For all of our American readers, hope you enjoy a happy Independence Day filled with freedom, fireworks, celebration, and good books!
As I’ve discussed before, my TBR pile is out of control. I mean, I have approximately 595 books labeled “To Be Read” on my LibraryThing inventory. It’s gotten so extreme, I’m at the point where I don’t even know where to start.
This past weekend, I
wasted spent a good long day organizing my virtual shelves, which is a lot more fun than organizing my real shelves because I don’t get so dusty. I consolidated my tag designations, made sure I had inventoried any new purchases or e-books, and generally got a handle on what was what. While I worked, I came up with some ideas on how I could whittle away at my piles. (more…)
For readers in the United States, today is a day off – hopefully a good reading day! However, there’s so much more to it than that. Memorial Day has been a traditional summer party kickoff for so long that it’s become all too easy to lose sight of what it really is.
When I was writing for today, I thought about all the things I could do with this day. Perhaps write about war romances, or military characters and how their portrayals have changed over the years. We read pretty widely across both historicals and contemporaries, and I know we have plenty of examples. However, the more I thought about it, the more that seemed just a little too pale in the face of the sacrifices so many have made.
The military still makes up a very small percentage of the American population as a whole but they make contributions to our country far out of proportion to their numbers. I work in an area surrounded by military bases of various types, so I see the wounded personnel coming home, the families who have lost a father/son/brother/husband, and the veterans who are trying hard to get jobs or an education. So, while we’re enjoying the day, let’s also take some time to remember those who have died to protect us and if you know some veterans, please thank them!
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. – Joseph Campbell
– Lynn Spencer
Every romance needs a hero and heroine, but sometimes a secondary relationship is so striking, so interesting, that it almost steals the show. Pride and Prejudice is, of course, about Elizabeth and Darcy. But it’s about Elizabeth and Jane too. Some of the best moments and the best dialog are about them, and about their relationship and their differences. Series and stories involving siblings are a dime a dozen, but books that really nail sibling relationships are a lot rarer. We see a lot more Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (with its very surface relationships…Bless her beautiful hide!) than we see the Bennett girls.
When someone gets it right, it feels like a bonus. My recent favorite is Courtney Milan’s novella, The Governess Affair. It is of course about a governess and a former boxer turned finance man of sorts. But it’s also about sisters. Serena (the titular governess) is the bolder sister who, after she is raped by the Duke of Claremont, stations herself outside his home every day, vowing to keep her vigil until he agrees to support her child. Her sister Frederica is basically agoraphobic. Frederica can’t understand why Serena takes so many risks. Serena can’t understand how Frederica can live like she does – or how it is even living. They love each other, though they don’t understand each other. Toward the end of the story, Serena thinks:
Maybe Freddy would always think Serena strangely broken, and Serena would always cringe, thinking of her sister ensconced in her rooms, slowly turning to stone. There was no convincing each other, no understanding each other.
But when Serena had most needed it, her sister had given her a place to stay. For all that Freddy made her stomach hurt, they still shared an affection made bittersweet by all that divided them. Perhaps God gave one sisters to teach one to love the inexplicable.
I was so struck by the last line that I texted it to my own sister – something I’m pretty sure I’ve never done before. She’s an artist, with all the creativity, originality, and free-spiritedness that implies. We love each other but tend to see life differently. I’m not sure she’s ever understood, for example, why anyone would spend years writing about romance novels when one could spend years writing romance novels (though she’s stopped saying that…at least out loud). We found common ground over the Milan quote, which she liked as much as I did. It was more insight than I’d bargained for in a novella.
While I have seen authors handle easy, companionable sibling relationships well (Nora Roberts comes to mind here, but there are others), I was hard-pressed to think of books that really went below the surface, or delved into more complicated sibling relationships. Who can you think of who “gets” the sibling relationship and does it right?
