In 2011 I was honored to be asked by my dear friend and fabulous author Amelia Grey to contribute to a project she was spearheading with the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers. The book – Fall in Love Like a Romance Writer – is a compilation of romance novelists sharing true stories of their lives and loves. As expected, the book is meant to be inspirational, and as an avowed happily-ever-after gal, I really love that!
Such are the pearls of insight generously dispensed with wisdom, wit, and emotional resonance from the bestselling authors who write all about it in Fall in Love Like a Romance Writer: The Secret Keys to a Long and Lasting Love. Award-winning novelist Amelia Grey takes us on a journey with more than sixty-five of the romance world’s most beloved storytellers whose personal experiences with that old black magic reveal a wealth of knowledge about the language of love and what makes it work—or not.
At turns entertaining, thought-provoking, poignant, and unexpected, Fall in Love Like a Romance Writer is far more than a collection of essays. It is a collection of secrets that contain the keys to a love that will endure. As critically acclaimed author Jean Brashear advises, ‘A long love affair needs a special, private, safe place to grow and blossom. Creating that space is, I believe with all my heart, both the joy and the most sacred duty of a marriage.’ Fall in love and bloom.
Below is my essay for the book. The story of finding and keeping my Mr. Darcy, my husband Steve.
My Own Mr. Darcy By Sharon Lathan
I like to tease that my husband picked me up while hanging out on the Boardwalk. Sounds juicier somehow, and I love the raised eyebrows! The fact is that while technically true that we met on the boardwalk fronting the sandy beaches of Santa Cruz, California, our meeting was innocent and not particularly exciting.
It was my very first day in town. Although July, I was newly relocated from New Mexico where the temperature at midnight is still in the 80s. My best friend insisted on showing me the famous sights of the town while all I wanted to do was curl up under the heating blanket set on super-high. How was I to know an enchanted moment was to occur? It was enchanting for my future soulmate, I should clarify, although not for me. To this day I am not sure if my memories of being introduced to him are actually his vividly retold remembrances of the encounter or mine. I only recall shivering in the fog and vaguely meeting a friend of my friend. My husband recalls every detail, including the clothes I was wearing! Guess which of us is the romantic in this relationship. That’s right, not the romance writer!
Yet even without shooting fireworks or slow-motion fading of peripheral images, it was a momentous happenstance and exactly one year and two days later we were married. We were the epitome of the happy couple deliriously in love with me the blushing bride in white and him the handsome groom nervously reciting his lines. A handful of months later I naively declared to some dear friends of mine that I couldn’t imagine a difficulty serious enough to shake our firm foundation and cohesiveness. After all, we were in love and our entire relationship was grounded in a deep, abiding faith in God. I remember that this older couple, Christians and married a good thirty years, smiled indulgently and gently spoke of trials and tribulations. I hearkened to their words, even if it seemed impossible.
Twenty-four years later I now know what they meant. Life throws curve balls that the best batter in the American League could not hit. The Bible promises trials and tribulations, those dreaded “T” words that we would rather forget are in there. My husband and I have had our fair share of both, shattering that honeymoon delusion of endless felicity ruling no matter the hardship.
However, despite my idealism on that day so long ago, one aspect of my innocent declaration proved true. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Even when our love felt distant and shaky, our foundation was indeed firm and grounded. There have been many times when we have forgotten this truism within the Word of God. Of course, thankfully God has a perfect memory! He has never forgotten His promises to us. Despite our human natures that fight vehemently against facing our troubles and would rather seek an easy way out, God is there to carry us through.
If we accept His answer to life’s dilemmas then this Scripture will be realized: “…. suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.
My husband is still far more romantic than me both in the obvious things like flowers for no reason and expensive gifts, and in the mundane things like doing the housework so I can write or rubbing my feet. Writing romance came to me later in life, after walking through the fires of marriage problems. I am very thankful for that. I remember the flutters and wild passion of new love – just not that day on the Boardwalk! But I also know the profound bonding that comes from years together. I now understand that romance is roses and candlelight dinners, and that it is also caring for your loved one when they are sick and forgiving them after an argument. I can tell you that after many years my lover’s kiss still excites me and that passion is alive and well! I also know how blissful it is to sit side-by-side and watch TV or dine with the family. He is my Mr. Darcy!
Love is an emotion expressed a myriad of ways. Love is also a conscious commitment reaffirmed every day. Trials and tribulations have taught me that. God has taught me that. And hopefully, through my stories of marriage I can teach others these principles and restore hope in the belief that love does not have to wither and romance can survive.
You too can find your Mr. Darcy.