In Defense of Romance

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A friend recently sent me an email entitled ‘Reading Suggestions?’

Within the email was a sole link to a September 26th, 2017 article  A Roundup of the Season’s Romance Novels by Robert Gottlieb from the New York Times. That little question mark in the title of my friend’s email threw me off, but as I often ask friends for reading recommendations, I dove right into the article.

My friend has read both of my romance novels and knows I am also a reader of the genre, so perhaps he was sharing some reading tips. Oh the difference a question mark can make!

man-typing-on-a-laptop_1218-559If romance novels were animals, then Robert Gottlieb takes on the role of vivisectionist in this cruel and witty review, using his pen (okay, keyboard and fingers) to slash and dissect the romance genre. And it’s a blood bath, folks. Yes, he’s intelligent. And funny. No. I’m not writing grammatically correct sentences. But Gottlieb has pissed me off.

The first half of his piece is about making fun of the language, plot and sex scenes in both regency (racy) and sweet romance novels by sarcastically summarizing the scenarios and splicing together excerpts from the novels. (Was that alliteration or consonance after my vivisection metaphor?)

Take this passage about Julia Quinn’s The Duke And I:

They: Meet at a ball, banter, begin to fall in love. Yet so many things keep them apart! Will he be able to conquer his demons? Will she be able to help him to? You’ll have to read Julia Quinn’s THE DUKE AND I (Avon/HarperCollins, paper, $7.99) to find out. I can reveal this much, however: The sex is great, he “squirming with desire,” she “writhing with delight.”
Excerpt from A Roundup of the Season’s Romance Novels by Robert Gottlieb. New York Times, Sept 26th, 2017

This is the only novel on his shish kebab list that I’ve actually read (skewered things, get it?).  Although I prefer contemporary romance to historical romance, The Duke and I ended up in my eReader to counterbalance my reading list. I was a bit tired of our contemporary, fast-paced world filled with affairs and deceit and reasoned that something that harkens back to another century might be refreshing.

The Duke and I is set in a romantic period when men gently courted women and innocence (at least in the female characters) was the norm rather than the exception.  Quinn does a reasonable job of creating an interesting cast of characters, defining the historical genre and slowly building the love story. For all the prudishness and innocence of the time, she makes up for it by unleashing passion and connection between the newlyweds in the bedroom. But Gottlieb apparently missed all of that.

Readers of romance don’t approach this genre as a teenage boy (or middle-aged man) with a Playboy or Penthouse magazine. They don’t flip right to the centerfold and get their jollies. Romance readers enjoy the slow build-up of two characters getting to know one another: the banter, the encounters or missed-encounters, those escorted walks through a sprawling estate, the first signs of intimacy, the obstacles they must overcome and yes-oh-yes the sex. More often than not, sex equals intimacy and commitment and eventually love.

Gottlieb the romance vivisectionist ignores this whole build up in Quinn’s novel and unceremoniously flips right to the centerfold. By cutting and splicing “squirming with desire” and “writhing with delight” and plopping them outside of the body of the work, he negates all of that work that brought the characters together and in just a few quick strokes (no pun intended), renders Julia Quinn’s writing as laughable. Not fair!

As someone who will continue reading a bad book just to finish the thing, I have fallen victim to some terrible romance novels with flat characters, God-awful dialogue and truly tasteless sex scenes. But the majority of the romance novels I’ve read create depth of character, realistic obstacles and tastefully written love scenes–some all sugar, some definitely spice.

Gottlieb needs to dig a little deeper into this genre to truly understand it. He could read for example Lauren Layne’s novels primarily set in New York that are smart, funny, witty and sexy. He could delve into Lisa Clark O’Neill’s romantic suspense novels that have self-sufficient female leads, sizzling sex and intelligently written suspense. He might enjoy either of my novels Green and The Things We Said in Venice for their strong female characters and societal depictions, if not the love story itself (or he might put them on the dissecting table!) Or if he prefers chaste but well-written romance novels, consider Outback Hero or Stuck by Australian romance author Elisabeth Rose.

My new favorite discovery is The Civil Wars of Jonah Moran by Marjorie Reynolds.  It addresses racism, fear, love, death and clash of cultures and romance combined with beautiful prose. Or if prose really is your thing, consider Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: nature, sex, environmentalism and a romance that breaks out of the mold. These might really change his rather toxic view on the genre.

I’ll admit that Gottlieb made me laugh throughout his whole rant about my genre, but it seems he misspelled roundup. He apparently meant to apply RoundUp of the Monsanto ilk to the entire romance genre in an attempt at mass eradication.

