Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

When Romance Mirrors Your Own Romance

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Children-dressed-up-as-bride-and-groom-252x300A few years ago, my husband gave me an anniversary card that looked something like the picture on the left. “Look!,” he wrote inside. “They found one of our wedding pictures!” It was a joke, of course. I mean, we weren’t nineBut we were both nineteen, which even in 1989 was really young. I am pretty sure people thought we were crazy, and when I look back, there may have been something to that. My mom was completely horrified. She’d married at the ripe old age of twenty-three, and in her mind, getting married meant that you immediately dropped out of college and started having babies right and left, which was not the life she pictured for her honor student daughter. It doesn’t have to mean that. In my case, it did mean that I switched universities (ending up at one that was likely better suited to me anyway), but my husband and I both graduated a year early and didn’t have children right away. With time and perspective though, I can see exactly why my mom was worried. As I went on in life and discovered others who married young, I found that I was the exception rather than the rule. Most people either got married because they were expecting, or married with the intention of both partners remaining in school only to have one drop out to support the other. It’s not that getting married very young is an impossible road, but it creates some unique obstacles that older couples don’t necessarily have to face.

A few years ago I read a very interesting article (which of course I couldn’t find for the life of me when I wrote this piece) that spoke to the challenges of marrying young. It was actually written in sort of a blue state/red state context, and addressed marriage differences and why divorce rates were lower in blue states. The article phrased the dichotomy in a way that stuck with me: “Adults creating families vs. families creating adults.” Do you grow up, meet someone, and build a family together, or meet someone, build a family together, and then grow up? It’s the challenge of an early marriage in a nutshell. My husband and I are in our forties, now addressing some of the issues that a lot of people addressed in their twenties. I love my husband, and we’re still married as we approach our 25th anniversary. But would I advise my daughters (20 and 22) to make a similar choice? Probably not, and they haven’t.

Why do I bring this up? Well, partly it’s because I am at a stage where I am talking and thinking a lot about my marriage and my choices. But it’s also because the heroine of the book I’m reading is eighteen. Granted, she is eighteen in 1812, which is a lot different than being eighteen in 1988 or 2014. It takes us longer to grow up now because life is complicated in ways that it wasn’t 200 years ago. But still, she’s eighteen. The hero thinks she’s young, and she is. And because I married young, because I’ve walked down that road, I know what is ahead of her better than most. I believe that young love is real, because I’ve lived it. But I also understand the intricacies and nuances of what’s ahead. It’s a little harder for me to romanticize it.

It made me wonder whether we seek out romances that mirror our own love story, or avoid them because they are too real. On one hand, if it has worked for you, you know it can work. Linda Hurst, who used to co-write Pandora’s Box with me years ago, was a firm defender of love at first sight romances. She fell head over heels crazy in love with her husband in a moment and knew that it was real and could work outside a romance novel. I’ve also defended young love over the years because I’ve lived young love. Periodically I’ve seen someone say (on our message boards) that you can’t possibly be in love with someone you met at fifteen. Yes, I personally know otherwise. But I am not exactly sure that I seek out romances where couples face the problems I faced.

Do any of us? If your spouse is in the military and suffering from PTSD, do you enjoy military romances? Or do you think they downplay the struggles? If you’re raising step-children, do you enjoy reading about step-families in romance? Or is it all just too real? If we didn’t need desire fantasies, we probably wouldn’t read books with bizarre will stipulations, secret babies, or shapeshifting wolves.

Where do you stand? Do you like romances that remind you of your own romance? Or do you just think, “I can get that at home” and seek out something completely different?

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

4th_of_July_at_Gasworks_-_Seattle_02

For all of our American readers, hope you enjoy a happy Independence Day filled with freedom, fireworks, celebration, and good books!

– AAR

Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Fan of Romance AND Sci-Fi

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A_wanderer_dancing_the_dance_of_stars_and_space The romance community certainly has its kerfuffles, and some of it – such as the pointing of fingers at reviewers and calling them bullies – can get frustrating. Yet in the past few weeks, I’ve been grateful for romance. That’s because the science fiction and fantasy field has started to look really screwed up recently.

It all started when the SFWA Bulletin, the official publication of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), came out with a Red Sonja cover — complete with warrior woman in illogical armor and, of all things, high heels. (You can see it in this post. Who in their right mind would wear that armor in a snowy environment?) There were other problems as well, and when writers complained, they were shot down, accused of being fascists, “anonymous” complainers, and so forth. All this resulted in a rebuttal column that created huge firestorm resulting in the president of SFWA posting an apology and too much backlash to go over in a paragraph. The whole picture is complicated, and you can read more here. The long and short of it is that some SF/fantasy writers revealed themselves to be jerks (not really a shock in some cases). The only thing that kept it from being a complete cesspool was that so many writers fought against the misogyny and racists. Yet the jerks still left a smudge all over SF and fantasy. (more…)

One Bite at a Time

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

TBRBooks 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…)

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 27th, 2013

luminaria 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

Sisters…Nailed It!

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

sisterEvery 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.

Hoarders: The TBR Episode?

Friday, March 15th, 2013

lotsofbooks Hoard (to): (v) [hawrd, hohrd] to accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place

I have, in my home, close to 600 books filling various shelves and in many stacks, all designated as To Be Read. Applying some very rough math – if each book averages 300 pages and I can read one page per minute, that’s about five hours of reading per book. Multiplied by my 600 books, I’m looking at 3,000 hours worth of reading material. If I were to read nonstop with only an 8 hour sleeping break, it would take me 187 days to get through my reading material. Over half a year doing nothing else but reading!

When does a hobby or passion become an addiction? When does collecting become hoarding? And how close to crossing the line am I? Have I already crossed it? (more…)

Would you have made it?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

sybilSometimes 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…)

Love as a Bridge

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

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…)

Are Books the Perfect Gift?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

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…)