Of all the genres to love, romance is by far my favorite. Yes, I have a ton of self-help books on my shelves and in my Kindle, I've been known to love a biography or two, but by and large romance has always been my thing.
I remember the first romance novel I ever read. Okay, so I don't remember the title or author, but I do remember the plot. I remember the musty smell of the book and the yellowish color of the pages. It was an old Harlequin from the late 70s (mind you it was circa 1992 and I was only 12 years old). It isn't the sex scene that stuck in my brain - it was the wicker furniture of her apartment (very 3's Company like) and the fact that at some point someone hit a baseball into someone's windshield and when the leading man ran over his socks went to his knees (random I know)...oh and that the leading lady was a virgin well into her mid-twenties - which seemed old even to me, but I figured maybe all that 'save yourself for marriage' talk was truly practiced by everyone, even in books.
That summer someone had given my mom a large garbage bag of 'cheap romances'. I snuck into the closet where the bag was kept and looked at a few covers, for some reason that book's cover stuck out. That was the first in hundred or thousands that I have read in the 25 years since. I may not remember all the titles or authors, but usually if you give me a brief intro or character names, I can tell you the plots to a large percentage of the books I've read...the stories have stuck with me that much.
So what is it that draws me to romance? Well I can say I've always leaned toward contemporary romance so it really wasn't the knights in shining armor or the damsels in distress. For me what led me to it was the hope of happiness, the longing for true love, and the desire for a happily ever after. Long before the bulging muscles or heaving bosoms, before I knew about alpha males and strong women. For me it was always the hope for having a partner. Not to mention the books took me out of my lonely single-dom and put me in worlds far outside the realm of my small town life. Not only were the possibilities endless in the books, but it gave me that glimmer of hope that those same possibilities were available to me in the real world.
Yes, I love the steamy sex, the moans of ecstasy, and the riding off into the sunset. I love when he brushes her hair back and gently kisses her neck or when she runs her hands over the taunt tan muscles of his forearm. But for me, more than any of that, it's what goes on inside the characters...
I love characters that have been hurt or don't trust easily (they are my tribe), I rejoice for them when they begin to take down their walls and see a kindred spirit in someone else. I get all warm and fuzzy when they believe they deserve passion and deep love ... and great sex (I mean come on now)!! I love that no matter how dismal my personal relationship status may be at that moment, I can get lost in someone else's happiness - even if it's only fiction.
Before I was ever a romance writer I was a romance reader. Not only do I love reading these characters, but I love writing them. Like any writer, bits of me are in them and in some ways I live vicariously through them. Also, sometimes when I put those bits and pieces in, what I get back is so much more - more belief in myself, more hope in my own heart, and more possibilities of my own happily ever after.