Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remember the "R" Word?

by Caren Crane

A common complaint I hear from women who do not read romance: life never works out that way. Sadly, life does not work out with a happy ending for some people. And yet, it does for many others. I know romance writers who are not enjoying a happy ever after with the man they married first. Some are divorced or widowed. Some have never married. Some are on their second, or third, or fourth marriage. So why do we write about the Happy Ending?

I am an optimist by nature. I'll admit that I enjoy the occasional thriller and, when the mood hits, a dark and unhappy tale. Mostly, though, I like my stories upbeat and humorous, where everyone gets their just desserts in the end. A good romantic book or movie gives me that. When I transitioned from writing straight romance to women's fiction, the heavy romantic story line was the first thing I dropped. But romance still figured in the stories. More strongly in each one, as a matter of fact. The hardest book I tried to write - and still haven't managed to finish - featured a married couple with no romance thread at all. Sorry to all us married people, but after a couple decades of marriage, romance isn't on top of the agenda. It wasn't for this couple and you see what happened to them - nothing!

But even if real-life romance doesn't stay front and center decade after decade, we still enjoy it. I recently planned a romantic dinner with my husband on a rare night when we were without children. The waiter figured, wrongly, it must be our anniversary. Which made me realize that we only expect romance a couple of times a year, like on an anniversary or St. Valentine's Day. Aren't we selling ourselves short? Shouldn't we expect romance to surprise us any old time, even if we're in a committed relationship? Couldn't any day be as romantic as Valentine's Day? And if we expected more romance - planned for it, even - might we not find our lives a little sweeter, a bit happier or, at the very least, different?

What do you think? Is romance a requirement or is it just occasional icing on the cake of your life? And if you haven't found your Happy Ending, do you expect to someday?

And speaking of happy endings, I'll select a lucky winner commentor to receive an autographed copy of Sabrina Jeffries' June 2007 release "Beware a Scot's Revenge". Happy commenting and be sure to check back to see if you won!


Tawny said...

Wow -I'm feeling a little spoiled, but I do expect romance to be a part of my life. My husband still brings me flowers, we take weekends away, we still hold hands.

To me, romance is the promise we all look for, whether we have it or not. At least, as a reader, I do. I want that feel-good feeling when I read of knowing the couple found love and it's strong enough to last -- to get them to the couple-decades of marriage place. Or to that place my grandparents where until my Grampa died this last winter, where they still hold hands and live each day counting on the other one being there.

Christine Wells said...

Well said, Caren! I think it's not so much the hearts and flowers aspect of romance that I like, it's more the characters and the connection they make that thrill me. I find the deeper a character study a book has the more I enjoy it. In romance, there's that thrill you get when these two people you've grown to love start to love each other.

That's why romantic gestures in romance have to be so personal. Flowers and chocolate are not enough, it has to be a deeply personal gift, often involving a sacrifice, that spells true romance. I think it shows how well the hero and heroine know each other and can fulfill each other's needs.

Great topic! Wish I was eligible to win that book!

KimW said...

I don't only think of romance as flowers, jewelry, weekends away etc. I think a small gesture like a kiss on the cheek, a hug, opening up the car door, saying "I Love You" and things like that are considered romance, too. Along with my husband planting the flowers because he knows I hate worms, stopping at the store because he knows I'm tired and washing my car windows for me just because he knows I get frustrated because I do it so poorly. lol So yes, I think romance is a requirement even if it comes in a not so traditional form.

Stacy S said...

I do expect romance, maybe not every day or what some would think was romanctic to them.

Caren Crane said...

Tawny, you are lucky your husband knows you so well and is geared to give you what you need. Good job picking that one out!

Like Christine and Kimw, I find the things I feel are "romantic" are the little things my dh does for me: changing the sheets without being asked, putting air in my car tires, folding the laundry. Those things let me know he is paying attention and thinking about me. The same reason I make him banana pudding or send him an "I love you" e-mail.

Stacy s, I think you're in the same boat as me! I don't require the big gestures, and not all the time, but the little things keep love alive.

Sara Thacker said...

I think love is a decision. Romance comes from our mindset and our attitude. If our attitude is good about our spouse then we see their actions as romantic or loving, if we've decided that we don't love our spouse any more then there is nothing they can do that is romantic.]

Of course there are some knuckle draggers out there who don't realize that they actually have to participate in live to be a part of it.

Candy Halliday said...


First, LOVE Romance Bandits - I'm putting you gals on my instant gotta-lurk list! :)

I love what Tawny said - Romance is the promise we all look for, whether we have it or not.

And sometimes it's the little things that matter most.

