The first Easter I remember was all about chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny had left overnight. The smell of the chocolate wafted up as I opened the foil wrapper before breakfast promising pure delight. But more than this was the supreme indulgence of having chocolate for breakfast. I can still remember the thin chocolate melting into creamy, chocolaty sweetness on my tongue.
I was the sort of child who couldn’t resist the eggs. By dinner time I would have eaten all three of them, one large, one medium and a small one. I never could ration myself so that I could enjoy them for days after. The best I could do was only eat the small one first, then the middle sized one and last of all, the big one. But one year I got so much Easter chocolate, and I was so unwell that I had lots left over at the end the of Easter Sunday.
When I was nine, I was diagnosed with a kidney condition. I was admitted to the Royal Children's Hospital, I think in February. I was still there when I had my tenth birthday in early March and then along came Easter. I’d been in the hospital for many weeks at this point. The staff were wonderful but I was wondering when and whether it would all end. But Easter brought chocolate. Not just from the Easter Bunny but from our extended family and friends too. There were many of the treasured eggs but also chocolate rabbits and a chocolate hen sitting in a chocolate basket.
Boy, I felt so spoiled, but more importantly, it let me know that while I was away from them all, they hadn’t forgotten me. For many days I enjoyed little bits of chocolate, and it lasted a long time. Eventually, I started to feel better, and all the eggs were gone by the time I came home. The condition couldn’t be cured, and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. But the gift of the Easter chocolate had been a bright spot during a difficult time.
I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, in regards to having discipline around chocolate, but it wasn’t. As soon as I was well again, my appetite returned, and I was back to my old tricks feasting on chocolate on Easter Sunday. Whenever my condition makes its presence felt I lose my appetite and drop some weight. For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been well, and so I dropped a couple of kilos. Don’t worry I have plenty more to spare (she chuckles) but aside from that, I’m feeling well again now and will be able to enjoy some chocolate this Sunday. As you can see in the photo above, I'm prepared.
This year, while I’m enjoying my traditional chocolate breakfast, I’ll be grateful that I’m still here after all these years, and for the love of the family and friends that I have about me.
Thank you for supporting of my blog; it means so much to me that you drop in each week to see what musings I have to share. I wish you and your loved ones a very enjoyable and healthy Easter.
I wonder if it's possible to write an Easter Romance. I'll have to think about that one. It would have to include chocolate. That reminds me, I hope you get lots of chocolate!
A Story That Was Meant To Be
clothing. I got to see buttons and fabric samples, zips etc. I already had an interest in fabric from learning to patchwork so that part of my day was the favorite. Samples would arrive from the upstairs workshop and I’d be asked to try it on to check the sizing. I dreamed of being a real model but had to admit my first love was fashion designer.
In my senior years at high school I talked about being a fashion designer and doing a diploma at The Melbourne College of Textiles. At the time the college was just down the road and around the corner so it seemed like a perfect fit for me. However I was advised it would lead to work as a pattern maker at best or a machinist at worst. I knew I didn’t want that, I wanted to draw and create things. I didn’t come from a rich family who could fund me going solo so I looked for a way to earn a living in an office. Working in the fashion industry gave me an opportunity to see behind the glamour and find out what the industry could be really like.
My to be released book the Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal, is the third and last book in the Baxter Sister Series. It's about the middle sister, Ruby. She's a talented fashion designer, but she struggles to stand up for herself. Only when she can does she find her way back to true love. I was inspired by those days working alongside fashion industry professionals but I wanted to know more about being a designer.
As luck would have it I was talking about the book to my travel agent who put me in touch with a working fashion designer. We met and I told her about the events in my book (a fashion designer who's had her designs stolen) and the setting in Melbourne, Australia and Jaipur, India to check for authenticity. She told me the book could have been about an experience she once had in the industry.
She gave me heaps of information which enabled me to understand the pressures a designer is under. She explained of the number of garments and how many collections per year she had to design to tight deadlines and importantly, the potential to have your work stolen is very real.
I was so lucky to have an afternoon talking to her and all she wanted was a salad from subway as a thankyou. While we ate, I filled a notebook as she talked about her time at a previous employer who’d sent her to India to work. She was so surprised that I’d used that city as the setting for the last portion of the novel.
With all of that being such a huge coincidence I feel that this book was meant to be.
Three Life Lessons From Reading Romance
Only when the hero and heroine help each other to deal with past hurt can they move on to love and be loved. I can’t remember where I read or heard the following quote but it really stuck with me.
‘You don’t need to find a relationship without emotional baggage; you need to find someone to unpack with.’
