As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. When I was a child I used to fill notebooks with long stories, all about the hair-raising adventures of super-hero children. When I grew up, however, I did not immediately proceed to becoming a writer. There were two main reasons. First, life intervened. I moved from Wales to Canada and started a career as a high-school English teacher; and I married and had three children. There was no time for anything else. Second, and perhaps more important, I didn’t know what I wanted to write. Fiction, yes. But what kind of fiction? Literary fiction, probably, but my mind always turned blank when it came to plot ideas. Genre fiction, then? I had always loved mysteries. I still do. But my mind didn’t seem to work in the right way to enable me to create one. I imagine that writing a mystery takes a great deal of planning and plotting, something that again turns my mind blank. I am what is known as a seat-of-the-pants writer. Romance, then?
That was way beneath my dignity, surely. It is strange how an academic education can give one that attitude even though it is usually based upon just the opposite of what an education is supposed to teach—that is, that an opinion ought to be based upon facts and personal research. I had never read a romance.
Or had I?
I was a voracious reader as a child and as a teenager. I read almost all the British, American, and Russian classics as well as some from other nations. My feelings about them varied. I loved books like ANNA KARENINA, TESS OF THE D’URBAVILLES, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES even though I found the endings excruciatingly painful. I knew something about those books, though. I would never read them again—because I would not be able to take those endings again or enjoy the book itself knowing how it would end. On the other hand I adored books like JANE EYRE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and PERSUASION and knew I would read them over and over again. The reason? They had lovely, happy endings, and they were love stories. They left me feeling happy and uplifted. They were romances.It took me a while to work that out!
I discovered the actual romance genre when I opened a Corn Flakes box one day and pulled out a Harlequin romance (NO GENTLE POSSESSION by Anne Mather). I almost tossed it in the garbage can (such is the power of an academic education) but read it instead. I was enchanted. I proceeded to read every romance I could lay my hands on, like a person who had been starved for most of her life. I found the books patchy. Many I loved; many were all right as light entertainment; many were disappointing. I found this last group shallow, with improbable plots, cardboard characters of no depth, love that did not have to be worked for and therefore did not convince me that it was love, and endings that left me unmoved. Some books failed (for me) in all of the above.
The lesson for me as a potential writer was obvious. I loved reading a good romance. And much of what I read was good or better. But much was not. I found myself wanting to rewrite parts of some books, particularly the endings. But—something I still strongly believe in—one ought never to try rewriting or adding to someone else’s book. And there was no point in grumbling and complaining (to myself) that I could have done so much better myself.
Prove it! Write your own romance,an inner voice said.
So I did.
I write what I love to read. I believe in love. Not just romantic love, but love in all its many manifestations. I believe it is powerful, unconditional, enduring, life-changing. I believe it is the basis of all goodness and happiness. But it is something that has to be worked for, especially if it is romantic love and involves a relationship with another person that will last a lifetime without turning to indifference or hatred. Love does not come on a wave of lust, though lust can be a healthy part of it. I want a love story to have substance, to seem very much like real life, to show two people who have considerable baggage, who are in some way broken by past experiences and need to face up to that baggage and find healing. I want to bring them in the course of a book to the point at which they can give love and receive it consciously, with a firm commitment to work on it for the rest of their lives. I want them to be involved in each other’s growth and healing. And I want the reader to have warm, sympathetic feelings about these characters, to fall in love with them, to root for them–and to enjoy the journey from the first page to the last.
I don’t believe in happily-ever-after either in real life or in fiction. I want my readers to be confident that there is real happiness awaiting the couple who are so joyful and deeply in love on the last page. But I want that confidence to come from an understanding of those characters, not just from my say-so. I want readers to trust them and believe in them as though they were real people.
Most of all, perhaps, I write romance because it is my way of sharing the love that is within me. I am a bit of a shy introvert in person, but never in my writing. There are outlets for love available to all of us.
Please leave a comment below by Wednesday, September 12, 2018, for a chance to win one of two Mary Balogh tote bags shown below.
[September 12: The winners of the two tote bags are MELISSA RENNER and MARTHA JUDITH DURICK. Congratulations to them, and thank you everyone who left a comment. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.]
Romance novels show us different kinds of love (between a couple, between siblings, between friends,…) That’s why I like to read them. 🙂
I so totally understand your feeling that a romance should end differently! Sometimes (just to clarify, I don’t mean in your books!) I just feel the HEA is undeserved by either hero or heroine; or unbelievable as the characters had been portrayed. I am so happy to see your definition of a committed and trustworthy love relationship between the protagonists, the idea of characters having to face and battle their own problems to earn/deserve their happy outcome . I also enjoy it very much when the conflict is both the protagonists’ fault at some level, rather than one being at fault and the other solely a victim.
