This week, I talked with Lauren Willig, author of the Pink Carnation series and the upcoming That Summer. We discussed brooding Pre-Raphaelites, underwire nightdresses, and witty Regency romance.
Alyssa Morris: Can we start by talking about your new novel, That Summer? I’m reading it right now and it’s just so lovely. Could you describe the plot, for those that don’t know about it yet?
Lauren Willig: It goes back and forth in time between 2009 and 1849. In 2009 my modern heroine discovers an old painting that’s been hidden behind a wardrobe in a house in a suburb in London, and her research brings us back to 1849, where we meet a Victorian matron involved in an impossible love affair with a Pre-Raphaelite artist.
AM: Do you think Pink Carnation fans will see a little bit of Colin and Eloise in your modern day protagonists? There’s an American going to London, Julia, and Nick…
LW: Like the Pink Carnation series this does involve an American out of water, although my modern heroine, Julia, was actually born in England and then leaves when she is 6 years old after her mother mysteriously dies in a car accident. Julia has blotted out everything she remembered about her early life in London; it’s all a big blank. So she’s actually really reluctant to go back and re-open that whole can of worms. But, like so many, she loses her job during the financial downturn in New York, and when she inherits this house in London from a Great Aunt she doesn’t remember, there’s really no excuse for not going and back clearing it out. So she’s a different sort of American in London, because she’s really a former Brit who has totally Americanized herself.
Flaubert gave a whole new meaning to the idea of re-gifting in his novel Madame Bovary.
A heartfelt token he had received from his longtime mistress Louise Colet—a cigar holder engraved with the words “Amor nel cor” (Love in the heart)—inspired Emma Bovary to bestow a seal with the same motto on her rakish lover. The fictional rogue later breaks off their relationship in a letter he cruelly marks with the romantic insignia.
The Romantic poet fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, only to be parted from her by illness. Keats hoped a short stay in Italy would bolster his health, never imagining the parting gifts the couple exchanged would be their last.
He gave Fanny his cherished Shakespeare folio with personalized notes written in the margins, while she lined his traveling cap with silk and presented him with a lock of her hair.
When the Bard passed away, he ignited a four-hundred-year controversy by leaving his “second-best” bed to his wife, Anne. The perceived snub led many to speculate that his marriage had been unhappy.
But contrary to appearances, the bequest was probably a romantic gesture rather than a slight. Tudor custom dictated the best bed be reserved for guests, while the second-best bed would have been the one on which Anne conceived their children.
When the struggling scribe saved up money for his wife to attend the Chicago World’s Fair, she took the cash but never boarded the train. Instead she used the gift to spruce up their sparse cottage with muslin curtains and wicker chairs.
Later, while her husband was on the lam avoiding embezzlement charges, she made a lace handkerchief and auctioned it for twenty-five dollars in order to send him a Christmas care package. Her generous acts inspired his tale “The Gift of the Magi.”
Edie Parker’s wedding gift to Jack Kerouac was bail money. She tapped into her inheritance to spring him from the slammer, with the stipulation that they tie the knot. The pair swapped vows while he was handcuffed to a police detective, after being arrested as a material witness in a murder investigation. Not surprisingly, the hasty nuptials ended in divorce six months later.
The stormy two-year liaison between French novelist George Sand and dissolute poet Alfred de Musset was rife with quarrels, breakups, and tearful reunions. When their relationship finally fell apart for good, Sand said farewell with a dramatic parting gesture. Like the heroine in her novel Indiana, she cut off her dark, waist-length hair and sent it to Musset in a skull.
The honeymoon phase was still going strong three years after Elizabeth Barrett Browning defied her tyrannical father to marry Robert and elope to Italy. On their third anniversary, she presented her beloved with forty-four sonnets she had secretly penned during their clandestine courtship. Among the intimate love poems is number 43, which begins with the now-famous lines “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
One of our selections in the True Love category of our Valentine's feature 150 Love Stories, Romance is My Day Job is the sweet story of a romance book fan who lands a dream job as an editor of romance novels, only to stumble upon a reality that lives up to the fiction she's surrounded herself with--ten years later, that is. Harlequin editor Patience Bloom's memoir begins in 1984 with all the drama of a Sadie Hawkins dance and ends with a wedding picture from her ultimate happily-ever-after.
She shared her thoughts about True Love with us, as well as a few of her own favorite romance novels.
