Every Tom, Dick, and Harriet

By Rita Killer,

Being a newcomer to the world of romance novels, I confess to some ignorance on a few perhaps minor points. For example, I assume (and the Romance Writer’s of America will surely have statistics on this) that over 90 percent of the readers of romance novels are women. Not that men don’t read romance novels, mind you. It’s just that most of them are still not so in touch with their “feminine side” that they’d be prepared to admit that they just can’t wait for the next Sandra Brown. That would be like admitting that they have no idea what goes on under the hood of their cars.

Another point of interest to me. We assume that because most of the people who read romance novels are women that most of the people who write them are as well. But do we really know? I mean, for sure? I personally know at least two guys who write romance novels on the side under closely guarded female pseudonyms. And they do it for the best of all possible reasons. The money! It’s a guaranteed second income – and a good one, at that. Yet both of them are convinced that they would have been turned down flat had they tried to publish under their own names.

No matter how liberated we’ve all become, somewhere in our heart of hearts we continue to believe that while men can write sex, romance is still a separate venue and remains the province of the female.

Yet it was Lord Byron who wrote:

She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

Okay. So that was in 1815. The point is almost 200 years later it’s still beautiful and quite romantic.

Am I suggesting that any average guy could write something equally romantic? Of course not. I just think we do men (some of them, anyway) a disservice by assuming that they are incapable of appreciating romance – even if their motivation may be entirely sexual.

A friend of mine told me that one fine fall evening she called the guy she’d being seeing for some time and asked if he would like to come over to sit in front of the fireplace and read poetry. “If I do, is there any chance of my getting into your pants?” he asked. “I don’t know,” she said, smiling to herself. “It’s possible, I guess.” His reply was swift and direct. “I’ll stop at the library. What kind of poetry do you want us to read?”

Okay. So he’s no Lord Byron. But sometimes honesty is romantic, too. As somebody else (I have no idea whom) once wrote:

In sexual bouts
and nocturnal rides,
the boy “scouts”
and the girl “guides.”