This is cross-posted on The Season blog.
Every keen reader knows how it feels to lose themselves in a completely different world—whether that’s JRR Tolkien’s hobbity Middle-earth, or the snappy, witty Regency England of Julia Quinn’s imagination.
Isn’t escape one of the biggest reasons genre fiction is so popular? It transports us to another time and place, inserts us into another person’s problems, and allows us to escape our own for a few hours.
That’s certainly one of the main reasons I read.
A talented author can build a world in one novel, but a brilliant author will spin that world out into several books until it’s as real as any character.
A few weeks ago, I asked you which character from a novel you’d bring to life for a week. Some people who left comments on The Season blog said they prefer to keep characters in books where they belong.
This week, I’m giving you the chance to step into any author’s fictional world. Unless you discover a magic potion, you can stay there for only a week, so don’t worry that you’ll spend the rest of your life smothered in the noxious body odors of sweaty, velvet-clad men in a Regency ballroom.
2010 is five-sixths of the way over, and already it’s the kind of year that has me counting toward its demise in fractions.
It’s been the toughest year of my adult life.
Not everything that’s happened this year has been awful. In fact, I’ve made lots of new friendships, developed new skills, and invested time in my dreams.
But combine all that excitement with managing The World’s Toughest Project at the day job (a project that had me working at least six days a week for a several months), and trying to comfort and distract my husband while his mother suffered through months of cancer treatment, and it all adds up to stress and exhaustion.
Mum-in-law’s now recovering well, and work has become manageable again, so it’s time to be thankful for all the people who helped me through – whether they knew they were doing so or not.
There are loads of friends I could thank here, but since I try to regularly let them know what they mean to me, I thought it’d be better to thank the authors I’ve never spoken to, who helped distract me without knowing it.
You’ve probably heard me complain before about the lack of romance in London. Of course, I’m not talking about the nooks and crannies where lovers can tuck themselves away for a bit of kissing (yeah, I’ve never really done it either), but the dearth of romance novels available to buy.
If you go into most bookstores – even big chain stores – you’ll find loads of chick lit, plus Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn. Most stores don’t even have a romance section. Amazon.co.uk has quite a few romance novels, but I often have to order from the US and pay extra for shipping.
That’s why I love the City of London libraries. For those of you unfamiliar with London, the City is the financial district. It’s not that big an area, but it’s got several fantastic libraries. The problem is that I’ve nearly exhausted their supply of romance novels, and, if I’m honest, I’d have to say that lots of what they call romance is actually chick lit or just rubbish.
So a few weeks ago I emailed them to suggest a long list of books I thought they should own. The assistant director got back to me today to say most of my list was either out of print (the real classics of the genre) or didn’t have a UK distributor (and here I was hoping libraries had a way around the problems I’ve faced!).
But they were able to order about a third of the novels on my list. So I thought I’d post them here, in case you’re reading this in London and want to read a terrific romance novel. Granted, some of these I haven’t read, and at least one is yet to be published, but they’re by authors who rock my socks off and have gotten great reviews.
I love close reading. There’s something about taking a short passage from a novel or poem and examining its parts that really appeals to the nerd in me.
So, last week I put up two passages from two very different novels (but both novels I love) that show dialogue between men. I’m pasting the passages at the very bottom of this post, so you can scroll down to read them. But here are my thoughts on why they work well.
It pains me to write this, but my quest to convert my husband to romance reading has failed. And, since I was completely relying on the unending brilliance of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I think it’s only right that I blame her.
(I know there’s almost no chance she’ll ever read this, but in case she does: it’s not really your fault. It’s my husband’s.)
Hubby got to page 280 of Natural Born Charmer before asking for the third time where he could quit his SEP challenge. At one point, he even said: “They’ve had sex now, so can I stop reading? It’s essentially over, right, even though there are 200 more pages?”
This time I took pity on him and said he could quit. He did have a few revelations, though, which were worth the torture (at least, from my perspective).
My husband’s 100 pages through his Susan Elizabeth Phillips challenge (the challenge: to read one entire romance novel. Yes, that’s it).
He’s just discovered subplots, and he’s hating life.
If you’ve just stumbled upon this blog, you could be forgiven for thinking I’m obsessed with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I’m not. Certainly not in the “why-hasn’t-she-returned-my-calls-and-what-is-this-about-a-restraining-order” sort of way.
I do like her, though.
So when my husband suggested we swap reading material, I knew she was the one author who might have a chance at helping him appreciate the romance genre.
So far, so wrong.
I wrote last week about how my husband made me a deal: I’d read one of the novels he’s studying for his PhD (Don Delillo’s White Noise) and he’d read one of my favorite romance novels (SEP’s Natural Born Charmer). He made it through 100 pages before begging me to let him stop.
Heartless wife that I am, I told there was no way he could wriggle out of our deal.
Okay, it’s not just that I’m heartless. Continue reading
If you had to give a man one romance novel to show why you love the genre, which one would it be?
My husband is a PhD candidate studying American literature. He hates romance novels. Or, at least, he’s convinced he would if he ever read one.
The other day he came up with a deal: I’d have to read one of the novels he’s studying for his thesis, and he’d read a romance novel of my choice.