Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Real love drew me to write real romance. When I was a girl, the novels I read had dashing heroes who fell in love with the heroine at first sight, spouting poetic compliments.

Then I fell in love with my husband. I found him mildly annoying at first. It took us both a while to fall in love. He doesn’t give compliments, and the only poem he quotes is a limerick he wrote in junior high about dog poop (don’t ask). And I adore him.

So when I started writing, I was determined to portray real love in my stories. I wanted to portray love that would have women appreciate the men in their lives more deeply—not resent them. (tweet this)

Here are the three components of real love I like to portray in my novels:

Real Men

In elementary school I learned boys were weird and gross. Then I got married and had two sons. Boys are even weirder and grosser than I realized.

The heroes in my novels don’t always say and do the right things. Sometimes they annoy the heroine. They have faults that they need to work on with the Lord’s help.

But character is most important. In The Sea Before Us, Dorothy barely notices Wyatt at first. He isn’t suave and exciting. But then she gets to know him. Finally she realizes, “He was kind and honest, and he did the right thing even when it hurt. He was humble enough to admit his sins and dedicated enough to make amends. And his faith was strong and resilient.”

A man worth having displays integrity, honor, kindness, and strength. Far better than poetry!

Real Growth

Love at first sight does happen—I’ve met many happily married couples who started that way. But it isn’t a realistic goal. If it happens, enjoy it. However, for most of us, love develops over time, with ups and downs. Even when the attraction is instant, the growth of love from that attraction takes time.

Real love often has a fitful start, with one partner having stronger feelings than the other. Real love can also grow out of friendship. Even after feelings are declared, love continues to grow and change as the partners see new dimensions of personality and character, strengths and weaknesses.

In The Sea Before Us, I enjoyed watching friends fall in love. Wyatt is drawn to Dorothy from the start, but Dorothy thinks Wyatt is too quiet and steady. Their friendship, and the difficulties they walk through together, reveal a relationship to cherish.

Real Selves

In youth, we try on different personas. As the quiet nerd girl—back when nerds weren’t cool—I tried to make myself into an extrovert who never used big words in public. All so boys would notice me. Some of that change was good—I needed to become friendlier and easier to understand. But some was fake. I grew to realize I didn’t want a man who didn’t love me as I was.

With Dorothy’s story, I played with that concept. Naturally dramatic and boisterous, she’s trying to make herself into a cool sophisticate to attract the dashing Lawrence Eaton. She justifies it to herself: “She had never been loved as she was, and she never would be. Change was her only hope.”

But over time she realizes, “Why, Lawrence didn’t know her well enough to love her. And if he did fall for her, he’d fall for her sophisticated persona, not the real Dorothy . . . It was so hard to please him. So hard to tamp down her enthusiasm and chattiness.”

Real love can only develop between two real selves. (tweet this) If we have to disguise our true selves, it isn’t real love. And what kind of marriage would that lead to? Either a life of playacting—or reverting to the real self, which could make the other partner feel deceived, and rightfully so.

What aspects of real love do you enjoy reading or writing about?


Sarah Sundin is the author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com, http://www.facebook.com/SarahSundinAuthor, or http://twitter.com/sarahsundin .

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. Dorothy Fairfax serves as a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, piecing together reconnaissance photographs with holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day. As Wyatt and Dorothy work together, he hopes Dorothy will return his growing love. But will family secrets, misplaced affections—and the seas off Normandy—separate them forever?

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