I was 14 when I read my first romance novel. At the library, I had picked out my usual mix of fantasy, supernatural and historical novels. My mum had chosen a book by Sidney Sheldon, and one other that I snuck into my room while she was in the shower. The book was called Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey. I could tell by the title that it was something juicy. More importantly, it was forbidden.
Let’s just say I was hooked. The leading man was the sort I saw in my numerous daydreams: gorgeous and tormented. A year earlier, I had been given permission by the librarians to borrow books from the adult section, and I knew that I would be borrowing many, many more books like this one.
The first person who heard about my secret escapade was Roxanne, my Beast. She was basically my double. We both became quite obsessed with romance novels. In our young minds, these were the men we would have one day. Strong, passionate, proud. All through high school I waited for some dreamy (notice how often I mention this imaginary man’s looks – oh, to be young and think that matters!) hero to sweep me off my feet.
Of course, he never arrived. And then I realised that maybe these romance novels were as fantastical as the other books I read about unicorns. Did this make me enjoy them any less? Hell, no. I still love Johanna Lindsey books. They are the ultimate guilty pleasure. I can lose myself in these happy, hilarious stories and thoroughly enjoy them. But now, I know that life doesn’t happen that way.
Finding that special someone is bloody difficult. And once we find them, we realise they (shock! horror!) are not perfect.They will have flaws and strange habits and will occasionally piss us right off. And in the same way, they will now and then have to take deep, calming breaths to prevent themselves from strangling us. Relationships take work. They’re not all flowers, rainbows and great sex, like romance novels would have us believe. Sometimes, we cry and shout and fight because two adults can never agree on everything.
Overall, though, I’d like to say a big “Thank you!” to romance novels. Thank you for giving me over a decade of entertainment. Thank you for giving me unrealistic expectations. My heart was never broken in high school because I was holding out for my hero. Thank you for making me realise, after crushing on many a pretty face, that looks really aren’t everything. And lastly, thank you for giving this open book a secret.
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