I am an unabashed romance reader and have been since I was a girl. Each summer, my neighbor Kathy and I would go to the Woods Run Branch. She’d check out her 6 books and I’d take mine. Rosamond du Jardin, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Maureen Daly…we’d read them all and then switch books, thus filling our summers with countless hours of enjoyment. The first romance I remember reading was Beverly Cleary’s Luckiest Girl, in which teenage Shelly experiences her first crush on basketball star Hartley. From those teen titles we progressed to the great gothic authors of the 1960s and 1970s – Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Forty five years later, Kathy and I are still friends and we still sometimes share books we like.
Romance was in the air last month in Pittsburgh as the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention was held at the Hilton, downtown. I took a few vacation days to attend. Hundreds and hundreds of women (and a few men) attended the 25th annual event. The convention offered three tracks – one for publishers, one for budding writers and one for readers. I signed up for the reader’s track so that I could get to meet and hear some of my favorite authors.
The grande dames of historical romance, writers Bertrice Small, Janelle Taylor, Roberta Gellis and Jennifer Blake are sticklers for historical fact. They derided the current Showtime hit The Tudors for playing fast and loose with truth of those ribald royals.
Romantic suspense authors Barry Eisler, Heather Graham, Brenda Novak, and F. Paul Wilson talked about the importance of creating a gripping mystery without ever losing sight of developing a realistic love interest between the protagonists.
Vampires and urban fantasy specialists MaryJanice Davidson, Christine Feehan and J.R. Ward drew the biggest crowd of readers. These authors were wacky and bawdy, and spoke about creating and populating erotic alternative worlds filled with love and the eternal struggle between good and evil. I’ll admit that I just don’t get the current fascination with this genre.
Some of my favorite Regency Historical authors – Mary Balogh, Nicole Jordan, Mary Jo Putney and Patricia Rice gave a wonderful peek into the 19th-century worlds they create. Their stand-alone books and series are often written several years in advance of publishing. They work hard to please their readers by threading major and minor characters from one book to another to sustain interest and to achieve the happy ending romance readers expect.
Over 350 authors were in attendance. Many were recognized on Thursday at the Annual RT Awards luncheon. For a list of winners, click here.
Best of all at the Convention was the book signing on Saturday where I got to meet and talk to about ten romance authors whose books I collect. It was really fun to do and just looking at the crowds lined up at the tables and the smiles of the authors selling and signing their books, it was evident that they were all having a great time too.
If you are looking for a few good romances to take to the beach with you this summer, here are a few titles you will surely enjoy:
- Mary Balogh’s Simply Perfect is the final installment of the Miss Martin’s School for Girls regency series.
- Jennifer Weiner’s Certain Girls is the hysterical and touching sequel to her best-selling chick lit novel, Good in Bed.
- J. D. Robb’s Strangers in Death, is the 26th futuristic crime thriller featuring Lt. Eve Dallas.
- Jayne Anne Krentz’s Sizzle and Burn, an Arcane Society novel that’s a paranormal contemporary.
- Finally, pick up Marisa de los Santos’s Belong to Me. It’s a sequel to last year’s Love Walked In, a book I really enjoyed and told everyone about. It does not disappoint!