WHAT IS THAT THING CALLED ROMANCE?
Guest Post by Joe Prentis
As a writer, I often spend time on Internet sites where people gather together to express their innermost feelings. Even if I don’t agree with the conversations, I still want to know what others think. A few days ago I ran across a post where a writer in her early twenties said: “I saw a romance novel and judging from the picture on the back cover, the writer must have been like forty. What does someone that old know about romance?”
To say the least, I was amused because I remember a time when the same thoughts were running through my mind. At seventeen, or even at twenty, there are all kinds of emotions tugging us this way or that. Many of them are powered by raging hormones. I have often thought that if it had it not been for the blonde head of Heidi Helmer, two rows ahead of me in my biology class, I would have amounted to something.
During our formative years, it is easy to think that we know everything there is to know about romance. It is only later that we learn that love is a broadly dimensional thing involving other experiences in addition to physical love. I would be the last one to criticize young romance, for I see it all around me. I liked to experience it in the long ago time of my youth. I like to write about it now. I have always liked crowds, especially ball games where young people gather together to see and be seen. I like their expressions when two teens look at each other and their eyes lock, and they are powerless to look away. There can never have enough romance in the world. Marriages fail, there are divorces, but if given a chance, romance gets better as it moves through its various stages of development.
Somewhere during the early phases of romance, we develop a certain level of commitment. Commitment is that wonderful emotion that makes us want to become the proverbial ‘one’ that causes poets to compose reams of emotion filled verses. The events that brought commitment into reality might involve choosing a profession, or it might involve finding the right place to live. Commitment is a two-way street without any traffic signs. We have to navigate it one block at a time. Exchanging the news of our small victories with a loved one is about as good as it gets. A simple ‘Ah’ or the widening of an eye is all the encouragement we need to launch into an explanation of all of the emotion-filled details. Commitment causes a couple to become so focused on each other that it seems as if they are the only ones in existence. That is the good part.
And then there is the birth of the kids. When that first kid arrives on the scene, it is like running a pack of barking sled dogs into an otherwise peaceful scene. Chaos is the operational term that fits the situation. Dividing responsibility is never an easy task. ‘I’ll do the bottle, you take care of the dirty diapers,’ might start a lively discussion, but things can be worked out. No one can explain the love that a parent has for a child, but it is there, heaped up and running over. It makes us silly, and it makes us expectant. After the initial shock, it is easy to picture that baby boy in a pair of shoulder pads and the little girl wearing a shirt with the name of her soccer team emblazoned across the back. These are the things of which memories are made.
And then a couple of weeks after their birth, or so it seems, your kids are whizzing around the back yard on whatever contraption your foolish parents bought for them. You listen as the neighbors discuss their kid’s high school experiences and know that yours will be there soon. Thinking about the senior prom, where the couple poised just inside the front door in their finery, is enough to create a lump in your throat, and it can still have this effect on us many years later.
There are also those romantic, devoted, commitments that don’t have a name, but it is all about love. Late last year, I visited a friend who was in the hospital. He was very ill with a diagnosis that I didn’t even want to consider. I eased the door of his room open and froze in the opening when I saw that his wife had pushed the tubes and wires aside and had crawled into the hospital bed with him. They were lying with their arms around each other. I don’t know what they were whispering, and I didn’t want to know. It was a private moment that showed the love that has always existed between the two of them. I slipped out of the doorway, and as soon as I was able to breathe again, I went downstairs to the gift shop. I ordered some flowers instead of inserting myself into a private moment where I didn’t belong. I could write a dozen books about what I saw from the doorway of that hospital room. If you’re a romance writer, I’ll bet you could, too.
Joe Prentis is a multi-genre author who has written Westerns, Suspense, Thrillers, and more recently, two Romance novels that are making the rounds at various publishing houses. His desire to write a Romance novel came about when he realized there was always an element of romance in everything he wrote. When one writer/reviewer asked him why he branched out into romance, he explained it in this way: To me, a story is not worth reading unless you encompass all of the strong emotions we experience in real life. Of these, love and hate are the strongest.
Prentis has been an avid runner, a hiker, and a long distance bicycle rider. He admits that he has settled into amore leisure pace after retirement. He now lives in a small resort community on the Tennessee River and can be found in front of his keyboard most days. He is now at work on another romance novel that involves the difficult adjustment of a young man in a job he doesn’t like but is determined to make the best of it.
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