Several for Valentine’s Day

I am the first to admit that I don’t enjoy reading romance novels. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never read them or enjoyed them.

One that sticks out in memory is Danielle Steel’s first book, The Promise. A good story; the overall theme of meeting “the one,” and never forgetting each other, even through a long separation and individual struggles, and being with other people in the interim. That always stayed with me–the never forgetting and never feeling really happy because the other person wasn’t with you, and you didn’t get the life you thought you’d have. Readers like the main characters a lot and root for them, and so it’s sweetly fitting when they are reunited at the end. The movie version had some unintended comedy scenes, though. Another of hers, Palomino, resonated because it was about a woman who becomes disabled. I viewed Steel’s work with more discernment after someone else said her books have lousy syntax (they do; and she has this irritating habit of repeating phrases and explaining things to readers that don’t need explaining). I gave up Danielle Steel’s books after a friend told me how she suffered through them because such terrible things happened to the characters. When I gave her The Gift, and she said, “I’m crying already” after reading the first chapter, I knew it was time to stop. But I did make time for Safe Harbor several years ago and liked it. I just don’t want to travel that road anymore.

As a preteen, I read Barbara Cartland voraciously. At least she had some historical basis for the works. Their day passed as well, as did Kathleen Woodiwiss’s books. I read Jude Deveraux’s The Enchanted Land at 15, for which I was teased unmercifully by school friends. Even my family said it was too old for me. They were right, but I read it anyway. I still think it’s a beautiful story even though I don’t have the book anymore. Winter’s Heart, by Catherine Ladame, was another favorite, but after awhile I became cynical about that one, and it went into the donation sack. I remember another friend saying that she never got into bodice-rippers; she tried one and eventually began rooting for the pirate-kidnapper rather than the air-brained heroine.

But this one I really love, even now, is Julie and Romeo, by Jeanne Ray. I mentioned this in an earlier post on reading and relaxation. We all know how Romeo and Juliet ends, and it’s a colossal downer. This version is modern, positive, hopeful, and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s about two 60-something florists. I especially liked the message that love is possible at any age and time, and can succeed past any barrier or circumstance.

While it’s a children’s book, A Spell Is Cast, by Eleanor Cameron, is another favorite and fits in, sort of, with Valentine’s Day. In it, an 11-year-old girl named Cory is trying to find out who she is and where she belongs in the world. There is mystery, a theme of unicorns, and a romance at its heart (two of the adults in the story find each other again just in time.). It’s beautiful…

In the paper today, there were the lovely how-we-met columns, the why-I-hate-Valentine’s-Day-essay, and a moving story about a couple, each 95, celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary. They used to go dancing, but can’t anymore. Their life has been rich and full, and still is, even though the wife has Alzheimer’s and the husband is facing other health issues. They love each other, look out for each other and take care of each other. There’s a lot to be said for sticking around–especially when life is tough.

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