Don’t you hate when authors do that rotten thing to their heroines: make them too distraught to eat during the ENTIRE story? Ugh. I won’t mention names, but one specific male romance author does this so often, I won’t buy his books. This predilection of portraying women as creatures who are too constitutionally delicate to eat is toxic. So, when Shelley Workinger asked me to contribute to this blog, I was all in!
As a person with family members suffering from body dysmorphia and disordered eating, food and the portrayal of women eating is important to me as a writer. Next to crafting strong, independent, relatable heroines, being purposeful with what they eat is the next most crucial thing I do in my books. Here’s why: authors have a responsibility to combat food-related myths, especially as they relate to women. While my romantic comedies are funny, I’m deadly serious about my heroines having a balanced, healthy relationship with food.
How Sweet It Is opens with my event-planner heroine eating wedding cake for dinner, but it also shows her accepting a Cobb salad with the hero. They drink vanilla chai lattes, eat “Pumpkin Maniac” cupcakes, and during the story’s bleak moment, my heroine is at a cafe, grabbing breakfast. Because a girl’s gotta eat.
In All Fired Up, I address body dysmorphia…but I gave the eating disorder as part of the background of the male main character. The laid-back ceramics-artist hero had a traumatic past, and he used food to channel his grief/stress. It’s the publicist heroine who has a healthy relationship with food and makes Hungarian goulash (Gulyás) for the hero as a thank you for helping her fix her grandmother’s broken fireplace tiles before taking the book’s iconic ride on a hot air balloon ride. This gulyás recipe appears as an extra at the end of the book, as it is the ultimate comfort food.
I’m thrilled by the amazing reviews for both rom-coms, including a Kirkus star, and a Booklist recommendation, and I’m proud of the purposeful eating done in my books. After all, But What Are They Eating? is one of the most important things to get right in a good novel!