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!
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Like many of us lovers of romance, I was trained from an early age to see my beloved books as … silly, at best. At worst, maybe embarrassing would be the right word. Shallow, frivolous. Possibly, from some perspectives, even dangerous. I remember a guilty moment when my sister was engaged in a passionate political argument while I was utterly absorbed in the romance I was reading. (Hey, the hero was groveling! I love those scenes!)
“How can you waste time on that stuff when there are real issues out there?” My sister accused. “You’re rotting your brain! You should be out there doing something for the world!”
And for years, I believed that. I didn’t stop reading romance, mind you. Oh no, I needed the escape of my comfort reads. I needed my imagination to be able to soar into these different worlds, but safely, with the familiar pattern that I knew would end well. But I internalized that judgment from others. I guess I’m just not very discriminating, or maybe I’m just shallow. Silly. Frivolous.
I hurled those insults at myself instead of considering that maybe, just maybe, the critics of romance were wrong.
Have you ever heard the quote, “The universe is made up of stories, not atoms?” We’re constantly telling ourselves stories, and telling other people stories. It’s how we make sense of the world. We try to make order out of chaos, meaning out of seeming madness. So many things can pit one human against another. We see it every day in the media. It can be utterly bewildering. When we’re surrounded by conflict and antagonism, how do we make sense of it? What kind of stories can we tell to find resolution, hope, and peace?
In a romance novel, two (or more!) people triumph over any number of potential conflicts, barriers, misunderstandings and other catastrophes. They are able to see past their own prejudices, wrong judgments and ego. They find that the joy of union is greater than the buzz of antagonism. It’s not a simple path, of course. There’s opposition, attraction, reversal, confusion, separation, and the all-important Black Moment when All is Lost. But at the end comes transcendence. In a romance novel, love wins.
It’s a little thing we like to call the Happy Ever After.
As we know, that pesky HEA is one of the main reasons romance gets such a bad rap. “That’s not real life.” “You’re selling a fantasy.” “Women will expect perfect heroes.”
Exactly! It’s not a real life – it’s a story. And the universe is made up of stories, remember? What stories are we going to tell ourselves? Are we going to only tell bleak, depressing stories, whether in the news or in fiction? Why can’t we also tell stories that uplift us, that make us smile, that give hope? Romance novels offer a narrative that says this: happiness lies in opening your heart, in letting down barriers, in putting aside pride and ego for something greater. Romance novels say we’re not alone. We’re greater together than apart.
And isn’t that just as worthy and necessary, if not more so? I see now – all these years later – that it’s not shallow at all. It’s not silly or a waste of time. It’s something that needs to be said. Love wins.
That’s how I choose to make sense of the world. Love wins.
Jennifer Bernard recommends:
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
This might sound like a cliché, but bear with me. I truly felt surrounded by romance on my wedding day, but not for the usual reasons. It was because of the weather! We got married in Hawaii during the rainy time of year. My husband-to-be set up an elaborate tent system, but on the morning of the wedding it absolutely poured. So much rain came down that the seams broke open and people had to keep dodging sudden random waterfalls. But then, an hour before the wedding, the sun broke through, the rain stopped and the mud dried. I was so beyond grateful—and I keep that moment in mind every time my husband and I go through a rainy patch.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
My college roommate and I used to spend hours and hours and hours – all night and into the next morning – analyzing our relationships with our boyfriends, and then moving on to our friends’ relationships. (It’s a good thing they didn’t know.) I basically see my college years as a crash course in romance. We spent so much time trying to figure out why our friends did the things they did. It was a great education, and has served me so much more than most of the classes I took!
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
Hawaii will always mean romance to me. The ocean, the stars, the air, the coqui frogs, everything. My husband proposed to me there, we got married there, and we’ve spent every single anniversary there. Every time I step off the plane my heart opens up.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Since you’re making me choose, I’ll say the couple in Love Actually. Actually, almost all the couples in Love Actually. I love the Colin Firth character who learns Portuguese to communicate with his love, and the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) going door to door to find his assistant — and the rock star and his manager, who suddenly realize they’re each probably the most important person in each other’s lives. And the guy who is finally able to walk away from his best friend’s new wife, once he tells her on cue cards how he feels. That movie is pure bittersweet romance from the entire spectrum, bitter to sweet.
Tell us about your dream date.
My husband once took me on a date to the Observatory at Mauna Kea, in Hawaii. You can stargaze there every night, but on “new moon” nights the local astronomy club sets up extra telescopes focused on celestial bodies like the Horseshoe Nebula and other things I’d never heard of. That spot has the best conditions for stargazing anywhere in the entire northern hemisphere–360 degrees of pure, pristine starry sky. It’s chilly because the elevation is so high, so you have to cuddle with your sweetie as you gaze up at the heavens. It’s actually incredibly romantic! After that we drove down the mountain and found a sushi place that was open late. A cool experience plus food – that’s my dream date!
Jennifer Bernard is generously giving away a complete set of Love Between the Bases novels (All of Me, Caught by You, Drive You Wild) to one lucky reader, and two readers will each receive a copy of Drive You Wild (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.)
Jennifer Bernard is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her books have been called “an irresistible reading experience” full of “quick wit and sizzling love scenes.” A graduate of Harvard and former news promo producer, she left big city life in Los Angeles for true love in Alaska, where she now lives with her husband and stepdaughters. She still hasn’t adjusted to the cold, so most often she can be found huddling with her laptop and a cup of tea. No stranger to book success, she also writes erotic novellas under a naughty secret name that she’s happy to share with the curious.
Buy Jennifer Bernard’s books:
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