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Welcome back to another day in defense of romance, where we feature smart women (and men) who tell you why they read (and write) romance. Today, our guest is Dr. Debra Holland, a practicing psychologist and former RWA Golden Heart winner and two-time finalist. Dr. Debra is the epitomy of a kick-butt romance novel heroine: blond, beautiful, brilliant, and a black-belt in karate. She'll give us her unique perspective on the whole "smart people read romance" thing after these words from our sponser (me) about today's prize:
I'm giving away a signed copy of my historical debut of THE LEGACY along with one of three whip-smart romances by uber-intelligent historical and paranormal romance author Carolyn Jewel, tomorrow's guest. Yes, one lucky person will win both THE LEGACY and Carolyn Jewel's donated copy of INDISCREET, so be sure to leave a comment to be eligible. See my contest page for eligibility rules. If your name is chosen, you must claim your prize by e-mailing me at tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces) by February 14, 2010, or I will award it to someone else. Be sure to check back to see if you have won, and let your subject line be the name of the prize.
Oh, and how about another snappy comeback regarding romance fiction for your naysaying friends, hmmm?
Your naysaying friend: "Romance? That's just another word for chick porn."
You (after removing your fist from his face): "Apparently, you have no idea what romantic fiction is. Two basic elements of a romance comprise every novel: it has a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending. According to RWA, a Central Love Story means, 'The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.'* Love story. Get that? Playboy is about porn. Romance is about relationships.
Oh, and by the way, RWA also defines an Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending as one where 'the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.' So, good triumphs over evil and love wins out in the end. Additionally, 'romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction,'* everything from Christian inspirationals to erotica. So there."
Dr. Debra Holland: One of the reasons women read romance is because the heroines in the stories are good role models. They are women who are facing challenges, both inside themselves as well as in their business/work lives and/or family lives. They change and grow, overcoming the obstacles to their goals and to a loving relationship. They are women to admire.
It’s true that most heroes in romance novels are idealized versions of “real” men.
Whatever hard edge or dark past he might have, the hero is (or he becomes) a good man. He is intrigued by the heroine, treats her well, pays attention to her, and works to really get to know her.
I’m a proud reader of romance, and I try to spread the joy of reading romance every chance I get. For example, I passed TJ Bennett’s The Legacy around to the ladies of my Lutheran church because I knew they’d appreciate a story set in Martin Luther’s Germany. I figured they’d love the story enough to buy TJ’s The Promise on their own, and then move on to other historical romances.
A few days ago, I was talking to the (gay male) manager of my office building, and the talk turned to books. I was in the midst of reading Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, and I started telling him about them, especially the character of Jules, a gay FBI agent. Jules appears in some of the stories, and actually has his own book—All Through the Night. I’ve just finished the whole series, and I’m going to lend the manager the first one. Let’s see if I can hook him.
When I introduce a man to romance novels, I choose the subgenre that most closely relates to the type of reading he already enjoys. For men who like science fiction, I’ll recommend a paranormal romance or a science fiction romance. Susan Grant, Catherine Asaro, and the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are favorite choices. For thrillers, I’ll try giving the man a romantic suspense such as one by Lisa Jackson or Suzanne Brockmann.
I think exchanging books is a good way to get to know people better. Talking about a book you both have read is an interesting topic of discussion. This can also deepen relationships. When you read your mate’s science fiction novel, you may have a whole host of questions that can help you understand him. Why did he like that particular book/hero/plot/subject? What did he learn? What did it make him think? You can debate the merits of a particular plot point, or say how you’d make different choices if you were that hero or heroine. And in reading your romances, he learns more about you. You’ll be able to discuss with him why this particular book was so important to you, not to mention learning more about your romantic needs and desires.
So go ahead and share your favorite romances. Who knows what will happen?
Bio: Debra Holland is a psychotherapist, corporate crisis counselor, and trainer. She received a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from USC. Dr. Debra writes fiction and nonfiction. She is a one-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and a two-time GH finalist.
Dr. Debra is the author of a forthcoming book, Rules of Engagement: How to Set Boundaries with Difficult People. Order it on her website: http://www.drdebraholland.com/.