Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Celebrate Romance! #ReadaRomanceMonth

*I wrote this essay and submitted it to last year's RARM essay contest. I reworked it a bit to fit this year's theme.

I am a proud reader of historical romance novels. I started reading romance novels when I was about 12 and lost myself in the words and worlds of Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey. My reading of romances tapered a bit in college, and then post-graduate studies and required readings happened, and I slipped further away from reading romances. Nine years ago I rediscovered romance novels and, like an old friend, we picked up where we left off and now I am back to reading historical romance novels full-time.

While there is a distinction between Romance and romance, I'd like to believe we have a lot in common with our classical, albeit lofty, relation. The Romance writers, musicians, poets and painters sought to celebrate with exuberance: life and love (and all the other emotions); they sought to capture and magnify not reality but the imagination – aren't these what romance novels are also about?

The message in romance novels is always, always positive, that, in the end, love conquers all – it paints a world that can be saved and of problems (no matter how hopeless the situation is) that can be solved. Despite the risk of getting hurt, the hero and heroine of our novels slowly allow themselves to be vulnerable, to strip away armour and wariness and learn to trust the world again.

There is always hope – the certainty of a happy resolution at the story's end, and a “happily ever after” beyond the final page. In truth, this optimism should not be relegated to the pages of our books but be applied to our lives. Beyond the optimism, beyond the love, beyond the kisses and passionate embraces, there are more lessons, which I've learned from romance novels that I apply to my life:

On seemingly insurmountable challenges:

The priest thought she was jesting with him. “I fear you've set yourself an impossible goal,” he told her with a snort of enjoyment.

“How impossible, do you suppose?” she asked. “As impossible as eating a giant bear all by myself?”

“Aye, just as impossible.”

“I could do it.”

“How?” the priest asked, falling nicely into her trap.

“One bite at a time.”
- The Bride by Julie Garwood

One being one's self:

You must never ever say you are sorry ... you must never even feel sorry. If you act with deliberate intent, there is nothing to be sorry about. And if you act in ignorance, there is nothing to apologize for.
- A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh

In the 20 years that I've been reading romance novels, I have seen the growth and spread of the genre and now it encompasses many sub-genres from paranormal, to urban fantasy, to futuristic, to steampunk, etc. The time and setting might change, and the characters might not even be human – but the beauty of romance novels is that they are always about the exploration of relationships and a reflection on how we grow to love.

It makes me happy to see the number of romance novels published and sold each year and I imagine all the readers tucked in their beds, or cuddled in their armchairs enjoying a bit of respite from their lives and it fills me with a warm feeling knowing that, in other parts of the world, they are experiencing that indescribable tingle when they reach the end of the book – because love and romance are universal and it is the one experience that can be translated into all languages.

Recommendations:
For readers new to historical romance, I would recommend the following books:
Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson
Forever a Lady by Delilah Marvelle
Ecstasy Wears Emeralds by Renee Bernard

And would recommend the following blogs for more historical romance goodness. We all do a Throwback Thursday: Historical Romance Edition and it's another great chance to discover more romance titles. ^_^
Buried Under Romance
Doing Some Reading
Addicted to Romance
Feminist Fairy Tales
I Heart Romance
Rika's Musings

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Questions for the Blogger:
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
Starting this blog took a lot of courage from me. I'm a very private person and originally wanted to keep this blog a secret (I only shared the link with my book buddy, F), but I realised I wanted to share my love for this genre and took a bold leap forward by opening my blog to other readers. It's been such a wonderful almost-three years of blogging and I've learned a lot in the process.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a blogger. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)
In 2010, while I was doing my year-end review on my personal blog, I realised I couldn't remember a lot of the books I had read that year. I made the decision to start a reading journal -- to record my thoughts about what I read and give each book the proper attention they are due. Midway through the year, I ran out of space in my journal and was about to buy a new one when I realised I could just open a blog for free and use my money for books. ^_^

If you look through my earlier posts (don't! ^_^), you'll see that I was content with one-liners or with just saying "I liked this" and "I loved that" -- but, I wanted to grow as a reader and challenged myself to analyse the books more closely and started writing longer and more thorough reviews.

I'm still on the journey and I still have a lot of growing up to do in terms of blogging, but this post and participation in RARM is definitely a high point for me. (Thank you, Bobbi!)

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)
I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom on New Year's Eve every year. I think it's very insightful and inspiring and it's my way of ending the old year and starting the new one.

Possession: A Romance by AS Byatt was a book I read in a post-graduate class. I love how AS Byatt deliberately labeled her work as a romance, so it's a romance that has won the Booker Prize. I love how this novel displays the literary value of a love story.

Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath is the book responsible for this blog. I read it and went on a Lorraine Heath reading spree in Summer 2011, going through 13 of her books straight. I ran out of pages in "H" of my reading journal and had to spill over to "I" -- until I finally decided to just post everything on a blog. (For the record, I've also gone on a similar reading spree for Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series.)

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About me:

In a previous life, I was a teacher. I taught in grade school and then moved on to teach Freshman English at my alma mater. In another life, I was an English Literature graduate student. Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom with two kids. I read historical romance and erotic historical romance almost full-time (I also love to read cookbooks and food magazines ^_^).

Other than reading, I also love playing board games (current family favourites are 7 Wonders, Catan Junior and Monopoly), watching movies (current favourite is Guardians of the Galaxy) and cooking shows on TV (Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson), and baking. I had been searching for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I think I've found "the one" -- now I'm looking for the perfect chewy, fudge brownie recipe.




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Giveaway!

To Celebrate Romance, I'm giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card! (Winner can also opt to get 1-2 books from The Book Depository, max value $15).

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers.
*This giveaway will run until August 26.
*One entry per household per IP.
*Rafflecopter will select 1 winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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