Reverb Broads 2011, December 12: Name and explain the one guilty pleasure you can’t live without. ie: that cupcake shop you visit weekly, a book you repeatedly read to find solace in, etc). Then explore the idea of how you would feel if you gave that thing up for a year. (courtesy of Neha at http://whereyouarehere.blogspot.com/)
I’m never reading fewer than two books at any given time. That’s because I read in bed before I go to sleep, to turn my brain down from “day speed.” But I can’t fall asleep if I’m reading something that makes me think. So the book at my bedside is always a trashy romance.
I don’t need even two brain cells to follow and enjoy a good romance novel. But please don’t misunderstand: This isn’t intended as an insult to the genre, or any of its authors. Romance novels are Teh Awesome.
From a creative standpoint, romance authors have a unique challenge. What other genre dictates the exact same outcome for every book, but requires authors to reach that destination in infinitely varied ways? Not to mention the fact that they also have to construct at least two emotionally complex main characters, and chart a major, plausible path of evolution and growth, within that reliable framework.
And yet, they do, with style, humor, and attention to detail, over and over again. Romance authors deeply care for their characters, and their care makes us care. If you think about it, they’re performing an act of faith every time they set a couple on their path. It’s faith that we can be more than the sum of our parts, when we find the right person. It’s faith in the gracious, healing power of healthy partnership and reciprocated love. It’s a profoundly, sometimes inspiring work of optimism, bravely presented in a world that gives us reasons to be wary and disbelieve every single day.
The sexytimes are icing. Delicious, tingly icing. I have already waxed poetic on the joy of uncomplicated smut.
If I gave up romance novels for a year, I’d still read before bedtime, and I probably wouldn’t have to work too hard to find equally facile material that lets my busy brain key down after a long day. But I would really miss the anticipation of starting down that familiar road, time after time, knowing where I’m going but not how I’m getting there.
I’ve been married for 15 years now, and I’m constantly aware and grateful to be living such an epic romance. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say I miss the feeling of falling into brand-new, swoony, stupid, crazy love — there’s nothing quite like it. But starting a new romance is pretty darn close.