by Joyce Lamb)
Happy Valentine's Day, HEA readers! Today we have an extraspecial treat. I asked some of our favorite romance authors to fill in the blanks: I fell in love with ____ in ____. You might be surprised by some of their answers …
Mary Jo Putney, author of Sometimes a Rogue
I fell in love with PandaMax at the local cat hospital. He's a big black and white sweetie who lived rough before he was brought in. Everyone liked him, but no one was taking him home. It's not easy for adult cats in a world with adorable kittens! But we were a cat low at the time, so I brought Panda home on approval, pending how well he got on with the other cats. He's turned out to be a real beta hero — warm and laidback and affectionate. And with a red ribbon around his neck, a perfect Valentine Cat!
Kristan Higgins, author of The Perfect Match
I fell in love with Fran's Chocolates Salted Caramels when I was in Seattle. All I remember is a beautiful store, a sample plate, and the rest is a blur. I woke up surrounded by those crinkly little chocolate wrappers and the cops. And you know what? It was completely worth it.
Suzanne Brockmann, author of Do or Die
I fell in love with my first dogs in a volunteer-run animal shelter, north of Boston.
I saw a picture, online, of Sugar and Spice, miniature schnauzers whose owner had died. We were thinking about getting a dog — singular — in a few months. But we made the mistake of driving up to see the shelter, to find out how pet adoption worked. We were met with big hopeful eyes and doggie kisses. And, yeah, a few days later, we were driving home with our new dogs. Plural. Love at first sight!
Darynda Jones, author of Sixth Grave on the Edge (May)
I fell in love with reading in the dentist's office. I've always made up stories and have written them since I was very young. And I read. I read quite a bit, but I never LOVED to read, as in "with a fiery passion," until I was sitting in my dentist's office and picked up an issue of Good Housekeeping. Inside, there was a condensed version of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss' A Rose in Winter, and I was lost. I read the whole story then went home and read every historical romance I could get my hands on, moving on later to all forms of romance then eventually all types of fiction.
K.M. Jackson, author of Threads Of Desire
I fell in love with him standing in the rain.
It was pouring out and there was not a bus in sight as I looked down Madison Avenue in search of an Uptown bus. I picked the wrong day to forget my umbrella and my feet where getting soaked. But when he pulled up in his deep burgundy ride and the window came down to show a warm, welcoming smile the chilly rain was quickly forgotten as I hopped inside, slipped on my seat belt and let him guide me home.
Kathy Altman, author of Staying at Joe's
I fell in love with Alfred Hitchcock in the '70s.
Staying up late to watch TV was taboo in our household, so as often as we could, my sister and I begged to sleep over at our cousin's house. We three girls would don our shortie pajamas, snag three bottles of Coke and lie on the floor in front of the tiny black-and-white TV, mesmerized by Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Remember the episode with the wife who bashed her husband in the head with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooked it up and served it to the police? Thus began my love affair with the thriller genre … and with staying up way past my bedtime. :-)
Joanna Bourne, author of Rogue Spy
I fell in love with Mandy at the Animal Shelter.
Now, you gotta understand — Mandy is not merely a "mixed breed." Mandy is a United Nations of a dog, with all the smaller nations speaking up at once.
Mandy's not going to win any beauty contests.
But as I passed the cage, she was looking at me in such a speculative, considering manner. Thinking, y'know.
So I took her out for a walk. I sat down on the bench.
She put her chin down on my feet and sighed in relief.
And I had a dog.
Victoria Alexander, author of The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride (April 29)
I fell in love with Petra in 1989 when I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and discovered the setting for the end wasn't a movie set but a real place. To me, it looks like something straight from a fairy tale told by Scheherazade.
Everything I've read about this amazing place in Jordan makes me long to visit. You enter the city through a narrow gorge — motorized vehicles not allowed! You have to walk or go by horseback or carriage. What a fabulous adventure!
I've had characters that have visited Petra but that's as close as I've gotten. Maybe someday ...
Rebecca York, author of Bridal Jeopardy
I fell in love with Indian food in a little restaurant on York Road (get it?) just north of Baltimore. My cousin performed the introductions, and my husband and I were immediately hooked on the rich, exotic flavors. I roll my eyes went people tell me they hate Indian food because they don't like curry. It's so much more, from their wonderful nan breads to Tandori oven dishes and Tikka Masala. Loving the cuisine was a big advantage when we traveled to India a few years ago. It's all there is. No American, Chinese, Italian or anything else — except at breakfast.
Cara Elliott, author of Sinfully Yours
I fell in love with storytelling in my grade-school library.
