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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 14, 2010

Advice straight from the heart


BY MAUREEN O'CONNELL
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Instead of the traditional roses for Valentine's Day, writer Michael Little gives his wife her favorite flower: irises.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Donna Cooper is a rodeo queen "love cop" think Reese Witherspoon "who spends a lot of time working to make friends happy, and that includes directing romantic traffic."

Dyad Radlavich is a devastatingly handsome yet haunted Russian-American. He's a "rough-and-tumble guy with the heart of a marshmallow."

Intrigued? Of course, you are. Both are among the most romantic characters conjured up, respectively, by Michael Little and Lynde Lakes, vice president and president of the Aloha Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

In honor of Valentine's Day, Little, who writes romantic comedies, and Lakes, who calls her books "romantic suspense" novels, agreed to answer our questions about matters of the heart.

Q. What's your advice for the clumsy and clueless among us on this holiday?

A. Lakes urges carpe diem. "This is your chance to tell this person who you care about how you really feel about them," she said.

It's important to elaborate, Lakes said. The strong, silent type who says (here she broke into a deep, gruff voice), "Love ya, babe," and thinks that's enough better think again. "He's got to follow up with why. That's the important thing."

Little suggests just finding time to be with the one you love. "Keep it simple," he said. "Tell her you love her and kiss her on the neck but don't bite, unless she asks you to."

Q. Grand gestures, or flowers and handwritten notes?

A. Wild extravagance is almost always appreciated, but it's got nothin' on a scribbled "I heart you" note posted in an unexpected place or where the recipient will see it at exactly the right moment, Lakes said. "Anything real and from the heart will be celebrated and never forgotten."

Little agrees. "I think that flowers and handwritten notes are big gestures and it's important to deliver them in person," if you're able, he said.

Q. Any tips for the frugal valentine?

A. A sunset picnic at one of Hawai'i's world-class beaches can be romantic and need not empty your kama'āina wallet, Lakes said. Pack some treats, pin paper hearts on a blanket and you're good to go. While listening to the surf and getting cozy, tell your valentine what you appreciate most about him or her.

Little gives the beach date a thumbs-up, too. "Hawai'i is a good place for walking on the beach, holding hands and whispering in her ear all free of charge," he said.

Another thrifty idea: "I live near Waiola Shave Ice" near Kapahulu Avenue, Little said. "It turns out it's a pretty romantic place people hold hands while they're ordering ... they sit down and eat shave ice together; sometimes they share." He added, "I never thought of shave ice as romantic, but I'm beginning to."

Q. What's your favorite Valentine's Day memory or tradition?

A. "Every day is Valentine's Day for those who love and respect each other," Lakes said. "But for a lady who likes to dance, his promise to take me dancing once a week for life was the most romantic thing he could do."

Little's wife loves irises. So, during the week before the big day, he shops for them as a personal touch instead of roses.

And what sort of gift does Little like to get? "I think that food is always good," he said, noting that he enjoys either a homemade meal or dinner at a restaurant.

Also, a love letter can be a wonderful gift, Little said. While romance novels tend to target women readers, men can appreciate a romantic read, too, he quipped.

Q. How should you spend the day if you don't have a valentine?

A. Rather than humming "Love Stinks" (J. Geils Band, 1980), which will get airtime on radio stations this weekend, Lakes urges again to boldly seize the day.

Men could gather up some flowers, maybe a few dozen roses, then go out in public and hand one to every woman they see, saying only, "For a beautiful lady," Lakes said. "They're going to get attention from a beautiful lady just for doing that." Women could "go out and smile at everybody. You may be surprised by what can happen when you open yourself up to people."

Finally, Little has some advice for those who may be unlucky in love today but hope for better next year. Three little words: Do your homework.

"Read a romantic novel, see a romantic movie and take notes," suggested Little, author of "Queen of the Rodeo" (Triple Tree Publishing, 2001) and its prequel "Chasing Cowboys" (Aloha Romance Writers, 2009). Both detail the adventures of that sassy-and-sweet character Donna Cooper.

Lakes' romantic intrigues "Billboard Cop" (Amira Press, 2007) and "Cowboy Lies" (Amira Press, 2008) received four-star reviews from Romantic Times Book Reviews. Her story about the dashing Dyad Radlavich, who "brings into his romantic ways traditions from Russia," is now working its way toward publication.

Both writers, along with other members of Hawai'i's Aloha Chapter, have contributed stories to three anthologies published by the Romance Writers of America "The Breakup Queen: Romantic Tales from Hawaii Writers" (2007), "Strong Currents" (2002) and "Strong Currents 2" (2006).