Happy August!

As many of you know, August is Read-A-Romance Month!

I’ve been having a grand time over at the site, ReadARomanceMonth.com, and at the Facebook page, visiting with authors and readers and celebrating Romance.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts, of course. The theme this year is The Joy of Romance, and certainly many of the posts have been joyful. But a theme-within-a-theme that keeps coming up is that to get to the joy, you often have to move through other, less exuberant emotions. Tessa Dare put it beautifully in her post last week: 

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“The joy of romance isn’t about easy, unearned bliss. It’s about triumph. It’s about overcoming obstacles. It’s about fighting for love while saving the jewels/orphans/universe.

Books about characters with perfect lives wouldn’t be ‘feel-good books.’ Not for me, anyway. I come back to romance again and again for the joy of watching characters conquer the odds and reaffirm something we all understand: that the salt, bitter, and sour of life are essential to savoring the sweetness.”

Indie bestseller Nina Lane (full disclosure, also a personal friend) has a lovely essay where she draws a line between romance novels and this summer’s Pixar movie, Inside Out, and the interplay between the characters Joy and Sadness. I just love her essay and the movie’s metaphors, many of which romance novels share:

“But we also know that romances have a darker thread. The hero or heroine suffers a loss, their worst fears are realized, thTrouble When you Walked INeir plans go awry, and there’s always a point when your heart drops like a weight because you’re convinced the characters you’ve come to love will never be together. And it’s those moments that make the happy ending all the more powerful.”

Romance powerhouse Grace Burrowes explored this idea in her RARM post, too:

“Because dealing with loss is one of the secrets to romance, and to a happily ever after. Think about it. Every romance protagonist we love has been handed difficult losses—of innocence, of dignity, of security, of loved ones, of a world that worked well for them. Like us, those characters muddle on as best they can, but their lives are diminished by the loss they’ve endured and the pain it still causes. They do the best they can, usually playing it safe, either by avoiding attachments, controlling as much as they can, or keeping their dreams small….But love has arrived, so into that safe, small, lonely, tired life, comes a whiff of something intoxicatingly sweet—acceptance.”

As usual at this time of year, I am crazy busy, trying to keep up with RARM plus the many deadlines, reviews, and reading I need to do in preparation for the “Best Of”lists I have coming up. For the past two days, my site has been wiggy, due to a WordPress overhaul that left me unable to post pictures. What joy I felt when SuperTechGuru (my hugely appreciated IT guy) got the site functioning again!

Read-A-Romance Month is designed to celebrate romance, certainly, but I am always amazed and moved by how touching and deep the posts can be. Like most romance novels, and to be sure, the genre, RARM posts tend to land on every emotion on the spectrum, even when the theme is Joy.

Books that delve into romance tend to excavate human nature itself, and essays that celebrate romance will explore the depths of the human heart.

If you haven’t visited Read-A-Romance Month, I hope you will. You can see the full calendar of participating authors here. It’s breathtaking, as is this month-long celebration and exploration of romance, love and feelings.

And if you’re looking for some great August releases to dive into that do the same thing,Lady be Good here are some suggestions:

Indie phenom JA Redmerski has a new release with The Moment of Letting Go. In it, an obsessive planner lets go when she meets a surfer in Hawaii, but he is all too aware that the future is never certain. Intense.

I’ve heard amazing things about A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin. When a young woman learns her sister is marrying her childhood sweetheart, she abandons her studies and takes a job as a companion to two elderly sisters, then finds herself on a cross-country road trip with them. Delightful. 

Jaci Burton has another Play-by-Play title out, All Wound Up, with a baseball star and a doctor as the protagonists. A pro athlete, the team owner’s daughter, a disapproving father—what’s not to love? Sizzling.

Kieran Kramer’s Trouble When You Walked In sports a librarian who takes on a town’s favored son in a mayoral campaign to save the library, but discovers how compelling the man can be. Clever.

And a Meredith Duran release should always top a TBR pile! Lady Be Good looks as good as usual. Perfect conflict and intense passion. Yum.

In this column, I’ve already mentioned Kristan Higgins’ If You Only Knew; Anita Hughes’ Rome in Love and Lisa Kleypas’ Brown-Eyed Girl, but I think they bear repeating.

Happy August! Happy Read-A-Romance Month!

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.comShe mostly writes about books and romance for NPRThe Huffington Post and Kirkus.