The Truth About Love
She may write fiction, but author Sherri Shackelford knows a thing or two about real love and romance.
by Sherri Shackelford, author of The Engagement Bargain (Love Inspired Historical)
I’ll tell you a secret: People rarely ask romance writers for advice about love and romance. They assume the stories we weave are sentimental fantasies that can only exist in someone’s imagination. Certainly the historic Westerns I write gloss over many of the less savory aspects of history. There are fewer flies, less dysentery and more smiles featuring healthy teeth in my books than actually existed in the Old West.
Though our stories may glamorize the living conditions, romance writers never shy away from the truth about love. Relationships must be carefully nurtured to thrive. As my character, Jack Elder, says in The Marshal’s Ready-Made Family, “Marriage is hard work. But it’s good work. Worthwhile. Put in the effort.”
Through trial and experience, romance writers have discovered that true love is learning to say “I’m sorry” without conditions and “You’re forgiven” without stipulations. When our children were young, my husband took a job that meant he traveled extensively. There were months when he was only home for a few days, and I felt as though he had abandoned our family. When he finally quit, I couldn’t let go of my negative feelings. This lingering resentment festered between us until one day he said, “I’m sorry” and I said, “You’re forgiven.”
Far from being immersed in fantasy, romance writers will tell you that real love isn’t about flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners on Valentine’s Day. We recognize that romance isn’t something that arrives on your doorstep like a perfectly wrapped package. My husband doesn’t plan exotic vacations or buy me expensive jewelry. Instead, when I decided to become a writer, he sold his dust-covered drum set and bought me a laptop.
Romance writers understand that enduring love evolves over time through sacrifice and develops into the deepest bond between two people. My great-aunt Alyce once said, “Being with someone when you’re happy is easy. Pick someone you can be unhappy with, as well.” My husband and I make each other laugh, and that has gotten us through many a hard time.
I’m delighted that my latest book will be released this month, the month of romance and love. The Engagement Bargain is the first book in the Prairie Courtship miniseries. Caleb and Anna, the hero and heroine of the story, each have their own expectations of love and romance, and those expectations clash. Anna is a staunch suffragist who was raised to view love and marriage with disdain, while Caleb is a strong family man who longs for a lasting relationship.
I’m excited to revisit the Old West town of Cimarron Springs, Kansas. Each of my books has a connection to the town, and I’m thrilled to introduce more characters. Subsequent books in the miniseries will feature a lady blacksmith and an outlaw turned teacher. There will be plenty of characters visiting from previous titles, as well.
While our books might be fiction, romance writers still know a thing or two about real love and romance—even though we are rarely asked!
What is the best piece of love and romance advice you ever received?
About the Book:
Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him—until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop’s intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm.
Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn’t think much of marriage—and she certainly doesn’t plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb’s blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real…
Prairie Courtships: Romance on the range
Editor’s note: This post originally ran in Simply Books magazine.