The Appeal of Romance Novels to the Committed and Not Dim-Witted
by Tiffany Dawn
I was recently reading the resurgence of the Quilliam study on the evils of romance novel reading. I admit it, as a fan of the genre and an author; I got pissed at her conclusions.
For those of you who don’t follow research on romance novels I will summarize it. Basically a British Psychologist, Susan Quilliam, did a study that looked at 78 romance novels written between 1981 and 1996 and determined that reading those novels could lead women to be less careful about condom usage in their own relationships and gave them unrealistic relationship expectations.
Apparently many of the books written during that time period skimmed over using condoms. However, the findings concerning lack of rubbers in fiction and actual modern practices just seemed to be too much of a leap for me to accept since the novels were written prior to HIV/AIDs receiving the attention is does now. If she had selected novels written in the last ten years there would have been extensive mention of condoms and concerns about sexual health in the story line. Presumably reading about sexually responsible couples would send a more positive message about prophylactics.
However, how the hero wraps his “sword” wasn’t the only thing that got my ire up. Romance readers have long been stereotyped as lonely, desperate women with too many cats and a low IQ. But the exact opposite is a more accurate a description of the genre’s fans. Readers are more likely to be in a serious and committed relationship than non-readers and the number of romance authors with Ph.Ds. from Ivy League colleges is quite long. Just think Bly, Quinn and Gimpel for example. I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology and 72 postgraduate credits in educational psychology yet still spend my evenings writing and reading romance novels.
Does this all jive with Quilliam’s assertion that heavy readers of the romance genre may develop unrealistic or idealized notions of what a relationship should be? Her report has many unproven contentions such as, “It might mean – in the wake of such panic –judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance.” (Quilliam, 2000). Hmm, we are all flighty women who don’t know what a real relationship should be like? I don’t think so.
To put it simply, smart women read and write these novels, report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationships and enjoy the escape to a world where women characters are the center of the story. The modern romance novel features independent career women who refuse to settle for less. They are determined to tackle life on their own terms. It is the men who need to change in order to find happiness and fully self-actualize. And by the way, if you are still questioning how romance novels compare in terms of language use and vocabulary try pasting in a few pages of a Susan Johnson novel and comparing it to the readability score of say a Clive Cussler adventure book just for fun. I had a few minutes and did just that only to determine that both score about a 1100 Lexile level – about the 11th grade in terms of reading level. Awfully close. Perhaps the stereotype has more to do with the inclusion of sex in the storyline than any other factor.
While the naysayers will say reading romance is hazardous to your health I will keep on reading, writing and enjoying! After all, the establishment once believed that women reading much of anything could be detrimental to their ability to successfully have a baby. Holy bunk.
And just to do a brief bit of self promotion (he-he) see below to some blurbs from my books.
Isabel’s Awakening blurb and Buy Link:
It’s been five busy years, and Newcastle-born singer/guitarist Thomas Morgan is still punishing himself for his younger brother’s death.
Thomas’s young, fashion-model wife once led her husband’s idolizing brother, Chris, into both drugs and an adulterous relationship. The loss of his brother and total destruction of his marriage destroyed Thomas. To avoid entanglements with others, even his young son, Thomas focused on promoting his music and the management of his now highly profitable record company. He thought he had everything at a safe distance, at least until Isabel literally slammed into his life.
High school teacher, Isabel Warren, finds herself falling head over heels in love with the sexy-as-sin guitarist for the rock band Becket. Soon Isabel’s orderly world of lesson plans, thesis writing, and student loan debt is competing against desire, passion, and her vulnerable heart.
Isabel struggles to navigate her newly stirred passions with her rising academic career and independent nature. As the sex sizzles, the two lovers will have to decide which parts of their dreams they will sacrifice for their fledgling relationship.
Can Thomas ever trust and love again, and will the young woman he meets ever have the confidence and strength to be with him?
tiny url version: http://tinyurl.com/p9e6j5x
Loving Link blurb:
Can two artists salvage true love out of the unexpected consequences of one night of passion?
|A young tattoo artist. A seasoned rock star. Both focused on their careers. What harm can there be in giving in to their desires for just one night? They’re about to find out as their scandalous relationship sweeps the internet. Will they stand together to face the world? Or will their emotional scars tear them apart? T.D. Hassett takes you to the heights of passion in Loving Link, Book 2 of her hot, sexy series Love and Music.|
Link Jacks is done with women and determined to focus solely on music and rock-band Becket’s upcoming album. He’s been living as a marketing-prop bad-boy rock star for so long he doesn’t remember who he really is anymore. Not until he meets Madison, the emotionally guarded and theoretically off-limits younger sister of his best friend’s wife.
Madison just wants to get her fledgling tattoo career off the ground and stop relying on the generous charity of her wealthy brother-in-law to get by. She knows she should never get involved with the likes of Link but his presence is downright intoxicating. Her indiscretion will lead to Internet sex video and media frenzy. Their one wild night of passion will have scandalous repercussions and force each of them to confront their inner fears and emotional demons.
Madison had just finished up with her second to last client and was tired. She thanked him for trusting her to do such an involved and powerful tattoo.
