Friday, May 31, 2013

Strange Love...

This past Memorial weekend I found myself at BBQ celebrating...well, not Memorial Day that's for sure, rather it was a return to my ye ol' college days; in other words, being soused.  But I've already gotten off topic because, alas, there was no romance to be found there.  Instead, on the actual day of Memorial, I found myself quite with nothing to do.  I tried going to one of the few places in Hollywood that provides peace and quiet from the constant teaming of life that surrounds me daily, only to be bitterly disappointed at the crowds I met instead.  So, I thought, if you can't beat em, join em.   With that thought in mind, I elected to let my mind and conscious be suspended for a few hours, however, this time it wasn't with a romance novel but twas a movie I had in mind.  Romance is never far from my thoughts but there wasn't a romantic movie to be found at the box office.  Oh no!  Summer is the season for blockbuster films and comedies.  Not sappy, dappy, mushy, cushy, lovey dovey (have you had enough already?)...romance.  So I chose the most interesting film offered.  Mud.  
Mud posterFrom the first frame of the film I was drawn into what I thought was a suspense film.  As the stories of two young teenage boys intertwine with that of a fugitive on the run, I realized (with shock!) that the film was in large part, a romance.  Don't get me wrong, the only passion on screen was the unrequited love of the mostly male cast, but it was the intensity of their love that was the driving force for these alpha male characters.  Specifically, the character of Ellis, who plays the lead coming of age teenager that helps the title character, Mud.  At times, it was hard to believe that this was a 14 yr old kid and not a grown man taking on the world with only his heart guiding him.  
 Not unlike most romance novels, in the film, love is the source of the characters deepest pain but also their redemption and ultimately, their salvation.  In the hardest of loves many lessons, a boy becomes a man, and a man becomes saved.        
By comparison I also saw a film by, Sarah Polley, whose films tend to show what a poignant student of male/female relationship she is.  Take This Waltz, was funny, sexy and intense in its naked portrayal of long term relationships between men and women.  
The film examines the way in which women see themselves over their lifetime, their choices and the consequences of those choices.  It was definitely a romance within a romance.  On the one hand you have a woman, Margot, who is in a happy, if not perfect marriage, but is constantly fantasizing about her love for the man who lives across the street.  Polley does a masterful job of keeping the audience clued into the flawed love life of Margot and her husband, yet leaving out the holes in the possibility the love Margot might experience should she leave her marriage.  
MargotThe interminable longing is wrapped up in a sexual and passionate tension so tight that when it finally breaks, you believe Margot has made the right choice.  But in the end, Polley shows you that when it comes to enduring love, over time, one must adjust the heart strings.  What notes may have once made it sing, may one day get old and you may need to find a different way to play the same song.  
In the immortal words of Pat Benatar, "Love Is A Battlefield."    

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

There and Back Again... A Romance Readers Tale

Being a pack rat has its advantages.  From time to time you get to relive and remember things from your past.  My brother calls it the "life in review" moment.  You know that moment you're knee deep in a storage box and the memories of old friendships, old loves, old embarrassments and forgotten times come flooding back as you sift through your old "treasures".  Among my treasures I found unfinished friendship bracelets, countless photographs, notes and letters from people and things I haven't thought about in years.  But what I was most excited about were the old romance books I read.  Favorites I hadn't picked up in years, one author I completely forgot about until now!  Elizabeth Elliott.  How could I forget her?!  I certainly hadn't forgotten her book, Warlord (which I devoured again over the next 48 hours.  Yup, still awesome).  

I also found my first copy of Elizabeth Lowell's, Only Love, which is part of her unforgettable Only series.  If you haven't discovered these you are MISSING it.  Over the years I have given away several copies of these books, knowing I'd probably never see them again.  What can I say, I'm a firm believer in sharing the love.  

Several teen romances and a Brenda Joyce favorite later and I look up to find myself surrounded by my past.  Yes, being a pack rat certainly has its advantages.  

So, what are some of your favorite romance reads from the past?  Go on, share the love!  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Need A Hero!

Last night I was watching an episode of the MTV show, Teen Mom.  Let me start by saying, this show is a like watching a never ending train wreck.  You want to turn away, flip the channel and forget you ever saw what just happened and yet, you can't.  I can't.  These girls, these kids, have made horror shows of their lives and I can't seem to stop watching it.  Anyone watching will immediately see the patterns of low self esteem, neglectful or more often than not, missing fathers and drug abuse.

Almost all of the teen moms, whether they knew it or not, went looking for hero's in their high school boyfriends and are shocked, SHOCKED I tell you when it is revealed that they are nothing more than teenage boys.  So, this show got me to thinking about hero's and in particular the types of hero's found in the world of Romance literature. I've been reading romance novels since I was 13 and even though I have grown up I'm not sure my hero preferences have.  Sure, it's a fantasy but not every hero is as good as another.  Let's be honest, we aren't reading about balding problem solving hunks with great bods, powerful positions and bad teeth.

Obviously the Cynsters, Morans and Jones of the world don't exist (at least not to my knowledge), and if they did the divorce rate would be way down and there would be no need for women to fake orgasms.  Like, ever.  So, what makes a hero a hero to the reader?  As an aspiring romance writer, my hero's are flawed but desperately desiring to escape their inadequacies.  They have hearts aching to love but afraid of what that might mean.  They are determined, emotionally and physically strong, reliable and have an ingrained  honesty.  Most importantly, they have a great sense of humor and with right woman they show the sillier side of themselves.
As a reader of romance I enjoy hero's who are emotionally closed off (until they meet their match), strong of will, smart, protective and can get things done.  I also like my hero's to be a little wicked and to have a wicked sense of humor.  Both go a long way with me.

