This is my dad.
He grew up running barefoot in the forest of the Ozarks and joining his dad on moonshine runs across county lines. He has, at different times in his life, rode rodeo, topped trees, worked a farm, cut firewood, hunted for furs, and worked in a factory. He likes his coffee black and boiled and stubbornly ignores the five women in his life as they plead for him to stop smoking. His body is covered in scars from knife fights, he was married four times before he met my mom when he was 27 – once to a Cuban woman who didn’t speak English, which was unfortunate because he didn’t speak Spanish – and was a proud Marine, though he’d say is rather than was because once a Marine always a Marine. He taught his daughters to play poker before they could read, is always armed, and drinks his coffee with a splash of Sailor Jerry.
And he loves romance novels.
He devours them by the dozen, working his way through Sandra Hill, Julia Quinn, Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts, Christina Dodd, and dozens more even I have never heard of. He sits, with a dog at his feet, his coffee cup resting on the arm of the chair, and a paperback in his hand.
He’s always been a reader; both of my parents are. Growing up, I rarely saw either without a book in their hands. My mom usually read standing up, back to the fireplace and cup of coffee on the mantel. With four kids, she had to steal the time to read and her drug of choice was romance novels.
My dad, however, was all about Westerns and sci-fi. Family legend says that when he rode rodeo, he had two beat up hardback suitcases – one filled with clothes – pearl snap button Western shirts, prized belt buckles, jeans, and the other filled with books. He kept carried a paperback in his back pocket, the binding cracked and the pages rolled to fit, and would lean against a barn wall or tree and read a book while he ate his lunch.
I grew up in a house where reading was our primary past-time and sneaking my mom’s romance novels my one act of rebellion. About ten years or so ago, my mom called me, laughing because Dad, retired and frustrated over the lack of books available to him, had picked up one of hers – a Jude Devereaux Western romance. He’d finished it in hours, announced that it was a damn good story, and proceeded to work his way through her entire collection. When he finished those, he haunted the used book store. When he ran out there, he determined that stealing from his oldest daughter’s collection was appropriate.
“A good story is a good story,” he says when anyone questions why a leather tough man would pick up a novel about love.
When it came time to promote Elemental Awakening, my finger hovered over the names of male friends, men who have been supportive of my goals and dreams. I twisted my lips and wondered if I should add them to a romance author’s page, if I should encourage them to read a love story.
Then, I remembered my dad and clicked the button because real men read romance novels.