Can You See Me Now?

Once upon a time, I was engaged in several years of individual counseling. I learned much from the nice LCSW-lady, including that a lot of loving somebody is paying attention to them–seeing them, hearing them, being with them where they are.

This is the magic of the moment in romance novels we call the meet. The protagonists collide, neither of them looking for love, but something happens. He sees that she’s being man-splained in a meeting, and makes sure her opinion gets heard and respected. She notices that he lacks charm, but he’s fair-minded, even when that’s contrary to his own interests, and she thanks him for it in front of the big boss. Before anybody can truly love us, they have to know us… and that’s both scary and tantalizing.

One of the moments I recall most clearly from my hundreds of therapy sessions was when my counselor casually observed, “When you were growing up, nobody ever explained much of anything to you, did they?”

I thought back… my brother Tom showed me how to tie my shoes. I do recall that. I would have been about four. My sister Maire informed me at the bus stop when I was in fourth grade that I should start wearing a bra, so I helped myself to one of hers and didn’t tell anybody. I figured out feminine hygiene products by reading the package inserts… I’m sure there were some explanations along the way, but part of my frustration with the current diet (which I still detest) is that my mom never let me (or anybody) help in the kitchen.

I learned to bake by reading recipes, starting with brownies when I was age seven. I never learned to cook. I never learned to wear makeup, and nobody ever explained the whole matching shoes and handbag thing. I learned to braid my hair by trial and error, and I had to be told–at an embarrassingly adolescent age, by my godmother–that eating with one hand on my lap is more genteel than resting an arm beside my plate.

The results of being a largely self-taught child are both helpful and not so helpful.  I respect everybody, but my trust must be earned. Just because you’re a doctor, professor, or international expert doesn’t mean I’ll believe what you say to be correct. Another result is that I expect myself to meet challenges with my own resources. That can be called self-reliance, it can also be bull-headed, arrogant stupidity.

Above all though, as somebody who was not particularly visible early in life, I came to love books. In books, I could find explanations, connected dots, kindred souls, and reassurance of my own humanity. From brownie recipes to tampon package inserts to the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to what that moment feels like when somebody truly, truly sees you for who you are and respects  the person they see… I found it in books.

What do you find in books? To one commenter, I’ll send an advanced reader copy of A Rogue of Her Own.

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125 comments on “Can You See Me Now?

  1. 1
    Teenie Marie says:

    I’ve learned a great deal of history from books which has helped me understand WHY things are the way they are. Sometimes, we don’t LIKE the way things are but it helps to understand why.

    Besides Romances—historical and others–I read a great deal of biographies. Mostly the subjects important women such as Eleanor of Aquitaine or Queen Victoria or Crazy Juana and many women composers like Amy Beach or Ruth Crawford Seeger (Pete’s step-mom). I learn history and also develop admiration for those who came before.

    Reading has always been a vacation for my mind but when I was a young girl, it was an escape from being the oldest of six who was expected to pitch in when some of the younger kids were not. The lack of equality bugged me then but now I see Mom and Dad could trust me to get stuff done and could not trust some of the others. One sibling in particular has accused me of being our parents favorite; I wasn’t their favorite but I followed through and didn’t complain (too much). What she sees as favoritism was really them being grateful for me not having temper tantrums!

    • 1.1

      First borns can have a rough road. In my family, the first borns were twin boys, and I think put the shoe on the other foot–the new, first time mom had an extraordinary challenge.
      I love the history I find in books too. I try to have something “period” among the books I’m reading in addition to a romance. Those old folks knew how to write… or maybe quill pens make us smarter?

  2. 2
    Patricia Histed says:

    What do I find in books? I find romance, travel, escape. I find friends that I meet anew everytime I reread that book. My book friends laugh and cry with me in the sequels. And for moments in time everyone has a happy ever after

  3. 3
    Betty Jean says:

    I find EVERYthing in books. Advice. Love. How-to. There is nothing I like better than to begin reading a book only to start recognizing characters, and realizing I’ve picked up a book that is part of a series. It’s like revisiting old friends.

    While books can’t replace people in your life, they run a darned close second.

  4. 4
    Make Kay says:

    I find a guaranteed HEA in romance books. In a world that is so chaotic and often disconnected, it is so soothing to know that everything will turn out ok in the lives of the H/h I am reading about!!

    • 4.1

      I love the HEA–don’t give me any of this cutting edge, ambiguous stuff. I want orchestral crescendos and fireworks around my HEAs… but I also love that in a romance, people usually find the courage to grow and change, and THEN they earn that HEA. Change is scary, and the notion that HEAs can lie on the far side of painful growth… I like that. I do like that.

  5. 5
    Ann Martinez says:

    I find satisfying resolutions… Which often elude me in real life… as cynical as I can be in life, I’m just as romantic minded in the books I read and write…

    • 5.1

      I’ve wondered if my motivation to write will take a hit when I’m no longer slogging away in court every week. I NEED the happy place that books afford me, as a reader and as author.