I don't know what either of those hero preferences say about me since my current hero is my adorably plump cat, Sir Leonidas Periwinkle.

What makes a hero, a hero to you?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When Books Became Important To Me

I was at home the other day, doing house work and, as usual, doing some of my best thinking.  As I was dusting my bookcase I thought of ....well, books!  Specifically the age where they really started to excite me.  I admit I was pretty lucky early on, my mom read to my brothers and I when we were kids and I managed to have teachers who had a real passion for good books.  I'd say my first inkling of how special books really are was when I was in the fourth grade, Mr. Bowes class.  From the second I walked into that class it felt like I was in another world.  It was dark and at a solid 60 degrees all year around, but the walls and counters were covered in literary references. I wonder if Mr. Bowes ever thought that perhaps it wasn't a great idea to fill his classroom up with eye popping distractions and old looking breakable gadgets.  A little kid gets ideas after all!

Mr. Bowes was awesome, he looked like an old well groomed hippie/pirate with longish hair tied neatly at the base of his neck.  His mainstays were jeans and multiple layers of upper clothing.  And if that weren't enough he ALWAYS had a bandanna (varying colors, of course) tied around his neck like a limp piece of jewelry.  Honestly, I was hooked from day one.  He was excited and passionate
about the books we read, he engaged everyone and at the time I felt as ifJames and the Giant Peach and Summer of the Monkey's were the most important books I would ever read.

After Mr. Bowes class I finally knew where my academic comfort zone really was.  After elementary there were a few teachers who would recognize my love of books and encourage my writing.  One teacher even gave me extra reading materials with discussion questionnaire's.  English literature classes were some of the only classes I felt pretty darn superior and I wasn't above showing off.

Up until the age of thirteen, Romance novels weren't even on my radar.  One day, when my mom and I weren't fighting about whatever teenage angst happen to be on the menu that week, she took me out to run errands with her.  We had a dog then and needed to stop at the pet store located off a short strip mall.  I love pets but can't stand the smell of pet stores so I didn't go in.  Instead I went to a small book store called, The Book Exchange.  Now when I say it's small, I mean small. It had three rows of books and a few rotating displays in the front.  Other than the shelved walls lining the right and left walls of the building, the entire bookstore was filled with Romance novels.  It was so quaint even the shelves had hand written labels detailing (by last name) which author was in that particular section. The best part was that it was operated by these two older ladies perched on cushioned bar stools immediately to the right of the entrance.  They were fantastic women, grandmother types with bi-focal's on the tips of their noses, cotton and gold colored hair pined high and frozen solid with hairspray.  They took one look at my lost face and promptly directed me to the teen romance section.  I don't remember the author or the name of the book, I just remember that it was about a sorta chubby teen who with the help of a kind boy, loses the weight and her heart during a family summer vacation.  SOLD!

After a few more of those teen romps I decided to graduate to more adult romances.  I carefully made my way down the other two rows, Garland...Lamb...Johnson...Putney...McPhearson...Lowell...James...and then I found her.  Amanda Quick.  Rendezvous.  That was it.  That was the moment when this wonderful genre became important to me and I haven't looked back.  When I think on who I have to thank for
introducing me to a world of escape, adventure and of course love, that list is surprisingly long.  That little bookstore made it possible for my mother and I to tolerate each other for a few hours a week when I wasn't being a total nightmare.  It also gave us something to bond over and quality mother/daughter time.  To this day one of our favorite things to do together is going to a bookstore.  And to think, it all started with Mr. Bowes!

So I pose the question to anyone who reads this: When did books become important to you?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Latest AYL Review!

Originally posted on my website, I thought it worth re-posting my review of a Sandra Brown classic, "Hidden Fires". 

One of my all time favorite romance reads, Sandra Brown, brings together beautifully the harshness of the West with the sweet softness of a hard fought love of a lifetime in this classic Brown novel.  Hidden Fires is the perfect compliment to a cold wintry day and a snugly well used chair.  
Sandra Brown

Preacher's daughter Lauren thinks that she is going to work for wealthy Olivia Lockett as a secretary. Instead, the matriarch makes Lauren a scandalous offer to marry her son in name only. Lauren has strong feelings for him but are they strong enough?

Brought to a Texas ranch under false pretenses and a desperate need to escape her own troubles, Lauren arrives to find a family ravaged by secrets.  What's worse, despite every instinct in her body, she's undeniably attracted to the wild and reckless son of the kind gentleman who invited her there to be his wife's secretary.  Jared is everything your mama warned against and sexy as hell. Hidden Fires
At once Lauren's expectations of her new life are thrown awry when she learns upon her arrival that Jared's father has suddenly passed away and Jared's apparent dislike for her makes a bad situation worse.  But it's his mother's unspeakable proposition that nearly causes Lauren to return home to her former, less seemingly insurmountable demons.  However, the longer she is around Jared the more she glimpses the kindness and vulnerability he works so hard to conceal, the more she can't bear to leave him.  As the story unfolds the reader is taken on a journey behind the curtain of a family in crisis and saved by the love that unfurls between two unlikely people that didn't know what they needed until they found it in each other.  

Happy Reading!

Quotes From Your Favorite Authors!

Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!  AYL (Author's You Love) is looking for some of your favorite quotes to sprinkle throughout the pages of the website.  Many of us have that book, or if you're like me, a few books that we never forget.  We can read them a million times and every time feels like the first.  Here's your chance to have lines from some of your favorite romances posted for all to see.  Please submit the quote, with the title of the book and author as well as a few words on why it's a favorite.  This will be an ongoing submission with no end date as of yet, it really all depends on the response which I expect to minimal at first but will hopefully gain steam as time goes on. 

I look forward to reading your quotes and as always, happy reading!

~ M.Q. ~