I remember opening the pages of The Fabulous Flight by Robert Lawson, an amazingly inventive children's book about a boy and a seagull who set out on a mission to save the world from evil, and being swept away into a whole new world. That exciting realm of the imagination was a truly magical place, and I knew right then that I never wanted to leave it (I don't think I ever have!). It taught me the joy of books, which have been lifelong friends ever since.
Nancy Herkness, author of Country Roads
I fell in love with snorkeling in the Galapagos.
I can be a bit chicken about swimming in the ocean, but, my daughter was going snorkeling so I was going, too. We splashed off our zodiac, and ended up in the midst of a group of young sea lions. When one youngster swam right up to me and stopped with his nose an inch from mine, my fear transformed into sheer joy. We looked into each other's eyes for several marvelous seconds before he whipped away in search of another playmate. The next day, I even dove in to swim with hammerhead sharks!
Kristen Callihan, author of Shadowdance
I fell in love with liquid lust in a cup. Yes, it's true.
It happened last Christmas when my husband bought me a Nespresso machine. Imagine it, rich and creamy lattes at the touch of a button. It was love at first taste. However, there is a dark side. I try to be good and only drink one cup a day, but I swear my beloved Nespresso calls to me, tempting with quick and sinful pleasure, "Kristen! Come to me. Use me. I won't mind. We can be bad together!" Or maybe it's just my romance writer's mind playing tricks on me. Either way, we are in love and will not be parted!
Diane Gaston, author of A Marriage of Notoriety
I fell in love with the Duke of Wellington in Stratfield Saye.
Stratfield Saye is the country house in Hampshire, U.K., that was given by a grateful nation to Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington and the hero of Waterloo. I was impressed that the house was still a home, the present duke's son lived there — I could hear a baby crying and the maid was vacuuming the drawing room. In the carriage house was Wellington's over-the-top Victorian funeral carriage and a recording of all the accolades he earned in his lifetime. The voice on the recording went on and on and I had the sense of being in the presence of a truly great man. That's when I fell in love! (What else would you expect from a Regency historical romance author?)
Lori Foster, author of Dash of Peril (March)
I fell in love with books in bed.
Being an outdoors girl, I'd never really gotten into reading. Then pneumonia had me stuck in bed, feeling too terrible to even watch TV. My sister brought me over a brown paper bag full of romances. I admit, for the first one, I searched out the sex scene and started there. Then I got so invested in the characters I went back to the beginning to see how they got to the sex. I read for a few years — and then started writing. I've been a book addict ever since!
Desiree Holt, author of Quarterback Sneak
I fell in love with Starbucks double-chocolate brownies.
I'm not exactly a chocoholic, but I do love brownies, and the first time I ate one of these I thought I'd died and gone to gourmet heaven. I said to the barista, "These have no calories, right?" He of course smiled and agreed with me. So I had two. In my little tiny Texas town we have a Starbucks and I'm drawn to it like a moth to a flame. When I travel, my first stop after Security is Starbucks for, what else, that yummy, yummy brownie. I am so addicted I sometimes dream about them. Oh, wait. I think I might have to put that in a book!
Julie Ann Walker, author of Hell for Leather
I fell in love with gnocchi in Rome. What's not to love about pasta, right? But I'd always drawn the line at those dense little balls of potato (or semolina or wheat flour) that looked like oversized cheese curds and promised to fill my mouth with the chewy, pasty consistency of a dumpling. Yuck! But 10 years ago, I found myself in Rome on a Thursday which, unbeknownst to me, is the city's weekly "Gnocchi Day." Those spongy little balls were everywhere. Covered with butter and served at breakfast. Rolled in pesto and brought to my table as a side dish at lunch. Drenched in marinara and plunked in front of me for dinner … along with a giant carafe of Chianti, of course. And, hey, when in Rome, right? So I tried them. I tried all of them. And, guess what? I fell in love. Much to the lament of my hips and thighs …
Sally MacKenzie, author of Loving Lord Ash
I fell in love with my husband in our law school dorm's kitchen. I made omelets; he made scrambled pancakes. (He cut the recipe in half ... except the egg.) He was tall and funny, and we often said the same thing at the same time. But I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer. I left; he followed once he had his JD. Thirty-four years, four sons, and two grandchildren later, we still laugh and have "that's what I was going to say" moments, but now he's a much better cook — and I do the dishes.
Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy
I fell in love with running in Prospect Park. I'd never been especially into clocking time at the gym, and I hated running in particular. Boring! Tiring! Repetitive! Hard! But one morning in my early 20s, on a gorgeous spring day, I was motivated for no apparent reason to take a run in nearby Prospect Park. I think I was wearing, like, tennis shoes and a bathing suit top since I had no running gear. I could only go about a quarter mile before gasping for breath, but it changed my life. I've been chasing a runner's high ever since.
