Growing up, I ate, slept, and breathed fairytales. Cinderella and Prince Charming, Snow White and Prince Charming, Sleeping Beauty and Pr—
Well, you get the picture.
In middle school, I “graduated” from romance a la Walt Disney to romantic novels by the likes of Victoria Holt, Anya Seton, and Daphne Du Maurier. Someday, I promised myself, I’d write a romance of my own.
That dream has weathered a Master’s degree in Psychology, a Ph.D. in Education, and several years as a federal government research consultant. Eventually I owned the inconvenient truth. I didn’t want to analyze or teach people. I wanted to write about them.
Twenty-five published romance novels later, I remain honored and humbled and so very blessed to continue pursuing my passion: sharing the stories of my heart, and the hope of Happily Ever After, with readers. My fictionalized heroines may be several sizes above a “perfect” eight (Stefanie in The Cinderella Seduction, Callie in Vanquished, Mandy in It’s A Wonderfully Sexy Life), they may be beset with pimples and bad hair days and painful pasts (Macie in Operation Cinderella) but throughout they do their absolute best. They persevere. And yes, ultimately they do triumph.
While as romance writers we undertake the reading and writing of our beloved books as solitary pursuits, as a community we are far from solitary—or silent—in championing our genre and the plethora of positive messages it conveys. Love is stronger than hate; good will win out over evil; and everyone, absolutely everyone, deserves a relationship where they feel cherished and desired, respected and safe. Those aren’t saccharine sentiments I fold into my latest feel good romance offerings. They are my personal mantras and despite Life’s invariable buffetings, I deeply and truly believe in them.
Sometimes when life’s smorgasbord doesn’t offer a dish that you fancy, it’s a call to march into the messy kitchen, put on an apron, and cook it up for yourself.
When my co-founders Leanna Renee Hieber, Maya Rodale, Ron Hogan and I launched Lady Jane’s Salon® in 2009 we did so to fill a niche. At the time, there was no forum anywhere in New York City’s five boroughs where romance fiction could be regularly read and appreciated. Seriously, there was nothing. We were three romance writers and one decidedly romance-friendly book blogger living and working in the publishing capital of the country, arguably the world, and we had no “house.” The irony wasn’t lost on us. Something needed to change.
Modeled in spirit of the literary salons of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Lady Jane’s Salon® is New York City’s first and only monthly romance reading series. But creating a forum to read our work aloud wasn’t enough, not nearly. We wanted—needed—to do better than that. We needed to be better than that. And so when we launched in February 2009 we did so with a dual mission: to share the hope of happily ever after not only between the covers of our books but also in real life with those less fortunate in our community. Since our genesis, we’ve devoted our annual net proceeds to Women in Need, a wonderful New York City charity that assists disadvantaged New York City women in building positive, independent lives for themselves and their children.
As we celebrate our fifth anniversary this February 2014, we are proud to have grown our Salon family to include satellites in seven states. Without exception, every Lady Jane’s Salon satellite donates its net monetary proceeds to a 501c(3) charity. Charities supported include the Shout Against the Whisper campaign against ovarian cancer; Hope House of Colorado, which provides outreach and support to teen mothers; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; and Celebrate Differences, a Chicago-area not-for-profit which supports individuals and children with disabilities.
But as I count my myriad blessings this winter holiday season, I can’t help but be acutely aware of those for whom Happily Ever After might as well be a fairytale castle in the air. In New York City alone, there are presently more than 50,000 people who are homeless and living in shelters. Heartrendingly, more than 21,000 of them are children. If ever there was a time to do more, to be more, to reach more deeply into not only our purses but our hearts, it is now, this day, this minute.
Styled along the lines of the ever popular Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul series, my self-published digital-first Valentine’s anthology, Scribbling Women and the Real Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them will feature nonfiction essays by twenty-eight popular romance authors, one for each day of February 2014, addressing how they met, wed, and love (over time) their significant others. Contributors include uber bestsellers Lisa Renee Jones, May McGoldrick (Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick), Jacquie D’Alessandro and Deanna Raybourn. To an author, they have generously forgone any advance or royalty so that all net proceeds can be given to Women in Need in support of the work they do to provide formerly homeless women and their children with a second shot at Happily Ever After, not just during the holidays but year round.
When hearts are willing and helping hands outstretched, Happily Ever After knows no bounds.
I wish you, my fellow Imperfect Women, a holiday season filled hope, laughter—and fairy tale dreams come true.
Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of twenty-five romance novels including “Operation Cinderella”, the launch to her popular “Suddenly Cinderella” Series with Entangled Publishing, now optioned as a major motion picture by Twentieth Century Fox. Hope is also a cofounder and current curator of Lady Jane’s Salon®, New York City’s first and only monthly romance series now in its fifth year with seven satellites nationwide. Hope lives in Manhattan with her real life romance hero and their rescue cats. Visit her online at www.HopeTarr.com, www.LadyJaneSalonNYC.com, www.Facebook.com/HopeC.Tarr, and www.Twitter.com/HopeTarr.