My 10 Favorite Romances by Patience Bloom
Whether you love it or wear black in protest, Valentine's Day is almost here. If you're a die-hard romantic, it can be the best or the worst day of the year. Maybe it just depends on how much chocolate you have?
As a long-time editor of romance novels, I experience most days as a sort of Valentine's Day. When I'm at work, all I need is a good story, juicy characters and a mind open to love. But believe it or not, until a few years ago, I would have said real-life true love was just a fantasy, that it only existed in the romance novels I edited. Then one day my Prince Charming appeared out of nowhere, wooing me with laughter, talking into the wee hours, and offering the promise of a future --a future that came true in a story that ended with my own fairy-tale wedding.
It seemed so crazy--me, married--that I had to write our story.
I hope your Valentine's Day is extra special this year and filled with hearts, admirers, and chocolate. And if you're looking to add a romantic book to the mix, here are some of my favorite novels about love.
There are mean girls you might consider unredeemable, but Darcy Rhone will win you over (even though she steals boyfriends and mooches). I'd campaign for Darcy in a heartbeat and, by the end of this book, I felt desperate for her to find love.
I tend to enjoy reading about unbelievable situations and this was my first Susan Mallery romance. The heroine, Heidi, is a joy: curious, scholarly, and noble. To honor her adoptive family, she marries a son, who of course, winds up being her dream come true. I sobbed at the end, and I don't cry easily when reading….
It's hard to keep me away from a good-girl-who-finally-lets-loose romp. Here, the heroine decides to live a different life with new name and skimpy wardrobe, and boy, does she ever enjoy herself. It's sexy, fun, and emotional—all in one page-turning read.
The romance in this amazing story shows how age doesn't have to matter. Plus, who doesn't want to see how a woman “finds” herself again? We all need help. I read this in my twenties and adored Stella, how she learns to enjoy life/love again.
Don't hate me, but I enjoy reading about the trials of beautiful women. In Bombshell, Grace is a too-gorgeous heroine who's been through all kinds of man-torture. She wants a baby and winds up with her own unforeseen happily ever after. Curnyn's stories are great fun.
My first attraction to this story was that the author loved Duran Duran, just like me. But this romance grabbed me to the point where I was angry that it had to end. The rock star romance is quite tantalizing and I think many of us have dreamed this story. Am I right?
A captivating enemies-become-lovers story. Even though I read this story ten years ago, the romance is so vivid in my mind. Novak builds a heartwarming community and makes you want to live in Dundee, Idaho.
"Bridge" is instant validation for those of us with healthy—and sometimes unhealthy neuroses. Bridget is so good-hearted, nuts (in the best way) and loveable. Of course, Mark Darcy would love her. And of course, I started tracking my weight and daily vices thanks to her.
I fell in love with Becky Bloomwood instantly. She can't control herself, gets in over her head, then has to learn harsh lessons to get back on a saner path. And she does this is such an enjoyable way. This book compelled me to start shopping.
When we think of February, love frequently comes to mind--and let's face it, for better or worse this four letter word is probably one of the most enchanting, infuriating, and exciting subjects to read about. From stories of an idyllic marriage gone terribly wrong to mortals falling for immortal lovers, or the flush of crazy, passionate, first love, romance has always captivated readers and writers alike. Where would Shakespeare be without Romeo and Juliet? Or Hollywood without its larger-than-life affairs of the heart, often adapted from beloved novels?
Whether you like classic romance or stories of love gone wrong, we decided this month was the perfect time to look at some of our favorite novels of amour. To that end, we chose 150 love stories in a dozen flavors—our own box of chocolates for the mind and heart, if you will. The Beatles say, “all you need is love.” But maybe all you need is a good love story.
What romance reader worth her
salt doesn’t swoon over one particular fairy tale? And what romance author
worth the name hasn’t written a take on her own favorites at least once (or
twenty times)? Fair few, my friend. Sometimes we honor these stories with respectful
retelling, sometimes with tongues firmly in cheek, and every now and then by
going completely off the grid. Fairy tales speak to those memes we carry in our
DNA: the beast tamed by love, the impoverished (in all ways) heroine raised to
a position of power and happiness, the hero faced with an impossible task but who
nonetheless pitches headlong into the fray to protect his beloved. We all want
the same thing: to be the sort of person who inspires loyalty, heroism and
love—and a few fairy tales.
Here’s this month’s list of romances
based on fairy tale tropes, plus an add-on I couldn't resist.
