Jen Doyle – Hope & True Love

Hi friends!

Welcome to the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month!

While I read romance all year long, August is the month we celebrate this awesome genre!  Come back every day to read all three “Power of Romance” posts. Check out the full calendar of authors here. You can also find links to the last four years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook.

Happy August!

#LoveRomance #ThePowerOfRomance

A Witness to the Power of Love

When I think about the Power of Romance, the first thing that comes to mind is an image of my grandparents. My mom’s parents were Italian—my grandmother was second-generation Italian-American and my grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy when he was six years old. Memories from my childhood include a large, loud, loving extended family, and nothing about that has changed as I’ve grown into adulthood. What’s changed, of course, is my understanding of what it took to get there and maintain it.

As the story goes, my grandfather asked my grandmother to marry him on their first date. She said no. Her father wouldn’t allow her to date, so instead my grandfather visited my grandmother’s brother Gabe—a lot. He was persistent, and he was in love. It took him five years of asking before she said yes. They were married for over sixty years.

I know that long marriages don’t always translate into happy ones, especially for those who married at a time when a parent’s wishes might carry more weight than a young woman’s or man’s. But whatever my grandmother’s resistance was, it wasn’t that she didn’t love him; the photos of them as a young couple bring tears to my eyes. The way they looked at each other. The smiles on their faces, full of complete and utter joy. If all you saw were the pictures, you’d think they had a perfect life, with no worries at all.

That wasn’t the case, of course. Money was always an issue. Their laundry business failed, and family dynamics were complicated. My grandmother felt strongly about her three daughters getting the best education available to them; this was a highly unpopular viewpoint in their tight knit Italian-American Brooklyn community. The fact that she had the nerve not to apologize for her thoughts was even more unpopular.

In some marriages, this would have created great strain. In theirs, however, it only strengthened their bond. My grandfather—who, honestly, I don’t think ever strung together more than ten words in any sitting I’d been part of—never once wavered in his support. He wasn’t disappointed he had no sons; rather, he agreed his daughters should have every opportunity afforded to the boys in the neighborhood. And although he’d fallen in love at an early age, neither he nor my grandmother put pressure on my mom or either of her sisters to do the same. Another unpopular opinion. My mom and her sisters each went on to college…and each found their own lifelong love during those four years. Husbands, who, like my grandfather, loved and supported their wives in whatever they did. And, in turn, who all served as incredible role models not just for my own life, but for those of my characters.

I’m actually a fairly late convert to the romance genre. Although I’ve been a voracious reader all my life (yes, I was one of those who would always have a book in my hand and who was often in danger of walking into a pole while reading), I went from Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew to V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone. It wasn’t until my now-six-year-old was born that I began to read romance. But when I did—and when I shared that fact with people—the response I often got was that romance novels were unrealistic. There weren’t men out there like that. Love like that didn’t exist. Writing romance? Oh, dear. Either it meant feeding into someone’s unrealistic hopes, or, worse, telling women that their goal in life should be to find a man.

It won’t come as any surprise, I’m sure, to say that I disagree. I don’t believe these hopes are unrealistic. My grandparents (and my parents, and my aunts and uncles) are a testament to exactly how real true love can be. And I don’t believe that my strong, smart, beautiful grandmother would have been less of any one of those things had she not married my grandfather.

What I do believe is that there are a lot of really awful things out there in the world. A lot of people—myself included—who often feel powerless to do anything about it and scared of what the future holds. So for me the Power of Romance is the way it grounds me when I remember the look of pure happiness in my grandfather’s eyes when he would smile at his Tessie. The sense that somehow things will be okay when I think of the way my dad would look at my mom. The beauty I see in myself when my husband looks at me. The utter contentment I feel when surrounded by my large, loud, and loving family, in all of its permutations. And if I can bring even just a little of that to readers through my books, then that’s a happily-ever-after, indeed.


Jen recommends:

Marina Adair     –     –     @Amazon

Marina is one of the first authors I read when I began reading romance, and to this day, her St. Helena’s Vineyard series is one of my favorites. Meeting her at my first RWA conference was incredible, having her blurb my first book and help launch my debut Facebook Party was surreal and wonderful. I can’t even say how honored I was when she asked me to be one of the authors to help launch her SHV Kindle World.


Shannon Stacey    –     –     @Amazon

Another of the first authors I read in the genre, Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski family represents everything I love about romance: small town, big family, lots of laughs, and even more love. I have visions of one or two of my Donelli brothers running into a Kowalski or two at a bar in Boston one day. (What? It could happen!)


Anna Harrington     –     –     @Amazon

I also met Anna Harrington at my first RWA conference—our debut books came out within six months of each other, although mine hadn’t been sold at the time whereas hers was scheduled to come out within a few months of when we met. We had the same agent and met at a reception our agency held for its authors; rather than head back over to the conference center, we found a pizza place and talked for hours. She is an incredible author and an even better friend. If you haven’t read her historicals yet, you should absolutely check them out.


Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment when you felt or were aware of the power of romance.

I got my start writing fan fiction in 2001 and had written a couple of epic stories by 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. A few weeks later, I received a message from one of my readers. She told me she’d spent the night of the hurricane huddled in her closet. She said that, as her house was being battered by the wind, the only thing that got her through were the printouts she’d made of my stories, which she read for hours on end. She loved my hero and heroine, loved the romance between them, and loved knowing that at the end they’d have the happy ever after she’d always wanted. If not for them keeping her company, she might have actually gone insane. Until that moment, I’d thought of my writing as a mere hobby—and although I’d had plenty of fan letters by that time, I’d had no idea that anything I wrote could play that important of a role in someone’s life.

