Believe it or not, guys read romance novels.
A lot of guys read romance novels. The statistic bandied about in the industry says that roughly ten percent of all romance readers are men. And I believe the actual percentage must be a lot higher than that because surely a lot of men would chew glass and swallow it before they'd ever admit to reading romance. Also, I'm guessing that some men have been reading romance novels without realizing it--maybe they think if a book doesn't have a Fabio-style cover, it isn't a real romance.
I have received quite a few letters and e-mails from men who read my first book. One retired Marine colonel demanded to know (in a nice way, but he was clearly an individual who was used to having his questions answered fully and right now) what happened to the drunk driver of the car that hit my heroine head-on and almost killed her. "He died at the scene," I e-mailed back, hoping that would reassure the colonel that I had left no loose ends dangling and nobody would have to be prosecuted for drunk driving. Interestingly, no woman has ever asked me that question.
And I've debated with myself about sharing this, but the two guys I'm about to rat out aren't likely to read my blog, so why not? At the recent jazz thing I attended in Washington, D.C., I was introduced to a gentleman who proudly announced that he had "Evelyn Wooded" my book the previous night because he knew he was going to meet me. I was enormously flattered, and didn't have the heart to tell him that romance novels, which are not exactly plot-driven, don't lend themselves well to speed-reading.* And since my own husband doesn't read my stuff (I'd have to write murder and mayhem to get his attention), it didn't offend me to learn that Mr. Speedy hadn't been eager to bask in my sweet love story but wanted to get through it as quickly as possible.
I steered the conversation to other channels, not wanting to put him in a position where he might feel he had to say something nice about my writing. Only now I wish I'd let him squirm a little. Men can be so entertaining when they're trying to avoid discussing mushy romantic stuff.
Just minutes after meeting Mr. Speedy I was introduced to another gentleman whose lady friend had enjoyed my book. He darted a sheepish look at her and then confided to me, "I guess I should probably read your book. I'm not very romantic."
When I told him one of my favorite reader letters had come from a man who reported reading my book aloud to his wife as they lay in bed together at night (how romantic is that?), he looked even more uncomfortable. But I have high hopes for Mr. Sheepish because it appears to have occurred to him that one way to find out what his girlfriend thinks is "romantic" might be to take a look at the dog-eared romance novels on her bookshelf.
He struck me as a very intelligent man.
*I'm guessing. I read fast, but have not been trained in speed-reading. If your mileage varies, please speak up. Would you speed-read a romance novel?