In my Romance in Real Life series, I’ve been interviewing authors about reality in romantic fiction. But it occurs to me that it might be fun to ask a READER about their thoughts, too. So I asked Sandra of www.readsandreviews.com to come and share her thoughts. She’s a voracious reader of 250-300 romance novels a year, and in her real life is married to a hyper-intelligent and badass Spec Forces soldier, which made me think she might have a pretty fantastic perspective on reality and fantasy when it comes to romance.
Sandra, recently, you wrote an amazing blog (linked here) about the hypocritical nature of romance readers demanding more realistic (read: imperfect) depictions of women’s bodies while still demanding chiseled six packs from all our heros. Is it wrong to have a double standard in our romance reading, with more reality in some areas and not others? What are your thoughts?
My husband says that this an easy answer: it’s fiction for women, escapism, and therefore the men are going to fulfill a fantasy role. He’s a guy, so you’d think “okay, well if he says it’s okay, it’s okay.”
And, Lord knows, I like the status quo. I want my book boyfriends to be physically beautiful.
The hard truth is that it’s a double standard and we’ve been taught all our lives that double standards are wrong. Women have been victims of double standards for as long as mankind has existed and we’ve worked hard to overcome them. Yet, romance novels are for the most part written for women and read by women. I can’t speak for every reader, but I know many of us imagine ourselves as the heroine of the novels we read. This is one of the reasons we demanded the heroines be more like us, the average woman. But, no matter how realistic the story, at the end of the day it’s fiction, a fantasy that readers can lose themselves in and part of that fantasy includes someone who appeals to us physically (because, let’s face it, physicality is part of the story).
So, a double standard, yes, but at the end of the day, not necessarily wrong.
How has your real life inspired or influenced what you like to read about love? Do you like to read about characters and situations that are like you? Unlike you? How does your real life help define your catnip vs turnoffs in your romantic reading choices?
Good question. My immediate answer is that my real life really hasn’t influenced what I like to read. A more accurate answer is that what I read is a reflection of my fantasy life. I love my life and wouldn’t change it, but a 300 page romance novel lets me spend some time living a life that I might have chosen had circumstances been different, if I’d made different choices in my life.
Typically, I prefer a heroine that is more like me, one who makes the emotional, relationship choices that I would make in her situation. As far as my “catnip vs turnoffs”, in real life, I’m family oriented and love children, so a secret baby trope or single parent trope appeals to me every time. Give the characters a big family to interact with and I’m all over the book, yet the orphaned, tortured hero draws me in every time. I guess I’m not particular 🙂
What kind of conflicts do you like to see in romance? Does it turn you off if it’s too realistic? (For example: He’s so funny, and he gets along great with my crazy mom, but the boils on his man-junk are a bit of a turnoff). Not realistic enough? (Like: He doesn’t want to be with me because my boobs are too big, my waist is too small, and my hobbies include watching football, cooking, and oral sex).
I’m going to put down the “boils on his man-junk” book Every. Single. Time.
I guess I sort of answered this one earlier, admitting I like my heroes in a nice body. In regards to realism, he can have a nice body, but if he’s short (which, hey is realistic) that’s going to be an issue for me because I’m tall, so I don’t care how much he gets along with my crazy mom, I’m distracted by his height. Does that make me shallow? Probably, but it’s my fantasy (ooh, does that answer question one better than my long-winded one?).
As far as conflicts I like to see, I love a good enemies to lovers story, but also enjoy friends to lovers. Secret babies are one of my favorites.
Thanks so much for being on the blog today, Sandra!
You can also click the links to read my Romance in Real Life interviews with authors Tiffany Reisz and Samantha Joyce, both of whom had fascinating insights on the topic. Coming up soon, I’ll be interviewing Brenna Mills, baseball pants aficionado, purveyor of adorable lamb photography, and author of LAST CHANCE SEASON, available July 5, 2016.