The Red Pen of Doom is apparently the blog of a speechwriter named "Guy" from Washington - okay, I didn't do any in-depth research. I come to praise Guy, not to dismantle him. As far as I'm concerned, he can call himself Merlin The Magnificent. Anyway, in his post about "Man Boosters," Merlin - err, Guy - first makes the clearly brilliant observation that romance novelists are "talented and funny." (See why I like him right from the get go?) I even forgive him for saying the following:
These women are more talented than most folks writing about elves and spaceships, or elves riding spaceships, because there is so much freaking competition with romance novels.
It’s like throwing 10,000 authors into the Thunderdome, tossing in a single chainsaw and refusing to unlock the door until there’s only one woman left. By definition, that woman is going to kick tail. She will be a writing goddess.
It's funny -- that's what I'm saying. It's also true, but that's beside the point. We've already established that Guy is brilliant and funny. The point of his post provided the fodder for this one - he thinks that romance novels "celebrate and adore men" so they should be encouraged. His post notes that romance novels "spend a lot of time writing steamy scenes encouraging women to do natural things with men. This is a Good Thing, and should be encouraged, and celebrated throughout the land, unless we men have been busy taking Stupid Pills."
Guy's post is makes the point that romance is great PR for guys because the genre is so focused on men and is so very, very pro-man. He thinks romance novelists are an army of dedicated women spearheading a "$16.5 Billion" PR campaign promoting men and manliness and manly men. And he thinks men owe romance novelists.
Well, I decided he was right. I think men owe romance novelists - and, for that matter romance novels - and payback means giving the genre a shot. Yes, Virginia, I think men should read more (some) romance novels.
Why would a smart man read a romance novel? Well, first because a smart woman wrote it. That means a guy gets a smart woman's assessment of what women want from a man. Let's face it, the guys in romance novels aren't the regular Joe you'll meet on every street corner. They're special - and each romance novel hero is special in his own way. If a man wants a certain woman to see him as special, he can't find a better way to get a clue than to read romance.
Another reason for guys to read the genre is that romance novelists write heroes they way they wish guys acted. Often, the hero at the beginning of the story will act more like "real" guys. By the end of the story, the hero has been through a process and he's learned to react and respond differently to the heroine. The reader - male or female - takes that journey with the characters. A man who wants to understand women couldn't find a better place to start than inside the pages of a romance.
If a guy wants to know what turns women on - if he wants to know what'll get her hot and bothered enough to bother him real good - a romance novel is sort of like a female operator's manual. Often we won't tell you what we want or how we want it because we want you to care enough to figure it out. We don't come with instructions, but you can buy them at your local bookstore or on Amazon if you'll pass up the "A"ction and adventure, the "C"rime and detective stories and stop at the "R" shelf instead of speeding by it on your way to the "S"cience fiction section.
There's one other reason for men to read romance, but it's so far-fetched and over the top that it takes the duck lady to make the suggestion. A man might read romance because he'd ENJOY the books. Yes, it's okay for a man to actually like a story focused on feeling instead of fighting. A man might like to read about a couple meeting for the first time and enjoy experiencing how their feelings change and grow. Courtship, love and marriage aren't solo experiences. It takes two, baby, and there is no reason on earth that men can't enjoy reading romance novels.
What romance novels would make good "starter" reading for a man brave enough to give the genre a try? Well, Guy of the Red Pen of Doom posted that he's started reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. He says that was based on reader recommendations. I find that -- unfortunate. No, I don't like the book. I more than don't like it - I don't think it's a romance. (If I start that argument, this blog post will rival War and Peace.)
I think a romantic suspense might make a good starter romance for a man daring enough to dabble in romance reading. Linda Howard and Elizabeth Lowell write good romantic suspense - as does Catherine Coulter. I particularly enjoyed Lowell's Donovan series. (Amber Beach, Jade Island, Pearl Cove, and Midnight in Ruby Bayou) Another choice might be Jayne Anne Krentz's Arcane series because it mixes elements of romantic suspense with paranormal or "sci fi" elements of "superheroes" that might strike a familiar note.
What romance novels would you recommend to introduce men to the genre?
Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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