I spent the weekend reorganizing the bookshop’s Luv Shack. I may need therapy now.
The strange story of why this 50-square-feet wooden barn, stuffed to the gills with Harlequins, adorns our front lawn is in my book. What I can tell you here is that those paperbacks are bonking like bunnies, out there in the dark with the shed doors closed, the larger novels begetting slim volumes of “Silhouette Special Editions.” When we open each morning, I swear there are more of them.
Between My Beloved Pirate, My Beloved Viking, and My Beloved Yankee, it gets the wee bit tricky to maintain a sense of respect toward this genre–even though it really does deserve it. Romances account for a third of all new book sales. More importantly, any book that gives a reader what she or he needs is a good one. And, in an era of cynicism that ridicules human affection, it’s too easy to dismiss these little guys as triumphs of marketing over substance. Not all of them are.
Just some of them. I admit some of the things I saw and read in the Luv Shack provoked sneers. (Sometimes I had to read the blurbs to know where to shelve the book…) Amid the Saxon warriors and Norman princesses, Arab spies and Israeli agents, and plantation owners’ daughters tenderly caring for wounded Union soldiers, I found my new favorite romance title: Fulk, The Reluctant (a nobleman has to get married or lose his inheritance).
Here are some other titles that stick in my mind–more’s the pity:
Silent Knight – medieval guy from wrong side of the tracks gets imprisoned by father of nubile–sorry, noble–young woman from Raphael painting; she has really great hair. (Also A Knight in her Arms, and It Happened One Knight, and… well, there were more.)
Mail-Order Bride — six books so far with this exact title, and they’re all about a woman–plain but with her own special kind of beauty–who answers an ad and loves his children tenderly until the crisis–a fire, a bad guy, the coal company–shows him just how important and wonderful she is. I wonder how many romance writers read Sarah, Plain and Tall as children.
Her Wounded Warrior — Do I really need to summarize this one?
If I were giving advice to a romance writer, it would be:
1) Bypass the “Knight” puns; there are only so many good ones, and they’ve all been used. Badly.
2) Have fun. Enjoy the writing, because the rest of us–even if we secretly read you–are going to make fun of you in public.
3) Do not, under any circumstances, title your book “My Beloved” ANYTHING. This goes triple for “My Beloved Knight in Paris.”
4) Be proud. You are providing something important. The world needs love–and lust, and sex, and affection–to keep itself turning with joy. And we all know it.