Like the Mother's Day card I received this year from the dog and cat that said: You complete us. :)

Gotta love a guy with a sense of humor!

Candy Halliday

Sonja Foust said...

Yeah, everyone WANTS romance, but like Sara said, love is a decision.

That said, romance is awfully nice. :-D

C.MacLean said...

Believe it or not, men like the occasional romantic gesture, too. Not too long ago I brought my Honey a bouquet of flowers, just because, and told him that I thought men deserved flowers once in a while, too. He was astounded, totally blown out of his socks, that I made the gesture; he had of course, never received flowers but had given them many times.

Romance comes in many flavors.

On my parents' first wedding anniversary, when they were young and poor, they each got the other -without the others' knowledge -cards with cute little bunnies on them. They enjoyed the mutual surprise so much that every anniversary thereafter, they gave each other cards with bunnies. As a little girl hearing that story for the first time, I thought that was the story of 'the bunny cards' was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. To celebrate their life-long romance, last year for their 50th anniversary, I commissioned an artist friend to do a water color of two bunnies, one with a black tie, the other with a little white tiara, on a 36" x 48" poster board, and told the story to all the guests. I asked them all to sign the "Mother of all Bunny cards" as a keepsake for my parents - it is now in their foyer. It was the hit of the party, and captured beautifully the romance they keep alive in their 50+ year marriage, even today.

Every couple has, or should have, their own special version of bunny cards, and romance isn't, or shouldn't be, only about what a man does for a woman.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks Caren! As a single woman, it's wonderful to hear something positive about marriage. Many married couples I meet seem to be "ho hum" about marriage and I've even heard a few romance writers express disappointment in their marriages. It also disturbs me that all romance novels focus on courtship and end in marriage-- unless it's a reunion story between two people who have been separated for several years and redo the courtship. I always wonder about what happens AFTER the HEA. If anyone knows about a non-reunion romance novel between two people who are still married, please let me know. Thanks!

Trish Milburn said...

I love the bunny card story. That is so cute and sweet.

Guys are just wired different and don't think about romance as much as women, but occasionally they surprise us. I remember several years ago I went out to get in my car to go to work, and there was a little stuffed puppy in my car seat holding a 3 Musketeers candy bar. It was the whole unexpectedness of it that made it so wonderful. We expect things on our birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine's Day. So it's extra special when things happen on just your normal day.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Ah, Romance. It is about the big things and the little things.

On Mother's Day, as I talked to my Mom, she was so excited about the card my father got her, she read the entire thing over the phone to me. It spoke of love and being best friends and how he wouldn't be the same without her. They've been married 57 years.

As for romantic gestures, I give a mean backrub. Of all the things I do for my husband, I think he loves a complete backrub after a hard day of work the most. He doesn't even mind the fru-fru lotion as long as I warm it up.

One of the best gestures my husband does for me is give me a big bear hug whenever the dreaded rejections come through the mail.

Diana Celesky said...

Romance. It's definitely on my list of life's requirements. Haven't met my happily ever after guy yet, but know that I will. I agree with Christine that romantic gestures need to be personal. My favorite story illustrating this is O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. Great post.

Buffie said...

Gee, romance to me is many different things. Sure I loved it when the dh surprised me with a Broadway NYC getaway or when unexpected flowers arrive on an average day. But the little things really do add up. I like it when I'm not the only one putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or when the bathroom gets cleaned without me nagging about it for a month, or when the dh takes our boys outside to play so that I can have an hour to read in peace.

Skylar Masey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skylar Masey said...

IMHO, I think you have to be romantic to get romantic "gestures" in return. Just like you'd do to have something positive happen in any vein of your life. (As in you make your own good luck.)

However, that being said, I am the one who plays the romantic 8 times out of 10. Yet, I would LOVE to have my bf reciprocate more often. But, plain and simple, he just doesn't seem to be wired that way. I love him anyway...and on occasion he does try very hard to make an effort (not just V-day and our anniversary).

However, I've seen enough examples to realize this is not the case for all men. Some women do get the lucky few who have the additional Romance package built in. :0)

marciaa said...

