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!
Nature & Romance
Romance is always in the air in all of nature and wildlife. It’s all about the birds and the bees, after all. In much of nature, mating is serious business. Yet, the act of attracting and luring a mate can be both fascinating and surprising…. even shocking. We all know about the elaborate rituals male birds go through to attract a female. The more striking and colorful a male’s plumage and the better nest provider he is, the better chance he has to win a female. Is that so different from what happens with humans?
In the insect world, too, male butterflies have mating rituals. I love to watch the delicate yellow sulphurs delicately circle upward in an aerial dance on a summer afternoon. In some species of butterflies, a courting male will deliver his pheromone onto the female to prevent other males from mating with her. Thus, he marks her as “his girl.” Monarchs, however, the “king” of butterflies and my favorite, can be downright brutal when it comes to mating. I am in awe of the monarchs’ ability to travel thousands of miles like a bird or a whale to migrate south to Mexico in the winter, then migrate back across the states to Canada in the spring. The only insect to do so. In my human mind, it’s hard to reconcile how so noble a creature can be so ruthless when it comes to mating. Males have pheromone sacs but choose not to woo the female. Instead, a male monarch will knock the female out of the sky and mate with her on the ground. He’ll even carry her off to another location…literally!
Dolphins—our fellow mammals—can also be rogues when it comes to courtship. These clever males form alliances with other males to herd a female. The female, however, is not always willing. But no matter, she is coerced by fairly brutal teamwork that includes slapping and scratching. Female dolphins also can band together to thwart male aggression. They sometimes chase down a group of males who have stolen away one of their friends to rescue her. Don’t get the wrong idea about dolphins, however. Nature is not always kind to a human’s way of thinking. Generally, dolphins are a social, sensual group. Bottlenose dolphins, the species we’re most familiar with (think Flipper), can spend hours nuzzling each other and serenading with squeaks, whistles and clicks. Family and community bonds are very strong.
I’m especially enamored with species that mate for life. It takes a particular dedication for some species who might separate at the end of breeding season to return again a year later to their breeding ground to meet up with his/her mate year after year. Too, the father will help raise the young. There’s a pair of ospreys near my home on Isle of Palms, SC that return every year, usually right around Valentine’s Day, to nest and raise another brood. Usually the female arrives to their nest first and she welcomes the male home…again and again.
I’m always fascinated and sometimes amused by the variety of mating rituals in nature. When writing about the birds and the bees in our stories, look to nature to find ideas that may spark ideas for your romances!
Mary Alice recommends:
Fellow southern author of beautiful, heart-felt romances.
Her titles include: Echoes of Mercy, The Wisdon of Hair, A Peach of a Pair.
Soulmate of a writer of southern fiction.
Her titles include: The Idea of Love, The Stories We Tell, Where the River Runs, Driftwood Summer, Between the Tides
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
I travelled to the mountains of Mexico following the migration of the monarch butterfly. My husband joined me on this adventure. I’d told him it would be romantic. (and he believed me!). We journeyed with a small band of travelers (teachers, researchers) to central Mexico where the monarch butterfly sanctuaries are located. At one sanctuary we left our bus below to ride skinny horses for an hour’s upward climb to 11,000 feet. The air grew thin, the mist thick and the monarchs more plentiful. At the top we looked out over the mountaintops and as far as the eye could see there were large gray sacks, like termite bags, hanging from the giant oyamel fir trees. Then the sun broke through and in that instant millions—not thousands, millions!—of monarch butterflies took flight! It was an explosion of orange against a brilliant blue sky as the monarchs danced and mated over and around us. I was surrounded in a cloud of butterflies, so many their beating wings sounded like wind, and I wept for joy. This was a magnificent aerial dance of love and joy.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
I will always be indebted to—and in awe of—the great Nora Roberts. She is the queen of romance. But she is also the best and most supportive of friends. When I was a newbie author I learned from the best. She is thoughtful and generous to her readers and fellow writers alike, dependable, hard -working, and doesn’t tolerate laziness when it comes to craft. I needed a quote for my first book and she gave it willingly. This means the world to a new author and I’ll always be grateful to her for each quote she has given me. And for her wise advice and many kindnesses.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
When I’m in the mood for romance, I always go to the water. My first kiss was by a lake. Science supports that humans feel better by water—oceans, lakes, ponds…even bathtubs! I’m drawn to the water. Being near it relaxes me. The sound of the sea is mesmerizing. Moonlight on a lake intoxicating. Soaking in a fragrant bath nourishing. This is the mood for romance.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Tough one… there are so many for so many different reasons. I enjoy most Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Both their witty and wise on-screen performances and their private, loyal love story are inspiring.
Tell us about your dream date.
My dream date was the one I described in The Beach House. I met up for coffee with the owner/operator of Barrier Island Echo Tours on Isle of Palms, SC. When this Viking of a man walked into Acme Cantina I almost choked on my coffee. He could have been the model for any romance cover. And more, he embodied the hero for my story with his rugged good looks and his love for wildlife. We talked for a long time as I dug into his mind for inspiration for my hero. When, towards the end, I idly asked, “What would you consider a good date?” he told me how he would take his date on a boat to a small, wild island. He would have to carry her on his back from the boat to shore through the pluff mud because a gentleman doesn’t let his lady get her feet dirty. He collected oysters, lit a fire… Listening, I almost swooned. I took notes like crazy, raced home and wrote my favorite date scene. Through my story I was able to take my dream date!
Mary Alice is generously giving away a print set of The Lowcountry Series: The Summer Girls, The Summer’s End, The Summer Wind and A Lowcountry Wedding to one lucky US friend and an electronic set of the series 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 28, 2016. Good luck! ***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.)
Mary Alice Monroe is author of twenty books–novels, children’s books and non-fiction. She has achieved many lists, including the New York Times and USA Today–and numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing; the 2014 South Carolina Book Festival Award for Literary Excellence; the 2015 Florida Distinguished Author Award; the RT Lifetime Achievement Award; and the International Book Award for Green Fiction.
Her new novel, A Lowcountry Christmas, will be released October 25th. It is the fifth installment of her nationally bestselling Lowcountry Summer series.
Her novel, The Beach House, is currently being made into a film for Hallmark. Mary Alice is an active conservationist and serves on the Board of the South Carolina Aquarium, The Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. Her books are set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where she lives.
Buy Mary Alice’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!