Friday, 17 June 2016

Random thoughts about romance

Taken from Longmire Does Romance

I don't know what the male experience is around romance books. All I know is that as a female reader it was something I was steered towards. In my local library as soon as I got my adult card I was shepherded to the young adult section and there could be found emissaries of the Point Romance collection. These would help you take your first, tentative steps into the world of romance with boys who were handsome but perhaps built like action man in the underpant department because of the lack of action in the storyline beyond a few kisses. Forever by Judy Blume was a rite of passage at my secondary school but I don't think it comfortably sits in the area of romance as it portrayed sex in a real way - no shuddering rainbows and exploding wonder just a penis named Ralph and initial uncomfortable coitus. I can't recall a romance book I've read where any alpha male named his genitals. When I went on holiday in the UK as a teen, the kind of books available in small holiday shops that smelled of sand and old seawater there seemed to be only two types of book on sale - Manly War/ Western and Womanly Womance. In those primitive pre-kindle days when I was desperate to read anything I did buy a few womances. And worse, much, much worse - I even liked some of them!

Why worse? Well, romance is pretty much the most denigrated genre out there. Men are disparaging of it; some women are scathing about it. There's this idea of the archetypal romance reader as being a pathetic, lovelorn, low intelligence character completely out of touch with reality and pitiable as a result. 

Daisy. sister of Hyacinth in the TV show Keeping Up Appearances, usually pictured with a Mills & Boon in one hand while her slob of a husband Onslow mooched about somewhere in the background.

I wonder if this plays in to some patriarchal concept of old which dictated that women were of such flimsy intellects that they would absorb the content of what they were reading as fact rather than fiction. I worked in a library from my mid-teens to my early twenties and the majority of women who borrowed romance were late thirties to fifties, had at least one child and were no doubt fully aware of the fictional nature of what they were reading. One woman had problems with sleeping and said that romance was the only thing she could read in those interminable hours when she could't close her eyes. A lecturer at university referred to books like Mills & Boon as bubblegum for the brain.

I've heard of people drawing parallels between romance and junk food but I think junk food is too harsh a term. Let's compare it to chocolate instead. You would be unlikely to want to have your entire diet made up of chocolate but it's a treat and comforting and exactly what you need when enjoyed in moderation. I think romance fulfills that function for many. 

A fact about romance that I think a lot of its detractors don't take on board is how funny it can be. Laugh out loud funny in parts. Perhaps the author wasn't intending that but sometimes that's what happens. When a hero comes from uber-romance land and has every masculine cliche going wrapped up in his bulging (sometimes scantily clad) package, the occasional giggle is bound to come up. Amongst other things.

Longmire again

There's a blog called Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - the tagline is 'all of the romance, none of the bullshit'. They review all manner of books that come under the incredibly broad umbrella of romance - paranormal, historical, modern, urban fantasy, BDSM and so on, Films and audiobooks are also reviewed. They've even done a recent one about the Outlander series inspired Cookbook

Smart Bitches, Fantastic Eyewear
The reviews tend to start with any relevant trigger warnings like violence or sexual assault or anything else which members of their audience might want to steer clear of. The website makes no apologies for the 'guilty' pleasure of romance books

I haven't read mainstream romance in ages but I do like me a good paranormal or urban fantasy book from time to time. The female leads don't tend to be doormats and the males tend to be werewolves, vampires, super-powered humans who take the alpha male thing to new extremes.

You earned it - another Longmire :)

No comments:

Post a Comment