It’s a wonderful book (though I say it myself) of 1997 interviews with New Zealand’s first romance writers, one of whom was already world-famous.And what a difference two decades make! These irresistible — and now historic — interviews will please romance readers, romance skeptics, and scholars of popular culture.
For Valentine’s Day, here is some hearty common sense about love and marriage from the unforgettable Essie Summers, who had already sold about 17 million books in 1997.
Essie’s own romance
[…] we had a courtship of about six weeks, completely by letter, and boy, could he write! Fourteen pages at a time. I hovered between thinking I had been rash to even encourage him, and feeling that it was right. Fortunately he came to Christchurch about May, and we ratified our engagement under a moon at Scarborough. So that was fine.
So I believe in romance. It didn’t alter. There were so many facets to Bill’s personality, that was the thing. Oh, we were both highly volatile people. We’d have our spats, but they weren’t important. We had great companionship, which is essential, although that wouldn’t be enough. You’ve definitely got to feel the physical chemistry too.
It always used to annoy me at funerals when someone said, ‘We never had a quarrel.’ I think it’s nonsense. It either means that one is domineering and the other a vegetable, or else it’s a straight-out lie.
Tips for a happy marriage
It could be that some women read my books because they miss a bit of romance, which I think is a pity. Men ought to be able to tell their wives not only that they love them, but how they love them. You do get some men who take their wives for granted, and I think that love should be articulate, I really do. If there’s a quarrel some men feel they ought to bring their wives a gift or flowers, but it wouldn’t do me. If Bill and I had quarrelled in words I would expect to make up in words.
Women ought to be able to tell their husbands how much they appreciate them. It’s quite nice once in a blue moon to say, ‘Oh, I just feel extra special about you today,’ and a hug. Why should we be bashful about that sort of thing?
And we’re not always very gracious about the way we receive compliments. You can turn it off by seeming embarrassed, and saying, ‘It’s a long time since I heard something like that.’ Which sets a man back, doesn’t it? If people can just be warm and loving, it’s great really.
Essie’s notes on romance novels
Perhaps romance fills a need, and that’s good. It is escapism, like whodunnits.
If you had them [the hero and heroine] fighting madly all the way through, or if you portray the hero as too macho, too horrible, the readers and the heroine would think, ‘My goodness me, I wouldn’t marry that man for anything.’
Though it often happens light romance is criticised for not being real enough, it is real. I’ve proved it in my own life. Life was never penny plain for me: it was always twopence coloured.