So spring in the Midwest is a little crazy for romance readers & writers, especially this year!

Last month was RT (the granddaddy of all romance readers’ conferences) which was in Las Vegas, though people attend from all over the globe. Then last weekend was the fun and wonderful Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation event in Milwaukee (though I couldn't make it this time). Next week is BEA, landing in Chicago this year, and the week after is one of my favorite regional conferences, the Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling. (I think registration is officially closed, but if you’re looking for a great writers’ con, look them up and see if there’s still room!)

As you may know, in between all of that, for me, there was the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute, where I was invited to speak on the romance genre, and then off to Paris and Berlin, where I had the honor of participating in two wonderful readers’ conferences.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Paris conference, which was the first of its kind and simply delightful.

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The Berlin LoveLetter conference has had five years to grow and is now 800+ participants strong (its first year, there were approximately 400). No question that the headliner/superstar author was Nalini Singh, but a number of English-speaking authors were there, some from across the channel—Carrie Elks, Mhairi McFarlane, Sarah Harvey (who is an English writer but has a huge German following), Estelle Maskame (a very young and delightful Scottish author who became an online bestseller while still a teenager!), and the awesome Sarah Morgan.

US authors were officially represe nted by Terri Brisbin and Michelle Willingham, and I ran into Shelley Adina too, though Im not sure she was there as a speaker. Two other new friends from Paris, Australian writer Annie West and Tina Folsom, hopped over to Berlin as well. LoveLetter especially makes sense for Tina, who speaks at least three languages, translates her own books, and has a huge European fan base.

And, of course, there was a huge clan of German writers, including Corina Bomann, a German author who’s had great success with the English translation of her novel, The Moonlit Garden. (More on that below.)

We romance readers know the joy and power of these books, and we know how wonderful it is to be able to create a community around them. The more I travel to conferences where romance readers congregate, the more I witness and celebrate this strong connection.

In Berlin, I met readers from Holland and Italy who had driven 8-10 hours to get to the LoveLetter conference because they knew they’d get to meet the authors—Nalini Singh is a really big draw! ;o)—but also because they were excited to talk to other readers who “get it”—this affinity and ardency that romance readers have for these books. When speaking on panels or in line with other romance readers, I am always struck by this immediate rapport we romance readers share, celebrating books we know and love, and finding people who love them too. This is especially appealing because, as every romance fan knows, the haters are gonna hate—and boy, are there plenty of romance haters out there, mostly comprised of people who’ve never read a romance novel, but of course just know they’re awful, stupid, poorly written [insert snide literary condescending comment here]. (I am sad to say I ran into a few at the UW Writers’ Institute. A literary conference, you know.)

So romance conventions (and celebratory events like Barbara Vey’s and Lori Foster’s and handfuls of author/reader events) are a growing trend because these are places where we can gather and revel, together, in a community filled with like-minded people, where we can leave behind the haters and those who are determined to misunderstand, to judge, to look down their noses at us for reading books they’ve never picked up (though really, a lot of those people could learn some really valuable lessons from romance novels, couldn’t they?).

The romance world would be nothing without its readers. Romance readers are the most voracious, loyal, and enthusiastic readers on the planet, right? And as the places where these incredible readers can meet and share a love of romance continue to pop up, it’s only good for the community. With the outside world full of condescension, we’re learning to sustain ourselves through these books which make our lives better and through the friendships and community we’re creating through and around them, which only enhance our lives even more.

So brava, romance community! Brava, readers!

Brava to Kathryn Falk who had the vision to create RT, the first romance readers’ event; and to Lori Foster who had the brilliant idea of creating an author/readers’ weekend in Ohio; and to Barbara Vey who’s developed a weekend of celebrating romance in Milwaukee.

And also to my new friends in Berlin and Paris, who are creating their own romance community celebrations in Europe.

And since I’m always supposed to include a few books in these things, and not just gush about romance novels and the community in general, I thought I’d share some titles from the authors I met on my travels:

Corina Bomann’s The Moonlit Garden—This was one of the most intriguing books I heard about in my travels:Romace_Bomann

“Lilly Kaiser had come to terms with her solitary, uncomplicated life after becoming a young widow. So when a stranger delivers an old violin to her Berlin antiques shop and tells Lilly it belongs to her, shes completely bewildered. Why should she be the one to inherit such an exquisite instrument?

From England to Italy to Indonesia, she follows its winding trail. Along the way, she learns of Rose Gallway, a beautiful woman of English and Sumatran descent who lived among Sumatras lush gardens more than a hundred years earlier. As Lilly unravels the mystery behind Roses story—and uncovers other unexpected secrets—shell come to see her own life in an entirely new light. And as each shared discovery brings her closer to the handsome musicologist who’s helping her in her journey, her heart might finally break its long-held silence.”

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? From a publishing perspective, The Moonlit Garden is one of the first romance-themed books I’ve ever heard of to be translated into English (from German), and it’s already been an Amazon bestseller. Congratulations, Corina!

I also met Simona Ahrnstedt, the first highly popular romance author in Sweden, and her book, All In, is set to come out in English in June. It also sounds terrific!

“Trust is the most precious commodity of all.

In the cutthroat world of Sweden's financial elite, no one knows that better than corporate raider David Hammar. Ruthless. Notorious. Unstoppable. He's out to hijack the ultimate prize, Investum. After years of planning, all the players are in place; he needs just one member of the aristocratic owning family on his side--Natalia De la Grip.

The attraction between these two is impossible, but the long Swedish nights unfold an affair that will bring to light shocking secrets, forever alter a family, and force both Romance_StonesNatalia and David to confront their innermost fears and desires.”

On the trip, I also had the chance to read M.J. Rose’s Paris-set The Secret Language of Stones (releases Jul. 19) and Nalini Singh’s Allegiance of Honor (Jun. 14), very different, but both with fantastic world-building and the masterful storytelling we’ve come to expect from these two amazing authors.

Now that I’ve nearly recovered from my global romance tour, I have some great Chicago-area events to look forward to: BEA and Spring Fling. And yet I’ll still find some time to read (and listen to) some great books!

What are you diving into this week?

Happy reading! xo