Metamorphosis: Romance Trash-Talker to Romance Reader-Writer

How I fell into the lustful and loving arms of Contemporary Romance Novels…

rissa~ By Rissa Brahm

Note: This post originally appeared here.


Only a year and a half ago I was a full-fledged trash-talking anti-romance-novel snob! A total Judgy Judy bitch (!in my mind, not out loud!) toward anyone reading or writing “that smut, that waste-of time crap with the mushy happy endings!”

And now? Now, not only can I not get through my towering (virtual Kindle) pile of to-be-reads (my go-to genre is of course hot contemporary) but I’ve run my fingers and wrists ragged having completed three novels of my debut series! And my head and heart continue to spin on—far beyond books four and five of my Paradise South series. There are just so many more stories and characters and conflicts to write!

It all started with my mother, and it pretty much runs a full circle, which you’ll see in a bit.

So, I was a curious little girl…but I was a “good” little girl, too. Danielle Steel novels stared at me from my mom’s book shelf… butnever did I dare open one. That would be disgusting of me! No one spoke to me about sex and my folks’ relationship had been very…well, hands-off. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to do anything I’d be “ashamed to tell my dad about.” The fact that mom nor dad ever spoke to me about intercourse, love, intimacy, or anything else likely tucked behind those crazy-and-explicit Danielle Steel covers… Needless to say, I kinda got the shame-laced message loud and clear.


Now I realize that I most definitely wanted to peek, to open, to indulge, to fulfill my curiosity! I’ve learned about myself as a woman—as a sexual, feeling being—through reading and writing romance (more on this another time.) But the point is, as I got older, my romance-novel-snobbery deepened and surfaced—all at the same time.

I’d been an English/Creative Writing major in college. Literature—that was “of my level.” And I would someday write that—literature!

Until I left school early to enter the wonderful world of small business—the family business. My husband’s side was in hospitality: restaurants, hotels, even RV Resorts, and being my father’s daughter (he’s a CPA/Attorney/Computer programmer, F.F. Sakes), I took immediate control of the financial and administrative reins. The part in me that dreamed of writing “literary” fiction (however horrendous my dribble was then LOL) got back-burnered.

After twenty years of being a small woman in a “big-man’s corporate world,” the recession of 2008 hit. The economic downturn slammed the family business in the face and the gut—then stomped on its foot for good measure. After tying up loose ends, by 2014, I found myself jobless.

Here comes the gorgeous glittering golden lining! Jobless and without a college degree, what the hell to do? I started freelancing—more admin. stuff that I was tremendous at but that I totally flippin’ despised. I cringed through it until my mother suggested that perhaps I try beta reading/proofreading fiction, and romance novels seemed to be the most prevalent fiction out there. “For at least a little side money,” she’d said.

“Ick, romance?” But really, who the hell was I to be on a high horse?

I listened to my mother, for once, thank GOD!


First I had to get a few romances under my belt because how can you beta read romance if you don’t read it—or any genre anymore since because the family business had taken me 24/7/365. Anyway, Jane Austin’s Pride & Prejudice (“forced” on me in high school, already) became my baby step into the genre. Still reluctant and haughty-as-hell about the whole thing, “At least P&P isliterature,” I’d said to myself. Plus, I admitted in my head, I held the teensiest interest regarding my possible change in perspective of the story after two decades and a marriage and kid later.

Result—the re-read of Pride & Prejudice thrilled me! It had the HEA I remembered but I didn’t cringe! The HEA had been earned, Elizabeth’s strength and voice remained intact, and symbiosis had been reached! And, OMG, Mr. Darcey—enough said! (Sidebar: tall, silent types happen to be among my favorite heroes.)

Anyway, the hooks were in me. I moved onto contemporary romance recommendations. Those that hit me: Jojo Moyes, Me Before You (no HEA, more a love story, but I was great with that), then the HFN sequel After You . I followed those with some hotter stuff: Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, Jasinda Wilder’s Falling series, Laura Kaye’s novella Hearts in Darkness, Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series; Laurelin Paige, Megan Hart, Maya Banks, Colleen Hoover and on and on (and that’s a lot of reading for the damn-slow reader that I am, by the way!) But after a bunch of books under my belt, I felt ready-ish and actually excited to take on a few beta projects.

Not only did I love beta reading for unpublished romance writers—I loved critiquing them, breaking them down, contriving in my head deeper conflicts to be had and twists to be added—but, low and behold, my own stories started swirling around my head. My own stories?

Yes—my own plots and arcs with my own strong female characters who had things to learn and identities to figure out before being open to/ready for the love and lust of and with another. Shit, I wanted to write! And I wanted to write romance!?!

I said screw it and began.

From October 2014 to now I have been writing FT and now my debut 5-book series is 80% done and I’m busting my ass to finish for scheduled incremental roll-out starting this spring.

A transformation has been made—from a condescending and conceited romance-novel caterpillar to a gratified, thankful, and proud romance reading-and-writing butterfly (one that’s just unfolding its wings!)

Thanks mom, thanks inspirational romance authors, and thanks future readers! Here’s to spreading some fluttering feelings and hot sparks to more and more romance trash-talkers and haters (like the former-me) throughout the world ;-)!

Have you had to defend your love for romance? How did it go down?

And, has reading romance taught/changed/widened your perspectives on women’s sexuality? If so, how? What books stand out to you?

Contemporary romance author Rissa Brahm grew up in New York and has since lived in all four corners of the United States, and beyond. The beautiful paradise of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—the core setting of her soul-deep & sensual debut series, Paradise South—is Rissa’s most recent and beloved home.

When not chained-by-choice to her MacBook, she is embarking on outdoor adventures with her husband and little girl, eating amazing Indian food with something chocolate for dessert; reading good, hot scorchers in bed; biking, long walks, and yoga; zoning out to killer music from across the decades and the globe; and getting lost only to discover a new exciting route home again.

Tempting Isabel, Book 1 of the Paradise South series, launches May 24, 2016, followed by Taking Jana, and Catching Preeya in June and July. To learn more about Rissa and her romances, visit her website or shout out to her on Facebook or Twitter

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