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Authors: Patience Bloom

Romance Is My Day Job

Published by the Penguin Group

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Copyright © 2014 by Patience Bloom

Photographs © 2014 by Sam Bloom, Patrick Smith, and Chris Cozzone

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Bloom, Patience.

Romance is my day job : a memoir of finding love at last / Patience Bloom.

pages cm

ISBN 978-0-525-95438-5 (hardback)

ISBN 978-0-698-14856-7 (eBook)

1. Bloom, Patience. 2. Editors—United States—Biography. 3. Book editors—United States—Biography. 4. Harlequin Enterprises. 5. Love stories—Publishing—United States. I. Title.

PN149.9.B56A3 2014




While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity. In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers; however, the story, the experiences, and the words are the author's alone. Some names and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.


For Cookie


Title Page



Prelude to a Romance



High School Dances Don't End Like Romance Novels
(Except Maybe If There's a Pregnancy)


Tragic Heroes Are Romantic on the Page
but Sad in Real Life


When in Crisis, Go Party in Paris!


Harrison Ford Isn't Coming to Cleveland


If He Says He Doesn't Reciprocate Your Feelings, Believe Him and Run



Romance on Paper Can Help a Girl Through a Long Dry Spell, and It's Not as Messy as the Real Thing


A Hero for All Seasons


Never Discount the Power of a Birthday Wish


The Voice from Five Thousand Miles and Twenty-Six Years Away


Is This My Romance or One of Those Strange Friendships That Goes Nowhere?



The Airport Scene


Eat, Pray, Move in on the First Date


Where There's a Ring


Wedding Planning and Taking the High Road


Happily Wedded Ever After (but Someone Will Puke)


e to a Romance

I know there's a reason why I'm here, all pouty and sullen on this Amtrak train speeding back to New York City. There has to be. It's one of the first beautiful days of spring in 2009, but I'm not appreciating it the way I should. My situation is causing me some confusion. If the irony of my lame love life and my profession as a romance editor is a cosmic accident, then life is truly absurd. This is why I need a chocolate doughnut before boarding.

The boyfriend I call Superman is sitting next to me, looking extremely gorgeous. He's that elusive alpha male I've always dreamed of dating, the hero who fills up the pages of many romance novels—and he was mine for five months. Now we're not speaking. The weekend at his country home was a disaster. I can't wait to be home.

I have no idea what I'm doing anymore. At forty, I should have this part of my life figured out. And I of all people really should know better, right? I've been a romance editor at Harlequin for more than ten years. As a supposed expert in the field, the mechanics of love are familiar to me. I've read the dating books (combined with a dizzying number of romances) and given real-life romance my full attention for over twenty-five years. Though I never deluded myself that my hero would be James Bond or Heathcliff (who was a head case, by the way), you'd think I'd have come close. I have this vast knowledge of romance in print, a gigantic dating pool in Manhattan, and I'm no Quasimodo. But it's been a long time, and I haven't met anyone close to Mr. Darcy. Maybe it's time to take a break.

But never a break from reading love stories. The novelty of editing romance is still there: I read romance through terrible times and it gives me a boost. Every day, I work with friendly, smart people at my job. I get to deal with writers who love writing about love. They make me love love, even when I hate it. These books even compel me to hope that everyone finds her own happily-ever-after—not just me. And it's not because authors send me chocolate on Valentine's Day, always ask about my personal life, supply me with manuscripts to feed my book-reading obsession, and are interesting people. Who doesn't want to escape for a little while? Really, it's sick that I get paid to do this.

Imagine the agony I endure on a day-to-day basis: A surly FBI agent—let's call him Jake Hunter—has to find the latest serial killer menacing a small community. Even though he has been through hell—maybe his wife died in a car crash or his partner was killed by a drug cartel—he has this crazy attraction to the town's knitting-store owner with a name like, say, Cassie McBride, who happens to be a virgin. Knitting Girl has no clue a stalker—most likely an ex-boyfriend or jealous friend from high school—wants her dead because she's so unforgettable. And why is an FBI agent in her knitting store? He's definitely sexy, and it's been a while since Cassie's no-good boyfriend dumped her.

