Friday, March 10, 2006

I'll take romance

I spent the nineteenth year of my life on an Agatha Christie jag. If you've read two or more of those books, you know what they all have in common: Somebody's murdered, lots of suspects are considered, and in the end everyone meets in the drawing room to learn exactly what happened and why. The killers are exposed and justice is served.

I read about two dozen of those books before I got bored and moved on. In subsequent years I read "better" books. "Important" books. But lately the pendulum has swung back and I am again selecting novels that flow in predictible patterns and make everything all right at the end. Now firmly ensconced in middle age, I prefer not to be confronted with stark realism when I read a novel. At 49 I know all about the harsher realities of life, and what I want from a novel is a brief respite from all that. I want stories that end happily. So lately I've been reading more and more romance.

I hardly read romance at all until five years ago, when I began writing it. Now I can't get enough. I'm talking about true romance, complete with the happily-ever-after ending. I don't care for stories that contain romantic elements but end ambiguously or unhappily for the couple. I have little patience for stories that seek to manipulate my emotions and then fail to give me a happy ending. Romeo and Juliet? Not remotely romantic. Two dumb kids convince themselves they're in love and then they "prove" it by killing themselves. Message in a Bottle? Unspeakably annoying. Yes, Mr. Sparks, tragedy can hit when we least expect it. I didn't need you to point that out.

Readers of romance novels expect the stories to deliver emotional justice in the end. We revel in seeing the good guys (and girls) finish first for a change. That's because our own lives don't always go as planned. Our best friends get breast cancer and our husbands lose their jobs and we can't fix any of that. Reading a romance novel can be like taking a brief vacation from reality, allowing us to return energized and with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. (Yes, it's possible to overindulge, avoiding reality altogether. But we can say that about many good things, such as sleeping or cruising the internet.)

Do romance novels paint unrealistically sunny portraits of life? Yes, quite often. That's why I read them.

On a related topic, If you enjoy reading inspirational romance novels and would like to receive four autographed books in return for judging a contest, take a look at the e-mail I just received from my pal Lyn Cote:

I'm the judges coordinator for FHL's Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest. If you have a reader's group or website, would you post the link and tell any of your readers that would like to judge and keep 4 autographed novels in April, to fill out a Judge's agreement and email to me. I need 30 more and the deadline's April 1st.

"FHL" is Romance Writers of America's Faith, Hope & Love chapter, of which I am a member. (Clearly, they'll let just anyone join.)


Anonymous said...

Angie said...

There was an article in the New York Times where a woman described how romantic comedy movies did the same thing for her.

Brenda Coulter said...

Angie, that's a great article. Thanks for sharing it.

Amy A. said...

Did somebody say "Free Books?" I'm there! Thanks for the info.

Oh, after your post about links, I saw that after I said I read you everyday, that I had neglected to actually link you on my site, even though there has been a post about your new book. So, I'm fixing that situation today. Just wanted you to know. :)
Amy A.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Sorry girlfriend...but the only thing I want more than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick is more books to add to my ever growing pile of to-be-reads....which doesn't seem to be going down because my blogging buddies latest books always supersede the pile...LOL (11 at latest count)!

Mirtika said...

I would volunteer, but I'm judging one contest this month and another next month, and I'm behind on my personal reading and writing...

I spent a good, solid 13 years devouring romances. It's a genre that gives you a happy high, prose amaretto, I guess. :)

I like SF/F cause it' gives me a wonder high or an intellectual high, or both.

I miss it when books don't have at least a minimal romance subplot. I keep thinking of how much more marvelous the mystery novel SILENT JOE was because of that incredibly moving and delicious romantic subplot (which took up very little of the novel but left a huge impression.)

Yeah, I love me romantic subplots. But I really don't gravitate to pure romance anymore, except to reread old keeper faves that I know will deliver the happy high. Ah..well.


Brenda Coulter said...

Amy, thanks for linking to me. I'll return the favor.