Thursday, August 26, 2010
Heat. The Good Kind.
Okay Listen Here is proud and honored to have Katharine Ashe as our guest blogger today. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her husband, son, two dogs, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European history, she has made her home in California, Italy, France, and the northern US.
RT Book Reviews awarded her debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, a “TOP PICK!” review, calling it “a page-turner and a keeper.” Please visit her at www.katharineashe.com
Everyone please welcome Katharine to Okay Listen Here:
I’ve been thinking about heat. Various kinds.
I am a Yankee, a transplant to the south and a very happy one indeed. (Thank you, lovely hosts, for inviting a northerner onto your southern ladies’ blog!) I love hot sun and blue skies and baking temperatures, and even sweat. Yes, sweat. Doesn’t sound very southern-lady feminine, does it? Sometime during my college years in North Carolina, a friend told me real ladies don’t spit and they don’t sweat. They glow.
But any northerner who has lived amongst southern women and come to know them a bit understands the Steel Magnolia thing. Southern women are strong. Incredibly tough. They have to be to hold up in this weather—like Cheryl defending her animals from the heat wave! And, beneath their sunflower-colored linen dresses and wide brimmed mesh hats, they sweat.
All women sweat. But southern women don’t complain about it. They climb right up on that sizzling tin roof and make something of it.
Then there’s another kind of heat I’ve been thinking about lately. Spice.
The other day I ate a plate of Goan pork that blew the top of my head right off. My husband cooked it, doubling the Indian spices but not the meat for some unfathomable reason (bless his heart). It was an amazing experience. A full-body trauma. I’ve only once before tasted food that hot, in a Thai restaurant in Oxford, England. Sitting at the tiny table decorated with white cloth and a bowl of chicken apparently prepared by the Devil, my mouth flamed. To be expected. Then everything else did too. My throat contracted. My chest burned. My eyes—like emergency firefighters—welled, spilled, then streamed, seeking to put out the blaze and failing miserably.
This lasted for a full half hour.
I did not consider it a negative experience. On the contrary.
Why? Because in those moments I was fully, thoroughly, devastatingly alive. No longer safe in my usual routine. When I ate that diabolical chicken, the heat was part of the flavor, and I enjoy flavors. The more colorful, the richer, the more complex my experiences of life, the happier I am. Life is to be savored in all its glory—the tender and strong, sweet and sharp, vulnerable and powerful. The mild and scorching hot.
Which brings me to the kind of heat I’ve mostly been thinking about. The heat of passion. I read and write romance because of this heat.
I’m not talking about love scenes, by the way. I am talking about passion for life.
I adore romance novels—any novels—in which the characters seek out life, longing for more than The Everyday, more than they’ve been given, more than they even think they can bear. They ache for the extraordinary and refuse to rest content until they have found it, whether that something is the top of a mountain, a more just world, the love of another heart, or an unbreakable bond with their god.
No noble goal can be reached without great effort. Such effort takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a heart and soul willing to weep on the way to triumph. To get a little damp. And a little hot. Ask any mountain climber if she sweats while striving for the apex. I bet she’ll say heck yeah.
So you see, when I think about heat—and it’s mighty hot these days in the southeast—I think... life.
From a steaming cheese pizza to a sun-coated beach, a hunky actor to a sizzling romance novel, what’s your favorite hot stuff?