Schooled by romance


Schooled by romance

We’re pleased to introduce our Escape Intern, Elizabeth, to the blog! Please make her feel welcome in her Escapades debut…

Recently I attended the Brisbane Writers Festival and I sat in on a live ABC radio national broadcast titled, Everything I know about love I learned from romance novels, inspired by Sarah Wendell’s book, who was also a guest on the program along with Amy Andrews and Helene Young, both well-established romance authors. The presenter Anthony Funnell, though entertaining, came across as almost disbelieving that a reader might actually learn about love from reading romance novels. Romance novels are in essence the proverbial love and life manual we all go looking for when things get tough.

 I first started reading Harlequin romance when I lived in Greece growing up in the 80s; the stories were about impoverished yet exquisitely beautiful young woman who were either forced into marriage or whose only option to help their family was to marry a rich handsome but obnoxious man who in turn saved the young woman and her family. (Quite telling of the times, in retrospect, Greece in the 80s was still recovering from military unrest in the 70s and the country was slowly finding its feet financially.) There were times when I did wish a rich (not so obnoxious) and handsome man would come along and save me but those times they were a-changing as were my reading habits.

 My a-ha moment came when my sister recommended I read Amanda Quick. I am ashamed to say that the only historical fiction I had read up til then were the classics we all know and love studied in English literature classes. Nothing in my mind could have, at the time, compared to them but I was wrong — happily so. In reading Amanda Quick, I uncovered, in the matter of a few sleepless nights, a whole world of new characters. Women who were feisty, saved themselves, and let the hero know it. Heroes were flawed but thoroughly bewitched by these women. The romance was captivating, the humour made me feel as if I belonged to a special club and days after finishing the book I would still have a grin on my face because I never crashed from the high of reading romance. (Tell me you feel the same way!) I fell in love with the stories but it’s the characters led my personal revolution.

 I found that the greatest lessons I learned were from romantic suspense – it didn’t matter which era – the women remained true to themselves in any case. These feisty, beautiful and at times self-deprecating women taught me to be fearless. It was up to me to claim my identity for me and not for the hero in my life, although he was and is definitely welcomed to come along for the ride. I learned to find that humour and passion are the key ingredients to finding romance in any situation.

 For me, romance is about staking claim to being the woman I want to be; assertive, fearless, and funny. It’s a lesson I keep adding to with each romance novel I read.

 PS. If you’re after funny and fearless, you may like to read It’s Love, Dude by Jenny Schwartz. Fun, fun fun.