No group deserves the title “romance community” more than those who frequent Lady Jane’s Salon, NYC’s only romance reading series. For the past three years, Lady Jane’s founders Maya Rodale, Hope Tarr, Leanna Renee Hieber and Ron Hogan have welcomed romance authors and readers for a monthly get together to celebrate the genre. And while visitors may see new faces in the crowd, or may be a new face themselves, everyone is surrounded by friends, connected through of the shared love of romance. There is never a lack of conversation, never an awkward moment, because there is always something to talk about — books!
Last Monday’s anniversary event was kicked off by historical romance author Lauren Willig. Lauren is no stranger to Lady Jane’s; in fact the salon’s audience has heard the award-winning author read from several different books in her Pink Carnation series. This time the audience was wowed as Lauren launched into an excerpt from her brand new release The Garden Intrigue.
The Garden Intrigue has everything readers have come to expect from Lauren, it’s extremely witty with clever turns phrase that leave readers laughing, thinking and never wanting to say goodbye to her characters. This particular tale introduces hero Augustus Whittlesby as he recites his poem to an audience, which includes the notorious American window Emma Delagardie. Emma, no shy young miss, can’t stop herself from pointing out just how bad Augustus’ prose is. However, this comes as no surprise to the hero — Augustus knows that his poetry is horrible and he does this on purpose. His writing is a ruse so he can spy for England while in France. And although Augustus is not serious about his poetry, he does have a serious dislike for Emma and her sharp tongue. While Augustus is unable to come up with a metaphor to describe the depth of his annoyance towards Emma, everyone in attendance at Lady Jane's had no such problem describing The Garden Intrigue — it is a pure delight.
Next up was bestselling author Eloisa James who took the stage after being introduced by Ron as “the Eli Manning of romance authors.” But in a surprise move (a quarterback sneak, if you will) instead of reading from one of her fiction books, Eloisa pulled out an advanced copy of her first non-fiction, Paris in Love. This upcoming April release is a memoir about the author’s move to France. Spurred by the diagnosis of a mild form of breast cancer, Eloisa decided to relocate to Paris with her husband and two middle grade children. While the author was abroad, she checked in with family, friends and fans on her Facebook page where she described her experiences in “tiny explosions” of just a sentence or two. Eloisa read several entries from her work that had the audience laughing out loud. Through these snippets the audience got to see an entirely different Eloisa James than the author presents on the back of a dust jacket. In an extremely personal work, the author describes the high jinks that her New Jersey family got into while living in the City of Lights. And between reading the cute, funny excerpts from her Facebook, Eloisa shared a longer essay, one about a friend she met while traveling. Like the author, this friend was diagnosed with cancer, but unlike Eloisa’s treatable kind, hers was inoperable. Eloisa describes their growing friendship as a kind of love story, but not between a man and woman, but between best friends finding each other. Emotionally heart wrenching, the audience was openly crying and Eloisa tearing up as the story came to a close with the friend’s passing. While Eloisa always writes powerful stories, Paris in Love is something truly special. None of her fans will have ever read as anything as personal and touching as the talented author’s love letter to the city, her family and her dearly departed close friend.
Eloisa James may have brought the house down with her memoir, but Lady Jane’s salon was not quite over. The last speaker on the stage was Sarah Wendell, from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog. And it was quite apropos that the salon’s third anniversary would be brought to a close by Sarah because as both a critic and a consultant, she is one of the romance genre’s greatest advocates. Sarah truly believes that the power of a great romance is that it is does more than simply offer readers hours of enjoyment, but that these books provide an education about relationships. Sarah’s latest non fiction work, Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, continues her journey to explain the importance of the genre in a light, funny yet profound way.
To the audience’s delight, Sarah read passages from Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, sharing her take on some of the lessons that can be gleaned from romance writing. She told the crowd that what makes a romance a romance is the happily ever after, but while a novel will come to an end, romance in real life never should. The blogger explained to a grinning crowd that a relationship needs maintenance (and then she acknowledged just what an “unsexy” term this is). She reminded readers that just as in a romance novel, where lovers must overcome obstacles, real life will also throw problems at a couple. Therefore, we all must remember that our relationships should be a never-ending courtship. However, Sarah warns, this does not only apply to a romantic significant other. It is also important to “court” your family and friends. She explains that no one ever gets tired of hearing that they are cared about. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this was a wonderful reminder not to take anyone in our lives for granted.
Love in all forms needs to be nurtured and celebrated and that’s exactly what the ladies and gentlemen at Lady Jane’s Salon remind of us each month. So if you’re in the area on the first Monday of every month, Lady Jane’s Salon meets at Madam X’s in New York City. Or click here to find out if there’s a Satellite Salon near you. They request an entrance fee of either five dollars or one gently read romance novel, which is donated to organizations that support women and literacy, such as Women-in-Need which the Salon has raised hundreds of dollars for throughout the year.
From L to R: Sarah Wendell, Eloisa James, Lauren Willig, Ron Hogan, Leanna Renee Hieber and Hope Tarr