How good are you at reading in between the lines? If you’re better than me, maybe you saw my impending divorce coming before I did. When I blog, I tend to take inspiration from what’s going on in my own reading and in my life. A few months ago I wrote about the romances that mirror your own romance, and in a roundabout way discussed my newfound disenchantment with heroines who marry too young.

I’ve been reading romance and writing about romance novels for a long time – over sixteen years. When I started writing for All About Romance I was 28, with three young kids. I defined my own love story as a young lovers romance; I liked to say I married young and crazy but was still making it work. I defended couples who met young and knew they were in love, because I knew it could happen. What usually happens in a romance novel of this storyline, however, is that our couple marries young (or gets pregnant young, or dates young, or something) then tragically separates only to reunite later in life and rekindle the flame after they’ve both grown up. Granted, you need conflict. Two people who marry at nineteen, graduate from college, then go on to have four kids and two dogs as they live in blissful harmony in their suburban home do not exactly make the most scintillating reading.

Or sometimes, the most scintillating marriage. You can tell yourself you’re happy, tell your online community you’re happy, and tell Facebook you’re happy. But that doesn’t necessarily make it true. That’s why I find myself 44, with the same four kids and two dogs and suburban house…and about to write a different ending to a story. It isn’t what I’d pictured or what I thought I wanted, but the opportunity to redefine yourself and (dare I say it?) perhaps find a new “hero” of sorts, has quite a bit of allure. I went through about a week where I listened to the Ben Folds song above on repeat. I’ve thought about things I hadn’t considered in years. Suddenly I find myself saying, doing, and thinking things that surprise me. I’m mourning the loss of my 25 year marriage (mostly because this isn’t what I wanted for the kids), but I’m also discovering parts of myself I had forgotten about. So some of this is actually kind of cool.

When I say I am looking for a new love story, that’s not quite true – at least not yet. This is early days for me, and though I might have an idea or two about men I find attractive, I’m hardly going to come off a 26 year relationship and jump right into picking out china patterns with someone else. Not yet, anyway. Besides, who needs more plates when you’re 44?

When I am ready, though, my considerable romance reading experience is sure to stand me in good stead. If romance novels are the definitive guide to life, I would be best served by one of the following scenarios:

1. Return home to cozy, seaside town from whence I came, preferably in Washington State or, if unavailable, Maine. Open bed and breakfast. Reconnect with local sheriff. Marry sheriff.

2. Having made it big in publishing, investment banking, lawyering, or acting, suffer embarrassing career failure which requires immediate exodus to small town from whence I came. In this case, it’s okay if it’s Texas or Montana. Rekindle romance with bad boy from high school who I pined over, even though he dated that cheerleader whose name was probably Jennifer. He is – you guessed it – now the sheriff. Date sheriff while opening new business (hair salon, bookstore, yarn shop), which succeeds improbably despite small population of town and prevalence of online shopping.

3. Inherit family ranch from dead relative. It’s probably in Montana, but Wyoming will do in a pinch. Ridiculous will stipulation that I live on said ranch with ranch foreman (in spare time, sheriff) is a bonus but not absolutely required. Fall in love with foreman/sheriff at night and in rainstorms, while tapping into horse-whispering skills no one knew I had, especially me. Have one more child as my fertility wanes. Name child either Foreman or Sheriff, depending on gender.

4. Admit that one of my babies is actually secret baby. (This is both awkward and long overdue since the youngest is fourteen.) Nonetheless, I should never have had two margaritas at my high school reunion (definitely in Texas) and slept with my ex-boyfriend-now-sheriff. Time to come clean and tell the sheriff he has a baby/teenager.

5. Make new bucket list involving sexytimes. Talk loudly about sexbucketlist in presence of longtime male best friend, who is a billionaire sheriff (who, for variety’s sake, lives in Nevada or Colorado). Surprise sheriff/billionaire/best friend into volunteering to hold clipboard and check off sexperiences (I made up a new word just now!) together. He always wanted to do this stuff, but I was unavailable of course. Billionaire sheriff sexy marriage ensues.

6. Realize that I am actually in a Superromance, so I’m going to have to get a little more serious. Acquire new profession (counselor, nurse, teacher, social worker) that puts me in contact with the troubled child of my old flame, who is now also divorced with his own struggles as a single dad/sheriff. Solve all the troubled child’s problems waaaay too easily with handy professional tricks and/or the considerable knowledge and experience I’ve acquired from being a mom for 22 years. In Ohio, probably.

7. Acquire new connection to family of hot, single (or single until recently) brothers. The more brothers the better, but we can’t really wander into Duggar territory here. Seven, tops. Realistically, I’ll probably come in around book five, when the bartender brother, hot doctor, businessman and the like have already married the bookstore owner and impossibly cute owner of local cafe where they make all those pies (huckleberry, probably). That’ll leave me with the sheriff, who by virtue of my age, is probably the oldest brother who is pissed off with a chip on his shoulder for some reason. Probably because he kind of wanted the 23 year old cafe owner with the pies and got stuck with the 44 year old divorcee with four kids. Suck it up, buddy. It’s not my fault that the author’s running out of ideas. Besides, you’re 46 yourself, asshole. And I make good pies too just so you know.

Feel free to chime in with your own ideas for my romantic future, keeping in mind that they all must end with me marrying a sheriff (which as you know, is my only realistic option). Authors, feel free to use any of these great ideas, because I’m pretty sure I’m onto something here. Titles can include (but are not limited to): Marrying the Sheriff, The Billionaire Sheriff’s Divorcee, The Sheriff’s Awkward Teenage Surprise, and Fucking the Hell out of the Hot Sheriff. And…go!

You can tell me you’re sorry too, by the way. So am I sometimes, but it’s just more fun to laugh about it, you know?