Rose Lerner joins us today. Rose discovered romance novels at age thirteen and wrote her first historical romance a few years later. She's still fascinated with England's Regency and still writing historical romances. Some of them have hit our "best of" lists the past few years. She says that when she's not reading, writing, or researching, she enjoys cooking and binge watching old television shows. Rose's newest published story is part of an anthology titled Gambled Away. More about that at the bottom of this post but first, welcome back, Rose!
Hi! I’m really, really happy to be back at the Dish. Y’all are the best, which is good because I want to talk about something kind of weird and personal today.
When I was in high school, I had a best friend. Let’s call her Beatrice. Beatrice hated to be bossy, but she also really, really wanted to get her own way. (Looking back, I can sympathize, but at the time I didn’t really understand what was going on, just that it made me feel bad.)
Every time we went out to eat (which was often, because we spent A LOT of time together), the conversation would go like this:
BEATRICE: Where do you want to eat?
ROSE: Let’s get Arby’s.
BEATRICE: I just had Arby’s yesterday.
ROSE: How about that place with the really good tomato soup?
BEATRICE: I dunno, I’m not really in the mood for that...
ROSE: Where do you want to eat?
BEATRICE: Oh, no, I want to go somewhere you want to go!
ROSE: How about pizza?
BEATRICE: Ooh, yes, pizza sounds great!
Essentially, I don’t think she meant to do it, but she would ask me what I wanted and then push me into trying to guess what she wanted. So not only were we not going where I wanted, but also the decision was my responsibility! And if I chose the restaurant and she didn’t like her dinner (she often didn’t like her dinner), I felt awful.
And the thing is, I didn’t mind going where she wanted! But over time I grew to resent having to play this little game, so I started saying, “Oh, wherever’s fine.” And I would stick to it, stubbornly laid-back, refusing with all my heart to have an opinion. It was surrender, but it was resistance, too.
By some bizarre emotional alchemy, after a year of saying it...I actually stopped knowing what I wanted to eat. When I was alone, I had no problem. But put me in a group, and desire deserted me. I would run through restaurants and favorite dishes in my head and feel nothing about any of them.
How can you just not know what you want to eat? Isn’t food the most basic appetite of all? But I wonder how unusual it actually is. I know my BFF had a similar problem: when we first started hanging out, we had to make an ironclad rule that we would take turns choosing the restaurant, and we had to enforce it ruthlessly. No cheating!
It sounds so petty, but it was brutal. Sometimes we would sit in silence for five minutes while one of us racked her brain for something that sounded like maybe she might want to eat it. I remember once I came up with somewhere that had mac-and-cheese I liked, and we went there, and the place was closed. I sat in the car with her in the dark in an agony of embarrassment and indecision, so hungry and apologizing over and over for my brain being completely, helplessly, stubbornly blank. I can still remember the street, and my steering wheel, and trying to laugh.
Obviously, there were other issues in my life, and in my relationship with Beatrice, than just food. But it still amazes me to think I went, in one year, from having no problem at all with this particular task, to this ludicrous gap in my own brain.
When I was writing Simon, the hero of my new novella “All or Nothing” (who’s still trying to get over his intense college relationship with a guy who has some things in common with my friend Beatrice), I thought about that a lot — the ways in which we can lose touch with our own desires when we don’t feel like we have freedom of choice. The ways we let ourselves grow into the empty spaces around other people’s questions instead of asking our own. And most importantly, the ways people in a good relationship can give each other space to grow in any direction they feel like.
When you don’t trust yourself, following your heart can feel like the biggest gamble there is.
Are you still friends with your best friend from high school?
What's your favorite restaurant?
What's a bad habit you had to unlearn from an old relationship?
Rose is giving away two e-book copies of Gambled Away.
Rose is giving away two e-book copies of Gambled Away.
Spanning centuries and continents, five brand-new novellas from beloved historical romance authors tell the stories of men and women who find themselves wagered in a game of chance and are forced to play for the highest stakes of all: love.
“Gideon and the Den of Thieves” by Joanna Bourne
London, 1793 – Soldier of fortune Gideon Gage has come home from halfway around the world, fully prepared to face down a ruthless gang to save his sister. But there’s one member of the gang he could never have been prepared for: fascinating Aimée, driven from her own home by the French Revolution and desperately in need of his help.
“Raising The Stakes” by Isabel Cooper
California, 1938 — When the flute she won in last night’s poker game unexpectedly summons an elven warrior bound to her service, two-bit con artist Sam takes quick advantage. With Talathan’s fairy powers at her command, her shakedown of a crooked preacher is a sure thing…but would she rather take a gamble on love?
“All or Nothing” by Rose Lerner
England, 1819 – Architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould needs someone to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done at a scandalous house party. Irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva would rather be his mistress, but she’ll take what she can get…
“The Liar’s Dice” by Jeannie Lin
Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D. — Lady Bai’s first taste of freedom brings her face to face with murder. A dangerous and enigmatic stranger becomes her closest ally as she investigates the crime, but can she trust her heart or her instincts when everyone is playing a game of liar’s dice?
“Redeemed” by Molly O’Keefe
Denver, 1868 — After agonizing years in the Civil War’s surgical tents, Union doctor James Madison has nothing left to lose. But when beautiful, tortured Helen Winters is the prize in a high-stakes game of poker, he goes all in to save her—and maybe his own soul.