I love memoirs, and I love romance, so when I find romantic memoirs that detail a person’s life and the path to their real-life happily-ever-after, I’m very pleased. I have a few that I love to re-read, and I thought, why not share my list?
Paris Letters by Janice Macleod was an on-sale purchase that turned out to be one of my favorite comfort re-reads. Janice chronicles her life from the moment she asked herself how much it would cost to quit her life. She hated her job and was dissatisfied with the life she had built, so she sold nearly everything and gave away the rest, saved her money, then quit her employment and went to Europe for two years. As you do. She didn’t expect to meet Christophe during her first week in Paris, but she did. Her book follows her initial decision to her arrival, then through France, and on to Italy where she has to decide what she wants to do with her life now that her plans and expectations have changed again. It’s charming and light and romantic and funny, and one of my favorite re-reads.
From my highlights: …there are lessons in the bad and joy to be had there too. The bad helps you set your course and informs you of what you don’t want so you can veer toward what you do want.
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard was part of my research for this post. I hadn’t read it, my library had a digital copy, and I figured I’d try it. I don’t know why so many of the romantic memoirs I found are centered on Paris (I mean, I know but I find it amusing nonetheless) but this one has travel, cultural differences, a lovely romance, and FOOD. So many recipes, so much food. Do not read while hungry. Bard chronicles the start of her relationship with Gwendal and the initial immersion of her life in Paris as she figures out culture, food, and her potential life with him. Each chapter includes recipes for the food she prepares or talks about in that portion of her story, and her experience with Parisian food and cooking are the foundation of the multilayered charm of this memoir.
From my highlights: …“I want to marry you,” he answered, cool and regular as if he were saying, “I want to go to the movies” or “I want to grab a coffee.” Somehow at that moment, the wonderful inevitability of it hit me. My imaginary life was through, and my new life, my real life, was standing in front of me on the Paris sidewalk.
Romance is my Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Patience Bloom is the memoir of a Harlequin editor (yup!) and her experiences through terrible relationships both romantic and familial, optimistic hopes, and a lot of travel. Patience, by virtue of being a romance reader and a romance editor, is extremely fluent in romance fiction, its characters, and its tropes. Alas, as expected, that fluency can get in the way of navigating her own reality, which it does for her a few times, but her optimism and humor are part of what allow her (and readers like me) to persevere. Please note: there are some upsetting and abusive relationships included, so proceed with caution if that might make for difficult reading.
The chapter headings are my favorite: Tragic Heroes are Romantic on the Page but Sad in Real Life. Yup.
My Grape Year and My Grape Escape by Laura Bradbury are part of a series of memoirs of Bradbury’s life starting at age 17 when she went to Burgundy, France, as an exchange student. I read Escape after meeting Laura at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and read My Grape Year prior to our podcast interview (Episode 303). Year is the story of her experience as an exchange student, and it is all sorts of catnip for me because my own experience is similar. I was an exchange student in Spain with very little linguistic preparation at age 15, and while I didn’t meet my husband there, so many of her experiences were hilariously similar to my own. Bradbury’s focus returns to romance and wanting to meet someone while she’s abroad, and while that can get a bit repetitive, her experiences making friends, meeting her now-husband, and learning to navigate a new culture, a new language, and an unexpected new future are lovely reading. My Grape Escape follows Laura as she realizes that law is not what she wants to do with her life, and instead she buys a property to fix up and rent in Burgundy. (As you do!).
From my highlights in My Grape Escape: In North America, one of the first questions you asked upon meeting someone was, “what do you do?” Of course, what you were really asking was, “what are you?”
You might notice that there’s a bit of a theme in the memoirs I like: a lot of “Wait, how did I get here? Can I change it?” realizations, followed by a sharp turn, possibly with additional food and language as well. I’m also fascinated by memoirs of travel and immersion in different cultures – and again, that’s pretty self-indulgent. I’m curious if you have any romantic memoirs with HEAs to recommend, or if there are memoirs you love to re-read? I’m always looking for more!
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