Read A Romance Month

When I ask my readers why they choose to read romance novels instead of all the other possible genres and subgenres out in the vast literary world, I generally get two clear answers. They crave that dependable happy ending and they love reading books that offer hope and warmth and love amid the difficulty and sorrow of life.

I know just what they mean, on a very personal level. Our middle son turned seventeen last month, just a few days after we came home from his most recent hospitalization, which included five days in the ICU and finally lung surgery to help with a life-threatening pneumonia. I read four romance novels through the two weeks we were in the hospital, books by Kristan Higgins and Tessa Dare and Mary Balogh and Brenda Novak that helped shine a little brightness and joy into an otherwise emotionally dark and traumatic time.

Over the last seventeen years, I’ve had many firsthand experiences with the healing comfort of romance novels. Our son is severely disabled with cerebral palsy. He is nonverbal, nonmobile, has limited vision, seizures, a GJ tube for feeding and requires total care. My reality is mostly wonderful but sometimes it’s hard and stressful and I would even venture to say some might even call it heartbreaking at times.

But in the pages of a beautifully written romance novel, I can get away from that tough reality for a little while. I know the struggles will always be there when I close the pages but reading stories with a positive, uplifting, life-affirming message gives me strength and courage to face the journey.

Because of my son’s neurological and gastrointestinal difficulties from the brain damage he suffered before birth, he didn’t sleep well his first eighteen months of life. He cried all the time and would only doze in my arms for an hour or so at a time, invariably waking when I would try to put him in his crib. I learned to sleep in an easy chair in the nursery and basically walked around like a zombie for that first year and a half.

I had sold five books to Bantam Loveswept by the time he was born and a few months later sold my first book to Harlequin/Silhouette (which I wrote with him on my lap!). My career was beginning to gain momentum, I had started to win some awards and gain readership. To be honest, I didn’t care about any of that as we struggled to keep our son alive. Those first few years were a blur as I tried to come to terms with this new direction our life had taken.

I don’t remember the words I wrote during that time. But I do remember many hours of sitting in that easy chair with this fragile, sick son I loved so much finally asleep on my lap. I remember being completely Wild Iris Ridgeexhausted and emotionally drained and finding such peace and safety and comfort in the romance novels I could read propped up in front of me with one hand. Even then, I was coming to realize that everything was not going to be the happy-ever-after for our son that every parent dreams for their child. But as I would close each book with that warm little glow that comes from a great read – from knowing that everything worked out for the characters in the book – I could cling to that hope that maybe things might work out in my life.

Things didn’t work out as we hoped and dreamed for our son. But that happy-ever-after really still is there, just not the one we anticipated. My son has a wonderful, joyous life and is full of love for everyone, with a huge smile that touches the lives of every single person who meets him. Through the last seventeen years, I have changed and grown and became a much better person and a far more empathetic writer.

Through many difficult and lengthy hospitalizations, I still hold my son in my lap, even now that he’s taller than I am. And when my heart feels worn and battered and the world seems a dark, scary place, romance novels still sustain and lift me and fill me with hope.

RaeAnne (seated) making friends in the beautiful town of Chefchaouen, Morocco.

And now for a few fun questions …

1 – Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

I went to Morocco to help my husband tick off an item from his bucket list … and ended up being caught in a flash flood while driving back from the peaceful, laid-back seaside village of Essaouria to the crazy bustle of Marrakech. It was truly one of the most terrifying and life-affirming experiences of my life, traveling through this stunningly beautiful but completely foreign land with a driver who spoke stilted English as we tried to make our way through water that was past the hubcaps of the Land Rover.

2 – Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I always loved to tell stories, from the time I was a little girl – and they usually ended up with a romance or two involved. After taking a journalism class in high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I earned a degree in journalism and worked for ten years as a newspaper reporter and then editor. Through it all, I talked about writing a book some day (It’s funny. I never thought beyond the idea of writing a book. Now I’ve written forty-seven!). I started my first book while home on maternity leave with our daughter, who is now twenty-four. I sold that book five years later and quit the newspaper world two years later to write full-time. I’ve been doing it every since – seventeen years!

3 – Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?).

Enchanted Land CoverMany books have had a transformative impact on my life but I suppose the book that made me fall in love with romance was The Enchanted Land by Jude Devereaux. My sister received it for Christmas one year and I sneaked it out of her room so I could read it. I think I was eleven or twelve, way too young to be reading such a racy book. It was a wonderful read, full of pathos and excitement. I had no idea as I was devouring this book in one afternoon how it would spark a lifelong love of romance novels that would completely guide the direction of my future.

RaeAnne Thayne is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written more than forty-five books for HQN, Special Edition, Intimate Moments/ Romantic Suspense and Bantam Loveswept. A four-time RITA nominee, RaeAnne has received a career achievement award from Romantic Times for series romantic adventure, as well as two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards. RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website, Facebook or Twitter.