Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things


Romance Novels Through The Eyes of A Cynic

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Editors’ Note — When I received this post from KB, it was headed with the following statement: “Rough draft for smart girls, it turned out very personal so I’m skeptical about posting it, but you can read it and tell me what you think about my crazy.” Readers, you have been WARNED.

Kate recently shared with me one of the most quintessential “smart girls stupid things” – a series of romance novels: the Bride Quartet. The Bride Quartet is a series of four books written by esteemed romantic novelist (and New York Times Best Selling Author) Nora Roberts. The Quartet centers around four best friends each finding the love of their life (and each in their own book). Disclaimer: at this time, I’ve only read 2 of the four books.

In both books one partner in the relationship abstains from saying “I love you” even after the other partner has said those three important words. Later, there is an epiphany, the abstaining partner proclaims their love, and then (this is important!) in the same scene, the couple becomes engaged. To be married.

The book then ends. This particular series is especially romantic (my lovely officemate refers to these books as my bodice-ripping novels, but these books are quite tame and mushy-gooshy), and so I find myself left with envy and that contentment one can only feel after reading or viewing a satisfying ending to a romantic movie or book. I compare the characters to myself; is that the type of guy I should be looking for? Does that character’s neuroses and charms match my own?

But some time after it occurred to me — would I really want that? How long were they dating? They got engaged right after saying I love you? Isn’t that too soon? There’s a scene in the first Sex and the City movie, where Miranda and Samantha tease Carrie for having dated Big for 10 years. To me that always seemed like the right idea — date for a while, live together for years, then when you’ve really tested out the relationship, get married.

But Nora Roberts never writes books like that. Her characters never date for a year before living together and then live together for 3 more before an engagement. And if Nora doesn’t write about it, then it can’t be romantic, can it?

Now granted, I have enough neuroses to be a character in a Nora Roberts novel — but I’m seriously concerned by this. Can romance – falling deep and fast in love – coexist with practicality and precaution? In this particular series, these women are supposed to be modern, sophisticated, 21st century women. But they fall in love and get engaged without ever living with their partner before that. To me, Nora’s formula seems kind of archaic and anachronistic.

It’s a fairytale. I knew that when I started reading it. It’s no different than Cinderella or a Nicholas Sparks movie. I just wish this fairy tale was a little more modern – and addressed the un-romantic problems of relationships like joint checking accounts, buying groceries, deciding whose family to see for the holidays, and taking out the trash. When I finished the book I felt full of romance and hope. Now, a few hours later, I feel depressed and even more skeptical that I’ll ever find someone that I love passionately and am practically compatible with. And yet, I know I’ll read the other two books in this series and many more by the same author.

Ain’t that some shit?

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