"Why do you have to turn in your feminist card if you want both [a strong, chivalrous man and an independent life] and why can’t you have both?" -- Jennifer Ryan
The following are highlights from a conversation with romance novelists, Jennifer Ryan and Kristen Proby. They joined us in the studio as part of the 2017 Montana Book Festival. To hear the full interview, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.
Sarah Aronson: Let’s address the critics right off the bat. What do you say to people who think romance novels are “lightweight literature”?
Jennifer Ryan: I say, you’ve probably never read one. Laughing
I don’t know how somebody can dismiss an entire genre that sells more books than any other genre. I don’t know why somebody would say it’s light or fluffy or that “you can’t write a book as well as a master thriller writer or something.” You can get all of that in a romance novel. I think romance novels offer so much more than just the love story, it’s the human experience that we all have—we all want to meet somebody, we want to fall in love, we want to be treated right, we want to be respected. I think we give that to every reader and I think there’s nothing wrong with knowing, going in, that no matter what happens to your characters, they are going to get a happy ending. And you get to leave on a high note and feel good about it at the end.
Kristen Proby: No, I agree. Adding to that with the human experience, there are friendships, and families, and children in these books. It’s not just a fluffy “let’s have sex now” experience. I think that’s something women really relate to. They want to be friends with these people. My readers say all the time, “I want to be a part of that family. I want to be her best friend.” It’s not just about the relationship between the man and the woman. And certainly, the people who do well in this genre are just good writers, regardless of what genre they’re writing in.
Kristen, one of the things I appreciate about your book was the strength of the female characters. . . What’s the genesis of those women and why is it important for you to have strong female leads?
Kristen: It’s important in all my books, it’s not just this series. It’s definitely one of the threads in my stories: always the woman is strong on her own, that no man ever completes her, but rather compliments her. She knows at this moment in her life that that is her truth and she’s just excited that she’s found a guy who respects and compliments her, because as a woman, I also want that. I want to write about women who I want to be friends with. I don’t want to read about someone who I don’t respect as a person, or that I don’t identify with, or that I wouldn’t look up to as a friend. It was never a question in my head, always when I’m coming up with these characters in my head, they’re always independently strong. I think that’s important to put out there, especially because our readers are young. And for them to read, “Oh, she’s a business owner, she’s successful all by herself. No man helped her get there.” I think that’s really important.
Do you feel responsible, culturally, to entertain any kind of dialogue about gender politics, power . . .?
Jennifer: Kristen actually has a great line in The Beauty of Us, where she addresses this a little bit and says (I’m paraphrasing here), “Maybe I’m not a feminist if I expect a guy to be polite, kind, open the door, be a good guy and I can’t still have a great job, support myself and have everything I want too.” Like, why do you have to turn in your feminist card if you want both, and why can’t you have both? Just because you have a woman who wants a guy who’s going to open the door for them but still be like, maybe that door is for them to walk into the boardroom, which I did in one of my books. And she walked into the boardroom to lay down the law to these people and he was like, “Go do your thing.” I think you can have a strong enough guy, who’s a big alpha guy and can still look at the woman in his life and be like, “You got this. Go for it.”
About the Books:
Escape to You by Jennifer Ryan
A Montana man always protects the woman he loves. He discovered her during a Montana blizzard, freezing cold, impossibly vulnerable, a little boy by her side. Undercover DEA Agent Beck “Trigger” Cooke is astonished to recognize Ashley Swan—award-winning actress, famous beauty—and missing for over ayear. To keep her and the child hidden from a sadistic madman, he secrets the pair away to his isolated home.
No longer a prisoner, and protected at Hope Ranch, Ashley recovers and learns the tall, tempting federal agent may have a dark past, but it hasn’t destroyed his sense of honor.
As they shed past roles and find common ground, Ashley and Trigger can’t help but fall slowly, carefully, in love. But danger still lurks outside the boundaries of Hope Ranch, for until her crazed captor is brought to justice, and Trigger’s undercover past is laid to rest, none of them will ever be truly safe…
The Beauty of Us by Kristen Proby
Riley is over the moon at the prospect of having her restaurant, Seduction, featured on the Best Bites TV network, but the idea of having an in-house show on a regular basis is a whole different thing. Their lives would be turned upside down, and convincing Mia, her best friend and head chef of Seduction, that having cameras in her kitchen every day is a good idea is daunting. Riley knows that the show is the best thing for their beloved restaurant, and having the executive producer, Trevor, around makes Rileys pulse quicken. The chemistry between them is off the charts.
No one has ever looked at her the way he does…
Trevor Cooper is in Portland strictly on business. His intention is to talk the co-owner and publicist, Riley Gibson, into agreeing to allow his employer, Best Bites TV, to feature her restaurant on the national channel. His best friend told him about the unique restaurant, and Trevor is convinced that Seduction would be perfect for a new show. But when he walks into Riley’s office, hes thrown for a loop. The professional, aloof woman on the phone is beautiful and funny, and Trevor can’t stop looking at her stunning face. But can he convince her that hes interested in Riley for himself? Or is he using the undeniable pull between them to persuade her to agree to his offer?
About the Authors:
Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted, McBride, and Montana Men series. She writes suspenseful contemporary romances with outrageous plot twists, deeply emotional love stories, high stakes and higher drama. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find. Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me in Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves. Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.