Yes. This is what I want to read most of the time. My average day is a good one. In the morning, the sun hits my neck, and I'm drinking my coffee and plunging into a tale of characters overcoming obstacles, having amazing simultaneous-orgasm sex, and then realizing they're destined for each other. It's a far cry from this sad, depressing Amtrak ride.

I gave dating my best shot. I did everything I was supposed to do: made myself available but not too much, dated like I shopped, online-dated on numerous sites, went out, was cheerful, didn't talk about my ex(es) or whine. I took extra care with hair, clothes, and makeup. I was ready for any opportunity. But then years—decades—went by and here I am, still. I've read so much, tried so hard, and I figure I'm happy even without real romance in my life. I'm okay if it's just me. The final verdict is: My life is nothing like these books, not even a little bit.

 • • • 

Or, maybe my real-life romance is just around the corner. . . .


A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.

—Jane Austen,
Pride and Prejudice


High School Dances Don't End Like Romance Novels

(Except Maybe If There's a Pregnancy)


It's dance night. February 25, 1984, at the Taft School in bucolic Watertown, Connecticut. My little boarding school is a haven, nestled in rolling hills, with green trees, manicured grounds, and charming buildings. When you drive up to the main building, you might think “old” and “elitist.” Inside, though, you become part of an energized stream of high school students, legendary teachers, and history in the making. CEOs' and politicians' children go here.

I am Patience Smith, a sophomore and the daughter of two historians. As a scholarship student, I'm used to living on a budget (sort of). Being not-rich at Taft doesn't affect me as much as it should. We all live in tiny rooms, eat the same food, sit through a two-hour study hall, and attend the same classes. So I wear velour instead of a Fair Isle sweater. My choice of a mullet doesn't quite mesh with the sea of bobs. I may not have a BMW waiting for me on my sixteenth birthday or all the preppy clothes, but I still spend Daddy's money, mostly on low-rent items like yogurt peanuts I charge to his account.

Lately, though, I've been starving myself to fit into my dress for the dance. This is no hardship since I'm nervous and not up to my usual vanilla shake with fries after every meal. It's time for the big winter formal, and my date is Harlequin-hero gorgeous, someone I want as my boyfriend. Dating my formal date would put me into the stratosphere known as “popular,” not that I'm a social climber. It's just a thought.

I check myself out in the mirror in my dorm room. I look amazing. My dress is deep blue and lacy, skintight over my hourglass shape. You can see that I have a body. Maybe I don't need oversize pants and baggy shirts cinched with a Madonna belt. This is a dress worthy of the Academy Awards. It will shock everyone that I am, in fact, a glamorous movie star.

All I need to do is convey my amazingness to Kent. My long red hair is curled, and my sparkling blue eye shadow has been deftly applied along with mascara and thick black eyeliner. Shiny frosted pink lipstick, of course, because that's the thing. Not coral as in a romance novel, but simple, shimmering pink. The face is perfect.

My dorm, Mac House, is buzzing with dance anticipation. Freshman and sophomore girls stand around, admiring one another's hair and the explosion of taffeta. I wait and wait, shifting in my heels on the shaggy purple rug on the first floor. Then in walks my dream.

Kent saunters through the entrance of the dorm. “You look nice,” he says when I greet him.

The compliment makes me glow. Even though I'm anxious, I note how dashing Kent looks in a white tuxedo. I've never seen one before. Maybe it's a New Canaan/Greenwich/Darien, Connecticut, thing. In some ways, I feel out of place, like I came from a different club. My parents—who divorced each other, then remarried other academics—are professional bookworms and not exactly silver-spoon material. Although thanks to them, I got to live in Paris for a few years, which lends sophistication to my profile. I am bilingual, but mostly just grown-ups think that's cool. So many of my classmates have known one another since birth. Our different backgrounds and financial portfolios don't alienate me, except when I think of what I might have missed: lawn parties, Talbots, croquet, and Izod shirts. But then there's my roommate, Nici, who knows about lawn parties and has a few more pennies to rub together than I do. She and I are two giggling fools, attached at the hip.