  6. 6
    Janette Gryniewicz says:

    I find relaxation and escape in books. I like the HEAs in romance and the solving of a crime in mysteries. I enjoying going on the journey with the characters and coming through with them to a satisfying conclusion in the end. I also love historical settings that can transport me to another time and place.

    • 6.1

      That list–HEAs, solved crimes, interesting worlds–is one of the reasons why I scarf up Ashley Gardiner’s Captain Lacey series. All the good things wrapped up in one series.

  7. 7
    Sheryl Nyary says:

    I love books! I have used them to help me cook and to learn about history. I love to read on my kindle and I do it everyday. I have found that by reading a book, you can escape from the craziness in the world and can get that happy ever after.

  8. 8
    Susan Gorman says:

    When I am in the middle of a book, I am immersed in the setting, the history and the characters. I love Victorian, Edwardian and WWII times periods both in history and in novels. The characters allow me a glismpe into their lives, what influenced their decisions and how they resolved their challenges. I liked the fact that the characters talked to each other and wrote letter, no sky ping or texting.

    It’s fun to escape from your own life for a bit. When reading I am not concerned about the laundry, shopping or who is putting out the trash!

    Am reading Bethann and Julian’s story. Their first meeting was unique and I am hoping that he’s Elizabeth’s Prince Charming.

    I remember reading your posts about Julian’s story….I think he’s one of your best heroes – complicated and stubborn and caring.

    • 8.1

      Thanks, Susan. What eluded me about Julian was… what is his arc? What’s the fundamental wound and how does he get past it? To think that your parent–the person responsible for giving you a good start in life–instead dug you a big hole… Yeah, I guess that’s a wound.

      And Elizabeth was slow to come forth with her troubles too. Glad she eventually told them to Julian, or we would have had a delayed pub date.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Tracy DeNeal says:

    Books take me to my happy place. It sounds cliche, but I find my truest self in books. So, yes, self-actualization and affirmation. They affirm my belief in love and the existence of happy ever after because I just don’t see that in real life.

  11. 11
    alisha woods says:

    they have always been my escape from reality. I have never dates or had a boy or man want me. No one ever asked me out. Its hard for me to make friends cause of shyness. I come off as snobby. So in books I imagine myself there it takes me to a happy place

    • 11.1

      Or maybe you didn’t settle for the half-baked overtures you got, and I say, good for you. I did settle on a couple of notably occasions, and was years cleaning up the fall out.
      I’m happy when I read a good book too. Don’t now where I’d without Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Jennifer Ashley, Joanna Bourne… so many wonderful stories.

  12. 12
    Cara Byford says:

    I so relate to this. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for writing. I’m thankful for what I learn from books and also the escape they give me.

    • 12.1

      I worry about young people. They spend so little time WITH each other, their interaction is so often through or with a screen, and their mental health started deteriorating noticeably the year the iPhone came out. How can they see each other is they’re never WITH one another?
      But worrying about young people is what ladies my age do. It was ever thus, and the young people have mostly been OK.

  13. 13
    Courtney says:

    I find hope. Having suffered from more than 3 bouts of clinical depression, I have a 97% chance of suffering another one — my most recent has been this autumn. Every time I read a book where people fall in love, I find hope that someone treasures you no matter your faults. No matter how unable one is to be gracious and socially adept, no matter how beautiful or strange looking one is, everyone carries within them some kernel of an ability to be loved, and to love. Life does hold the hope of joy, even in the darkest hours.

    • 13.1

      I’m sorry you have been cursed with depression, because it is a curse. I wish you all the books, all the HEAs, all the love, and the stamina to reach for them when the clouds pass by again.

  14. 14
    Mary T says:

    Your story about needing a bra and helping yourself to your sisters’ triggered a funny memory for me. I think I was only about eight years old – too young I think – my mother gave be a brochure by the Kotex Company titled “Why Sally Can’t Swim.” I remember sitting on the ground in my backyard with my best friend, while the two of us were trying to figure out just what the hell they were talking about.

    What do I find in books? Over the years so many things, too many to count. But now I read almost purely for entertainment. As my world has gotten smaller (due to ailments) books take me to places I can no longer go to. They help me laugh and dream.

    • 14.1
      Darcy Coggins says:

      I remember that pamphlet! I remember crying that I would not go to camp, because my monthly was coming.”I won’t get to swim or feel like riding the horses”…my dear mom said: Oh yes you will, and proceeded to instruct me on tampons…she explained the mechanics, (I said that will NEVER fit LOL), and helped me pack to go…as I was ready to leave my room with my footlocker, she shared: “just don’t tell anyone you are using these because they are just used by the “fast and easy” gals….

    • 14.2

      Good lord… why Sally can’t swim? I’d never heard of that one. I guess that somebody did a pamphlet was some sort of service, but yikes… Sally could swim if she dang well pleased to.

  15. 15

    In books I find an escape from my ordinary life. But the best thing is that no matter what happens there is a happy ending…I love happy endings. It gives me a happy ending to my ordinary day…

    • 15.1

      I came across a work of women’s fiction (I guess?) that got mis-shelved in romance, and it did not have an HEA. The heroine in fact died of a stroke at the end of the book. That was… 1999. I can still feel my outrage nearly twenty years later. We want what we want and we want HEAs!