Thank you for creating such wonderful books!
Love your books! They are timeless. I have read them over and over when no new books are available. Keep up the good work!
I can’t remember my first romance book but from the time i was a young girl and picked up my first romance book, I was hooked. And i tell you that reading historical romance book taught me a lot of history and geography and helped my grades in both of these areas. So you see reading romance books educates.
I read romance to feel happy – therefore I need an HEA – I stopped reading one author because she killed off the main female character (it really upset me). I love historical romance because I love history – I’ve learned more about European history thru novels than I ever learned in school. Contemporary romance can make me feel better about our current world. Paranormal romance and romantic suspense can be exciting and make me feel full of energy.
ps – Mary – you are a favorite author of mine and I am on a quest to read all of your backlist!
I love to read romance books contemporary or historical!! I really like your books, good stories!!
You’re books are wonderful and enjoyable to read. I cried and I laughed. Keep them going. Thank you!
As the world becomes increasingly chaotic, I find myself drawn more and more to romance. I love to enter a world where love and virtue triumph and where evil is often “hoist on its own petard”. I especially love historical romance where I can escape to a world moving at a slower pace. I have been accused of living in a fairy tale. It was intended as a put down, but I thought, “how lovely!”
I enjoy your reading style. I no longer feel critizied for reading a romance novel.
How beautifully written this is and so wonderfully true. Romantic love stories have always been my escape and I thank you so much for the many glorious Mary Balogh romances I have read and look forward to read. Love will always win our hearts?
I have a similar story. I’ve written since I was very young, originally made-up stories but now mostly real-life tales, particularly about my goofy kids. I began reading romances around age 12, and my favorites involve love mixed with humor. I also used to mentally rewrite some stories that didn’t satisfy, and wondered if I could/should try to write one. But I’ve never written anything that length, and haven’t written fiction in years. Where to start? My youngest has just entered high school and I suddenly have more time on my hands. I’m figuring out where to go from here. 🙂
You are one of my favorite authors, by the way. The characters are realistic and have depth, their interactions are true to their personalities, and the HEA renews my hope for this world.
My reading was much more varied when I was younger. Nowadays most of what I read is Romance, Mysteries or Biographies. I am an unabashed romance junkie. I love me a love story, and you write them better than anybody.
What I like most about your writing is the depth of the characters you create. At the end of the book, I believe that these characters will make it through life. Not a fairy tale HEA, but the happily ever after that will endure the troubled and dry spots they will face together in their future. I have known people like that in real life, so I know it exists.
So glad you started your blog again.
Now I understand better why I like your books so much and like to reread them. I just love to get to know your characters and keep up with their lives in other books. Thank you for the endless entertainment your writing offers.
Yes! You have captured my thoughts completely! I love a good romance. And love a writer whose characters have depth that transcends the pages and makes you feel as if you know them personally. Thant’s why I like to collect books by certain authors who I know will give me that feeling of kinship.
I started out with Mary Stewart, gothic, and later Harlequin books which were easy to transport and fast reads. I delved into the library to find more books, where not all filled that space I had to fill with lightness and contentment when a story resolves happily.
And so I return again and again to my favorite authors, including you!
We all need romance, weather in real life, or in the chance to be the Heroine in one of your books (In make believe) of course, I get so engrossed in your books that I imagine I am her, as I am sure all your readers do.
That’s why I enjoy your books so much. Thank you for your books.
I thoroughly enjoy romance novels, not those it’s graphic sex scenes, but romance. It’s relaxing. Hubby calls my romance novels Hallmark Movies in a book. That’s about right.
I fall into romance novels whenever I need a reminder to look for the love and beauty in the world: it’s always there, sometimes my eyes are simply closed. Yours in particular are the BEST for finding beauty and joy again!
I love romance novels because they teach me that true love is possible if you work at it. It’s not movie love, it’s book love where I can imagine myself as one of the characters and maybe gain some insight to some problem I might have. It shows me that happy endings do happen!
Thank you for sharing how you became a writer.
I was widowed twenty years ago and I miss that wonderful man every day! Your books are a joy to read anytime, but especially in the late evening when there is no one with whom to share. I love the witty dialogue which often makes me chuckle out loud. Romance novels bring a lot of joy!
