I started reading romance novels the very first summer my friends and I could drive. We would pick up trashy books like “Expecting the Cowboy’s Baby,” “Sensuous Burgundy,” and “Highlander Untamed” from gas stations on the way to our cabins and read them aloud to one another. We would lie on beach towels while coasting around on a pontoon and chuckle at words like “shaft” and “supple.” It felt scandalous but safe. Also, it was highly educational for a 15-year-old girl living in suburban Minnesota.
The first thing I ever wrote was a romance novel. Now, of course, I wrote it before I had actually even kissed a boy outside of playing Truth or Dare, so it consisted of a thorough build up and then a very abrupt conclusion along the lines of “and then they totally did the sex together".
Here the first few abstracts I ever wrote. They are slightly embarrassing, but mostly just entertaining. Who knows, maybe I’ll finish one of them now…
Marilyn and William: Marilyn was a wealthy southern belle with a powerful Confederate general for a father. She was supposed to marry a wealthy southern man, buy a big southern house, and make lots of southern babies. But Marilyn didn’t quite fit the mold. She read philosophy, studied eastern religions, and one transcendent summer she fell in love with William, a private in the Union’s army who made no sense- and perfect sense all at once.
Collette and Pablo: Collette was working the late shift in a café on The Seine when she saw Pablo for the first time. She fell into his orbit without even realizing it. When he sketched her she felt alive with his eyes on her, and felt beautiful in his drawings in a way she never knew before. He was older and wiser, but also terrifying and exhilarating. She spent the summer with him in his studio learning from his mind, body, and art. (I had a crush on Picasso growing up. I spent way too much time studying him in Spanish classes. #sorryimnotsorry)
Cody and Angela: Cody was the oldest member of the hottest boy band, Boiztown. It felt weird calling it a boy band since he was 27 but hey- whatever sold tickets. He was world famous, wealthy, and sinfully hot. Most importantly, he was only in Chicago for one night. He didn’t expect to meet anyone in that sorry excuse for a city, let alone the woman that would change his life forever. All it took was a glance into the front row, a brushing of fingertips, and a steamy night on the tour bus and he was a new man. He became one half of Cody and Angela, and that night he became whole. His body and mind would never be the same. (I went to a lot of Backstreet Boys concerts growing up. It affected me.)
I’m sure right now you are thinking how silly and naïve I am, for still reading and enjoying romance novels. I am 25 years old for Christ’s sake! I am an intelligent woman with a mind, a career, maybe even a future in politics. Why on earth would I share such an embarrassing taste for books from gas stations? The thing is, a lot of books that some intellectuals would refer to as “books of substance” are just romance novels with less sex. And what fun is that? Why care about the accolades if the story is stimulating? So get your nose out of the air and into a book!
So here’s your challenge: read a romance novel with an open mind. They are fun and entertaining without trying to be anything that they aren’t, much like your foxy self.