Happy Romance Awareness Month! I've recently been working on revising a contemporary romance series, which takes place in my homtown here on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. As long as I can remember, I've loved romance and the white sands of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and the picturesque quality of the Eastern Shore of the Mobile Bay seemed like the perfect place for romance to unfold. I planned eventually to set one of my love stories against this tangible backdrop.
Funnily enough, before I could find the characters and premises I needed to do just that, I found love of my own. And it turned out, I was right: this is the quintessential place to fall in love. So much so that when I finally found the characters and premise I needed for my first contemporary romance novel, I harkened back to those sweet, summer days with my first love and future husband. There's a two-lane highway along the Eastern Shore called South Mobile Street or Scenic 98 that overlooks the bay and goes on and on for miles underneath a tunnel of ancient oak limbs and lazy Spanish moss. This is where my husband took me on my first motorcycle ride. (And, ah, the look of horror on my parents' face when he rolled up in the driveway on that speedster with a second helmet just for me....)
There are no words to describe the intense beauty of a sunset on the Mobile Bay. It's just breathtaking. Imagine experiencing it from the back of a motorcycle with a very fine-looking man in the driver's seat. C'est l'amore! My heroine found herself in a similar situation on the same highway with her hero in the driver's seat of a Harley Davidson.
So often romantic fiction reflects real-life romance. Even for those of us writing it, we just don't always realize its influence on our storytelling. I was inspired to write my first novel, Forever Amore, after reading love letters from World War II. Amidst the longing words penned by men and women decades ago I heard the voices of another hero and heroine and was moved to tell their story. Whenever I lose my way in the storytelling process, I go back to those love letters and it doesn't take much to remember why I write romance to begin with.
I'm convinced readers reach for romance novels because they want to be connected or reconnected to feelings of intense love and longing. To love and to be loved are two of the purest needs of the human spirit. Is it any wonder so many people read romance novels - and at such a high rate, too!
This month, let's not shy away from celebrating real-life romance as well as the romance genre. Readers, I want to know why you read romance! Take it away....
Amber Leigh Williams is a multi-published romance author, a member of Romance Writers of America, former Secretary of the Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA, and a monthly contributor to The Roses of Prose and Sweethearts of the West. Her first western romance, Blackest Heart, was the 1st Place More Than Magic Novella in 2009 and her historical romance, Forever Amore, was nominated for Best Book of 2009 by Long & Short Reviews. She is represented by D4EO Literary Agency and lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and their three labs. Read more at www.amberleighwilliams.com!
Hi Amber! I love your inspiration for Forever Amore. Letters from the front (and the home front) during any war are so poignant. I read romance largely for escape from the pressing realities of daily life but also because it feeds my inner optimist and reminds me of the power of true love.
Aw, Amber, what a romantic story. You and your sweetheart on his bike. I love the Gulf Coast, and I can't wait to read your stories based there.
Romance novels give me a way to lead someone else's life for a while, and leave my own behind. Knowing there will be a happy ending is priceless, too.
Nice romantic post, Amber. And I'm partial to the motorcycle part. My first love had a Harley and the man I ended up marrying is also fond of cycles. My favorite thing is to ride behind him on a fine summer day.
Lovely story, Amber, and the photo is gorgeous!
I read romance for that HEA ending. There's enough misery in the real world - I want my h&h to overcome all their problems. That being said, if the h&h aren't sympathetic characters, I'll stop reading. I need to care about them to be committed to the story!
I'm editing a short story where the heroine takes her first motorcycle ride. There's nothing like wrapping your arms around your guy as you speed through the night on a bike.
Your blogpost is lovely. Well done. It speaks to all of us.
Alison, I've been collecting old love letters since I was a teenager! Next to reading romance novels, they're my favorite indulgence :)
Laura, can't wait until you make it back to the Gulf Coast! And HEA's are a must!
Brenda, there's just something about a man on a Harley. It certainly impressed me :)
Jannine, I agree - I think a story can recover from anything but unsympathetic characters.
Vonnie, thank you! Can't wait to read the short story!
Great blog. I love reading old love letters too, I have several that my Dad sent to my Mum (his fiancee at the time)when he was fighting in the Pacific during WW2I actually used snippets from them in my WW2 romance, The Trouble With Playboys.
Margaret, that's amazing! My grandfather wasn't able to fight in WWII because of his eyesight. I'm still hoping I can uncover some family love letters at some point though. That would make my collector's heart so happy!
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