You were right about romance novels; I was wrong (sort of)

30th September 2010

Dear Sommer, bestest friend in the www (whole wide world):

I know I can be a joykill. When you talk about your new issue of Romance Digest (is that the title?) and all the new romance novels coming out, I know you can practically hear the gagging in my mind as I envision old-school romance bodice-rippers and lovely euphemisms like “sheathe his sword.” Oh yeah, I went there. You know the ones I mean:

Now I don’t plan on picking up any titles like this any time soon. Can you imagine?! I read all over the place. Would men walk up and, thinking I’m game, rip my low-cut corset that barely covers my breasts off me? Can’t take that chance.

However, I know not ALL romance novels are like this – and hell, every once in a while? Why not? This particular cover made me think of a Friends episode where Joey finds a copy of such a book under Rachel’s pillow and follows her around asking to warm coffee up on her red-hot loins.

A couple weekends ago, I read/listened to three romance novels: Something Blue by Emily Giffin, Vision in White and Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts. And whaddyaknow? I loved them. In fact, I won’t tell you how in between my Vicodin-induced nap because of my poor hurt shoulder, I read like a maniac. Or that I took one of them to a football game, only to get laughed at by the security guard when he checked my bag.

I also won’t tell you how reading these books has spawned a desire to read more of these books in the future. Because that would be like sort of admitting I was wrong, and I wasn’t wrong. They were fun to read. They were engaging. Might have even made me wish I owned a diamond. Just a little one. And maybe a Prada bag. I may have even dreamed in Tiffany blue…

But. (Of course there has to be a ‘but’ – we’re best friends. You should know me well enough by now). As addictive as these books were, there were parts of each that drove me insane.

Darcy Rhone in Something Blue made me want to slap a baby (no, not your baby. I love that sweet baby girl). Ok, so maybe I shouldn’t say it made me want to slap a baby. That’s rude. And violent. Darcy, though, was rude. Maybe not violent but certainly rude. Chick sleeps with her fiance’s best friend, gets pregnant, and is then furious when she discovers her best friend and fiance have been bumping uglies. (I swear I’ve heard that somewhere… probably in a book). Plus, she lies to everyone about the circumstances of her breakup and leaves everyone behind to mooch off her writer friend in London (all while shopping daily and not paying a dime of rent). Even though she has some sort of near-religious conversion; well, not at all religious, her friend straight up tells her she’s rude and self absorbed… even then, I couldn’t get past disliking her strongly.

Nora Roberts, at least, handles her characters a bit better. They are likable. You feel as though you know them. She also writes a lot of series, and I like series. The books can be a bit hard to believe (four friends grow up, each perfect for one-fourth of a wedding-planning business: a photographer, pastry chef, florist, and bossy bitch-I mean-planner. Really?) But I liked them. In fact, they brought me back to my college days when I read Nora Roberts after my mom would pass them on to me. No wonder I was obsessed with Martha Stewart Weddings and kept a scrapbook of nice wedding invitations, floral arrangements, and magazine rip-outs of dresses. I was the target audience for Nora. She was brainwashing me, and I was all in, veil, strappy satin off-white shoes, and all.

The biggest problems I found with Ms. Nora Roberts’ books were the tie-ins. The florist is a true romantic, with a wonderful family, parents celebrating an anniversary. She falls in love with Jack, a commitment-phobe, and when he walks into a room, her smile “blooms.” Subtle hint, there, right? Blooms – like a flower – like a florist – like EMMA, our main character. That got old fast.

The other issue is Roberts really works to write independent female characters who are only really independent when faced with a man ordering them around. Then – Miss Independent, Miss Self Sufficient – the character battles with her lover, telling him in no uncertain terms, she won’t be ordered around. Almost every main character was like that. I just finished listening to the audiobook of Red Lily, another of her novels. Same thing. It’s not that I think these types of women don’t exist; I just wish romance novelists would include different types of women.

Ah well.

In the long run, I’m pleased I picked up so many romance novels this month. Of course, that may have been why I consumed more chocolate this month than in the last 6 combined. Let’s not even talk about how many Oreos have been eaten in this house.

