A few weeks ago I was in Seattle with Jane Porter. We were giving a workshop at her local RWA chapter, but before that, we had a few days to hang out. So, obviously, we talked books. Specifically, we talked a lot about the Presents line, which Jane has written for for years and which I've just started writing for this year.
We talked about love overtaking you--the idea that love will change your whole life and is on some level terrifying. That you will never be the same because of it, no matter what happens. That kind of love makes a riveting Presents.
I know, because I know exactly when I decided to try to write one of these emotionally intense, breath-stealing books. I was reading my way through Jane's entire catalogue, and I made it to The Sheiks's Disobedient Bride.
I read this book in one sitting, and I don't remember breathing. This man is like the desert he rules-- impossible, treacherous, immovable. And the heroine, Tally, fights against the inevitability of his possession--until she realizes that women must bend where men cannot. That women can bend when men cannot. That there is strength and power in choosing to bend. In loving enough to do so.
I thought to myself: I can never, ever write something like this. Something that has made me rethink some of the ways I conceive of relationships, and something I still think about from time to time, like a touchstone, all this time later. But I knew I wanted to try.
In Seattle, I told Jane this, and she asked me if I'd read a few of the books that had inspired her to write for Presents. When I said no, we found them. She ordered one, and her friend hand-delivered another from her Keeper Shelf. I had to read these books, Jane said, to understand two things. First, why the particular authors were so revered and second, what kind of things could be done in a Presents. I'm always interested in books by new-to-me authors, so why not, I thought.
You never really expect to have your world rocked when you pick a book, do you? Though I'd wager that's why we read--for those few and far between books that alter us profoundly. The ones we can't get over. The ones we push into our friends' hands and whisper urgently you have to read this book!
The first was Price of a Bride by Michelle Reid.
I read this book late into the night in Jane's guest room, frantically turning the pages, literally unable to believe what I was reading. It is one of the best books I've ever read. It is harrowing. It leaves marks. What would you sacrifice? Why would you do it? How do you hold on to yourself in the face of your worst nightmares coming true? What if you can't tell the difference between the worst thing and the best thing for a while? I do not have enough superlatives at my disposal to describe this book. Weeks later, I remain in awe.
The second was The Spanish Groom by Lynne Graham.
I was unable to put this book down. I mean this literally. I was pulled in, completely enchanted by the sweet, not-quite-as-daft-as-she-appears heroine and the hard, uncompromising hero. It's one thing to say that a heroine's sweetness and light can melt the hero's hard, hard heart--and quite another to actually watch this happen on the pages of a book. To feel it, right along with the hero. I was stunned by this book--unable to read anything else for days. In awe, yet again.
What are your favorite Presents? What are the best ones you've read--the ones that won't let go of you, the ones that take up space in your heart and change the way you breathe for weeks afterward? The ones that make you cry. Or make you so upset you spend the next day in a funk. Or make you so happy you can't stop smiling for the rest of the week.
Please let me know. I have a whole lot of reading yet to do!