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A little romance, a few laughs. It's all good.


As a Communications major and a writer, I pay a lot of attention to not only what people say, but also to what they don’t. Non-verbal cues are as important as, if not more than, verbal ones. So when I tell people that I read and write Romance novels, I often get the same non-verbal reaction. The eyes widen slightly. The mouth opens into a diminutive “o” and there is either shock or smirking. The expression is often one of disbelief or disgust or disdain.

At one time, I was guilty of that same expression. And this snobbery wasn’t even justified as I had read only one romance growing up. The author, considered the Queen of Romance, wrote a novel with a ridiculous story, poor writing, many plot holes, and a heroine so demure and innocent that you might wonder if she was the Village Idiot. Based on that one book, I held some definitely negative opinions toward the genre and thought I never would read another.

Then life took some sad turns. In late 2000, my father began to complain about his head feeling as though it was on fire. We took him to several doctors. The diagnosis was Alzheimer’s disease. Our family saw this former brilliant man, a CPA and comptroller of a company, begin to deteriorate before us. Depressed, he slept most of the day away. After 9/11, he believed Osama Bin Laden was after him. One of the saddest moments was when he showed my mother the “evil” man staring at him through a window—which, of course, was my father’s reflection as he looked in a mirror. As he disintegrated in front of us, my mother, his main caregiver, suffered stress and declining health. My sister and I felt powerless.

The other sad event occurred in the Fall of 2004. I was called into the office conference room where my manager and my supervisor announced that I would be laid off in two weeks. I was very upset, of course, but not surprised, as the business hadn’t taken off as expected after the events of 9/11.

Late that evening, I was on Amazon’s website and found a book that looked appealing, a novel by Jill Mansell, a prolific writer of British romantic comedies. After devouring her fun and romantic book, I was pleasantly surprised. As I approached my last day of work, I used my office computer to trawl the Romance and Chick Lit sections of online bookstores (very irresponsibly, admittedly). And it was like salvation. I read Marian Keyes Sushi for Beginners (still one of my favorites) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me If You Can. Then I found Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me as well as her other wonderful works. Next came Lisa Kleypas, Christina Dodd, Eloisa James, Kristan Higgins. I realized I had fallen into a Romance abyss.

And I loved it!

For so many reasons. The first one, of course, was that it let me escape what was going on in my life as well as the events occurring in the outside world. But escapism is what almost all readers crave when reading fiction. So what else had me doing this complete turnaround?

There is the conflict, the sexual tension between the heroine and hero. There is the banter. There is nothing sexier than a well-written argument between two characters. That’s why screwball comedy films like His Girl Friday are still popular after all these years. Or watch What’s up Doc?–Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal riff so well off one another. Hell, the banter between Darcy and Lizzie is one of the reasons Pride and Prejudice has been popular for two hundred years!

But while the sexy talk and hot love scenes make Romance novels enjoyable, it is the emotional intimacy between the protagonists that make them worth reading over and over. In a good Romance, the heroine and hero strive to learn more about each other, to connect to and understand the inner being of that person. And the protagonist who reveals her or his authentic self is heroic. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, for example, the title character reveals this when thinking she must be separated from the hero:

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart. And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you!

By being vulnerable, by revealing their innermost self, the heroine/hero opens up the reader’s heart and hope as much as they have that of their love interest. They remind the reader that we must take a chance and reveal ourselves to win what we want, including love. That if we take a chance, there is hope for an HEA for us all. And isn’t that what we all truly want?

That’s why I write Romance.


The afternoon was moving as slowly as the potential client I had on the phone. The elderly woman had asked that I hold on the line while she went to check her schedule. That was almost five minutes ago. Had she forgotten about me? My stomach was starting to knot up. Not good for maintaining a calm demeanor with customers. People who find out they need to move are understandably nervous, especially the older clients. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. A deep breath in through the nose. Hold. Breathe out through the mouth. Deep breath in. Hold—

“Oh, hello? Are you still there?” a tremulous voice, belying old age and too many cigarettes, called out.

“Yes, Mrs. Needham. Still here.”

