I’ve read quite a few Mills and Boons in my time. Oldish ones from op shops. Flimsy volumes from the sixties and seventies about innocent Nurses and Gruff Doctors ‘grazing’ the soft cheeks of their fair ladies. Wonderful covers of ladies gazing up at their handsome hero who’s probably a surgeon or a naughty pirate.
Of course things have changed. There’s not so much grazing for one (I always think of a cheese grater when I hear that word). And manhoods raise their throbbing heads as early as chapter one these days, and condoms make frequent appearances, and thankfully, so does consent.
But regardless of heat level, romance novels satisfy une certain desire. Or, as I’m lead to believe, a certain NEED. Seems the ladies can get a little addicted to the stuff. Maybe like some blokes get addicted to porn.
I’ve thought about this a fair bit. I think romance novels give women emotional orgasms, a type of relief or rush of feel-good oxytocin. And that’s great. Got nothing against that. I’d read more of them if the the tension could be sustained instead of drawn out in a long and laughable series of coincidences and bizarre character motivation.
One rule of Romance is there must be a reason why man and woman cannot unite. There’s nothing better than unresolved sexual or emotional tension right? That’s the whole caboodle. But problem is, a lot of books don’t cut it. They rely on poorly executed explanations as to why Juliet can’t have her Romeo until the very last page.
For example, SHE thinks he’s still in love with his ex. Fair enough. Okay, that’s reasonable. A woman would be wise to make sure the man she plans on snagging isn’t pining over the past. But this has to be developed and sustained intelligently.
More often than not this doesn’t happen. I find authors make the mistake of hanging an entire novel on a flimsy misunderstanding or false belief. SHE overhears HIM on the phone to his ex and concludes he must still be in love. SHE retreats in a depressed and/or angry mess and spends the next two chapters in a huff – even though he’s sent a bunch of red roses and keeps dropping round to see her for a cup of sugar, even though they can’t keep their hands off each other and always seem to end up bonking.
No, SHE thinks he still loves his wife. And SHE’S been hurt before. Her ex betrayed her. Cheated like a dog. And so HE must be a dog too, only using her for a root. And it makes sense. They do have the best sex SHE’s EVER had. (SIGH) If only HE wasn’t hung up on the ex. (SIGH) No, he’ll never love HER. And even though HE cancels a crucial business trip to be by HER side when she gets the flu, she still finds reasons why IT can never be.
You see HE’s only doing HER a favour. Doing what comes naturally. After all, HE’s been caring for his dying Mother so it’s just a knee-jerk thing HE’s come to HER aid. A reflex. Nothing more. And now HE’s seen HER with (shock horror) no make up and (shock horror) a snotty nose he can’t possibly see her as girlfriend material…and anyway, she’ll never live up to his long-legged, impossibly beautiful insanely successful ex.
No, HE’s only taking her to a fancy restaurant because he’s a foodie and she’s is too. He only buys her a fancy necklace because she’s poor and he feels sorry for her. HE’s only taking her hand over the candle-lit table to say how much he enjoyed the cheese-plate and choice of restaurant. HE’s only drilling into her soul with his flashing green eyes because he’s about to say goodbye and they can never meet again…
And another thing that turns me off is there’s no relief from the Romance. Or the thinking about the Romance. There’s no relief from the grinding in her mind. There’s no time for the heart to grow fonder. They’re always together. And when SHE’s not with HIM she spends all her time scaffolding the flimsy premise stretching thinner by the minute.
I know, I know. That’s the whole point. A true Romance is supposed to be about the Romance. But unless it’s built properly it can be a real drag.