Romance is and should be an important part of any marriage/relationship. But I think that we too often think of romance as grand guestures, trips away to a quiet inn, 3 dozen roses leading the way to the bedroom or declarations of love ad nauseum in poetry in banner across the sky. While I'm still waiting for the trail of 3 dozen roses and the airplane thing would be nice too (if anyone knows my husband point him to this blog..hint hint)
the things that I think are romantic rarely ever make anyone's list. Call me practical but one of the most romantic things my husband does is fill the gas tank for me. Yes you heard right. I hate to fill the gas tank of the car I drive. I don't why and we'll analyze that later but I just do. So whenever he takes the car he fills it up or tops off the tank for me. He never mentions it and I never mention it. If I leave on a long trip and there are toll gates, he makes sure I have a 10 dollar roll of quarters in car because I always forget, when I'm upset he let's me vent and he listens and listens and listens...When someone really hurt my feelings a long while ago he said in his best Godfather voice "I know people who know people" (he doesn't really but it was sweet all the same). He puts the toilet seat DOWN, need I say more? So yes I want roses and quiets dinners and I get those occasionally but when I can't have those all the time I remember the above things and I think - wow we're pretty romantic for having been married more than 20 years.

Anna Sugden said...

Great topic, Caren. Love everyone's answers too.

For me, I was lucky enough the second time around to find a man who has the same views on love and marriage as I do. He understands that great marriages don't just happen - you both have to work at it. It takes time and effort and thought ... but the result is so worth it.

My hubby is wonderful. He spoils me with the big and the little romantic gestures. He shows me how much he loves me and thinks about me in so many ways.

By the way, his parents have been happily married for over 60 years. They still hold hands and flirt with each other.

Caren Crane said...

Sara, I totally agree about romance being attitude-driven. I've known women who had SOs that I would consider really romantic, but somehow the romance was lost on these women. Definitely attitude!

Candy, I love that Blue got you a card from the dog and cat. He is a hoot!

And Sonja, I'm with you - we all seem to crave romance, don't we? But we all seem to want it on our terms. ;-)

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Cherie, I love the bunny card story! That is such a lovely, sweet tradition your parents have and your gesture at their anniversary was just perfect.

I especially appreciate hearing stories of marital longevity. My parents didn't have that. I think whether your parents stay together or break up adds another dimension to your expectations for your own marriage. I always wanted mine to last forever!

Jill James said...

I know I'm spoiled in the romance department, but I also spoil him right back. Marriage is work, something some people don't understand. They think if you have to work at it, it isn't right in the first place. Working at it, to me, means thinking of little things to romance the other. The back rubs, filling the gas tank, taking the little ones for an afternoon. That is romance.

Kasey said...

I'm haven't found my happy ending yet. I am single and I am holding out for the right guy, I guess you could say. I am sure he is out there and since I am a hopeless romantic, I know we will eventually find each other eventually.

Claudia said...

I almost hate to talk about my husband because he comes off as so perfect that I suspect I'm universally resented and hated. LOL

I do know he's perfect for me. Little gestures, big gestures, the whole deal.

He loves me. He shows me he loves me every day and he tells me he loves me every day. It doesn't get any better than that.

He makes me laugh. He never gets annoyed at things that would definitely annoy me. He thinks I'm beautiful and sexy. He thinks I'm a great mother. He thinks I'm a perfect wife.

I ask you, does it get better than that?

Elizabeth, there is a happily ever after, but only with the right guy for you. My husband and I have been married for 27 years and our biggest fear is having to live without each other.

Love IS grand.

Claudia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caren Crane said...

Diana, I love "The Gift Of the Magi"! I'll admit I adored the TV version starring Marie Osmond. Hey, it was good!

And Diana and Kasey and Elizabeth, I think you are right to hold out for romance, whatever that means to you. There are so very many people in the world, there is bound to be a good fit if you look long enough. I remember, when I was very young, thinking I would never meet anyone for me.

Where in the world did I get that idea? I try to make sure my daughters know there are lots of men out there. Be hopeful and enjoy the unique joys of being single while you are. :)

Caren Crane said...

Yes, Claudia (this is the fabulous Claudia Dain, by the way), you are universally loathed and detested for your marital bliss. Okay, not really. But it does induce a fair amount of jealousy. You picked really well.

Claudia has a really great, considerate husband whom she has trained to say all the right things. When asked if he likes her new haircut, he responds, "Do you like it?" What a guy!

See there, ladies? It pays to have high standards!

Beth said...

Wonderful post, Caren. I believe romance isn't just grand gestures but the little things -- holding hands, saying I love you, cuddling on the couch while watching The Office *g*

To me, one of the best things about having romance play a big part in my marriage is showing our children what a loving, successful and enduring relationship can (and to my mind, should) be :-)

Kasey said...

Thanks Caren! I don't mind holding out, it is better than settling.

Gannon Carr said...

I'm lucky that romance is part of my relationship with my hubby. Whether the gesture is big or small, what's important is knowing that your significant other thinks your worth it and shows you!

Caren Crane said...

Skylar, you are so right! That's where I was heading (in my mind) with the "planning" bit. Nothing wrong with planning to be romantic (no matter what the stubbornly spontaneous may say). Give a little to get a little. And though the BF may not reciprocate as often as you'd like, he sure won't miss the message that it's important!

