A Romantic at Heart
I am a romantic at heart.
In my younger days, I searched for love stories long before romance novels had a place on the bookstore shelves. My favorite love story was often told by my mother. Since she was English, her words always carried a gentle cadence. And her story always touched the romantic in me.
I would snuggle up against her and say, “Tell me one more time.”
And her story went like this . . .
Lily grew up near London during World War II.
Rayburn spent most of his early years in Texas. He enlisted in the air force and was stationed at England’s Bovington Air Force Base shortly after the close of the war. He was an airplane mechanic.
One evening, Lily and her best friend, Jean, feigned illness to avoid reporting to work. They chose instead to attend a dance near the air force base.
Rayburn, covered in grease after just finishing his shift, stopped by the dance to see if it was worth his time to attend.
He saw Lily across the crowded room.
And she saw him.
He promptly went to clean up and change clothes. When he returned . . . they fell in love.
It was so incredibly romantic. Or so my young heart believed.
And by now, you probably realize that Lily was my mother and Rayburn was my father.
Of course, love never comes that easily. Not in real life. And seldom in romance novels. And for this very reason, romance novels appeal to me: they don’t make light of love. I have never read a romance novel where a man and woman looked across a room, gazed into each other’s eyes, instantly fell in love, and walked through the door hand in hand to live happily ever after.
When I first began reading romance novels, I couldn’t understand why these stories were labeled “romance.” The stories never revolved around the gifting of flowers or the murmuring of sweet nothings. After all, when we think of romance, don’t we think of candlelight dinners, slow dancing to George Strait’s “You Look So Good in Love”, and a gentle kiss in the moonlight?
But flowers wilt, sweet nothings drift away on the breeze, and eventually, even the music must come to an end. Romance—true romance—is much more substantial and has no end in sight.
That’s not to say that the expected romantic situations don’t appear in romance novels. They very often do. But the stories don’t revolve around the candlelight dinner. Romance novels delve a little deeper. They share with the reader the reasons behind these two people having a candlelight dinner. They show us why these two people want to be in each other’s company. And they leave us with the satisfaction of understanding why the evening will be filled with romance.
At their very core, romance novels are love stories. But true love, lasting love, is not found in a gaze, a word, a fleeting moment of happiness. Lasting love must build slowly over time.
For many characters in romance novels, love is a dying ember. It takes the touch of someone special to ignite the flame. But the touch only signals the beginning. Love has to be forged, shaped, and tempered into something that has the strength to last and the power to endure.
Romance novels show us the beginning of the love and reveal to us through the course of events that the love can endure . . . will endure. Along the way, the hero and heroine may stumble, they may lose sight of their love. But they seldom abandon it. Sometimes the loves shifts, sometimes it is reshaped.
Yet we never doubt that the hero and heroine will live happily ever after because for a short time, we have the privilege of traveling with them as they share their darkest moments and unravel their deepest secrets.
They bare their hearts, their souls, their uncertainties to each other. The hero may reveal his weakness. The heroine will see his strength. The heroine may reveal her fears. The hero will see her courage. They give their flawed hearts into the other’s keeping and find it accepted and cherished as is.
How incredibly romantic. Or so my middle aged heart believes.
Through the passing years, my perspective on what is romantic has changed. I’ll confess that flowers can still bring tears to my eyes. But someone proving to me that I am not alone in the world fills my heart with resounding joy.
And in most romance novels, the ultimate expression of love does not take place during the love scene. It takes place during that one moment of despair when the hero or heroine discovers that he or she is not alone and comes to understand that someone is there beside them to lessen their burden.
Such is the power of love.
It wraps itself around us to protect us when we are at our lowest ebb. And it raises us above the clouds when we achieve our highest aims. Which is why I enjoy reading—and writing—romance novels. We witness each character’s trials and tribulations. We come to know them intimately. We trust them wholeheartedly. Instinctively, we know that they won’t let go of something so incredibly precious: lasting love.
We read passages that show us the laying of the foundation for that love, and in the pages that follow, we watch as the love builds, slowly over time.
The realization of the love may come in a moment’s breath, but the foundation for the love was laid long before.
To know that the love is strong appeals to the romantic in me. Romance novels generally end when the hero and heroine experience the ultimate expression of their love, when they know beyond a doubt that this person will always stay beside them. I may have only read a year or two of the hero and heroine’s lives, but I am not left wanting. The author has already shared with me the most important aspect of the characters’ lives: the development of love, respect, understanding, and acceptance of each other.
I do not need to read the final pages of their lives. Although I am not privy to all their years together, the years I have read about convince me that their love will survive all the storms that sweep over it.
And I am certain there will be storms aplenty.
As a romance reader, I enjoy knowing that if I visit these characters fifty years from now, they will still be together, still holding hands, still gazing into each other’s eyes. Long ago, when my mother shared with me her romance story, she shared only the beginning. Through the years, I watched the remainder of the story unfold.
My parents saw the best and worst of each other. And yet they never abandoned each other; they never abandoned their love.
Just like the love of the hero and heroine we find in romance novels: my parents’ love endured.
How incredibly romantic.
Or so my romantic heart believes.
If you are searching for a romantic read, I recommend A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME by Sarah MacLean. I absolutely adore Sarah’s work but this is my favorite of her stories. It’s the first in the Rules of Scoundrels series. ONE GOOD EARL DESIRES A LOVER, the 2nd book in series, is also available and I loved it as well. I can’t wait for November when I can get my greedy little hands on NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED. These books are available in both print and electronic formats. She is an auto-read for me. (*Me, too! ~Bobbi)
Another auto-read for me is Addison Fox. Her Boardrooms and Billionaires series is available only in electronic format. I just finished both TEMPTING ACQUISITIONS and MERGER TO MARRIAGE. I love a good hero, and hers are ruthless, sexy, and oh so yummy. I’m looking forward to THE BILLIONAIRE’S DEMANDS in September.
Questions for Lorraine:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
The ugliest object in my house is a cheap plastic-framed mass-produced sketch of Buckingham palace that has some kind of stains on it but I keep it because it hung in the hallway of my mom’s house. She bought it the first time she returned to England to visit with her parents, dragging her 4 children along behind her. I was 8 at the time. I think it reminded her of home. It was special to her, so it’s special to me.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
A movie made about my life would be called “Madness and Mayhem.” Anne Hathaway would play me. (Henry Cavill would be my love interest.)
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
“Happy Mother’s Day” texts from my sons.
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, this is hard because each of my couples are special to me for one reason or another, but if I have to choose . . . I would probably go with Lord Rafe Easton and Miss Evelyn Chambers from LORD OF WICKED INTENTIONS. He is a man who refuses to love or care about anything or anyone and she is searching for love and acceptance.
Lorraine is generously donating a “Lorraine Heath Recommends” prize packet for three lucky readers! Each packet will consist of one copy of The Lord of Wicked Intentions, one copy of Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue By Any Other Name, one copy of Addison Fox’s Just In Time and a Read-A-Romance ‘Romance Rocks’ mug. (There are different versions. This is one. And Thank You, Lorraine! ~Bobbi) Domestic only, apologies to international readers. To enter 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 8 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Lorraine Heath always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals, press releases for a publicist, articles, and computer code, but something was always missing. In 1990, she read a romance novel and became not only hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since, for both adult and young adult readers (as Rachel Hawthorne and with her son as J. A. London).