The Real Life Fantasy

writer's groupSo…. here I am, sitting with a group of talented writers, and I’m the only one whose genre is romance. One of the fellows observed, “Romance isn’t realistic. As soon as that book ends, reality will creep in for the characters, and things will move back to the ho-hum, mundane, baloney we all deal with.”

I let the comment slide–this guy probably doesn’t read a lot of romance–but it struck me that he missed the point of the genre entirely. Romance, unlike mysteries, thrillers, suspense, comedy, science fiction/fantasy, and most hybrids, involves a development of the characters such that they are different people by the end of the book. They’re people who have the courage to love and be loved, and their lives are better for it.

mare-and-foalI don’t think that change fades away when the book ends. Love is for keeps, if it’s love. The big love in my life, so far, was the decision to become a mother when the opportunity befell me. I had options, and I was scared, but I also knew–and my dad of all people, told me–that some lessons can only be learned when raising a child. If I took a pass on motherhood when I was 28, I’d probably not have another grab at that brass ring. Ever.

laird_4501I could not have known what I was getting in to. Darling Daughter did not sleep through the night for three years. Financial anxieties were relentless. I did not dare get sick, and the two times I lost my job were the End of the World. But day followed day, and year followed year, and the child did grow up and leave home, and is well on her way to an impressive education.

I thought being a parent would connect me to my child. I did not anticipate that it would connect me to every child, to my elders, to every person on the planet. In some regards, I didn’t join the human species until I became a mother. For other people, I think the same transformation happens when they marry, when their elders become frail and needy, when a sibling leans on them.

Spymaster's ladyLove transforms us, and based on some of the reader mail I’ve received, I’d say even a love story can transform us in a small way.

Or do we go through life pretty much the same people from start to finish, trading on the same assumptions, guided by the same rules, regardless of the relationships we build, or the experiences we have?

How has love changed you or somebody in your life? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of The Laird and a copy of Joanna Bourne’s Spymaster’s Lady. I might be a little slow to respond to comments, but I’ll catch up as the week goes along.


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24 comments on “The Real Life Fantasy

  1. Love makes you vulnerable, whether it’s love for a spouse, child, sibling, parent or friend. That’s why it can be so difficult and sublime. If a romance writer does her job right (and you certainly do Grace), she draws characters that will make you believe they will make it through those difficult and boring times to come in their future.

    Sometimes we readers have to defend our choice of entertainment also and I have no trouble doing so. I find nothing entertaining about “reality”. When I was younger my reading choices were more diverse – mostly classics, mysteries, and whatever the current best sellers were. But now it is rare for me to read anything but romance and mystery books.

    I make no apology for wanting a happy ending. As a child and young person I used to enjoy scary movies. That ended when I saw THE OMEN back in the 70s. I’ll be damned if I’m going to set there for 2 or 3 hours only to have the devil win in the end!

    On a different note – congratulations on passing the million mark in sales. First of many million I’m sure.

  2. I have lived much of my life in shame (with a heaping dose of self hatred on the side.) I focused almost entirely on what I lacked rather than the gifts I had been given. I was caught in this relentless downward spiral until about three years ago. I am single, with no children, so I have not experienced love in those contexts, although there has been a good deal of the unrequited variety. In the past three years I have come to look upon myself with a kinder eye, to seek for the treasure in me and value what is there. I have started writing as a way to share what is in me with others. I am learning to love me. Finally. Life is too precious to spend in the throes of self-destruction/hatred.

    • Thank you for your honesty, Olivia – I’ve identified with much of what you shared, at different times in my life. We are so worthy of love – from others, yes, but especially from ourselves. Best wishes on your continuing journey!

  3. Grace it’s strange how similar our lives have been, my daughter was born two months before my 30 birthday and I’ve been a different person ever since. I’m at a point in my life since I’m retired that I can usually assist her family in some small ways. I’ve got an errand to run on Thursday and will have to take all five grandkids with me because she has a midwife’s appointment, I just hope she remembers that I have a doctor’s appointment on the 26 or I’ll have the fun of taking them with me then. It doesn’t matter though as there’s a large waiting room.

