by Joyce Lamb)
Leslie Garcia, author of Wildflower Redemption, delves into the role of dogs (and other furballs) in romance novels, including her own.
Leslie: The first Jean Brashear romance I read, Healer, featured an unforgettable hero, a strong-willed but shattered heroine, a family I would follow over the next decade, and an Appaloosa and two dogs I would follow for years.
The addictive quality of Jean's writing focuses, for me, on her understanding of human characters — fleshed out, perhaps a little, by her clear belief that romance, life, and love are better when animals are involved.
That philosophy comes naturally to me. My mother and father raised Great Danes. Animals followed my sister home, and as she and I grew into teenagers, became guy magnets — sort of. But certainly, the underpinnings of my fascination with animals as characters participating in the romance between a hero and his heroine began with a memorabable night.
Thor, one of Leslie's fawn Great Danes, who passed away at 13.(Photo11: Leslie Garcia)
My dad and mom worked night shifts in Marietta and Atlanta, respectively, then drove the three hours to Greenville, Georgia, where our family resided in a ruined antebellum, with a Civil War cemetery that belonged to the former owners. And a roadside amusement park boasting all sorts of small wild animals, horses and ponies, antique rides — and a lion.
The lion came home in the back of an old wood-look station wagon. My sister and I were closing up "the development" when we saw the car ease down the drive with something large and tawny in the back seat. My sister thought it was another fawn Great Dane.
I ran after the car shouting, "What's that thing in the back that looks like a lion?"
Well, the thing was a lion, but that wasn't romantic. When my petite mother climbed out, pale and trembling, with huge white paw prints on the back of her navy dress, she smiled bravely at me. "This is what you'll do for love," she told me. And that was romantic.
Now, I wouldn't do that for love. Not now. Then, I would have. And maybe my sister and I tried to show off a little when infrequent eligible teenagers came around to see the lion.
But from a childhood spent loving animals, and believing no life is complete without them, came a heart full of the characters that turn up in my stories of romance and love.
Luz Wilkinson, the heroine of Wildflower Redemption, didn't plan on starting a small-town rescue operation, but — she came to it naturally. Someone needed to carry on her parents' legacy of love for cats, dogs and guinea fowl. Not to mention horses.
She finds it hard to believe, when city boy Aaron Estes stumbles into town, that they have anything in common. In the end, though, what could be more romantic than a chocolate-loving donkey, a nameless kitten, and a pit bull providing a buffer against the fear of falling in love again?
There are homes without pets. Certainly, romance can flourish without a cat or a dog, or attack birds.
But I was touched, after 10 years of reading Jean's MacAllister books, to find progeny and memories of the animal members of the family that had gone on, as they do in our own lives. No longer with the young lovers of a book or a life, but not forgotten.
Eventually, I feel sure I'll write a romance without dogs. Or horses. Or other magical beings of the animal kingdom. Because I truly do get that romance can exist between two loving humans unclaimed by loving fur babies.
Romance can. But love? Maybe not so much.
Find out more about Leslie and her books at lesliepgarcia.wordpress.com.