Romance novels. Some are good reads but easily forgettable. Some are too formula-bound, others too, shall we say, revealing? There is nothing like a romance novel that holds you spell-bound to the end, loving the settings, characters, and story line. If the story is good enough and timeless, you’ll often find a movie to go along with it.
When it comes to the Inspired Prompt Crew, you might wonder about our favorite romance novel. We’re so glad you asked. Some of our Crew members share their thoughts…
When asked my favorite romance book, my answer comes swiftly, without reluctance—”Lorna Doone”!
I first read “Lorna Doone” as a missionary kid growing up in Africa. We were homeschooled using the Calvert Course curriculum. Back then, and perhaps still, they have elementary students read a child’s abridged version of this classic novel. It made my heart skip and set my mind dancing. For weeks after reading it, my friends and I pretended to be the beautiful Lorna.
A few years ago, I decided to read the original version. It’s a bit challenging since it was written in 1869 and uses very old English terms. In fact, there is one brief section written in the servant’s voice which I had serious trouble reading, so I learned to skim over them. Those parts were only a small section of the book and the rest was much easier to read, especially once I got used to it. (I recommended it to my daughter who also loved it and seemed to have less trouble with those parts. I’ve always known my daughter was smarter than I.)
Author R.D. Blackmore weaves a wonderful story about John Ridd whose father was slain by the Doones, a lawless clan living in wild Exmoor in the seventeenth century. Ridd manages to meet and then fall in love with the beautiful Lorna Doone. They become secret playmates as children and true loves as they mature. The plot is masterful! I highly recommend it to all romance readers, especially if they are also writers. Read this book and learn plot and character development from one of the Masters!
When asked for the names of my all-time favorite romance stories, the first two that leap to mind is Redeeming Love and Pearl in the Sand. In Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers transports her reader to a California gold rush town where she shares the story of Michael (Hosea) and Angel (Gomer).
Tessa Afshar’s, Pearl in the Sand is a fictional tale of the harlot, Rahab. Afshar skillfully depicts Rahab’s struggles, her deliverance, and her marriage to Salmone, a Hebrew leader. Both are filled with truth and symbolism of God’s forgiveness and love for his people.
I read a lot of romance books. A lot. My mother started me out on Grace Livingston Hill and Barbara Cartland. As I grew, I devoured series by Jane Austen, Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, and Kathleen Woodiwiss. That’s why my choice of my favorite romance book is… odd.
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz is not a typical romance book by any means. The book focuses on the character of Odd Thomas, a fry cook in the small desert town of Pico Mundo, California, who spends his days flipping pancakes and grilling hamburgers. It is a simple life but one he revels in, because Odd has an unusual ability.
He can see dead people. Any time a spirit cannot pass over, they are drawn to this young man. Much of the novel focuses on Odd’s attempts to solve murders and help these spirits so they can go forward to the next great adventure.
The one thing ‘normal’ about his life is his relationship with Stormy Llewellyn. Stormy comes from an abusive childhood but finds the strength to call the authorities and save herself. The two young people share a chaste love and a deep bond. At a local carnival, they see a gypsy fortune teller machine. Each couple in front of them receives bad messages, but they decide to try their luck anyway. They receive a small white card with a decorative border embossed with the words “You are destined to be together forever.” They both smile, because they already know this.
The novel culminates in a gruesome mall shootout. After disarming the gunmen and disabling a bomb, Odd is badly wounded. During his hospital stay and recovery, Stormy never leaves his side. The two laugh, talk, watch TV, and recuperate, healing both wounds and spirits together. After a few days, Odd’s friends come to tell him the truth, something he has known the whole time but refused to acknowledge. This truth sets the stage for the rest of the books.
This is where the ‘romance’ angle of the book veers away from the normal formula. Stormy and Odd are not together at the end of this book. I won’t go into the details but I do recommend you read the story. I warn you though – you will fall in love with Odd and his eclectic assortment of friends.
The ‘end’ of Odd’s relationship with Stormy is defining, as it sends Odd on a long, spiritual voyage. Koontz summarized it as follows: “You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything; it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”
In the end, Odd leaves Pico Mundo. He has no intentions of disrespecting Stormy’s gift of life, but he does not think he yet deserves to spend eternity with his girl. So he heads out into the world to confront his grief and help in whatever way he can. By confronting evil and the woes of humanity, he will struggle through this boot camp of life so he can be with Stormy. After all, they are destined to be together forever.
There are seven books in the Odd Thomas series, with two smaller novellas. The last book, Saint Odd, was published in 2015. I will make a confession. I have only read 5 ½ of the books. I cannot make myself finish the series because I am afraid it won’t end the way I want.
I adore the characters of Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn. The stories are all first person, so it feels like Odd and I are on the front porch watching the sunset while we sip sweet tea. He regales the reader with his humorous, insightful, self-deprecating views on life and the follies/evil we all encounter. He has become a dear friend and I want his story to end gloriously.
He and Stormy are destined to be together forever. I won’t settle for anything less.
And when you read romance or write romance, you shouldn’t settle for anything less either. If writing, use vibrant characters, a good plot line, and a love that goes above and beyond the story itself. If reading, let the story carry you. Root for love and “boo” at the evil. Enjoy the book in your hand.
Maybe one day you can see the movie…