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!
Learning to Love ‘Me’ Through #LoveRomance
Like most people, I look for shortcuts to create space in the daily schedule—which often means resorting to the Internet. So I’m not embarrassed (mostly) to admit that I used Google in researching this post, because I was drawing a TOTAL blank on what to write about #LoveRomance. Call it deadline brain, call it menopause brain, call it whatever you want, but I had…nothin’.
And this is what I discovered: #LoveRomance is a BIG tent, beautiful topic. It includes romance novels and writing (of course), but also TV shows and movies, pictures on Instagram, manga, cartoons, people’s personal histories, and tons and tons of memes. Cool, but not really helpful for my purpose—coming up with a focus for this particular post. So, I decided to go back to a time before the Internet, when dinosaurs roamed the earth—in other words, my adolescent and teen years, when I was first becoming aware of romance.
And this is what I was surprised to discover once I thought about it: loving romance, specifically romance novels, taught me to love myself at a truly critical time in life.
Like so many teenagers, I was a geeky, socially inept, physically awkward, goofy-looking kid with frizzy hair and spectacularly thick glasses. For many reasons, I felt entirely unlovable. It didn’t help that my parents—while awesome in so many ways—were pretty disconnected from my issues. Having grown up in serious poverty during the Depression, they really couldn’t relate to the teenage angst of the 60’s and 70’s.
Now, of course I was privileged in many ways. I had loving parents, a middle-class existence, and some great friends—mostly drama class freaks like me. But most of my pals possessed more self-confidence and did a whole lot better when it came to dating and socializing, which meant I was usually the third wheel or fifth wheel in various groupings. There were times when I was pretty lonely, and I spent way too many years pining for guys who never noticed me. Which was totally stupid, of course, a lesson I FINALLY learned from reading romance novels.
The romances I discovered in my teenage years featured heroines who were more interested in solving the mystery, finding justice, or making their way in the world rather than waiting for the hero to show up (Nancy Drew was also a great teacher in that respect). Those heroines were the governesses in Victoria Holt novels, who protected their youthful charges before finding true love with the dark and dangerous lord of the manor. They were Mary Stewart heroines—some of them also kind of geeky, or at least loners—who faced down bad guys and saw justice done and only THEN had time for their HEAs. They were Georgette Heyer debutantes or widows, constrained by the values of the time but still determined to live life on their terms as much as possible. And if the hero couldn’t accept those terms? Well, then, he wasn’t the hero for them.
In short, they were women who had courage, didn’t need a man, and had enough confidence to do the right thing—and genuinely seemed okay with themselves. They were terrific role models, and they taught me that I had choices that didn’t involve waiting for approval from some random guy.
In other words, they taught me to be me. And that was the first lesson imparted by #LoveRomance—that you can’t really be part of us, not in any way that satisfies, until you truly learn to be me. In order to open your heart to the world, you have to learn to love and accept yourself first.
Vanessa Kelly recommends:
I love Sci-Fi romance, and I’m so happy to see it making something of a comeback. My favorite read of 2015 was the Parodox Trilogy by Rachel Bach. Rachel is an INCREDIBLY talented writer. Her prose is crisp and evocative, her world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking, and she writes awesome action sequences. But it’s the depiction of character that really pulled me in. Her heroine, Devi Morris, is a mercenary who is the definition of badass. But Devi is also funny, flawed, vulnerable, courageous, kind, and emotional in a way that is thoroughly believable for the kind of life she leads. If you haven’t read these books, go do it right now!
I’m also a huge fan of romantic suspense, so I’m also recommending Lena Diaz. Lena’s books are the definition of a high concept thrill ride, and they feature strong heroines and drool-worthy heroes. If you’re looking for action, suspense, and some great romance, you must give Lena’s books a try, too.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
The first time I visited Rome I felt the romance of history all around me. Every part of that glorious city seems to whisper of by-gone days, a sort of poetry in every cobblestone, ancient monument, or beautiful old church. It filled me with awe and touched my soul in a way I find difficult to describe, even to this day. It seemed like the most romantic place on earth—if I could have, I would have moved there in an instant!
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
When I was in grad school, I had three very dear friends. The four of us, two straight women and two gay men, were nearly inseparable for several years—and we all had equally bad luck when it came to our love lives, which was certainly an additional bond between us! One of my friends had a beautiful family cottage on a lake in Ontario, where we used to spend many winter weekends, cooking, watching old movies, drinking vintage cocktails, and dishing about our fraught romantic adventures. We would also pack up hot toddies in thermoses and go on winter hikes, sometimes across the lake ice to various little islands—which probably wasn’t very smart, given the isolated location! Fortunately, we never came to a bad end, and those times are some of my most cherished memories. Those friendships were a constant that helped me weather many storms in my personal life.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
As you might guess… Rome. Also, I love the sound of the wind in the trees, which always strikes me as hauntingly beautiful and soulful.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Easy. It’s always Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson from The Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. The way Amelia and Emerson fight is truly delicious and ultimately very sexy. They’re absolutely hilarious, brilliant, larger than life characters. All my heroes and heroines have at least a wee bit of the Emerson vibe about them.
Tell us about your dream date.
I’ll be honest—I’m not much for dates, and I think a dream date would make me nervous. What if it didn’t turn out as well as either of us expected?! For me, nothing works better than just hanging out with my hubby, having a glass or two of wine, talking over a nice dinner, and then maybe watching a good movie. Yeah, I know that’s kind of boring, but I tend to prefer the smaller, quieter moments of life. That’s when I truly find the best emotional connections.
Vanessa Kelly is generously giving away three copies of MY FAIR PRINCESS, the first book in her new Improper Princesses Series (out Aug. 30th) two to US readers 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 27, 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.)
Vanessa Kelly writes bestselling Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra, and was named by Booklist as “one of the new stars of historical romance.” Her books have finaled in numerous contests, and she won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Vanessa also writes USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance with her husband under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.
Buy Vanessa’s books:
Buy V.K Sykes’ 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!