In my novel, 'The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover', both Angus and Natalie have devoted their lives to a charitable cause. It's their outlet for not having a child to love. Each believes they can’t be successful in a relationship but in working together to organize a ball, they help each other examine past hurts and discover their ability to be in a partnership again.
2. We all can change.
We learn about ourselves through relationships. All of us have grown up with a complete set of beliefs that have to this point helped us navigate our way through life but if we don’t challenge those beliefs and try something new we’re destined to go round and round repeating the same cycles and not even try to reach for our dreams.
Romance novel heroes and heroines have to shift their beliefs about who they are and their purpose in life. Sometimes they must even discard old dreams in favor of new ones in order to get to their happily ever after.
Elizabeth from Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice', had to change her belief that as rich man Mr Darcy is selfish and prideful. Mr Darcy has to get past the belief that a woman will marry for money, with or without love.
3. Never accept defeat.
Heroes and heroines may have set backs of the sort you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy but they always rally and have another go at trying again in a different way. They learn from their mistakes and misfortunes and are brave about having another go.
n real life, we need to understand that when we fail it’s a learning experience. In my own life, I’ve had to accept that a relationship needed to end, but I took time to examine my role in the relationship not working out. What would I do differently next time? I handle myself in a more healthy way in my current relationship.
Mr Darcy had to correct his haughty behavior to win Elizabeth. If he'd taken offence at her rejection and never saw the merits in her answer to his proposal, he'd have pushed her away. He'd never have won her in the end.
In 'The Italian Billionaires Secret Baby', Alessandro has made a colossal mistake walking out on his wife when she needed him most. She made the mistake a disaster when she left without telling him she was pregnant.
Believing she had to raise their child alone, she got on with it. When he finds out that his actions combined with her past experiences created a situation that put his child out of his life he tries to fix it. At first he acts in the same old way but he gets rejected. Instead of boarding the first plane back to Italy he sticks around and listens to her. He sees mistakes as fixable and tries to find a way to get his family back together. No matter what happens he’s learned not to walk away and give up.
Not giving up hope or belief in yourself as lovable and capable in life is the most important lesson I've gained from reading romance. I've been inspired and uplifted to keep going from reading romance. I've seen characters respond differently to the way I would have and it's opened my mind up to trying a new approach to difficulty and adversity. I hope my books are able to do the same for even just one person. It's about giving back and making a difference because it helped me so much in my life.
Here's a couple of books that resonated with me during difficulty in my life:
'The Boomerang Bride' by Fiona Lowe, a woman arrives in another country and finds the man she was to marry had scammed her. Instead of crumbling into a hysterical mess and blaming the world, she owns her gullibility and gets to work making a new life for herself.
'The Perfect Rake' by Anne Gracie. A family of girls are abused by their mad grandfather. They don't just put up with it and feel like victims, they plan and execute a daring escape.
Every romance I've ever read, has at least one strong heroine (sometimes two) who will find a way to change her world if that's what is in her best interest. Lastly I think Heroes in romance are amazing. They model just what a perfect man should be, flawed but trying hard to make things right. They care more than they want to at times, but they have hearts that just want to love a strong woman.
Because I was inspired by romance I didn't give up. I kept believing in myself as strong, lovable and that there was someone for me. I was rewarded with Sam. Here's a link to my post on how we met in A little Christmas Romance.
If you've been inspired by a romance novel you've read, I'd love to read about it in the comments below.
Autumn Romance is my Favorite
It’s finally autumn in Melbourne, Australia but it’s as though summer wants a last hurrah before departing for 2018. In a way, my romantic life is doing the same thing. Today I turn fifty-seven and yet I’m in a relatively new relationship. As you know, I’ve sold my unit and Sam, and I bought a house just over a year ago. So we're kind of just nearing the end of the honeymoon phase.
On my desk are the Valentines’ day bears he bought me, sitting under a bouquet of silk flowers that also inspire romance when I’m writing. This morning he gave me a birthday card and a gift voucher to Westfield so I can splurge on something special for myself. His sweetness keeps me feeling a bit younger than my years and is a little bit of summer although I’m in the autumn stages of my life.
Love and romance make me feel ageless in some ways, but in others, there’s a definite difference to spring romance. I don’t have the energy I did when I was young. Like the plants in my garden preparing for winter, slowing growth and conserving energy, I live life at a slower pace in my fifties. My days of dancing all night at a concert have been left behind in favor of gentler pursuits. Dining out and strolling along the pier hand in hand is life’s great pleasure now.
As I go through the seasons of my life, I find that in each one romance was present but maturing along with me. I know I’ll still be benefiting from having romance in my life as I move into winter also. But I must admit, autumn romance is the best yet.
