I have taken some heat for featuring both DocTurtle and Scrin’s read-a-log reviews of books as they seek an education in the romance genre, since it would appear to some that I’m erecting a massive turgid shrine to What The Penises Think of Romance.
Oh, so not so. What fascinates me personally about their responses are the fact that (a) men do not typically read a lot of romance and (b) being privvy to the reactions to a curious, intelligent dude reading a genre that is so often defined as “just for women” yields a very interesting personal dialogue as Scrin and SBiT Patrick share their thoughts with us. So I’m not squeeing with the glee that A Man has paid attention to us, preen, preen, preen for the peen.
Intelligent males asking for recommendations and then sharing their reactions opens our dialogue to include perspectives that, frankly, we don’t often enjoy. I’m not looking for validation of our collective enjoyment of romance but I am always eager to hear new opinions on the genre as readers of any gender are introduced to how good, how amazing, how truly enjoyable romance is.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I cranked up the inbox to find a very kind and warm letter from a gentleman named Charles who was very happy I was going to read Joan Wolf’s His Lordship’s Mistress because it was the book that introduced him to the genre. I asked if I could publish his letter, and he agreed.
17 February 2009
Dear SB Sarah,
I’m a man who’s been reading romance for over 25 years, and I was inspired to write to you for two reasons: the space you’ve devoted recently to men reading romance, and your recent Valentine’s Day present of His Lordship’s Mistress. That novel is responsible for my reading romance.
I was in a now-defunct bookstore in Boston after work one Friday afternoon, looking for something to read. I passed by the romance section, and noticed that two entire shelves were filled with books with variations on the same brownish-red cover: lo, the Signet Regency Romance series. I don’t really remember why I was so intrigued by having an entire publishing line dedicated to a single topic: perhaps it was because I was always running out of new things to read, and this ready availability appealed to me. I bought two: His Lordship’s Mistress and Joy Freeman’s A Suitable Match. I went home, opened first a bottle of wine, and then “His Lordship’s Mistress.”
I won’t say anything about the plot, in case you haven’t read it yet. But something about Jessica Andover captivated me; her story drew me in, and even moved me to tears. As soon as I finished it, I started on “A Suitable Match”: very different, but also a good read. On Monday, I went back to the store and bought a few others. The first one in this batch was horrible—in the “I’m so glad you raped me” tradition. I was repelled, but read the others. None was as good as “His Lordship’s Mistress,” but—rape notwithstanding—I was hooked.
A few years later, when I was about to enter graduate school, I culled my books, and gave about three hundred romances to a local nursing home. I kept only my favorites—including the first two I ever bought. And I have wondered, over the years, how my reading life would be different had I bought the rape book on that fateful Friday. I certainly would not have reread it every year, as I do “His Lordship’s Mistress.” Perhaps I would never have read another romance. And that would have been a shame. But thanks to Jessica Andover (and Joan Wolf), I have a reading life that is far more satisfying than it otherwise would have been. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that thanks to reading romance, I also have an undying hatred for verbal forms of the word “cup.”)
I hope you enjoy “His Lordship’s Mistress” as much as I do.
I so want to buy Charles a bottle of wine, you have no idea. I asked Charles which books were some of his favorites, and y’all would not believe this list. From suspense to paranormal, historical to contemporary, Charles is one well-read romance reader, and his favorites are some of the best of the genre.
Thank you for writing, Charles, and for sharing your love letter to the genre.