I read an article recently on why writers of all genres could benefit from reading romance novels, mostly because romance writers are experts at conveying emotion. Conveying emotion is something I struggle with (and possibly a reason why my romance writing career sputtered), and it’s been a long time since I read a genre romance novel (as opposed to a romantic novel or novel with romantic elements published in another genre), so I picked one up at the library.
I seem to have found the book aimed directly at me. After a long day at work, the heroine doesn’t want to hang out with her friends. She just wants to go to the sanctuary of her home and read a book. She comes in the door, takes her glasses off, changes into comfortable clothes, and curls up with a book. I felt so represented.
Alas, this is a romance novel, so the whole point of it is to get her together with someone, so by the end of the book she’ll have realized she was wrong and it’s better to come home to someone. And it looks like she’s not treating her home as a sanctuary because she’s truly an introvert and is happy that way but rather because she’s been hurt before and is afraid of intimacy. It would be nice if someone ever wrote a true introvert love story, where the heroine finds the person who fits into her solitude without being an energy drain and who enhances a life that was already good rather than her learning that her life is wrong and empty. But then there wouldn’t be any emotional conflict and drama, so you wouldn’t have much of a romance novel, and that may be why I drifted away from the genre. You can depict that kind of relationship if there’s some other kind of conflict going on, like a mystery or a battle against dark magical forces, but it makes for a pretty lame romance novel.
Anyway, one of the signs early in the book that she’s damaged and wrong rather than just an introvert who’s figured out what works for her is that the guy comes to her place while she’s at home reading and figures out that she doesn’t actually need her glasses because she’s not wearing them at home. They aren’t near her book, so she doesn’t need them to read, but he asks her about a book on her shelf, and she can tell him the title from across the room. Aha! She’s using the glasses to make herself less attractive and to hide from the world.
That was when I felt like I ought to speak up on the heroine’s behalf (except the book said he was right). I need glasses. I even have the corrective lenses restriction on my driver’s license to prove it. But I don’t wear glasses at home. I do just like the heroine in the book does. I come home, put down my keys, and take my glasses off. They live next to my keys. I have an older pair of glasses that lives on the coffee table for when I’m watching something on TV that has a lot of letters or numbers (like the weather report) or that I really want to focus on. I could probably tell you the titles of most of the books on my shelves from across the room because they’re my books and I know what I have, even if I can’t read the words on the spine from a distance. So that whole thing was bogus.
I’m not far enough into the book to really have all the emotional stuff I’m reading it for, other than the heroine’s intense embarrassment when the guy pointed out his realization about her glasses. I’m afraid, though, that I’m not in his corner. That’s another one of the reasons I stopped reading genre romance. I seldom wanted the guy to get together with the girl because I usually didn’t like at least one of them and I thought the other one could probably find a healthier relationship somewhere else. I guess the whole point of this exercise, though, is that I need to turn off the analytical part of my brain and just surrender to the emotions, then figure out how the author does it.