Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
#LoveRomance—Escape -> Empowerment -> Revolution
I’m addicted to romance stories, and have been since I was ten years old. When other kids my age were reading The Babysitters’ Club, or scaring themselves with Goosebumps, I was scouring the library for Penny Jordan and Johanna Lindsay. By the time I was fourteen, I’d read every romance novel I could find in my local library, and had started trolling garage sales and used books stores. I had more than one teacher give me the side eye when they saw what I was reading, and there were kids who’d steal my book so they could read the sexy parts out loud (sex scenes don’t sound nearly as ridiculous in my head as they do when being read by a fifteen year old). It didn’t matter, though. For me, romance novels were an escape—an escape from the boring, from the depressing, from the regular B.S. of the everyday. If there was something I didn’t want to deal with—my parents’ divorce, trouble at school, whatever—I’d open a book and get lost in my Happy Ever After place.
More than a decade later, while I was escaping from the mundane trials of an office drone by burying myself in Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Elizabeth Lowell, a whole romance writing and publishing industry was booming halfway around the world in Nigeria. Like me, readers and writers needed an escape. But where I looked to escape my first world problems, many of these women were escaping religious and political fanaticism and strictures.
The Nigerian romance industry has existed since the 1980s, and the books shift between morality tales and classic pulp romance. Many are written by hand in notebooks. Some are sold in crowded marketplaces. Some are translated (most are written in Hausa, one of Nigeria’s predominant languages) and published online. They’re called littattafan soyayya (which roughly translates to “love literature”).
Romance novels are often ridiculed here in America. But in Nigeria, they are downright controversial. Many local governments have censored almost all romance books, as they are said to corrupt young people and encourage moral indecency. Authors are forced to register with the Hisbah, the morality police, as well as different government officials. As a result of these extra regulations, and the political and religious pressures, many Nigerian publishing companies stopped publishing romances, and book stores stopped carrying these titles.
That wasn’t enough to curb the tide of romance, though. Women started opening their own publishing houses and their own bookstores. Some authors who didn’t want to abide by the censoring dictates of the Hisbah, self-published, and sold their books outside of the government oversights.
I love that these romance readers who refuse to be subverted are in a way their own Happily Ever After. Many of us love the escapism and how it empowers women. I love that this empowerment has led to a type of underground literary revolution.
Romance -> Escape -> Empowerment -> Revolution
That’s why I #LoveRomance.
j. leigh bailey recommends:
There are so many fantastic authors in the romance world right now, it’s really hard to narrow the list down to a select few. That being said, there are a couple writers I’d love to give a special shout-out to. So, in no particular order, here are three authors I absolutely recommend to readers.
- Annabeth Albert – (annabethalbert.com) (at Amazon) — Annabeth writes Contemporary Adult and New Adult male/male romance. Her characters are completely relatable and her stories are one of my favorite feel-good escapist reads. Right now I’m completely digging her #Gaymers series published through Carina Press. Beta Test, the second in the series, explores one of my favorite tropes: the road trip.
- Vanessa M. Knight – (vanessamknight.com) (at Amazon) – Vanessa writes Contemporary New Adult, and Romance with Suspense Elements. She has a snarky way with words that makes me smile, even as her Ritter University series drags me back to my college days. She covers some potentially dark topics—like alcoholism, gangs, sexual assault—in a sensitive, yet not completely dark, way.
- Juliann Rich – (juliannrich.com) (at Amazon) – Juliann writes Young Adult LGBTQ novels that immerse the reader completely into her characters. Her prose is deceptively simple, while at the same time rich, textured, and evocative. I devoured her Caught in the Crossfire books ( YA gay-themed books about a boy coming to terms with his sexuality and his spirituality), and her upcoming novel Gravity (a female/female romance about competitive ski jumpers) is one of my most anticipated books of this year.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
In April of 2012 I stepped into my first RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago, IL. I’d never been to a conference that large, and I was in awe of it. From the cover decals on elevators, life-sized posters, the swag and, most importantly, a slew of my favorite authors wandering around…it was amazing. I had this moment of recognition. These were my people, my tribe. No one in my family and very few of my friends read romance novels, so to be surrounded by that many creators and fans of romance was huge. These were people who understood. Whether it was lining up to see Nalini Singh, Charlaine Harris, and Jeaniene Frost, or business discussions with Kerrelyn Sparks, I was in my element. I was completely enveloped in romance. It may not be the story of the life of my life or a romantic proposal, but it was a little overwhelming, a little exhilarating, and altogether amazing—all the things a long-time romance reader like me would expect romance to be.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
Julie Garwood brought my best friend and me together in college. Barb was just a girl who worked on campus with one of my friends in the dorms. A big group of us got together to go out one night and after an embarrassing amount of beer, we got to talking. Books came up. Barb was the first person I’d met at school who actually read romance books too. Of course, the inevitable questions came up: who do you read? What kind of books? She said Julie Garwood and we immediately started comparing notes one which of her books we’d read and which were our favorites. (We both preferred Garwood’s highlander books. Sexy alpha men in kilts who don’t know how to handle their feisty English women? What’s not to like?) It was the first time I’d ever had that kind of conversation. To this day, outside of the people I know in the romance industry, she’s the only one I know with whom I can gush about a romance novel and not sound like a freak.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
In my mind, the stereotypical green fields of Ireland epitomize romance. I get an image of mist flowing across the land, billowing around ancient and all-but-forgotten standing stones. Rocky cliffs at the edge of the sea, with waves crashing along the shoreline. Whenever I see pictures of Ireland, or of imagined locations like it, I can’t help but think that this IS romance.
I’ve never been to Ireland, though travelling there is certainly on my bucket list. I’m almost afraid to go, for fear of reality not living up to my expectations. So for now, it remains a dream, but it’s a romance dream.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
Eve Dallas and Roark from J. D. Robb’s In Death series is by far my favorite couple. I love the way they constantly, even after dozens of books in the series, butt heads. They are both fascinating characters individually, and together the conflict and tension is explosive. They balance each other, or more specifically, each is a better version of themselves when they are together. The best romantic couples are those who make each other better people.
Tell us about your dream date?
Can a 3-day event be a date? For me, the my dream date is one that includes hiking, camping, reading by the water, long discussions by firelight, quiet reflection at dusk, and s’mores by the fire. I want to count stars, create our own constellations, make up silly camp songs. Preferably in an area I have yet to explore with awe-inspiring scenery. It kind of sounds like I want to go to summer camp at the Grand Canyon. Hmmm….
j. leigh bailey is generously giving away books to US and international readers. See below for details. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Aug 13, 2016 . *** International friends, be sure to leave your country in the comments so we know to include you in the international drawing. Good luck!
1 — (Open to everyone): a complete (digital) set of her Letting Go series, which includes Nobody’s Hero, Reckless Hope, and Fight to Forgive
2 — (International only): a digital ARC of her September release DO-GOODER.
3 — (US and Canada only): a physical ARC of my September release DO-GOODER.
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking.
She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation, deserves a happy ending.
Buy j. leigh bailey’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!