Teresa Medeiros wrote her
riff on Beauty and the Beast to hysterical effect in the wonderful The Bride and the Beast. As the last virgin
standing (so to speak) in Ballybliss, our plus-sized heroine, Gwendolyn, is the
logical choice for the superstitious townfolk to sacrifice to local monster, “The
Dragon.” When she’s delivered to his lair, the dragon (our hero, of course) is
flummoxed by the unwanted guest but helpless to release her if he wants to
pursue his dark plans for revenge. Bright, witty, sarcastic and fun, this is
Ms. Medeiros at her best—which is very good indeed.
Eloisa James’s tender,
sometimes bittersweet, love story Once upon a Tower is an homage to Rapunzel (with a bit of Romeo and Juliet thrown in.) When the very young,
self-controlled Duke of Kinross meets demure and silent Edie at a ball, he
thinks he’s met his soulmate.
Forthwith, he presents an offer for her hand to her father who accepts.
Unfortunately, what Gowan mistook for reticence was simply the flu, and the girl to
whom he is now wed is... unexpected. The marriage bed is not a friendly--let
alone fun--place in James’s sweet tale of challenged young love, which ultimately
leads to Edie fleeing to her tower. The slow unfurling of these two very young
hearts journeying toward maturity and understanding is filled with exquisite
insight and romantic moments that will have you sighing.
In her futuristic YA Cinderella
story, Cinder, Marissa Meyer offers us
a cyborg heroine in place of the standard Disney youngster. Instead of sweeping
houses, Cinder--who has amnesia regarding her childhood--works as an unpaid
mechanic in the markets for her evil stepmother. There she meets the handsome
prince and falls in lust, er, love. What follows is political intrigue,
plagues, lunar wars, a look-see into Cinder’s own mysterious past and, yup, a
ball. This is the first book in a series and a fabulous kick-off for the reader
who wants a touch of cyberpunk to their fairy tales.
And since we’re talking
romance writers, I have to direct your attention to An Invitation to Die by Helen Smith. This is not a romance novel
but, as almost its entire cast is composed of romance authors or those intimate
with romance authors (readers, agents, publishers, bloggers etc.), I’m
including it. Perennially unemployed Emily Castle, a gifted amateur sleuth,
signs on for a weekend helping out at the annual Romance Writers of Great
Britain conference where wannabe romance writer and much hated romance review
blogger Winnie ends up dead. Quirky, whimsical, smart, and engaging. Yes, it’s
way over the top and wincingly familiar in places. But, it’s always fun. I flat-out
loved it. A must-read for romance readers. But beware! You might learn too
much! --Connie Brockway
After naming Sylvia Day’s Bared to You a 2012 Best Book of the Year in Romance and devouring Reflected in You, we've been anxiously awaiting the release of the third book in Day's scorching Crossfire series, Entwined with You. To whet our appetites and make waiting for the book's arrival a little easier, Amazon Romance expert Alyssa Morris spoke with Day about what’s next for Gideon and Eva, her upcoming collaboration with Harlequin and Cosmopolitan, her all-time favorite romance novels, and much more.
Alyssa Morris: Now that you’ve had a bit of time to absorb the success of Bared to You, does it feel real? Or are you still surprised?
Sylvia Day: I'm still surprised! I’m glad I’m a veteran and that I’ve been publishing for close to 10 years, so I had some experience under my belt as far as dealing with it. But on the other hand, there’s no way to anticipate writing something that becomes a global phenomenon, you know. I don’t know about other writers--I didn’t even dream about anything like that. I always figured that it just happened to the Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings of the world. So, yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever get over being surprised that I had a series that struck such a chord.
AM: It just hit such a moment in our culture, where all of a sudden this is what everyone wants to be reading. It’s an interesting confluence.
SD: Right. We always talk about that, about right book, right time. Random House released Fifty Shades on the same day I self-published Bared to You, so talk about the right timing. Just… wow!
AM: Do you have a favorite moment in the Crossfire series so far?
SD: You know, I really loved the weekend that Gideon and Eva spent in the Outer Banks. These poor guys. When they’re alone, they’re fine. Life is perfect when they’re alone. Unfortunately, they don’t get a lot of time alone. [Laughs] So I just love that. I love seeing them together away from all of the distractions and intrusions and everything else that’s going wrong in their lives.