Hearts-clip-art-images-imageYet there was one point in his romance roundup with which I fully agree: Nora Roberts is the Queen of Romance. It doesn’t seem to matter if it was written in the 80s, 90s or any time within the 21st century, I have enjoyed almost every Nora Roberts novel I’ve read (her romantic suspense ones can be a bit too brutal).

Cartland’s successor as Queen of Romance is America’s Nora Roberts. And she deserves to be. Roberts is not only extraordinarily industrious — 215 or so novels, including 45 futuristic police procedurals under the pseudonym J. D. Robb, also big best sellers — but her books are sensibly written and on the whole as plausible as genre novels can be.

Excerpt from A Roundup of the Season’s Romance Novels by Robert Gottlieb. New York Times, Sept 26th, 2017

I won’t kid myself and think that Robert Gottlieb will take the time to search out my little author blog and respond. But just in case he does, I invite readers of the romance genre to comment on this post with their top romance picks and WHY they think they are worthy of a readership.

Love, kisses, hot sex and happily ever after! (How’s them apples Mr. Gottlieb?)

Author Kristin Anderson

 

 

 

Sharing the Love

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Most authors love to read. So it goes without saying that authors read other author’s works. Of course they do. Otherwise we’d be reading books written by robots. On occasion, real authors interview other real authors and write reviews.

In this case I’m not being hypothetical, but sharing a fact. Case in point; after reading my second novel The Things We Said in Venice, talented YA author NJ Simmonds interviewed me for her blog! It was a great experience that I’d like to share with all of you. Click on the title below to read the interview and her thoughts on my novel.

Romance & Europe – with Author Kristin Anderson

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You can also learn more about NJ Simmonds and her debut novel The Path Keeper, Book One in a YA fantasy-Romance series by clicking here. I enjoyed this novel so much, that I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up writing about it on my author blog in the future!

 

Reading and talk at Haagse Hout Library, Saturday June 24th, 2017

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Now that my book launch is over, I’m back to being an author behind the computer screen, escaping into fictional worlds I create, or those of others (I’m one of those authors that LOVES TO READ other authors as well).

But I will come out from behind the screen once again on Saturday, June 24th, 2017 as part of the Parels in Bezuidenhout celebration.


The Parelroute features 47 “pearls” or venues where you can see everything from art and music, participate in workshops and meet authors.

I will be giving a presentation at the Haagse Hout Library (Theresiastraat 195, The Hague) at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. I will discuss how living in The Hague influenced the narrative of my latest novel The Things We Said in Venice, do a reading and there is a chance to purchase a copy of one or both of my titles on this day as well. Not able to make it that day? My book is also available at The American Book Center, The Hague (Lange Poten 23) and via Amazon in your respective countries (best shipping rates to The Netherlands is via Amazon.de).


Here’s the map of the event. As you can see, there’s no shortage of participants! You can see the full schedule on this website and plan your own route for the Parel Dag.

An Author Without Readers is Like a . . .

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An author without readers is like a Thanksgiving dinner without anyone to join in the feast. If you have prepared such an extravagant meal, you know all that goes into it. You get out all those cherished recipes and introduce new ones, develop the menu, do the shopping, invite the guests–all that before you even start cooking. I haven’t even mentioned cleaning the house or decorating the table.

Imagine a book as a meal that was two years in the making. Some of the dishes–cranberry sauce, turkey or ham (or vegan option), stuffing, pecan pie–remain the same. In my genre of contemporary romance the core ingredients translate to two people who we hope will fall in love, obstacles and suspense along the way and eventually a happily ever after or some version thereof. But all of the dishes are reinvented each time.

I created a world for my two main characters as well as a host of sub characters and took them on a journey throughout Europe. A core group of readers experienced the story and provided feedback. I re-wrote and revised. Finally, the story was complete and I invited guests to the table.

And you showed up! Not only did you show up, but just like a Thanksgiving dinner, you devoured my years of hard work in a matter of days. Some of you took the time to write reviews of your experience, with the hope of encouraging others to read my novel. And I can’t thank you enough!

Just like a restaurant needs new customers to stay open, an author not only needs their core readers, but also needs to reach new readers outside of their circle. This can help them establish enough of a readership for them to step more fully into the role of author. In other words: Enjoy a book? Don’t forget to tell your friends.

On that note, I have selected two customer reviews of The Things We Said in Venice listed on Amazon.com to share with you. One from author Francis Guenette and one from a male reader. You can see all of the current reviews by clicking on this link.

HERE ARE TWO CUSTOMER REVIEWS

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Real people involved in real life struggles against the backdrop of some wonderful tourist locales – The Things We Said in Venice – is not your typical bodice-ripping romance, though there are some steamy spots to keep things interesting! Not to mention language mishaps that will have most readers in stitches.

