From Rebel Heart Books in Jacksonville, OR. By Eileen Bobek
I didn’t always carry Romance at Rebel Heart.
When I was younger, I used to read the Romance books that my mother had, kept behind the wired door of her bedside table: Nora Roberts, Lavyrle Spencer, Catherine Coulter and my all time favorite, Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove (I still have my old battered copy with the cover taped on).
In college, I stopped reading Romance though I can’t say exactly why. But I was a premed student then and abandoned many things I enjoyed so I could maintain a singular focus (in hindsight, not the most healthy of decisions). I didn’t know then that reading Romance had in fact taught me something about myself, what I wanted and how hard I was willing to work to get it.
Fast forward more years than I want to count. I had decided not to carry Romance at the store for a variety of inane and snobbish reasons and so even though Marcella was, and is, an incredible reader (and now writer!) of Romance, she did not throw me under the bus when Megan Crane and Maisey Yates (two bestselling Romance authors who we are lucky to have living in our midst) asked her why not. Soon after, I sat in Rebel Heart with Megan and Maisey to discuss what exactly my deal was with Romance and I remember saying, “It’s such a huge genre. I honestly don’t know where to begin in choosing what to have here.” If someone was writing a scene, it might have gone something like this:
Megan and Maisey kept their faces unreadable masks, realizing in unison that Eileen had shown her ridiculous, illogical, intellectually dishonest hand. They had her and they knew it. Their only tell was the slight narrowing of their eyes, focusing in on their target before Megan said, “Interesting. How is it any different from the way you apparently choose the rest of the books here then?” Eileen quickly searched her brain for a pithy response. One beat, two beat, three. She said, “Huh.”
And so began my second chance at reading Romance, this time with a cadre of women, led by Megan Crane and Maisey Yates, who not only became ardent supporters of Rebel Heart but beloved friends. In meeting after meeting we discuss history, gender roles, what drives a character, the power of dialogue, what does a happy ending mean and look like depending on the couple involved and yes, sometimes, sex. We often disagree but the group has remained steadfast and true, even through a pandemic.
There’s a reason why Romance is the genre of hope, why it’s the engine that drives the book and publishing world. Romance writers know how to work. And whether you read Romance or not, when it comes to love or anything else for that matter, everyone wants a happy ending but it’s not enough to hope for them. You have to believe in them. Then do the work, take the risks.