Nici is this pretty, pleasingly plump girl with light brown hair, fair coloring, and a smile that lights up a room, very younger Lady Di and girl next door, with part of a screw loose (in a fun way). Her big heart attracts a range of friends, though she obsesses about boys to such an extent that a listener's eyes might glaze over—which makes her the perfect friend for me since I am also boy-crazy. She is “an incurable romantic.” I'm not sure where she heard that phrase, but that's how she describes herself, as if it's a good thing. I start to wonder what would happen if she did catch the boy she wants. In the meantime, I marvel at her careful orchestration of romantic scenes—stealing a boy's sneaker and running to the pond, hoping he'll chase her, which he does because he wants his sneaker back. This kind of plan tends to backfire and she winds up in our room sobbing her brains out.

You can't fault a girl for trying . . . really, really hard. This is only a small part of what makes her lovable, why I spend most of my time with her.

This whole Kent predicament is Nici's fault, by the way. She convinced me that asking Kent to the dance was a good idea, just like she got me hooked on romance novels last year. I am already obsessed with Duran Duran to the point where I might need medication. Did I need more imaginary romance in my life? Probably not.

Last spring, when Nici first handed me a Harlequin romance novel, I pretended not to be interested. Of course, I devoured the book, on the morning of my Latin exam—and still got an A. Who wouldn't adore the story of a plain Jane who meets a hunky millionaire who treats her like crap before declaring a soft “I love you” at the end? Plus, it's a little dirty—enough for me anyway.

I just wish I could translate the romance novel into real life. Love is so effortless between the pages of these juicy clinch covers.

Secretly, I'm dying to have a real boyfriend. Everyone around me claims to be having sex, and I've never kissed anyone. It's a little embarrassing, so much so that I start to make up boyfriends from my past—even to Nici. You'd think living with my peers would produce scads of romantic possibilities, but for a shy girl like me, the opportunities are the same. I get mind-numbing crushes that go nowhere.

On the other hand, I like how it feels to have a crush on someone, that giddy feeling where you can't wait to see him. The step from crush to dating goes way too fast here at school. Where is the hand-holding that looks like so much fun, the long conversations about your painful childhoods? The kissing that you see in movies? My classmates talk about
things that they've done, like actual intercourse in gym locker rooms, the cemetery, one another's rooms, graphic details about acts involving body parts.

Romance is supposed to be close to what happens on
The Love Boat,
my all-time favorite show.
The Love Boat
could even be deemed educational since it teaches about meeting new people and how easily love can flourish over a three-day period. You share that flicker of attraction from across the room. The man asks you to dance, then you go out on the Lido Deck to make out. I'm not sure what happens after this, though there are a lot of bathrobes and trips to see Doc. It would be too cruel if romance had more to do with that crazy stuff in
Our Bodies, Ourselves.

My dorm-mates describe what they do with boys. It's terrifying to me. One girl was almost raped by a boy out on the soccer field after dark. When he got too rough, she kicked him in that special place. I'd die if that happened to me. Another girl talked about a blow job, which, only months ago, I thought had something to do with a hair dryer. I'm still not sure what's supposed to happen there.

In romance novels and
The Love Boat,
these kinds of icky details are nonexistent. All sexual contact produces severe ecstasy (and is consensual), but it's mostly about the emotion, the romantic conflict. The heroine—let's call her Faun, since this is the eighties and that's the kind of name she'd have—has no idea what's about to happen to her. She's not really looking for love. Her insouciance is adorable. She's just like Bambi, getting her sea legs. She can barely pour her own Cheerios, much less show anyone her slinky lingerie (the underwear and bra always match—no granny panties here).

Inevitably, she comes face-to-face with her future deflowering man-stallion hero, a.k.a. the Boss. Let's call him Devlin, because it sounds like
and he's one demon in the sack—and impossibly well endowed. I'm still not sure how the size of his endowment is advantageous, but in these books, he's never not hung like a horse. Devlin sees Faun and his pants feel tighter. If you unzipped Devlin's fly, it would spring free, leveling skyscrapers; it is just that powerful. Poor Devlin, though. He's kind of a dick (note to self: Dickish behavior means true love). Secretly, long ago, in his darkest past, Devlin was kicked around by love, maybe even beaten by his drunken father who slept with Devlin's ex-fiancée the night before his wedding. Faun misunderstands his meanness, avoids him—though can't stop blushing with (sexual) awareness. He keeps showing up, barking at her and being all dark and sullen (attractive). At one point, Faun sees his underbelly (and his perfect, perfect abs). Clothes fly off. Maybe it hurts at first, but Faun soon adores sex with this man. It's the most natural thing, and they're like rabbits all night long. They spend the night cuddling, a first for Devlin. In the morning, he's pissed for no reason and leaves, and she thinks he hates her. Separation ensues, at the end of which she runs to the bathroom to puke up her breakfast. Pregnancy. Marriage. She thinks it's just for the baby, that he's too damaged to love her, but actually, he does love her and they are happy for always.