“Oh good. Thank you for holding. I thought I left my pocket calendar by the recliner, but it turns out it was in the kitchen all along.” She laughed. “I suppose I should have kept it in my pocket like the name says it’s supposed to be.”

I gave a small laugh, a concession to the client, and continued.

“So, ma’am, this Thursday at 11 AM is a good time for you?”

“Yes, yes. I won’t need to pick up my cat until later. She’s getting dipped, you know.”

“Great. So our representative, Keith Taylor, will see you on Thursday at 11.”

“Will Keith be wearing a uniform, dear?”

“No, the salesmen don’t wear uniforms.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Needham hesitated, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable–”

“But he will present you with his business card,” I interrupted, not wanting to lose the sale.

“Would you describe him for me, dear? So I will recognize him?”

“Describe him?” I heard a few titters from my cube mates. How do you describe a very average, very harmless guy whose biggest offense was constantly whistling the theme song to The Jeffersons?

“Okay,” I said, “Um, he’s in his mid-thirties, about five feet, 10 inches tall…”

One of my cohorts called out, “Wearing low riders with his fuchsia boxers showing.”

I ignored the remark and the laughs that went with it. “He has dark red hair…”

“And a chin stud.” More laughs.

Not daring to look back at them, I continued, “Blue eyes…”

“Tattoo sleeves!”


“A vasectomy!”

I tried to ignore the loud guffaws all around me.

“Tell you what, Mrs. Needham. I will advise Keith to tell you that Thea sent him”

“And that the code phrase is ‘Beans don’t burn on the grill’.”

At that point the laughter reached a high pitch and even I couldn’t hold back. I let out a guffaw that I managed to quickly change it to a cough to cover what happened. If Mrs. Needham didn’t hear the laugh, she probably thought I had tuberculosis. Not daring to look at any of the guilty party, I did manage to throw a pen backwards in the direction of one, scoring a direct hit and the exclamation, “Ow, that hurts.”


The workday has ended about forty-five minutes ago, but there are still those stalwarts (read: fools) like me who continue slogging away. Only four of us remain, the other three in their individual offices, a triangle of professionalism, with me, almost equidistant from each, working in my small, grey cubicle.

My associates are all on their phones.

“Mr. Barrett,” one associate greets the caller in soothing, mellifluous tones, “It’s Bill from the moving company. I’m calling to set up a time for our consultant to survey your home.” Bill sounds sensible, thoughtful, reliable. Never mind that he still dresses in clothes he’s worn since he was a teen in the 1970’s, complete with a thinning pony tail down his back and eight gold chains around his neck that a co-worker calls a “Mr. T Starter Set.” Never mind that he cannot focus on more than one task at a time and will often respond to one’s questions with the phrase, “Sorry, I have no idea what you are saying.”

It’s his voice. It’s very impressive. It should be delivering the news on tv, particularly, grave news. The “Voice” makes the company seem far more efficient, polished, and oh, so professional. That is not the case with the voices that are starting to be raised from the other occupied offices.

Nellie and Rich are on a three-way call with John from the SoCal office, a snake who is supposed to be working with our office but does everything in his power to trample over our profit potential while securing business for his own branch. He is also a sexist pig who doesn’t listen to Nellie even though they are in the same job position. John isn’t letting Nellie speak, and she is reaching her boiling point. Her voice is becoming strident. Soon there is shouting liberally dispensed with the F-bomb as well as other colorful verbiage. It is easy to hear how she earned the nickname “Yellie.” It is also obvious that the snake/pig is still not listening because now Rich is trying to get the snake/pig’s attention, shouting into the phone, “John! John!”

Eventually, all these voices arrive in a thundering crescendo at my cubicle.

“So,” Bill confirms in professional and dulcet tones, “You are scheduled with our consultant for this Wednesday…”

“John! John! John!”

“Listen, John, dammit, you can’t keep pulling this shit–” Yellie…well, yells.

“I will send you a confirmation email to your Yahoo address…”

“This was agreed to by your GM too. Dammit, will you listen for a second?”

Rich is still trying his best. “John! John! John!”

It is as though I am an audience of one listening to an ensemble in a surreal opera (or soap opera). I give a silent thanks that our clients only ever hear the “Voice,” or we would never get any business at all.

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