I do admit that I add Historical Romance as my category. And I love that I do add to my knowledge each time I read another happy ending. Thank you.
As I get older, I find that the enjoyment I received from reading historical romance has increased. Your stories are more complete than those of some of the other authors and therefore more meaningful and complete. I used to like mysteries and contemporary romances, but now I gravitate to the authors who write believable love stories set back in the 18th and 19th century. Thank you for your beautiful books.
I love read this, dear Mary! I hope you keep writing for a long time, romance and things like that on your page! Is very interesting to know more about you! You’re the best writer ever!
I love to read romances mainly because I like a happy ending . As a iCU nurse I want something to take me away from the real world for a while
Hi Mary. Love your books. A great escape for me and I’m sure for many of your devoted readers. I would be proud to tote your red tote to my next afternoon tea with my daughter. Thank you for feeding our Romantic souls.
I love reading romance books! I love how you can take two perfectly unperfect people, bring them together, and find a perfect (for them) love, dispite or sometimes because of those flaws.
I love your books! The characters, the happy endings, and the sense of family togetherness in some of the series. Your ability to weave stories together is awe inspiring. Plus, my sister would ove one of your totes!
Thanks for proving it!
Nothing better than good romance book. I became adicted romance reader. It is always interesting to search and find new one. I reread your books again and again, thank you very much.
Yes to Romance! My Mother was a huge fan. I think we used to tease her about her preference for Romance. I get it now.
For many years I wanted to be a romance author. My heart was there, but the gift I was given was for technical writing. I’m so glad you and others were given this gift of writing from the heart. Your characters can help me escape, enjoy and feel. Thank you.
Growing up, I remember my elderly neighbour, Miss S (who was like a grandmother to me), read romance novels constantly. Afterwards, she would rate them based on how the entire “environment” was depicted in the book, i.e., did it make her feel like she was actually there. She once told me that the books took her to many places around the globe (and she liked to travel). I picked up my first romance novel when I was 11, and I was hooked. The romance genre, particularly the historical romance genre, makes me happy; and I am a firm believer that we should seek out what brings us happiness and embrace it.
If it is a good story I don’t care under which ‘label’ critics put them. And those book choices of critics of ‘serious literature’ never have been my cup of tea. Live is too short and too serious to waste my time with reading about other people’s problems.
So please stick with your style of writing. And I can’t wait till it’s November.
You are one of my favorite authors Mary and I have been reading your books for 20 yrs! Why historical romance? I loved to escape to another place and time! Learn new things and I am a true romantic at heart! ❤️
It seems that my original comment ended somewhere in the depths of the www.
Romance is just a label and to tell the truth give me any of your books than one of those these critics praise, because I know I’ll enjoy your story telling
I love all of your books! I started reading romance in University, but have always read voraciously ( fiction and non fiction)
What is life, if not with romance? The most Wonderful feeling is the feeling of being in love and being loved, besides being a mother.
However, not all writers can bring out that feeling in me, but you have, in several of your books and anthologies. When I am blue I just have to delve into “More Than a mistress” or the Regency anthologies and the world is so much more beautiful. Thanks Mary!
Why romance? Because it has disappeared from my life. Because I never had love growing up and had my heart broken a couple times as an adult when what I thought was love wasn’t. Because I can feel what love should, and could, be in the pages of a well-written book.
I was once the entire staff of a small town library. We were just getting started and many wonderful people donated books to help us out. I could not understand why in the world all these intelligent women were bringing in romance novels. I did not read them and could not understand why anyone would.
Then My Life Changed. I moved to a new city and started going to the library in order to find books to read.
I found Until You by Judith McNaught. I then understood about why people read romance novels. I have read many romances since then. All types of stories about love between a man and a woman. Most of them are also populated by families and friends who love and care for one another.
I have found books which have humor (which is important to me), some which have mysteries and all of them continue to tell me there are happily ever afters in the world.
Eventually, I found books by Mary Balogh. I now have most of them in print. I am grateful.
Not certain what happened, but my comment seems to have disappeared. I am a fan of romance and I a fan of Mary Balogh books.
This is why I love your books; it’s truly as if you are telling a true story about a couple from history.
Some other romance novels I have read do seem to force characters together and make the relationship unrealistic.
I’ve never finished one of your novels feeling disappointed.