You can see how easy it is to get hooked.

I read about all kinds of destined couples—an earl who falls for the less comely girl, a cranky millionaire who butts heads and body parts with his dead wife's sister, the secretary who marries the wrong groom . . . the list goes on. The romances encourage me to dream. I'll meet my husband someday—maybe on a windswept beach in Malibu—and he will be John Taylor, bass guitarist of Duran Duran. JT is my idea of the perfect man with his hairless, preadult chest and the red, shiny suit he wears in the “Rio” video. He's eight years older than I am, but he looks younger. I'm fifteen, he's twenty-three: We could totally date! I love him so much that I look up the word
since that's one of his favorite foods (according to
Tiger Beat

No, it's time to find a real boyfriend, and having a date to the dance seems like the logical first step. Being shy and bookish is just not fun anymore. Do I want to spend another year watching all my friends go out and date? Nici and I are on the same page.

At the beginning of the year, we went through the roster of new students, making notes on who's hooked up with whom and their secret nicknames. Nici is in love with Promising Actor and with Senior Who Doesn't Know She Exists. She's written reams of poetry about them, drawn countless roses with her married initials scrawled inside. I noticed Kent immediately because he is so tall and has that “life is effortless” look about him, which I love. I'm not sure what color his eyes are since his floppy blond hair covers them. The instant he walks into a room, my stomach goes cold.

My reaction and our connection is a lot like a Harlequin romance, I insist to Nici, and explain my findings: Kent seems casual, as if he doesn't care about me, just like Devlin's attitude toward Faun when she comes to work as his secretary. It's almost a hostile relationship. With Kent, I almost feel as if he secretly loves me but pretends not to know who I am. How could he
know who I am? It's a small school. The final piece of evidence is that I'm falling deeply in love, absolutely freaking out inside because he's so beautiful. It must be fate that we wind up together. Nici agrees with me, and she's the expert.

“Maybe you should ask him to the formal,” Nici suggested just last month between drags of a cigarette. We were sitting in the “butt room,” our dorm's smoking lounge, where we conduct our top-level discussions. It's a tiny, dark room, like a filthy jail, littered with cigarette butts, the perfect place for us to deal with our new problem. My good friend Diane was also with us. She is an intellectually curious, blue-eyed blonde who is direct like Rizzo from
and dreams of a man-sandwich with Sting and Billy Idol. Her motto is usually, “Go for it!” Between these two, I knew I was in trouble with the whole Kent idea, because they would encourage me.

The Sadie Hawkins winter formal was fast approaching and I intended to find myself a date—and not just a platonic guy friend, but a real
date. The problem was that I had to do the asking.

“Okay, I'll ask Kent.” I took a giant gulp of my Tab soda, then a drag.

“No, really, I dare you.” Nici blew out a long stream of smoke.

“Sure, I'll do it.”

Do it!
” Diane said loudly, urging me on.

This is how a bad idea was born.

Our main worry was the competition from the rash of new sophomore girls, known as “mid chicks.”
was the Taft term for
, and adding
must have been organic since, truly, they were babes, the fresh new faces to our old sack of potatoes. They sashayed into the dorm, squealing over concerts attended, vacations had, parties thrown. They overshadowed us with their miniskirts and long, tan legs. The mid chicks made it all seem easy, like they just woke up from a fabulous nap. The boys noticed them immediately. They were exciting and bombshell gorgeous. And, worst of all, mostly nice. We had to hate them on sight since they were stealing our chance to star in a romance novel come to life. These girls were in my universe for a reason, to make me fight harder for the cute boy. So I had a little competition. I could still snag the hero of my dreams.

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