Tracy March, author of The Practice Proposal
I fell in love with baseball in Washington, D.C.
My husband and I had just moved there for a short while, and he wanted to go to a Nationals game for his birthday. Ugh. So we went to nearly new Nationals Park on a starry night in June. Bright lights, good seats, close game. Cold beer, peanuts and yummy ballpark hot dogs. All the nostalgia of baseball with a modern twist — and super-hot players in uniform. I was suddenly smitten. Now I'm addicted. Please tell me it's time for Spring Training — I'm getting a little twitchy!
Sara Humphreys, author of Unclaimed
I fell in love with acting in college. I'd always wanted to act but never had the nerve to audition until my sophomore year. I auditioned for Brighton Beach Memoirs and landed the female lead — I was hooked. Auditioning for that show completely changed my life. Not only did I meet some of my dearest lifelong friends, but I found myself, too. The decision to face my fear and step foot on that stage set the scene for my future. I learned that following my passion and taking chances was the key to finding happiness.
Adrienne Giordano, author of Stealing Justice
I fell in love with watermelon mojitos in South Beach.
When Joyce first sent this e-mail, I considered talking about where I fell in love with my amazing husband. Then I decided everyone will probably do that, so I'm going with the watermelon mojitos. Just the name gives me shivers. I've always been a mojito fan, but mix in fresh watermelon with the rum and I'm knocked-out, down-for-the-count in love. Perfection!
Angie Fox, author of My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding
I fell in love with nail art at a tiny little salon next to our grocery store. I'd always thought painted toes meant polish only. But then my 10-year-old daughter informed me that a girl could now get flowers, polka dots, you name it. I couldn't let her be the only brave one. She had stars painted on her big toes. I went with daisies — and it was so much fun. For the entire time the polish stayed on, I'd look down at my toes and smile. So now, even in the winter, I make sure to have flowers or sparkles or something fun going on. It's the little things, right? And darned if it still doesn't make me smile.
Jessica Scott, author of All for You
I fell in love with coffee in basic training.
I was a sheltered kid. I never drank soda, never dreamed of touching alcohol, but in basic training, I fell in love with coffee. All day long the drill sergeants would scream and yell and march us from place to place. We were up at the butt-crack of dawn with fire guard random hours of the night. I was 18 and exhausted. One of my bunkmates offered me the cheapest, nastiest instant ground coffee on the planet, but the caffeine, oh the caffeine was a thing of beauty. I am now a firm believer in the idea that the Army runs on coffee because without it, bad things happen.
Virginia Kantra, author of Carolina Man
I fell in love with my future husband in the time it took him to make chocolate mousse out of a leftover egg and a vending machine candy bar.
We were students. We were broke. And I craved dessert. All we had between us was enough change to do a load of laundry. He used the quarters to buy a Hershey's Bar with almonds, borrowed an egg, and — with a little leftover Cool Whip from a dorm sundae party — made chocolate mousse. I knew then that whatever life held, he would always make it sweet.
Elizabeth Boyle, author of If Wishes Were Earls
I fell in love with knitting at my great-grandmother's side. She was in her late 80s and lived with my grandparents. As a young child, I would sit beside her watching her make all those wonderful stitches, and then one magical day, she put the needles in my hand and taught me how to make those stitches as well. Every time I cast on a new project, every time I listen to that soothing click of the needles, I think of my dear Num.
Hope Tarr, author of Operation Cinderella
I fell in love with Raj at Pop Burger in NYC. Or at least we first met there. Until then, I'd never gotten the appeal of sliders — or speed dating. Why devour multiple burger bites when you could have one big juicy one? Likewise why engage in verbal snacking with multiple men when you could have one satisfying conversation with one special guy? And then my friend-of-a-friend, Nya, offered me free admission to the speed-dating event she was hosting at Pop Burger in NYC's übertrendy Meatpacking District, and I thought, "Why not?" Certainly I never expected to meet my Mr. Wonderful over greasy mini burgers and a two-top with a numbered table tent, but I suppose that goes to show that, like lightning, true love strikes when you least expect it. Happy Valentine's!
Kate Douglas, author of Dark Moon
I fell in love with a cowboy in the store where I worked during college. He was tall and lean with long brown hair; he had the Stetson, the boots, the worn Lee jeans and a blue chambray shirt. Poor guy had no idea his number was up. After he left, I told my co-worker I was going to marry him. Six months later we were married, within a year we'd started our family. Forty-two years later and he still takes my breath. No wonder I write romances. I can't deny it was love — or at least lust — at first sight!
