I was all set to write up today’s blog on the Lathan summer vacation plans. I had the first paragraph written in my head and was going to open it up for folks to talk about their favorite holiday spots. But then I came home from teaching the preschoolers at church, a typical Sunday morning of no special significance, and discovered sitting on my desk the carnations you see in this photo with a card that says: “Just thinking about you and how much I love us.”
Inside my husband wrote: “I could say these flowers and this card are for no special occasion, but that would be a lie. You’re my heart’s constant thought. XXOO, Steve”
OK, say aah! Yes, he is a really wonderful guy and I know I am incredibly blessed. And yes I could brag on and on about how often he expresses his love with similar gestures. He would LOVE to hear you all praise his thoughtfulness! LOL! It is entirely true and I do not have to exaggerate in how marvelously romantic my own Mr. Darcy is. But I am not writing this to boast my good fortune or exalt my hubby or to make anyone feel sad if they haven’t found their Prince Charming. It is just that his words and these simple flowers struck me forcibly.
We writers of romance are inspired for different reasons, I am sure. We come from varied romantic backgrounds and have widely diverse beliefs in what a male/female relationship entails. And most likely we are not all married happily and have suffered serious emotional hardships along the way. But we must have one thing in common, I think, and that is the hope that “happily-ever-after” – however we may define it – does exist. Can there be a romance writer who envisions their hero and heroine NOT living together forever? Can a reader of romance be a true fan of the genre if she expects the relationship to whither and die soon after the book ends? Correct me if I am wrong, but the answer to the first question has to be NO. If asked the second question a few years ago, before I began writing, I would have shaken my head in bafflement, certain that the answer was an unequivocal NO. What would be the point in reading a romance novel if one did not desire the couple to be happy and beat the odds?
The reason these flowers and my husband’s poetic words seared my heart and compelled me to write this essay is because I know too well that the answer to the latter question isn’t a clear NO. I know full well that the real world of marriage and love isn’t always what we write or read in a novel. There are a huge number of frogs mixed in with the princes! Not everyone is so lucky in love. However, my marriage, and many many others that I know personally, proves that romance is alive and well on planet earth. But we aren’t necessarily talking about the real world here.
I am talking about ladies who pick up a romance novel.
I wrote my sequel to Pride and Prejudice because I believed with all my heart that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy would have a good life together. That they powerfully loved each other. That Jane Austen was strongly conveying that message. That they would live happily-ever-after. How I have chosen to weave that future may not be everyone’s ideal, but why would anyone wish grief upon this literary couple? Why would a reader wish misery, tragedy, and a swift dissolution of the romance to ANY literary couple? Yet time and time again I receive comments from disgruntled readers who clearly anticipated and desired unhappiness for the Darcys and are downright angry that I gave them a content, sexually fulfilling, bonded relationship. Yep, I am still shaking my head in bafflement and am sure I will never understand the attitude. Thankfully I receive FAR more comments from satisfied readers! This gives me hope that not everyone is jaded into believing true love is impossible. Or at least that they have the outlook one would expect from a romance reader.
Then I come home on an average Sunday to discover a sweet gift from my soul mate, who is as I write this expressing his devotion by preparing a delicious dinner for his family to enjoy. And of course I love the flowers and will treasure the card and thanked him profusely - sigh After a reverent period on display, it will be added to the enormous box containing all his cards and poems written for me. I will rifle through some of them as I always do when storing away the latest, reading the sentiments spanning the 24 years we have been together, and it will rejuvenate my heart, bolster my spirit, and sustain my inspiration in writing Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth as I do. Thank you, Steve, for daily showing me what love is far better than any romance novelist, even me, can write it.