My Lifelong Love Affair with Love
Of course ROMANCE matters. As a reader of romance, it was the lifeline that I securely fastened around my waist from the time that I could tie that knot. As a child growing up in Guyana, I spent many after-school hours in the company of an elder who read Mills and Boons in staggering quantities. I would peek over her shoulder to read, while braiding her hair. Or I’d sit opposite her on the verandah, waiting for my mother to come, and spending the time staring up at the book covers. In my head, I would be off to those romantic settings of faraway places. Then, it was my turn to discover Harlequin Presents in my teens. By this time, I was living and going to school in the U.S., which seemed so foreign and unfriendly. With my two bookaholic friends who were also newly arrivals to the U.S., we escaped into the world of romances. We would pool our money to buy the books and when we couldn’t afford it, we’d beg the librarian in the book-mobile that came into the neighborhood to loan us those “adult” books. We formed our romance bookclub long before that was a trend. We read a book a day and we’d meet at each other’s apartments to talk about and exchange the books. During the meeting, we’d read our favorite passages to each other. Romance books in our young lives mattered more than anything else. From reading, we moved onto writing romances.
Now out of the three of us, I’m the only one who kept writing. We’d long gone our separate ways, more confident and settled with our lives. One day, I got an email from one of the friends who had discovered my published books. For you see, I wanted to create those stories that took hold of my imagination from a young age. I wanted to be the sculptor shaping my perfect hero to meet his perfect heroine. Writing romances gave me the freedom to write about people like me, but more importantly, about people who looked like me.
Romance is all around me. I was 17 years old when I met my husband in college. He was 21 years old. Not quite the age appropriateness that my parents, especially my mother, wanted to see. I then transferred to another university after two years, pushing that long distance button, but our romance survived. Recently we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary with our two kids who say they are never getting married–LOL.
Unlike any other genre, romance books facilitate our basic human need to love and be loved. We have enough of a diverse spectrum—erotic romance, historical, contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, inspirational, and everything in between–to quench the various paths to this common goal. When we huddle to talk about the epic worlds of a shapeshifting society, or the palace intrigue of an ancient time, or fall in love with small town America, all the outer trappings of how we categorize ourselves, as citizens, melt away. Next time pay attention to how romance bookaholics talk about their favorite stories or characters, their love for alpha vs. beta heroes, or the strength of their favorite heroines. What race you are, your religious affiliation, your gender bias don’t matter. We cross all the social divides and constructs to share our love for these books.
Society could stand to learn a thing or two from romance novels. Maybe instead of angry posturing, a few romance novels on the diplomatic tables could do more for furthering society than how many weapons to build or ways to control or annihilate certain populations of society. Romance humanizes us. It invites us to walk in someone else’s shoes. It invites us to see the world through different lens. Most of all, romance says that no matter your starting point, no matter where you are on the journey, love is love.
I would like to recommend award-winning Celeste O. Norfleet’s books. She’s a prolific author and has a great ongoing family series called The Coles. Her latest release is The Thrill Of You. I would also recommend e-author Iris Bolling who writes romantic suspense with a touch of Ian Fleming flair. Her latest book, The Pendleton Rule, will not disappoint.
Questions for Michelle:
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
The Fabulous, Delusional World of Moi. I think the title captures how I think. Sometimes I think things are worse than they actually are or that they are better than they actually are. On that note, I’d have a supermodel play me because of that delusional state that I live in.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
Usually it’s just a simple two words – THANK YOU. Gratitude is always appreciated. And yet, it’s sometimes the most forgotten 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?)
Marc Newton and Erin Wilson of Racing Hearts–I loved writing about a race car driver and his doctor, a clichéd couple, but so is a billionaire and his secretary, and yet, we don’t stop reading them.
Michelle is generously donating two copies of Passionate Game to give away. 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 10 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Michelle Monkou is a multi-published author with over 16 books in print and digital. She began her writing career in 2002 with Black Entertainment Television (BET) Books. Now, she writes for Harlequin’s Kimani Romance and publishes backlist and original stories on her independent digital platform, Stella Maris Publishing. Michelle served on the board and as president of Romance Writers of America. She’s a weekly contributor on USA TODAY’s Happy Ever Blog. Her website is michellemonkou.blogspot.com