Laura Florand, author of The Chocolate Temptation
I fell in love with macarons in Paris. A French friend told me I had to try this weird cookie thing she was trying to describe and which she kept insisting had nothing to do with those coconut macaroons at home, and that I must try them at Ladurée. (This was well before the macaron craze that has made these well-known even in the U.S.) So I went to Ladurée, and I fell in love with the gorgeous 19th-century salon de thé and the luscious delicate crunch and yield of a chocolate macaron, as you sink your teeth through the shell into the ganache center. As I was eating my first one on a green bench, an older Parisian man walking by said to me, "You're eating the best of France, right there." And in a way he was right!
Jane Ashford, author of The Bride Insists (March)
I fell in love with soft-boiled eggs in Cornwall.
I'd never liked runny eggs of any description. Slimy! But I was staying in a small hotel in southwest England — 200 years old, saturated with atmosphere. They served their soft-boiled eggs in cerulean blue eggcups, with skinny strips of toast pre-cut for dipping. I watched other guests tap their eggshells with the side of a spoon, lift off the tops, and dunk. I had to try it. Delicious! My favorite way to eat eggs ever since.
Laura Kaye, author of Hard As You Can
I fell in love with tattoos in Iowa.
LOL! OK, maybe I actually was in strong like with tattoos before Iowa, but the first summer I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I actually took the plunge and got my first tattoo at a little shop there. My best friend along for moral support, I got a star with three roses in the center, one for each of my daughters and my mom. I'd been considering this design for months and I kinda couldn't believe I was actually doing it even though I was beyond excited. Now I have two and want more. It's an addiction!
Ruthie Knox, author of Roman Holiday 5: Ignited
I fell in love with a robot in the third grade.
It was all for show, though. There I was, a third-grader in the chorus of the Valentine's Day play, enduring a week's worth of dress rehearsals and, unbeknownst to everyone (including myself), memorizing all the fourth-grade heroine's lines and songs. And then came the day of the play … and the heroine called in sick! We sat on the stage, eavesdropping as the teachers debated among themselves what to do — and then I stepped forward. "I can do it!" I said. "I know all the songs." The next thing I knew, I was canoodling with a boy in a silver-painted cardboard robot costume before a crowd of parents and siblings, saying, "I love you, Mr. Machine," and dancing through the audience. It was my stage debut and my first taste of the pure joy of performance. I've never been quite the same.
Erin Quinn, author of The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love
I fell in love with vodka martinis while wearing my pajamas.
I'd never been a martini drinker until I was writing my latest book (emphasis on the LATE). I could stop there and all the writers out there would probably nod understandingly and say, "Nuff said." But really, there's more. I was writing like a fiend when fellow author and dear friend Calista Fox asked how I was doing. My reply? "Send vodka." I was joking, but Calista knew a cry for help when she heard it and she sent vodka, delivered to my door with a jar of jalapeno-stuffed olives. I was in jammies, hadn't showered that day (possible not the one before it either, but that's another story) but it was after 5 (somewhere) and so I mixed and poured. And drank. And suddenly, my problems didn't seem quite as bad. Probably because I got stinkin' drunk and couldn't see them anymore. But still ... I've loved martinis ever since.
Terri Brisbin, author of The Highlander's Dangerous Temptation
I fell in love with Ian Buchanan in General Hospital (and then lots of other Scottish men!).
I remember when his bad-boy character appeared on General Hospital — Duke Lavery — sigh — lovely Scottish accent and clearly a dangerous man. Then Duke fell in love with Anna and it went on from there. The character lived, loved, died, lived again, loved again and died again and somehow is back on the soap opera today — still handsome, still very Scottish ...!
It was the beginning of my lifelong love for Scottish men — Gerard Butler, Sean Connery, David Tennant, and, of course, honorary Highlander Adrian Paul.
Margo Maguire, author of The Highlander's Desire
I fell in love with Paris in 2008, my first time there.
I'd always thought the stories about Paris were trumped up by people who'd just fallen in love, or were suckers for a pretty place. Then my husband and I went. In its entirety, the city is incomprehensible, purely magical; in its parts, it is charming, lovely, earthy, and robust. It's a city steeped in history and beauty, and you cannot help but fall in love with it.
Tina Leonard, author of Hotter than Texas
I fell in love with Santa Fe the moment we went for a walk in the town. I loved the connection to history, the beautiful churches, the artistic vibe, and the delish food. The sense of Native American culture spoke to me, and the friendliness of the town. The blue sky — like turquoise — was breathtaking and clear, and though it was hot, hot, hot because we were there in the summer, the sky remained amazing and smogless. I always smile when I think of New Mexico — and I always conserve water!
