A lesson about romance novels


Walking home the other day from the shops, I saw our local school’s crossing lady standing there, getting ready for the students to come out at 3:30pm. Her car was parked nearby, with a paperback novel placed face-down inside the back window. The color of its cover was between pink and purple, exactly like that of my own second-hand copy of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. Curious, I asked her about the book.

She proudly took it out to show me – it was a romance novel, with a half-naked couple on the front cover, him leaning over her, arms around her waist, her hands on his bare chest, their hair flipping in the wind, the looks on their faces full of desperate passion. She said she loves romance novels, and that book was one of her favorites.

I asked her which sort of romance novel does she like – urban? paranormal? time travel? erotic? – thinking my own familiar titles such as Twilight, A Time Traveler’s Wife, Fifty Shade of Grey and even The Mirror, Outlander and Mists of Avalon (which shows how much I DON’T know about romance novels). She said her favorite is the “sloppy” romance novels, especially those set in England in the 17th and 18th centuries when pure love between poor, young farmers was often disrupted by rich and evil landlords. Those novels “always make her cry”.

I confessed my very little knowledge about romance novels, so she kindly explained it is the STORY that grabs readers. The struggles people have to go through just to get together, the ups and downs of life, the misunderstanding and understanding, the resistance and acceptance, the anger, suspicion, regret, sorrow, joy and explicit bliss, and the third party — there HAS to be a third party who eventually HAS to be kicked out of the story one way or another. It doesn’t matter if there is no sex in the novels, she said. As long as there is a GOOD STORY, everything else is irreverent.

I thanked her and returned home, thinking how wonderful it must be to truly love and enjoy – and to understand — what you read. It is good to learn a new thing every day. To know that someone can write something that GRABS someone else so much makes me a firm believer of creative writing. I am not, and perhaps will never be, the romance type, but I pay tribute to those novelists who can make their readers cry, smile and dream.

Note: I couldn’t find any “proper” romance novel cover for this article, but the image above still shows a couple together…eh, perhaps not that passionately. Will it do?

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