It's been a while since I posted an installment of The Secret Lives of Male Romance Readers so I'm taking a break away from memes to bring you a male romance reader I tracked down on the internet and blackmailed Dylan Moonfire into answering my questions. Kidding. I asked nicely and he kindly agreed to participate.
Continue reading to learn what led Dylan to start reading romance as a ten year old, how romance reading has brought him and his wife closer together, and what he thinks of the social pressures that keep men from picking up romance novels.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What age were you when you first began reading romance novels? What led you to pick up that first book and, if you remember, what book was it?
Dylan Moonfire: About ten or twelve? My mother has a sizable library. While most of it was SF/F, there was a good-sized romance section also. I was really into reading at the time, so I would occasionally just pick on up and found I liked it. It was different than the SF/F, so as I read more of the, I found they balanced nicely with everything else I read. As I got older I found myself more willing to delve into the romance novels as much as the SF/F. Plus, relatively healthy relationships that have happy endings? Yeah, I needed those too. I don't remember the first one as that was 32-34 years ago.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Do you think that the romance community is welcoming to men? If no, what could we do better as a community to encourage male readership? If yes, what are some ways in which you have felt welcomed?
Dylan Moonfire: Yes and no. Most of the romance writers and readers I know personally are very friendly and encouraging. I have specific types of stories I love now (paranormal, polyam, bi) and they are always on the lookout for ones they think I'll like. Out of that circle of friends? I kind of feel like I'm nobody (but, I have to state, I feel like a nobody for all genres so I don't know if that's really different). So I'm going to say "much the same as everything else".
Romantically Inclined Reviews: In your personal opinion, what do you think are some reasons that men either choose not to read romance or choose not to admit that they read romance?
Dylan Moonfire: Well, the biggest is the social pressure not to like the "girly things". You know, the adult version of cooties. Also, men are told from an early age that they are the ones to take things, to be a leader, to be in charge, and that contradicts what romance novels teach which is more of "treat her like a human", "consider her feelings", and "actually try to be a decent human." Men are directed to the Doc Savage/James Bond type of casual sex and love that is thrown aside at the end of the book instead of looking for long-term. This is reinforced by the "being chained down" view of marriage or "looking for Ms. Right Now instead of Ms. Right."
Then, when age and the need for stability and a hunger for human connection grows, they are stuck in a situation where their focus no longer works and they feel like they are lost. At that point, romance novels have been discarded years before so they are uncomfortable when they do come back to it. Since everyone gets to those places on their own, it can be hard because ones friends might not be at that place and will mock them, or they are but they are keeping it a secret so no one knows.
Mostly, social pressure.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Have you ever experienced negative reactions to sharing that you're a romance reader with friends, family, or strangers? Have you experienced a positive reaction?
Dylan Moonfire: I have. My brother occasionally mocks me for it, my mother ignores it, my father doesn't care. My wife adores it and we share novels all the time. For strangers? I've gotten both types. The uncomfortable stares and the "OMG, who's your favorite author?" I'm gregarious and will talk to everyone, so that colors responses.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What are some of your favorite romance novels or authors?
Dylan Moonfire: I...don't really have favorites. I like Alison Tyler, Kristina Lloyd, Portia Da Costa, Madeline Moore, Mary Janice Davidson, Cassie Leigh. But I also like picking up random authors and just reading their stories.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Any funny stories you'd like to add?
Dylan Moonfire: Me and wife used to read the same book together, though not always at the same time. More than once, little catches of phrases or facts have knitted themselves into our lives over the last twenty-something years. So, whenever she wears sushi pajamas I start asking if she's queen of the vampires or the phrase "chocolate tunnel" which has brought us laughter years after reading one specific book. Even outside of books there are movies like French Kiss or While You Were Sleeping that we share together and have brought us closer.
The other thing I notice is that it gives us a language to talk to each other. Reading the same books or talking about them has helped with communicating, learning what works and doesn't work, and basically gives us the shared experiences we would not have had without those books.
A special thanks to Dylan for answering my occasionally intrusive questions. It was such a delight to hear him talk about the ways that romance novels have helped him grow closer to his wife. Now to convince my husband to read his first romance novel...
Thanks for reading!