Monday, September 16, 2013

An Excellent Defense with Isla Bennet

Today I am happy to introduce my fellow Montlake Romance author, Isla Bennet, who recently celebrated the release of her first book, TEXAS REDEEMED.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Ranch owner Valerie Jordan learned the hard way that people carve out their own destiny. She knows firsthand what can come of one night of unchecked attraction and lost inhibitions. And she also knows there’s only one way to handle guarded missionary doctor Peyton Turner: with caution. Thirteen years ago, they went from being friends to lovers to strangers. 

To save himself and outrun his past, Peyton disappeared. Now the prodigal son of Night Sky, Texas, is home—though he has no intention of staying. But once the revelation that he and Valerie share a troubled teenage daughter sends him on a hunt for answers, there’s no avoiding one another…no ignoring the undeniable desire that draws them together.

Texas Redeemed is a passionately written and emotionally gripping story of lust and risk, love and forgiveness, of confronting the damaging secrets of the past for a chance at redemption.

Before graduate school, before college—before high school, even—and certainly before I composed even one word of my debut contemporary romance, TEXAS REDEEMED, I was a romance fiction enthusiast. It all began with Judy Blume’s FOREVER, and soon after reading that I was toting thick historical romances and dog-eared series paperbacks in my book bag. I read on the school bus, in the cafeteria and in the library. I developed a mature vocabulary and quite an imagination. Years after starting my secret tryst with the genre I went to college and realized that there should be nothing “secret” about reading romance. It was there for me when I was a kid trying to figure out what kind of adult I wanted to be. It gave me the unshakable love for reading and writing that I have today. I appreciate what it offers to readers—but what I don’t appreciate are people who degrade the genre based on ignorance.

In literary criticism classes and creative writing workshops alike, I’ve been asked this question: “But you’re so smart—why do you read (or write) romance?” That is quite possibly the biggest complisult (backhanded compliment) ever tossed my way. It feeds some of the stigmas and fallacies attached to romance fiction, such as 1) romance appeals only to unintelligent people and 2) highly educated people can’t understand or enjoy complex, sexy and relatable characters that face real conflicts and somehow overcome them to achieve ultimate happiness. And 3) book smarts is the only measure of intelligence. Not everyone has the opportunity to obtain higher learning. Sometimes, it’s the stuff outside of textbooks and classrooms—life lessons—that offers a true education.

So here’s the deal. I don’t like the segregation in academia that values literary fiction but not popular fiction … or, say, the work of a Brontë but not the work of a contemporary romance author. Not that romance fiction needs to be intellectual, but I think it can be educational. After all, it taught me a great deal about men, women, friendship, careers, sex and relationships. It’s true that this genre isn’t for everyone, but it shouldn’t be written off for containing themes of romance, passion or seduction when these very same themes can be found in the most celebrated works of Homer, Shakespeare and Austen.

So, readers, why do you read romance? Writers—why do you write romance?

XOXO to Terri Osburn for introducing me to this terrific group and hosting me on this kickass blog today!


Marnee Bailey said...

You know, it's funny. My first year of teaching, the school gave me mostly seniors. The senior year curriculum required study of one book a marking period, in depth, with a writing assignment attached. We read the Odyssey and we read All's Quiet on the Western Front. Then third marking period we read a book called The Samurai's Garden.

There's lots of themes of love and family in this book. And, there's sex in the book.

Now no one gets down and nasty in this book. It happens off screen. It's very tasteful. But don't you know I got at least three calls from parents about this book? We'd just read All Quiet on the Western Front, a graphic war novel. People die horribly. No calls about that.

I'm not sure why love, relationships, things that I find much more natural and healthy than death and gore, are treated this way in our society. The people I love and the relationships I have are THE most important things in my life. They're front and center. That's one of the main reasons I read romance. Love, relationships, romance. It's the most important stuff. Why pretend it isn't? And why read anything else? :)

Maureen said...

Write reality and love, sex, complicated relationships are there. Granted, not a lot of equal witchery or time travel or Kraken's... But life is complicated! I'd rather write real people/unreal circumstances then literature..

