(Originally published Nov. 29, 2006).
A couple of days ago, my publicist phoned and asked if I would consider participating in a documentary about romance fiction called Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings? The producers needed some more authors to interview. I thought about it for .00399 seconds and said, “Radio or television?”
“Doesn’t that add an extra 10 pounds?” I said. “That’s not going to be a pretty sight.”
I could hear the line humming as she ground her teeth. “Yes or no?” she snarled.
Heart thumping madly, I said, “Yes.”
So here I am, madly trying to figure out how to lose thirty pounds overnight and pulling together my jumbled thoughts on why I love reading romance novels. The weight probably won’t melt away in time, but if I prepare for the interview, at least I might not make a total ass of myself in front of the camera.
“Then, why not make romance novels the topic of your weekly blog entry?” whispered my muse. “Kill two literary birds with one stone, so to speak.”
So here goes.
I have always been a voracious reader. My first memory is of my grandmother holding me on her knee, reading to me. At age seven, I read Winnie the Pooh in a single sitting. A painfully shy child, I escaped into the fantasy world of books. Later, as an adult in a stressful profession, I turned to my loyal friends, books, to unwind–all manner of mysteries, thrillers, historicals, and adventures. I devoured them all. But my main escape from life’s challenges is, and always has been, romance fiction. The moment I opened my first Barbara Cartland novel, I knew I had found my genre.
Call it total escapism. In a world of growing uncertainty, constantly bombarded with news about disasters, tragedies, wars, murders, deaths, and corruption, I crave an antidote. A world of wonder, a world of falling in love, of unlimited possibilities, of overcoming impossible odds, and of living happily ever after is more to my liking. What better way to escape than to curl up in front of a fire with a cup of tea and a good romance novel?
Romance novels are addictive. Here’s the thing. I’m a psychologist wannabe, a voyeur of the human psyche, an emotional junkie. I suck up internal conflicts like a Hoover sucks up dust–emotions, feelings, and emotional baggage that characters drag around, providing their motives and affecting their actions. A good romance novel is a psychological jigsaw puzzle that never fails to feed my craving for an emotional fix.
I love everything about romance novels. I love the loyalty. I love the treachery. I love the courage. I love the frailty. I love the hope. I love the despair. I love the honesty. I love the deception. I love the humor. I love the tears. I love the well-rounded characters, particularly quirky characters that are so flawed, yet appealing, they feel like old friends. I love the clever, smart-mouthed heroines who say and do all the things I would love to. I love the hunky, tortured heroes who overcome their personal demons in the name of love.
And if the interviewer asks me whether I think men should read romance fiction, my answer will be an unqualified, “Yes.” How can any man in his right mind resist learning more about feminine secrets–what we love, what we hate, what turns us on, what turns us off, in short, what makes us tick? In my opinion, romance fiction provides unlimited opportunities for men to plumb the depths (so to speak) of the mysterious world of Venus. Who knows? In the process, they might even reach new insight on Martians.
I leave you with this thought. Picture a man sprawled in a chair at the airport, waiting for his flight, briefcase and laptop propped at his feet–a manly man, a man who is truly comfortable in his own skin, a man who has tossed aside his business report documenting recent financial trends and who is dabbing his eyes, happily engrossed in the latest Nora Roberts bestseller.
After all, only real men dare to read romance fiction.