This time of year, many of us recall childhood memories, of holidays past, and the magic that they always seemed to hold. Sometime along the way to adulthood, we sometimes lose the magic, but there’s one place we can easily find it again – in the pages of a romance novel. How so? Let’s talk.
Storytime. Picture it: Pound Ridge, New York, split level ranch, interior, day. the romance-reader-to-be, ten years old, still in her pajamas, is curled in an upholstered yellow chair, while the adults…um, probably did something. She doesn’t remember, because she is too busy, staring at the best of the best gifts, two books that she received. Two of them. She falls in love, in an instant.
Since the reader-to-be is only ten years old, these are not romance novels. They are both what probably fits into the middle grade range. One book was about a girl, about her age, who needed to find her own spiritual identity, when her parents were of two different faiths. The other was about another girl, close to her age, who was in love, with writing, people watching, and a very special notebook.
The girl spent a good long while, staring at each of the covers in turn, flipping them over to read the blurb on the back, checking the first page, checking middle pages, thinking about checking the last page, but deciding against it. She probably spent an hour at least, reveling in the fact that She Had Two New Books At The Same Time. It would be another year before she filched her first romance novel from her mother’s bedside table, and a few years before she would make her first used bookstore run. Several years before she knew that a Kindle could be anything but firewood, but something did flicker into life on that day.
In time, she would grow into a woman who consolidated a plethora of paperbacks into one cardboard box, at box day of a used book sale. Fill a box with books for four dollars? Question: does the person have to be able to lift this box? No? Only move it under their own steam? Challenge accepted. All of the excitement and wonder of that ten year old in that hideous yellow chair channeled into the woman who filled that one box to capacity and pushed it all the way to the elevator, then the parking lot, to the car, where she expertly rearranged her bounty into carry-able loads.
Um, wait, some of you might be saying. This is a romance blog, and so far we’ve talked about ten year olds and one epic used book sale. Show us some love. We are getting to that. Today, that very same woman opened a package that came in the mail, and her breath hitched. That same feeling came over her the second she saw that the package, a gift from a friend who lives a bit away, was books. When she saw which books, she gave a happy squeal. There, in the package, were the first two volumes of Fruits Basket, a Japanese manga, with legends and curses, and angst and found family, and, most important of all, love. Oh so very much love.
I know what the woman sounded like, because that woman, as well as that ten year old girl, was me. There is a love triangle in this story, and my friend has made me promise not to find out ahead of time who ends up with whom, and I am fine with that. As with the romance genre, I am going into this with a guarantee that there will be a happily ever after, even if there is a whole lot of angst and emotional torture, and other related sorts of ruckus along the way. All of these things are things I love to find in romance novels, no matter the setting, and reminded me how much I love the genre. It also reminded me of the wealth of romance novels, in multiple eras and settings, on my TBR shelf, waiting to join me for the holiday.
For the rest of the year, I am the one in control of what I read. I pick out the books that seem appealing to me, and I’m usually right about how much I am going to like or not like a particular story. No surprise, the vast majority of them fall under the romance umbrella. If not genre romance, then containing romantic elements. There’s something different though, something eminently suited to the holiday season, of having a love story, a romance, chosen for you, by someone who loves you. Platonically, romantically, fraternally, it doesn’t matter. That extra layer of love makes the books better somehow, and, coughty-cough years from now, I hope to tell another story, one that begins like this:
Picture it: Albany, New York, 2018. A romance reader stands in her kitchen and opens a cardboard box. She falls in love, in an instant.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What books have you fallen in love with this year? Have you ever read a book you might not have noticed before, because somebody who loves you gave you a gift? What romance novel would you give as a gift, this year, if you could sprinkle books around like glitter? Pull up a chair in the comments, and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.