Monday, November 7, 2011

Unwrapping: Regency Romance with Maya Rodale (my blog muse)

     THE HEIR AND THE SPARE by Maya Rodale was the first of her novels that I read and I was instantly hooked by her humor and ability to draw the reader into the story. Of course, I've always been a sucker for a twins story and then when you make the heroine a tad clumsy and not the absolute epitome of grace, I'm all for it.

I am giving Maya the first spot in my journey through Regency Romance not only because she writes such delightfully entertaining and rule breaking novels but because Maya was the inspiration for this blog and so I owe her a bit of a tribute.  She, like the strong characters she writes, looked ridicule directly in the face and rose above it.

In response to the typical question she most often gets after someone discovers she writes Romance Novels, she said,
"... It might be a snarky Q. It might not be. It might be what my friend calls an inslement—a combination of an insult and a compliment. Like: you look great! Did you lose weight? Or in this instance: ok you’re smart enough to write a novel, but too smart to read a romance novel."

Her answer is always: “ ... Of course I read them!” How else would I know what to write? How would I learn that time-honored formula for plotting success (which is how I see the much maligned romance novel formula)? What better way to do research? There are many, many very smart reasons to read romance novels, especially if you write them. So yes, I have some very logical reasons…
…And….  I like them!"

This was my inspiration. I've been reading Romance Novels since my teens.  I will admit freely that I was a teen in the '70's and so was fortunate enough to experience the literary change that occurred in the publishing world regarding Romance literature.  I will also admit that I didn't care for the Romance Novels on the market before Kathleen E. Woodiwiss came on the scene. I found them corny, mushy, rather cheesey, and extremely formulaic ... yes, I said it ... formulaic! Those adorable skinny little books featuring a story where boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy rescues girl from some bad man, girl kisses boy and boy sweeps her into his arms and rushes off to the justice of the peace.  BORING! I wanted swashbuckling-type heroes and heroines that actually had a brain.

It takes imaginative, innovative, rule breaking, researching, talented writers like Maya Rodale and many others to shake things up and keep the readers happy.  According to the Romance Writers of America statistics for 2010, $1.358 billion - that's BILLION dollars - worth of Romance Novels were sold as compared to ... oh, let's take ... mystery novels, which there were $682 million worth of those sold in the same year. Really now, could that many readers be wrong about a literary genre? The RWA states the author “is the key factor in both driving consumers to buy a book as well as making consumers aware of a particular book.” This is especially true of romance authors, as 50 percent of romance buyers stated the author was the reason for the book purchase.

So after reading Maya Rodale's response to this insensitive, inslementing (if I may borrow that word) question posed to her - DO YOU READ ROMANCE NOVELS? - I decided to express my own opinions on the insults, prejudice, and downright insensitivity that many people, both men and women, especially so-called literary critics have toward Romance Novels, their authors and most importantly, their readers. I also hoped to educate and introduce the genre to those who think they are above it and convert a few folks in the process. I've never been ashamed of reading Romance Novels and have never hesitated to pull one out of my over-sized purse and start reading in any public place including sitting in the waiting room at my husband's employ which happens to be a highly male-oriented service department for a major car dealership. No one says a word and if they d0 ... well, I'm not one to mince words as I suspect my dear muse, Maya Rodale, is not either.

As Maya puts it, she's "a romance writing, guitar playing, home cooking, book loving, city dwelling, country living, dog walking and back-talking kind of gal." I like that!

She's published four delightfully Romantic Regencies and her fifth, THE TATTOOED DUKE, is scheduled for release in March 2012.  (GORGEOUS COVER)  She also co-wrote a book with her mother, Maria, but since it's a non-fiction and more about women's self-pleasuring by means other than reading, I'm not going to discuss it here because I try to keep a PG rating but if you're interested you can find the title at the end of this post.

I just recently read A GROOM OF ONE'S OWN which is the first in her Writing Girl Series and found myself identifying with it in so many ways. First of all, I loved the idea of a woman in Regency England working at all but to be working in a male dominated establishment like a newspaper, well ... how about that for rule breaking?! As I read the first few chapters, I began to feel like I had visited this story before but couldn't place it - but when Sophie first meets the groom-to-be and discovers him to be the same handsome man who saved her in the street, a light bulb went off over my head.  It reminded me of the movie, THE WEDDING PLANNER which if you haven't seen it, please watch it some time if for no other reason than it's got Matthew McConaughey in it.

