Friday, July 31, 2015

The Joy of Romance (With a Dash of Nostalgia!)

-->First of all, let me just say THANK YOU to Lorelei of Lorelei's Lit Lair for recommending me during Read a Romance Month. I'm so honored! To read Lorelei's orgininal post, click HERE. Also, I have a new website! Please feel free to stop by for more about books, packing, bucket lists, and more :)

Isn’t it funny how a smell, a taste, or a sound can define an era, a year, or even a moment in time? There is an elusive scent out there, one that I catch only once in a blue moon, but the moment I do, I am instantly transported to the magnificent library in the city where I went to college, Columbia, South Carolina. It’s the smell of thousands upon thousands of books, warmed by the heat of the southern sun through the glorious expanse of glass walls that so minimally defined the space. It’s flavored with a hint of the exotic—towering tropical trees grew freely in the bright space—and the subtle undertones of earthy stone and airy sky.

It was a library that lived like an art gallery . . . but then again, wasn’t that what it was? A pulpit for the art of imagination, a showcase for the mastery of story-telling that had been honed through the centuries of civilization? All that knowledge, all that adventure, all that delicious romance—a million books that seemed to encompass the entire universe and tackle every aspect of man in every possible time somehow fit neatly on a single city block. Each page, each book, each carefully designed cover was truly the culmination of so many authors hopes and dreams made tangible for us, the eager reader to devour.
And eager I was. Every Friday, I would slide into my ancient silver Volvo, turn the key and hope the beast would roar to life, ready to carry me to my favorite of all destinations. I had only spare change to my name back then, and I would happily cough up my precious nickels and dimes for the parking meter, buying me minutes and hours to soak up the row upon row of romance novels, surely the largest selection in the world.

This is where my love of historical romance began. No longer stuck with the underwhelming selection of my tiny hometown library, I discovered westerns first. The vivid works of authors like Lorraine Heath, Elizabeth Lowell, and Linda Lael Miller drew me deep into a whole new world, a different era where life was slower, and richer, and the untamed frontier stretched before us like an unpainted canvas. This is when I first discovered that simple words on a page could roar to life so fully, that nothing so trivial as sleep could keep me from finishing the book.

And then, one day, I picked up my first Regency historical novel. Oh, how my world changed that day. The dashing heroes, the plucky heroines, the dresses and manor houses and deliciously witty banter—all of it came together in a perfect storm of awesomeness that captured my heart like nothing else. I devoured Julia Quinn, Susanne Enoch, Lisa Kleypas, and so many more, happily losing myself in the crowded balls of London and sprawling green hills of the countryside. My days were filled with calculus classes, and physics exams, and oh-so-tedious organic chemistry homework, but my nights—oh, my nights, my friends, were for stolen glances, first kisses, and that perfect sigh of true love. If there is a greater joy out there, I haven’t yet found it.

It’s been over a decade since those days, and in those rare moments when I’m once again reminded of that scent, I can’t help but smile at the memory of the perfection of the hours lost in the world of possibilities. A building of stone, glass, and steel, holding all the secrets of the universe, giving life to the magic of imagination, and planting the seed of dreams yet to come.

Though I haven’t yet, it is so very tempting to take the 5-hour road trip back to the Richland County library, traveling 300 miles by distance and over a decade back in time to walk those hallowed aisles once more and see my own books on the shelves. I want to smell that perfect scent, and know that I am now a part of it in a way I would have never dreamed of all those years ago. I’d like to think that my books could be bringing that same joy to a college student that I experienced back then.

I think of that girl, who scrounged beneath the tattered blue seats of her car for an extra nickel so that she could have another ten minutes to wander those familiar aisles, sliding her fingers along the covers as she looked for her next adventure. What would she think if she knew her own book would someday be nestled among those authors she most loved and admired?

Once upon a time, my world was expanded a thousand times over thanks to the discovery of a library that valued romance novels. It makes me so happy—and a little teary—to think I can now give back in my own small, yet tremendously tangible way. Where once tiny seeds were planted, now the fruits of my dreams live. And that, dear friends, is the best happily ever after of all.
Five Question Time!  
1 - Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy. 
        When I was accepted into the college of my choice. I always wanted to fly the nest in grand fashion, and going to a school 8 hours away in an entirely new state was the most exciting prospect I could possibly imagine at that time :)
2 - Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.
        I rather think I just did ;) The Richland County Library was a true happy place! Other than that, Rough River in KY where Mr. Knightley and I fell in love the summer before our senior year of high school.

3 - Tell us about a sound that brings you joy (or a memory attached to sound — music, laughter, wind chimes… ?)
        The garage door opener. It means Mr. Knightley is home! 

4 - What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?
         I must have read How To Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn ten times over the years. As a person who rarely ever rereads, that's saying a lot! It just made my heart flutter every time :)

5 - And for fun, the joy of choice ;o) ~
         Summer. Almost all my favorite memories take place during the long, hot days of summer :)

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) - trying for a little diversity! ;o)
          Chris Pratt, because of his humor, his handsomeness, and his dedication to his wife and family.
Historical romance author Kelly Bowen and contemporary romance author Sonali Dev. Both are fairly new authors who are sure to delight :)
Despite being an avid reader and closet writer her whole life, Erin Knightley decided to pursue a sensible career in science.  It was only after earning her B.S. and working in the field for years that she realized doing the sensible thing wasn't any fun at all.  Following her dreams, Erin left her practical side behind and now spends her days writing. An award winning and USA Today Bestselling author, she is living her own Happily Ever After in North Carolina with her tall, dark, and handsome husband and their three spoiled mutts.  
Newest release: The Duke Can Go To the Devil
An Amazon and Goodreads best book of the month!