Manda Collins – Healing, Sustaining Romance

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

Powerful Medicine

When I happened upon a Regency romance novel in the bookstore—at age thirteen—I could never have imagined what an impact that simple bit of serendipity would have.

I devoured that book—The Taming of Annabel by Marion Chesney—and I enjoyed it so much that I sought out more books in this new-to-me genre that was like the Jane Austen that I’d read and loved, but different.

By the time I was fifteen, I’d read dozens of these Regency romances. I had favorite authors, like Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney, and Sheila Walsh. That year, as I’d done for the previous few years, I bought the Signet Regency Christmas anthology. I’d only finished one of that year’s novella’s when a trip to the orthopedist revealed that a nagging pain in my knee wasn’t just a pulled muscle like I thought. With my birthday one month away, I had a bone scan and a biopsy of my left femur. And I got the diagnosis, nobody, let alone a fifteen year old, wants to hear: bone cancer.

I spent my sixteenth birthday in the hospital, getting my first chemo treatment. And a stack of Regency romances came with me. Even when I was too sick to read, just having those familiar painted covers, with heroes in buckskin and breeches and heroines in everything from empire waist gowns to fur trimmed cloaks, gave me hope. As ill as I was that year, undergoing chemo every two weeks, and undergoing still experimental surgery that spared my leg and replaced my knee, I didn’t stop reading romance.

I couldn’t. Romance—in concert with my family’s support—was sustaining me. It gave me hope.

There’s no empirical data to prove that romance novels helped heal me during that terrible year. Logic would say that it was the powerful chemo drugs that came as close as they could to killing me in order to save me did that. But romance played its own healing role. It healed my spirit.

By sixteen I’d already gone through more than most kids. I’d lost my father before I turned one and my mother when I was nine. The cancer diagnosis at fifteen was so over the top no editor of good sense would let it stand in a manuscript. And yet…

This was my life.

And by the next year, on my seventeenth birthday, I’d finished chemo, had a new knee, and was back in high school on the road to graduation.

There’s so much we don’t know about the physiology of what happens when a reader is exposed to the HEA. When that flip of the stomach tells you you’re getting to the good part. I’d love to see the brain scans of readers at that exact moment when your chest fills with hope and you know everything will work out. Because the effect is real. It does happen, that feeling, again and again. And to my mind, it affects more than just the body. It affects the soul.

Romance, with its much derided optimistic endings and its maligned covers, is the closest thing to hope in a bottle that we have. I’d love to see the day when doctors of all stripes said “read two Marion Chesney’s and call me in the morning.” Maybe it’s not a cure-all. Like other drugs, romance should be part of a larger pattern of treatment. Sort of like exercise and diet go alone with diabetes meds.

Sometimes, as powerful as romance can be, it’s not enough. Sometimes the cancer wins. I lost a dear aunt a few years ago to breast cancer, and she was one of the only members of my extended family who’d read my books. She loved romance. And all books. But she read up until she was too sick to hold a book. And I believe it helped her cope.

There is power in romance. Power in the the story of two (or multiple) people struggling together to get to that place where they know they’re in this life together, in love and loving. Power in the journey to HEA. Power in the repetition of that message—that happiness, and healing, are possible.

Almost twenty-seven years after that December when I got the news that my cancer was in remission, I still rely on romance to help me through tough times. Why? Because it works. I’ve branched out from the narrow world of the Regency, of course. Now I find hope in other eras, other subgenres. But that medicinal happy ending is as necessary to my existence as my doctor prescribed meds.

And, I’ve found, to my delight, writing romance and actually playing in that rarefied world, gives just the same sort of high as reading it does.

Because romance is powerful.

Romance gives hope.

 

Manda recommends:

Sawyer Bennett is the author of one of the only portrayals I can remember reading of a heroine undergoing cancer treatment in Garrett: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel. Though the effects of chemo are necessarily glossed over for the most part (because hundreds of pages of nausea and vomiting would not be interesting), I was shocked but heartened that Bennett actually does show the heroine dealing with nausea and vomiting. It’s one scene, but as someone who has endured that particular hell, it was a representation I hadn’t even known I’d been looking for in a romance.

Sawyer Bennett     –      www.sawyerbennett.com       –     @Amazon

 

Sarina Bowen: My second rec is for one that touched me deeply as a cancer survivor, as someone with a physical disability, and as a romance reader. Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down, is funny and sweet and sexy, and it tells the story of Corey, dealing with the after-effects of a spinal injury, and Hartley, the sexy hockey player next door, with compassion and hope and a frankness that didn’t shy from the reality of disability living. Corey and Hartley tell the reader that the disabled deserve love, the same kind of sexy, fulfilling, happy love that the able bodied have. It’s a powerful message.

