I am constantly lamenting to my followers how people tend to judge romance novels without ever having read a single one--uhm, how exactly can you judge an entire genre without reading a book from the genre?--and I got to thinking... what if I could force everyone in the world to read a romance novel. Maybe their opinion wouldn't change, but maybe it would change. Worth a shot, I thought. Making everyone read a romance novel is probably unrealistic, but I could start small. I could start by forcing the people closest to me.
Who would I choose to be my first victim? I asked my husband and got laughed out of the room. Don't worry, I'm working on him. But then I got to thinking about my Dad who would probably do anything for his only daughter [insert maniacal laugh here].
My Dad, Tom, has never been a big reader, but occasionally my Mom could get him to read a non-fiction novel which would take him several months. Once she recommended he listen to an audio book on his long drive to work but he listened to Angela's Ashes and then told my Mom he'd never listen to another audio book because a grown man shouldn't be crying on his way to work.
I asked him to participate--hopeful, but not all that confident he'd say yes--and he didn't exactly jump out of his seat with excitement. But I told him it was for my blog and he relented because he loves me (and tolerates mine and my Mom's obsession with books). When I questioned him as to what sort of romance novel he thought he'd be interested in he said a mystery and to keep it light on the romance side.
Naturally I went with When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz, the first in a romantic suspense series that follows Charlotte, a heroine desperate to track down her missing stepsister, and Max, a burned out PI who desperately needs a job. Krentz writes some of the best romantic suspense on the market and I knew that my Dad would appreciate the realness of her characters, the thrill of the action, and the complicated mystery. She, also, writes great sex scenes that aren't too explicit and I knew I wanted my Dad to have to read legitimate sex scenes or I wouldn't feel as though he was getting the full romance experience.
I think that discussing sex scenes with me was probably a live-action remake of his worst nightmares, but he was a champ about it. He did not want to be pictured in the blog--probably afraid of being cornered on the street and asked for his autograph--but he did send me bitmojis to use and they are scary accurate as to his appearance, so it's basically a picture of him.
I hope you'll enjoy the first interview in my Popping the Romance Cherry blog series:
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Many people choose not to read romance novels based on a number of stereotypes, including: they are nothing but porn, there's no plot, the writing is poor, etc. What preconceptions did you have about romance novels prior to my asking you to participate in this blog series?
My Father: I did not think that they were well-written and I thought the objectified men. I thought that they set a standard of a man that a real person cannot live up to.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What was it about the book, When All The Girls Have Gone, that you particularly enjoyed?
My Father: I do like the fact that the book is a little complicated. Although there's two main characters that are eventually going to fall in love, there's enough going on around that that makes it interesting. There's some complications regarding other characters in the book that is making it interesting.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What were your thought on the overall plot, characters, and writing style?
My Father: I think what's interesting about the characters is that they both seem to have flaws. It's not just a perfect life and a perfect man. They have other relationships that didn't work out and they're coming together, but they're coming together as they're investigating the crime. So, they're developing this relationship while they're uncovering and working as detectives. So it's not just... the real plot is them solving the crime, but the subplot is them coming together.
I think the writing style stands up to other fictions I've read. She [Jayne Ann Krentz] does a nice job of describing Seattle. She does a nice job of describing the environment in which the characters are at. She does a great job of painting a particular picture. It often feels less romance-y and more action-y.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: I think that's one of the main stereotypes of romance novels--that they're just sex. So, onto the most important question: what did you think of the romance? Jayne Ann Krentz is not a fade-to-black/closed door writer (FTB or Closed Door authors are those who write up until the sex scene, but do not include the actually sex in their writing), but she's also not overly explicit with her scenes. Did you think there was a good balance between the sex/personal relationship of the hero and heroine and the actual plot of the book.
My Father: [I explained insta-love to him] I'm not a fan of insta. That's the instant gratification of America right there. All good things take work and take time. It took more than half the book for the hero and heroine to finally get together. They did kiss before this... in the cabin, they kissed once, but it didn't go further than that. And then it went about another two chapters, three chapters probably, before they were safe and at her place and able to finally get together for the first time. By far the sex scene--scale of 1-10 in terms of heat--was a five. Not graphic. There was more of a description of him. Basically I was surprised it wasn't very graphic at all.
I'm intrigued by the story. I'm more about the story, but it's in the back of your mind the whole time that they're falling in love. Because he has a checkered past and hers is more heartbreak. What I like about the book is that they're falling love--and he doesn't have a bad past necessarily--but I like the fact that she's falling in love with a real man. He's quiet, doesn't talk a lot. He used to be a cop or profiler for the FBI.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: How did the book challenge your preconceptions about romance novels, particularly those you mentioned in the first question.
My Father: The hero in the story is a real person. The writing is good, there's some suspense to it. It's not much different than the fiction book your mom gave me. If you had a different cover on it I wouldn't have even called it a romance novel. The angle that seems to be a little different [from a regular fiction] is that you're hoping, as it goes along, that they fall in love and live happily ever after. Where, in a typical book like this, maybe written by a man, they'd end up happy together, but the next book they wouldn't still be together [he's referencing books/movies like James Bond & Jason Bourne]. In this book you have a feeling that two lonely hearts will fall in love, all while solving the crime.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Would you read another book by Jayne Ann Krentz?
My Father: I would read another book by her.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Would you read another novel similar to When All The Girls Have Gone, i.e. another contemporary romantic suspense?
My Father: Romantic suspense? Yep.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Would you read a romance novel from another sub-genre? [I then had to explain all the many sub-genres to him].
My Father: I'm not a fan of any Pretty Woman type novels [I mentioned how many historical romances involve some sort of income gap between characters]. I would say I'm probably not open to another sub-genre at this time. Although, if a historical romance had real history surrounding it and merely told human emotion surrounding that event, I might be interested in that.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: You'd never read a romance novel in your life before I recruited you for this blog series, yet you found yourself actually enjoying the book. Do you have any advice for someone who thinks they would never read a romance novel or advice for someone on the fence about reading one?
My Father: I did read Bridges of Madison County.
My Mother (commenting from the other room): Bridges of Madison County is not a romance novel. It doesn't end happy.
My Father: I would say that if you take whatever genre you like to read and then delve into romance, you might be surprised. If you like action or suspense, well, then it's not that far of a right turn to read a romantic suspense that could have good writing.
I hope you enjoyed reading! I'm so excited that he actually liked the book, but he didn't like it half as much as my grandfather liked his, so stay tuned for the next installment of Popping the Romance Cherry in which my grandfather relays his thoughts on his first romance novel read. Coming soon...