  16. 16
    Linda Kau says:

    I find so many things in books, pleasure, adventure, romance, love, knowledge, and so much more. Reading has always been an absolute delight to me since I was a very young child. One of my favorite places to spend time was at my local library.

    • 16.1

      I wasn’t a big reader until Middle School, when I spent an entire summer reading biographies of composers. I loved “knowing stuff” and books made that so easy and enjoyable.

  17. 17
    Dawn says:

    Books are my escape and my greatest past time. When things get overwhelming, too mundane, or even too real I can escape into another world, another life for just a bit and find the energy or motivation to face my life again. Not that it’s bad-I have a very nIce life-but the day to day battles and worries can get a person down sometimes. I also find traits in characters I want to avoid or emulate. Sometimes, I find a profound nugget of wisdom. Mostly I read for the pure enjoyment of going somewhere else or experienceing another life. It’s good to t y someone else’s skin for a while. Books are my happy place I can just enjoy or do a little growing or learning while I escape for just a bit.

    • 17.1

      Writing is my happy place, though reading is a very, very close second. When I write, I can forget what day it is, what century it is, and get a sense of progress just by telling a scene of a story. Pretty slick.

  18. 18
    Laura M Banse says:

    More than anything else, I’ve found escape in books. The chance to shed the skin of the lost child, the lost adult, and become someone, even if only for 400 pages.

  19. 19
    Meghan Edwards says:

    Pretty much that I was not the freak life made me to be. I was always bullied at school and my mother’s response was to “just get over it!”

  20. 20
    Kate Sparks says:

    My dad served in the USN… Always ate with one arm on table – so that food didn’t slide away as the ship moved thru the water!!

    • 20.1
      Martha says:

      In Europe (at least in France), polite people leave both hands visible while eating. Leaving one hand in your lap is considered rude. Don’t ask me why, it’s what I was told by French friends at l’Alliance Française.

      • 20.1.1

        Interesting… my godmother was French, and her French auntie (who raised her) lived with her. I know cultural norms vary tremendously. One friend was at a business meeting in central Europe and took a sip of her bottled water from the bottle. She was pulled aside and instructed on how low-brow that was, and not to do it again… Who would have thought?

    • 20.2

      I don’t think I even knew, “Napkin on your lap.” My parents hammered on please and thank you, which is good habit to emphasize.

  21. 21
    Susan Knight says:

    Bertrice Small taught me how to give a BJ without getting on my knees. I have bad knees. You asked!

  22. 22
    Pam Somerville says:

    Oh, Grace! I had a big sister who was 8 years older than me. She was the one who bought me my first everything! If it was up to my parents, I would have been kept a baby forever!
    I read anything I put my hands on- including the classifieds. My family thinks I’m crazy but you always learn something!
    Thanks for sharing with us!

    • 22.1

      I also read the classified… looking for horses for sale, then just looking. Now I guess Craig’s List fulfills that function, though my daughter has given me a stern talk about cruising the Craig’s List personals. I tactfully did not ask how she’d come by her wisdom.

  23. 23
    Maureen says:

    I find inspiration, humor, happiness and so much more in books.

    I’m also really looking forward to Rogue because everyone deserves a redemption story.

    • 23.1

      Rogue is a very fine tale, if I do say so myself. Sherbourne does requiring some redemption, as does CHARLOTTE. As hard as I had to work for Julian and Elizabeth, Charlotte and Sherbourne gave me a break. A nice way to end a series!

  24. 24
    Linda says:

    Your comment about really seeing someone reminds me of “I see you” in the movie “Avatar”. The protagonist was “wearing” an artificial body but still the young female “sees” him, not the fake body. That’s what I enjoy so much in romance novels – particularly yours. The couple truly sees each other and not only loves them but likes them. I don’t feel many people truly see me for who I am.

    • 24.1

      Being seen for who we are tries our courage, both because somebody might get it right, and realize we’re not perfect, and because they might get it wrong, and break our hearts. I’m convinced though, that never being seen for who we are can destroy our souls.

  25. 25
    Peggy Wright says:

    You made me think, you do that. I thought I pretty much created myself, without much interference with anyone, and I still say that is true. My mother was widowed young left with 2 small children, beautiful woman, married again to a man 10 years younger than herself, not the best of choice, she dies leaving 2 young children under 6 and the two older,myself and my older sister. However, she was a modern mother. She expected her word to be law. And Dang, was a curse word, though I used much worse. She allowed me the gift of learning myself. I had freedom, I could be outside when I wanted, at neighbors when I wanted, at the church that I wanted. She gave me the tools to make this successful. I was a television educated child, saw the best designers of clothes and makeup and hair. So not ever much problem there. Manners. I’m a reader! Of course, manners are discussed in all the books I like to read. Certainly, not an effort to get that right. After my mother’s death I was raised for 3 years by a family interconnection, what the dickens is that, you ask? My stepfather’s brother’s first wife and her new family. I realized that my job was to behave properly, and that was my goal. Pretty much successful for a 60’s child. I was held up as a credit at the dining table as well as behavior, to my new interconnected family. Yep, pretty much griped the kids after a while, I’m sure. Grown up. I’ve always pretty much had to be grown up. Responsible. Steady. Loyal. I love to throw it all up in the air, but you are pretty much who you are, I’m a grown up. I have responsibilities. Did not, you might note, say I was successful all the time. My goal in life was a family life, and that is what I created and still work at daily. Wish I was smarter. Wish I was thinner, Wish I were younger,(32 was a very good age). Dang, Grace Burrowes, you got me thinking, again! You do that!