Sarina Bowen       –        www.sarinabowen.com      –     @Amazon

 


Questions for the Author:

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

I think the first time I attended an RWA National Conference—in 2007 in Dallas—I realized just what it was like to have thousands of romance readers and writers together in one place. Romance had brought me together with many of the friends I was meeting in person for the first time after almost a year of internet friendship. And there was something powerful about that shared love of genre that made that week magical.

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

I have a watercolor of a magnolia that my grandmother painted almost twenty years ago now. She is suffering from dementia now, and no longer paints, but she’s still with us and I’m grateful. Every time I look at that painting I’m reminded that despite the changes the disease has wrought, the part of her who painted that magnolia is still there. It helps get me through the tough moments.

Tell us about a word that has power for you.

Feminist. It’s become a dirty word in some circles. There are readers who would like for romance writers to, to paraphrase what was said to the Dixie Chicks some time ago, “shut up and write.” But for me, at least, it’s no longer possible to keep quiet about the fact that I believe women deserve a place at the table. That we deserve equal pay for equal work. That our reproductive rights should be strengthened, not eroded.

Anyone who’s read my books should be able to see that I’ve always written heroines who struggle against the strictures that life in a patriarchal society imposes. I was comfortable with that message being implied and not stated outright before, but over the past year, that’s become impossible. I’m an intersectional feminist, and I’m proud of that fact. And I have been since I was a kid and was excluded from being an altar server because I was a girl.

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

When I was in college I was assigned Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford as a class reading. It’s the story of a small town in Victorian England that is populated primarily by women. The two main characters are a pair of elderly sisters, one who is a bit of a grouch, and one who is softer, sweeter. It’s not a novel, per se, it’s more a string of sketches tied together by locale, but it’s filled with the minutiae of small town life that was overlooked by male writers of the time. It’s always stuck with me that this was a book that prioritized the issues that women cared about. It’s not perfect, of course. It’s of its time. But it told me that women’s lives were important, and were worthy of being studied and taught in academia.

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

She probably doesn’t know it—and I haven’t spoken to her for years—but the home-bound teacher assigned to me during that year of chemo in high school, when I was too ill to attend classes on campus, Mrs. Marjorie Crump, is very likely the one who started me on my writing journey. She knew I was interested in books and reading and she encouraged me to add a creative writing component to my studies. That year I wrote several short stories—even one that made mention of a fictional Regency romance called The Viscount’s Revenge. Mrs. Crump was herself a polio survivor and walked with a limp. She was the first adult I’d met, who had made a life for herself—a full life, with marriage and family and a career—while disabled. She happened to be disabled. The disability wasn’t happening to her. It was a powerful message for me while I was going through the process of mourning my life before cancer and permanent disability.

 

Main Drawing:

Manda is generously giving away a copy of Duke with Benefits to one lucky reader. To enter, leave a comment below by 11:59 pm PST August 28, 2017. (US only)

She’ll be giving away more copies as part of the US bundles.

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

 


Manda Collins is the author of fourteen works of Regency historical romance, including her latest, DUKE WITH BENEFITS. She is a lifelong reader whose novels could be called Nancy Drew meets Jane Austen, with sexytimes.

When she’s not writing, she lives in Coastal Alabama with three very spoiled cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and always lots of books.

 

Learn more:

www.mandacollins.com     |    Facebook     |     Twitter @MandaCollins

 

Buy Manda’s books:

availableon-amazon       availableon-nook    availableon-kobo

*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!

 

#LoveRomance   #The PowerofRomance    #ReadARomance


MORE DRAWINGS!

Each RARM post will have one main drawing each day (posted above). Authors are also contributing to weekly (US only) bundles, which will be drawn at the end of the week. Each bundle will consist of at least five books and the amount of bundles will depend on the amount of books the authors contribute.

(Manda is contributing to the US bundles.)

To enter to win these bundles, send an email to Week4@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “Bundles” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

International friends!

Rather than individual drawings off posts, this year we’ll do sets of books, 3+, depending on how many authors contribute. To enter, send an email to Week4@ReadARomanceMonth.com with “International” in the signature line. (1 entry per email address per week)

Week 4 contests are Aug 25 through Aug. 31

For the 5th Annual Read-A-Romance Month, many of the contributing authors  are supporting an extra-special drawing – high quality tote bags and mugs printed with a fun, pro-romance image (see below).

