Expat Magazine

Expat Romance: The Real Deal

By Miss Footloose @missfootloose

Amsterdam canalI met my American prince long ago. He’d traveled across the ocean to my native Holland and we romanced in Amsterdam. Later he proposed on a moonlit piazza in Rome, and the year after we were married in Kenya in a bizarre wedding ceremony.

Fully inspired by love and adventure, I began a career writing romance novels while traveling the world with my man. And here we are, many years, books and countries later.

In honor of Valentine’s Day I offer you a tale I wrote while we lived in Ghana, West Africa, while I was fully occupied writing Harlequin Romances.


When I tell people I’m a writer, they look at me in awe. I like that. I know that by awe alone one cannot live, but I’ll take what I can get.

“Wow,” many of them will say. “I’ve never met a Real Writer! What kind of stuff do you write?”

Here is where it gets tricky.

“Fiction,” I say. This sounds good, and it’s the truth. And then I tell them a little more of the truth: “I write Harlequin Romances.”

The reactions to this will vary. In some people’s eyes the awe just slips away in a fast hurry.

“Oh,” they say, “I don’t read that kind of books.”

Maybe I’m imagining it, but I hear just the slightest bit of condescension in their voices. Of course, I might be wrong.

Harlequin romance novels
Then there’s the type of person whose eyes will light up. “Really? I love romance novels! I read them all the time!”

Now this is good news. I smile nicely.

“I love Nora Roberts,” the woman will elaborate. Okay, I have to admit here that I’d be happier if she’d said she loved Karen van der Zee, since that is my nom de plume for Harlequin, but the truth is that I’m not nearly as famous as Nora Roberts. As a matter of fact, I am not famous at all.

Fortunately, I do have fans of my own. Some of them even write me letters. My staunchest fan is a young woman who started emailing me from Morocco where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She calls my novels brain candy. Now she’s in medical school in the States and she says she loves reading my romantic tales after she’s spent the day cutting up cadavers.

I can understand this, truly.

My mother-in-law enjoys my novels too, but admits skipping over the love scenes. I can understand that, too.

I have other fans. We live in Ghana, West Africa, as I write this, and the Ghanaian secretaries and receptionist at my prince’s office cannot get enough of my stories. The books make the rounds, even traveling to the company next door, and they all complain because so and so hasn’t passed on this or that title yet and do I have any more? It does my soul good, really.

Even Kofi, the hunky office driver is interested. “I have not seen any of your scripts for sale,” he tells me solemnly. I wonder if he has scoured the town for them. And why he uses the word ‘scripts.’

“Well,” I say, picturing him reading the love scenes (tasteful as they might be) “they’re not for sale everywhere.”

This is almost a lie. Many Harlequin novels are translated in over twenty languages, all the major ones including Japanese, and many minor ones such as Turkish, Icelandic, Czech. I kid you not. They are available in English here in Ghana, but I am not so sure I’m ready to have the office driver read the romantic stories written by the wife of the big boss. I can’t say why, after all the secretaries are reading them. I’m a bit shy perhaps.

All this interest and attention can go to one’s head, of course. Still, at the end of the day, where are all these fans? Not in my living room.

My husband is the one who’s there and has been for years. This is a good thing, because without him I’d be pretty lonely, no matter how many fans I have.

Karen van der Zee
Luckily, my prince is a good sport and jokes about being the inspiration for the sexy, handsome heroes in the thirty plus romances I’ve written. Am I going to deny it?

Not in this life time.

To tell you the truth, he’s a bigger hero than any of the ones I’ve made up. Here’s what happened just the other night:

We’re watching an American talk show, David Letterman, on television (his reach is far and wide). Dave’s next guest is a famous supermodel. You can well imagine: Tall, skinny, ravishing.

My man yawns. “One thing about supermodels,” says he, “is that I feel no desire, interest or compunction to stay up and watch them being interviewed.”

I look at him in surprise. “You mean you don’t want to watch a gorgeous, sexy woman in a skimpy dress?”

“Nope.” A short pause. “I’ve already got one. And I can see her naked.”

Wow. And this after thirty years of marriage, two pregnancies, three kids, one brain surgery and a broken leg (I’m still limping). It’s better than roses.

Is he a hero or what?


So there you have it, dear reader.  Note that this was written some time ago, and I don’t live in Ghana anymore. I’m now in the US waiting for further adventures with my Valentine. I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and may you be well loved and adored.

Note: If you’re interested in reading the above title, click on the book cover and it will take you to Amazon.

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