  4. I think that if you don’t change throughout your life then you didn’t live. If you are the same person at 60 as your were at 20 then you couldn’t have loved, been loved, or even just looked at a situation from a different viewpoint. To not change, even the tiniest bit, is not live. Change doesn’t have to be vast and sweeping. Change can be small and personal and you might not even realize it’s happened.

    You change because of the love you give and receive. I think the biggest changes probably happen when you learn to love the person you are. Personally, I’ve always liked the person I am. I think with time and relationships I’ve become even more comfortable in my own skin and I’ve been willing to be more myself than ever.

  5. I don’t think I knew what love was until I found my husband He taught me that I could grow and change and he even gave me courage to become a mother despite my physical handicap. The kind of love I felt as a mother was like nothing I have ever felt before and all because of the love of a good man.

  6. Oh my gosh, Grace!! That is so well said. About how motherhood changes everything. And some lessons can only be learned thru parenthood. Sounds like you have a brilliant dad. Me too. ๐Ÿ™‚
    And guess what, the next generation….its only better. If you can believe it! Grandchildren! There is no way to understand the touch in your heart from a grandchild. Its not “more” love or even “bigger” love. But a whole new and different love than for your own children.
    Love changes us all the time, doesn’t it?
    And I am with you, that’s what makes romance reading fabulous. The growing of the relationship, the happy ending, the love. I have noticed that a lot of romance stories have many love stories in it. Many different kinds of love.
    I am forever to be a romance reader.

  7. Motherhood changed me as well. I feel that I am a more patient person, a better listener and an advocate.

    My daughter was diagnosed with cancer when she was 5 months old. Both my husband and I took vacation time, sick time and did what ever needed doing while she was treated. The my day care provider gave her notice. What to do!? We flipped a coin and I stayed home with my daughter. It wasn’t easy losing 50% of our income, we made major life style adjustments and tightened our budget. I never regretted staying home. I remember my Dad telling me to enjoy my time with Jenny and that God worked in mysterious ways. What a blessing to see your child grown, learn and achieve. I went back to work when my daughter went to Kindergarden . Because I worked part time I was able to volunteer in the school, lead a brownie troop and volunteer at the Food Pantry. Having a child and loving her taught me to stop and smell the roses , give back and enjoy the simple things.

  8. I love my husband, but I don’t think that I truly fell in love until my son was born. We tried for over a year to get pregnant so when we finally got that positive test, we were so happy. I had a easy pregnancy, no sickness and I didn’t have a big weight gain like some of my friends had. Once he arrived, we were socked to see that he was born missing his left hand. He had Amniotic Band Syndrome. We had no idea, and were unsure what to do next. My little trooper has really thrived without his hand and honestly, he doesn’t miss it. I have learned a lot watching him every day and to say that I am humbled by him is an understatement. He is truly my hero and he will always have my heart.

  9. First off, the only books that are realistic are nonfiction! One thing I’ve never regretted is becoming a mother. I knew it would change my marriage and not all for the better but that was my choice. Once you become a mother you are going to grow up (or at least you should) and selfishness goes out the window. Most moms would die for their children if they had to and are willing to put them first in most instances. I think you change constantly. There are lessons to learn every day even if you don’t always realize it. And as far as HEA – who wouldn’t want that!

  10. First – you are a better woman than I. I would have had to response to the criticism of romance. The lives of people in thrillers and mysteries ALSO go back to ho hum boring! Every book is a snapshot of the characters’ lives for a set period. Sheesh. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    No spouse or children, but love came alive for me when I was 14 and my first sister was born. That infinity love grew exponentially two years later when the second was born. They are why I comprehend unconditional love and how one person would be willing to die, or live, for another. Watching them grow to adulthood has been equal parts exhilaration and exasperation!

