Greetings from Las Vegas and the RT convention, the biggest romance lovers’ party—er, convention ever!

This is a record year for RT, with over 3,000 registered conventioneers swarming the Rio Hotel.

I don’t really think there is a better (or bigger) representation of the sheer ebullience and enthusiasm romance readers have for this genre. Lines snaking through the halls; women waiting with bated breath to meet favorite authors; friends meeting up year after year to see each other and to celebrate this wonderful community and these great books.

Kudos to Kathryn Falk who, over 30 years ago, had the vision to understand that readers connected to romance in an unprecedented way, and that connecting them both through print (RT Magazine) and through personal interaction via a conference, would buoy the industry and give the community a place to come together and enjoy each other’s company and these beloved books.

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As a romance advocate, I am a firm (and vocal) believer that romance novels can change lives, and to witness a huge conference where readers and authors are so joyful and excited is simply one more affirmation that romance has the most loyal and passionate readership—and community—in publishing.

Brava, romance! Brava, readers, and brava RT!

We have so much to celebrate. Terrific books, powerful fellowship around them, and a deep-seated understanding that there’s something special here.

Very, very special.

In a possible about-face, I’m about to leave RT to speak at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute, a terrific and highly-acclaimed academic writing conference. I am so honored to be speaking there, to be giving two workshops that focus on romance as a genre and as a way to heighten conflict.

But I expect (though I do hope I’m wrong!) that at least part of my weekend will consist of making valid and firm arguments as to why romance is pro-woman, positive, uplifting, and life-changing, and much more literary and well-written than it gets credit for. Oh, and by the way, it also buttresses the publishing industry. And is possibly the most successful women’s business in history.

So I’ll miss you all this weekend, as you get to bask in the joy and celebration of this wonderful, empowering genre. But wouldn’t it be great if maybe a) I don’t have to advocate for romance, because I discover people who respect it; or, b) I change a few minds?

Speaking of the power of books, I have to share a title I just finished in audio. If you haven’t read The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, you really want to pick it up, especially if you loved such books as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This is such a charming book, Dumas - Broken Wheel originally written in Swedish, though the setting is in Iowa.

From the back cover:

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor-there's not much else to do in a dying small town that's almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn't open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You'd need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy's house is full of them), and...customers.

The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel's own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.

There is a lovely romance in there, and quirky characters, and just a great, powerful read that affirms how books can truly change us.

(I do feel honor-bound to say that the audio was pretty good, except, well, the English narrator did a nice subtle Swedish accent, but some of her Iowans sounded distinctly Southern. I was able to get over it with just a few cringes—I’m from Texas and live in Wisconsin, right next door to Iowa—but if that kind of thing really bugs you, you may want to read the book.)

So many great choices in romance recently (and here at RT). What are you reading?