Meg's Blog

Comfort Reads

Big news: Pants on Fire will be Number 6 on the New York Times Children’s Chapter Bestseller List! So thanks, everybody!!

Who saw The Office last night? Was Pam amazing or WHAT???? How much do you want to bet Karen is going to get the job? And how awesome was Gilmore Girls (which I’ve started watching again…I’ve always hated Logan)? And Jericho—sweet mother of God, I can’t wait till next season.

Anyway, a number of you wrote to assure me that the letter to Dear Abby about girls getting pregnant at the prom on purpose wasn’t a hoax because there are (gasp) pregnant girls in your class. Okay, I don’t want to fault your math skills or anything, but if they are pregnant and showing it in your class NOW, they didn’t get pregnant at THIS YEAR’S prom, and if they got pregnant at LAST YEAR’S prom, they’d have had the baby by now. So they are just pregnant. Period.

As far as there being pregnant girls in your class, THAT I totally believe, since our current administration has spent nearly $1 billion on abstinence programs aimed at persuading young people (wrongly) that condoms are not effective at preventing pregnancy or STDs. This is one reason that we have the highest rates of teen pregnancy of any Western country, despite the fact that our teens are not more sexually active than Swedish teens, or Canadian teens, or British teens.

So why the vastly different pregnancy rates? How about this: Because we don’t educate about birth control in sex education classes; we don’t discuss it at home; we don’t give teens good access to it; and we don’t advertise it in our media. Other countries do, and they are rewarded with low rates of teen pregnancy. So, gee. Go figure.

So, your news comes as no shock to me, and is why another non-profit organization that will get a large chunk of my royalties after I die (besides the ones listed here) is Planned Parenthood.

Moving on, some of you noticed that I had a picture of my Most Awesome Romance Novels I Will Never Throw Away Shelf in my last blog entry, and you asked me to tell you a little about them. So long as all of you promise to get the true facts about sex to share with your friends/sisters who are going to prom, so they have more than just a corsage for protection, I will oblige you.

But first, a little back story:

I grew up a mostly straight A (with the occasional F in Algebra) student in a college town where almost everyone I knew looked down on romance novels because they thought they were trashy or a waste of time. Since I, on the other hand, loved them, I had to read them in secret, or I thought people would look down on ME.

All that changed when I became a published romance novelist myself. That’s when I found out that without the money from romance novels, a lot of those literary novels my friends and teachers thought were so great would never have gotten published at all.

Now I just feel sorry for people who don’t read romance. Because they so don’t know what they are missing out on. (And to all my friends who read paranormals and think they’re not reading a romance novel because one of the characters is a werewolf or vampire and the cover has fruit or a flower on it or there’s no sex or whatever: Get over it. If the main story line concerns two characters who are in love, you’re reading a romance novel.)

I have read a LOT of romance novels, but I have only KEPT a few. I have a shelf of these keepers that I have taken with me from dorm room to apartment to house to house, and from which I would never part, no matter what. I can’t really tell you what it is about these books that’s so special to me. Some I have read many times, and some I have read only once. I just know that they’ve comforted me in some way, and so they became a Keeper. They are what I consider COMFORT READS.

Here is just a small sampling of some of MY favorite romances, in random order, not by preference:

WARNING: STOP READING NOW IF YOU ARE IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO IS OFFENDED BY HOT, JUICY, RACY READS PUBLISHED MOSTLY IN THE 80s and early 90s (I stopped reading romance when I started getting published in it, in the late 90s, so don’t expect to find any of your favorites, like Julia Quinn or Eloisa James here. I love those ladies to death in real life, but we’re talking about books I read BEFORE I ever even tried to become a published author. If you are a lifeguard, you don’t vacation on the beach…get my drift?):

In Judith McNaught’s Perfect, a pretty young school teacher gets taken hostage by a hot movie star who was wrongfully incarcerated for a crime he did not commit, and he’s intent on proving who the guilty party really is. Did I mention that he’s a hot movie actor? And that he didn’t do it? And that he’d been incarcerated for a really really long time? And that they end up in his mountain hideout? And that the pretty young school teacher is….A VIRGIN???? Oh, yeah. That’s all you need to know about that. You know where we’re headed. And it’s bliss.

