One Saturday last winter, with a foot or two of snow on the ground and the power out for a while, I did something that I’d never done before. I read romance novels – six of them. The titles and the names of the authors don’t matter since with a few minor variations the stories were all the same.
Woman – between 25 and 35
Tall, perfect breasts, legs, waist, hips, thighs, arms, etc.,
Long lustrous hair
Large eyes – “limpid”
Personality – “spunky”
BUT. . . . (May I have a drum roll please?)
Crisis. Woman must turn life around. Goes in search of mate. Two pages later, finds him.
Man – between 25 and 35
Tall, lustrous hair (just a tad too long)
Perfect pecs, rock hard abs, butt to match
Dark eyes – “smoldering”
Personality – Rugged and Independent
BUT (Another drum roll, please?)
A CONFIRMED BACHELOR!!!
First contact. Sparks fly. Yada yada yada Explosive sex – shuddering, arching, groaning, clutching, writhing, quivering, grinding, throbbing, trembling, surging, etc.
Next morning, all is well at first. Then the doubts set in. Man and woman are privately thinking roughly the same thing.
“We’re moving too fast. He/She isn’t my type. I can’t let myself fall in love with him/her. I’ve got to stop now before it’s too late!”
Which of course it already is. Then comes. . . The Revelation!
She (it’s always her first) accepts the fact that she loves him. More to the point, he loves her, too, but it’s up to her to make him realize that he needs her as his wife – for life. Problem. How to get him to the altar?
First, cut off supply of sex. This is not easy since she can’t get within a mile of him without a near overpowering urge to rip off her underwear – and his. But she must reign in her passion. After all, she’s doing this for both of them.
Second, ramp up tease factor. She cuts out the sex but still manages to find herself in his house (car, boat, office, etc.) clad only in bikini underwear and a tee-shirt or better still one of his old shirts under which she is, of course, braless.
Sexual pressure building like a volcano, watching her heaving breasts and tight rear end (now from a distance because she has forbidden him to touch same), the poor besotted fool soon caves. Finally he grabs her, pushes her against a wall (or down on to a bed or down in the back seat of a car, etc.), pleading, “PUH-LEEZE marry me! I can’t live without you! You’re the only woman I ever want in my life!!”
Heaving a triumphant sigh, she melts into his arms and they promise to life happily ever after, which basically will involve having two dozen children in between regular and rampant sweaty rounds of sex the likes of which would kill a normal human being and is probably illegal in most of the contiguous 48 states.
Now as I said, I only read six of these things. Had it not been for meals and occasional bouts of strenuous laughter, I probably could have gotten in two or three more, though to what purpose I don’t know.
I do know this much. Over the years I’ve read hundreds, probably thousands of novels – some good, some bad, some that I will remember as long as I live. The few that belonged to the latter group had this in common: The author was able to make me care about what happened to the characters. The more I got into the story, the more I was able to empathize with them. I wanted to know how their lives turned out. I wanted to know about their dreams and fantasies and desires. The author made me feel what the characters were feeling.
Of the six romance novels I read, the most interesting character was an aging, slow moving overweight Rotweiller who appeared to have a foot fetish.
Okay. So a romance novel is not supposed to reflect reality. I accept that. But even “happily ever after” doesn’t always have to be the same. I was positively dumbfounded when one of the books ended with the couple deciding NOT to have children, opting instead for 40 years of uninterrupted and, of course, explosive sex.
All I’m asking for here is some semblance of creativity. I’m speaking as a lover of good fiction, and good fiction should be creative. Good fiction doesn’t tell the same old, tired, inane story over and over again with only a dozen or so minor variations so that, in the end, although I could probably care less whether this endlessly perfect couple gets together it would be difficult. By the time I got to the end of the sixth novel, I was actually hoping the guy would refuse to give up his bachelorhood regardless of how good the sex was.
Here’s a thought. How about a story about a perfect man and a perfect woman who are attracted to each other but the sex isn’t explosive right off the bat? In fact, it leaves them both dissatisfied. But they still like each other and enjoy each other’s company and make each other laugh and don’t want to lose each other even if the sex doesn’t work.
Okay. So make the sex work – but not until the end of the story. Let me wonder whether they’re going to work it out and how. That way, when they do, I can savor that moment right along with them. Make them wait for it. And me, too.
Here’s another wild thought. Why do the hero and heroine have to be physically perfect in every detail? Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing at all against good looks. I keep a suitcase packed just in case Pierce Brosnan calls to tell me that he’s finally realized that I’m the only woman he ever wanted. We all have our fantasies.
Still, how about a story about a tall perfect specimen of a man who, for reasons he himself does not understand at first, is attracted to a short, flat-chested woman with a gelatinous butt? Or to a woman confined to a wheel chair? Or a story about a tall perfect specimen of a woman who is drawn to a man who looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy? Or a man who has a speech impediment? Or a club foot? Or facial scars from an old war wound?
The possibilities are limitless.
Unfortunately, for me anyway, romance novels are just too limited in scope. I’m going back to mysteries.
“Suddenly a shot rang out. The door slammed and the maid screamed.” And on the floor of the library is a body with multiple stab wounds. The possibilities are limitless.