Romance, The Best-Ever Gateway Drug
Romance is a gateway drug.
You start out, as a reader and/or a writer, telling yourself that okay, you’ll just try this one story. One first kiss. One leap of faith. One happy ending.
But one is never enough, is it? Next thing you know, the floodgates are open and you’re still reading and/or writing romance, but somehow romance has proliferated into many other varieties of love: bonding with a critique partner, talking to strangers at writing conferences, joining a book club, sharing your favorite novels with your mother and your sister, helping to organize fundraisers for worthy causes, taking in stray puppies you find on the street… Where will this madness end?
Well, the madness never ends, because love never ends. It perseveres, getting exponentially stronger as we bring new recruits into the fold. In real life, as in books, romantic love does more than fulfill the lovers. Romantic love leads to friendship, charity, forgiveness, piety.
Every time I read the last page of a great romance, I feel a subversive little thrill, because the author and I know the truth: love really IS the meaning of life. Love really can empower us, heal us, protect us. Romance is so much more than tales of hot sex with guys who have angst and six-pack abs. A compelling love story requires trust, loyalty, passion, conviction…plus a lot of other people. Love cannot take hold and thrive in a vacuum. The supporting characters push the hero and heroine together, or pull them apart. They listen. They advise, they challenge. They provide the friendship and devotion that emboldens the hero and heroine to do the thing they think they cannot do.
Even if a heroine finds the best romantic partner in the world, she still needs her female friends and confidantes. I love writing about female friendship because our friends are the family we choose for ourselves. I consider my good girlfriends to be my bonus sisters. Especially my writer friends. We love and support each other unconditionally. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s because we’re all crazycakes.) Romance readers and writers truly are a close, caring community. I hit the “clueless newbie writer” jackpot with several patient and generous mentors who helped me more than I can ever hope to repay. But I do my best to pay it forward, and I’m so excited to shamelessly name-drop my writing buddy Marina Myles, whose paranormal romance debut, Beauty and the Wolf, was just published by Kensington. (Read more about Marina and her book at www.marinamyles.com.)
And the readers! Romance readers deserve their own private island, complete with a vast romance-centric library (booze, chocolate, and comfy chairs available 24/7) and zero haters. We’ll call it the Republic of Romance Readers, every room will have an ocean view, and the weather will be 84 degrees and sunny every day. Who wants to be on the planning committee? My wonderful readers make me laugh, make me think, and make my books better. Facebook fans have nominated themselves–and their dogs–for cameos in my books. They’ve chosen a name for a heroine’s little red convertible (Scarlett) and put together the ultimate bitter breakup playlist featuring songs from all genres. Were it not for readers, I might have wasted my whole life without ever listening to the musical genius that is Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City.”
Love connects us, in all its variations, until we are unsinkable. Love prepares us to reach our potential and be a good partner to somebody else. And that’s what romance is really about: Belief in one’s own intrinsic worthiness. Faith in things unseen. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway, because you know someone will catch you if you fall.
(Although, let’s be real, a little hot sex with a guy with six-pack abs never hurt anyone.)
Questions for the Author
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
Craziest would be my giant red mutt, Friday. He’s not the smartest dog in the world, but he compensates by being extra loopy. When he first wakes up in the morning, he likes to roll over on his back, thrash around, and open his gigantic jaws. We call him “Gator Friday” because, well, he sort of looks like a furry red alligator.
Now that I’m actually typing this out, it doesn’t make 100% sense, so let’s just move along, shall we?
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
“Deadline Jail: The Beth Kendrick Story”. It would be a gritty thriller shot in grainy black and white, full of exultation, despair, and futile escape attempts.
I would cast Chris Hemsworth (see also: hot men with six-pack abs) as Beth Kendrick. I hear he’s a method actor, so he’d have to come to my house, immerse himself in my world, really connect with me on every level. These are the sacrifices we make for art!
What is the best non-monetary gift you’ve ever been given?
My author bestie Kresley Cole dedicated a book to me. I shed a little tear when I first saw it. But don’t tell her I said that.
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?)
Grab The Week Before the Wedding and enjoy the fireworks. Ryan, the hero, strode in on the first page, all swarthy and badass, and commandeered the whole story. I always get a little crush going for my heroes, but this guy took it to another level. By the end of that book, I was like, “Ryan Lassiter, WHY AREN’T YOU REAL?!?”
Two words: bathtub scene. You’ll thank me later.
Beth is generously donating three copies of The Week Before the Wedding 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 2 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Beth Kendrick lives in Arizona with her trusty rescue dogs, Roxie Hart and Friday. She is the author of nine women’s fiction books, including The Week Before the Wedding, The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, and Nearlyweds, which was made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Find out more about Beth at www.bethkendrick.com