Okay, I just now realized some crappy guest of mine STOLE my copy of Nora Roberts’ BORN IN ICE, and for that, he or she must DIE, because I had all the good parts dog-eared. So, I had to steal this image of a copy that’s like mine off eBay (you can still buy it in regular stores, just not with that cover). Anyway, this girl runs a bed and breakfast and this writer comes to stay there and she’s kind of shy and he brings her out of her shell. If you know what I mean. There are two other books in this trilogy, BORN IN FIRE, which is really good, about the girl’s sister who is a glass blower. BIF has totally great glass blowing details, and one time my mother-in-law (this was before the HIDEOUS BOOGER INCIDENT), took me to a glass blowing shop, and it was really exciting because I knew what was going on entirely thanks to Nora’s BORN IN FIRE. There’s also BORN IN SHAME, which is about the sister they didn’t know they had. Nora Roberts is the queen of romance and just got named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and rightfully so, because she is the best at what she does. BORN IN ICE is my favorite book of hers, though I’m sure you have your own favorite. BII is just mine. I don’t even know why. And now I have to go find who took my copy and kick their ass.

Alaina is a Southern girl who lives during the Civil War and is in some kind of trouble for something so she has to disguise herself as a boy and this hot Yankee doctor comes along and she falls in love with him, but she can’t tell him she’s a girl (don’t even ask, I just skipped that part). Then one night because she’s in her nightie and he’s very very drunk, he mistakes her for a lady of the evening, so she has sex with him (her only chance, because he thinks she’s a boy during the day, duh, and because she has to shut him up or they’ll get arrested or something. Look, my memory on the details are a bit sketchy. I just know it was good when I was 19 or whatever). He has a super good time, so gives her his Army ID tags in gratitude.

But the next morning Alaina’s conniving sister realizes what’s gone on, and jumps into bed with him (because he’s way rich of course), so he wakes up thinking he’s slept with HER, even though he doesn’t even like her. But because he had a good time, and he’s a nice guy and all, he marries her anyway. But he soon figures out the sister wasn’t his “special lady” because a) she isn’t any fun in the sack and b) she doesn’t have his dog tags!

And Alaina can’t tell him the truth because of the thing she’s in trouble for—whatever it is, which I never figured out, because I never read that part, because this book is super long!

Of course you have to keep reading to find out: Will he ever figure out his mistake? And will they ever have sex again? I think it’s almost guaranteed. And you SO want to be there when they do.

I don’t really remember what this book is about, I just remember that I really liked it. Also, I had to post a picture of it here, because check out that cover. That’s Fabio, people.

I think the girl in this story disguises herself as a boy for some reason and stows away on a boat and the guy figures it out pretty fast and there’s Big Time Sex, and it’s AWESOME. That’s really all you need to know.

Except that I’m pretty sure Fabio is wearing blue eyeshadow on that cover.

Oh, yeah. Totally. Blue eyeshadow. Go, Fabio! Go!

I had to throw in a Susan Mallery Sheik novel because they’re Tina Hakim Baba’s favorites. Sometimes I think that Susan Mallery’s Sheik novels are all that stand between us and the apocalypse. Well, that and Doctors Without Borders and Operation Smile and people like that. Feel free to use that quote if you want to, Susan’s publisher.

Speaking of sheiks….

Penny Jordan’s Daughter of Hassan was one of the first romance novels I ever read. It’s so ROMANTIC!!!!! And okay, it’s not the most feminist piece of literature ever written (but it’s not as sexist as The Sheik by EM Hull–which is still VERY good, by the way, but I would probably read Robin McKinley’s feminist response to it, The Blue Sword, in addition to it. I say PROBABLY because I’ve never ACTUALLY read it, I’ve just been told that I SHOULD. But…instead I read Johanna Lindsay’s not-so-feminist response to The Sheik called Silver Angel which I REALLY recommend, but I don’t actually own it anymore because one of my ex-roommates STOLE it, that’s how good it is. Or maybe it was hers to begin with, I don’t remember. Anyway, it ROCKS), but…wait, where were we?

Oh yeah. Daughter of Hassan. So ROMANTIC!!!!!

If you are like most people, you think Barbara Cartland just wrote lame historical romances that had no sex in them and featured virgins who had to be rescued all the time.

