Last weekend was #Love Fest at Virginia Festival of the Book. All the panels were well attended, but the biggest event of the weekend was showing LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS–the latest documentary all about the romance world–followed by a discussion with Maya Rodale and Eloisa James and a book signing.
I experienced rapture from meeting Eloisa James in person. Her stories have made me laugh and cry–almost at the same time. We went out to dinner together along with Maya Rodale, and a smattering of other authors. First of all, bringing people together always makes me feel kinda high. Second of all, Maya Rodale’s husband was like a walking romance hero. Handsome, British, and also, oh you know, an artic explorer. Ba-bam! Romance authors always have the best husbands. It’s like they say, Write What You Know.
At the same time I was full of revelation.
First revelation: OMG, why am I sniffling and sobbing all the way through this documentary? Okay, any ‘we women‘ vibe gets me going. Mix that with comments like (I paraphrase) “This is the one genre where women are the center of attention, where their needs are important and they are active in getting those needs met. Romance shows women as sexual creatures in a possitive way. They get to have satisfying sex without being punished for it.”
Whoa! That’s so true–damn straight!
Second revelation: We are pioneers! I was moved to witness women who wanted romances about them, and when they didn’t see those romances on the shelves, they went out and wrote them. That kind of “If you build it they will come” ethos makes me bawl. Beverly Jenkins in particular comes to mind.
Third revelation: Romance can save your life. I already knew this one. There was that crucial time in my teens that was spent in ER waiting rooms. Many, many hours I sat in uncomfortable chairs, my face buried in a Georgette Heyer novel. How did I get through those horrible years full of stress and crisis? How? I always credit romance novels. I desperately needed an escape, and we had no money. Instead of dropping out of school, having babies, becoming a drug addict, breaking the law, or doing all those other things traumatized teens without parents tend to do, I escaped into a world of civility. It was full of small kind, intelligent, sane, and responsible people. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t read romances? I’m sort of dubious that I’d even be here.
What I didn’t realize was that:
Fourth revelation: Romances taught me how to live happily ever after.
Kim Castillo–assistant to Eloisa James and other romance authors–talked about growing up in a home without good role models for relationships. That’s when the real hard sobbing started. Me too, Kim. Me too. Then she talked about how romances gave her hope. How she found her true love — and now all is good.
I don’t know what Kim went through. But what I saw at home–it was ugly. And sad. A lot of domestic violence–while my mom was pregnant, mind you. Guns. A house full of guns. That day my step-father almost shot my mother in the face. BAD, HORRIBLE, AWFUL stuff that I don’t even want to go into. Events that left me taking sleeping pills when I was eight, alone in the house at night, and couldn’t get to sleep. Events that left my mother poor, mentally unstable, and broken. Events she did not recover from.
Tragic. Traumatic — but you know, I never questioned how I went from Dysfunction-ville to being in my first serious relationship at 19, and married to that same guy 30+ years later. Where did those crazy excellent relationship skills come from? Cause I didn’t learn it at home…that’s for sure.
This documentary–and by documentary I mean Kim Castillo–revealed all: it had to be romance novels. Kim, I love you. I AM you, Kim.
“Romances provided me with hope,” Kim said. They provided her with models of caring, support, and bonding, just like they did me. In a world bereft of good male role models, romances provided me with examples of men who were responsible, even tempered, loving, and tender.
There’s a shot of Kim–my new personal hero–clasping hands with her husband, and, dear readers, I know that clasp. It’s the One True Love hand hold. I dissolved, readers. I dissolved like a f***ing pillar of salt.
I kept thinking, the movie’s going to be over soon and I have got to stop crying.
You’d think I’d know better, but no. I had to share my new insight at dinner with Eloisa and Maya and everyone. And while telling them about it, I sobbed. So embarrassing, but so not at the same time.
Because I thought I was writing fluff, here. It’s much more important than that. Or at least it can be. I’m proud that I survived that time. Okay, all the trauma left me a bit on the weepy side, but ultimately, who cares?
I’m blessed that I found my One True Love.
I’m proud to be one of these women creating love on the page. I’m proud to be sending it out into the world.
Have you seen the documentary? What did you get out of it?
While I type this at the cafe, my writing buddy Joanna Bourne is dancing to “What I Like About You.” I love you Joanna. I love you readers. Okay, I need some kleenex.
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