My favorite book, ever, is Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion.’ Set in autumn, it reflects a mature love that has endured the rush of young love and disappointment, but is richer for their having had to wait. I also went on a kind of pilgrimage to Chawton, Jane Austen’s house museum and it happened to be in the autumn, so I was looking at the countryside she described in her book. I set my first book ‘The Scottish Billionaire’s Secret Lover’ in the UK in late autumn because it has that kind of second chance at healing a broken heart theme.
Being a romance writer gives me so much pleasure. I get to immerse myself in feelings of love whenever I sit at the keyboard. Autumn is a time when we can all take a breath and relax. After the heat and long days of summer, I look forward to taking a cup of tea and a romance novel out into my new garden where I’ll vicariously enjoy feelings of spring, summer, autumn or winter love every day. To be honest I love them all.
Why Read Romance?
Romance novels offer access to live vicariously through characters who suffer but find love. But instead of sitting around feeling like victims, waiting to be rescued, they act. When I'm closing the book after reading the final pages of a thoroughly enjoyed romance novel, I have a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. I’m left with a sense of being motivated to face the real adversity in my life with courage.
Having seen hero and heroine through the twists and turns of heartbreak and courageous acts to overcome emotional and material world obstacles, I am emotionally there with them when all their efforts pay off. When they have won success through effort and not handed it by some fateful lottery ticket, their victory is sweeter for the struggle. I feel uplifted, and empowered to act in my own life as a result of borrowed bravery. That is a lot.
Perhaps the uplifting effect of romance novels can explain what happened during the GFC (The Global Financial Crisis) when the publishing industry was hit hard. Editors lost jobs due to falling sales, authors lost contracts for future planned books however the romance genre defied the trend and sales remained strong, even growing.
The general popularity of the romance genre, is not just a recent phenomenon. It could be said that the popularity of the romance novel coincided with the industrial revolution and the rise of a middle class in western society when for the first time a large portion of women came to have funds available for discretionary spending. Romance sales have remained strong right through the 20th century and into the 21st.
Ever since the early nineteenth century when Jane Austen was taking her first steps into the publishing world with what would become classics, there has been a following. But through the ages, women’s lives are very often not like the happy ending of a romance novel. So what do readers find that is relate-able in the romantic stories with happy endings?
In my own life experience, I’ve been very sad with relationships ending and suffering from illness. But loss has to be endured and even illness to a certain extent heals, adjustments can be made to adapt your life to the new normal and positives can be found. The sad, difficult times don’t last forever. In romance books this is what happens. There’s healing of hearts and hopefulness at the end of the story.
In real life the happy times return but it could be months or even years before healing can work its magic. In a romance novel it happens at the end of the book, every time. While a mature sane woman knows the romance is a fantasy and real life won’t mirror it exactly the underlying message is that enduring difficulty will eventually pass.
Sexy scenes or not?
It is impossible to talk about the romance genre without considering the physical relationship between the hero and heroine. Many genres include love scenes of varying degrees of explicitness. The genre I write contains intimate sexy scenes between hero and heroine. I find it is a natural progression for my characters to physically act out what they are feeling. In romance novels the the love scene, be it sweetly sexy to highly erotic, differs meaningfully from pornography. It must be an emotional experience, relevant to the story and move the relationship between hero and heroine forward and advance the readers knowledge of their character.
What does the reader gain?
Carol Rinkleib Ellison, PhD, a psychologist and author of Women's Sexualities has some ideas I think make good sense. She is quoted on a 2011 blog by Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatals and Fantasy, where explores the idea that through reading romance, women are able to move out of their traditional roles and into their sexual self. She says, ‘Taking part in enjoyable activities such as walking with a partner, listening to music, having a glass of wine, taking a bath, or reading a romance novel can help put women in the mood for sex. These activities can help women shift into their "sex self" from their role as mother, wife, employer, or employee.’
I conducted a survey of my female friends on when they read romance. I found timing had to do with a need to alter their mood. They claimed to read romance when had have leisure time as a way of lowering stress. Each has the pressures of modern life, responsibilities of various mixtures of the following: career; children; partner; and balancing family or personal budgets. One friend said she likes to double the de-stress dose and read romance while taking a bath. Another said that reading romance provided a leisure activity she can do when she is physically tired. A friend who shifted in with her in-laws whilst her new house was being built retreated to the bedroom with a romance where there is peace and quiet after the children have been put to bed.
During times of stress we all need a bit of feel-good and pick-me-up. The romance genre seems to have found the right mix of ingredients that provide upliftment in a way that women find accessible. Be it finding her sexual self, the optimism of the happy ever after ending, or the sheer love of the romantic ride, the sales tell the tale. The more demanding a woman’s life is, the more she reads romance.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.