February is the month for romance, and in the spirit of St. Valentine, the Star-Bulletin has teamed up with the Aloha Chapter of the Romance Writers of America to bring you "Tropical Dreams."
The romance in five chapters written by five RWA members -- Terri Hildreth, Sally Sorenson, Catherine Gail Bruhn, Helena Mark and Penelope Neri -- starts today and runs every day through Friday.
The serial started as an exercise among RWA members. Sorenson, president of the Aloha Chapter, said, "We'll do anything to encourage one another in writing."
"We're a little out of the loop of the publishing world, which for the most part still exists in New York. So every year one or more of us try to go to the annual conferences.
Nationally, the RWA numbers 8,000 according to Sorenson. The local chapter emerged 11 years ago, and numbers 30 members. Their meetings take place every first of the month at Aina Haina Library, and newcomers -- including men -- are always welcome.
"People think we're a women's group, but there are men in our group. They're a little timid ... I'm not sure why. We're good to them, we don't pick on them. In fact, romances tend to glorify men, hold them up as larger-than-life heroes.
"I don't know what you want in your life, but a lot of women seem to want a romantic hero and that's why romances sell."
According to the RWA, half the mass market books sold in this country are romance novels. Sorenson adds that romance readers are avid readers who read as many as 12 books a month.
At Borders-Ward, they would not reveal any numbers regarding romance sales in Hawaii, considering that to be proprietary information, but a spokesperson said, "Our romance section is a popular section, and we have a romance reader's group that meets every last Tuesday of the month."
That would be 7 p.m. Feb. 23, and the reader happens to be Penelope Neri, who has just completed "Scandals," and who wrote Chapter 5 of "Tropical Dreams."
Does writing romances make life more romantic? Sorenson said she never thought about it, but in studying the "Tropical Dreams" roster of authors, she said, "When you see how long all of us have been married, I think the answer is a definite yes. Penny, Terri and I have each been married close to 30 years; Cathi and Helena are younger but still in the 'happily ever after' category."
All the more reason to put a little romance in your life. Here's a start:
Chapter One | Two | Three | Four | FiveBy Terri Hildreth
Special to the Star-Bulletin
"ABSOLUTELY not." James Kealoha glared at the tiny, plump woman dressed in a bright pink and purple muumuu, leaning against the desk. As usual, she was smiling in her bright, sunny way. "You know I'd do just about anything for you, Auntie, but I have to draw the line at this."
"Now, Pono Boy," Luana began, and her impossibly wide smile stretched even more when her newphew stiffened at her favorite pet name.
"Don't say 'no' yet. I'm not asking for much. Just an hour of your time. Maybe two, max."
She pushed herself away from the massive koa desk dominating the office of Pikake Dreams -- Weddings in Paradise, and crossed to where James sat.
Laying a hand on his shoulder, she patted lightly. "I've never asked you to be best man for me before, but I'm in a real bind here. Alika is down with that nasty flu bug and no one else is available at the last minute. You're my only hope. We do guarantee satisfaction after all, yeah?
"Look, I know Pikake Dreams advertises complete satisfaction, but there's something ... I don't know ... weird about renting a best man for your wedding. It's supposed to be a friend of the groom, right?" He gave Luana his best hang-dog look, the one that had always changed her mind when he was a kid. "Are you sure you can't find someone else?"
Auntie Luana laughed and shook her head. "I only need you for the Harrington-Morgan wedding in an hour or so. Stevie can fill in the rest of the week, but he's busy this afternoon on a school outing with his daughter."
She walked back to her desk. "You don't even have to go home. I have a tux here on the rack that'll fit you kina'ole, perfectly."
A commotion outside the office door interrupted James' answer. "Auntie Luana! Auntie Luana! We got plenty pilikia!"
Milena Templeton, the Pikake Dreams receptionist, burst through the door waving a piece of paper. "Big, big trouble, Auntie! Lookit what just faxed in!"
She shoved the sheet at Luana, who scanned the fax. "Auwe! Oh that poor dear! What will she do now?"
She handed the fax to James and plopped into the big leather chair behind the desk with a sigh. "Milena, has Miss Morgan arrived yet?"
Before Milena could answer, a growl erupted from James. "What a slime." He crumpled the paper and flung it against the wall. "Can't even show his face and do this person to person. Hell, he didn't even address the fax to her. He sent it to you."
James shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and stalked across the room to the big picture window.
"That guy must be a real louse. I'll bet he didn't even send it himself. Probably had some office bimbo do it for him."
Milena's brow shot up in surprise at the violent outburst. She glanced back at Luana. "Ah, she checked into the Hawaii Prince late yesterday afternoon. The limo should have picked her up by now."
She shot a quick peek at James, who turned to glare out the window. "She'll be here in less than an hour. What we gonna do, Auntie?"
Luana sighed again. "Let me know as soon as she gets here."
James could almost hear her scheming in the silence that followed. He turned to watch her rest her chin in her hands and fix him with an "I know you" look. It's true. He didn't often express strong feelings about complete strangers, but this ...
"And Milena," she continued, tapping her fingers on her plump cheeks, don't say anything about this to the poor girl. We'll figure out some way to break the news." A sly smile crept across her face as Milena nodded and left. Luana folded her arms on the desktop. "So, Pono Boy. What we do now?"
James fought to retain his indifference. "What do you mean 'we'? I don't remember any 'we' in this." He scowled.
"I love you dearly, Luana. You've been like a mother to me. I help you at home with all kinds of chores whenever I can steal time away from my landscaping business. And I may even have been considering acting as best man to get you out of a jam. But I'm sure as heck not gonna get involved in this kind of mess."
This time Luana wasn't smiling. She turned her big, sad brown eyes on James. "But James. How am I gonna tell Miss Lindsay Morgan?"
She blinked a couple of times to hold back what he could see were real tears welling up from their depths. "She came all the way from Washington, D.C., for the most important day of her life, and now I've got to tell her that her neheka of a fiance, Russell J. Harrington III, has gone and jilted her less than an hour before her wedding in Paradise."
To be continued tomorrow
Terri Hildreth is an avid NASCAR fan and H.O.G., the national Harley-Davidson owners group. She is currently working on her first novel. In her spare time, she works for Kaiser Permanente-Hawai'i in the information technology department. She and her husband of 27 years, John, have two children, Laura, 19, and Jason, 22, and grandson Colin is 7 months.
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