Trailer for THE WEDDING PLANNER starring Jennifer Lopez & Matthew McConaughey

As for A GROOM OF ONE'S OWN ... IT'S NOT THE WEDDING PLANNER, it only reminded me of it for a brief while ... it's even better. To prove it, I thought I would share an excerpt from it so you can judge for yourself and hopefully, decide to read it and the next book in the series as well as the third one coming next year.
Excerpt from A GROOM OF ONE'S OWN by Maya Rodale:

     After her meeting with the duke and duchesses, Sophie met Julianna at the salon of Lady Jane, a witty, eccentric woman who invited writers, artists, scientists, and all manner of interesting people for witty, brilliant conversation. It was the sort of social circle that simply did not exist in Chesham, and was even a rarity in London.
     Upon her arrival in Lady Jane's drawing room - decorated in stunning chinoiserie style that had recently become the height of fashion - Sophie found an empty seat next to Julianna on a velvet settee and was served a cup of hot tea, along with a slice of vanilla sponge cake with butter cream frosting. It was just the thing, after the events of earlier in the day.
     "Do tell all about the duchesses, darling," Julianna began.
     "Lady Clarissa is smarter than given credit for, and Lady Hamilton is guilty of not letting her good nature overpower Lady Richmond's tendency to dominate every conversation."
     "Oh, my. And the duke?" Julianna asked, taking a sip of tea.
     "Is my Brandon," Sophie said.
     Julianna spit out the tea.
     "I cannot bring you anywhere," Sophie said with a laugh, and looked around. Everyone else seemed deep in private discussions and did not seem to have notice, though a maid swiftly appeared with napkins and promptly vanished.
     "The Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, engaged to the daughter of the Duke of Richmond, saved your life and escorted you home! I cannot believe it!" Julianna exclaimed. A few people turned in their direction.
     "It's true. Of course, he pretended not to know me when we were introduced," Sophie said with a twinge of bitterness in her voice. She took a bite of the cake and found it sweet and comforting.
     "Distasteful, slightly rude, but ultimately understandable," her friend replied.
     "I know. But it very much made the situation clear to me and markedly diminished by feelings for him," Sophie said, wishing it all ended there. She took another fortifying bite of cake before she carried on. "But then ..."
     "Then what?"
     "I am waiting for you to swallow your sip of tea," Sophie said.
     "Then I accidentally entered his private study. While he was in it ... Are you aware of how massive the ducal residence is? One could quite easily get lost. In fact, one did get very lost ..."
     "What did you do, Sophie?" Julianna asked, sounding nervous about the answer.
     "I might have declined an escort of a maid, or the duke, in a fit of pique," she answered truthfully, with a sheepish smile. Honestly, it had been ridiculous behavior on her part, but it felt so very essential that she not spend any more time with Brandon.
     "Oh, Sophie," Julianna said, laughing a little. But then she became serious. "You were alone with the duke?"
     "Oh, yes." And then, when Julianna had set down her tea, Sophie related the scene to her wide-eyed friend - particularly the collision of heads, and the dramatic recitation of the list of Desirable Qualities in a Wife - to Julianna's great amusement.
     Though she wasn't sure why, exactly, Sophie didn't relate the part about their embrace and the dangerous temptation to kiss him. The moment had been too magnificient, and Sophie did not want to be lectured on the impropriety of it. She wanted to keep the memory special. And private.
     Her stomach began to ache. She told herself it was the tea, but it was more likely guilt.

Hope you enjoyed this little taste of A GROOM OF ONE'S OWN by Maya Rodale and will consider reading it and her other titles very soon. 

To Maya - thank you for being my inspiration, my muse and my friend.

Happy Reading Everyone!

2 comments: said...

wonderful sight what would the world be without romance,passion and sex. thank to all you romantic writers. Espetially Maya Rodale she is a true romantic and so is her husban. i need to read more of her books.You go girl

Amy Valentini said...

winter427 - I am so glad you enjoyed the site and are as a big a fan of Maya as I am. She IS a true romantic. All of her books are great reads. Thanks for visiting and I hope you'll come back again soon and feel free to spread the word. : )