    • 25.1

      What a tale, Peggy. I hope you’re writing some memoirs–for your kids if not a larger audience. My dad in the last ten years of life took to jotting down vignettes about his upbringing, and because he was nearly 97 when he died, we got snippets not only of dear old Dad, but also life long ago, when the world was different. That is wonderful stuff.

  26. 26
    Charlotte Litton says:

    I find an escape to other times.

    • 26.1

      Me too! Gimme candlelight, and horseback transportation, and all the food all organic all the time, and a rhythm to life driven the seasons and the sun… until my feet are cold. Then give me a space heater because the old brazier of coals is messy.

  27. 27
    Bonnie says:

    Pure escapism. I know things are going to work out the way they should, even though the characters are imperfect. (That’s part of the appeal.) Real life doesn’t always work out that way, so for several hours, I can view happiness triumphing over all the sad things.

    • 27.1

      I’m encouraged by reading romance, because you’re right: Things turn out well in the end, but along the way, everybody has moments of doubt and despair, and just when they think they’ve solved a problem, often that’s a set up, and things are about to really, really get worse. The fundamental message–persevere in love and courage anyway–is one I can’t hear often enough.

  28. 28
    Molly R. Moody says:

    First off, let me say much of what you wrote was like reading about my life. I still have a big trust issue and I find it virtually impossible to get to know people and allow them to truly know me.

    What I find in books is the opportunity to visit places I’ll probably never visit and former times that no longer exist. I love history and feel like I get to be a tiny part of it in the books I read.

    • 28.1

      I owe an enormous debt to that therapist, who was taken much too soon by breast cancer. She came into my life at the exact right time with the exact right skills and helped me make sense of myself. The process was long, slow, and painful, but I think healing takes that–time and stamina and hope.
      Thank goodness for the books, which can give us respite from almost any ailment.

  29. 29
    Martha says:

    My mom taught my sister and me how to cook, sew, clean house, shop for and recognize a bargain, refinish furniture, balance a checkbook, and have excellent manners. That’s a lot, and I’m grateful. But in terms of getting along easily with people, knowing how to stand up for myself without angering the people in power, and learning things like music and art, those I had to figure out for myself, and that’s where books, fiction and non-fiction, have been so important in my life. Like you, I evaluate what people tell me, and don’t take the word of an “expert” unless it makes sense to me. On occasion this annoys the experts, but I’ve taught myself how to deal with that. Being older sure helps, too. 🙂

    • 29.1

      About twenty years ago, I started saying, “Each decade has been better than the one before, and I can’t wait to be an old lady.” Well, the trend has continued, thank goodness, and if I’m not old, I’m right next door to it, and I’ve never been so consistently at peace with myself. This is good, because I’ve also never been as consistently discontent with the state of my world.

  30. 30
    Larisa says:

    How to relate to people, what good relationships should sound like, everything a repressed mother didn’t explain, different ways of living and being, what can happen during grief…basically anything and everything. When in doubt, off to the library with a side of Google-Fu.

    • 30.1

      Some of the most meaningful books I’ve come across have been non-fiction. I’ve started to wonder: What non-fiction do I have to share that might be useful to someone. I bet that question has crossed YOUR mind…?

  31. 31
    Karlene Barger says:

    Books bring me a sense of connection to world events in different times and locations and the struggles, challenges, and ways of coping and surviving that other people have faced and perhaps continue to face. Life goes on (or sometimes it doesn’t!) but the world keeps spinning.

    • 31.1

      You put your finger on an aspect of books that has long appealed to me: They grant the author a slice of immortality. If you read Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, you get to know her as a person–bright, sly, resilient, human, earthy, funny–and she died almost two centuries ago. Thanks to her, we know that intimate time spent with the Duke of Wellington was, “very uphill work.”
      I like that sense of being able to share a giggle with Harriette Wilson when it’s just the two of us having a pot of tea and a cozy read.

  32. 32
    Debbie Hoopes says:

    I have found lots of enjoyment in reading. I have learned new words (looking them up in the dictionary) and their meaning. I learned about old customs and etiquette- very interesting. I find myself looking deeper into history based on the book I am reading. I sometimes find sadness and regret when I am particularly touched by a book.

    • 32.1

      Those hankie books… the ones that make me tear up. This happens when I’m writing, though oddly enough, the teary scenes are rarely between the hero and the heroine. They’re often between a protagonist and a family member, putting right some old, old wound or misunderstanding. “Only living flesh can suffer…”

  33. 33
    Polly says:

    I have loved books since the age of two, when my first sentence was “Where book go?” They were the link for special time with mom or dad or grandpa, the entertainment before TV was even an option. My grandparents even had a library. Additionally, we moved every year until I was 14 – so books were my friends when getting to know the new neighborhood was hard (out on a farm, from June until September, age 12), my source of information, and my favorite entertainment.

