The first year I did Read-A-Romance, a French romance blogger named translated every single essay into French and posted them on her Facebook page. I was stunned and pleased and grateful.
Karen was my first French romance reader friend, followed by Fabiola, who is part of a larger group of romance readers and fans known as Les Romantiques. And over the last two days I’ve had the joy and privilege of taking part (in a very small way) in the first ever Festival du Roman Féminin (Festival of the Woman’s Book)—an opportunity for women who read romance in France to come together and celebrate these books we love—mostly planned and organized by two of “les romantiques.”
I’m not sure how many women came. (And there were a handful of men. I have the feeling one or two might have been journalists.) About 200 or so? Certainly small by RT standards, but even RT started somewhere. And I can’t tell you how joyful and excited everyone was to be there.
There was a broad spectrum of writers—English-speaking favorites included Lorelei James, MJ Rose, Elizabeth Hoyt, Katharine Ashe, Alyssa Alexander, Julia London, Annie West, Nancy Warren, Shelley Adina, and Katherine Garbera. Then there were a (large) number of French authors who took part as well, and had long lines of happy fans waiting for them to sign books. Despite promising my husband that I wouldn’t bring any books home (we’re seriously inundated—and I’m aware that that is truly a luxury problem!), I just couldn’t resist picking up some of the French writers’ books. I especially loved the purple stilettos on Georgia Caldera’s Hors de Portée cover.
I speak French un petit peu, which is to say I get by. I can communicate well enough to express what I need in simple terms, and I understand little bits of real French conversation (i.e., French people speaking normally, which sounds extremely fast to me). I would have liked to understand the stories that the French authors and fans came up with together in the game they played, which involved picking slips of paper with details they had to incorporate into (very) short stories.
There were roundtable sessions, author Q&A’s, games, a grand signing, and an auditorium showing of Love Between the Covers, which Les Romantiques founder Agnès personally translated instead of subtitles on the screen. But what I remember most from the past two days in Paris is a festive, joyous, effervescent celebration of romance novels in the most romantic city in the world.
Perhaps because the group was relatively small, or because it was the first time a conference like this happened in France, or because this group of women were especially happy to be together, to have created this day—who knows why, but for whatever reason, this event was special.
And I am so happy to have been a part of it!
Vive la romance!
I’d like to recommend all the French authors I met and was introduced to this week, but I’m guessing most of my audience reads in English. If you follow the Read-a-Romance Facebook page, I’ll post some of the covers and authors there in the next couple of days and ask some of Les Romantiques to recommend their faves.
So instead, let me offer up a few titles I’ve read or heard about lately with Paris themes:
Michelle Gable’s 2014 debut A Paris Apartment was a hit, and in February she followed it up with I’ll See You in Paris, that spotlighted the Duchess of Marlborough (Gladys Spencer-Churchill) the historical figure who was sparkling and famous in her youth and an enigmatic recluse in her old age. The more contemporary thread of the dual storyline is a little confusing and not as mysterious as I would like it to be, but the right audience will love this book.
A book I’ve wanted to read since it came out in March is Nicholas Barreau’s Paris Is Always a Good Idea (because isn’t it?) It sounds simply charming!
from the back cover:
“Rosalie Laurent is the proud owner of Luna Luna, a little post-card shop in St. Germain, and if it were up to her, far more people would write cards. Her specialty is producing "wishing cards," but where her own wishes are concerned the quirky graphic artist is far from lucky. Every birthday Rosalie sends a card inscribed with her heart's desire fluttering down from the Eiffel Tower - but none of her wishes has ever been fulfilled.
Then one day when an elderly gentleman trips up in her shop and knocks over a post-card stand, it seems that her wish cards are working after-all. Rosalie finds out that it is Max Marchais, famed and successful author of children's books who's fallen into her life. When he asks her to illustrate his new (and probably last) book, Rosalie is only too glad to accept, and the two - very different - maverick artists become friends.
Rosalie's wishes seem to be coming true at last, until a clumsy American professor stumbles into her store with accusations of plagiarism. Rosalie is hard pressed to know whether love or trouble is blowing through her door these days, but when in doubt, she knows that Paris is Always a Good Idea when one is looking for the truth and finding love.”
Another on my “I wish I had time to read this book” list is The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell.
“As her marriage crumbles, Genevieve finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle’s locksmith shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.”
I’m writing this in a Berlin hotel room, preparing to end my whirlwind romance world tour at the fifth annual LoveLetter convention, the chance for German romance fans to celebrate the genre.
I love romance, I love Paris, and I hope to fall in love with Berlin—though honestly I barely got any Paris tourist time beyond the conference. But I’ll give you a wrap-up soon. I’ve been speaking at RT, in Paris and at the UW Writers’ Institute about my passionate advocacy for this genre, and I’m glad to say I’ve changed a couple of minds, and have given even some fans some new ways to consider defending their love for romance, if they feel they want or need to.
But today? I’m feeling grateful to have been back in Paris after over 20 years, and for the fact that smart, bright, fun, interesting, and passionate women who love romance have one more opportunity to come together to celebrate.
So what are you reading? Any great books to recommend that have Paris as a secondary character?
Happy reading. xo
Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer, book reviewer, romance advocate, and founder of ReadARomanceMonth.com.