Up until a month ago, I would have considered myself completely unqualified to attack the evil that is the romance novel, not having had any exposure to such "writing" since I outgrew Danielle Steel's turgid members and milky-white bosoms at the age of 11 (not that this would have stopped me). However, the universe colluded against me this past month, teasing me with a big sudsy bath and only Jean Chretien to keep me company.
Nothing against Prime Minister Poutine, but a political memoir is not exactly suitable material for relaxing with a glass of wine, some candlelight and bubbles up to my ears. So I raided my sister's supply in order to find a good "tub book" and lo and behold, her shelf boasted only books with glittery, pastel covers featuring such winning titles as Annie, Get Your Groom, and Code Name: Bikini.
Don't let the titles throw you off, though. There's only one romance book, and that one story is recycled over and over, occasionally renaming characters (Chase becomes Thatcher), or changing hair colours (strawberry blonde becomes dirty blonde). I hate to ruin it for you, but here's the way it goes: a guy with great pecs meets a girl with large breasts and at first they kind of hate each other because they're so damn different (like, she's really rich, and he's really really rich), but then they find each other undeniably attractive (his jaw is chiseled, and did I mention she has great tits?), and then there's about 100 pages of sexual tension and will-they-or-won't-they (even-though-they-always-do) and usually there's some kind of mini-crisis that makes us fear that they won't get together (hint: they do), then even though he's a bad boy who's not the marrying kind, by the end of the book the ache in his loins inspires him to make a lifelong commitment and crave babies and domesticity and soft kisses.
So I know all of this going in, I'm totally prepared for how incredibly and predictably bad these books are, and still I manage to find myself cringing in the bathtub when in the current year of 2007, the premise of my tub book is thus:
Man meets woman...on a train....like, a boxcar....cause, they're like, riding the rails. Illegally. They're hobos. And the girl hobo really brings out the protector in the boy hobo. Because she has a baby with her, and conveniently the boy hobo is recently a widower and grieving his kids, and is looking for a replacement family, and he's inspired to give up drinking. But then the girl hobo collapses and needs to be saved, so thankfully, the boy hobo is actually a multi-millionaire so he literally brings in a helicopter to whisk them all away.
I mean, even for a romance novel that's pretty improbable. They were hobos! Hobos! But sexy hobos. A boy hobo in need of a good woman to save him, and a girl hobo in need of money to save her back. So it all ends up nicely.
And this isn't even the worst offender. In my mother's household, there is a book that is passed around that is referred to only as "the smutty book." The smutty book doesn't even bother with the laughably implausible plot lines. If there are occasionally a few transitional paragraphs between the coupling of her tight, wet, hot... self, and his hard, needy, throbbing...self and the second, even more quiverful coupling of said genitals, I find that my sisters are simply flipping pages straight to the good stuff, as it were. If there's a literary equivalent to the money shot, they're fast forwarding to the main event.
Let's not kid ourselves. "Romance" is a nice way of saying "soft core porn for girls". But it's not just the soft coreness that makes me roll my eyes. It's the formula, the predictability. In fact, it cannot even be classified as a romance by the publisher if it doesn't have a happy\rosy\optimistic outcome. The insistence that some minuscule "obstacle" keeps them superficially apart, although they always grudgingly find each other desirable because only really hot people fall in love. I have no idea what ugly people do, or heck, even what ordinary people do, because no one has ever written about them. Well, ordinary people contract illnesses, or hitchhike across the country, or across the galaxy, or they work in coal mines or they keep bees, but they don't fall madly in love. Romances are only about people who have bodies that can be described as "rock hard" or "pneumatic".
Romances never involve stretch marks or receding hair lines or Honda Civics or guys named Roy. It makes me think that it must be a bunch of stringy-haired, badly-complected, knobby-kneed wallflowers who write these novels, and live vicariously through them. But you'll never catch me saying that out loud. Oh no. When I dared to voice my unfavourable opinion of science fiction, those sex-starved kiddies who call themselves fans got on their bikes and threw eggs at my neighbour's house (woops!). But then I called their moms, who threatened to start charging them rent on their basement lairs if they didn't come home right away, so I guess I didn't quite learn that lesson.
Maybe, for the good of fiction, we should take all those romance authors who just need a good lay, and pair them up with all the science fiction authors who've never seen a woman naked, and just see what happens.
Or maybe we could just take away all their pens instead?
Or maybe I should just stop reading this crap, or at least have the decency to pretend that I don't. Or learn to keep my trap shut.
Hah. Fat chance.
Damn I crack myself up.
Or maybe you should just visit the Quickie Book Review to read about what books I do like (surprising, I know, that something occasionally passes muster).
Or maybe you have a soft core hobo fetish, which I imagine is an itch that's hard to scratch, and therefore I can only counsel you to read away. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
P.S. The sex scene on page 214 is pretty hot, once they take care of the lice. You're welcome.