This is cross-posted at The Season.
I’ve celebrated one Valentine’s Day in my entire life. One.
It was in 2003, and my boyfriend (now husband) and I had been together for three months. He hated the idea of a manufactured day of love, and tried to explain that he didn’t think love was about exchanging flowers and chocolates once a year.
But I was so excited to finally have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day that I insisted we celebrate it. What a mistake.
We were living in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and since my husband is English I decided to get him some nice loose-leaf tea and a teapot. He’d been teaching me how to make the perfect cup of tea and had often mentioned that loose leaf was far better than the bagged stuff we could afford.
Finding loose-leaf tea was no problem. There are dozens of tea shops in Prague. Finding masculine teapots, on the other hand…impossible. I spent weeks scouring every tea shop I could find, only to see hundreds of ceramics decorated with pink polka-dots or kittens. My husband is 6’3. At the time, he was playing rugby for a Czech team. I couldn’t picture him pouring tea from a kitty pot.
I showed up at my favorite café (a concession he had made for me, since he would’ve much rather been in a pub) and handed over the gifts I’d gotten him: two small bags of tea leaves with nothing to brew them in. I’ve never seen a man look so confused.
Then he gave me my gift, and my heart sank. It was awesome: a hardcover book of black-and-white photos of Prague, so I’d always remember the city we fell in love in.
Since that Valentine’s Day when I was so significantly out-classed by my husband, I’ve come around to his way of thinking. We celebrate dates and occasions that mean something to us as a couple and ignore Valentine’s Day.
This is cross-posted at The Season.
I will never be a kick-ass heroine. Oh, I’ve had adventures and am proud of the things I’ve accomplished, but I’ve come to understand myself well enough to know my limits.
I will never chase after a villain. In fact, the second I get nervous about a situation, I’ll leave as run away as I can. And I am not a natural runner.
I will never investigate a crime. If I witnessed one, I’d beg for police protection, even if it was just a pickpocketing.
I will never be someone’s bodyguard. I’d like to think I’d throw myself between my husband and a bullet, but I say this with the confidence of knowing his reflexes are much better than mine and he’d shove me out of harm’s way.
The bravest thing I’ve ever done was telling a friend that I liked him in a way that would complicate—and perhaps even end—our friendship. Fortunately, he returned my feelings and we ended up falling deeply in love and getting married. At the time, I was terrified – stuttering and shaking with nerves. Looking back, though, I remember that I was spending the night at his apartment that night, and he’d invited me to share his bed instead of sleeping on the floor, so if I hadn’t been so nervous and ignorant I would’ve caught his massive flashing signals of interest.
Friends often tell me they love reading books with kick-ass heroines. While part of me is drawn to heroines who have infinitely more gumption than I ever will, I feel much more inspired by women who struggle with—and overcome—everyday insecurities, as I have.
2010 is five-sixths of the way over, and already it’s the kind of year that has me counting toward its demise in fractions.
It’s been the toughest year of my adult life.
Not everything that’s happened this year has been awful. In fact, I’ve made lots of new friendships, developed new skills, and invested time in my dreams.
But combine all that excitement with managing The World’s Toughest Project at the day job (a project that had me working at least six days a week for a several months), and trying to comfort and distract my husband while his mother suffered through months of cancer treatment, and it all adds up to stress and exhaustion.
Mum-in-law’s now recovering well, and work has become manageable again, so it’s time to be thankful for all the people who helped me through – whether they knew they were doing so or not.
There are loads of friends I could thank here, but since I try to regularly let them know what they mean to me, I thought it’d be better to thank the authors I’ve never spoken to, who helped distract me without knowing it.
You’ve probably heard me complain before about the lack of romance in London. Of course, I’m not talking about the nooks and crannies where lovers can tuck themselves away for a bit of kissing (yeah, I’ve never really done it either), but the dearth of romance novels available to buy.
If you go into most bookstores – even big chain stores – you’ll find loads of chick lit, plus Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn. Most stores don’t even have a romance section. Amazon.co.uk has quite a few romance novels, but I often have to order from the US and pay extra for shipping.
That’s why I love the City of London libraries. For those of you unfamiliar with London, the City is the financial district. It’s not that big an area, but it’s got several fantastic libraries. The problem is that I’ve nearly exhausted their supply of romance novels, and, if I’m honest, I’d have to say that lots of what they call romance is actually chick lit or just rubbish.
So a few weeks ago I emailed them to suggest a long list of books I thought they should own. The assistant director got back to me today to say most of my list was either out of print (the real classics of the genre) or didn’t have a UK distributor (and here I was hoping libraries had a way around the problems I’ve faced!).
But they were able to order about a third of the novels on my list. So I thought I’d post them here, in case you’re reading this in London and want to read a terrific romance novel. Granted, some of these I haven’t read, and at least one is yet to be published, but they’re by authors who rock my socks off and have gotten great reviews.