    • 33.1

      Between books and practicing the piano, I got through adolescence. Horses helped a lot too. When I lost my grip on the books, music, and horses… much mayhem and sorrow. Let that be a lesson to me…

  34. 34

    When I was a teenager back in the sixties I purchased My first book with my first wage packet It was a historical romance by Georgette Heyer called The convenient marriage I went on to read all of her books and many others.When I married and had children and part-time jobs I gave up reading because there did not seem enough time to get into a book.Many years went by many events happened both good and bad I reached sixty and I picked up a book in the library by Mary Balogh and was captivated and shocked at the same time.The story was so well written but I did not realise that writing about the love/sex act would be so detailed and normal.That took me a while to adjust to but that serves me right for not reading a book for forty years!Now I am nearing seventy and still enjoying reading and still learning about things it seems to me that I need all of what books offer,a roller coaster of emotions but most of all happy endings Thank you Grace for supplying this need.

    • 34.1

      You are welcome! I’m nose down in Mary’s latest Westcott novel,and I was just thinking last night, “It is such a RELIEF to read a Mary Balogh.” She’s in such thorough command of all aspects of the novel–character arcs, period details, prose technique… I don’t know what to liken it to, except ten hours of romance novel perfection that I can enjoy over and over. Makes me look forward to the end of my day.

  35. 35
    Lisa S. says:

    I just so appreciate these words. So. Much. I find escape in most books… life is terrifying, drudgery, and no fun sometimes. (Not all the time!) But I can be transported in seconds to a world where there is a Happily Ever After. I like that part.

    • 35.1

      I love that part. For decades, I wouldn’t go near any fiction that lacked an HEA. I enjoy mysteries now, and tons of non-fiction, but spare me the literary profundities that must adorn themselves in unrelenting misery.

  36. 36
    LP says:

    I find escape. When life gets ‘loud’ I love to just pick up a book and move to the quiet. I read mostly romance and I can only handle unrealistic violence (I ‘consume’ the Kate Daniels series like chocolate). I will not read true crime, war, etc. They are my escape from reality. I would be lost without books.

    • 36.1

      Isn’t it Susan Elizabeth Phillips who says something like, “Life is too short to read sad books!” I feel the same way about violence–do we really need to entertain ourselves with that? We regard the Romans with their bloody spectacles in the Coliseum as barbaric, and that sentiment transfer for me to pretty much most violence sensationalized for entertainment. I don’t get it, I don’t like it, I don’t want it around me. Too many years handling child abuse cases and seeing what happens when violence is normalized… end of rant.

  37. 37
    Karen otto says:

    “I read to dream”. Stephen So Dhruv allows Fosca to sum it up best. Reading is my solace, my salvation. It gives me insight into other worlds, other MINDS in a way that I believe makes me a better friend, lover, mother, daughter …

    • 37.1

      The research backs you up. People who read good fiction are more tolerant, have better expressive and receptive language skills, more general knowledge, and lot of other advantages. This is probably why ever reader I’ve met, I’ve enjoyed spending time with. You’re cool people.

  38. 38
    Sara says:

    I find escape from the world and my worries and cares, a chance to imagine living in a different time and place, a chance to enjoy descriptions of beautiful clothing. I hate to shop but I love imagining pretty things.

    • 38.1

      I”m not a shopper either. My mom was the family shopper and she died last year. In about another year and a half, I will have worn out the last of my Mom-clothes, and then you’ll see me wearing the most outlandish get-ups… Fortunately, both of my sisters are skilled shoppers, and they will probably save me from wearing my jammies in the supermarket.

  39. 39
    Teresa smigelski says:

    It’s amazing to me how I find things that speak to me wherever I am emotionally. I like to write things down and then I can look back and follow the time line of my ups and downs. Also I have such a feeling of joy when the characters realize that the other person sees them and cares about them

    • 39.1

      I kept a journal for decades… let it lapse for a few years, and got back to it when I was regularly in front of a computer. I love reading that old stuff, mostly because it gives me such a sense of compassion for that younger woman. She was so busy, and worried, and overwhelmed… and she tried so hard not drop a single ball.

  40. 40
    Candace Nagy says:

    I find Contentment, release, connection. I learn about history. There are lots of things I discover including some self discovery. Realizing things about myself that I never knew or even thought about until it was presented to me through a book. It is pretty much limitless.

    Loved this question. ❤

    • 40.1

      We often see the same question as, “Why do you read?” but that idea of me being invisible, and romance novels being about being seen and accepted for who you are… that’s a recent insight for me. The meet is often the first scene I see of a book, the first glimmer I have about a new story. Maybe now I know why.