Ever since I was a young teenager, I have been drawn to historical romances..I would check out stacks of books from the library and just get so immersed in the reading and the characters. I grew to love European history, especially in the Regency and Victorian era. After 40 some years it is still my favorite genre to read, and is preferred over contemporary romance. I enjoy reading your novels and never fail to escape through the eyes of your characters. I enjoy every book and series of yours that I read, and look forward to reading many more! Thank you for never disappointing and always providing a good read and escape!
I’m so glad you discover your love for romance!
The substance of your characters is what I enjoy the most… learning what has made the individuals who they are and how they are now ready for a relationship with the other. Wulfric and Christine, Percy and Imogen and so many others. I stopped reading “romance” a long time ago because of little in the way of substance and forced situations. I have been happy to be reintroduced through your writing and others like Loretta Chase.
My father-in-law is this super-smart guy with a degree in classics. Reads Greek and Latin and speaks a ton of languages. Giant library in the basement (no romances there though!!) Anyway he has always made fun of people who read romance novels (ie., me). Then this summer he says to me, “You know what is far and away the best-selling genre of book?”
“Romance,” says I.
“Romance!!” he says in this tone of complete surprise.
What!? You mean no one’s reading the Iliad for fun? I guess all that blood and gore and war and murder and tragedy isn’t really what people enjoy! *eyeroll* I mean, don’t mind me. I’m off to read “Devil’s Cub” for the forty-fifth time. 🙂 🙂 🙂
I love to read romance stories, especially yours. Your characters are so real to me. I enjoy how they become aquainted and form a true friendship. I’m so glad you decided to be a romance author.
I love to reread my favorite romance books every year or two. I’ve reread yours many times. Please keep them coming!!
It’s amazing, the elitism that a “literary” education can lead to, isn’t it? For years, romance has been a much-maligned genre. There are two reasons for this. Reason one: over time, our literary community has come to be afraid of happy endings. Look at all the books that are considered “noteworthy” in the modern era. Most of them are dark, angsty, depressing. I took a class in early twentieth century literature in college (I too was an English major), and I commented it should have been called “twentieth century depression”, because everything was. It was all depressing. We have this idea in our minds that for the fiction to be worthwhile, it has to be “deep”, and that “deep” is synonymous with struggle and pain and dark endings. The other reason is pure and simply that they are books written by women (mostly), for women. And we live in a world where anything by and for women is free game for scorn, is automatically seen as lesser. Men’s entertainment is serious business; women’s entertainment is silly fluff. There’s a lingering idea that “male perspective is for everyone, female perspective is only for females”. This misogyny is deep-rooted in our culture and while people are seeing it and calling it out, we still have a long way to go before it’s gone. Part of getting rid of it is to encourage the creation of more of these works, and the readership of them, and to own that readership and not allow ourselves to be shamed for that which is not shameful. I am so glad you were able to move past those ingrained mindsets and keep giving us excellent, top-notch creations. I’ve been reading your books since the age of about fourteen, and I don’t want to have to stop any time soon!
I prefer reading historicals, but do enjoy reading other genres. I like funny and witty dialogue. I enjoy seeing your characters “grow” as we read more of thoughts.
I never read a romance book until I discovered yours. Then I had to read your entire backlist. It took a few years to find all of them. I await each book
My comment disappeared too. Oh well. I just wanted to say that I have read very one of your books(I do believe). I started a long time ago. And have never been disappointed. And I outdone really love having one of your book bags. Thank you for all you do ?
I love books on romance, but I love those that develop the characters and story lines that are believable. No ones life is perfect and a book that shows such a life is a fairy tail. The bad guys should have some redeeming qualities and the good guys don’t have to be perfect. Love reading your books. I appreciate the ability to create a world that comes to life in my imagination while reading each page. I don’t read the end of the story first because it is so much fun to see how the characters got to that point.
Romance books take me to “my dream world”…..
What a wonderful discovery it is to find that even YOU, goddess of all things sublimely, elegantly historical, had doubts and challenges when you began. You have inspired me! As far back as I can remember I have always been a dreamer. During the past few years I have dreamed of writing and even belonged to and facilitated a writing group for a short while. Sadly, the group disbanded, life intervening for many of the participants. I’ve been reading voraciously and have literally been dreaming of the books I’ve read. I feel as if I have my own story brewing in my dreams. Reading this blog entry of yours is just what I needed to restart my own writing routine. Thanks for that! Now, a lovely tote would really be just the daily reminder I need.
I love romances and I favor Regency and Victorian England. Since I am escaping I may as well leave the country and the era!
