Usually, I answer reader questions directly, but since the answer to this one is pretty long (and I actually get asked this pretty regularly), I thought it would be fun to answer it this way. Most recently, I was talking to Jodie Pierce; we were chatting about writing life, my upcoming street team launch, and publishing/marketing/etc, and she asked me which of my books was my favorite. My answer? All of them, for various reasons.
I'm a romance writer because I love romance stories. I love watching two people overcome something that stands between them, whether it's a jealous ex, a misunderstanding (or series of them), or just one person's hangups keeping them from accepting love from other people. I love reading a romance novel and watching someone's journey as a person, watching the journey of a couple as they learn to make life together a workable concept. I love feeling good at the end because it worked out. And when the sex is sweet and not raunchy, I love that, too. After all, I'm in it for the romance, not the sex ... if I wanted the sex (which, truth be told, now and then I do), then I'd head over to erotica. But that's another post.
Ahem ... back to the question at hand.
As I mentioned above, I don't really read romance for the overabundance of drama; I like the story to be about the personal journey of each person in the story, and I don't always like it to be triggered externally. Sometimes, like in real life, it isn't a jealous ex or a nosy parent or some other external burden that keeps lovers apart. Sometimes it's the demons in our own heads that force us to endure loneliness for long periods of time. And that's why The Kingsley Series books are my favorites of my books.
Fat Chance is my favorite of my books. In Fat Chance, there is a little bit of external drama, but the story itself is about Cass's journey as a woman without confidence. She doesn't love herself, she doesn't show herself compassion. She doesn't feel worthy of those things, because she's gotten caught up in what the world thinks is okay or normal or beautiful. She's sad and she's bitter, and I've had people tell me that the first half of that book made them feel a little depressed -- and that makes me happy. Why? Because it means I've done my job. I've taken you inside her world, inside her sadness, inside the feelings of hopelessness and depression. But there is hope, and the second half of that novel is all about what it feels like to learn to love yourself, and how important it is to love yourself before you can ever expect to receive love from anyone else. The thing is, no matter how much someone loves you for the good things they see in you ... you can't actually receive that love until you believe the good things are there. Fat Chance is Cass's journey to believing. And it goes without saying (even though I've said it many times in various interviews and posts on my blog) that Cass is very personal for me. I've dealt with a lot of what she feels, a lot of what she's been through. In some ways, she's me. In other ways, she's other women I've learned from or felt empathy for. But in all ways, she's every woman's journey, fat or thin, short or tall, regardless of race, color, or religion. Or at least, that's what the readers tell me. (Want to read her story for yourself? Purchase for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)
But then there's Prescription For Love, and that's my favorite of my books. In that book, the worst of the external drama is behind us, but we can still watch Cameron struggle to let go of the past. And haven't we all struggled with that? Many of us still remember school bullies, or childhood abuse, or that first bad relationship, or the way we struggled with our own self images. Sometimes it's something deeper though. Sometimes it's something that scars you forever, like witnessing a crime, or being robbed, or being assaulted. Sometimes it's grief over losing a loved one. And letting go of the past is not always easy ... that's why bookstores and libraries almost always have a self-help section. It's why counseling and mental health are such huge topics in societal conversation. Because it's not always about what happened to you; sometimes, it's about how you let whatever happened affect you afterward. Cameron and Mac? They're heroes. They're inspiration, they're the desire and urge to move on, they're the wish for companionship that we all walk around with. They're the need for support and comfort that we all feel. And for each other? They're the satisfaction of those desires, the meeting of those needs. They're the example of basic human compassion. They're the example of what happens when you let go of the past and find the courage to move on. And Cameron? She's the reason every woman must first learn to be her own hero. (Check out Cameron's story, and see if she's as inspiring to you as she has been to me. Purchase for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, or Kobo. Also available on Inktera/Page Foundry.)
I love those two stories, and I'm so proud to have written them. They're my favorites of my books! But then there's Cameron's little sister Harmony, as she wrestles with herself and who she wants to be in Wrestling Harmony, that book becomes my favorite, too. Harmony's a spunky young woman facing some tough choices at a really vulnerable time in her life. She's facing the existential questions we all face: Who am I? Where am I going in life? Who do I want to be? What am I going to do? What are my dreams? And how can I bring them to fruition? And on top of everything ... what about love? Is it worth it? What if I get hurt? What if something bad happens? What if it doesn't? She, like every other woman, is on a journey of self, and though she doesn't suffer from Cass's lack of confidence, she has her own personal barriers that keep her alone and afraid to taste the joy of romantic love. It's amazing what fear can hold us back from, even if we know in our heads that the fear is irrational. And it's so much more amazing when there are people to push you beyond that fear, people who are willing to hold you hand and pull you into the water so that you can learn to swim. Harmony's willingness to get outside of her comfort zone, and Xander's undeniably sweet persistence, are why these two make Wrestling Harmony my favorite of all of my books. (Want to meet this spunky sweetheart and the man who coaxes her out of her comfort zone? Purchase for Kindle, or find this book on October 30, 2015 on iBooks, Nook, Kobo or Inktera/Page Foundry.)
Want to know more about my favorites of my books? Stay tuned for Part II of this post, where I'll tell you why Selkie, Fighting For Freedom, and Courageous are all my favorites of my books. Maybe I'll even give you a sneak peek into why I loved Michael Kingsley enough to struggle for almost two years to bring you a Kingsley book from a male perspective (More Than Friends, coming November 10, 2015) ...