THIS is why I read romance

I love Jennifer Crusie. She is so many of those words that don’t mean much one after the other, like wise, funny, insightful, sympathetic, sexy and incredibly human. Or rather, her writing is. I don’t know the woman personally.

I just read Bet Me, which Crusie says she wrote in ’92, but couldn’t get anyone to publish till ’04. “Editors were universally unenthusiastic about it, which was just inexplicable to me.” To me too. I loved this book, and I see people calling it their favourite Crusie all the time.

I don’t really want to do a review so much as say: This book is an affirmation. And not in a new agey way, where you’re saying something over and over, like “I am a successful writer” and feeling more fearful every time you say it, because someone somewhere is sure to notice how unconvinced you are.

This book is affirming in the kind of way that makes me feel braver about being alive.

Not a feeling I get when I read Peter Temple and I’m stuck in a car with his displaced detective who’s looking at the grey gobs of fat on the cold hamburger he’s about to eat. Truth did grow on me more the more I read, but it never once made me feel this internal glow.

My aversion to reading gritty “realist” fiction has given me hours of introspection. Do I read romance just to escape, is that a bad thing, and is it wrong to look to fiction for this feeling of encouragement and hope? (And is that feeling synonymous with escape? And is that just about the most depressing thing in the world if it is?)

I don’t want to give the impression that Bet Me is all sunshine and rainbows. Funny thing, but when characters and their surroundings are too peachy, a romance novel just leaves me with a hollow, itchy feeling. I think it portrays love in just about the most realistic way possible: the terror when you face actual love, and the courage it takes to believe in it. (You can go here for my impassioned argument that romance novels depict a realistic experience of love. Ah, bless.)

I’ve been brainstorming the second half of my novel, and am completely daunted by the task of making sure my characters’ potential pays off. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is: Why romance? What am I actually trying to say about love? I’ve come to a general conclusion which is that, for me, love gives life meaning.

The more specific expression of this is starting to come through in my heroine’s emotional evolution. She goes from: life = surviving to: even though life is all about surviving I will live as though it’s not.

Comments 4 Responses

  1. Carlos Meanjinn

    The reason you read romance, dear, is that your brain is furnished only with cheap rubbish made of chipboard. Accept.

  2. Cheryl Nekvapil

    There’s a very good reason why Annii reads and writes romance; and whike she suspects it’s a fascination with love and the meaning of life — it’s too early to give away the complete answer; that would be like reading the end of the story just as it’s getting underway. We’ve got delicious years ahead as the reason unfolds! I’m reading until the plot is fully revealed on this one!

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