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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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Romance with a capital R'

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Why do you suppose grown women like Romance so much? I'm not talking about coming home to take-out and candles. I'm talking about Romance with a capital 'R,' a genre near and dear to my heart. In the name of all that's trashy, why do we care about Twilight?' How come Nora Roberts is a billionaire by now, and I just brought home the new version of Footloose' for my Friday night viewing? I teach high school I'm not in high school.

My husband rolls his eyes at me whenever he spies me reading a cheap paperback romance novel. 'You teach Shakespeare. How can you possibly be reading a book called Storm Over Paradise?'' It doesn't make sense to him, a literary snob reading Harlequins in her spare time, analyzing whether the stud on the cover matches the histrionic hero inside the book. What sort of sensible woman makes time for such frivolity?

I remember walking into my grandmother's living room for surprise visits during college vacations. She would always slide her reading material down between her armchair and the wall, conveniently out of sight. For better or worse, she passed her penchant for splashy tabloids and trashy romantic fiction on to me, but I can't help but feeling like such guilty pleasure can't really be wrong. Meme went to church every Sunday, but she watched her 'stories' five days a week. If Reva and Josh were on the eve of reconciling for the 500th time, I knew who to ask.

If I had to dissect my own obsession with fake love stories, I guess the allure boils down to the contradiction of it all: love that thrives on conflict. In real life, we don't live in constant angst over whether or not our true love loves us back. No one walks around with windswept hair saying, 'I'm burning for you save me!' Cowboys don't rassle up some cattle and stare longingly at the rancher's buxom daughter. Billionaire tycoons with nicknames like 'Fifty Shades' don't follow us into hardware stores and ask where to find the masking tape. No one's that lucky.

But in the world of romantic fiction, all that nonsense is possible. Women pine away for men who are emotionally unavailable but physically attainable only to realize, three hundred pages later, they were loved all along! Men battle would-be rivals, doe-eyed females and their own unquenchable need for the damsel in distress only to relinquish to their heart's desire in the end. It's all so tragic and fantastic and utterly unbelievable that we must read on.

I once tried to write my own romance novel. I figured I had read enough of them, and I knew the formula forward and backward. Boy and girl meet, fall in love, doubt their love, consummate their love, doubt their love, consummate their love some more, doubt their love some more, you get the picture. As it turns out, I got all the way up to the part where boy and girl meet and exchange one conversation. If I couldn't even write flirty dialogue, how would I ever write a sex scene? It takes some special lady chops to write that stuff, and I just don't have them. I have parents who would disown me.

The point is, there are three kinds of women. Women who do have the hutzpah to capture romance on the page, women who have the presence of mind to hide their lurid texts behind the recliner when kids are about, and all the rest who pass their trashy bag of paperback paradises on with pride. When it comes down to it, reading Romance is like vacationing in the Poconos. You've never been there, but the brochures look great, especially that giant hot tub shaped like a champagne flute.

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