  11. My husband changed my anger and frustration by just loving me for who I was and what I am now. Loving truly can get a person over the worse of childhoods or worse of things in life. Never thought I deserved love or compassion until he showed through loving I was worth love. I am sorry for the writer who is so alone. It must be cold out there.

  12. Where to start? First with mini-rant…. Was that author a non-fiction writer? Because for all fictional characters, their version of reality will ‘creep back in’. At least real and fictional people can make the love and romance live on along with reality. It may not always be easy. It won’t always be new and shiny. But the love can grow stronger and the romance part of a relationship can thrive. I have to feel sorry for people like him.

    People do change through loving someone whether siblings, spouses, children, parents, or friends. Yes, even loving their pets can change someone. A lady told me today that loving her cats had made her weak and emotional. I said I believe that all love makes us more vulnerable, but stronger at the end of the day. By being willing to do things for those we love, the love and care we receive in return makes us stronger, better people.

    My husband’s love has made me stronger and more self confident. I am a better mother because I have his support and love. Being a parent has taught me lessons I would have never learned otherwise – including understanding my parents better. I only hope my kids have learned as much from me as I have from them.

  13. Well, first, I think the fellow was ignorant and offensive and derided the romance genre, because he was a “fellow.” Reading fiction in a way is an escape from reality. I think characters can be developed and experience change in any genre, depending on the writer’s intentions. In a murder/mystery for instance, a person might be changed after seeing a horrible crime being committed. A lot of our “tortured” romance heroes are forever changed by their experiences. The rule in romance is that love transforms the characters. A great romance would transform the reader in some way. Being able to fall in love with a tortured hero or forgive a flawed hero or empathize with an abused woman is an expression of the reader’s capacity for compassion. It should remind readers that they are good inside. I see nothing wrong in an escape from reality where learning to love and heal is the goal, even if after the book is done, we go back to doing our laundry. If the book was well-written, we will remember and treasure the wonderful moments and the joy long after. I’d say for some of us love stories brighten our worlds, so that we can carry some of that hope and wonder and make the “ho-hum mundane baloney” a little more bearable.

  14. once again I have finished your last book the Laird. The series was amazing. I do not know how you dig down into your soul and bring such amazing characters to life. I always look forward to your next creations but i also re-read and share with my friends. As s teacher you give me a place to go to after the day filled with so many needs as I teach second and third grade.. I love your writing and will continue to explore your new characters. So thank you again. Judy Gessner

  15. With the upcoming birth of girl #2, girl #1, who is six, became clingy, emotionally labile, and started having more trouble with school. It was worse after spending the last month of the pregnancy on bedrest. It drove all of us crazy. During one prebetime cuddle, she finally said that she was worried that the new baby would take away all of our time and love away from her. It is amazing how a six year old thinks. My husband’s response was perfect. “Adding someone to the family does not divide up the love that was already there. It adds to it and even multiplies it, so there is way more love to be shared.” The behavior did improve, and now she is a very Loving Big Sister. Sister time is part of the day now with book reading, songs, and lots of cuddles.

  16. Hi Grace,
    I wanted to post for at least 2 days now… well I was really thinking “hard” about what to say to that person that said “Romance it is not realistic”. I am wondering what is more realistic than romance. You see, to me romance is was not invented or created by us humans… its not just a “genre”. I believe romance was given to us by God. He created it… He is the inventor of it! ok, I will open a parenthesis here to say that ” I ABSOLUTELY” am not preaching or imposing my Christian beliefs on anyone… so please do not feel offended by what I am posting!!! Any of you!!!!

    So here it goes… years ago I read a book that blessed me a lot its called The Divine Romance! by Eugene Peterson. Many people don’t like Revelations but it’s written there that there is a wedding banquet prepared!!! oh well if that is not a celebration of Romance I don’t know what it is…

    I totally agree with many preceding comments that love changes us, gives purpose, makes us vulnerable… its a very tough and hard choice sometimes to make a decision to choose to love. But its worth it.

