My husband and I have been travelling around northern India for two weeks in what’s certainly one of the most exciting and thought-provoking trips I’ve ever taken.
Part of my preparation included reading Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband and Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows (by the way, they blog together at Plotters and Manipulators United, but they don’t update nearly enough. I guess that’s the peril of being published authors; you don’t have time to write other stuff). Both are set in 19th century India and are very beautifully written. As I walk around forts and hill-top palaces, their evocative scenes return to me and make the history seem more alive.
It’s made me think about what we can learn from romance novels that helps us relate to the real world. My husband’s not impressed with romance novels, and the one time I asked him to read one of my favorites – so he’d know what he was judging – he made it through one page before putting it down and saying, “It’s just full of characters.” As a PhD candidate in American lit, he prefers books that discuss objects. Oh, well. There’s no accounting for taste.
But I think that romance novels can make certain things more accessible, like history. On my first day in a lit class at UCLA, I impressed a professor because I knew that 1066 was the year of the Norman invasion. Perhaps I should have really shocked him and admitted that I only knew the date because of a Julie Garwood novel.
Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked has a character who suffers from malaria. At the beginning of my trip to India, I got a mosquito bite and then got really ill. Thanks to Julia Quinn, I had a description of the symptoms in my head and knew what to watch out for (it turns out that four-days of curry overload is what did me in).
What have you learned from romance novels?