By Patricia B. Dywer
Affairs of the art
Paintings by Sarah Stieber
Feb. 11 - Mar. 6
3803 Ray St., North Park
Passion becomes adventure in Sarah Stieber's paintings as she douses her subjects-nude and seminude couples embracing, ?irting and laughing-in vivid color. The striking images create a carefree aesthetic that exudes lust and love.
Sculpture in the Garden & Valentine's Evening at the Garden
Feb. 14 (sculptures on display now through Apr. 16)
San Diego Botanic Garden
230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas
Spark Valentine's Day romance with a sunset stroll (5-8 p.m.) through San Diego Botanic Garden's "Sculpture in the Garden" exhibit, featuring the works of 26 regional artists set amid the park's 35 lush acres. (The pieces on display are for sale, with proceeds bene?ting the foundation that maintains the beautiful property.) Cap the evening at the Garden's soiree, offering champagne, hors d'oeuvres, chocolates, live entertainment, mood-setting music and a souvenir photo of you two lovebirds. Price: $75 per couple.
A Valentine's Romance
San Diego Symphony
Copley Symphony Hall
750 B St., Downtown
Tony Award-winning Broadway star Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls) and powerhouse ?lm and stage composer Marvin Hamlisch (The Way We Were, A Chorus Line) combine creative forces for this performance straight from the heart.
Pala Casino Spa Resort
11154 Hwy. 76, Pala
Find out why your parents (and their parents) fell in love with the eternally hip crooner Tony Bennett-the 15-time Grammy winner whose signature song is "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"-when the former World War II infantryman brings his smooth, jazzy stylings to Pala Casino right after Valentine's Day.
San Diego Ballet
79 Horton Plaza, Gaslamp
See passion in motion, and love personi?ed, in the graceful lifts and leaps of this compilation of highlights from San Diego Ballet's past seasons. Directed by famed choreographer Javier Velasco, the eclectic program will feature selections from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo et Juliet along with numbers set to the vocals of Nat King Cole and Patsy Cline.
Art Laboe's Super Valentine Love Jam
Valley View Casino Center
3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Sports Arena
A legendary voice on the radio since the 1940s, the boundlessly energetic Art Laboe will introduce this cavalcade of funky and soulful acts including Zapp, Rose Royce, Heatwave and The Originals-proving that love-infused "Oldies" (and the antique disc jockey himself) never fall out of fashion.
868 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
Hailing from Oaxaca, Mexico, singer-songwriter Lila Downs adds dashes of jazz and blues to traditional Mexican music to create a passionate celebration of her heritage. Performing in Spanish and English, Downs's powerful delivery invariably draws vocal accompaniment-and tears-from her audiences. ¡Te quiero!
All you need is love
Kisses on the Bottom
Debuts Feb. 7
Paul McCartney's latest album is a loving ode to his musical in?uences, with endearing covers of songs by Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, as well as appearances by Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. The album also features two McCartney originals, including the jazzy "My Valentine," which is rumored to be the song McCartney sang to his wife Nancy at their wedding last October.
Opens Feb. 3
In this fantasy drama, pop-star-slash-movie director Madonna stays behind the camera to spin the tale of how England's King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) relinquished his throne in 1936 to marry an American divorcee (Andrea Riseborough). The story is told from the perspective of a present-day woman (Abbie Cornish) whose extramarital affair and obsession with the historic pair color her vision of romance in ways even Madonna's own trespasses couldn't.
Opens Feb. 10
Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum star as a young married couple who get into a car wreck that leaves the wife amnesic and unable to recognize her spouse. The plot chronicles hubby's attempts to help his mate remember him and their love. (That nagging sense of déjà vu you're feeling can be sourced to McAdams' similarly tear-jerking 2004 drama The Notebook.)
's Good Deeds
Opens Feb. 24
The tireless one-man brand known as Tyler Perry has written, produced and directed-and taken the male lead in-this feel-good ?ick about an engaged businessman whose brush with an of?ce cleaning person (Thandie Newton) changes his life. The protagonist's unlikely connection with this single mom leads him to question his values and what he's sacri?ced in the pursuit of wealth, showing him that the path to true happiness is anything but tidy.
Opens Feb. 24
This R-rated yukfest from the makers of Role Models stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as uptight Manhattanites who, ?nding themselves unemployed, ?ee The Big Apple for Atlanta-only to wind up in a swinging 1970s-style commune. Devoid of urban stress (and most forms of dress), they're free to be themselves and to ?nd out if they're romantically broken as well as being broke.
Romancing the tome
As if San Diego weren't sexy enough, the city also happens to be a hotbed for romance novelists. With about 100 members, the local chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA) claims a chunk of the $1.3 billion national romance publishing market.
Yearning, lust and sex are what launch these novelists' paperbacks off store shelves, but at least one of the group's writers doesn't cop to being so calculating.
"Whenever I write a romance, I don't think about adding in the sex scenes at the end," says HelenKay Dimon, who has penned 28 titles, including her Mystery Men series from Harlequin Intrigue. "They are intrinsic to whatever else you're writing."
Despite their reputation for cookie-cutter plots and clichéd couplings, romance novels encompass many subgenres. Books range from Amish love to erotica, gothic to steampunk, mystery to historical, and plain-old gay and lesbian.
There's even a NASCAR series. As with the romance novel's TV equivalent, the soap opera, no setting, course of action or character type can be deemed too outlandish.
"Whatever kind of love story you like, you can now ?nd a million books," says author Lisa Kessler, RWA San Diego Chapter president.
As in every publishing market, the romance novel survives on basic quality. Compelling prose and strong narratives are crucial. And key to its contemporary target audience (women, age 30 to 54), female protagonists are no longer helpless heel-breakers-they are independent and strong-willed.
"We still might have those fantasies of wanting to be saved, but in today's romance novels the heroine isn't waiting for the guy to save her," notes successful local author Christie Ridgway, whose titles include Berkley Sensation's Can't Hurry Love. "She will do a lot of the saving herself."
While the scenarios may change, the bodice-ripping siren song of romance novels remains the same. And they always have a happy ending.