Sarah – betrayed in a marriage that wasn’t all that great to begin with; Fokke – similarly betrayed but also denied his dream of fatherhood – the author manages to make these two characters refreshingly unique while at the same time, making them real people that many readers will relate to. Sarah’s penchant for fuzzy pink clothing and Fokke’s chair collection, quirky traits but ultimately endearing and memorable.

Things to love about this book: enough suspense to keep the reader going, authentic relationships and issues, travel adventures, an exploration of an unlikely pair of people meeting in a serendipitous way and maybe having a shot at being more than a traveller’s fling. You’ll have to read Kristen Anderson’s book to find out!

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Yes, I admit it. I am a man and I read romance novels. Sometimes of the trashy variety and sometimes more sub genre specific, but I loved “Green” by Kristin Anderson, so I couldn’t wait to read “The Things We Said in Venice”.

The story is captivating and full of great tidbits for those of us who enjoy traveling the world, but my favorite things about the book are the depth of the characters and how the subtle message of social responsibility with respect to living in harmony with our planet is woven into the narrative.

Most of all, I think that the author really “gets” men. So often in romance stories men are portrayed as emotionally unreadable billionaire types or controlling jerks who want to dominate their women. The male lead character, Fokke, is none of these things, but a real man that the gender can identify with. Our heroine, Sarah, has been through so much yet she is strong, determined, independent and burns with inner beauty. This is what real men are drawn to.

And so, Kristin Anderson has done it again: Drawn me into a world of characters that I came to love and care about in the span of two days; all while subliminally weaving ideas into my mind that small changes in my lifestyle with respect to my effect on the planet can make a tangible difference in how we all live well in this world.

I can’t wait for the next story…


17311457_10154268386862213_983549551_oU.S. readers can order a copy of the The Things We Said in Venice here. If you live in the UK, click here to order. Anywhere else in Europe, it makes the most sense to order the print copy from Amazon Germany. Kindle version is available in all Amazon stores.

Book release is Saturday, May 20th, 2017
American Book Center in The Hague
Lange Poten 23
from 15.00-17.00

Quoting You

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The Things We Said in Venice has been out in the world for exactly thirty days and the customer reviews are slowly but surely coming in. An author blog is so often filled with observations of the author. Now it’s time to focus on your words.

I send my thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to order my novel, read it and write a review! It’s not just about giving me a big head, it’s also about helping others consider whether or not to take the plunge and find out just what things were said in Venice.

Here are two of the eleven reader reviews. See them all by clicking on this link and scrolling down to the reader reviews on Amazon.com:

5 star review by Empty Mirror:
This is a captivating story that is richly detailed, brimming with wit, full of heart, and has plenty of unexpected twists that wouldn’t let me put it down.

When I pick up a novel, I crave a sense of authenticity and I want to be transported. This book delivers.

Knowing that this novel would include a romance, it was no surprise that the principal characters Sarah and Fokke were deftly drawn with subtle idiosyncrasies, strengths, and fears. But the terrific cast of well-formed, interesting, fun, and distinctive supporting characters woven throughout was unexpected and a real pleasure.

While the romantic evolution propels one forward, this book was so wonderfully infused with attention to all the senses that I sometimes slowed to luxuriate in the moment; the joy of warm fires while it snows outside, walking with sun on shoulders, the gift of cooking and tasting thoughtfully prepared simple meals, the surprise memories and unexpected reaction caused by a “glimpsed” scent, the sound of glass bending under pressure . . . and much more. Sumptuous writing much appreciated.

There was also a heartwarming sense of place in this book. I love Venice, so I’m sometimes disappointed by unartful portrayals of it. But this author knows her stuff. Her details of architecture and people in the streets and canals captured the soul of the city I know. She rewarded me with not only a longing to revisit my beloved Venice, but also to once more explore The Hague and to arrange for first trips to Cortina and Buenos Aires.

I loved this book!

5 star review by Travel Paso:
It’s hard to call this a simple romance novel. Not many writers can combine travel, history, humor, pathos and subtle environmentalism (with a steamy love story) this successfully. I loved the characters, plot and varied settings. I loved Kristin’s first book and this one did not disappoint. Great read! I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.

You are welcome to come to my book signing on Saturday, May 20th from 15.00-17.00 in The Hague. See your invitation below. For some of you, that might be a bit far. But your online copy is just one click away.

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Pssst! It’s Ready for You!

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A funny thing happened on the way to publishing. I realized one itsy bitsy mistake when I pre-ordered print copies for my upcoming book signing in The Netherlands: by finalizing my book, I also established the release date and made my book  available for sale.

Wow. Cat’s out of the bag. Or, book’s out of the bag in this case.

 

Let me say that a little louder:

The Things We Said in Venice is now available!

Buy The Things We Said in Venice here.

Kindle version will be available within 
a few days.