I write romance novels. If this is a surprise to you, I’d be a little concerned. When I tell people what I write, I get the shocked “oh” of unsettled-ness or the bright eyes of disbelief. I once had a woman come up to me at one of my husband’s work functions and say, “I heard you write those books.” This woman stood entirely within my personal space, took up so much of it I felt like I was in a NYC apartment, said that one sentence, and then walked away. I didn’t even learn her name.
So I was so very proud when I discovered this blog post from the amazing, incredibly talented, and confident Sarah MacLean. She writes books. There’s kissing in them, so her website proclaims. Ms. MacLean just wrote a blog post on the Gender Genre Blog that blew my mind, because she so perfectly nailed what I, as a romance novelist, feel when I get the shocked oh or the bright eyes.
It’s not about the sex. It’s about a woman kicking ass and taking control of her life in a way that is startlingly uncomfortable for some people. It’s about the adventure.
I even admitted on this very blog how much I hate writing the sex scenes. If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t write them at all. They are not the most relevant part of the stories I write, but the readers of the genre have come to expect them. (And from the reviews I’ve gotten, I apparently write them pretty well.) But the scenes that keep me up at night are the ones in which I must give an unsteady heroine the wings to fly. And I must do so against every indication I have also built into the book to suggest she would otherwise fail. Sex is like a second bag of M&Ms tumbling out of the vending machine. It’s luck if it happens, but it’s not vital to survival of the story.
I recently (in a frighteningly voracious way) read Jennifer McQuiston‘s Summer is for Lovers. If you don’t know what romance novels are about, read this book. I’ll be talking about it again on this week’s installment of #tbt: Writing History, so you have two days to read it. That’s plenty of time. McQuiston takes the sex right out of the romance novel and throws the reader head over heels into a vat of feminine strength, confidence, and daring. If you ever watched Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken as a little girl and said to yourself one day I’m going to dive with horses, you will read this book and determine you’ll be the one to find the cure for cancer. I’m not kidding.
McQuiston nails the very heart of why romance novels came to be. Romance novels tell women Indiana Jones can wear a dress and carry a reticule, but you still need to watch out for her whip.