I can’t talk too much about Entwined with You because it’s not out yet. And that’s so hard, because I so want to talk tabout it! But there’s more alone time with Gideon and Eva as we move forward in the series and they grow stronger, so I’m really enjoying that as a writer.
AM: Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see next for Gideon and Eva? And is Entwined with You the last book in the series, or it might continue farther?
SD: Yes. It’s definitely continuing, so I can say that for sure. I was not able to wrap up the entirety of the storyline into three books, and I was absolutely adamant that I was not going to try to rush or cram the third book to try to make it fit. And I was fortunate that my agent and my editor they both agree that it would be a big disservice to the series to not let it play out the way it needs to, so there will definitely be future books.
The first book was really the introduction to Gideon and Eva. That’s where we first become familiar with their flaws and their issues, which are of course very prevalent in the first book. The second book they were really apart most of that book. They were mostly broken up through that whole thing. It was very angsty and dark. The third book is very different. Eva’s in a different place. At the end of Reflected in You, Gideon has made a pretty large sacrifice for her. Her big issues had been insecurities, concerns about other people and other women particularly in Gideon’s life. It’s hard to have those sorts of fears and self-doubt after somebody makes a huge sacrifice, like Gideon did for her. So she’s in a much more stable place as far as her comfort level with the relationship and being able to accept the depth of his commitment to her.
Gideon, however--what he’s done, there’s a lot of ramifications. Not just externally, but internally. So as she grows stronger, he’s actually struggling with more. That said, she’s really the anchor for that relationship. She has been from the beginning. So with her being stable, it brings new stability to the whole relationship, and readers will see a lot more moments of calm and connection between the two than we have seen in the previous books.
I'm in the mood for something steamy, and--since up here on the tundra, we're still entrenched in never-ending winter--something warm weather-related. But if I can’t have that, I’ll settle for the Deep South: a molasses-smooth drawl, humid nights, hot heroes, and steel magnolia heroines.
Here’s my selection of old and new treasures guaranteed to sweep you south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Long before True Blood hit the HBO airwaves, Charlaine Harris wrote a more genial (if no less blood thirsty) vampire novel called Dead Until Dark. In it, her naive 25 year old virgin waitress finds true love and an empty mind (you either already know why this is a plus, or you’ll just have to read the book!) with super studly vampire Bill. But the real star of this story in Bon Temps, a sleepy, bayou-stranded town with a plethora of characters both alive and dead, supernatural and super-odd that will have you turning pages as fast as you can. Here’s a story that goes down as easy as sweet tea on a hot afternoon.
Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath
If you love a tortured hero, you’re going to adore Houston Leigh, ravaged body and soul by injuries suffered in the Civil War. Sent to escort his beloved brother’s mail-order bride across the Texas wilderness, Houston falls for southern bell Amelia Carson. What’s a tortured, honorable, desperate man to do, especially when your brother is not some shiftless ne’er do well but a good, hard-working man deserving of the glorious Amelia? Happily, in Lorraine Heath’s expert hands, the answer isn’t left entirely up to Houston. Amelia has survived her own ordeals and emerged stronger, more competent and ready to love. This is a richly satisfying and emotional read that never takes the easy way out. And that setting? I can almost taste the trail dust.
Meant to Be by Terri Osburn
This book isn't available until May 21st, but it fits in so well with my theme and it's so much fun that I couldn’t resist including it. Sweet, disarming Beth Chandler isn’t exactly a mail-order bride, but she is willing to take a terrifying voyage (okay, it’s a short hop across a channel on a ferry, but she’s hydrophobic) to meet her future in-laws on idyllic Anchor Island. During the trip she finds a welcome distraction in rugged fellow passenger Joe Dempsey and his dog, Dozer. The animal magnetism (sorry, it was irresistible) is already doomed by the fact that she’s already engaged, but then she discovers that—yup, you guessed it—Joe is her intended’s brother. Fun, flirty, with an adorable and genuinely likeable heroine and a great supporting cast, watching these two fight their high-octane attraction is pure delight.
I could go on for a long time about my favorite southern delights, but for those of you who want to really sink your teeth into the more over-the-top on that pile, I suggest digging up some of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s titles, such as Ashes in the Wind or the seminal Shanna. They’re as lush and rich as praline sauce on bread pudding. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
My original plan for this post was to write a follow-up to last month's Scottish-set romance recommendations. But that will have to wait for another day. Because, once again, my family’s snow/sleet/cold/gloom tolerance has maxed out after a particularly nasty Marchuary, and we are dying for some sun and surf. I have a sneaking suspicion there are droves of others out there in the same boat (or sleigh).