Hey, Suz, if you give a good backrub, can I get in line for one at the conference? I'm just saying...

Caren Crane said...

Gannon, Marcia and Jill, snaps to all of you for appreciating the romance and working to keep it alive and well!

Jill, you were dead-on about people sometimes expecting love to be easy and romance to be natural. I recall my younger sister calling me, in tears, after she had been married about 3 months. The poor baby thought my b-i-l would change once they married. Ha! He did, eventually, change a little but so did she. Lots of work, being married or committed in any way for the long haul!

Helen said...

My husband and I have been married for 30 years we have four grown up children 2 still live at home, when the kids where younger if they went to my Mums and we had an evening to our selves we would take full advantage even now we take advantage when we get the house to ourselves which isn't very often. We take every chance we can to have time together and enjoy it very much.
Have Fun

Hrdwrkdmom said...

I have been married and divorced three times, I don't look for a happy ending for myself but I love to see, and read about others. I know they are out there somewhere, just not for me. And it isn't "them" at this point, it is me. Kind of lost the "sparkle" so to speak.

Aunty Cindy said...

Great post, Caren!

Like Anna, I got lucky on the second go-round and found the love of my life. He may not be perfect, but then I don't really want him to be.

When I married my first husband I was young, dumb and horny. What else can I say? HAHAHA!

For those who haven't found their HEA yet, don't give up! It will probably happen when you least expect it. It did for me.

Sabrina said...

Romance is nice, but to me love is the important thing. Not every guy knows how to be romantic. I have an extremely romantic father ... who doesn't do anything around the house. My dh on the other hand, who's not the most romantic person on the planet, gets my autistic son up and dressed and on the bus every single day of the week so I can sleep in. That's love.

Anonymous said...

Such great posts, I'm sorry I'm late to the party! You all know a lot about romance...there's hardly anything to add. I'm one of those cheesy devoted-to-my-husband types who sees romance in every little gesture, from the kiss goodbye in the morning to the taking care of the kids at night so mommy can have a little more time on the computer. I firmly believe in the HEA and in true love, and I give a big squeeze to Elizabeth, Diane, Kasey, and anyone else holding out for the happy ending. It's out there!


Joan said...


I sure am glad to hear that the HEA's are still out there as I've yet to find mine.

I tell people (mostly my little old people in the hospital) that I've been single so long (and possibly settled in some of my ways) that if I ever met HIM we'd have to have a 3 bedroom house. One for me, one for him and one for Saturday nights.

Of course, I have a lot of Saturday nights saved up LOL

Caren Crane said...

Sabrina (that would be the fabulous Sabrina Jeffries) is pretending she's not a romantic, but she is! She is a big old sappy romantic who adores a big, cheesy HEA. It's also true that her dh is not a romantic (nor is mine, particularly), but he is very loving (as is mine).

Hey, for Mother's Day, my dh mowed the ditches (usually my job) without me even asking! And he made up the bed and put ALL the decorative pillows on it! That was love, I tell you. Of course, it was also my birthday on Mother's Day, so that probably explains the decorative pillows, which seemed a little over the top for him. =:0

Caren Crane said...

Anna and Cindy, you were both so fortunate to find your HEA the second go round! And Hrdwrkdmom, you should listen to Aunty Cindy, she's very wise. If she says it could happen when you least expect it, you better believe it!

Of course, I prayed for someone to love for several years before I met my husband (I started the praying young) and then for discernment for the next 4-1/2 to know if he was really The One. 14-1/2 years later, I've concluded he was. I love him even when he doesn't remember the decorative pillows! (I think testosterone interferes with decorative pillow recognition...)

Caren Crane said...

Helen, congratulations on your long-lived love!

And Inara, you are living the dream, girl. If you find romance around you every day, that's as good as it gets. The cute kids are just cherries on top. ;-)

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, what a fun post. And so true. It's always the everyday things that count for me far more than the rare grand gestures (hey, though those are nice, too).

Is romance a requirement or is it just occasional icing on the cake of your life?

Romance is very important imo. Romance is what keeps love fresh and sparkling.

Abby Gaines said...

I'm a romantic and I think we should all expect romance in our lives - you're more likely to get something if you expect / demand it than if you don't!

Just the other day my husband used the word 'soulmates' to describe our relationship, and I was thrilled he still feels like that after so many years (and so many arguments!)

Sabrina said...

Yes, I am definitely a big, sloppy romantic. With an unromantic husband. Most of the time, anyway. Once in a while, he really does shine. And I do consider him my soulmate.