Am I Smart? Why I read Romance Novels

 

My coffee table clutter has been reduced to two magazines – National Geographic and hubby’s Cycling – plus three or four or five romance novels. What my teenaged sons like to call ‘Mom’s sex books’.

Please art departments – I beg you, pull up her bodice and button his shirt!

But every day I click online and read my favorite blogs on digital publishing news, womens’ magazines, and celebrity gossip.

Oh yeah…and Facebook of course.

On my home page one day was an aerial photograph of a heart shaped clearing in the midst of thousands of trees. A family secret for years, until a hot air balloonist snapped the picture and now it’s online for the world to see – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2173055/A-real-labour-love-Devoted-farmer-creates-heart-shaped-meadow-planting-thousands-oak-trees-tribute-late-wife.html

I couldn’t resist. I clicked to read more.

There was a fifteen year old photograph of the man who planted the trees, smiling, his head bent down to his wife’s. She beams for the camera, though she has dark circles under her eyes. His eyes are contemplative, his smile is gentle.

Below that is a black and white photo from 1962 and they’re holding hands. He’s looking at her with that look… that unmistakable, irrepressible look of love. Anyone with eyes can see he’s a goner – head over heels, completely lost his heart and soul to the pretty, smiling woman next to him.

The caption says she died one year after the picture was taken. Sudden heart failure.

I have my own photograph. We stood in the white sand of a windy Gulf Coast beach one July. The sun was low enough so we didn’t have to squint and he held the camera high, pressed his stubbled jaw against mine, and took the picture. I look giddy from vacation liquor and vacation sex … or maybe it was his hand on a particularly ticklish spot. He looks serious and content.

In love.

First time I saw that look time thirty-two years ago, I ran. Now here I was, swimming in the love in those ocean blue eyes.

The article continues: “I came up with the idea of creating a heart in the clearing of the field after Janet died.” Thousands of oak trees surround a heart pointing to her birthplace. “It is a lovely and lasting tribute to her which will be here for years.”

Possibly, with care, it will be here forever.

I read another article that day, on Why Smart Women Read Romance Novels http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-browning-walker/romance-novels-smart-women_b_1660308.html?utm_hp_ref=tw. The author writes romance, and the commenters… don’t. Decrying the genre as porn and unworthy of their time and effort, they tear down those who read it as desiring fulfillment of rape fantasies, of being stuck in a rut of smut.

Full disclaimer here: I read and write romance novels in the hopes of publishing one day.

No… that isn’t quite right….

I inhale romance novels. I live and breathe and study them, and then I try my damndest to express in words what it’s like to bask in the love of a man who believes in your dreams…supports your children, even if they’re not his own… allows the goofiest of his pictures to be posted online…drives miles out of his way just to be in the same city as you… endures years of therapy, medicine, and ugly hospital gowns because it’s the closest he can come to bearing your pain…,

… or plants thousands of saplings to frame a still exposed and aching heart that can only be seen from the heavens.

There isn’t a romance novel yet written that comes close to the real thing.

But if you read romance, you’d already know that.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Am I Smart? Why I read Romance Novels

  1. Pamela, I have noticed that the people who criticize romance and any other genre aren’t really decrying them because they believe what they say.
    Example: I read and write fantasy and paranormal. My mother always refused to have anything to do with it.
    She reads murder mystery and true crime.
    Recently she ran out of things to read and picked up one of my “crap with vampires” books. She devoured all 4 books and asked when the next was due out.
    This is just one more event leading me to believe the age old saying “We fear and hate what we see in ourselves”. We women see someone reading romance and fear the book will cause us to be dissatisfied with our own love lives. Men hate it believing she will expect him to be like that. Teens call them “sex” books because…… well they are teens…. they scan through looking for those parts.
    Fantasy and paranormal are a complete escape from reality. People who don’t read it tell me “I have to keep my head in the real world all this pretend stuff is just crap.” First of all FICTION is all “pretend”. Second I personally LIVE reality BREATHE reality and WORK myself to death in this reality. I don’t particularly feel the need to imagine reality. I need an escape to blow off steam. To me life is like that overbearing, clingy boyfriend that even follows you to the bathroom. You need a break from it before you become frustrated embittered and angry. People with anger control issues don’t read much more than newspapers. We blow off steam by reading.
    This has gotten way longer than I meant to so will stop here but You get my point. Every genre has critics and they are usually the ones that are afraid they could get lost the quickest in it.

    • Amanda, you’re absolutely right. For readers dealing with chemotherapy or chronic illness, losing a loved one or a job, or simply lonely and unfulfilled, romance and all genres of fiction give an escape and distraction. A place to rest the mind for a short while before pain or loneliness closes in again.

      It also can give us insight into others and into ourselves. I think the best fiction works I read are those that express something in print that I’ve thought or felt… or didn’t realize that I felt until I saw the author’s words. A reflection of oneself in print resonates with a reader and binds them tight to that author, because kindred souls recognize each other – even if only in fictional characters.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! And for the reblog love!

  2. Pamela, I have noticed that the people who criticize romance and any other genre aren\’t really decrying them because they believe what they say. Example: I read and write fantasy and paranormal. My mother always refused to have anything to do with it. She reads murder mystery and true crime. Recently she ran out of things to read and picked up one of my \”crap with vampires\” books. She devoured all 4 books and asked when the next was due out. This is just one more event leading me to believe the age old saying \”We fear and hate what we see in ourselves\”. We women see someone reading romance and fear the book will cause us to be dissatisfied with our own love lives. Men hate it believing she will expect him to be like that. Teens call them \”sex\” books because…… well they are teens…. they scan through looking for those parts. Fantasy and paranormal are a complete escape from reality. People who don\’t read it tell me \”I have to keep my head in the real world all this pretend stuff is just crap.\” First of all FICTION is all \”pretend\”. Second I personally LIVE reality BREATHE reality and WORK myself to death in this reality. I don\’t particularly feel the need to imagine reality. I need an escape to blow off steam. To me life is like that overbearing, clingy boyfriend that even follows you to the bathroom. You need a break from it before you become frustrated embittered and angry. People with anger control issues don\’t read much more than newspapers. We blow off steam by reading. This has gotten way longer than I meant to so will stop here but You get my point. Every genre has critics and they are usually the ones that are afraid they could get lost the quickest in it.

I'm listening... Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s