Read-A-Romance Month, through the generous support of many of the authors, is giving away at least 30 mug & tote combos.

Plus, at least two lucky winners will win a Read-A-Romance Month “Month of Books” Mega Bundle, consisting of 31 books!

To enter these exciting drawings,  send an email to August@ReadARomanceMonth.com (US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month.

(US only, apologies to international friends – though keep an eye out later in the month. I may include an international cup/tote combo.)

You will not be automatically added to a newsletter, and I promise not to sell or give your email addresses to anyone. I do reserve the right to send you an invitation to sign up for my newsletter, which will also have opportunities to win more prizes and great romance reading tips!

 

 

Check out all three great posts everyday in August at ReadARomanceMonth.com.  Or you can find the posts on the RARM Facebook page.  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.

#LoveRomance  #HappyReading  #ReadARomance

  • Sue G.

    Damn woman….I am in awe of you. The heartbreaks you have had to endure and you still have such a warm, positive attitude. Kudos to you!

    • Aww, thank you! I’ve always figured you might as well be hopeful. Not that I haven’t had dark moments but laughter and kindness go a long way towards getting you through.

  • catslady

    These are my favorite types of reads!

  • cheryl c.

    Very inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your struggles and triumphs.

    • Thank you! When you’re in it, it’s just something you have to deal with so I just try to focus on one day at a time. It seems to help, along with the break that fiction provides.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Manda. You have always been an inspiration to me. Like you, my romance novels have always been there to offer hope during the darkest times of my life. They are, indeed, powerful medicine.

    • Thank you, my friend. Your smiling face never fails to raise my spirits. And I suspect those of us who have found solace in romance are far more than we’ll ever know. Xo

  • Kim

    I think reading uplifting books during difficult times can offer a brief escape. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • They definitely can, Kim! Thanks for stopping by! ❤️

  • Kim Castillo

    I love you, Manda!!

  • alisha woods

    Manda writes great books

  • ❤️ thank you! Gaskell was really interesting. Another of hers I like is MARY BARTON. It has romance but I think NORTH AND SOUTH is probably her most romantic book. And the mini series is the best! You have excellent taste 🙂

  • Santa O’Byrne

    There are no words. Well, there are plenty of words but you already know them! Love ya, darlin’! Your books are brilliant. I am honored to call you friend.

  • Kareni

    Thank you for sharing the details of your young life, Manda. I hope that the days to come will be filled with love and good health.

    It’s been interesting to me to see how often grandmothers have figured in this month’s posts. I can sympathize with you as my mother is also suffering from dementia. Enjoy that magnolia painting!

    Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down is one of my comfort reads. I’ll be taking a look at your other recommendation.

    Best wishes with your writing, Manda. Romances have brought me much pleasure and peace of mind over the years.

  • Ellen

    Reading is the best medicine. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Pamby50

    Wow. What an amazing post. Reading is definitely the best medicine. I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease. Several months in the hospital and rehabilitation. My friends brought me a bag of romance books. I still have so many of those books. It is one of the reasons why I believe in the power of romance.

  • sasper5

    Thank you Manda for sharing this. I was born with Sickle Cell Disease and since I can remember I have in and out of the hospital. Because this Disease kept me at home, I read romances too. I have also read those two books. Good luck in future. I will definitely be trying your books.

  • Patty Vasquez

    Your story is very inspirational! And an excellent example of the importance of the HEA. I’m really happy you’ve continued to be in remission. I read a couple of Sarina Bowen books this summer. I was blown away by the emotion in her books, especially in Steadfast, the story of a recovering drug addict. It is a very powerful story.

  • Booklover

    I’ve only attended one romance readers’ conference, but I felt the same way you did at RWA. I want to go to more.

  • Courtney

    Aw, what a wonderful story! I love that romance gives a sense of hope, even in the hardest times!

  • Kristine R

    Thank you Manda for sharing your inspiring story. You seem to have become a true woman of substance. Regency romance is my favorite time period in historical romances which I discovered at the age of 13.

  • Michele H.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Audrey

    I am glad to be introduced to your writing, Manda, through this interview. I love the description in your biography of the type of books you write. Thank you for sharing!

  • Sheryl N

    Huge fan! Thanks for sharing your story and keep writing those amazing books!

  • Tori Valenzuela

    Beautiful story thank you for sharing! My mother was disabled as well due to a work related injury and she tried to never let it limit what she done, made the best out of the habd that she was delt

  • Kezia King

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Romance has definitely given me hope during times I struggled.