Day 6 Susan Wiggs

Romance – The Essence of Life

Romance–that magical combination of feeling and showing, is the essence of life. It’s that impulse, driven by deep, heartfelt sentiment, to make a positive, loving demonstration of your regard for a person.

As a romance writer, of course I’m a fan of the grand gestures of romance–the walks on the beach, shouting one’s love from the rooftops, The Apple Orchardproposal on bended knee, the whisking-away to a far-off place, the glittering jewels, the frequent, always-orgasmic sex on a bed of dreams…But the little things matter, too. The small gesture that says you value your loved one. Maybe he brings you a perfectly-crafted espresso in the morning, or takes your hand as you’re walking onto the ferry, buys you something you didn’t know you needed, like a push button umbrella or an aebleskiver pan.

Romance is about being present in the moment with your loved one, telling him he’s valued in ways big and small. It’s about giving someone your whole attention, and making time in your life for the things that matter to both of you. Romance can show your loved one that he’s the very center of your world, but it’s more than a feeling or gesture. It’s reaching out from the heart to embrace his very self.

In book after book that I write, and have been writing since I sold TEXAS WILDFLOWER to a publisher in 1986, to my latest reissue, JUST BREATHE, the romance is a journey of discovery–mutual discovery. At its essence, and the conclusion of every good love story, is the heart-deep knowing that you have a home with this person, no matter where you go.

 

Recommendations:

I’d love for readers to discover the funny, heartfelt romantic comedies of Sheila Roberts. Her books are adorable. I love them.

Also the warm and fuzzy books of Elsa Watson, whose DOG DAYS kept me chuckling page after page.


Questions for Susan:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

Lenny, my tiny rescued chihuahua. He’s not ugly but he’s crazy. He barks at ghosts, he zooms around the yard and stands under the tall trees waiting for the eagles to drop scraps on the ground, he rides with me on the stand-up paddleboard. He’s the most entertaining dog I’ve ever had. You can see a picture of Lenny here.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

I would like to be played by someone younger, thinner and more beautiful. Charlize Theron, okay? It could be called A WORK IN PROGRESS, because that’s what I am.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My husband Jerry, a clothing designer, designed and made a couture wedding dress for me. It’s awesome. He’s awesome. There’s a picture and a nice writeup on the wedding here on the HEA blog.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Oh, probably the waterfall scene in THE CHARM SCHOOL. Ryan and Isadora in a romantic historical adventure. I still get feedback from readers on that one.

 

Susan is generously donating one copy of the Apple Ochard to international visitors (enter here)  and two copies for  for U.S.  readers. For domestic entries, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 7 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


 

Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She lives at the water’s edge on a Puget Sound island and finds inspiration in the rhythm of the seasons, and in emotional dramas of everyday life. She’s been featured in the national media, including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has received three RITA  Awards and numerous starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages.  Susan is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, and a passionate supporter of libraries and literacy. She loves hiking, biking, yoga and skiing, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Please visit her at www.SusanWiggs.com.

Buy Susan’s books on Amazon.

 

Day 6 Mary Balogh

Love Matters

We all know that the romance genre occupies the lowest rung of respectability among all literary genres. And perhaps that is because life in the “real” world can soon turn us into cynics who can see only the bad things that go on around us. It is perfectly understandable. Just tune in to any news channel or any reality-type show or pick up any news magazine. And we all know that divorce rates have skyrocketed in the The Arrangementpast half century if people even make it as far as marrying. The idea that two people can fall in love, commit their lives to each other, and expect to live together in a happy, fulfilling relationship for the rest of their lives is ludicrous, farcical, naive, silly.

But IS it? Don’t you know any people who simply love? Any couples who are still happy together after a year? Ten years? Sixty years? Don’t you know ANY? I certainly do. And all around me, when I take off the cynic glasses and set aside preconceived ideas bred into me by the news media and those who take it too seriously, I see people who have decided or learned that love is all that really matters and that being happy is all that really matters. Love is possible, and love stories are possible. They are no more unrealistic than the horror stories that fill our screens every day. Oh, the horror stories happen right enough and sometimes deserve our attention and sympathy, but they are not nearly as prevalent as we can come to believe. Love-filled stories happen at least as frequently and probably many times more so.

I believe that to be happy, well-balanced individuals we must learn to love ourselves, warts and all. And we must learn to love others and–often more difficult–allow ourselves to be loved. These three components of love can come together with beautiful effect in a well-told love story in which two lonely and/or wounded souls heal under each other’s influence and develop a friendship and a love that are rock solid and soul-deep. Love stories can be life and literature at their very best. They can be worth writing and worth reading, and while they can be a form of escape–for they do offer a sure happy ending–they can also lead the reader into reality, into a deeper understanding of what life ought to be and can be.