Well, guess what? You’re wrong. Barbara also wrote these COMPLETELY PSYCHOTIC contemporary romances featuring kickass heroines who were unlucky in love. In this one, Fleur works for the French Resistance during World War II (you read that right. THE FRENCH RESISTANCE) but her French resistance lover betrays her so she goes into service (translation: gets a job as a lady’s companion) back in England for this incredibly wealthy industrialist’s eccentric, bed-ridden mother.

What Fleur doesn’t know is that the incredibly wealthy industrialist, who has completely revolutionalized motor engines (or something) and is helping England to get a leg up in the war against the Germans, is falling madly in love with her because she doesn’t look down on him. See, he isn’t a nobleman, even though he now owns the big fancy manorhouse his ex-wife used to live in (he got it in the divorce). He’s just a really smart guy from the wrong side of the tracks (literally) who got rich inventing things.

But all his ex-wife’s snobby friends think he’s trash. Fleur is the first girl who’s ever judged him on his own merits…and she’s secretly falling in love with him, too!

But just as romance blooms, disaster strikes! The wealthy industrialist’s ex-wife announces she’s dying…and her last wish is to die in the house in which she was born, the manorhouse the wealthy industrialist got in the divorce after his wife cuckolded him (oh, yes, I said cuckolded). The wealthy industrialist refuses…until Fleur convinces him it’s the right thing to do, knowing, even as she does so, that any feelings he might have begun to have for her will shrivel (JUST LIKE HER EX-LOVER’S) as he realizes she’s on his snobby wife’s side—even though she’s not!

What happens next? Well, this book is still available online. I checked. So get a copy and find out for yourself!

Rock on, Barbara. I love you. Fight the power. Even though you’re dead. (Special note: Anwar Sadat used to read Barbara Cartland novels at night to calm down in the bathtub after his long days at peace summits.)

Is this the dishiest romance novel cover you have ever seen? You won’t believe it from the cover, but this is the BEST book. See, the lady gets sent by the publisher she works for to FORCE the guy to dictate his next novel to her, so she can type it up, because he’s a famous writer, and his book is due (because publishers so do this, but whatever).

But he’s busy working on his dream house (thus the title…duh)!

Anyway, she’s cute, so he sort of figures, whatever, he’ll work on the dream house during the day, and in the evening he’ll dictate the novel (in between trying to get her to have sex with him). So he does. And in the day he works in TINY CUT OFFS. And when he gets hot he takes dips in the local watering hole (it’s set in Australia or something) NAKED.

And it WORKS. She is very prim and proper, being in publishing and all. But soon, she totally wants to have sex with him (plus, the novel he’s dictating is very sexy. And it’s summer, so it’s hot). Before you know it, they’re kissing over the place.

Then disaster strikes…in the form of home building accident and another woman!

Also, there are puppies. PUPPIES!!!!!

Will they get together? I will never tell. You can still buy copies of Dream House by Victoria Gordon used online, too.

Okay, this book RULES. If you like Beauty and the Beast stories, this is for you. There’s this girl and she gets sold by her drunk dad at auction (because in olden times you could sell your daughter if you were short on cash) and this deformed lord (OR IS HE???) who wears a mask over his face buys her, and he’s SUPER RICH and mysterious and lives in the local mansion, and OH MY GOD she has to Do It with him, but what she doesn’t know is….

Oh, sorry, I can’t tell you. You will have to read it for yourself.

Well, that’s it for my romance comfort read shelf. There are others, but I don’t have space to list them ALL here. Maybe we’ll visit the shelf again when we have more time. Remember: ALL OF THE ABOVE BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE IN YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR ONLINE.

I just hope that someday the rest of the world will be able to accept romance readers as Real People, and that we’ll be able to live together as one, each respecting one another’s reading choices, with no one looking down on one another (well, maybe we’ll all look down on the people who read The Secret and the Left Behind series. Because, come on).

Until then, remember what Officer Friendly always says: No Rubber—No Way!

Meg ‘n Officer Friendly, keepin’ it real with the ‘rents, 1986
(That’s a romance I’m reading in that picture. Note that I have my own personal bodyguard to ward off anyone who tries to diss me about it.)

More later.

Much love,