Let’s Talk About Love: Part One
by Donna Soluri
As a romance reader, we must be expected to love a good love story, no? I know I sure do. In fact, asking people about their most memorable love story is one of my favorite dinner party conversation topics…you remember dinner parties, right? Back in the “before times,” as I like to call it, when we could safely share a meal, laugh from our bellies, and fill our souls with intriguing stories from friends and strangers alike over a meal or drinks at a bar — carefree dinner parties. Since dinner parties are somewhat off the table for a little while longer, I thought I’d bring some of the fascinating conversations to you, socially distanced and cootie-free! I asked some romance author friends about their favorite love stories, and boy, did they come through with the entertaining content!
So much content, in fact, that we needed to split our post into not two, but THREE parts! Today is the first day and to get the ball rolling, I will share my favorite love story . . .
My parents were married for almost fifty years before my mother passed away over a decade ago. They were the cutest, most loving, embarrassingly grope-y parents the world has ever seen. They could not be in the same room without touching each other, kissing, or at the very least, making each other laugh. Their love was a glorious thing to witness. Even my most emo teenaged friends took notice of their love. My father passed away at the beginning of 2020 (not Covid related), and my older brother and I were tasked with cleaning out our family home of fifty years. Many memories for us to sift through, but my favorite would have to be the lucky discovery of my mother’s senior yearbook. My parents married the month after my mom graduated from high school, and my dad wrote my mother the sweetest, most romantic note in the back of her yearbook. He wrote about how she caught his eye down by the dam where they used to go wash their cars — this was the late 50s, early 60s in rural North Carolina, farm kids knew all the cool spots to gather! She caught his eye with her “shiny brown hair” sitting on the rocks in the sunshine by the water, but she won his heart when she “threw her head back and laughed a laugh he knew he wanted to hear every day for the rest of his life.” My dad was a quiet man with a huge heart filled with romance and love. He loved my mom every day of his life after that day at the dam, and he told her regularly, with secret notes my brother found in a shoebox, and with outward displays of affection he hid from no one. And my mom clearly loved him, too, as evidenced by all of her married name practice signatures on the yearbook page! Their love shaped the way I love, thus shaping how my kids see love, and I’ll cherish that, and that old, slightly battered yearbook, forever.
That’s my favorite love story, now, let’s see what the professional romance writers have to say! Some are family stories, some are favorite movies or books, all are personal accounts of love stories that touched their hearts and live inside them every day. We’ll be posting them over the next three days, so be sure to check back for more — and feel free share your favorite love story in the comments, we’d love to hear it!
THEIR LOVE SHAPED THE WAY I LOVE, THUS SHAPING HOW MY KIDS SEE LOVE, AND I’LL CHERISH THAT FOREVER.
Author of Tips and Tricks to Trap My Boss
My grandmother, Gert, a quirky and independent punch card operator, was speeding toward spinsterhood at the age of twenty-five. She couldn’t get there fast enough and finally put to rest the good-intentioned, yet terribly annoying, neighbors and relatives who always had a cousin or a friend of a friend who would be perfect for her.
My grandfather David was an aloof lawyer whose office was above a movie theater. All he wanted in life were his books, newspapers, and nightly constitutional around Staten Island. He joked with friends that he would like a wife one day, if only because he needed someone to eat the dark meat when he roasted chicken.
Gert grudgingly agreed to a date with David. David suggested a movie on Staten island where they both lived. Gert suggested a movie in upper Manhattan, a ferry ride and subway trip for David. He said he’d schlep, but only if he could choose the movie. Gert agreed. They saw a Marx Brothers film.
Gert tried to go her own way after the movie by telling David she’d prefer to walk to the ferry, but David jumped at the opportunity for a walk, so he joined her. For six miles. And David talked and talked and talked. Gert, he thought, was a great listener. Rarely did he meet people who were so interested in his esoteric interests.
For Gert, the long walk was anything but peaceful because, after a mile or so, she felt her panties loosening. “Loosened panties” isn’t a euphemism from the late thirties. Gert’s elastic waist was literally loosening as she walked, and she was trying her hardest to keep them on. A few times David suggested they pause on a bench because Gert’s gait suggested that she was tiring. Gert insisted they continue the walk. She knew if she sat the panties would certainly lose all elasticity.
So they walked and walked and walked, David completely oblivious to Gert’s predicament. Suddenly, Gert stopped. David watched her shimmy. Saw her panties drop to the ground. Gert stepped out of her panties and walked on, calling over her shoulder to David, who was staring at her panties on the ground, “What was that you were saying about the Peloponnesian War?” David jogged a few feet to catch up and asked her if she’d consider coming to his house for dinner one night. She said she’d think about it.
A month later he roasted her a chicken. He had a breast and she had the thighs.
For sixteen sweet years he told the story about getting Gert out of her panties on their first date. “Who knew she’d react like that to the Peloponnesian War?”