And I guess that’s the best part of romance novels; they are pure girlish fun. Candlelight dinners. Suites at the Waldorf Astoria. Champagne. Chocolate. More champagne. Kisses that make your knees weak. I can handle that. In fact, I may pick up a few more at the library tomorrow evening. I blame you – 100%.

Now, when are we going to go catch the newest chick flick? I’m waiting. You get a babysitter – I’ll stuff the Junior Mints in my bag.



Any other romance readers out there? Any must-have titles? Why do you like romance novels? Or why do you hate them?

  • Sommer

    This is a great post! Attention people: Romance novels aren’t bad (at least some aren’t). Suggestion to all – read SUGAR DADDY by Lisa Kleypas and you’ll be thanking me for ages. The title is HORRIBLE but the book is splendid! It’s my conversion book — to get all of the suckers to try it and it works!

    • Who you calling a sucker? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      (there are all sorts of ‘that’s what she said’ comments for this one.)

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Sommer

        That made me laugh out loud!!! Gotta love THE OFFICE! I could watch it all the time….(that’s what she said…hahaha…I couldn’t help myself!)

        • I know. It is so flippin funny. I can’t wait to watch tonight’s episode on hulu tomorrow.

  • I heart this post — too funny! I’ve always been such a chicken to whip out a romance novel, but I guess I’ve always wanted to try Nora Roberts, or something in that category. Guess I’ll put Sugar Daddy on the wishlist! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Whenever I’m at the airport, I’ve seen these cutesy little crocheted book covers some women have over their books. I wonder — are they just protecting the book jacket, or is that a romance novel? I guess I shall have to just jump into the fray and just try one!

    • I’ve never seen book covers like that! I guarantee that’s what they’re doing.

      I actually read Sugar Daddy years ago on Sommer’s suggestion and enjoyed it. It’s set in Houston.

      We could start some sort of monthly romance post together or something. I’ll brainstorm if you’re interested.

      Or, sommer, maybe you should be the romance guru on my blog.

      Sent from my iPhone

  • I could definitely do a group read every now and again — I probably need an expert to hold my hand through it initially because I know that I have to get over my “judgement” on it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I really don’t read romance novels or chick lit very much any more, but I must say that Emily Giffin is really great. I’ve only read Something Borrowed, the novel in which Darcy does the cheating, etc., and what I loved about it was how she took a cheating scenario (between the fiancรƒยฉ and Darcy’s best friend) and made it relatable and sympathetic, something I never thought I’d say. It was a really fun book, and I think if more chick lit were written like that, I’d read more of it!

    • Oh yeah – she definitely had a fun writing style. I just really didn’t like Darcy. I guess I need to pick up the first one, definitely. I’ve heard it will be made into a movie.

  • Not all romance novels are the same, read English Encounters by Marie Sterling, not only is it a very sexy story but you can be the star with Brad Pitt or George Clooney or even your other half. You will love it, I did after my partner gave it to me for Valentine’s Day last year.

  • Oh I’ve read romance novels. It’s been years but I went through a phase (about a year) in my early 20s when I read a lot of historical romances. I do think after a while a lot of them felt very repetitive but I actually was surprised at how engaging some of them were. I think some authors really tried to do research to have an accurate as possible book and I appreciated that. One author I liked because she always had a bit of a mystery going on too is Amanda Quick. I haven’t read one any of her books in years. Maybe I should look for one at the library and see what I think now!

    I’m not very big on chicklit anymore. Still read a book every once in a while but romantic comedy movies I love! I was sick a few weeks ago and watched Bridget Jonses’s Diary for the umpteenth time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sommer

      I loved Bridget Jones’s Diary. The book was hilarious and so was the movie. I thought Renee Zellweger played at great Bridget Jones.

      • I think I first saw BJD with you, right? I remember the writing across the screen – and laughing hysterically.

  • Sommer

    I thought of another AWESOME BOOK — Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Seriously, who could read this book and not absolutely ADORE it!

    • Sommer – book bloggers are rediscovering the outlander series, and I’m so glad!

      Sent from my iPhone

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