What, you’ve never squeezed gravy out of your hair?
No matter. You’ll still probably identify with Tess, a fictional veterinarian who leaves the Philly suburbs for rugged Colorado and, perhaps, a loving relationship with a manly rancher.
Unfortunately for our heroine, the rancher’s catty ex-wife and her girl posse manage to trip Tess at the friendly neighborhood jackalope dinner and send her headlong into a gravy spill.
Author Lilly Christine, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania, read aloud that incident from her novel “Crashing Into Tess,” to the delighted chuckles of the women who attended a recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton meeting of Lady Jane’s Salon at the Bartolai Winery in Harding.
The local salon is a satellite of the New York City-based club where readers and writers of romance get together to talk about their favorite genre, which they proudly note is a $1.4 billion industry and top performer among bestsellers.
“It’s the fantasy, the happy-ever-after,” said Magdalen Braden of Susquehanna County, an avid writer and reader. “Your brain releases all sorts of feel-good chemicals like serotonin when you read a happy ending.”
So, romance readers crave happy endings? What else do they want?
“A good story with strong characters, especially the women,” said Penny Roman of Forty Fort.
But each reader has preferences about the setting, said Courtney Lewis of Dallas, explaining authors cater to people who want stories about women and men falling in love and overcoming obstacles in various historical periods, or in picturesque places such as New England or accompanied by high-stakes suspense or maybe immersed in the futuristic surroundings of science fiction or the shadowy world of the paranormal.
Judging by what three visiting authors read aloud during last month’s meeting, the interaction between the main characters can run from sweet to sassy to quite steamy.
Author Judy Ann Davis from Susquehanna County seemed to be on the sweet yet suspenseful side, reading about a character named Elise who was spending time with the young nephew of her love interest, a boy who carefully separated animal crackers because, in his mind, they wouldn’t all get along together in one bag.
Next thing you know, Elise was knocked unconscious by a painful blow to the head.
Still that seemed gentle compared with Roz Lee’s excerpt from a book that is part of a series in which many of her characters — very muscular fellows, judging by the book covers — are baseball players.
“They told me I had to make this PG-13,” Lee said cheerfully before launching into an excerpt in which a man kept referring to a woman as his “sub” or “subby.”
A reporter could feel her forehead wrinkling as she pondered whether this woman was some sort of substitute baseball player, like maybe a relief pitcher, until gradually it became plain the woman was the man’s submissive partner, who had signed a contract to do whatever he told her to. No matter how outrageous.
I mean, to each her own.
The next meeting, set for Thursday at Bartolai, will include guest authors A.C. James, who writes “hot stories about vampires and bad-boy werewolves,” Tina Gallagher, whose characters “share deep, lasting relationships,” and Tammy Kubasko, whose zest for science and two degrees in electrical engineering led to the chance to travel the world.