Willa Blair, author of Highland Seer
I fell in love with my husband in San Antonio.
It's where I met my husband, and where we now live. San Antonio is a romantic city, not just for the River Walk, the Alamo, great multicultural food, and oh, yes, cowboys, especially this month while the rodeo is in town. There are beautiful Spanish Missions, incredible views in the Hill Country, dark skies sprinkled with stars, and some of the most gorgeous sunsets you'll ever see. Amazon finally caught up with what I've known for years, giving San Antonio first place in its recent list of the top 20 most romantic cities in the U.S. For romance authors, and for anyone who loves romance, San Antonio is a great place to be!
Avery Flynn, author of High-Heeled Wonder
I fell in love with the Fab Mr. Flynn the first night I met him in St. Joseph, Missouri, when we spent an entirely too-drunk conversation arguing about The Grapes of Wrath. He didn't change my mind (the book is horrid). I didn't change his (even though I'm right). I went home that night knowing I'd found the man I was going to marry. To this day we are on opposite sides of just about everything, except when it comes to each other. And that's just fine with me.
Terry Spear, author of Silence of the Wolf
I fell in love with Castle Dunnottar in Scotland.
The gray curtain walls towered above, blocking the cold North Sea winds and made it feel warm and welcoming, like my clan ancestry had once lived there and I was home again. It's supposed to be one of the most haunted castles in Scotland, but I used it as the basis for the heroine coming home in A Highland Werewolf Wedding, who felt that same warm and welcoming draw.
Shirley Jump, author of The Sweetheart Bargain
I fell in love with sushi in Florida. OK, I know it's a Japanese dish, but I haven't been to Asia (yet) and so I went with the next best thing — sushi at a little restaurant in this town where we live, masterfully created by a chef who was trained by the sushi master who first brought the dish to the United States. I started out easy — California Roll (sushi for wimps) — but now my husband and I are working our way through the menu, one roll at a time. My favorites are Sweet Potato Rolls (surprisingly awesome), Dragon Roll and Double Crunch Crab Roll. Oh, and also Spicy Tuna Roll, Volcano Roll … Suffice to say I haven't met a sushi I don't like yet!
Toni Blake, author of Wildest Dreams
I fell in love with romance novels in 1995.
I was an aspiring literary author when, in the fall of that year, a friend shoved three Jennifer Crusie novels into my hand and said, "This is what you should be writing." I was skeptical, but as soon as I read the books and saw how smart, funny, and sexy romance could be, I knew my friend was right. I've never looked back. And I'm so grateful for a career doing something I love!
Lina Gardiner, author of Gift of Prophecy
I fell in love with Fire in the Water during a full moon one hot summer night on an East Coast beach. With each crashing wave, the bioluminescent phytoplankton rode the curls like giant neon streamers. I've been searching for it ever since, and hope that someday, somewhere, I might get a chance to experience it again. It's a beautiful thing to see. I think the effect requires the light of the full moon and an algal bloom of a certain phytoplankton, a perfect combination for someone who writes dark fantasy. Actually, that experience led to me using bioluminescent sea life as a vampire drug in my Jess Vandermire Vampire Hunter Series.
Diana Cosby, author of His Enchantment
I fell in love with photography in New Jersey!
Throughout my life, I've had little interest in photography. Taking pictures was OK, but they needed to be developed, then you ran the risk that they were out of focus, or a bad shot. No thanks. Last year, I bought a digital camera. For a few months it sat unused, then one day I took several photos of birds, and WOW, the ability to delete unwanted photos immediately was amazing. Best, the birds were SO CUTE!!! Now, I take photos daily, and I've been in love with photography ever since!
Heather Lire, author of Second Chance at Happiness
I fell in love with Mr. Lire in Vegas.
Yes, you read that right. I fell in love with Mr. Lire in Vegas. Granted, we were both living there at the time so it wasn't a Vegas hook-up. In fact, the moment I fell in love with him was the day he took my 6-year-old brother out Christmas shopping. Our first Valentine's (we celebrated the day after due to work) I got one of the worst proposals ever. But I said yes. That was 15 years ago this year. And each year he has to hear about his crappy proposal that has become one of our kids' favorite stories of us.
Now it's your turn, HEA reader, to fill in the blanks:
I fell in love with ____ in ____. : )
HEA curator and contributor Joyce Lamb has 25 years of journalism experience and eight published romantic suspense novels, three of which have been RITA finalists. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter (@JoyceLamb). You can also follow HEA on Twitter (@HEAusatoday).