My suggestion? Flee the hinterlands for southern climes! And if you can’t make it to the real thing, plant yourself in an armchair, switch out your reading lamp’s florescent bulb for a full spectrum one, pour yourself a tall frosty drink, pop a paper umbrella into it, and set sail between the pages of a book. It’s time for a beach party!
And what’s a beach without a pirate? I’ve got a couple of yummy sea wolves for your consideration.
First up is Marsha Canham’s Across a Moonlit Sea, a classic rip-roaring, Elizabethan swashbuckler, pitting French nobleman and privateer Simon Dante against cartographer Isabeau Spence. Both protagonists are overcoming past betrayals, and the sexual tension is hotter than a mutineer’s broadside. But the real pleasure here is Canham’s first-class historical detail. You can practically feel every swell in the ocean (naughtier ones amongst you, feel free to imagine me wiggling my eyebrows suggestively). This isn’t costume drama, it’s high seas drama at its best.
I love a good girl-poses-as-boy story. Add in a pirate captain and a slow simmering attraction, and I’m hooked. (Resign yourself to the marine allusions.) Darlene Marshall does both in her wonderful Sea Change. In 1817, David Fletcher plucks a doctor from a British merchant ship to tend his wounded brother, unaware his young sawbones is female. For years, Charley Alcott has worked alongside her physician father, but when he dies, she masquerades as an apprentice physician in order to secure passage to her godfather’s Caribbean home. Uneasy friendship grows into even more uneasy attraction and finally, with the revelation of Charley’s gender, into a passionate love affair. But that’s just icing on the cake in this funny, yet poignant tale of a woman struggling to find her way in a man’s world (and on his ship).
If pirates aren’t your cuppa, how about a world-weary photojournalist who just happens to one of the most romantic, sexy men I’ve read this year? The always excellent Christie Ridgeway outdoes herself in Love Shack. With her trademark humor ratcheted down just a hair, this lovely story is the quintessential romance having heart, humor, pathos, and red-hot love scenes. In this story of heartbreak and healing, what Gage Lowell envisions as sweet, summer fling with old friend (and unacknowledged soulmate) Skye Alexander quickly escalates into something neither are prepared to admit, yet cannot deny. Wowza. Simply terrific!
And finally, to my mind you, simply can’t call it a vacation unless you read a gothic romance--and if it’s on a lush tropical paradise during the nineteenth century where a young orphan girl faces hidden danger, all the better. If this is your idea of gothic heaven, prepare to sigh over Jill Tattersall’s fabulous Damnation Reef. Marina Derwint is shipwrecked and rescued, only to find herself under the unwilling protection of the enigmatic and brooding master (aren’t all the best masters enigmatic?) of Tamarind, an estate in Antilla. Murder, sunken treasure, and suicide are just a few of the obstacles the star crossed lovers must overcome. An old-fashioned gothic with a tropical flavor. I can practically taste the rum. --Connie Brockway
My alma mater, Macalester College, used to hold a Scottish Faire during which Bonny lassies would cheer hirsute Braveheart wannabes to their best endeavors in a modern rendition of the Highland games. Now, I’m not claiming that the sight of brave young laddies in kilts heaving telephone poles (aka cabers) around a football field engendered my love of Scottish romances, but it sure didn’t hurt.
Alas, the Highland Fair fell victim to the last economic downturn and it’s been several years since the ghost of Robert Burns has goosed the co-eds on Olin Field. My love of Scottish romance has not dimmed, however, so this past month I asked my readers to submit their all-time favorite Scottish romances. The results were unsurprising (to see a full list of the titles submitted, subscribe to my newsletter), but there were some “Hey! I haven’t read that one,” moments. In fact, there were so many fine suggestions (for both old and newer titles) that I simply can’t do them all justice in one column. So, next month it’s “Hoot Man, Part Two!”
Barnett pairs a somewhat inept, always adorable Scottish witch with a chill, pragmatic nobleman in this light-hearted take on Bell, Book, and Candle. I loved watching the cold duke’s heart being melted in spite of himself by the lovely Scottish girl whom he weds in haste, unaware of her magic propensities.
