Solace in Uncertain Times
I feel like I should use this platform to talk about how romance novels are like a global room of one’s own for women of all shapes, loves, denominations and addresses. It’s one of the few places where I see not just versions of myself and my friends and family but where I find many of the things that are important to me discussed and dealt with in a consistently hopeful way.
But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to talk about why romance matters to me personally.
Before my sophomore year of high school, I would call myself a romance “dabbler.” The keeper box under my bed was just starting, I had a few Deveareaux, some McNaughts, my Elizabeth Lowell collection was in its starter stage. I was a novice.
I come from a small town and had a very Norman Rockwell experience previous to my sophomore year. My father was a teacher and coach at the high school, my brother was a sports star. My mother was a nurse. I was your typical overweight but funny girl whose best friend just happened to be a beautiful blonde cheerleader. Our sophomore year the beautiful blonde cheerleader started to date a very cool junior. A very hero-worship able guy with a jeep who never had a problem with his girlfriend’s chubby best friend tagging along with them. There’s a good chance that I am romanticizing him – but somehow it’s all worse for that. If I could remember a moment when he wasn’t generous and loving and funny and kind, this story wouldn’t be so awful.
Because I didn’t know that he was bi polar. And I didn’t know that he’d stopped taking his medication. Until he committed suicide.
My world, my best friend’s world – the larger world of our friends and my entire town – it was torn apart. Our grief was communal which in many ways seemed to be a relief, but at the same time my friend’s grief only made mine more painful. It felt like the world was setting out to crush all of us and only relentless worry could keep it at bay.
Relentless worry and romance novels.
In the face of my grief and confusion – I became a scholar of romance novels. An addict. I found solace in those other worlds, where friends didn’t kill themselves with their jeeps in a closed garage, leaving behind beautiful blond cheerleaders who screamed and cried and wailed.
I cannot tell you how badly I need that Happy Ever After. And McNaught, Kinsale, Deveraux, Lowell delivered every time.
The romance novel, for certain people at certain times, is powerful medicine.
And that is only one of the many reasons why they’re so important.
One of my favorite authors is Stephanie Doyle, whose Harlequin Superromances often deal with bigger issues. Her latest – For The First Time is out in October and is one to check out. In digital only historical you can’t get better than Courtney Milan. Every single one of her books breaks my heart and makes me gasp in surprise. She’s simply one of the best of the genre. Her latest – The Heiress Effect is stunning.
Questions for Molly
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
A sweater my mom made, I think for my father millions of years ago. The arms are different lengths, the hem is crooked. It’s all kinds of bad. I love it.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
Mommy Gone Mad? And Tina Fey, of course.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
Every single piece of art work from my kids.
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?)
There’s a sort-of sex scene in my October book Wild Child that I just LOVE. It’s sexy and vulnerable and surprising – even for me and I wrote it! It’s the one in the bath – I hope you’ll check it out.
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!
Molly is generously donating three e-book copies of CRAZY THING CALLED LOVE to U.S. readers and two printed copies of CRAZY THING CALLED LOVE to international readers. International readers enter here. To enter the domestic contest, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page — Today is the last day to register for a Nook HD+ and 31 books courtesy of Harlequin. You may also do both (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay do 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.
Molly O’Keefe published her first Harlequin romance at age twenty-five and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring each character’s road toward happily ever after. She’s won two Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice awards and the RITA for Best Novella in 2010. Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, two kids, and the largest heap of dirty laundry in North America. Her new series THE BOYS OF BISHOP will begin in October with WILD CHILD, NEVER BEEN KISSED in June and BETWEEN THE SHEETS in July.