Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Romantic: a guest post by The Sedentary Vagabond

Today's post was brought to you by .The Sedentary Vagabond. I am guest posting on her blog today, too, so make sure to visit me over there!

My introduction to romance novels came when I was a fifth grader smuggling them home from my tiny Christian school. (I was really sheltered, and my mom thought I was too young to read romance. Long story)

They were works by authors such as Janet Oke, full of pioneers and Amish people and very definitely PG.

My mother no longer desires or is able to control my reading habits, but I hadn’t read a true romance novel … until this week.

I love reading - it ’s my go to answer when anyone asks me what hobbies I enjoy – but I’ve mostly focused on classic fiction, biography, humor, detective fiction – pretty much everything but romance. My aunt has bookshelves upon bookshelves of romance novels though, so there must be something to them. Right?

I selected “A Scotsman in Love” as my reading choice. I’ve got some Scottish blood in me, and the cover featured a dashing Scottish gent shirtless, garbed in tartan and holding a lovely lass in his arms, so it promised the true romance novel experience.

The book was fine for its type. It was well written enough – not enough to deserve to enter the same room as “Anna Karenina,” but it was readable. The author did seem to have had her thesaurus too handy – seriously, nobody describes leaf color as “persimmon and ochre.”

Stories tend to have a certain setup: tension and resolution, but it was all too evident in this piece. And no, I don’t just mean the non-PG stuff. The main characters, a Scottish lord (of course) and a talented female painter, spend too much time unaccountably sniping at each other before the non-PG stuff begins.

Of course, the man is perfectly beautiful. Of course, the woman is unusually strong and sassy for her time. Of course they’re suddenly passionately obsessed with each other.

I don’t think this is a fault of this particular author. This is what the romance genre is. It’s about using certain common tropes to provide a predictable type of entertainment. The formula is what makes it attractive. If it wasn’t formulaic, it would be a different type of book.

I can definitely be one for predictability myself, at times. I like “cozy mysteries,” defined by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” You can come to those sorts of stories with certain expectations and find them fulfilled. And I am perfectly fine with that.

I don’t find romance novels all that compelling. Maybe it’s an acquired habit, and I need to read another.

Do you like romance novels? What attracts you to the genre? Should I be looking for volumes without sexy Scottish men on the cover?

Also, apropos of nothing in particular, I found this sentence in the book hilarious: “He was not so much hirsute as all male.” Author, what I think you really mean is he was a hairy, hairy man.

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