It doesn’t get more romantic than that.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
My sorority sisters, who I still consider among my closest friends. Through college, then into our single, dating years, we discussed the men in our lives, confided our hopes and disappointments, offered Kleenex and “you’re too good for hims” during the break-ups, and toasted at each other’s weddings.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
Just as I love snow, I also love lakes and two favorite romantic places I’ve visited with my husband, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Petoskey, Michigan, are both on lakes. I’d have to say the sound of gently lapping waves means romance.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Will and Elly from Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. Both are wounded and need something very basic from the other—she needs help on her farm, he needs a job and a home. In this lovely World War II-era story two broken people, the town outcast and a lonely drifter, are healed by each other’s love and find the strength to endure war and other trials on their way to Happily Ever After.
Tell us about your dream date.
It’s something that’s still in the future, as my husband and I haven’t made it to Europe yet, but I imagine a beautiful night in Paris, a wonderful dinner and a walk to our hotel, admiring the sights. And if it’s snowing…so much the better!
Elizabeth Harmon is generously giving away winner’s choice of a Red Hot Russians e-book (MOBI, EPUB, PDF), one to a US reader, and one to an international reader.
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 August 16, 2016. ***International friends, be sure to include your country in your comment so we know to include you in the international drawing. Good luck!
(*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.)
Elizabeth Harmon loves to read and write romances with a dash of different.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, she has worked in advertising, community journalism and as a freelance magazine writer. She feels incredibly blessed to have a career that allows her to spend her days imagining “what if?” and a loving family that keeps her grounded in the real world. Her debut novel, Pairing Off is a 2016 RITA Award Finalist.
An adventurous cook, vintage home enthusiast, occasional actress, and entry-level figure skater, Elizabeth makes her home in the Midwest, where life is good, but the sports teams aren’t. She loves to hang out on her front porch, or at her favorite local establishments, enjoy good food and wine, and talk writing with anyone who will listen.
Buy Elizabeth Harmon’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!