As I told you yesterday, this month we’ll be focusing on books with a romantic theme. As in Romance Novels. If you think about it, it’s not that far a stretch from our normal topics of discussion. I share my dating life, and some have told me that parts of it are like a romance novel. There had been much hope at one time or another that the Boy was going to be my Romance Novel hero.
Glad that didn’t happen.
But, my interest in romance novels is something new. I can’t say that I’m a great romance aficionado, or even that well versed in it, but I have read a fair share of romance novels. When I was younger, I used to sneak my mother’s Harlequin Romance novels to try to figure out what sex was all about. And thinks to a neighbor’s Harper’s Bazaar magazine I learned about erotica and how the best way to gauge erotica is by spankings per chapter. Between that article and my friend Patrick, I learned about Anne Rice’s Beauty Trilogy… which I read in the 8th grade.
In hindsight, this is probably why I have the views about dominance and submission in relationships that I do.
For me, romance novels, and erotica to a lesser extent, show us what we would like to happen in our relationships. They give us the happily ever afters that we don’t get to have in our normal everyday relationships. And they set us up on adventures that we wouldn’t normally go on in order to make those relationships work.
Boy meets Girl, they usually can’t stand each other, or contrarily they are immediately attracted to each other, but then they find out that they should hate each other, Romeo and Juliet style. Somehow they overcome whatever obstacle was in their way to have their happily ever after. For the adult version of this genre, there is much sexual tension and outright sex in the midst of the ongoing story…sometimes the sex propels the plot forward and in at least one case that I can think of (though I don’t remember the book) the sex was the motivating force for the lovers to overcome their obstacle.
Good sex can be a great motivator.
See, similar to the Romantic Comedy formula, Romance novels have to have a reason why the lovers cannot be together. In Rom-Coms, it tends to be a third person. Rom-Coms, and especially YA Rom-Coms, love the idea of a love triangle, but it doesn’t always have to be a love triangle that keeps our lovers apart. For instance with the aforementioned Romeo and Juliet: it is their very names and parentage that keeps them from being able to be together.
Of course, Romeo and Juliet don’t get the Happily Ever After, which is the reason why it is considered one of the great tragedies of all time.
Then again, Romeo and Juliet were just teenagers, and their love was more of a lustful fascination than anything else… but shhhh! Don’t tell Shakespeare! (Or teenagers for that matter…)
For me, personally, one of the best ways for the lovers to be separated is by their competing dominance. We see it pretty regularly, where the female lead meets a guy, and he’s totally dreamy, but he tries to tell her exactly what to do, and she just isn’t having it! Maybe she’s an expert and so she already knows what to do, and his advice, while good, is wrong. Or maybe she’s an expert, and his advice is better, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to let him know that!
What could have been a beautiful romance is turned into what appears to be, as they say in one of my favorite scenes from Stardust, loathing.
Doesn’t that just warm your cockles? (No, I don’t know what cockles are, nor do I know why they are presumably always cold, but moving on…)
And thus we enter into a situation where one or the other of our lovers must become the dominant one, and to me, it is unbelievably romantic when a man proves his worth enough that a strong, independent woman chooses to submit to his will. Somehow he proves he cares and is willing to sacrifice something (such as that other woman in the love triangle) in order to be with her, and so she chooses to submit.
Yes, it’s very Taming of the Shrew, or, if you’ve never read that, it’s very 10 Things I Hate About You.
But that’s just it, it’s a story that we see over and over again. Like the Artist once told me, it is the natural order of things, and he felt that a woman who was stronger than her man would end up destroying his spirit. Mr. West Coast suggested something similar that a woman should basically know her place and allow a man to realize his folly on his own instead of bashing him over the head with it, hence the archetype of the nagging wife.
Maybe, just maybe there’s something to it, and that’s why we see it so often in romance stories. Or maybe I’m just drawn to that type of story and so I see it more often.
That’s part of what this month long exploration into romance and erotica is all about.
I want to see, through other people’s eyes, what makes for good romance, and how does it affect us as readers? Does romance, like most art, imitate life? Or does life imitate romance? Does the repetition of certain archetypes/stereotypes move us in a particular direction as a culture?
Why do we enjoy reading it so much? Is it just from the high that love and romance fill us with? Or is there a particular combination that makes us addicted to love stories?
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the month brings!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as we begin our journey into The Romance Novel!