  41. 41
    Rita Gerstheimer says:

    I have found information in books for many things throughout the years. I read about how to do embroidery, patterns for knitting and crocheting and jewelry making. I am a big reader in general and reading to learn and understand are a part of my nature. I am not that confident that I could just cook something without a clear recipe to follow. This being said, I just started an online course on Royal Food in the time of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, George I, George III and Victoria. The first set of recipes were described as aide memoire. This means, the ingredients are given, some basic steps to make the recipe, but no step by step instructions. The instructors give some modern tips, like measurements of ingredients and oven temperature. This is forcing me to trust that I have learned more about cooking than I might think I have. I cheated and bought a prepared pastry crust, I have never made a pastry crust from scratch. I did make a pastry for fritters and it was too wet. I almost didn’t get them finished. I believe I know what I need to do differently and I will make the recipe again.

    • 41.1

      What a great term… aide memoire. There were recipes I used to make frequently–no bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies, also known in my family as “raccoon droppings,”–that I haven’t made for years. If I see the list of ingredients, I know the whole “boil for one minute, pour over, spoon out…” routine, but I need that ingredient list. I hope you learn lots and lots in this class, but spare me the pie of larks’ tongues, please.

  42. 42
    catslady says:

    Most of what you said sounds like my childhood. We weren’t to think for ourselves but just do what we were told. I still have a horrible time at making decisions. I found books on my own and they’ve given me everything ever since. Joy, learning, escapism – my sanity.

  43. 43
    Glenda says:

    When I was in grade school, I found entertainment and all sorts of knowledge – as well as a way to avoid hanging out with the neighborhood kids with whom I had little in common. By high school, I had found more knowledge, a love of history, and a method of escape from a future being stuck in the small deep south town in which I lived. At some point in college I discovered that I could make a living writing techical manuals – that no one would read 😉 . As a mother, I found many, many hours of bonding with my children. Even when they were old enough to read on their own they often asked me to read to them. Not to mention the fact that I was one of those moms who read the same books my kids did so we could talk about them. Now that my kids are older, I have gone back to reading books mostly for my pleasure. If I need to find a recipe or specific bit of knowledge, I’ll run to the internet. If I want to relax or explore a topic in depth, I’ll run to my books.

    • 43.1

      My first job in DC was being a technical editor… ye gods, if I never see another MIL-Spec doc again, it will be too soon. But it paid the bills while I went to law school, and you’re right: Nobody read that stuff, with the possible exception of the proposals, that had to be read before a contract could be awarded.

  44. 44
    Astrid says:

    I have found so many things in books, but I will admit that when I’m reading for pleasure it is mostly for “escape”. Romance novels also have the added bonus of a happy ending that might not be happening in real life for me. Regency novels have been my favourite genre for a long time and it is amazing the amount of historical information that you pick up along the way…… simply from a well written story. I can thank Georgette Heyer for starting me off and many other authors that have contributed to the genre including yourself. I have really enjoyed how your have explored different characters in families and it is always a joy to meet up with a familiar character in a slightly different setting. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.

    • 44.1

      You are welcome! Took me a long time to realize that the same imagination that was terrified of the dark for decades (started sleeping with the light off in my mid-thirties), is the imagination that can come up with the HEAs. I just needed about fifty years to figure out how to aim it.

  45. 45
    NitaLynne Frigerio says:

    When my closest friends were all dying of AIDS in the late 80’s and early 90’s I found a world of hope of happy endings. I only read short (200 pg) novels that had to have happy endings. It relieved some of the stress. So I found a sense of calm and hope.

    • 45.1

      I remember those times, and thinking, “This has to be the most evil disease ever to mutate out of the muck….” It’s still a top contender as far as I’m concerned.
      That sense of hope though… wherever we can find it, it’s precious.

  46. 46
    Kathryn Schultz says:

    In books I find distraction from the problems I’ve done everything I know to do to solve (or there’s nothing I can do). For a few minutes or hours I can escape to another world, usually by choice a happier one, or at least with problems different from my own.

    • 46.1

      Books can be a happy place. I also think there’s a lot to be said for respite, and for time. My former spouse was a distance runner, and every time he’d overdo, pull a muscle, push himself into bronchitis, I’d hear him mutter, “Rest is a part of conditioning…” Sometimes, if you can just get that break from the grind, kick the monkeys out of your mind for a few hours, you can go back into the arena with new energy and insights.

  47. 47
    April W says:

    I find another little world that’s only for me. A place where I can just be myself and get lost. 🙂
    – April W

  48. 48
    anne egger says:

    My best friend’s little girl is graduating from high school. I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around this. For her present I am going to be giving her my stepmother’s copy of Pride and Prejudice, my mother’s copy of the Illiad, the Lattimore translation with my mother’s notes in it, and my copy of the Riverside Shakespeare. I read Pride and Prejudice when I was fifteen. It changes my world. I didn’t know someone could write like this, and say what was in my head. I studied the Illiad my freshman year of college. I just loved it. I remember writing a paper about Hector and Achilles. I studied Shakespeare my senior year of college using the Riverside edition. I remember reading the plays out loud. Pride and Prejudice spoke to me personally, the Illiad taught me what a hero really looks like, Shakespeare taught me how beautiful the English language can be.

