Monday, March 28, 2005

The worst romance I ever read

Well, to be perfectly truthful, it’s not the worst romance novel I’ve ever read. It’s just one of the most unusual.

It’s called THE SACRIFICE YEARS and Kathleen Norris wrote it. The original copyright date is 1931. I have the first paperback printing, cover intact! It was one of my mom’s.

The cover is a hoot. It features a woman looking off into the distance, wringing her hands. She looks like she’s either suffering from angina or a bad stomach disorder. What makes it so cheesy is the conflict. Here’s the front blurb: “An emotion-packed novel of a woman whose marriage is threatened by a possessive mother-in-law.”

I hooted when I read that! Here’s a sample: “I could handle such awful things,” Mimsy thought, “I could stand poverty – illness – anything with Phil. But this mother-in-law stuff is just the one thing I can’t seem to stand!”

She’s the same author who wrote THE FOOLISH VIRGIN published in 1942.

Ms. Norris was born in 1880, ironically, the Victorian age I write about in my Egyptian historicals like COBRA. She died in 1966. Many of her books were released in trade paperback after she died. She wrote romance novels during a time when the biggest problem many women faced was figuring out what to cook for their husbands’ dinners or how to clean up baby spit.

My mom, who worked for a large American corporation during WWII, was promoted to a very prestigious job during the war due to the fact the men were off fighting. When the war ended, my mom was demoted. My mom, who was single and helping to support her family, was demoted because “the men have to support their families.”

Romance novels, like women, have come a long way since then. And each time I pick up one of these cheesy, but innocent and gentle romance novels, I think of how times have changed. THE FOOLISH VIRGIN is now a sexy, hot steaming raring to go kick-booty heroine. And instead of being demoted because the men are off fighting a war, she’s there fighting right alongside them.

I think my mom would like the heroines of today. Even if they had mother-in-law problems.

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