The other day, a friend was asking me about my Diamond Brides series of hot, contemporary romances, all built around the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team. She said, “You used to write speculative fiction, stories where you could really explore themes about civilization and mankind’s place in the universe.” Laughing, I told her I was still doing the same thing — I’m writing stories about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
You remember Maslow. He’s the psychologist that developed the theory that we need our basic needs met before we can ascend to higher levels of needs. We need our physiological needs met (food, water, sex, sleep) before we move on to thinking about safety (of body, family, health, property) before we think about love (including sexual intimacy) before we think about esteem (self-esteem, respect for others) before we reach the pinnacle of Maslowian needs — self-actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance of self and others).
My romances, I joked, were just about the base of the Maslowian pyramid. My characters are struggling to guarantee that they’ll get sex.
The more I thought about the idea, though, the more I realized that my characters are after more than pure physical release. They want safety — protecting their bodies against others. They want love — sexual intimacy. They want esteem — respect for themselves and for their partners. Ultimately, they want self-actualization — creative, spontaneous existence within a moral construct (which just happens to include sexual intimacy).
All of this analysis is something of a joke. I know that. I’m writing hot contemporary romances — they’re fun stories for people to read in giant gulps, perfect for the beach or a plane ride or a curl-up-on-the-couch weekend afternoon. I’m not really writing to change the way people think and interact.
But all that said, the most recent Diamond Brides novel — THIRD DEGREE — really does seem to plug into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a very direct way. Because THIRD DEGREE isn’t just a romance. It isn’t even just a romantic baseball story. It’s a romantic baseball story where the primary focus is on food.
Making it. Building rituals around it. Eating it. Feeding others with it.
Food finds its way into nearly every book I’ve ever written, from the lemon water my starving main character totes in The Glasswrights’ Apprentice to the baked goods served up in the bakery run by my main character’s best friend in Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft. So no one should be surprised that food figures into THIRD DEGREE. I just hope people enjoy the role of that food as much as I enjoyed researching the cooking traditions of Tidewater North Carolina. Pulled pork barbecue, anyone? Brunswick stew? How about a healthy slice of stack pie?
You can read all about those dishes — and more — in THIRD DEGREE!