I’m a sucker for romance.
It’s a very heady feeling to be the recipient of someone’s efforts to please, pamper, and proffer to your hedonistic desires. Real world romance has the advantage of being directed at and catered to you; personal by design, it’s a custom fit. Fictional romance is appealing because it removes the limitations and obligations of life as we know it; an enticing world opens up where there are no boundaries and the thigh’s the limit.
I’m sure you’ve seen the thematic cover art. A handsome man with a sculpted jaw, open or ripped shirt revealing a muscled chest; tight pants straining against his manhood. A beautiful woman with delicate features, framed by cascading hair; waist-cinching bodice showcasing her ample bosom. Both have a look of pure desire on their faces, and their bodies, limbs, dare I say souls, are entwined. To me, it looks like they are wearing each other.
I was recently pondering why these appeal to me, and millions of other women. And why I don’t advertise my interest in the medium―ahem, pretending not to look unless the section’s empty; never asking “Hey, did you read ‘Peignoir Boudoir’ or ‘Ardent Abandon'”?. The genre makes lots of money, so obviously it has a broad fan base.
Romance is fantasy. It won’t solve governmental conflicts, end world hunger, or stop global warming, nor should it. You don’t use a shoe to frost a cake. Politicians need platforms, droughts need rain, footnotes need citations. Me, I need pure, unadulterated escapism. A world in which everything I don’t want or like or fear disappears, and everything I crave and feel and need comes alive in a carnal, candied confection. There is nothing quite like writhing in words.
Romance is titillation, temptation, anticipation. It’s what you don’t see, what isn’t drawn for you, that makes it enticing. A flash of skin, a flicker of seduction. The slow burn of extended foreplay. You’re on the edge, delirium at arm’s reach; electricity surging through your veins like liquid libido.
Romance novels have very similar undertones, though the details can vary greatly. The setting is always idyllic. Beyond the actual geographical Edens, one is transported to a time and place that is carefree, resplendent, and lush. It could be a tropical island, complete with pink diamond sands and crystal blue waters, perhaps a pirate ship looms on the coast. (Don’t worry; the pirate captain, though a cut-throat by nature, is still quite a catch, with his roguish charm and wicked good looks). Or maybe it’s a Count’s castle, draped in mahogany and velvet; shadows dance in a sea of candles, their dim glow tracing the contours of m’Lady’s cleavage. Or it might be a southern plantation on acres of rolling greens, with a mainland estate that rivals modern hotels; a horse & buggy abut the massive veranda, ready to whisk you off to the ball at a moment’s notice. There are many, many rooms and even more steps…. Babe McBoob must be able to run away from Beau Hunkarooni, and he must be able to give chase and catch-up, dramatically scooping her into his arms.
The heroine is a mix of innocence, tenacity, and ripe sexuality. A quick inventory of her arsenal: Satin skin. Sex kitten hair. Wanton eyes. More curves than the autobahn, and more mouth-watering than a king-size box of sour patch kids. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill, tied-to-the-train tracks, helpless honey. She’s quite capable, yet also vulnerable. She can lure her bait with a single lick of her pouty lips. She’s ballsy but feminine, free-spirited but grounded. Most used weapon: the bitch slap. Biggest Weakness: wild abandon. Oh, she wants it all right, but she’ll fight her desire as long as she can. (Hey, when you have hundreds of pages to fill, you can’t give it all up in Chaptuh One.)
The hero is wise, worldly, and hornier than a Viking’s helmet. At his disposal: Megawatt smile. Smoldering gaze. GQ looks. More appeal than a circuit court judge, and more power than NYC’s electrical grid. He’s in peak physical condition, since he has to be able to withstand fists to the chest, knees to the groin, constant attempts to wriggle out of his arms, catching or carrying fair maidens, hoisting the sail, fighting rivals, and withstanding injuries that would leave the common man a whimpering pile of wuss. Sporting an impressive tool, he can get it up and keep it up as if on a Viagra drip. Greatest asset: Emboldened by multiple rejections. Achilles heel: he’d do anything to bone her (fellas worth their salt knows ‘anything‘ comes at a hefty price).
The archetypical storyline: The leads start out with an axe to grind. They are antagonistic towards one another, yet mutually attracted. Him: “You’re a spoiled wench, but every time I look at you there’s a party in my pants.” Her: “You are one ruthless bastard, but your hardcore eye humping is flooding my basement.” Early on, he steels a kiss or cops a feel; her resultant goosebumps belie her voiced dislike. Fate keeps throwing them together, but they are not having it. He instigates a full on make-out session, which she gives in to, until her chaste nature and untrusting heart intercede. Undaunted, he tries over and over again. Unsure, she denies him over and over again. Finally, in a moment of weakness, we get the 7 on the Richter scale, big bang bout of mattress wrestling. (I use the term mattress lightly. Usually the coupling takes place on the beach. Or the stables. Or his wine cellar.) This is hard & fast, half-undressed, panting like animals, blink and you missed it, sex. Ire immediately follows intimacy, as some callous remark or dastardly discovery sends the main players scurrying in opposite directions.
He’s swimming in frustration; she’s drowning in doubt. Though conflicted, they mentally replay their sexcapade. He lusts for her sweetness; wants to banish her nightmares. She yearns for his hardness, wants to quiet his demons. A perilous situation erupts; desire and appreciation rise to the surface, leaving worry and fear behind. They discover they share a strong, mutual bond. United in their cause, they fight that which seeks to divide them, instead of each other. Destined and driven, they are filled with gratitude and lust; the flames of their passion burning bright. Reaching safety, they finally, truly, madly, deeply, fully consummate their relationship. This is the bask in the afterglow, explore every inch of each others body, whisper professions of undying love, sex. Before our very eyes, all their differences and problems melt away. As the sun sets over their spent, sated bodies, we know they are perfectly mated and will live happily ever after.
Reading romance is seriously relaxing. Responsibilities seem like romps, and trouble like treasure hunts. There are no dishes to do, no trash to take out. He doesn’t have to trek along while she combs the mall. She doesn’t become a football widow Monday nights. The fuzzy filter of perfection overlays everything. Blemishes exist solely on the heirloom china. The only wrinkles are those of the crumpled clothes thrown to the floor. Dimples dot chiseled cheeks, not the back of thighs. Roots are under the great oak trees, not on anyone’s hair. Women smell of exotic flowers and men of mountain fresh musk. No matter their income or background, the characters are always well dressed and well endowed. Life is blissful and bountiful; hope and love spring eternal. What more could one wish for?
We’re bombarded daily with horrific images and heart-breaking stories; falling economies and failing peace efforts. Kind, decent people need a respite from that. Something that lifts their spirits; something that reminds us of the joy, wonderment, and pleasure life holds. So curl up with your sweetheart, or a nice steamy book. Grab the reigns, and ride with me on our trusty steed.
Literary lingerie is truly one size fits all.
“Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”
~ Amanda Cross