Author of Our Italian Summer
It’s funny when I look back and wonder where I heard the greatest love story. I automatically scrolled through family members — searching for that magic bullet and sigh worthy tale about first and forever loves, cute meets, or something worthy of a true romance novel. But none of my family members had them. Their stories were quite ordinary. A bit dull. Lord, my husband and I met at a bar. To me, it was charming, but not a story that changes you! This led me to looking at the media surrounding me to focus on what affected me the most as a young girl dreaming of my romantic future.
Old musicals were key. Mom and I used to watch them on loops, sighing over Yul Brynner as he danced his Anna around in The King and I, or Camelot and the juicy love triangle of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot, eliciting weepy tears of what-ifs. I watched Dirty Dancing a billion times, Grease a billion more, and each love story told built another block of my expectations and ideals toward my future.
Books, of course. Endless numbers of traditional Harlequin novels lining my bookcase, snuck under my desk in Math class, filled with broody alpha males and the women who tamed them. Savoring sex scenes as I sought to figure out how each fit into my own physical and emotional ideas of what love relationships could be about, though I knew they were fiction, and already bristled at the ridiculous critics’ comments that women who read romance have no sense of reality. Dumb asses.
I think, though, there’s a particular story that changed the way I saw and experienced love. It was both a book and movie called The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. The book is what captured me. The movie cemented its greatness.
Why? I’ve read thousands of love stories, so what made this stand out in the ocean of amazing books? Picking it apart, I realized the story was simple enough.
A married Idaho housewife meets a photographer from National Geographic while her husband and kids are away a county fair. Over a few days, they end up falling in love. She decides to leave her family because she cannot imagine life without her new lover. At the last moment though, she pulls back, and realizes she must stay. There is a heart-wrenching scene where her lover is about to leave town and sees her in the truck with her husband. As the rain pours mercilessly around them, she grabs the door handle, ready to jump out and go to him. Then he drives away, and she’s left with her constant regrets. They never see each other again. There’s this one particular scene that seared itself into my vision forever. They have a slow dance in the heroine’s small, yellow kitchen. This is the moment they truly fall in love with each other. The slide of their bodies and mingling of breath and shuffling feet over the worn linoleum, in the place she cooks for her family. It’s heartbreaking and poetic.
It’s also an awful story for a romance writer. It’s not a happy ending. But what stayed with me the most is how life is made up of a million small moments that lead to the big ones. The ones that define our lives. Our choices. The people we love and the journey we follow. She had a choice and she took that one path. But what if she’d taken another?
We’ll never know.
That’s a true love story.
Love is a series of choices. To fight. To leave. To stay. To be faithful. It’s not about right or wrong or judgment. It just…is. In another timeline, she ran off with her lover and her soul is satisfied. In the book, she did her duty and stayed — for her beloved family. It’s a choice that can haunt a woman. In another timeline, she ran off with her lover and her soul is satisfied. In the book, she did her duty and stayed — for her beloved family. It’s a choice that can haunt a woman.
In her death, she chose to have her ashes scattered where she first met her lover. She explained to her children, they had her in life. He would have her in death. Damn — that’s deep. And it affected me as I looked at my own love story as a series of choices and paths I made, with the occasional twist of Fate thrown in. It made me dream and think and ponder, even years after.
I still have the book on my shelves in a special place. I still stop cold when I fall upon the movie, holding my breath as Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood stare at one another and I’m swept away again.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I wish you your own epic love story.
LOVE IS A SERIES OF CHOICES. TO FIGHT. TO LEAVE. TO STAY. TO BE FAITHFUL.
Author of One Snowy Night
I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen forever, and for years, my favorite love story was Pride & Prejudice because of the complicated relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. But lately, I’ve been thinking about Persuasion, and the pair, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.
First, I have to say that I have a huge crush on Captain Wentworth (yes, I’m fanning myself). He’s the kind of hero we all want in our lives. But where Lizzie Bennet is a take-no-prisoners type of heroine with her wicked tongue, Anne Elliot is a straight arrow, always doing the right thing, helping others, and never causing trouble. But there is something amazing about Anne Elliot and her unwavering love for Captain Wentworth. Even seven years after their breakup, she still loves him faithfully and that makes me admire her. Her love for him has her growing in confidence, allows her to learn her own mind, and to not be swayed a second time by others so-called good advice and guidance, when there might be another chance for the man she loves.
As I said earlier, Captain Wentworth is a catch, plain and simple. He likes a straight arrow, a steadfast woman, a capable partner, one who understands duty, and after being around Anne again, he realizes once again that she is the only one for him.
And my favorite part of their love story? Captain Wentworth’s love letter to Anne at the end of Persuasion.
“I can listen no longer in silence…You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever…”
This letter is perfection and I root for Anne and the captain every time I reread Persuasion, a love story for the ages. A love story for us all.
Donna should be an empty nester, but she’s not, thanks COVID-19. She’s a voracious reader of all books; she can’t pick just one sub-genre. A staunch supporter of seasoned romance and a lover of cupcakes, you’ll often find her with a cup of tea and a mountainous TBR pile close at hand. Follow her @DonnaSoluri on B+M Bites.
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