Catherine Bennetto by Jill Allan

Catherine Bennetto by Jill Allan

Love is all around us. Right? Wet Wet Wet said so. We love to read about it, we love to watch it and most of all we love to experience it. And that's why I think it's important that realistic love, with all its ups, downs, disasters and surprises, is represented in fiction.

Classic romantic escapism will always have a place in my heart: the perfect guy saying the perfect lines in the perfect location. I've seen The Notebook. I've dreamt it could happen to me. I've looked over at my husband eating sticky toffee pudding while tracking the online exchange rates and realised it may not.

Therefore, in order not to succumb to any romantic Ryan Gosling-esque delusion, I need to read love stories where the woman is too heavy to be swept off her feet. Or the guy can't do any sweeping because he put his neck out while shampooing that morning. Ones where the perfect guy says the perfect thing while you're struggling to get out of a portable toilet. I want to feel I'm not the only female who has been proposed to by someone who had seaweed in his teeth. That I'm not the only girl whose partner vomited gallons of Grappa on them on a romantic trip to Italy.

I put the main character in my book in a situation where finding love was the last thing on her mind. Emma is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend. I wanted to have a character fall in love during a time when sexual attraction could possibly be lessened. Or if not lessened at least there was a physical and ethical hurdle. Can you fall in love with a man while you're pregnant with another man's baby? Can a man fall in love with a woman while she carries another man's child? Can it be romantic? Sexy? The answer is OF COURSE!

There is no ideal time in which to fall in love. It won't necessarily happen when you're twenty-five (and still pert in all crucial areas), allowing you ample time to travel, save for a house, try for a baby while everybody's ingredients are still brimming with vitality then deck out the baby room with cute stuff from Ikea. Like shit, 'love' happens.

I've tried to present my main character in her most exposed yet real state. Emma can't be anything but pregnant and heartbroken and frightened. She hasn't the strength to put forward another, more appealing version of herself. But it's this vulnerability that allows the love interest to see the real her. Stretch marks, huge nipples and all.

Romance doesn't need to fit the Gosling-rowing-in-the-rain-in-a-white-shirt mould; in fact, sometimes it's more beautiful if it doesn't. But I'm so very thankful he ventured out in that terrible weather. Very, very thankful.