Believing her in-laws murdered her mum is a valid reason for Fiona Sinclair to be an unhappy bride. And concern over whether his new bride's going to make herself a widow might dampen the spirits of a lesser man, but—need I say this?—not Scotsman Myles Campbell. Treachery and political intrigue provide a well-textured backdrop for a poignant romance in which a young girl, well out of her depths, struggles to reconcile what she thinks she knows with what her heart tells her. A classic sweep-me-away tale of romance and daring-do!
Dumb Connie never read this book, despite the hype. But now that’s been rectified, and wowza, am I ever glad. Heart-pounding suspense, cool arcane tidbits, time travel, hearts afire across the centuries--this book is the whole package! An archeologist in possession of history-altering info is pursued by uber-bad guys and protected across time by a burning hunk-of-gorgeous Knight Templar. I know, crazy. But it works!
This is as far from the tender Bewitching as you’re likely to find: Paula Quinn doesn’t hold back on the grit and gore in this tale of star-crossed lovers from bitter enemy clans. Callum MacGregor's set on revenge for the genocide of his clan--clearly, not without justification--so when fate delivers a fierce, fiery, and equally justified in hating his clans' guts lassie into his hands, it's up in the air whether he'll bed her, wed her, or dead her. (Couldn’t resist the rhyme.)
London's in full winsome mode in this lovely Scottish romp. Spinster Daria Babcock hits the Highlands on a mission to rescue her dear old gran, only to discover the old lady tending a bloody laird (no, that’s not a oath--he really is bleeding) who'd come to reclaim the money the old lady had stolen and been shot by the same. The confounded Scotsman takes Daria hostage, and so begins a battle of the sexes and hearts. Great, great fun! --Connie Brockway
Of all the projects I've helped launch in nearly 15 years at Amazon, this map of 50 Great American Love Stories, with the heart of each state linking to our picks, felt from the start like one of the most ambitious. But it's also been great fun. Since we unveiled it last week, we've had a steady stream of comments from readers, including some constructive criticism (which we took to heart), but mostly kudos and some welcome contributions. In case you’re curious, here's a peek at how our Great American Love Stories map came together.
Our Mission: To select and map the best books about love ever set in America, from before its founding into its hypothetical future. We sought books that captured the complete spectrum of love: the whole sweet, passionate, messy, ecstatic, devastating, depraved, beautiful universe of human experience.
The Method to Our Mapness:
Compile a sprawling list of our favorite stories about love.
Weed out all the great love stories that aren't set in America and save those for a future feature.
Ask our Facebook fans and a few friends with great taste in books to send us their faves, to make sure we didn't miss anything wonderful.
Narrow it down to a more manageable hundred or so.
Decide early on that we're OK with inevitable blowback from calling Gone Girla "Great American Love Story," because it's the most twisted love story we've read in years, and America's really pretty famous for this brand of tabloid weirdness.
Realize we have about a dozen terrific picks for states like New York, and none yet for, say, Delaware and West Virginia.
Scour the heck out of the web for good books set in Delaware and West Virginia. Find some lovely choices for the latter; eventually decide that Delwarians will have to live with the fact that obsessive, murderous love is still a kind of love, and Ann Rule is the queen of true crime. Secretly hope someone from Delaware will tell us we missed something great. (Not yet--but there's still time, romantic readers from Deleware!)
Cull the list again, making painful choices about what to highlight and what will get honorable mentions. (Sorry, Time Traveler's Wifeand Just Kids. You're still great!)
Notice that John Irving and Tennessee Williams are the only authors with two books in the top 50 (two incredible plays, in the case of Williams). Agree they deserve it.
Lose some sleep the night before we go live, hoping people all across America will love--or at least grudgingly like--the books we picked to represent their states.
Breathe an enormous sigh of relief when it's greeted with mostly great feedback: only one Facebook fan commenting incredulously on Gone Girl (and, OK, 3 other fans Liking her for it), one lone Deleware resident decrying our Ann Rule choice, and a history buff pointing out that John Smith and Pocahontas were never really intimately involved--so our original Virginia pick needed to go.
Feel a little guilty about leaving out D.C. Decide we'll work it in next year (even though it will totally throw off the symmetry of the rows).
Just like our country, our love story list continues to evolve--so please check them out and keep the comments coming. Whether you live in America or Antarctica, we hope you're living your own great love story. And if you've yet to be so lucky, you can always do it vicariously through a great book. X.O.X.! --Mari