“No, thank you Madison. You’ve no idea how much this means to me. It’s absolutely beautiful.” the young private explained quietly, and then surprised her by wrapping her in a big hug and kissing the side of her head. It seemed to be an impulsive gesture and it took her off guard. For perhaps the first time she understood how important body art could be to somebody, how it truly was more than just something inked. She broke free of the embrace as her boss, Lori, came into the room. Madison froze in place seeing Link Jacks standing behind her boss and scowling. The private slipped her his card and was forced to squeeze by Link, who stood with his arms crossed, practically blocking the door.
Lori interrupted the awkward silence. “Madison, you might know Link Jacks through your brother-in-law. He’s been having a dragon done over the last couple of months and I’m thinking you’re the perfect person to do some of the scale work. I’ve seen you do some mythological pieces where the coloring is almost luminescent. That would be perfect for this piece. I’ve done all the lines and a good chunk of the fill but think if you wrapped up the scales it would be American Tats Magazine worthy.” Lori stated in her no-nonsense way.
Crap, there’s really no way to just say no, especially if Lori was thinking of putting the work on display. She had one more customer left for the day and was looking forward to a quiet night back at the apartment. She and Darling would probably just order pizza and watch a movie.
Maddie’s befuddled brain flashed back to the spiel Lori had given her about no drama and she braced herself for whatever this could mean. I just need to keep my focus on the work.
“Sure, as long as Link is comfortable with me doing the work. I’ve got one more customer tonight but I’d be happy to make him an appointment,” replied Madison.
Link’s icy expression slipped. He smiled at her and gave her a little wink, suggesting her stall tactic wasn’t going to work.
“No need, I’ve switched your last appointment to someone else so that you could have time to work on this piece now,” Lori smoothly added.
So much for putting this off until a later day. Lori walked away, leaving Link and Madison alone. Great, this would be a nightmare after what had transpired between them last week. She was already anxious around him and now she’d be spending hours touching his half-naked body. How did Monet ever paint those incredible nudes with such beauty just within reach?
Madison busied herself getting out sterile gloves and new needles. She focused her head on how best to color in the scales that she recalled so clearly from running her hands up his chest and arms. His low voice startled her when he asked what to do.
“Should I take my shirt off now and lie down, or just stand here feeling stupid?” Link questioned.
“Sorry, go ahead and lie down and you know, take off your clothes. I mean shirt.” Maddie blurted out awkwardly. She finished assembling her things on the tray and turned around in time to see him pull his tight black shirt up over his head exposing a broad, well-muscled chest that her fingers ached to touch. It was going to be torture to put needle to skin, to have her hands running over his washboard abs and strong arms, yet the full sensation would be blocked by the latex of her gloves. She studied the work already done on the tattoo. It was a masterpiece in the making. She’d never seen such a large, detailed mythological piece and couldn’t stop herself from tracing the line of the dragon’s tail from the waistband of his jeans up and across his chest and over his shoulder to where it ended on his back. The dragon’s head looked across his shoulders, its eyes done so realistically you felt like the beast was watching. She could see the mix of colors and shading she’d need to complete the work. The artist in her was clamoring to get started but the woman was afraid to keep touching him lest she lose her head again. She looked up from his skin to notice his eyes had been watching her with an expression of longing. His hand was clenched tightly against the arm of the chair and she noticed the telltale bulge in his pants. Memories of him pulsing in her sent a wave of moisture to her core.
She needed to put aside the tantalizing images flashing through her head. He was just a man who could only hurt her if she let him. Isabel had shared stories about Links escapades with women while on tour. It seemed everyone in the band but Link had settled down, so they all laughed at his adventures. Now that Madison had been one of his conquests, she hated every other woman who had ever looked at him and she hated herself even more for feeling that way.
“Okay, I’ll get started but as you probably know, work around the ribs and other bony areas can get pretty painful, so let me know when you need a break. Any questions?” Maddie was proud of how calm her voice was despite the rolling pit of emotions swirling around her belly.
“No questions. Baby, I’m ready for whatever you want to do to my body; bring it on.” Link answered with a cocky smile.
Damn him, he had to make this extra difficult. She’d made a mistake in what she did with him; she’d just been too curious a cat and she’d gotten her heart involved. But there was no way she would put that tail out there again for him to play with. Maddie had seen what heartbreak did to her mother and she knew better than to get involved with anyone who could do that kind of damage to her. Besides if Isabel ever found out what she’d gotten up to with Link she’d probably lecture her to death. And Thomas would probably kill Link; after all he had become quite the protective big brother to her after he and Isabel met.
Madison needed to focus on the task at hand and stop ogling him like … well, like some kind of groupie. She prepped a gun and tested the foot pedal, and then dipped her color, steadied her hand, and pressed needle to skin. The gentle vibration of the gun hummed to her as she worked a lower portion of the design over his right ribcage. She peaked across his chest, noticed another tattoo under his heart, and jabbed the needle in too hard.
T.D. Hassett AKA Tiffany Dawn, grew up reading the romance greats—Jackie Collins, Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught. She was certain that life should be like a romance novel, with lots of passion, some incredible adventures, and a guaranteed happily ever after. She attended college in New England, earning a B.A. in History and an M.S. in Clinical Psychology before changing her mind again and studying education. Currently Ms. Hassett lives in Connecticut with her very patient husband and two young children. Her rambunctious family shares their home with three crazy cats and a darling golden retriever named Delilah. Her eccentric relatives and their quest to make her feel like the only normal nut in the family tree inspire her writing.