Romance is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last
by Patience Bloom
February 6, 2014
$26.95 print/ $10.99 digital
As a teen she fell in love with Harlequin novels and imagined her life would turn out just like the heroines’ on the page: That shy guy she had a crush on wouldn’t just take her out—he’d sweep her off her feet with witty banter, quiet charm, and a secret life as a rock star. Not exactly her reality, but Bloom kept reading books that fed her reveries.
Years later she moved to New York and found her dream job, editing romances for Harlequin. Every day, her romantic fantasies came true—on paper. Bloom became an expert when it came to fictional love stories, editing amazing books and learning everything she could about the romance business. But her dating life remained uninspired. She nearly gave up on love.
Then one day a real-life chance at romance made her wonder if what she’d been writing and editing all those years might be true.
Patience Bloom is like so many of us who grew up in the 1980s, weaned on Duran Duran, and, yes, romance novels. Unlike most of us, Patience grew up to have a long career as an editor at the very house that published the romances of her youth: Harlequin. But as Patience learns, in lessons both tragic and comic, life does not follow a perfect romantic arc.
In her new memoir Romance is My Day Job; A Memoir of Finding Love at Last, Patience looks at each phase of her life through the lens of a romance novel. As a teenager at a boarding school in Connecticut, a friend introduces her to the romances novels that will be a stalwart throughout her life: “When Nici handed me a Harlequin romance novel, I pretended not to be interested. Of course, I devoured the book.”
At a school dance, she is disillusioned when her date barely spends any time with her. Until, in one fleeting, almost forgettable moment, Sam, “The popular senior with a reputation for funny and crazy behavior” asks her to dance. But unlike a romance novel, Sam does not appear again until many, many pages later.
At college at Oberlin, Patience is reading (and obsessing over) The Thorn Birds: “It’s about forbidden, holy love. The thorn bird is a metaphor for people who impale themselves on one burst of awesomeness.” But her college sex life is less than awesome, and she waits for her dates to make their moves wondering why, in romance novels, the heroine never waits. “There are no monologues, no conversations – just instinct.” While chasing the perfect romantic hero, she somehow forgets to make a career plan.
Upon graduation, professionally rudderless, the film Working Girl and the romance novel secretary/boss trope is her guide. But then her life takes a dramatic turn – something she only alludes to at this point in the story. “Over the course of an hour and a half, I randomly become a traumatized crime victim.” Patience’s priorities change, and work comes more into focus.
When she finally moves to New York City, within six months she is an assistant editor at Harlequin. She’s not dating: “I’m all about romance on the page.” We see her lose her Nora Roberts virginity with The Fall of Shane MacKade.
Bridget Jones’ Diary inspires her to get back in the dating game. She ventures online, and has some salient tips and rules that are worthy of their own novella. She introduces romance novel heroes, and the real-life counterparts she encounters: Secret, Temporary Penniless Earls; The Secretive Hero (Who May Be Hiding Something Really Bad); Dangerous and Sexy Alpha Male Heroes Who Are Supposed to Have a Heart of Gold. You get the idea.
By 2005 she’s been online dating for four years with no luck. (She’s even read He’s Just Not That Into You.) Four years later, she hit a turning point. “The romance novel of my life begins here, twelve years after moving to New York and going to work for Harlequin.” Patience is now a senior editor, managing a romantic suspense line.
She celebrates her 41 birthday (now reading Emily Giffin novels and enamored with crafty, resilient Darcy Rhone) with her family. She’s content: “And yet, all the books with their happily-ever-after are engrained in me.” She dares to make a birthday wish: Let me be engaged within a year.
And then, out of the blue, she gets a Facebook message from Sam. Yes, the Sam from the dance. Sam, whom she barely remembers. He is living in Israel, twice divorced. Four months of email and Skype “dating” ensue. He learns – as do we – what happened to her that terrible night two decades earlier. They are officially having a relationship. “I really do feel like a heroine, a little like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.”
He schedules a visit.
On the day of his much-anticipated arrival in New York, she announces at the weekly editorial meeting: “I’m about to see an old friend after twenty-six years and we’re going to co-habitate.” There is a cinematic romance to her waiting late at night in ther airport terminal waiting for him to arrive. But also the all-too real-life emotions of pessimism and doubt: “Sam is so handsome in person. It’s possible that I was just a distraction to get him through those last few months in Switzerland. Or that he just needs a place to stay before he goes to Florida.”
Their first date turns into immediate co-habitation. And before long, it’s clear Patience is going to get her Happily Ever After. “I can’t wait to be Mrs. Bloom. Plus, doesn’t ‘Patience Bloom’ sound like a hippie heroine in a novel?”
This book, a treat for romance readers and rom-com movie lovers everywhere, has a deeply serious thread throughout. A rare book that is equally satisfying to those who don’t believe in happy endings as to those of us who do.
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