There are many reasons to love romance novels, and, as a happily married woman for over twenty years, one of mine is that I love the sense of “new beginnings” I can get through a romance novel.
Since I plan on living a long, happy life with Matt, and I know we’ll die peacefully in bed next to each other at a ripe old age ;o), I don’t expect to have any more first dates or first kisses; any more meetings where the hair rises on your neck in awareness and you wonder if something just might happen.
We live vicariously through novels, all novels, but for romance fans, especially through romance. We explore emotion, courage, honor, suspense—we see ourselves in these characters. And we identify with the defenders of justice; we cheer when the villains are thwarted or get their comeuppance.
There’s a lot going on in the world, and there seems to be a big debate among writers as to whether or not people should be speaking up.
It’s a hard call, especially when many of us feel that the country we’ve always known and loved is truly under threat.
I’m very vocal on my personal page, and basically just discuss romance novels on my more public spaces.
But once again, I’m reminded how powerful books can be.
I expect the next few years are going to be difficult and complicated, and either America as we know it will be changed for the better, or for the worse. I’m concerned that a lot of people who claim to love America and its democracy pretty much only love America as it works for them, and that many of our time-honored ideals, some even written into the Constitution—separation of Church and State, sanctuary for the downtrodden, protections for the most vulnerable among us—have been buried under self-interested and self-serving platitudes.
I’m not sure how we’re going to solve this, but I do know that I’ll still be reading a lot. I’ll be adding to my list: maybe I’ll read 1984 again, and Fahrenheit 451. I’m feeling the frightening pull of The Handmaid’s Tale.
But I’ll also be reading books I’ve loved, with a strong female lead and a heavy dose of rebellion. Or even a small dose of rebellion. People standing up for what’s right, or trying to figure out how to survive in the midst of madness.
I’ve read a couple of books lately that remind me of what happens when we let mean-spirited, self-serving people take over.
I’ve mentioned Rogue Magic before, and I’ll mention it again—it’s a great book that champions doing the right thing, and uses a M/M romance to do it.
I recently finished The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. During World War II, an unwed Dutch teen mother is offered sanctuary in a circus that also harbors a famous Jewish trapeze artist, with the understanding that she’ll join the trapeze act. The two main characters—teen Noa and circus legend Astrid—find navigating their secrets difficult and become confidants to some degree, since they both have much to lose. Noa, whose own baby boy was taken from her at birth, has rescued a Jewish infant from a boxcar full of them left to die by the Germans. Astrid was married to a Nazi officer who was forced to divorce her because she was Jewish. Now she’s in a relationship with a popular defiant clown whose goose-step routine has caught the attention of the SS. To be honest, I loved this book, and I do feel it’s important, especially right now, to read fiction and non-fiction that reminds us of what the world looks like when evil reigns. I agree with the reviewer that there some flaws — for instance, if Astrid’s boyfriend is so concerned with keeping her safe, why is he determined to do a routine that is practically designed to bring the wrath of Nazis down on the circus?
However, I enjoyed the interesting twists and turns the plot takes, and the unique setting: a circus barely surviving under the Nazi regime.
This is not a romance and, while there are hopeful themes and an overall uplifting ending, this is a story about war-torn lives and loves. If you’re okay with that, and also feel like reading fiction that reminds us that it’s important to do the right thing and to fight when the tide of justice turns in directions that feel threatening to what we believe in, then I sincerely hope you’ll give this one a try.
What are you reading this week? What books make you feel inspired and empowered?