Think of me as Belle (Beauty & the Beast). I love to read. Mostly historical romance as I enjoy the clothing of the period. And when the Beast asks Belle to open her eyes in the library? I know exactly how she felt. The whole world at her fingertips!
That takes me back! Anne Mather was one of the Harlequin Presents writers when I was a teen in the 70s. They were a little more sexy than I was looking for as a teen so I stuck with the regulat Harlequins. Until my dad bought me my first Batbata Cartland. That hooked me on historicals and I havent looked back! You are one of my faves!
I often want to rewrite parts of books that I have read. Maybe I was an editor in a former life. Or maybe I should have been one in this life.
There is so much pain and unhappiness in the world. It is refreshing to read books with happy endings. They can be wonderful stress relievers for me.
Such a big fan, Mary! Your writing lifts my spirits in such a stressful time in my life. I just retired, and things aren’t going as smoothly as I’d hope. But your books are always there to take me to another place, and I can’t thank you enough for that.
Your books are such a joy! Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with so many people!
Why not romance? It’s a balm for realities of life we encounter everyday, makes things more bearable. Mary, I’m sure I’m one of a multitude, but I am just so glad you chose this genre. Your stories are the perfect blend of joys & sorrows, conflict & resolution, then ultimately much-deserved happiness. It was a lucky day for me when I came across my first Mary Balogh novel, More Than a Mistress. It is my sentimental favorite. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your awesome talent with us.
I’m a fellow introvert. I’ve loved reading romance ever since I discovered them as a teenager.
Thank goodness you found your niche! I am another who have read and re-read all or almost all of your books (all that I have been able to find, at least), starting in the early nineties. When no new ones are available, I will either look online for old ones, ot read old copies that I have on my bookshelf. My favorite authors: Mary Balogh, Mary Stewart (especially the romance/suspense novels), Susan Cooper, JRRTolkien. All British…this child was born on the wrong side of the pond.
While I enjoy reading some of the classics, I find that reading is my escape time. Escape from what is going on in the world today, stress from things happening in my own life. I love to explore in my mind other countries, other eras and picture them. The romance genre is where you can explore all of those fantasiee and of course the HPA.
I’ve adored your books since you’ve began publishing. I find I can emotionally connect to your characters and that is magic!
I have enjoyed reading romances due to my mom’s passion. Over the years I have grown to appreciate what I learn and love about the books. I love my escape into another place and usually time. Having writers that loce and research the subjects also make the romance historically based that adds to the story to make it hard to put down.
I’ve often wondered how I could be so invested in the romance genre myself. I’d previously only read classic literature. I was waiting for my son at his practice and another mom brought in a bin of romance books. Simply Unforgettable caught my attention and with one book I became a fan. I simply love Love.
I love your books and enjoy reading them. My husband says I have enough tote bags but like books you can never have enough. Thank you for the chance to win one of your tote bags.
So yes. I LOVE a good romance. But my definition of good is well writtencan’t tell you how many romances I have read so many that are formula and boring as heck. When I was pregnant with my son, I could not sleep. My sister sent me a TON of romances. They went bk b from Barbara Cartland (the worst) to Mary Balogh (the best). I was desperate so I read them all. (Not a TV person). I saved all of the Mary Balogh books and donated the rest to Goodwill. I lost most of the Mary Balogh books in a flood and have now replaced them all between Kindle and old bookstores ( except Gentle Conquest). Of course there have been many new ones written since then. I am afraid I am a bit of a literary snob combined with a history major who KNOWS 19th century England. I have never found fault with a Balogh book in either department. I am also a sucker for a good hero. Again Mary Balogh hits a homerun. From Giles Fairhaven to Wulfric Bedwyn, I love them all.
When you find an author who writes well, whose characters you believe in and care for, and whose books provide pleasure no matter how often you re-read them, then those books go on the comfort bookshelf to give pleasure whenever you enter their world and pages again.
Romance takes me to my dream world.
For quite a few years you’ve surpassed other authors of the romance genre for me, and possibly even hurting their chances of impressing me at all. This blog post helped me understand just why I love your books so much! Thanks for your insight and perspective. As an academic myself, I know what you mean about fighting that initial inclination to look down on the genre, and when I was younger I’d keep it to myself that I was an avid romance reader. Now – it’s not so much an issue. I embrace it, but I’m picky about who I read (after I give an author a chance). But you, dear lady, remain at the top! Thanks for all that you write.
Thanks for writing about what you love and enjoy reading!
Do you sell this tote bag? I would love to buy it for my mom. You and tea are two of her favorite things.