Monday, October 09, 2006

Romance novels & stress

Interesting link... saw this on a loop I'm on. Good article, for once it was respectful of the genre and not snidely snickering about how women read them for that Big MANLY part passion.

What I found most fascinating was Eloisa James' comment that she counts Vietnam vets recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder as her readers. The article states that RWA stats say men make up 22 percent of romance readers.

I know I have a few male readers. (Not DH, he never reads my books and when his female co-workers ask, 'Did you inspire page 242?' he has NO idea what they're talking about. Hee hee. )

The whole PTSD thing struck a note with me because I sometimes have Present Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mild version from the day job. I just finished writing about a mother I had visited in Haiti with TWO crying babies in her shack, who cry ALL THE TIME from hunger. She gets so depressed she admitted to wanting to kill herself. She prays hard, instead.

I started reading romance because of my PTDS. I always did love romance novels, but they became more of an escape read than anything else after I started working in the Third World. I needed that happy ending, needed a book that I could finish, set down with a smile instead feeling even more depressed. And that's why I started writing romance as well.

I bring this up because last week I read a book that left me feeling depressed. It was Christian fiction. The blurb indicated there was a romance in it. Great! I read it because I was in the mood for a orgasmless romance. I've read Christian fiction before and some of it is very good. My favorite is Robin Hatcher's THE FORGIVING HOUR.

Anyway, this particular story was good, the writing smooth and the characters engaging. But the book left me flat, and I disliked the message threaded through it because it came off as preachy. But my biggest disappointment was... no happy ending. In fact, NO ending, period. Then I realized you had to buy the NEXT book to find out how the romance was resolved. I felt cheated. I especially resented feeling cheated because my reading time is so precious these days.

I needed a happy ending. I needed to know that, despite overwhelming odds, conflicting backgrounds, personal tragedies, the characters resolve their conflicts, strengthen their relationship and love conquers all. Corny, sentimental? Yup. That's what I needed. I needed a book that lifted me up, that was a "feel good" romance. Instead I was left with a book that left me empty, even feeling drained. If I want to end a book on a low note, hell, I'll read Vinegar Hill. Great writing, gripping story and totally depressing ending. Gahhhhhh

What I needed was a ROMANCE. Even the darkest romance I've read ALWAYS RESOLVES the story and I get my happy ending, damnit! Even this book, which left me crying (ironic title there) left me feeling hopeful and uplifted despite the mountain of Kleenex it created. Even though I suspect she wrote it more as a mystery than a romance.

That's why I read romance. In a crazy world where anything bad can happen, and often does, I want to escape into a world where love does conquer all, with or without orgasms. :-)


Kristie (J) said...

I was always trying to explain that to my husband. He thought it odd that I read and collected so many romance books and didn't understand the need for it. At times he was even bothered by it thinking I was comparing. But I kept explaining that it was the need for that HEA that is so hard to find in real life. Then I would tell him that these weren't "real" people - that they came from the imaginations of some very talented women. I'm not sure he ever really got what I was trying to tell him, but in the last few years he would buy me gift certificates for book stores for birthdays and Christmases, knowing exactly what kind of books I would be buying with them.

Bonnie Vanak said...

You had a very special hubby, Kristie. He might not have understood, but he supported you and that's the sign of a wonderful marriage. He was a really special person and I'm sure you miss him a lot. Big hugs to you.