  49. 49
    Mary Staples says:

    What I find in books, is a little piece of myself in each character. I used to read solely to escape my reality but I’ve learned to delve deep into the characters and plots. How can these people and their situations help me to grow and be better as a human. I allow myself to feel their emotions so that I can really learn to feel empathy towards others in my life. Reading is so much more than the words on these pages – if you allow yourself to feel the words.

    • 49.1

      Another profound comment–and writing works the same way. I’m often the LAST to pick up on autobiographical themes in my books, but when I do see them, the result is often an insight about my own unfinished business.

  50. 50
    Beth Lisk says:

    I find escape from the stresses of every day life by diving into a story from long ago in a far away place – a story that I would never live so truly an escape! I also get to indulge my love of pondering the history of words. I took French in school, and a lot of the historical novels have words not used every day (yes, I get to learn some new words) that are related to French words, and I love having those moments that click with understanding of “hey, that sounds a lot like…” I also love history so I enjoy learning a bit more in a story about how people may have lived, what they had to deal with, what their homes may have been like. Yay, mental and emotional food and a little bit of rest!

    • 50.1

      That French connection tugs at my heartstrings… At the time the Napoleonic Wars broke out, one quarter of the English aristocracy had French cousins. The distance across the channel from Dover to Calais is only twenty-some miles–you can see the cliffs of Dover from coastal France–and in Georgian London, almost everybody could speak French. They might not have been able to read it (or read English), but they could get along. When we read about the Regency, we’re reading about a society that was battle-weary, grieving, and heartsore.. and waltzing as hard as they could.

  51. 51
    Carol Wagner says:

    For everything in life it seems there is an upside and a downside. That you learned on your own initiative was the result of a downside-no one in your life it seems took time to “teach” you. The upside is that by seeking and finding the information on your own, you were able to utilize it free from the influences and interpretations and judgments of otherswhich may well have led you to develop a stronger, more personal self that’s definitely a strength for an author.

    • 51.1

      What you said… absolutely. I don’t envy people who had entirely smooth childhoods. What groceries do they bring to adult challenges, how deep can their self-confidence go? But then, does ANYBODY have an entirely smooth childhood on this planet? Probably not.

  52. 52
    Carol Luciano says:

    I have found so much history in books that I never learned in school. I’ve found an escape into worlds when my own becomes overwhelming. I found out a lot about myself by the way I react to certain situations in stories. But most of all I found an exciting way to let go and fall into a different world and enjoy myself for a few hours.

  53. 53
    Beth says:

    Escape, love, comfort, adventure, security, beloved friends who will never leave me. (Only child syndrome)

  54. 54
    Katie says:

    I love reading, mostly for the HEA’s. I love the snappy dialogue that is 10x better than I can come up with in real life. But mostly I love that if I have a cold/headache – an ibuprofen will get me better eventually, but for three hours a good book will fix everything!

    • 54.1

      An authors are so appreciative of readers like you, because that snappy repartee often takes hours and hours to rough out, then weeks and weeks of polishing, plus a few of those, “sitting bolt upright in bed with the perfect line,” moments. Then the editor tells you that you forgot to the write a setting for that all sparkly dialogue.
      Oops.

  55. 55
    Megan says:

    Hi,
    I’ve been enjoying books since I was a little girl when my Dad would read aloud to me and that love has only increased since then.

    As a preteen, I struggled with being able to speak clearly at times which I had therapy for but couldn’t and can’t always help how the words will come out of my mouth. Knowing that I didn’t have a lot of control over speaking, I decided that I could choose to control the way I took in knowledge and reading became not only an escape but a way for me to learn just about anything I wanted to get my hands on.

    I get out of books the wonders of friendship, a vacation without having to go anywheres, an escape when I don’t want to be in my current world, understanding about the past, the marvels of science, the wonders of romance and the sense that as long as I have a book at my side, I always have friends to turn to even when I am feeling particularly alone. Books have enabled me to inspire others to pick up books and encourage people to get lost in a different world for a while. Books have never let me down and been dear friends through difficult times.

    I love books that have fantasy, romance, adventure, science fiction and even some true events. Reading stories for me is such a privilege that I strive hard not to take for granted and books have filled up quite a bit of space in the office I share with my boyfriend.

    I can’t imagine not having books around and sharing that love with others.

    • 55.1

      One of the hardest questions ahead of my family now that my dad has passed on will be what do to with Mom’s books. She always had a book going and her complete works of A. Trollope has pride of place in the living room. Whenever I’d go visit the folks, I’d always come home with at least one really interesting book Mom had found that I would never have come across. As her hearing went, her balance went, her vision faded… but as long as she could read, she had quality of life, and something to talk about. That is no small thing to a ninety-year-old woman.

  56. 56
    Pamela Duarte says:

    I found books to be an escape from the fact that I really didn’t have many friends. I loved to read and I was (still am) intelligent, but I grew up in an era and neighborhood where girls with intelligence were not only not valued, but not acceptable. “You sound like you read the dictionary.” It was meant to be an insult but it was the truth – I did read the dictionary. And the encyclopedia and anything else I could get my hands on.

