Yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.

If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.

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SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.

Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.

It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.

So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.

Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.

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Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.

Romance novels?  Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.

I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.

Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.

What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).

The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.

If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?

Why was I so afraid?

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That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.

Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.

My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.

Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?

I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.

But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.

Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.

I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.

Formulaic?  Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.

Pathetic?  Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.

And the other word that’s not worth repeating?  Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.

I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.

Will I ever be loved?  Yes. With great passion.

Will I ever love another?  Yes. With great truth.

Are Happily Ever Afters real?  Yes. With great beauty.

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Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.

I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.

Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.

Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.

So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

I, and my books, promise.

Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?

I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.

Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.

(You don’t want to miss it!  My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray

About Sharon Wray

Sharon is a three-time Daphne du Maurier winner and an eight-time RWA Golden Heart Romantic Suspense author repped by Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter of The Knight Agency. She writes the Deadly Force romantic suspense series for Sourcebooks Casablanca and her first book come out next year.

Posted on October 21, 2014, in Sharon Wray and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. This was beautiful, Sharon. I’m glad to be in your company, sharing a love of writing stories that answer those three questions in the affirmative. I wish the RWA contest committee would use them as a guide for “measuring” the amount of romance in books entered in the Ritas and the GH’s and end this Great Controversy for good!!

    I’m super excited about the upcoming mother/daughter interview with Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie!! I can’t wait to read the questions your 14-year-old daughter asks!!! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Kieran! I’m excited about the interview too. It’s going to be so much fun, made better by the book which is awesome!

      I wish we could end the Great Controversy as well. I really hate spaghetti sandwiches! LOL.

  2. Sharon this is exactly what we RS authors have been trying to explain to those who are raising these silly – and irrelevant – questions about the amount of romance in a romance. But you said it to beautifully. Thank you. Lovely and smart post.

  3. Sharon thank you for writing this. You eloquently stated what many of us are feeling. We define ourselves as romance novelists because we deliver the promise of HEA.

    And I share your love of Letters to Kelly. (One of my all time faves!)

  4. Reblogged this on DIANA BELCHASE and commented:

    Another wonderfully poetic post by Sharon Wray. I’m delighted to share this with my readers.

  5. Perfect, Sharon! You’ve explained so eloquently what RS writers have been trying to articulate to RWA.

    And I hope your angry young man was able to get some help.

    Thanks for this.

  6. Beautiful and eloquent, Sharon. Thank you. I hope every RWA member reads this.

    And I loved LTK too. I don’t know if I can pick a favorite romance of all time. So many have been special to me for different reasons. SB’s OUT OF CONTROL is a strong contender, mostly because it was the first of hers that I read, and because she immerses the reader in the characters’ hearts and minds in a way that so few can.

    • Thank you, Gwen. I loved Out of Control as well and it’s probably my favorite of her single titles. But I think my favorite is still Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Or maybe Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt. It’s so hard to choose just one!

    • Out of Control was the first SB book I read too 🙂 What I really love about SB’s books is the diversity of her characters–her heroes aren’t always the tallest, handsomest men in the room with the best head’s of thick, gleaming hair. It’s what’s going on inside their heads and hearts that make them so swoon-worthy (imho).

      Sharon, great job bringing clarity to the Great Controversy!

  7. Sharon I absolutely love this post. You really capture the essence of romance- and not just in book form. I wish you would submit this to RWR as an article. I can’t pick my favorite romance of all time- I just can’t. But y’all know how I love Jane Eyre? Right?

  8. Oh, and holy cow. I can’t believe I forgot to say I can’t wait for the mother-daughter mother-daughter interview!

  9. My goodness, I loved your comments on the angry young man. There are tons of people who feel like romance novels have no right to be included in the “novel” genre. Thank you for those eloquent words.
    Now to move on to what my favorite romance of all time is…There isn’t just one. I am a romance novel nut. I love them all, but Colleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday made me laugh til I cried and made my heart twist in my chest. But then I have a special place in my heart for Seal team 16. Izzy made me giggle and hold my breath. Or, there’s always Kresley Cole’s Macrieve; made me stay up way past my bed time, (the pantry scene made me cry, Chloe tore my heart out.).
    YA, romcom, romantic suspense, paranormal, doesn’t matter to me. I love it all.
    And now that I’ve rambled on way to long….thank you for your blog, I enjoy it so much.

    • Thank you, Kim. I’m a romance novel nut too and find it almost impossible to pick a favorite genre not to mention a favorite book. I love all the books you mentioned above. And you’re so right about Izzy! 🙂

  10. “Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?”

    That varies with the phases of the moon. Currently Maggie Osborne ranks very high …. Currently reading ‘Salem’s Daughter’ which for me has the perfect mix of adventure, romance and passion and humour.

    The most delightful feature of romance novels for me is that they are enjoyable. I don’t have to weep into my scotch or search my conscience and soul. I can simply lose myself in a fantasy world far from the woes of the real world and imagine life as it should be!

    A downside used to be the lurid covers but e-books and audio books have sorted that one. LOL

  11. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this blog post, Sharon, even though I am a week late coming to ‘the party.’ I am less embarrassed to say ‘I write romantic suspense’ than I used to be. I am more focused on my humiliation when I say “but I’m not published yet.”

    Right now my ultimate fav romance author is Kristen Higgins, who, IMO, brings it all. Teenage fav was Victoria Holt, but I have picked up her work recently and read with adult (and writing-craft eyes) and think her stories would probably never be accepted by a publisher today.

  12. Sorry I missed this when it was first posted. Well done, Sharon !

  13. Marvelous, what a webpage it is! This weblog gives useful facts to us, keep it up.

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