Iâ€™m a fan of soap operas. In particular, Days of Our Lives. Seriously, Iâ€™ve watched this one on and off since I was about five years old. Thatâ€™s a long time. I donâ€™t remember all the storylines or histories of each character, but I can usually figure out how one person is related to another after a few minutes.
Iâ€™ve figured out how writing a romance novel is different from writing a soap opera, though. Soap operas are not really about romance. Theyâ€™re about stringing you along with the promise of romance. Thereâ€™s a lot of sex but not a whole lot of real, true love (or an artistâ€™s rendition of it, anyway).
For an instance: On Days of Our Lives (or DOOL, as we fans like to call it), a man just woke from a coma after being shot in the head. The woman he called for at his bedside hates him (she has her reasons). However, because sheâ€™s actually the one who tried to kill him in the first place, she feels guilty and when he pretends he thinks sheâ€™s still in love with him, she goes along with it.
Great plot for a soap, right? Horrible one for a romance.
In a romance, the hero would wake from a coma and call for his one true love, who would move heaven and earth to be by his side. And sheâ€™d probably have to because we romance writers are known for throwing obstacles in the path of love. But once theyâ€™re together, thereâ€™d be no pulling them apart. True love is forever.
To give you a taste of my version of true love, hereâ€™s a snippet from SECRETS OF THE LOTUS:
They pulled up in the parking lot in front of the lighthouse a few minutes before sunset and turned the engine off. Dan turned to her. â€œItâ€™s getting cold and itâ€™s a bit of a hike up there, but Iâ€™ve been there before at this time of year. The view is spectacular.”
â€œItâ€™ll be dark soon.â€ She eyed the sun going down behind the bluffs. â€œIf I remember correctly, the view is great, but Iâ€™m not sure the few minutes weâ€™re going to get of it will be worth the cold.â€ She shivered.
â€œI actually think the view is better after dark.â€ He stepped out of the car, came around and held his hand out to her. â€œCâ€™mon, youâ€™re going to love this.â€
Josie shrugged and accepted his hand, glad heâ€™d suggested she bring her scarf and gloves, as well as her coat. The air was freezing, the type of cold that felt cleansing, as if it burned away the germs of everyday life, leaving her clean and innocent like a child. She took deep breaths, pulling the chilled air in as far as she could manage, filling her lungs and belly, hoping to erase some of the pain from the past few days.
As they approached the lighthouse, she could hear the crash of the surf on the bluffs and rocks, a rhythmic timeless invasion that had gone on for centuries. At the top of the hill, Dan led her to a bench as the sun sank slowly behind them. Josie looked over her shoulder at the huge molten globe behind the trees. â€œItâ€™s times like these I donâ€™t find it hard at all to believe the sun is a ball of fire.â€
Dan put his arm around her. â€œEven if itâ€™s not putting off much heat at the moment,â€ he said with a shiver.
â€œCold?â€ She put her arms around him, laying her head on his chest. The sound of his heartbeat seemed to mimic the oceanâ€™s crash. He encircled her with his arms, holding her close as they watched painted clouds drifting over the ocean and the light faded. She couldnâ€™t help but think that, though lovely, the view hardly seemed worth the drive, but as the last of the daylight was replaced by a velvety black sky, the first of the stars winked into being over the ocean. Josie straightened, her attention caught. â€œThis is why you brought me here.â€
â€œMy gift to you,â€ Dan said, sitting up next to her. â€œHappy birthday.â€
Josie didnâ€™t reply, caught up in the beauty of the night sky over the Atlantic Ocean. They stayed as the last of the few visitors to the lighthouse straggled past and the night grew darker. Josie watched the stars without noticing the cold, totally transfixed. She felt as if she could step right off the edge of the world and stand among them. Sheâ€™d never felt so close to heaven before.
Finally, however, the same clouds that had made the sunset so beautiful gathered in great black blocks in the sky, and rain mixed with the tears that had fallen unnoticed on her cheeks.
* * * *
They stopped for coffee and sandwiches at a beachfront inn Dan knew. The proprietor greeted them personally, seating them at a warm table in an alcove. Josie realized only then how cold sheâ€™d been. â€œYour Lamborghini may be beautiful, but the heating sucks.â€
â€œA Lamborghini is a work of art, above such plebian concerns as heat.â€ He gave her a lofty look. â€œBesides, itâ€™s not that cold outside.â€ Dan pointed at the window. â€œItâ€™s not freezing anyway. Thatâ€™s rain, not sleet or snow.â€
â€œDownright tropical.â€ She nodded, blowing on her fingers.
He poured coffee from a silver pot into her mug, handing it to her. â€œHere you go. Thatâ€™ll warm you up.â€
She wrapped her cold hands around the warm coffee mug. â€œMmm. Nice.â€
â€œLet me guess. Two creamers and sugar.â€
â€œOne creamer and artificial sweetener actually.â€ She added the condiments and stirred the coffee. â€œYou take yours black.â€
He raised his eyebrows. â€œI bow to your superior powers. How did you know?â€
â€œYou had it black the other morning. Valentineâ€™s.â€
â€œSo itâ€™s your power of observation and not deduction.â€ He took a sip. â€œI like black coffee. I can understand the need for sweetener, I guess. Itâ€™s an acquired taste. Iâ€™ve never understood the cream thing though.â€
Josie barely listened. She thought of the star-filled sky over the ocean. This man, a man who could give her anything, had found a way to give her the stars themselves. She reached across the table and touched his arm. â€œThank you for tonight and today and everything. Your friendship has meant so much to me. I donâ€™t think I could have gotten through Jamesâ€™s death without your support.â€
Dan covered her hand with his. â€œYour hands are so cold.â€ He rubbed her fingers, not looking at her. â€œIâ€™m the one who should thank you. Youâ€™ve brought a lot more to my life than you could possibly guess.â€
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