Friday, February 19, 2010

Love in the Land of Yankee Practicality

from Emily Bryan . . .

I've lived in New England since June 2007 and I'm beginning to understand how people think here. New Englanders see themselves as hardy, frugal, and pragmatic. They don't tend to think of themselves as romantic. In fact, in a recent survey only 12% of folk in the northeast will admit to ever having read a romance novel (compared to 29% in the southeast, 28% for the midwest and a close 27% in the Pacific northwest!)

That's why I was a little trepidacious about speaking at the Duxbury Free Library on Valentines Day with my friends, Marie Force and Dalton Diaz. Especially when I learned Henry Winsor (1803-1898) one of the founders of the library, placed this single restriction on his bequest: “No novels, and no romance!”

I write historical romance for Leisure Books, Marie writes contemporary for Source Books and Dalton writes erotic romance for Ellora's Cave. Old Henry Winsor must have been spinning in his grave last Sunday afternoon!

But if he was unhappy, he was the only one. We were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of New York Times Bestseller Hannah Howell, a former Duxbury resident, who came to support us. (We all belong to the New England Chapter of RWA!) The readers who attended were friendly, interested and attentive. Their questions sparked a great discussion and we had a successful book signing after the talk. The library staff was so supportive. We even garnered some terrific press. Here's the link to the Duxbury Clipper article.

It just goes to show that romance can bloom anywhere--even in the practical, rocky soil of New England.

Have you ever discovered an interest in romance novels in an unexpected place?


Rebecca Royce February 19, 2010 at 6:54 AM  

Personally, I can't think of anywhere more romantic than some of the places I've been to in New England. I wonder who they surveyed...LOL. Great blog!

EmilyBryan February 19, 2010 at 9:22 AM  

New England is high on charm. Just not high on admitting to reading romance!

librarypat February 20, 2010 at 10:57 PM  

I hit thrift stores whenever we travel and from what I have see, the percentages are no surprise. Here in the South the shelves are full of romances. When in Upstate NY or visiting relative in NH and Mass, the aren't nearly as many.

EmilyBryan February 21, 2010 at 4:03 AM  

I've had NE readers tell me if I set my stories in NE, they'd be more apt to read them. Unfortunately, the rest of the market favors other settings.

Terri February 21, 2010 at 5:10 AM  

My husband's cousins from Maine were down to visit a few weeks ago. We got talking books which is my favorite topic. It seems two of them were just introduced to romance novels and a few of their favorite authors are on my keeper shelf. They got a fairly large box shipped out. Seems that they can't find what they are looking for around there.


Kim February 22, 2010 at 2:57 AM  

Thanks, Emily, for spotlighting New England! Twenty years ago, I arrived in Boston as a bright eyed 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. I was so excited to leave humid Florida, where I spent most of my childhood and even college. The first winter I snapped off my car antenna as I was slipping on ice. I bought snow boots from the Maine outlet malls. I tried to park our car in Harvard Yard (image in a Kennedy accent saying this). I would not trade my found memories of New England!

It would be another 10 years before I found my own interest in romance novels in an Army Thrift Shop overseas. We were packing items to Afghani orphanages when I ventured over to the cluttered bookshelves. A blue cover with a tartan sash just called to me. I took the plunge and read Cathy Maxwell’s A Marriage Contract. One year later, I was cruising on the Nile River with some friends. We stopped at a tourist shop in Luxor. In the corner, behind tourist maps, I found a beat up copy of Connie Mason’s A Taste of Sin. I could hardly abandon the book so I negotiated a fair price for it. My roommate read it after me and I converted another nonbeliever! Perhaps romance was in the air as our Egyptian tour guide called us the Habibis (ha-bee-bees), Arabic for “Sweethearts!”

EmilyBryan February 22, 2010 at 4:06 AM  

Terri--I'll be in Maine in April, speaking for the RWA chapter in Brunswick. Probably the best thing for your friends to do is befriend a local indie bookseller and let them know they're looking for romance titles.

EmilyBryan February 22, 2010 at 4:11 AM  

Kim- Habibis, I love it!

Speaking of Connie Mason, I recently interviewed her for a spot on my blog and website about her upcoming title LORD OF DEVIL ISLE (April 27, 2010). Watch for this title to be spotlighted on my Em Recommends page.

Marie Force February 22, 2010 at 8:56 AM  

It was great fun to spend Valentine's day with you and Dalton, Emily (and special guest star Hannah!) Hope we can do it again sometime. New England is the MOST romantic place in the world. Just ask Barry Manilow! :-)

Anna Carrasco Bowling February 24, 2010 at 8:36 AM  

I'm rather fond of the New England Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference...counting the days already.

Maybe the Bostonian heroine in Stroke of Genius will appeal to NE readers.

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