This last year has been a difficult one for my family and one of the things that has sustained me is the reading and writing of stories that, yes, can include elements of great difficulty and pain, but that ultimately end with a message of hope and happiness. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to get you to and through each day.

Tell us about an object that has powerful memories for you.

Oddly, I knew the answer to this even before I wrote the essay above: an old ice cream scoop, the color in its yellow handle gradually fading away. I had no idea why that came into my mind, just that it did.

And then as I wrote the essay above, I realized that the ice cream scoop is one of the few things I have from my grandparents’ house. It reminds me of the big house on Pine Blvd. where we would gather as a family, of the huge Christmas Eve Dinners with the long rows of tables spread out in the basement because that was the only place everyone would fit, of my grandfather’s homemade Italian ice, and my grandmother’s aprons. It’s all about family and love and, yes, yelling at the top of your lungs. It’s the family that inspires the characters in my books and the legacy that I am deeply grateful to be a part of.

Tell us about a word that has power for you.


It’s funny, because I’m the least athletic person in the world, but for me the word ‘baseball’ covers all sorts of things. I grew up in a Yankee household and married a Red Sox fan. One of my earliest memories is of the crowd of people gathered around my parents’ tiny TV during one of the playoff series in the late 70s, with half the room being diehard Yankees fans, and the other half being full believers in the Red Sox. (Granted, there was one lone Detroit Tigers fan there as well.)

Thurman Munson was my first hero and, despite my now allegiance to the Sox, I still have his jersey hanging in my bedroom. Chris Chambliss, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, and Bucky Dent (or, as my husband and many Bostonians call him, Bucky F’ing Dent) still hold a place in my heart. One of my first dates with my husband was at a Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park—I just recently came across the ticket. And many of my favorite memories include baseball, be it doing my homework while watching a game with my dad in our living room, the call from my dad to my husband the night the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, or sitting on the grass as the Cape Cod League’s Orleans Cardinals played on a warm summer’s night. At this very moment, my husband and my daughter are downstairs watching an epic extra-innings game between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

It’s all tied up with family (although, um, now that I think of it maybe that should have been my word, LOL), memories, and, yes, love, from familial to romantic. I guess it’s not surprising that my first series was centered around baseball.

Tell us about a powerful book you read this year (or one that’s so powerful you’ve never forgotten it).

Hippos Go Berserk, by Sandra Boynton. And, no, I’m not kidding. It’s a genius counting story and so poignant that I sometimes get tears in my eyes when I recite it (which I can do, having read it to my children over and over again over the course of the last eighteen years), especially that last line: One hippo, alone once more, misses the other forty-four. Oh, God, it kills me.

Tell us about a person who’s had a powerful influence on your life.

As I mentioned above, I started out in fan fiction. I wasn’t one of those people who had been writing since I was a child and, in fact, had never written fiction that wasn’t part of a class assignment until compelled to do so one night in late 2001. (That’s a whole other story. 🙂 ) I wrote four chapters as part of a challenge and kind of just put them out there for all the world to see, not at all sure of their reception.

And overall the reception was actually pretty great. It was a surprise, to be honest. I wrote a few more chapters, and then some more, all to wonderful feedback. And then I got an email telling me that it was pretty much the worst writing this particular reader had ever read…and went on to say exactly why. No lie, I called my sisters, cried off and on for two days, called my sisters again. And then I put on my big girl pants and sent a note back saying that I was very sorry the reader hadn’t enjoyed my story, that I was grateful she’d read it and taken the time to give me feedback, especially as it was the first thing I’d ever really written, and that perhaps at some point in the future she might take a chance on me again—and, hopefully, would enjoy it a bit more than the first time.

A day later I received a message back. She said she was sorry for coming on so strong, but that she, herself, was an author, and that she’d seen so much raw talent shining through the somewhat-messy-in-technical-terms prose she’d just assumed I was an experienced, published author who had no respect at all for fan fiction and was slumming it as a result. Having received my note in response and realizing that wasn’t the case at all, she said she was impressed by my courage in replying to her and that, as a published author and experienced editor herself, she would be happy to work with me if I had any interest in doing so. At the time, I had no idea whether she was truly qualified or not; for all I knew, in fact, she was an 11-year-old gamer. But I said yes, and she was my incredible editor for the next ten years. She gave me a decade-long course in writing and was the person who told me that not only did I have the talent to write a book, but that over the course of the years we’d been working together, I’d written the equivalent of ten of them.

To this day, I don’t know her real name. To me she is—and always will be—Diana, and without her I never would have had the courage or confidence to pursue this dream. I dedicated my first book to her and am forever grateful.

Main Drawing:

Jen is generously giving away an e-copy of CALLED OUT and an e-copy of  CALLING IT to one lucky reader. (If the winner is in the US, s/he has the option of a print copy of CALLING IT once it comes out.  To enter, leave a comment below by 11:59 pm PST August 16, 2017. (open to everyone)

She’ll be giving away more copies of  these books as part of the US bundles, and is participating in the international bundles, plus she’s sponsoring a tote & cup giveaway! (see below for more information)

There are many more drawings too—including international book bundles! See the bottom of the post for more information.




A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. Preschool administrator by day, romance author by night, Jen has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science and, in addition to her work as a librarian, has worked as a conference and events planner as well as a Communications and Enrollment administrator in both preschool and higher ed environments. Jen is the author of the small-town contemporary romance CALLING IT series with Carina Press, as well as the author of two novellas in the St. Helena’s Vineyard Kindle World. CALLED OUT, her third full-length novel, came out in May, and her novella HOLIDAY HOUSE CALL will be released on October 23.


Learn more:     |    Facebook     |     Twitter @jendoyleink


Buy Jen’s books:

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