Hi, readers! I am beyond pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. Recently, I asked both authors and romance readers to come to me with their responses to this big question: “What Does Romance Mean to Me?” I was genuinely interested in what made us all tick, what continued to draw us to the genre. Why do we love “love” so much? I wanted to dig deep into the heart of each person. And I’ve gotten some incredible feedback. Today is the next post in this series.
So, without further ado, let’s turn the mic over to author Belinda Y. Hughes, who has some things to say about the question at hand.
When you say ‘romance’ to me, I automatically think of romance novels to escape reality, love songs to restore hope and celebrate love found, dinner and a movie on date night, spontaneous getaways at the advent of a new relationship, lacy satin lingerie, long curly hair, soft-scented skin, candles, poetry and flowers.
But in practice, it goes deeper than that.
Lovers and others have taught me a lot about romance in the last fifty years. Romance can be had at any price point, from cooking at home together to dressing up and going out for date night to wedding ceremonies and a renewal of vows. Romance can be as simple or complex as you care to make it. You can leave your lover a voicemail in a husky whisper, study sensual massage techniques and yoga for time together behind closed doors, or clear the family out of the house and have a weekend in the nude. It all comes down to your identity, feelings and self-expression.
Is ‘romance’ a driving force in your life?
Yes, I’ve been known to drop whatever I’m doing – even house painting – and make terrible mistakes for the sake of romance. It has caught me when I wasn’t looking and been a pleasant surprise for a time. Sometimes I feel possessed by a higher force sweeping me along as I prepare for a date with a new lover, and that one turns out to last quite a while longer than the rest. Sometimes it’s going out on a limb and risking my heart when I may not even get a kiss in return, even after weeks of exploration.
How have your beliefs about romantic relationships informed your own relationships?
I’m both a fourth generation divorcee’ and the child pawn in my parents’ divorce, so while I always pursued the dream as a Piscean hopeless romantic, the grim prognosis for reality equally always lurked in the background. My longest relationships were 3.5 and 4.5 years. Surprisingly, some of my best relationships were often a year or less. Some might say I simply haven’t discovered that One True Love who is the reason none of the others worked out. I believe that’s possible.
Were other couples influential somehow?
Just as I watch other couples on the dance floor to learn the latest moves, like any writer, I watch others in their practice of romance and take notes, both for my own life and stories.
And as I read, listen to music and watch TV and movies, the character couples influence me, as well.
From Mike and Carol Brady, I learned that spouses should be respectful, playful and supportive, and life can get crazy, but love can survive. From Darin and Samantha Stevens, I learned that romance involves timing: a freshly prepared martini as one partner returns home from work; a home-cooked, restaurant-quality dinner served on an attractively set table; flexibility and tolerance can save hours, even days, of dispute; and magic can strike at any moment. From Gilligan’s Island, I learned that you can make romance out of anything, wherever you are.
My parents didn’t define romance as seen on TV. What I witnessed of their everyday romance consisted of kissing, back scratching, splitting chores by gender and sharing meals. Once, when Dad came in the door asking how he could help, and Mom asked him to check on the baby (me) so she could finish dinner, it didn’t end well. Dad was impressed with my crib-Houdini and highboy-climbing talents and insisted she see it to believe it. Mom, on the other hand, was floored – literally. Not terribly romantic.
My late aunt, famous among our family for her natural beauty and lengthy primping, used to say, “Always remember, your next husband could be right outside that door.” She and my great-grandmother were married at least four times each, and even as a grandmother, that aunt could still attract college boys in California.
My older sister was my most influential role model for romance via her Cosmo-girl sophistication. She taught me how to shop big-city lingerie sales and shared her “trashy paperbacks”, which were quite educational. One of the few romantic yet not-trashy paperbacks she put me onto was Aromatherapy for Women by Maggie Tisserand (ex-wife of Robert, the noted herbalist), which includes aphrodisiacs and recipes for letting go of the cares of the day and getting oneself and one’s partner in the mood for love. Handy stuff, that. When I called home from Dallas in a fit of disappointment over a home-cooked dating disaster, it was my sister who informed me traditional pasta, not spaghetti squash, was the way to a guy’s heart.
I learned much more about romance from my lovers than anyone else. I started to detail their decadent nuances here, but that would give away my stories before you’ve read them, and we can’t have that now, can we?
How has all this fed into your romance writing process or career?
In my writing process, I often fancy a particular personality or memorable moment (see nuances, above) and somehow work it into a story.
Career-wise, I’ve eschewed traditional publishers, preferring possessive, monogamous relationships with my books. However, since passing the mid-century mark, I’ve become more open-minded and might now consider an indie-trad ménage. Maybe. Watch this space.
Belinda Y. Hughes wears many hats: author, editor, proofreader, blogger, beta reader, author coach, press release and synopsis writer and events coordinator. Her books include Living Proof, Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, Blues in the Night, Blues 2: The Colonel and Unit Study: DERELICT by Lisa Cohen. She is currently working on the next in the Confessions, Blues and Unit Study series, as well as a Mail Order Bride trilogy and a poetry collection.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Belinda-Y.-Hughes/e/B00KZZKXC0/
Wait, we’re not quite finished!
So, I put the question to you as a reader today as well. What does the word ‘romance’ really mean for you? Is ‘romance’ a driving force in your life? How have your beliefs about romantic relationships informed your own relationships? Perhaps seeing other couples (parents or friends) were some kind of influence. By reading romance novels, does that help to reaffirm things for you?
If you’d like to participate in this special feature, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll schedule a spot for you. As you can tell from the schedule on the right hand side of the page, we’re getting booked fast, but don’t hesitate to join in! You do not need to be a writer or author. We want to hear from anyone. We’d love to get your take on how you feel about romance, and why you keep reading our books! ♥♥♥
Thanks again, Belinda, for giving us your take on what romance has come to mean to you. Lovely! 😀
Readers, stay tuned for our next special feature on this topic when author Vivienne Vincent visits us on June 22nd! Yay! 🙂
We’ll have other posts before then, though.
Have a great weekend, everyone!