I write love stories because I believe in love and because love matters.

Recommendations:

I would recommend Grace Burrowes to anyone who likes Regency-era romance.  She is fairly new but prolific and already has a wealth of titles and series.  Candice Hern now self-publishes her Regency-era historicals exclusively in e-book format, I believe, and with great success. She is a superb writer and well worth seeking out.


Questions for Mary:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

If there is a polar opposite of a pack rat, I am it. I don’t keep things I have no use for. I am ruthless. Sometimes I will look for something I chucked a few weeks before. So I have nothing I consider crazy or ugly or a mere sentimental keeper.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (Andjust for fun, who would play you?)

No idea. I almost never watch movies.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

No, can’t do it! There are probably thousands of little things people have given me or done for me or said to me that have touched me deeply. It would be unfair to single out just one.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Kit Butler and Lauren Edgeworth from A SUMMER TO REMEMBER. From someone else’s books: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

 

Mary is generously donating two copies of  The Arrangement to give away internationally (enter here) and two to U.S. readers. To enter the domestic contest, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 7 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Mary Balogh grew up in Wales and now lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with husband Robert. They have three adult children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Mary taught high school English for twenty years but now writes full-time. She has written more than 100 novels and novellas, most of which are set in 19th century Regency England and all of which are love stories. They include twenty-six New York Times bestsellers. See her web site at www.marybalogh.com.

 

Buy Mary’s books on Amazon.

Day 6 Jennifer Probst

Yes, Romance Matters…

Romance novels saved my life.

Dramatic, right? Silly, maybe? True, definitely.

Let me tell you a story. A story of a young girl, painfully shy, who knew she wanted to be a writer one day and read voraciously. She had a The Marriage Mergerfew tight knit friends but never fit in with the “right”  crowd. She stayed on the sidelines of life, afraid of…everything. She felt trapped, depressed, stagnant with what the world showed around her.

When she was in a small bookstore, she picked up her very first romance novel. The cover was bright red, the couple was sexy, and she read through the blurb on the back page as a shiver of excitement raced down her spine. She bought it. Went home. And read it in three hours.

Life exploded from black and white to Technicolor. Suddenly, the veil of what a relationship could be, should be, lifted, and she saw past the hormonal awkwardness, past the limitations of school and cliques, past the frustrating levels of boyfriend/girlfriend crap around her in the school hallways. No, this was much more, this was passion, and independence, and hope.

She raced back to the store and bought every romance possible and read them all.

And she learned some important lessons.

Did she believe the perfect man would suddenly swoop into her life, rescue her, and make everything happy and pristine?

No.

Did she believe great sex meant great love?

No.

What did she learn?

The heroines taught her to be brave. Lift her chin and fake it when trembling inside. Believe in yourself and that you’re meant for more and shouldn’t settle.

The heroes taught her about respect, and that there was something deeper behind the face of some random hot guy. There was depth and soul and pain. She learned to look past the surface and be more patient of what could be discovered there. The story taught her happy ever afters were the beginning of a long journey, but it was damn satisfying to have hope and happiness after a painful struggle.

Romance novels gave the girl something to believe in, and be happy about. To dream. To imagine. Those few hours under the covers, or snuggled in a chair, or lounging in the hot sun, miles away from every day life, was a gift. A gift she wanted to give back one day over and over and over…

I only hope I do. Romance novels made me want to be a writer and made me happy.

That’s what romance means to me. That’s why romance matters.

 

Recommendations:

One of my favorite authors is  Susan Elizabeth Phillips  (*posting tomorrow~B) – she incorporates amazing characters with fun adventures and scenes that make me laugh out loud. She is my go to author for a great summer read but there are so many more!

Some wonderful, talented, go-to authors I would recommend my readers try?

The fab Alice Clayton and her novel Wallbanger.

The witty Megan Mulry and her books A Royal Pain and  If The Shoe Fits. (Megan created content for RARM on her blog. Read it here.)

The talented Ruth Cardello and her yummy Maid For A Billionaire series

Happy reading everyone!


Questions for the Author

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

A hot pink garden gnome! My son got it for me for Mother’s Day, and he was so proud when I unwrapped it, he raced over to the main shelf in the house and put it on there and it has not moved since!

 

 If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

Expect the Unexpected. That’s how life is, a continuous surprise if you show up every day, ready to play. And who would play me? Rachel McAdams. Nope, she doesn’t look like me, but I love her laugh and spirit she brings to her roles and I’ve learned humor is everything.

 

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My first book cover in a beautiful frame. Made everything real and magical.

 

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Definitely The Marriage Bargain – it’s where my marriage to a billionaire series began, and a great introduction to readers regarding my voice and style. Nick and Alexa portray everything I love to write — sexual tension, humor, emotion, and I’d definitely direct romance readers to the scene where Alexa hides a roomful of dogs from Nick!

