As a romance writer, people around you, when they learn what you do, assume that your life is filled with romance. That your partner woos you with endless candlelit dinners, buys you fragrant, bunches of flowers every other day and leaves boxes of chocs on your red silk sheets like some latter day Milk Tray Man (remember him?)
Of course, it’s like that exactly….not!
I’ve been married for eighteen years this year and my husband and I have never had a candlelit dinner. He only buys me flowers when he’s done something wrong (he’s bought three bunches of ‘sorry’ flowers in nearly two decades, so that’s not bad) and though he does buy me chocolate on a regular basis – its not the expensive, luxurious Belgian ones or something decadent from Hotel Chocolat (other chocolates are available!) – he does tend to tell me when we’re packing away the shopping that “there’s a packet of white chocolate buttons in there somewhere for you…
Because romance isn’t always the grand gestures like we sometimes put in our stories. It’s not all gentle piano music and a solitary red rose being offered. And this is what I try to tell people when they assume that I’m drowning under boxes of chocs and bunches of red roses (which quite frankly, I don’t even like! Give me a bunch of tulips any day, or some happy sunflowers…)
Romance, as we all know is in the small details – the way my husband does always remember to buy me a packet of chocolate just for me that I don’t have to share with the kids. The way he looks after me when I’m sick, picking up my snotty tissues that have somehow missed the waste paper bin. The way he’ll make me a cup of tea without having to be asked. The way he’ll sit and listen to my pathetic jokes. The way he walks on the side of the path nearest to the road, so that if a car mounts the pavement, he’ll get hit first and take the brunt of the injuries. The way he always asks if I need anything because he’s popping out and he’ll go fetch it. The way he holds my hand when I’m having a horrible vertigo attack and holds me if it causes a panic attack afterwards. The way he’ll stand and watch over me in the bathroom, so I can wash my face and clean my teeth safely, without the fear of going all dizzy again and cracking my head open on the sink, gently guiding me back to bed if it’s a bad day.
The way he listens to me whinge on and on about how my characters aren’t behaving, how the book is awful, how my editor must secretly be laughing when she sends back yet another revision letter, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I hate the book, it’s awful, it’s…………..aaargh!
And he just looks at me calmly, listens and then he smiles and lays his hand on mine and reminds me that I do know what I’m doing. That the characters will behave, the book is not awful, that my editor is not laughing, she’s just doing her job and that is to help me make a better book for our wonderful readers, that I do love my book and my story and my characters, that it’s great and that I’ve written four others and gotten great reviews and that everything I’m going through is just another stage of writing it. Of chipping away at the marble to reveal the sculpture beneath, hidden in the stone.
And then I dislike him for a bit – because he’s telling the truth (I’m just not ready to process it properly yet) and then the anger goes and I get back to work and he brings me another cup of tea, without being asked, because I’m working so hard.
He’s not perfect. But then neither am I. But we are perfectly imperfect for each other and that is the romance. Something which some people struggle to see, because they’re always looking for the big gestures, when the little ones are right there, before their eyes.
At the start of November, my third title will be released – A Father This Christmas? This was one of my most difficult stories to write so far, but I really hope you’ll look out for Eva and Jacob’s story. It’s available to order at all good bookstores, Amazon and at the Mills and Boon website
So do you get to enjoy candlelit dinners? (I really must arrange one) or humongous bunches of flowers? Or boxes of elegant chocolates left on your silken pillow? Or do you get given a foot massage even when you are wearing your grubby, sweaty socks that you’ve had on for three days? I’d love to hear about it!