I never thought I would ever read a romance novel, much less find myself writing one. Sure, I like many ovary sporting women I know always liked to indulge in the occasional estrogen-drenched movie-fest from time to time. But that was as far as it went.
I wasn’t obsessed with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids. I didn’t spend hours curating a “Future Wedding” board on Pinterest. I most certainly was not about to bury my nose in some Fabio-tastic romance trash and piss away my precious thirty-something years pining over a pirate. Or a fireman. Or a cowboy.
While a romance movie was a welcomed distraction, romance novels struck me as a waste of time. Time I didn’t have. I was busy after all. I had a career, and commitments, and a boyfriend. I could carve out two hours for a movie, but I didn’t have time for the Fabio’s and the Mr. Darcy’s of the harlequin world.
I was ignorant of the entire genre and determined to remain so. I was judgmental. I was also, wrong.
In 2011 Fifty Shades of Grey turned the romance world on its head. I was as determined as ever not to read what many had dubbed “porn for women.” That was until I found myself out for a ladies night with friends and that blasted book was all anyone would talk about.
Some loved it. Some not so much. Some offered a critique of the writing. But, one thing was clear: ALL of these women (women I thought I knew) were avid romance readers. They were already discussing a new series a few had started reading by Slyvia Day while I was trying to understand the BDSM world of one Christian Grey.
While I was busy shunning and entire genre, these women were indulging in exciting stories with rich, fully developed and delightfully flawed characters. It was tremendous fun listening to their conversation and seeing how excited they were about these books and the characters they met between the pages.
I decided that night to read both Fifty Shades and the Crossfire series. That way, the next time the ladies got together I would, at least, know what they were talking about. Where was the harm anyway? If I didn’t like them… I was only out a few bucks.
With my trusty Kindle Fire now loaded up, I pressed the book cover icon and embarked on what I anticipated would be a silly social experiment at best. I was not at all prepared for the revelation that would follow.
I liked these books. I REALLY liked these books. At times, I couldn’t even control my facial expressions or vocal cords because I liked these damn books. It was difficult to admit at first, but I soon realized I was a genuine fan.
Before I knew it, I was downloading more books. You name the genre and I read it. I roamed the mountains with cowboys, explored the far off reaches of space with aliens, and held court with royalty. I lived hundreds of different lives all without ever leaving my living room. I was a secretary to a powerful business man. I was a down on her luck college student in love with the star quarterback. I fell in love. Over and over again, I fell hard for each book I read.
What surprised me most is how layered many of these books were. I marveled how I could laugh out loud on one page and be on the verge of tears on the next. I was equally surprised at how strong many of the women described on the pages were. These were not the wilting flowers I expected. Many of these heroines were fierce, smart creatures that knew what they wanted and pursued it with gusto.
It was invigorating to meet so many varied and quality characters all of which resonated with me in different ways. I began to see myself and my girlfriends through this new lens. I realized who funny the women I called friends were. How strong and incredible they were. How very much they reminded me of the books I had read.
I began to see a story emerging and wondered if readers like me, would find our stories compelling. Wondered if I could write something that would give hope during the wee hours or work a much-needed smile across a reader’s face. I wanted to write something my friends and I would enjoy reading.
And so… for the next chapter of my life? I am now Ellen G. Kelley: reformed and avid romance novel reader, hopeful romantic, and soon to be author.