Betty Neels & Formulas

Army Nurses in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 19...

Army Nurses... in sickness and in health must have real meaning here. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always loved the romance novels of Betty Neels. They weren’t trashy or crazy, the women weren’t supernaturally attractive, and no one had sex before marriage. Every man was a surgeon, most of the women were nurses. The women were mostly plain save magnificent eyes, the men tall and handsome. This all appealed to me, mostly because a) I was the girl with the plain face, yet spectacular eyes (really…my eyes sparkle, so folks say) b) I loved reading about love gently growing instead of quickly sated lusts, and c) even though you know the ending, she still tricked you into being willingly yanked from high to low on this delightful rollercoaster.

There’s a certain amount of comfort in telling the story that’s closest to your heart. We’ve all been to dinner parties or other gatherings  where our family members or acquaintances drag out the same stories of their former glories year after year, as if life hasn’t went on and they haven’t done anything else. Betty was an English nurse and her beau was a Dutchman; almost all of her women are English nurses (certainly all the ones I’ve read are English) and they fall for Dutch surgeons. How lovely to be able to tell ones own love story over and over again, making it fresh and new each time.

My boyfriend once asked me if I’d ever write for Harlequin, since I read so many of their books, know the formulas, and have such a fondness for them. I would. I don’t quite have a love story of my own yet, at least not one that’s gotten to “and they lived happily ever after,” but I love the idea of helping two (fictional) people fall in love. I also love “literary” fiction, and writing poetry, but I believe there’s at least one by the book romance in my romantic heart.

Another story that I want to tell that’s out of genre is a memoir of the year in between my junior and senior year of college, and when I’d lost my job and apartment a week apart. I don’t usually write creative non-fiction, but I feel like I have a lot to say that could help someone who finds themselves where I found myself. But this would be a one time dalliance away from my true loves of fiction, poetry and romance (which is itself a dalliance, it could be argued).

What’s the one story you’d like to tell that’s outside of your usual writing genre? Why do you want to write it?How close are you to telling it?


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