You already know this, but romance fans are very knowledgeable about matters of the heart. The mainstream media may joke that we’re holding out for perfection, but the very opposite is true. We know what real, messy love looks like — and we know that we deserve it. As such, we’re so excited to bring you our new column, The Romanswer, aka Brianna Hunter, who answers your love queries using the very best examples there are on the subject — romance novels.
When the fall came in, with leaves crunching under foot, I found myself still hung up on a summer fling. Alas, you can tape a leaf to a branch, but you can’t get the thing to grow again, and so went my attempts to rekindle this flame. As the seasons change, and I look to new and snowy horizons ahead, what advice can you offer the romantic in winter? The summer has its thunderstorms, its evening strolls, its warm dazes, its revealing attire … Can you, Romanswer, help me see the amorous promise of this buttoned-up season?
Feeling some chills,
It’s the week after Valentine’s Day, and I know your letter is about romance in cold weather. I could give you wintry date ideas or tell you about how more layers to undress is a blessing (not a curse!), but instead I’m going to write about how we might change, along with the seasons. And—as you might guess, sweet Jack, in order to talk about self-transformation, I’m going to recommend a paranormal romance by one of my all-time favorite authors: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. [Caveat: If all you want is to curl up under a quilt with a sexy, snowy romance, I highly recommend Kate Meader’s Chicago-based Playing with Fire.]
You sent your question to me in November, asking about the onset of winter. But the season is half over now, and the days are lengthening even as the temperature drops. I’m sorry for the delay—but I wonder what you’ve discovered since you wrote. Seasons are strange things that shift our world in four month cycles: trees shed leaves, rain solidifies — even daylight changes its hue and duration. Can a season’s shift alter our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings? Maybe these atmospheric changes can help us figure out who we are and how to be in relation to others.
This, darling Jack, is what happens to Pia Giovanni, the heroine of Dragon Bound. Pia is half-were, born to a human father and a were-mother. Although Pia can’t shape-shift into her were-form, she uses her innate powers to steal a penny from a dragon’s hoard. (We don’t find out what her animal, were form is until the end of the book, so I won’t tell you here.) The dragon, it turns out, is actually the dragon, the first and only one; he is Lord of all the were. When the dragon—Dragos—hunts her down, they wind up on an adventure that takes them into magical realms where Pia has never dared set foot before.
The world that Pia lives in is very similar to our own; the main difference is that hers is populated by both humans and Elder Races: shape-shifters, vampires, fey, and witches. Pia’s world also has sections of “Other land,” areas where time passes differently, magic runs strong, and technology doesn’t work. Like traveling south from the north country, entering an Other land can make the season seem to shift; days in an Other land might equal weeks in the human world. The first time Pia crosses over into an Other land, she feels it calling her to transform:
“Was it the magic of the Other land that called to her? Was it the ancient canny wildness of forest that had seen no woodsman’s axe, no farmer’s plow, that reminded her of her deepest self, the wild creature that lived trapped within the inadequate cage of her weak, half-breed flesh?”
Pia runs her fastest, feels her strongest and eventually shifts because of her time in an Other land. (While she’s there, she also has some incredible campfire-side dragon sex.) Lovely Jack, could it be that—like Pia—you are on the verge of a transformation? Open yourself to the new world of winter, and maybe something vital will be revealed in the faltering light, the frigid wind and the long nights. Of course, in the end of Dragon Bound, the girl gets the dragon. But even if she hadn’t, she would have found a fuller connection with herself—all because the world changed for a little while.
Do you have a query for The Romanswer? Of course you do! You can reach Brianna via Elissa@RTBookReviews.com. We reserve the right to edit your question for content and clarity. Stay tuned for another Romanswer column next month, and you can find Brianna’s archives here!