Susan Sey is the author of scintillating contemporary romances and she’s also one of the fabulous Romance Bandits. We are excited to welcome her back to Romance University! Scroll down to the “Question” for details of her giveaway.
This is such a handy phrase. It’s an athletic term originally, and in that context, it refers to athletes who go out on the field and give their all for their team despite being injured. Gymnast Kerri Strug sticking the landing for a 1996 Olympic gold medal is one of my favorite examples of playing hurt. She crushed her last vault in Atlanta, shot her team into first place, then was actually carried off the battle field in glory by her beaming coach. To this day, when my sisters and I want to call attention to whatever tragic sacrifice we’ve just made on behalf of others, we throw up our arms and hop around on one foot. (Dignity isn’t especially revered in our family, no. Why do you ask?)
In the snarky, Urban Dictionary sense, playing hurt refers to a person’s ability to party like a rock star but still function at work the next day. For example, several years ago now, I went home for one of my sisters’ bachelorette parties. I managed to somehow forget that (as I’d been either pregnant or nursing a child for the better part of the previous five years) I hadn’t had a drink in ages, and I let my very solicitous sisters refill my drink every time they refilled theirs. This was the night BEFORE the actual party, mind you, when it was just us girls sitting around the kitchen table catching up over a couple bottles of wine. I won’t go into detail on the consequences of this poor decision (you’re welcome) but suffice it to say that I was playing desperately hurt at the actual bachelorette party the next night. But I showed up. I was there. I played through the pain of a vicious hangover because keeping track of your sister’s tiara, her purse, her guests and her virtue is what a good sister does at a bachelorette party. Especially when she can no longer look an adult beverage in the face.
Obviously, my ability to soldier through an epic hangover isn’t in the same league as Kerri Strug’s strength, discipline and commitment to her team. We aren’t cut from the same cloth, Kerri and I, but these instances of playing hurt are, I would argue, stitched together with a common thread. And that thread is love.
As a romance novelist, I think about love a lot. And in my considered opinion, love doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. When athletes play hurt, we applaud the physical strength and mental discipline it takes to do this difficult thing. But we often forget to ask ourselves why they do it. The answer is simple: Love. They love their teammates. They love their coach. They love their fans. They love the machine they’re an integral piece of, and they refuse to let any of their beloveds down by not taking up their oar when it comes time to row.
For his book War, Sebastian Junger spent 15 months in Afghanistan, embedded with a company of soldiers. These were incredibly young men in an impossibly dangerous situation. It’s not a book in which you’d expect to hear much about love but Junger puts his finger on it when he says, “The Army might screw you and your girlfriend might dump you and the enemy might kill you, but the shared commitment to safeguard one another’s lives is unnegotiable and only deepens with time. The willingness to die for another person is a form of love that even religions fail to inspire, and the experience of it changes a person profoundly.”
I’m not in the habit of marking the pages of books while I read but I grabbed a pen and underlined that quote. It spoke directly to my belief that love is the most powerful magic that exists, the kind that pulls heroism out of ordinary souls. But it also spoke to the professional writer in me who’s always fighting for respect from a culture that dismisses romance — and the love from which it stems — as a women’s issue.
But listen. Love isn’t a hearts-and-flowers, soft-focus fantasy. Love doesn’t come in a discreet pink box. Love isn’t a hoop women make men jump through before they’ll give up the you-know-what. Love is what makes soldiers run into battle rather than away from it. Love is what makes athletes risk career-ending injuries by playing hurt. Love is what makes a woman pull up her socks, paste on a smile and be there for her sister’s big night when she’d rather just lie on the bathroom floor and quietly regret her bad decisions.
That’s the kind of love I write about. The kind that demands sacrifices both heroic and petty. The strong, messy, transformative kind that reaches uncomfortably deep. The kind that shows you not only who you really are, but who you might be. The kind that can scoop up a handful of strangers and make a family out of them, whether they choose it or not.
The Davises of my Devil’s Kettle trilogy are exactly this sort of family. They’re tied together by blood, by love, by history and a whole bunch of secrets, plus money, intrigue and (possibly) murder. Yay! By the time I’m done unraveling those secrets, their entire family will have transformed itself and in the best possible way. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you should know that book one (PICTURE ME and YOU) is available on Amazon now, and book two of the trilogy (DISCOVER ME and YOU) is due out at the end of the month. But first I’d love to know…
QUESTION: Is there a fictional family that has a special place in your heart? Who are they and why are they so special to you? I’ll give away a copy of PICTURE ME and YOU (print or Kindle) to one commenter, chosen at random.
The perfect wife…
All Addison Davis has ever wanted is a family of her own and a place to call home. So when the art world’s favorite bad boy paints her as a masterpiece, puts a ring on her finger and tucks her away in the gorgeous little lakeside hometown he made famous, she finally has everything she ever wanted. Everything except love.
The loyal brother…
Fire chief Jackson Davis knows his brother isn’t in love with the big-eyed waif he married. Diego might be enchanted with his angelic little muse now but he’s never loved anything more than his addictions. When those addictions leave Addy a painfully young widow, Jax can only watch while her precious heart shatters.
The secrets they keep…
But Addy inherited more from her late husband than a family, a hometown and the masterpiece she inspired. She inherited his secrets, too, but secrets don’t keep in Devil’s Kettle. When all is revealed, what bursts into flame between her and Jax is hot enough to burn down the whole town, forcing Addy to choose — will she protect the life she loves, or risk it all for the man who loves her?
Welcome to Devil’s Kettle.
Once upon a time Susan Sey was a software trainer with nice clothes and free time, but now she has kids. She lives with them and her incredibly patient husband in St. Paul, MN, where she produces smart, sexy contemporary romances on an annual basis. She loves ice cream, her family and happy endings, though not necessarily in that order. She does not enjoy laundry, failure or mowing the lawn, but rises to the occasion as necessary.
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