20 Apr 2015

Man Reading Romance, Vol. I

blog-04-19-15When I heard my publicist had published a contemporary romance novel, Inside the Lines, I had a multitude of reasons to read it. First off, she’s been revising and refining so many other people’s work, I wanted to see what she herself produced. Secondly, she writes in a genre I am largely unfamiliar with, so I saw it as a chance to grow outside of my comfort zone. Last but not least, Ally suffers reading my shit, so turnabout is fair play.

So, here goes…



I hope the huge, echoey voice wasn’t overkill.

Anyhow, my closest foray into romance would be works like Shogun or The Far Pavilions, which tend be viewed as epic tales of intrigue with romance built within. I adored those novels, so I figured having a pure and distilled version of forbidden love couldn’t hurt. And with Ally, I felt I was in good hands. Here are the lessons I learned from her book, and perhaps about the genre as a whole:

Sexy, perfect men are hard for unsexy, imperfect male readers to handle

Initially, I felt dismissive of the male protagonist in the book. The hunky ‘Fin’ is so damned Scottish, he pissed Eddy’s tea and shits haggis. He also is twenty-three, physiqued perfectly, works with horses, is an underwear model, is gentle and well humored, and apologetic when he’s wrong. By the third time I said out loud “fuck this guy!”, I forced myself to ask where the source of my ire lurked. He’s a nice guy! I’d love him to marry my daughter, so what the hell was my issue? In short, I came to the conclusion that this guy was everything I wasn’t, and I felt woefully inadequate. He made me sexually threatened, but that was my issue and not the character’s. As I continued reading I learned about his job and personal life, and most of all, I saw how he wilted under heart-break. Fin wasn’t written as a stock character, so my contempt was unfounded. But MAN, I did come to the conclusion that I am seriously disappointed in myself sexy-wise.


It is about people getting together

By about chapter eight, I realized that the largest conflicting hurdle for Lux (heh, yeah, that’s her name) being with Fin is simply herself. There were some issues in her past, but the largest impediment to her happiness is how she has chosen to react to those issues. Her gradual self-fortification had allowed her to sabotage every prior relationship because the uncertainty of the future terrified her. Lux was content to train-track into her thirties on auto-pilot. No ninjas or indentured servitude, the conflict here was just letting go and allowing oneself the risk of joy. With all the heavy stuff I typically read, I forgot how grounded a book could be.


Happy endings can be organic

No, there is no spinning camera-kiss like in The Bodyguard or smooches in the rain like… whatever. People make mistakes, and they have to deal with the regret and seek each other out to apologize. There was no deus ex machina, and I felt both characters had to work at making their lives come to together in a meaningful way that promoted growth for both of them. I’m not used to such optimism! None of that shit was in Shogun!Watch Jarhead 3 : The Siege (2016) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download


Friendship was the biggest theme

Having friends, trusting and true, was the prevailing story in this romance. Even Fin and Lux constantly had friendly moments (which made me like the guy despite myself), and it was clear that friendship was something that required attention and time, but not necessarily overt effort. Lux is surrounded by good people, and best of all, she is a kind friend to others as well. This novel wasn’t just about a relationship between a man and a woman, but a man and a woman’s entire support structure that was helping her come out of her shell.


It wasn’t nearly as porny as I expected

Seriously. I was waiting for sentences like “then he thrust his purple-knobbed meat-sword into her quivering love pudding” but there were none. I found the sex intense and the writing sharp, but the word economy was definitely there. Whereas a Ken Follett novel will have one huge sex scene in it, Inside the Lines has a bevy of smaller, tighter ones. Consider it more a sushi buffet when compared to a giant Italian dinner. Each sexual encounter also served as a means to revealing character and propelling the conflict, so it didn’t feel like padding. In short, I was so engaged with the characters I didn’t see this as masturbating material.


Reading it in the pediatric’s office is embarrassing

Instead of Ben Hur or Paradise Lost, I was sporting this book under my arm for half a week. My son needed to go to the doctor’s office, and I needed a book. Neither of those needs are ever negotiable. So to avoid further embarrassment, I took a SECOND book so as to hide Inside the Lines within it.

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Way Less Embarassing

At the end of the day, it was a pleasant and fast read. The chapters were short with charming subtitles, and I found myself more invested than I thought. While it was easy to dismiss the male and female protagonists as proto-humans cooked up in a lab, I came to see that Ally was writing something more familiar here. Each chapter was about friendship and introspection more so than the boning. And even the boning had purpose.

So I guess I need to balance things out with some ‘man’ focused literature.


Yep, MUCH higher brow than pandering romance

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