You’ve read that sizzle. That heart-pounding moment you know two characters have it, that undeniable pull that keeps them coming back to each other. It’s the moment I love in a romance book, and if I’m being honest, I thought was 100% fictional.
Until it happened to me.
You read that right.
It was Christmas season, I’d just had surgery and my birthday. I just wanted to attend a nice, social holiday party without stress, chat with people, eat some stuff I shouldn’t and go home. Alone.
The universe had a very different plan.
That night a friend introduced me to the man I’d later elope with. I will never forget the moment I turned around, locked eyes with him and immediately wanted the ground to swallow me up because I was so not looking for a Mr. Right or Right Now. But, he found me and six-plus years later we’re happily married living our best-nerd-life.
One thing my favorite romance books taught me that meeting my future husband only enforced was that it takes more than chemistry to make things work. All the sizzle in the world can’t get you through tough times—or in the case of Lillian and Noah in Traitor Games, an international spy hunt—if you don’t work at it.
Here are my top five romance novel take-away’s for real life:
- Talk it out. Seriously. If I can write one conversation and void an entire book’s conflict, it’s not a good book. On the flip side, holding my tongue and not talking about something that bothers me only hurts our relationship. Communication is key!
- Saying no is a good thing. The best heroes listen when a woman says no. It’s a good litmus test for real life and dealing with men in general. No is an empowering word we need to use more, from turning down a date to preserving our special date night time. Say no more often!
- Everyone has a history, and we’re all staring in our own story. Sometimes I like to imagine a narrator going over my daily events as if they were a book. And you know what? We’re all doing it. We’re all our own protagonist. So pause, talk to people, listen to their story.
- How to talk about sex. Seriously. Before I picked up my first romance novel in my twenties I didn’t really understand what sex was all about. It wasn’t until books that I gained a vocabulary and ability to own my body in a way I hadn’t before. It was empowering!
- Happily Ever Afters can be a reality, and sometimes we get them more than once. Unlike a book, after a profession of love, exchange of rings or the promise of a life-long commitment, that’s where most of our stories begin. And that’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. I always pictured myself as a life-long bachelorette, but the universe had other plans for me.
What have romance novels taught you?
Want to see where the Tarnished Heroes series all began? Grab a complimentary copy of the short story Once Upon a Time in Mukdahan to see another place I got to visit and write about.
It can never be said that NYT and USA Today Bestselling author Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, tattoo addict and board game enthusiast. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she spends her time writing, reading, playing board games and catering to her furry overlords, aka the cats.
For more information please visit www.SidneyBristol.com
Lillian locked her front door and made a circuit of the living room, closing the blinds and pulling the curtains, shutting out the rest of the world. Sometimes she wished she could tune out, stop being involved, hide, but that would solve nothing.
Her stomach twisted and growled like a living thing.
Had she eaten today?
Cooking was out of the question. She was worn out, and still had so much to do, so something microwaveable it was.
Lillian unbuttoned her jacket and laid it over the back of the closest dining chair. She needed to check over the plans for work before her sister, Camilla, called, and after that chat Lillian could begin really working. If she got to bed before two it would be a good night.
She pulled the freezer door open and stared at the options.
“That pesto pasta thing is pretty good.”
The sound of a voice, a male voice at that, in her home when she should be alone sent a surge of panic coursing through her veins. Lillian gasped and whirled, clutching the first dinner she could grasp to her chest.
A pair of blue eyes twinkled at her. The light glinted in his blond hair. He sat on the bar stool across from her, as though she’d walked past him and hadn’t seen him. She was certain he hadn’t been there a moment ago. Then again, Noah White did take great pleasure in being a pain in her ass. Kind of like the boys in grade school who used to pull her hair.
“Jesus. What are you doing here?” Lillian slammed the freezer door shut, equally angry with him and frustrated with herself. How had Jesse missed a whole person?
“Laundry. My washer is busted.” A dimple creased his cheek on one side of his mouth. His very kissable mouth. The same one he used to say things that made her want to slap him. Most days she wanted to do both.
“That’s what a Laundromat is for.” She ripped the package open, taking her irritation out on the cardboard.
“But then I wouldn’t get to see your pretty face.”
His smile put her at ease, even when she knew she shouldn’t allow him to lull her into a false sense of safety. It grated on her nerves, but she had to give him credit. He was damn good at his job if he could get her to trust him when she knew better. She dealt with liars on a daily basis. “You could just google me if that’s what you wanted,” she grumbled and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Nothing like seeing the real thing.” He winked at her and damn if she didn’t want to chuckle. He was good.
“Why are you here?” she asked again.
“I wanted to catch up. See what’s going on.” He spread his hands. “I’m totally out of the loop here.”
Lillian stared at him.
He pointed at the microwave. “You know you have to press the ‘start’ button, right?”
She pivoted and jabbed the numbers. And pressed start.
She braced her hand on the counter and stared at him. “I’ll ask you again—why are you here?”
He shrugged and leaned on the bar. “There are a lot of jobs coming down the pipeline. Curious what everyone is doing.”
She returned his smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Noah wasn’t on her roster. Yes, he’d helped save her best friend’s life, but he wasn’t part of their team. His call. She had offered. And that left her with questions.
He slid off the stool. “What kind of music do you like?”
He crossed into the living room. “I couldn’t help but notice this really cool sound system you’ve got here. I’d love to give it a go.”
She followed him as far as the arch. “I do not want you here, do you understand?”
More accurately, he would be a distraction. He’d tease her. She’d end up laughing even though she knew better.
“I’ve developed a real appreciation for dubstep. You listen to the stuff?”
She followed him across the living room. “Dub—what?”
“Dubstep.” Noah grinned and mashed the buttons on the remote.
A throbbing beat set against the trilling sounds of an electronic synthesizer blared from the speakers.
Lillian clapped her hands over his ears. She growled her frustration at him, but the sound was drowned out by the godawful stuff he called music. How could he be so obnoxious, dangerous, and charming? It wasn’t fair.
She tried to snatch the remote, but Noah grasped her wrist and stepped in close. The jovial smile was gone. He stared at her with all the feeling of a statue. Those sparkling eyes of his were bitterly cold, his fingers so tight they made her wrist ache and her little finger throb.
She froze, suddenly feeling like the rabbit caught in a trap. Noah was dangerous. She could never forget that.
“My handler wants me to kill you,” he said just loud enough for her to hear over the music.
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