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Romances for People in Their 50s? Author Jane Porter Says, ‘Why Not?’

The author, 59, of 'Flirting With Fifty' wants to encourage women to ‘live big, juicy lives’ as they age

spinner image author jane porter is pictured along with the cover of her newest book flirting with fire
Jane Porter photo by Courtney Lindberg/Penguin Random House

Romantic fiction is booming, with readers devouring Colleen Hoover’s love stories (the three bestselling books of 2022 were all hers), as well as those of other hugely popular authors like Emily Henry, Lucy Score and Tessa Bailey. But while the genre draws readers of all ages (the average age is 35 to 39, according to Romance Writers of America [RWA]), it’s not easy to find a good romantic novel focused on love at middle age and beyond.

Enter Jane Porter, whose last book Flirting With the Beast was about 59-year-old widow Andi McDermott, who’s snowed in at her mountain vacation cabin with the heat knocked out but stays warm thanks to enigmatic, ruggedly handsome neighbor Wolf (yes, Wolf!).

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“I absolutely love writing characters who are my age,” the author, 59, tells AARP, noting that she’s done so since she wrote 2006’s Flirting With Forty, which reached 45 on Barnes & Noble’s bestseller list and was made into a 2008 Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear. Earlier last year she came out with Flirting With Fifty, a romance focused on a 50-year-old divorced college professor.

Now Porter has a new novel, Flirting With Fire (July 25), about 49-year-old Margot Hughes, a longtime fixture in the theater world, who’s trying to leave it behind after a tough breakup with her playwright fiancé. She’s drawn back in to manage — then costar in — a troubled summer production of Barefoot in the Park with a former soap opera star. Sparks fly.

A former English teacher with an MA in writing, Porter has also written dozens of other romances featuring younger women, including the 2014 novella Take Me, Cowboy, winner of a RITA award from RWA. Take Me Please, Cowboy, comes out Sept. 5.

But she plans to continue writing books with characters her own age: “It’s important to me to highlight the strength and beauty of mature women,” says Porter, who lives in a beach town near Los Angeles. The mother of three sons, she’s married to a surf instructor eight years her junior (she calls him “my beautiful surfer”) whom she met romance-novel-style (see below) while going through a painful divorce at age 40. Warm and relentlessly upbeat, she says, “All we really have is right now. Why not love and live big?”

Here’s more from our talk with Porter.

She met her ‘beautiful surfer’ in Hawaii ...

I was writing by the pool when I saw him – he had just given a surfing lesson. He was tan, he had tattoos. He had board shorts hanging off his lean hips. I really was gobsmacked. I remember thinking about what my mom might have said, “Look what the cat dragged in.” You know, for her, you’d never go with a “bad boy.” And I thought, I want the bad boy. I want what the cat dragged in. I want the life I’ve never lived. I tracked him down the next day and booked a lesson. We sat by the pool and I asked him all these questions. I wanted to understand what happened that made me go, Wow, I’m alive.  



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... and that experience inspired her to write Flirting With Forty and other books with older characters.

It had never crossed my mind that I deserve to ever be first or that I ever deserve to be happy, because I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to work hard, be successful, be a good wife, a good mom. And it was just life-changing at 40 to realize, you don’t have to settle for the last piece of cake or the burnt toast. That’s why I keep writing books like Flirting With Fifty and Flirting With Fire. That moment where you go “Wow, I’m alive” can happen at any age. And it does happen at any age. It’s not just reserved for the young.

She wants her stories to uplift older women ...

I feel different from a lot of writers because I have to write something I really believe in. It’s not that other writers don’t, but it’s almost like a mission. I need to tell stories that validate women. I also don’t want to just write a fairy tale without substance — so I don’t feel like I fit neatly into any publishing [genre]. I’ve always kind of straddled this women’s fiction, romance, empowerment thing, and I think I’m really lucky that my editor at Berkley has continued to believe in me, because I’m not an easy author to publish — especially now that I’m wanting to tell stories for women who are in their 60s.

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… with older female characters who take a chance on love and reinvention.

My heroes [tend to be] wives and moms, and at some points sometime in their 50s, maybe early mid-60s, they’re either widowed or divorced, and they realize they get to have a whole new adventure, a whole new act. I love that. I really love it. Because it can be a negative, like, I’m terrified. I’m on my own. Or we can embrace it and say we’re really lucky we get to have a new act and the chance to reinvent ourselves, and we’re going to do it with courage and humor and love.

She thinks falling in love can be different when you’re older ...

In some ways, it’s more cerebral. I think the whole personality comes into it, more so than when you’re younger, where I think it’s like Oh, you look good. … Whereas when you’re older, you want to meet and feel the person’s experiences and their past and who they are today. And we also bring in all the adult children and maybe grandchildren. So there’s this whole suitcase of life that comes with us, but it doesn’t have to be baggage.

… but still a wonderful part of a joyful life.

We’re never too old to live the big juicy life — the life where we get to have happiness. I fiercely believe this shouldn’t just be for characters in a book.

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