    Maybe the fellow commenting about romance being not realistic does not understand that? ah who knows.?! I think the sum of our experiences says it louder that Romance is pure and simple a realistic choice…

    I love stories. I refuse to read anything with a sad end. If in doubt I read the end first. I really don’t fancy tragedies… they happen but since I read for fun I choose a good happy ending. Romance stories gives me that! SO Hear to all good romance stories… GO Grace!!!!! Please do not stop writing!!!!

    I never got married (almost did it twice! but I woke up in time to prevent a disaster ๐Ÿ™‚ but I have nephews I love, my mom is a pretty neat lady… and I have a core group of friends that has made me the richest person in this planet!!! sorry girls… I am THAT blessed!! The way they hanged around and stood with me for so many years makes me wonder about their sanity sometimes… they are wonderful… so yes, love has transformed me then and continues to do…

    Just as a side note:
    Grace I loved “The Traitor” – its a brilliant ending… oh you did have me guessing… I love redemption stories… I cried with Christian and his tortured mind and body… I kept thinking of how you were going to make Sebastian realistic enough… ha (here comes the word realistic again!) but you did it… for about half of the book my heart was totally not willing to forget what he did to Christian… holding a grudge… really a great story!!!!

  17. Hi Grace, Of the several hundred books that I own I couldn’t find anything to read, then I spied my old copy of “The Heir”. Then I was off to visit my old friends “The Windhams”. What I didn’t have I ordered from Amazon. So I went through the whole family, with the exception of the novellas. I’m saving those for when I visit my daughter and will read them on my Kindle. I was sad to have read the last of the family, but was so delighted when I started to read “The Captive” and found Devlin St. Just. Now I just started on “The Traitor “. I still have to gather the rest of “The Mac Gregors”. I have one “Lord” book so you know I have some coins to save . I love all of the characters but my favorite has to be little Winnie, she really touched me. I love little children. I was a Nanny for thirty years. What I really love about your books are the large families and all the love within. I have worked for a lot of families and I discovered that people today (not all) are so wrapped up in their jobs and other things, always searching for something that they don’t see what’s in front of them. Their children. Children have an abundance of love and they want to share it, we need to be receptive to it, otherwise it can become repressed and manifest into anger. We need to listen to them, what they say my not be important to us but it is to them. My love for children has taught me to listen and to love. I have only one child. My daughter just turned fifty this year! Where did that time go? She is my very best friend. I have a granddaughter and a grandson. They live in another state so I don’t see them often. Thank God for texting! Kids don’t use the telephone anymore. Just the cells. When my granddaughter was younger(13) I left my novel in the rest room. When she went to use the rest room she was in there quite awhile. When dinner was ready she came out to eat. The next day my daughter told me she said, “Mom, you should see what grandma is reading”. Cracked me up. She shares my love of reading. There’s that word Love again. I love your books Grace and will buy all of your new ones. I don’t know if I have answered your question or not but feel like I just wrote a book. You are on my Favorite Author List. I hope that you continue to write for many years.

  18. What’s interesting to me is that so many novels include or even feature a love story, whether they are mysteries, thrillers, dramas, literary fiction, historical fiction. Perhaps it’s the ‘formula novel’ he’s referring to? I also like your point about character development being central to love stories.

  19. I feel that love–particularly romantic love–has the potential to truly open you up and allow you to be your fullest, most radiant self. This year I met and dated what felt like the love of my life. We’ve since separated and bringing myself back to an even keel and sorting through why that relationship came to me and why it left has opened me in entirely new ways. Love is by its nature transformative. I also believe that the true basis of each of us is a foundational goodness and loveliness and when we are closed off from that in some way, we hurt as a reminder–a compass–that all is not quite as it should be. We are each of us inherently lovable.