Jennifer is generously donating one signed copy of The Marriage Trap and one of The Marriage Merger  to U.S. readers and one copy of The Marriage Mistake to international readers (enter here).  To enter the U.S. drawing , either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 7 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Jennifer ProbstJennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons, one 6 and one 8, keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.

She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of both sexy and erotic contemporary romance including The Marriage Bargain, The Marriage Trap, and The Marriage Mistake and her new release, The Marriage Merger. She has been published with Gallery, Entangled, Decadent, The Wild Rose Press, and Red Sage Publishing. She has also written a children’s book, Buffy and the Carrot, co-written with her niece, along with a short story about a shelter dog, “A Life Worth Living.” All of her books are available at her website,  jenniferprobst.com

Find Jennifer’s books on Amazon.

Day 5: Kristan Higgins

The Thing with Feathers

I read romance for the kissing. I’ll be honest. I love kissing, and I love fighting, not necessarily in that order. I love to read about beautiful settings, good food, swanky events that I’ll never get invited to. I love to read about rippling abs and fabulous shoes. Chocolate. Dogs. Apartments in Chicago and Manhattan.

Mostly, though, I read romance for the hope.

Oh, Higgins, you’re saying. How schmaltzy! Yes. I am. But I think we all read romance for that element above all others. You might want rugged coastlines or thoughtfully-made martinis or beautiful vampires or maybe some handcuffs…but you need hope. Why read a romance just for the nooky? Isn’t that what the Internet / marriage is for?

I read romance for the hope, I really do. People change for the better in a good romance novel. They’re not just bumping along in life and bam, meet the perfect man/woman and all their issues are miraculously solved. Nah. That’s boring. That’s demeaning, and simplistic.

In a romance, though, maybe the most romantic part isn’t the love relationship; it’s the idea that our protagonist can finally find the inner courage and strength to tackle the problem that’s always gummed up the works before now. After all, there’s a reason our hero and heroine don’t yet have what they truly want or need. In a romance novel, they’re going to go for it in a way they never have before. They’ll fail…and they’ll try again. It’s a hero’s journey of the heart.

In real life, we all have that friend who gets in her own way. The guy who has so much potential but somehow manages to sabotage himself. The people who’d be so great if only they’d (cough) listen to us and be happier. Of course, we all fall into that category, too. It’s hard to be human. Most people in life don’t transform, don’t have a clearly delineated character arc that blossoms in the space of a few weeks or months as the outer goal is accomplished. That’s what makes a romance novel so gratifying, and uplifting…and hopeful. They did it. They’re our role models, and it doesn’t matter if they’re fictional, so long as they walk the walk of someone who was stuck, and afraid to try something different, and risked it all for love…and triumphed. Better. Stronger. More whole. The love of the other character…that’s just the cherry on top.

I got a letter from a young woman a couple of years ago, and I’ve read it and referenced it so many times that I have it memorized. It goes like this:

Dear Mrs. Higgins,
I have never had a boyfriend like the ones in your books. My boyfriend is not a very nice person. When he hit me, he was always sorry. Well, not really, but I stayed. But your books taught me what love should be and what I deserve, and I want you to know I am not with him anymore.

Reading that letter…that was one of the most humbling and proudest moments of my life. My books mattered to that girl. She was strong enough to see that she deserved better, and she left him. My God, the courage it must’ve taken to say, “I want what they have, those women in the books. And I’m going to have it.” And acting on it! That girl…she’s my hero. She’s the reason romance novels matter.

Looking for a fast-paced book with great characters and plenty of charm? Let me recommend:

Jeannie Moon, The Temporary Wife.  It’s Jeannie’s first book, and I can’t wait for more.


Questions for the Author:

 What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

I would have to go with a Christmas ornament that I love madly. It’s got a disproportionate, humanoid head; red wired wings and tiny, twisted pipe-cleaner arms. No legs, just a skirt. I don’t know what it is…a fairy? A portent of evil? It doesn’t matter. I love it, and no one is allowed to put it on the tree except yours truly. The rest of the family is, in fact, afraid of her.

 

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

It would be called “Where’s My Cell Phone?” I think Sandra Bullock could play me quite well. She does physically awkward like nobody’s business, and I’d like to be portrayed by someone who doesn’t have to wear Spanx. I’d also like to suggest Jake Gyllenhaal as the pool boy. Not that I have a pool boy, but I’d like one, and I’d like him to look like Jake.

 

What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?

Can I be really schmaltzy and say my kids? No? Okay, then I pick the fruit-fly trap McIrish gave me for Mother’s Day a few years ago. I loved that thing.

