The Answers I’d Like to Give
My father thinks he is a funny man—and occasionally he is, except when it comes to romance novels.
Background: My mother is a huge reader. She once belonged to every Harlequin book club known to marketing. (She calls them her Harlecomes. Isn’t that cute? They “come” in the mail. But actually, my mother is the queen of malapropisms, and since I’m her kid, I’m not half shabby myself.) Anyway, I grew up with my mother sitting in her corner at the kitchen banquette reading away. At least a book a day. Sometimes more. I always knew where she was. I still do. Today, she reads on her couch in her office. At this very moment, while you are reading this blog, I bet she is sitting on that couch, unless “Rizzoli and Isles” is on the telly. But she will return.
Anyway, my dad’s favorite line about romance novels is “Check out page one hundred, that is where the sex scene starts.” Yuk, yuk.
Now, he says this with pride. He loves the line. He believes it is clever and loves to tease his wife about her reading. He will use that tiresome line on anyone who talks books with Mother. When I was younger, I thought he was being condescending. However, as I’ve grown older, I realize he is delighted his wife isn’t shy about sex and the value of it in relationships. He has been a happy man for most of his sixty plus years of marriage and has never begrudged her a book or reading time. And Mother knows what side of the bread has the butter. She rolls her eyes and returns to her reading.
Of course, my tolerant understanding behind the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” of his humor doesn’t mean I will let him throw out that line willy-nilly. One year, he and I met up when the Romance Writers of America Convention was in the same town where he had business. As he entered the hotel lobby, I could see he was dying to use his “line.” He quivered–yes, I used that word on purpose–with the desire.
He honed in on Debbie Macomber who was innocently waiting to meet some people for breakfast.
“Is that a romance writer?” he asked.
“Ah, yes, it is Debbie Macomber,” I said without thinking. After all, it was early in the morning. My brain hadn’t had coffee.
“Let me go ask her if she knows what happens on page one hundred—“
He never got the opportunity to finish the sentence or take more than a few steps toward Debbie before I delivered a full body tackle and dragged him out the lobby’s revolving door.
In truth, I may have saved his life. Even though Debbie Macomber is the kindest of people, offending writers is not a healthy pastime. We are not as indulgent as wives.
But most people don’t know that. There is always a jokester.
So, here are a few of my answers to “those” questions:
Are your books based upon your life experiences?
You betcha. I loved being a pirate sailing the Caribbean. Life on a ship is smellier than you can possibly imagine. Of course, I hate it when I write about a dead body. The research could land me in jail if I’m ever caught. Would you like a cup of tea? My latest work in progress deals with poisoning.
Seeing that I missed what they were really asking, the question is rephrased: Are the sex scenes in your books based upon your experiences?
Oh, no, they are far too tame for my real life.
And finally: Do you know what happens on page one hundred of every romance novel?
Yes, Dad, two people start to realize whatever direction they were moving toward in life would be more fun and more meaningful if they fell into step together. And this isn’t just about sailing the high seas or saving the world from rogue FBI agents or small town sheriffs or filling your dance card or even doing one more load of laundry to keep the family going. No, there is something deeper going on from page one to one hundred to the very end of the book because we all want someone fully committed to loving each of us for all that we are, right now in the present tense in spite of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the corny. Love you, Dad. (You, too, Mother.)
You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August. Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!
Cathy is generously donating one set of Chattan Curse books ( LYON’S BRIDE, THE SCOTTISH WITCH, THE DEVIL’S HEART) to U.S. readers (apologies to international 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 11:59pm EST Aug 23 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Questions for Cathy:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
My dogs. Maya is a sweetie but Truman is a five year old hound with big ugly freckles on his nose and I adore him. He had no manners when we first met. I rescued him from a pound two months ago. Maya picked him out. He wasn’t neutered, has heart worm and had Lymes and every parasite and worm known to man. T-Dog is a work in progress. Every day he changes. He is learning he is in a safe place with toys and cushions to sleep on and two squares. I’m smitten. I think he is too. He sleeps with a happy dog smile on his face.
Truman laughing because he is happy– Yeah, that is his laugh. When he is really happy, he shows his teeth like Alfred E. Neman guffawing. Frightening! And endearing. This picture was taken when he first joined the household. You can’t see how hard his tail is wagging. Note how ratty his coat is? See how soft and relaxed he looks in the other pic? All I can say is eat well and take your vites, my friends. It does make a difference.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD . . . because I like the sound of it and it can mean so many things. In truth, life is not for the faint of heart, not if it is to be enjoyed fully. If I’ve learned anything, it is to embrace the adventures that come to us every day. Even a load of wash calls for some heart. Certainly my son’s laundry did. (When he left for the Navy, I had to spend two days cleaning his room. Now, that was an eye-opening adventure.) As to who would play me, I was going to say Catherine O’Hara, the mom in HOME ALONE. However, this is show biz! I want Angelina Jolie to have the part. I want a big budget! And minions! And vegetarian food on the set, even for the kids!
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
Time. I adore having my children and family visit. I love being in their company. And I can’t replace time. I can’t make up for it or barter it or manufacture it.
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?)
I’ll recommend BECAUSE OF YOU. It is my take on the Prodigal Son and there is some lovely heat to that book. Just delicious. As to my pick for best kiss in a novel–It is when Dallie stretches Francesca across the hood of a car in FANCY PANTS by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Best kiss written.
Cathy Maxwell is NYT and USA Today bestselling writing of over twenty-five historical romance novels and dallies as a contributor to FoxNews.com when they need a sensible opinion. You can reach Cathy at www.cathymaxwell.com