Here in the United States today is Labor Day, a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. For many Labor Day represents the “end of summer” with school in many areas beginning the next day. For many of us it represents the last three-day weekend of the summer, signaling the start of cooler weather. But the day actually has a long history in the U.S., with strong linkages to organized labor, and it’s for this reason that I find myself thinking of my father on Labor Day.
Over his lifetime my father held many different jobs. But on his last conscious day in hospice he responded to a Chaplain’s casual question about his work experiences that he had been “a union officer.” He went on to talk about having fought for union rights in his factory and against the company’s efforts to break one strike. So today, on this Labor Day in the U.S., I’m reminded of my father, and all of the many important working people in the U.S.
To the best of my knowledge I’ve never read a romance novel featuring a union worker or union organizer. Given the occupations of some of the heroes and heroines I’ve encountered, it’s possibly they were union members, but it never played a role in the story. But I have read many romances featuring hard-working heroes and heroines in often unglamorous occupations. No, these aren’t characters that would pop up on AAR’s Unusual Professions special title list, but they’re characters who I think fit quite nicely with the spirit and history of Labor Day.
The first character that jumps to mind for me is Grace from Nora Roberts’ Rising Tides. Grace is a single mother and housekeeper for the Quinn family during the day and a waitress in a bar at night. Grace struggles financially, working so hard that she collapses several times from exhaustion.
Karen Templeton has written many romances with everyday workers. My favorite, Swept Away, features Sam Frazier, a farmer and single-father of six children. His isn’t a huge ranch, but a workman’s farm. Sam doesn’t have hundreds of ranch hands, but handles things essentially on his own, including mending fences. Sam also substitute teaches at the high school on a regular basis to make ends meet.
I asked my fellow reviewers for some of their favorite romances featuring everyday workers and they came up with some great suggestions. Caroline suggested another book by Karen Templeton, A Husband’s Watch, and commented that it’s a “wonderful book” in which the “hero is an auto mechanic.”
Wendy reminded me of one of my favorite authors, when she asked,
“Have you considered Higgins’ heroes? All her guys are workaday. There’s a landscaper, a fisherman, a fireman, a cop and a guy that customizes motorcycles, to name a few. The heroines are all normal people, too. It’s what makes her books so approachable.”
I’ve liked so many of Ms. Higgin’s books and agree with Wendy that most of her heroes and heroines fit the bill for ordinary working people, chief among them Malone, the lobsterman, in Catch of the Day.
Dabney offered a wealth of suggestions, and since they were mostly for books I haven’t read, expanded my TBR list as well:
“Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Heat has a hard working fire fighter. Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor is awash with working studs. Anne Calhoun’s fiction has cops who work hard. Ruthie Knox’s Flirting with Disaster has a small business owner (security) who is worried about paying the bills. Sarah Mayberry’s hero in Suddenly You is a mechanic. Kathleen O’Reilly’s Sex, Straight Up has an accountant. One of my favorite contemporary heroes is Chase from Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On who has his own demolition company and works hard. Joan Kilby’s Maybe This Time has a bar owner worried about losing his business to the hip place across the street. Toni Blake’s Half Moon Hill has a carpenter hero….Out of those my favorites are Chase, Mayberry’s Harry, and Ben from Anne Calhoun’s Uncommon Passion.”
Finally, Maggie offered a number of books and referenced her own 2011 Labor Day post:
“I mentioned this in a piece I did back in 2011 but Robyn Carr’s Virgin River heroes tend to be working class men. Jack (Virgin River) owns a bar, Preach (Shelter Mountain) is the cook, Mike Valenzuela (Whispering Rock) is a cop, Luke Riordan (Temptation Ridge) owns cabins used by fishermen. I should add the business owners are decidedly NOT wealthy. Descriptions of their life styles put them as solidly middle class. Cover of Night by Linda Howard has a handyman (Cal) hero and a woman (Cate Nightengale) who owns a B&B as the heroine. Professional but still hard working: Pamela Morsi’s Love Overdue (2013) is about a pharmacist and a librarian. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe (2013) is a banker and a cupcake shop owner. Both have money concerns. Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird features an auction house worker and a police officer/rescue boat worker. “
I love all of these suggestions, and hope you have some other ideas as well. Most of all, if you’re here in the U.S., I hope you have a happy, and safe Labor Day.
– LinnieGayl Kimmel