Revelations on Romance
Originally published in Read a Romance Month on Aug 2014
Yesterday I wept at the beauty of a romance.
Admittedly, I’m a weeper. I see a brilliant sunset, hear a toddler’s laughter, witness an act of kindness, and I become a watering pot. The spectacular glory of life — whether of the natural world or of human creation — gets to me in my deepest core of joy. But the weeping I did over that book yesterday made me think about this piece for RARM that I’d been pondering. This is because it touched upon some ponderings already rolling around in my head. And it made me understand why, when I can write any kind of fiction or non-fiction, I choose to write romance.
Now, I’m a scholar by training, and I generally tend to present my deeply held convictions (or even passing notions) in the classic scholarly style: point #1, plus evidence; point #2, plus evidence; point #3, plus evidence… You get the idea. But that’s not right for this. Instead, here I’m going to call the four points of my ponderings “revelations.” Because that’s how they happened, as moments when my mind, heart and spirit came together to understand something big and special.
In her fantastic “The Book that Writes Itself” workshop for writers that I recently attended, best selling author Madeline Hunter said, “In most romances there is not one over-arching conflict. There are two: the romance and a conflict that is external but intertwined with the romance.” I understand this well. My latest book, I Adored a Lord, is a historical romance as well as a house party murder mystery (like Clue!), with the hero and heroine as co-sleuths who discover all sorts of sexy scandals along the way to solving the case, including their love. But you don’t need to read or write two fiction genres in the same book to see this. Because romances can be about anything. Romance is, in fact, everything. It is murder mysteries and sunsets and acts of kindness and children’s laughter. Love stories are interwoven into real life, so when we write them on the page, real life radiates from our love stories. And this isn’t confined to the romantic relationship at the heart of the story. The love of siblings, parents, friends and even pets make romance novels glow too. All life lends itself to a romance novel. The genre has an infinite quality about it.
Revelation #1: Romance is infinite.
Not long ago I heard a perfect pop love song, “1000 Years” by Christina Perri with Broadway star Steve Kazee. It gave me sublime shivers. A sample: “The day we met / frozen I held my breath / right from the start I knew that I’d found a home for my heart / beats fast / colors and promises / how to be brave / how can I love when I’m afraid / to fall / watching you stand alone / all of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.” Lyrics, tone, rhythm — this is poetry.
Revelation #2: Romance is poetry.
Thanks to our wonderful university, next year author Laura Florand and I will teach a course on the romance novel. Interdisciplinary in nature, the course is about history, literature, popular culture and creative writing. In developing the syllabus, we are considering a variety of moments in the history of the genre to share with our students. We will not, however, present the assigned book list as a “canon” of romance fiction. To confine a genre so varied and poetic would be to confine a golden eagle to a shoebox cage.
Revelation #3: Romance is unfettered.
Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a gloriously perfect romance between a young man and his own heart. It is an adventure story of sorts, and one of my favorite books ever. At one point in the novel, the young man falls in love. The moment this happens renders me breathless. The first time I read it, tears from my eyes fell onto the page. I was in public, but I could not stop them. My heart beat so hard and fast that I could barely breathe. There was a mystical, epic quality about it, even though it was simply a boy telling a girl he loved her and the girl promising her love in return. It was small and simple yet enormous and grand.
Revelation #4: Romance is the universe in a few intimate words.
There it is: I celebrate, write and love romance because it is infinite, poetic, unfettered and intimately epic. So if you see someone trying to put romance in a cage, tell her kindly—but with passion—that you won’t stand for having your wings clipped. And she shouldn’t either.
I penned this short piece in the midst of writing I Loved a Rogue, and that love story especially inspired my thoughts here. To read the mini-Q&A that appears after this piece, and for a host of wonderful authors’ thoughts on romance, visit Read a Romance Month.