 

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

The romantic scene that leaps to mind is from ALL I EVER WANTED, when Callie seeks out Ian’s help. The not-dead-yet turkey, the over-excited Irish Setter, the ineptly applied bandages…what more do you need for a romantic night?

As for favorite romance novel couples, I really loved Matt and Allison in CAROLINA HOME by Virginia Kantra. There was something about those two that I really felt, you know? That wonderful feeling where their connection hits you right in the bone marrow in the most pleasant of ways.

Kristan is generously donating three copies of  The Best Man to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 6 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.

 


Called “the master of small-town romance,” Kristan Higgins is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and Romantic Times. Though she originally wanted to be a Jedi knight and/or pediatrician, Kristan worked in advertising before she became a stay-at-home mom and started writing fiction during her children’s naptimes.

Kristan lives in her hometown in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband and two lovely children who sport long eyelashes and advanced vocabularies. The family shares their home with a hyperactive mutt named Willow and an occasionally affectionate feline named Huck. Kristan’s hobbies include baking, eating, boxing (true) and daydreaming about Robert Downey Jr. Visit her at www.kristanhiggins.com.

Buy Kristan’s books at Amazon.

Day 5: Linda Francis Lee

Reaching for the Stars

When I was a senior in high school my high school boyfriend took another girl to our prom. At the time, it was a shock. My senior prom! It didn’t matter that the girl asked him, that she was supposedly a good friend, or that she was the sweetheart of his sporting team and she asked him to escort her for the pageant portion of the prom. It mattered that instead of only escorting her for the initial pageant, he then asked her to be his date for the rest of the dance and she said yes. But soon both of their betrayals became the greatest gift. Why? Because instead of going to the prom my brother and I went skiing with family friends, and it was on the long, lovely and cold drive from Texas to Colorado that the mother of that family gave me my first romance novel.

I had been raised on reading for school. See Spot Run. Or later, The Grapes of Wrath and Red Badge of Courage. For pleasure, I read biographies of historical figures. I was stunned reading my first historical romance – a thick novel filled with the history of English royalty and romance. Five years later I started writing my own romance novel. Now, all these years after that, I have written seventeen romance novels and three women’s fiction novels that are filled with romance. No question my life changed for the better the minute my boyfriend asked another girl to our senior prom.

The truth was, from the minute I opened the cover of that very first book I was hooked. The pages were filled with men and women you could root for. These were men and women who valued honor and were willing to do the hard work to become better people. That first novel mattered because it showed me a glimpse of the type of love I would rather have than the type served up by a boyfriend who would take a friend of mine to our prom.  Years of reading romance novels taught me that doormats never won. The kind of woman who stood up for herself, who showed the hero that she loved him, all the while refusing to cow to him in any way – even if she felt the need to – was the kind of woman I wanted to be. 

Can romance novels be unrealistic, or too good to be true? In some cases, yes. But to me, the best romance novels are like myths, the sorts of stories that were once told to teach people a better way to live, a way to teach women to stand up for themselves, to be individuals, to be strong. The very best romance novels make readers want to reach for the stars and not settle for less.

 

Since we are always looking for new-to-us great authors, let me recommend:

An author whose work I enjoy ~ M.J. Rose

An author I found through e-books ~ Samantha Young


Questions for the Author:

 

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

I have a stuffed Snoopy that my grandfather gave me when I was 10. All these years later it is ragged, falling apart, but a reminder of good men and a love that is unconditional.

 

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

The Misadventures of Linda starring Sandra Bullock.

 

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My husband – who truly loves me for better or worse . . . perhaps a reference to The Misadventures of Linda!

 

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

So far, I have two favorite couples from my books: Finnea and Matthew in an older historical of mine, DOVE’S WAY. Also, I love Frede Ware and Sawyer Jackson in THE DEVIL IN THE JUNIOR LEAGUE. Since I wrote DEVIL, I’ve had readers who have written to me saying they named children after Sawyer. He is truly a man of strong values and honor. Plus he is hot.

Linda is generously donating five copies of Emily & Einstein (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 6 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.

 


Linda Francis Lee is a native Texan now calling New York City home. Linda’s writing career began when her article “There Is No Finish Line” was published in her university’s quarterly magazine. But she got sidetracked from writing when she started teaching probability and statistics. Later she found her way back to writing, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution called her breakout novel, Blue Waltz, “absolutely stunning.” Now Linda is the author of nineteen books that are published in sixteen countries around the world. Two of her most recent novels are in development for feature films, and she is in the process of co-developing a television series set in her beloved Texas. When Linda isn’t writing, she loves to run in Central Park and spend time with her husband, family, and friends. She loves to hear from readers. You can find her at lindafrancislee.com.

 

Buy Linda’s books on Amazon.