Our family dog died last night. It was sudden and unexpected. He went to the groomers, got a trim and a spa bath. It was a monthly treat: He was pampered, got the chance to explore new environs and to meet new people who loved to pet him. Then he came home, decided not eat his dinner (which was highly unusual) and took a long nap. In the end, he passed with his family gathered around confused and distressed. We had him for nine years, a good age for a golden retriever, although we expected many more. He wasn’t sick, didn’t ingest a strange object and seemed healthy and fine yesterday when he went for his shots. His passing is a big loss to our family and to our friends, the book club members who come every month and give him a good pet at the end of the evening. And to the members of Fresh Fiction who gather every Tuesday night to open book packages and share a meal with a dog under foot.
But what does it mean for me, a romance reader? Where will I turn for comfort and support in the near future? As a mother and a wife, I need to be strong right now. Over the years, I’ve managed to battle through tough times with the comfort of a good story. I need that now.
The basic romance trope is simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, happy ever after. It’s always the journey to the happy ending that makes the reader finish with a satisfied sigh. But is there room to enjoy a simple love story when real life intrudes too massively? Is it time to turn to a different kind of book? Giving up the diversion of reading has never been an option for me. Right now, I’m looking for something to take me away from reality. I don’t think the answer is stories about animals. And the solution isn’t a steamy story with bondage and handcuffs, either.
So, it’s time to think of my comfort reads. When I’m feeling a great loss, I usually turn to the comfort of a historical romance. Fortunately, I have three on hand which I hope will help me make it through the next few weeks.
In Once Upon A Tartan by Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca; August 6, 2013), our hero learns that Highland ladies—young and old—can be quite a handful. They’re not anywhere as easy to get along with as he had anticipated. Burrowes has written a family series set in the early part of the 19th century, as well as Scottish series set in Victorian England and Scotland. Once Upon A Tartan is the second book in the series after The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, which published last December. If you enjoy battles and repartee between two strong-willed characters, you’ll find this book delightful.
A character sacrificing for his/her family is a familiar element of historicals, and in Mary Jo Putney’s latest Lost Lords novel, Sometimes a Rogue (Kensington; September 3, 2013), a twin potentially gives up her life in order to save her sister who in going into labor. Miss Sarah Clarke Townsend puts up a fight after being kidnapped by Irish ruffians, but with the help of Bow Street Runner Rob Carmichael, she’s able to escape from Ireland. The way home is not easy, however—it’s filled with trials, horrors and narrow escapes. The difficult journey brings together two possibly mismatched lovers. Putney always invokes great emotions in her tales and Sometimes a Rogue is no different.
The final recommendation for a historical romance comfort read is The Arrangement by Mary Balogh (Dell; August 27, 2013). Balogh brings together two very damaged people: an ex-soldier blinded in his first battle and the more-than-typical poor relation. Through the kindness of Miss Sophie Fry, the blind Viscount Darleigh is able to escape the matchmaking machinations of her family. But the repercussion of her effort turns her out at midnight into the cold, harsh world. With nowhere to go, and with no money or prospects, Miss Fry is lost. The hero comes to the rescue, jumping from the matchmaking pan directly into the fire of marriage. Theirs is a strange marriage of convenience, as Darliegh and Sophie both need to discover who they are and what their place is in the world. Can a blind man, rich as he is, live a productive and happy life in Regency England? Can a young woman who has been labeled The Mouse by her own father really turn out to be a swan? Trust in Balogh’s storytelling, as she always finds a way to make the unlikely come together in a fulfilling story.
So, I’ll be trying to forget for a bit and get through some really rough spots with a few historical romances. When life hands you a bad knock, what are your turn-to books?
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.