Terri Osburn said...

Welcome, Isla! Thanks for being with us today. I started reading romance at a young age, and always had one atop my stack of books I carried around school. And this was the 80s, so you know what those covers were like. LOL!

But no one really gave me a hard time. I think I might have gotten some funny looks, but mostly others left me alone. I never had a teacher say a word, and I went to Catholic school.

Now I'm getting used to the odd reactions when people ask what I write. It's usually a drop in enthusiasm and interest that shows on their face and in their body language. Not always though. And no direct insults... yet. LOL!

quantum said...

Hi Isla

I remember my first paper in physics appearing in the American Journal 'Phys Rev Letts' and the excitement of seeing yourself in print along with the stars of your subject is out of this world!

I'm sure it's the same with fiction ... many congrats on the debut novel!

To give an idea of your style could you compare your book with a well known author? For example is it set in the old west with cowboys riding the range ... perhaps similar to some of Catherine Anderson's work?

Afraid I haven't read Homer but I have read Austen and wholly endorse the dislike of academic contempt for popular fiction. Academic snobbery isn't confined to literature departments and those stuffy ivory towers can be a bit off-putting at times. I think it's changing though and recognition of the scholars who are good at popularising a subject (and making money!) is growing!

Like you I love a good romance and fortunately the genre attracts some outstanding writing talent.
I feel no need to justify my interest further!!!

Had a look for 'Texas Redeemed' on Amazon kindle and was a little off-put by the price of £5.27 though I know it's not your fault. I can buy outstanding authors like Eloisa James or Mary Jo Putney or Maureen Betita for a lot less!

MsHellion said...

I swear, I just want to leap up and holler an AMEN! at the top of my lungs.

I read romance for the reasons you do. I started out young--I was almost always interested in the relationships between men and women (once I got over the relationships between women and horses)--and read steamy romances at a rather precocious age, I'm sure. Well, it wouldn't be a precocious age NOW, but it was then.

But I've always longed for affectionate relationships, confidence, freedom, and all the other big themes that my brain latches onto because those are the things that interest me. *LOL* Romances showed me that I wasn't alone or a minority in wanting to know more about these things, about using the hero's journey in love as a way to figure out what you really want. What you should want: the love that accepts you as you are, doesn't ask you to be someone you're not.

I write romance for similar reasons. To figure myself out. :)

Isla Bennet said...

Big hellos to everyone coming out to visit me! What fantastic comments. Marnee--good point about people's aversion to romance and preference for violence in fiction. I'm quite open-minded but see love as a positive thing, and would prefer it over violence any day. Maureen--I really appreciate how you put things: "real people, unreal circumstances." Right on. Terri--I am so jealous that you had access to those oldies-but-goodies! When I was in school we all had to smuggle them, and we'd get busted whenever any of the guys grabbed one and was caught showing the sex scenes to other guys. *Sigh.* Quantum--Thank you so very much for the congrats! TEXAS REDEEMED is a contemporary romance with a bona fide cowgirl riding the range. :-) It's written in the vein of romance by authors Catherine Anderson, Debbie Macomber and Hope Ramsay. (One of the best compliments I've received to date about this book -- aside from my publisher acquiring it! -- is that it reminded a reader of ATONEMENT. That book & movie completely torture me, but in such a beautiful way.) I completely understand about the price. I do hope you'll give it a read someday. I'd love to know what you think! MsHellion--Amen back at you! "The love that accepts you as you are, doesn't as you to be someone you're not." Thank you. That's what it's all about. I'm so happy you stopped by. I invite any and all of you to find me on Twitter to keep the dialogue open:

Terri Osburn said...

The twitter link. I knew there was something I forgot!

Atonement killed me so much I never watched it again. But again, that one was okay because (spoiler) no happy ever after. What is so bad about living happily ever after?!

Isla Bennet said...

Terri -- ATONEMENT's decidedly unhappy ever after makes me cry every time. I can't seem to stop myself from rereading and re-watching it, though. LOL. But there's one important difference between that book and mine. TR has a happy ending, I promise! It may not seem like it will, but eventually things fall into place. ;-)