I hate taking down the Christmas tree, putting away the decorations. I hate that the village goes back in the storage space under the stairs. I hate the nativity scene going back in its storage container, looping the lights just right so that they are easy to put out next year. I loathe taking the wreaths off the door and the windows. Everything looks so barren and empty, so cold.
In an attempt to stave of the emptiness of a Christmas-less house, I decorate for other seasons, other holidays. I really wish that in January you could leave up the ‘winter’ decorations: the pinecones, the snowmen, the snowflakes. They aren’t really Christmas-y, ya know? But no, we have to say bye-bye to them all. So, in my house, we decorate for the next holiday. And that would be Valentine’s Day. And I HATE Valentine’s Day.
Why do I hate Valentine’s Day? I guess because it’s so friggin’ cheesy. I mean, red, pink, glitter, sparkles, roses, chocolate . . I mean, all these things I love one at a time. But on Valentine’s Day they all collide. It’s just so FORCED. Women are supposed to make men buy them things, to get crazy frisky, and find ‘romance’ because it is the middle of February. It’s pretty much a holiday picked by retailers because they were between seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I like romance. But I don’t like ‘contrived’ romance. I like laughing with my husband and finding secret moments, having inside jokes and knowing when one of us needs a hug. Movies? I would rather watch a rom-com than a straight up ‘romance.’ Books? I stay away from a book classified as a ‘romance,’ but I will read chick-lit. I love a book that isn’t about romance, but I love it when romance happens in a book.
I don’t force the hubs to buy me flowers or jewelry. If he wants to buy me flowers, I tell him to wait a week (they raise the prices on Valentine’s Day). He cooks, so I would rather have a great dinner. We go out usually the week after or so, when not everyone in the world is trying to get to the same restaurant (we only have one really nice one in our town), or maybe we go out for a drink. If he wants to buy me an Amazon or a Starbucks card he can, but he does that every once and awhile any way.
Despite all that, I will sprinkle my house with hearts like an elementary school teacher (because I have elementary-age daughters) and make heart-shaped pancakes (because I am raising my kids in the age of Pinterest). But I tell my family I love them everyday, and we show our love in a million different ways. We don’t save it for Valentines’ Day.
And now, let me talk about JoJo Moyes.
Well, after you read my above rant, you will find this funny. I have fallen in love with JoJo Moyes’ books. And then I learn that “Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.” But, as you see, that would be ROMANTIC books, not necessarily romance books. I would classify the two books I read as good chick-lit.
I first read The Girl You Left Behind and wasn’t sure if I loved it. I listened to it, and one of the readers had a French accent which threw me off. But guess what? I read so many books in the last year, and I remember this one so clearly. My mind keeps going back to this book and the wonderful nuances, the stories, the ‘romance’ of the story.
This is book is actually two stories from two different woman living nearly a century apart. In 1916, Sophie Lefevre’s artist husband, Edward, has left her in her small French village while he goes to fight on the front in World War I. The village is invaded by Germans, and the inn that Sophie and her sister run becomes the food and entertainment center for the soldiers. The Kommendant becomes obsessed with the Edward’s painting of Sophie which hangs at the inn, and Sophie is determined to do whatever she must to save her family, her village, and especially her husband.
The book switches to Liv Halston, a living in modern-day London, hanging onto her life by a thread after her successful architect husband dies suddenly. His gift to her on their honeymoon was Sophie’s portrait, and, through a chance encounter, the painting is discovered to be on the list of art stolen by Germans. Liv battles to keep the painting, sure that losing it will mean losing her husband again, and all the good memories along with it.
Moyes tells two wonderful tales. Sophie’s story is historical fiction, told with such richness that I can see her inn, Le Coq Rouge, and I can picture the painting, done is a Matisse style. I can picture Sophie, and Edward and the whole town. Liv’s story is told with emotion, and the pictures Moyes paints are more visceral, more emotional. We can feel everything Liv feels; her hurt, her love, her need. Moyes does an incredible job on both fronts. The modern story gets slightly bogged down, but it is worth it all just to read a book that invokes such strong emotions.
After The Girl You Left Behind I read Moyes’ novella Honeymoon in Paris. This is short read is the stories of Sophie and Edward’s earlier romance, and Liv’s let down of a honeymoon, ending with the purchase of the painting.
And, to finish off my Moyes’ obsession, I read Me Before You. This is a totally different book, the story of Louisa Clark, a steady girl with a striking sense-of-style, a steady boyfriend, and no real purpose in life. When the cafe where she works closes, she is forced to take a job as a companion to a quadriplegic man with a past including business success and extreme sports. Louisa refuses to let him retreat from the world, and, in the end, she gets more from him then she gives. Moyes’ ability to let us see what her characters are seeing and to feel what her characters are feeling really shines. Beautiful, beautiful book.
These books are my ideas of what a ‘romance’ novel should be. Real emotion brought to us by beautiful words. I recommend all three of these books.