When I signed up for this gig I kind of had to chuckle a bit. Me, writing for a romance blog? I am not the most well-read Romance reader. I actually had to go and read the books I first blogged about. There is nothing wrong with the traditional romance novel; I’ve read a few, and even liked some. I just tend to gravitate toward Romantic Love Stories than the straight-up category or genre romance.
Why? Hmm, I’ve been thinking about that. And I really don’t want to get cyber-shot here so let me stew for a second…
I think I like to be emotionally tortured while I read. Great tear-jerkers always tug at my heart.
The more tragic stories make me ponder what-ifs, like what if they did this, or did that. Like if I’m watching Titanic I bite my lip at the end like Jack is going to magically live. And yes, sorry for the spoiler alerts here. (If you haven’t seen the movie Titanic yet then I have nothing to say to you. Yes, the boat sinks and yes Leo dies. The end.)
I think the not-so-happy endings tend to stay with me. I get to relive the most beautiful pieces of them wondering, why couldn’t they be together, or what would’ve happen if they did. The story doesn’t end for me.
In traditional romances, the Happily Ever After, or the HEA, kind of sums it all up. The end, the white picket fence and all…
Okay, here it is—gimme a second to put on my cyber bullet proof jacket...there.
Romantic books for me have more emotional depth. Romances can be formulaic, not providing any surprise at the fact they will end up together. They are plot-driven, not character-driven. It’s a scenario: Girl meets or reunites with boy. Someone or something bad gets in their way. They must overcome said something bad and end up with some nooky in the process. They overcome and live HEA. It is nothing grand or emotionally pulling for me.
There are a handful of authors that I think about and my heart sighs. Nicholas Sparks, Robert James Waller, James Patterson (yes, he wrote a handful of lovely love stories), Erich Segal, and my most recent find, Jeffrey Stepakoff. Hmm, looking at these lists, they are all men writing poetic love stories; someone needs to do a post about that, but back to mine.
I devour Nicholas Sparks (Be careful what you say about him here. I will resort to cat-fighting to stick up for the man. Well, maybe not fists or nails, but you tell me what paintball arena to meet you at, and we’ll settle this like ladies). I even think a few of his books are Romances. Some do have a HEA. Reading his stories, half the blood pumping page turning is just to see how and if the couple end up together. All of his books have stayed with me.
In his novel, The Rescue, Taylor McAdden saves the life of a little boy, a four-year old with an undiagnosed learning disability. Naturally, he falls in love with the boy’s mother, Denise. Her heart breaks with the thought that she may never see her son again, one whose speech impediment has prevented him from ever saying, “I love you.” As love finds its way between these two broken individuals, it’s four-year old Kyle who brings them together. He thanks his mother for Taylor, which he pronounces “Tayer,” and tells her he loves her, “Kenk you Money. Wuff you Money.” (Thank you Mommy, love you Mommy.) Sniffle, sniffle, sigh! Oh, it was such a HEA I cried my little heart out.
Robert James Waller’s Bridges of Madison County changed me. I can still feel the gut wrenching emotion while Francesca held that door handle. I screamed at her to go to Robert, knowing she would not. I can still feel her heart breaking when she received the last of his belongings in the mail. I get goose bumps thinking about the scene where she is bathing, thinking about how Robert had just showered there, and how erotic it was. The image of Robert, sitting in a lounge, wearing a necklace with her name on it, all those years later, still makes me tear up. No, they did not have a HEA but you understand why they could not, did not. And there in lies the beauty of his novel.
Erich Segal’s Love Story left us with the tagline, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Give me a young couple trying to make it out in the world, cancer, money hungry father-in-law, and you had me at Kleenex. Can you really say anything bad about this classic love story? Please, say you can’t! (And the lack of a HEA doesn’t count!)
James Patterson wrote three stories about love lost and love found. I, too, cried at some of these passages. They tend to be about widows finding love again and overcoming the grief. Very poignant, especially from the great thriller writer. My favorite was Sam’s Letters to Jennifer. Here a young widow overcomes her grief with the help of an ailing grandmother and an old flame battling stage four cancer. It makes you think with each page, can a woman who’s already lost love, risk falling in love again with someone who too, may die.
Recently, I found a new author to fawn over. Jeffrey Stepakoff, writer of The Wonder Years and Sisters. His debut novel, Fireworks over Toccoa, I devoured in a weekend. This love story, set amidst the backdrop of post World War II, reaffirmed my belief that all things happen for a reason. His prose reads like Whitman’s, and his descriptions melted in my mouth very much like the sweet butter that’s spread over saltines in one scene. Here, we have an elderly Lily, finding something of her past in the least expected place. It gives way for her to tell her soon to be married granddaughter the story no one has heard, a story that may change her life. Where one summer, in 1945, fireworks showered over the Toccoa, Georgia skyline. It brought with it a man who made it possible for her to have the courage to live the life she was meant to. She in return reminded him that the atrocities of war should not prevent the heart from loving again. Super duper knee jerking sigh. I’ll be covering his upcoming novel in the next few weeks. Woot woot!
Okay, so you gathered from my diatribe here, I’m a sap. A sap for tear-jerking, heart-breaking reads. I like not knowing if they will get together. I love conjuring up that ’what ifs’ in my head. I love the emotional roller coaster. I love blowing my big old red nose into a tissue at the very last page. It’s red for that reason, not because I’m a part-time clown, btw.
Since I’m such a softy, please don’t shoot me for not loving Traditional Romances. I’m just a girl who loves a great love story that stays with me, regardless of the outcome.