    Now that I’m an adult/senior citizen (at least that’s what the calendar tells me), I still find comfort in books and the information I glean from them. I can talk to almost anyone on almost any topic. I’ve passed on my love of reading to my sons who had to be told to stop reading and go to sleep because they had to go to school the next day. Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with 20 bookcases full of books while we downsize.

    • 56.1

      You will find good homes for them, I hope. I also read the dictionary, but committed the mortal sin of taking it into the bathroom with me so I’d have peace and quiet. Hah–you can’t hold up a bathroom for any length of time in a family of nine people. One of the most rabbity rabbit holes for me to this day is the Oxford English Dictionary’s website. Their historical thesaurus is better than… brownies.

  57. 57
    Sue Lucas says:

    As the oldest in a family of seven children, reading was my escape from everything and everybody!
    I cannot begin to explain what I learned from books! I learned how to be ME!

  58. 58
    Darcy Coggins says:

    I find interesting reflections on mothering grown children…by her Grace, the Duchess of Moreland, and Julia Quinn’s Violet Bridgerton. They always seem so cool, calm and strong-hearted. I have found it interesting that with impending motherhood there is a plethora of manuals on baby care; but to parent adult children often finds me floundering. Where is that solid ground that helps define the bounderies of good advice, wanted caring and interference and opinions…perhaps this is a heavy burden to put on fiction and not on psych texts, but it helps my soul.

    • 58.1

      I think you put your finger on something, Darcy, and that is, the absence of grandmas and grandpas, to tell us how to parent our grown offspring. I recall being in San Diego visiting my folks years ago, and my daughter had announced that she was done with Seattle and coming home to Maryland–except I was in San Diego. I fretted about whether I should fly up to Seattle to drive East with her, hire somebody to drive my truck, hitch her car to my truck… what to do!?
      My dad kinda laughed at me. “My daughter drives across the country all the time,” he said. “She never asked me if I was OK with it. She just jumped in her truck and took off. Your daughter at least announces her plans. You might get her to let you share the ride this time, but sooner or later, she’s going to do this, or something like it, on her own. I know who her mother is, and she comes by it honestly.”
      Oh. Well. That Dad could be so cool about my Darling Child driving 3000 miles on her own was very reassuring.
      She made it home a few hours after I did, and shortly took off for Denver (on her own).

  59. 59
    Marianne says:

    I was born to a couple who lived over my dad’s pharmacy. One morning, very early, I was missing from my crib. I was discovered poring over comic books in the store. We moved from there when I was about 15 months so I don’t remember it myself. And I certainly couldn’t read. Like Elizabeth Windham, that is still where you’ll find me.

    • 59.1

      Comic books are such a great combination of the visual, tactile, and literary, but you coulda knocked me over with a feather when I was told The Heir had been published in Japanese Manga.
      That’s a nice image of you though–happily turning pages, enjoying yourself with a comic book, while the parents sounded the alarm.

  60. 60
    Sarah says:

    Myself.

  61. 61
    Diana Francis says:

    I have loved to read since I first learned how as a little girl. My Dad used to buy us Little Golden Books. As an adult, I particularly fond of romance over any other reading material. This past year and a half, yourself and my other favorite romance writers have kept me from spiraling into a world of grief I believe I would have never been able to come out of. My 43 year old daughter died unexpectedly only 4 days after being diagnosed with leukemia. I wanted to perish with her. So, this past year and half I lost myself in the world of romance as part of my way of coping. The HEAs made me feel joy. The stories made me smile, no matter the genre. Books have been my escape when I could not cope. They saved my sanity. So, I thank you, Grace. You and numerous other authors for your great gift of spinning a tale. Thank you.

    • 61.1

      Diana, I am so sorry for your loss. Forty-three is just hitting our stride, and leukemia is awful. What a stinkin’ tragic weight upon your heart. I know all of your keeper authors hear from readers who pass along the message you just wrote to me–the books matter–and that helps us keep digging for gold when our own worlds feel blighted. I wish you peace, good memories, and healing, and I will keep writing as long as the light lasts.

  62. 62
    Liza Gorin says:

    “If you’re going to do something, do it well.” My mother must have repeated this often enough for it to become a standard not only in my development but, to a degree, in what I expect of others. She taught me many other resourceful things that probably served to temper a budding perfectionist, but this pridefully given advice seems skeletal to all I am.

    So when I read a book for pleasure, whether a bestseller or a first try, whether a novel or a memoir, I enjoy not just being transported to another’s world but how the writer takes me there. If I fall in love not just with the story or its people but with the writer’s style, then I read it again. Sometimes immediately, without the urgency of needing to know how it ends. Kind of a deeper, luxurious dive below the skin and into its bones.

    • 62.1

      I’m amazed at how much different a second read can be from a first, and that even on the fourth go, I will spot things I’d overlooked previously. I don’t have quite the same experience with movies I re-watch, but then, they are so much shorter, and some in through a wider channel.

  63. 63

    I find life, love and expectation! A life different and perhaps more exciting then my own. A promise of love throughout and happy ever after in the end. The constant expectation of moving through the book’s twists and turns to find the sigh of relief at the end!