Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Balancing reality and romance with Maria K. Alexander, author of 'Untangle My Heart'

As a little girl, I fell in love with falling in love. I’d absorb as many books as I could that involved the girl getting swept off her feet by the prince on the white horse and carrying her off into the sunset.

Fun to read? Absolutely.

Realistic? Definitely not!

Reality is not the neatly packaged up happily-ever-after created in books. Real world heros do not always have six-pack abs, thick wavy hair, and sparkling blue eyes. Real world heroines don’t always have the perfect figure. While fiction doesn’t necessarily mirror real world, it is important to make your characters feel real. A reader should be able to identify with the characters. Whether it be their situation (i.e. tragedy in their past) or their family (i.e. large, noisy Italian family), a writer should invoke emotions from the reader that make them want to care about the characters and want them to get their happily-ever-after.

One way to help the reader relate to the characters is to give them flaws. Sometimes these weaknesses may hold the main characters back from achieving their happily-ever-after. In these cases, the character will need to overcome the flaw in order to find their happy. In the case of physical flaws, other characters will need to see beyond the flaw to the person inside. In either case, the story is about the character’s journey past life’s challenges to happiness.

So, how do you balance romance in real life with the fictional world?

I’m not sure you do. If real life had as many happily-ever-afters as there were in books, we wouldn’t be reading books. I read romantic fiction to take me to another place where good overcomes evil, and yes, where love prevails. I want a book that makes me feel happy when it’s over. I want to have faith that happiness does exist, even though I know real life is not a fairy tale.

For me, the balance is in not expecting to find the heros from the books I read in the real world. The perfect mate is not the same thing as the perfect mate for you. We all have flaws. But true love is about seeing beyond those flaws to the person inside. Not so different from a romance book, right? So maybe your husband forgets your birthday or your wedding anniversary. It happens. But maybe this is the same guy who will sit and entertain the kids while you do something for yourself. Maybe you’re both carrying that extra twenty pounds you can’t seem to shuck. So what? You can’t look for the ideal mate when looking for romance in real life. Look for the ideal mate for you.

I recently re-watched Disney’s Enchanted with my kids. And while this is a fictional fairy-tale, I like it because although the handsome prince is supposed to be Giselle’s true love, he isn’t. And who wouldn’t want James Marsden to come up from a manhole to rescue you? But no matter what they tried there was no chemistry between them, and when Giselle needed the magic of true love’s kiss to wake her, it wasn’t the handsome prince to the rescue. It was the flawed New Yorker with a boatload of baggage.

We define our own happily-ever-after and what works for one couple doesn’t work for another. My advice is not to measure your relationships based on fictional characters. There’s no harm in dreaming, though.

Thanks for visiting with me today. If you’re so inclined, please leave a comment and tell me about your real life hero or heroine.

Untangle My Heart
by Maria K. Alexander



When her marriage ended in tragedy, Kate DiFrancesco rebuilt her life, but has never gotten over the pain of what she lost. Seeking the help of an ex-lover ignites feelings she’s promised never to have again. She’ll need to untangle herself from dangers in her past in order to break the hard shell around her heart.

Edward Weston has a lot to prove, both to his stuffy upper-crust British family, and to himself. Working alongside Kate, a woman he had a casual relationship with, stirs unexpected feelings. Helping her family makes him realize what he's missing. For the first time, he wants more than a one-night stand.

When Kate is threatened, Edward must overcome feeling unworthy to protect the woman he loves and fight for the family he never thought he’d have.

Read an excerpt:
Edward raised an eyebrow toward her. “Are you sure you’re up for sledding?” he asked, with a glance down at her black high-heeled boots.

She shot him a challenging look. “Only if we race against you.”


“Lucas and I against you. Loser buys dinner.”

He studied her, almost as though he were weighing how he could turn this contest in his favor. Then he turned to Lucas. “Why don’t you grab two sleds, sport, while I negotiate with Kate?”

Lucas nodded and ran off.

Edward hooked his fingers in her jacket pockets and pulled her closer. “How about if I win, you go on a date with me?”

“That’s playing dirty.”

“Very well. You can explain to Lucas why we’re not racing.”

“I can’t do that. Just look at how excited he is.” She nodded over to where Lucas stood waiting for available sleds, jumping up and down and an enthusiastic grin on his face.

“My sled, my rules, or are you afraid you’ll lose?”

He struck a nerve and he knew it. She couldn’t back down from the challenge. Besides, she’d been rethinking the whole not-dating thing and almost convinced herself she was being ridiculous for fighting their attraction. So no matter what happened, she’d figured she’d win.

She met the challenge of his gaze. “One date—and don’t expect sex.”

He attempted to look shocked, but one side of his mouth twitched. “Certainly not.”

“Fine. Be prepared to lose.”

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

A romantic at heart, Maria K. Alexander spent hours as a young girl getting lost in and wishing to be one of the heroines in the stories she read. Books gave her the ability to go to another world where she loved meeting new characters, learning about their problems, and watching them fall in love.

Maria blogs and shares her writing journey with her critique partners at:

When not writing, Maria loves to read, bake, downhill ski, visit the beach, and watch romantic comedies. Maria lives in New Jersey with her husband and children, and writes in her “spare” time between juggling a full-time job and her kids’ busy schedules.

You can keep in touch with her at:

Web Links

The Violet Femmes Blog:

Maria will award a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Follow the tour for more chances to win!

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  1. Congrats to Maria on the new release!!! This looks and sounds awesome :) Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Erin. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi, Rita. I'm glad you liked the excerpt. Thanks for commenting.

  3. What a beautifully presented guest post, Maria; it brought a smile to my face to read my thoughts and feelings about reading romance laid out so rationally. I too use reading as an act of escapism, and while most times the world within a book isn't perfect or sometimes even nice, the love story of the H/h is what makes me feel happy for a good while afterwards.
    Thanks for sharing your sentiments with us.

    1. Hi Elise-Maria. I want to feel happy when I finish a book. I may cry or biting my nails at what's happening, but in the end, I want the happily-ever-after. Thanks for visiting.

  4. Loved this excerpt. This sounds like a sweet and sensitive romance.

    1. Hi Jane. It's an emotional story full of family and friendship. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I guess my parents would be the hero and heroine of my life! I very much agree with what you've said, Maria! Romance fiction differs from reality because it offers us the happy touch that may be lacking in our normal lives! That's why they are a great form of escapism! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the humorous excerpt!

    1. Hi Ari. How sweet that your parents are your H/H. I admire and respect my parents and all that they've gone through. Real life has its challenges and unfortunately, things aren't always neatly tied up the way they are in books. Thanks for commenting.


    1. Hi Shelley. Thanks for the kind wishes and for commenting.


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