Tag Archives: romantic suspense

We can be heroes

16 Apr

Some amongst us live big lives. We call them heroes. Whether they are trained and regularly tested in their heroism or whether circumstances require them to do something beyond any training or ordinary expectation, they make a significant difference in their world and in ours.

They’re the emergency services teams – the police, the paramedics, the firefighters – who responded in Boston this morning and in Fukushima in 2011 and in Victoria in 2009.

They’re the humanitarians and aidworkers and fundraisers and peacekeepers who respond in Darfur and Mali and Syria.

They’re the surgeons who operate in the fistula camps in Central Africa as well as in the cardiac units of Sydney. They’re the teachers who open the eyes and the minds and the hearts of the children they’re entrusted with and lead them to a passion for life and learning rather than a fear or rejection of it.

These heroes give of themselves, sometimes at the expense of those they love – husbands and wives and children feeling their absences, friends and causes and private interests abandoned – because their expertise, strength  and courage is needed elsewhere.

They’re often the leads in romantic novels, although those fictional heroes and heroines only rarely capture the depth of real character displayed by real people in unreal events.

Let me tell you who I think the true heroes are not.

They’re not the rioters in the UK vilifying a politician who, regardless of how different her politics were to theirs, served her country in a job few thought could be done and fewer wanted to risk doing themselves.

They’re not the celebrated golfers and footballers who, while probably just as devoted in their training as police and ambos and firies, walked away from work last weekend with at least a dozen times a police officer’s salary and a magnitude more glory, without making a difference to anybody outside themselves.

They’re not the cowards who set the bombs in Boston because they couldn’t bear to see others enjoying healthy, free, fearless joy in themselves, their working bodies and their community.

Some amongst us live big, heroic lives. We honour them most by living heroically ourselves, however big or small we think our own lives and our own significance.

We honour them by standing up and speaking out for the things we believe in; by challenging sexism and racism and homophobia and xenophobia when and where we see it; by teaching our children that the smallest acts of violence – against others or against themselves – eats away at their heroic, human core; by looking out for each other in the cliched but so-important random acts of kindness.

Whatever your day brings today, your expertise, strength and courage is needed. Be your own hero, in your own lunchtime. Your life is big enough.

This is why I write about love

29 Mar

Blokes, stop reading now. This post is for women.

Off you go. Go and do whatever it is you do when you’re supposed to be minding your own business. Thank you.

Let’s get started. Do you remember, when you were a little girl, where your ideas of love and romance came from? For me, it was from the world of Disney.

Someday my prince will come.

I know you, I danced with you once upon a dream.

So this is love, mmm-mmm, so this is love.

A little later, Rodgers and Hammerstein (I know, I’m showing my age, but stick with me). Think Oklahama, Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music (Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good).

Then, mid-teens, I discovered the magic of Mills & Boon – Charlotte Lamb, Penny Jordan, Emma Darcy – and mixed it up a little with medieval bodice-busters.

Is it any wonder my marriage failed? My husband was no prince, and I was no secretary.

For the last few years I’ve been writing romances – my first published novel, Hearts on Hold, is out 1 July thanks to Harlequin Escape – and I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m writing this genre.

In my other life, I have a “serious career”. I’m writing under a pseudonym because I’m anxious, if professional colleagues find out I’m publishing romance – even the slightly less worrisome romantic suspense (because, you know, it’s not all hearts and flowers. It has the occasional dramatic bit) – they won’t take me seriously anymore. And you know, it’s hard enough being a woman in a boardroom without having all the others around the table (ie all the men around the table) thinking I spend my spare time draped in a fluffy pink boa and tapping out heaving daydreams on a Fujitsu Floral Kiss. Sorry, that’s their stereotype, not mine.

But it occurs to me that when Gen X-ers like me angst about the next generation of young women, many of whom seem to take for granted the progress of women (or perhaps the lack thereof) over the last couple of decades and who shun the ‘feminist’ term like it’s an indicator of gauche and rampant unattractiveness… perhaps instead of ranting on our proudly feminist blogs we should take to our proudly romantic novels.

Because the stats on romance readership are as strong as they ever were: more than 25% of books sold are romance novels. It’s the single biggest category in the book-buying market, nearly twice the size of the next biggest category (I could leave you to guess what that is – it’s mystery).

35% of romance readers are under 30, and 22% of readers are men (you thought I was joking when I sent the men away from this post, didn’t you?). A lot of women, in the years when they’re formulating their ideas of love, romance and relationships, are reading romance novels. And they’re not stupid – 42% of readers have a bachelors degree or higher qualification.

Despite their reputation for being formulaic and old-fashioned, romance novels have mostly kept up with the times. Heroines these days are rarely “just” secretaries. They’re certainly not subservient. They’re seldom virgins. They are feisty, contrary, intelligent, flawed, beautiful (inside and out) women. They are women who, despite the contradictory evidence the world sometimes throws at them, believe deep, abiding love and happily-ever-after is possible. They’re just like all of us. That’s why we read them. That’s why we love them. That’s why so many young women look to them when they’re feeling that perhaps the dream isn’t going to happen for them.

So that is why I write about love. I want the generations of women who follow me to hold onto the dream – because growing and sharing deep, abiding love is why we’re all here – and to aspire not just to the great loves but to the great lives of my heroines – in the boardrooms as well as in the bedrooms. There’s a way to change women’s ideas about relationships – about equality in connection as well as in opportunity, about feminism amongst strong men as well as strong women – and it’s through books about love and romance.

I’d love to hear what you think, so please leave a comment below.

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