Total aside about sibling differences: I could tell you every detail of the t-shirt my sister is wearing in the picture above, but I’d be very surprised if she could (remembering things from thirty years ago is more in my wheelhouse). Although you can’t see it, it has Snoopy on it – in sunglasses, throwing a frisbee. It was the last one of its kind in the BYU bookstore, and she got it in a fair-and-square coin toss. I had to settle for the much less cool one with Snoopy sleeping on his house. It’s okay – now that it’s been thirty years, I’ve decided to let my resentment go.
Sometimes the right book can really get you thinking about a question. In this case, the right book was actually a novella, Danelle Harmon’s The Admiral’s Heart. The premise is that the heroine ends her relationship with the hero when they are both young – without explaining why - because she’s allergic to dogs. He has a beloved dog, and she doesn’t want to force him to choose between them. This got me thinking about not only about the idea of choosing between a pet and a highly allergic person, but also about people with allergies and how they might have fared in a more rural society.
I can’t think of too many historical romances that mention people with allergies. In fact, besides the Harmon heroine, the only one I could come up with was the father of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton family, who I am fairly sure died of an allergic reaction to a bee sting (though it’s been a few years, so I’m not 100% sure on that). I don’t know whether people have more allergies now or we just hear about them more. Or perhaps people who had severe allergies were just considered “sickly” and no one knew what was wrong? Either way, it’s not something you read about often. (more…)
Do you believe in the power of love to reconcile what is opposite or different? I do. Not without reservations: Some positions are opposed too far to be overcome easily, for example a union between an unrepentant racist and a person who despises racism. And in some instances, where there’s no real compromise possible, love may not be enough to bridge the gap, like whether one wants to have children or not, a pet or not. But in many cases love may bring together people that hold opinions and beliefs that differ, and may make a relationship possible that both partners would have declined for rational reasons before they actually fell in love.
My own marriage is an example of the opposites-attract kind. My husband and I are respectively conservative and green, Catholic and Lutheran, of working-class and academia background. And our marriage works well. We still vote differently (sometimes arguing about details, but always respecting the other’s right to a different opinion), we take turns attending both our churches together, and when we visit with our families, one of us may sometimes roll his or her eyes at the other family’s idiosyncrasies, but always prepared for tolerance. (more…)
While I can’t say that I would pick a book over diamonds, on Christmas day after a day spent eating turkey and dressing, homemade rolls, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli salad, and too many other things to mention for the mid-day meal, I am ready to curl up with a good book. I can’t really remember when my mother’s tradition of giving me a book or books as a stocking stuffers started, but I do have memories of my dad and brothers watching the Bowl games on television while I found a quiet corner to read. My mother was multi-talented in that she would stay in the same room as the game, but still read the book that I had put in her stocking. Our stocking tradition continued way into adulthood but after I moved away she and I would browse the book selection together, giving big hints on our choices or even sometimes just picking the books out.
As readers most of us love opening a present containing a book by our favorite author. And because of this we often look to books as the perfect gift, too. But my experience over the last few years has shown me that buying a book for someone is similar to buying them perfume. You just have to know their taste because books can be a very personal gift. (more…)
Sometimes, instead of one long blog post, I find myself with lots of smaller things I want to share. Today is one of those days.
- Earlier this week, I read an interesting piece in Forbes comparing Harlequin with Harvard Business Publishing. What could they have in common? Well, according to Nick Morgan, both have put lots of time and effort into community building. There are folks that just buy the occasional book here and there, but the most dedicated readers I know love to talk about books, so I’m all for having communities where we can do that. Reader-oriented sites and publisher sites obviously offer different things, but I know I’ve visited both and I suspect many readers have as well. Personally, I first discovered the online book world just as I was emerging from the free time-less fog known as law school and I’ve so enjoyed the people and ideas I’ve encountered there. Things have evolved a lot, particularly in the past few years, and I’ll be curious to see where publishers go in their community building. I think Harlequin has a headstart on most, but I see others getting into it as well, with blogs, Facebook pages and sites such as Heroes and Heartbreakers.