My Stubborn Heart, by Becky Wade

Elizabeth Camden Recommended Reading 1 Comment

What a treat this book was!

Kate Donavan needs a break from a job that is burning her out in Dallas, and flees to a small town in Pennsylvania to spend a few months renovating a rambling old Victorian house that has been in her family for generations.  Into the mix comes a haunted, lonely widower who she hires to do most of the heavy lifting.

Matt Jarreau is a former NHL star who quit his all-star career to nurse his dying wife through the final stages of cancer.  A few years after her death he is still wounded, solitary, and moody, and everything in Kate’s soul screams out for her to pull this man out of the quagmire of despondency he has fallen into.

Sound like a heavy read?  Not really.  The book is sprinkled with humor, joy, and a few dashes of aching poignancy that leap out to add heft to this wonderful summer read.  Kate is compassionate, but no Pollyanna.  She sees what she wants and goes after it with both hands.  Matt doesn’t make it easy on her.  He has found a way to numb his pain by burying himself in solitary manual labor, and resents Kate’s efforts to drag him out of the hole where he has finally found a measure of equilibrium.

Although the contemporary romance market is saturated with books that have the “small town good, big city bad” mantra, My Stubborn Heart did not slip into this trap.  I don’t want to include any spoilers, but I was surprised (and delighted!) by the last third of the book.

This book was a wonderful blend of understated humor and emotion, with intelligent characters wrestling with realistic struggles.  Despite the weighty topic, it was a breezy, fresh read.   Becky Wade is a new author on the scene, so sadly, there is no backlist for me to run out and scoop up……but I will look forward to other books with her lively, original voice.  Two thumbs up!



Is Danielle Steele a Romance Novelist?

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 2 Comments

Danielle Steel raised a lot of eyebrows recently on a CBS morning show interview when she denied being a romance novelist.  Although this aroused the ire of many people who felt she was bashing the genre, I agree with her.  She isn’t a romance novelist.

For people who love the romance genre, a book has got to have a romantic storyline as the thread that holds the novel together.  Remove that romantic relationship, and the plot has little or no momentum.   I consider Danielle Steel to belong to the “glitz & glamor” style of women’s fiction.  The reader is treated to the lifestyles of the rich and famous by viewing it through the eyes of an attractive leading lady as she travels the world, buys & sells companies, marries and divorces international tycoons and playboys. Sometimes the settings are World War II France, the Russian Revolution, or conflict in the Hollywood Hills.  The scope of the novel is often between 10-20 years or more, and there is no guarantee of a happy ending.  More often than not, her endings are bittersweet.


In a romance novel, the leading characters are sometimes rich and powerful, but they are equally likely to be a farmer, a school teacher, a paramedic, etc.  The romantic relationship is front & center, and it always ends in a satisfying manner. That happy ending causes critics to accuse the genre of mediocrity….. but how often do you read a mystery where you don’t discover the villain by the end?  Predictable? Yes.  I suppose both the romance and the mystery genre are predictable in that the reader knows they’ll get a satisfactory conclusion, but a good writer will keep the reader guessing about how the story will be resolved until the end.


I think what angered people about Danielle Steel’s remarks was that it appeared she was bashing the genre by disavowing that she was a romance novelist.  Given the widespread disdain for the romance genre, both readers and writers alike tend to be very sensitive to perceived slights.  I think we need to give Ms. Steel a break.  “Women’s Fiction” encompasses a ton of writing styles that does not fit comfortably into the romance mold.  That doesn’t make it better or worse…just different.

Snarky comment time:  Guess which one sells better?  Good old fashioned romance!

Romances that are Doomed to Failure:

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance Leave a Comment

I hope people don’t expect Hollywood to educate them in the elements of a great romantic relationship.  Although sometimes they get it right (The Notebook, You’ve Got Mail, and Jerry Maguire come to mind of good relationships built on a solid foundation.)

More often than not, movies gloss over reality in an effort to come up with amusing tales of unlikely relationships that defy the odds and result in a fairy tale ending.  Here are some of the more egregious examples of famous romantic pairings that are doomed to failure: