When Romance Mimic Real Life

Ever had a book intersect with your real life in an unexpected way? Meg has:

Random idea for reader interaction: How have the romance novels you’re
reading intersected with your life?

An example: I’m finishing up my senior (undergrad) thesis, which deals with
British children’s literature and colonial India. One chapter discusses the
Indian Mutiny and British response to it. Last night, I was trying to take a
break from my thesis and turn off my brain some. I opened the new book I
downloaded onto my computer’s Kindle app, Wild Desire by Lori Brighton.
Started reading and enjoying it, not minding that it was set in colonial
India until I got to the start of chapter 5. The main characters, who are
British and American, have just been told to run because

“Apparently, the British Army deemed it appropriate to use cow and pig
grease on the rifles, which, of course, upset the locals,” Leo said, as if
that explained everything. “British are slaughtering the Indians. Indians
are slaughtering the British. Men, women, children.”

It’s the start of the Indian Mutiny! I had to stop reading, since I
couldn’t stand any more Mutiny after writing on it all day. I look forward
to starting the book again in April AFTER my thesis is turned in.

So that’s awfully long-winded, but I just thought the intersection of novel
and real-life was too great to ignore and I’d be interested in seeing how
else this has happened to people.

There’s no doubt that romance readers have personal relationships with their books for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately this has never happened to me. I’d much prefer it if romance novels intersected with my real life. For example, I remember watching the movie Radio Days on the day Baby Jessica fell down a well, and being freaked out by the whole thing because Jessica came out of the well ok, but there’s a scene in the movie where a child falls down a well and doesn’t survive.

What about you? Has a romance lined up with your real life in an unexpected way?


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Jessica came out of the well ok

    OT, but the story doesn’t have quite the happy ending it seems to. The paramedic who helped rescue her, killed himself in 1995, unable to cope with his memories of that day. Her parents divorced under the stress of all the media publicity. And the policeman who helped rescue her, went to jail for fifteen years for sexual exploitation of a child.

    Even Jessica had to have part of her foot amputated after being in the well for so long, though she got off lightly, all things considered.

    Fairytales very rarely exist in real life, sad to say.

  2. 2
    Suzy Snow says:

    I often find myself in similar situations or recognizing people in real live that are very similar to what’s going on in the latest romance novel I’m reading.

    However I think it’s just like when you get these hip new boots you suddenly see them all around you… Just a matter of where you are focused on.

  3. 3
    Jo says:

    Would you believe it happened to me today.
    I am working my way through Robyn Carr’s “Virgin River” series and I had literally just finished Shelter Mountain in which there is a young couple whose baby was stillborn. I am not much of a crier but I will admit the tears were flowing through those scenes.I finished the book last night and this morning I went out to buy my Sunday paper, I sat out on my patio to read it and came across a story of a footballer who tragically also had a son who was still born, reading about him giving his son his first bath was heart wrenching and yes there were tears again. On a happier note he and his wife have just welcomed into the world a healthy baby girl.
    I was still thinking about that scene when I woke this morning, while I was having my cuppa and on the way to buy the paper, so to read about it IRL gave me a bit of a jolt, even as far as to open my teenage daughters bedroom door and see her fast asleep and giving thanks for her.

    coming42.. Sounds exhausting!

  4. 4
    thekaps says:

    A good timing for this…i am reading Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and i actually wrote my best friend about the strange intersections to my life.  I dont have witches or vampires in my life..(oh well) but there are many references to “me” in the book.  The heroine closes her eyes while running, i do the same while walking.  References to yoga, chivalry and types of tea!  Its a bit strange…..

  5. 5
    Heather says:

    In HS (late 80s) my first period music theory teacher was someone who completely looked down on romances. Since I was reading a new one every day, he make snide remarks about how they are all crap and I wouldn’t get anything out of them, yada yada yada. (Note: He was actually an awesome teacher, so I freely made snide remarks in return. Oppressed, I was not.)

    Anyway, one morning he said, ‘Shazam!’ for some reason. He stopped and told the class, ‘You don’t even know where that comes from.”

    I said, ‘Yeah, I do! It comes from Captain Marvel.’

    ‘How did you know?’

    ‘I just read it in this romance before class,’ lifting the book and showing him. And of course I had to show him the passage.

    After that, whenever he made some comment about romances being worthless, I’d come back and say that it allowed me to answer his silly trivia questions.

  6. 6

    About ten years ago I wrote a book called Slightly Foxed (subsequently published by Samhain) in which the heroine falls for a much younger man (like, fifteen years younger).  Ten years on, and I’m married to a guy twenty years younger than me…
    Wish fulfillment writing does work!  Although, in the interests of full disclosure I have to admit that I did *know* my husband when I began writing SF, although we didn’t have any kind of romantic involvement, and none was on the cards.

  7. 7
    Jen says:

    My favorite book is Jane Eyre.  I’ve read it and listened to it on my ipod dozens of times, and know many lines/passages by heart.  A year ago I was pregnant in my first trimester and had a dream that I was holding and caring for my baby.  I told my husband the next morning about the dream and that it reminded me of Jane Eyre because, in the novel, dreaming about children is a sign that something bad is going to happen.  I didn’t actually think something bad was going to happen, it just reminded me of the book.  Later that afternoon I started to miscarry, and had lost my baby within a week.  I’m not a religious or superstitious person, but I do think the physical changes in my body sent a signal to my brain that something wasn’t right, and it used my memories/knowledge of that book to form that signal.

    I am now pregnant again in my third trimester and everything so far is going well, so things seem to have worked out OK in the end.  The miscarriage was the most painful and difficult experience of my life, but I don’t harbor any negative feelings toward the book.  In fact, I feel closer to it, like I connected with it on a physical level.

  8. 8
    Sycorax says:

    I was writing an essay on repatriation in the museum industry and stopped, frustrated, to watch an episode of Castle. Of course, it had to be the museum/mummy episode that touches upon the controversy of whether objects should be returned to their countries of origin. Not quite the pure escapism I was expecting.

  9. 9
    Francesca says:

    I was reading Bertrice Small’s Beloved during the final days of my pregnancy. I woke up in the middle of the night to realise that it was time. Since it was about two a.m. and it seemed that nothing would be happening for hours, I didn’t see the point in disturbing anyone else and picked up my book and went to the living room.

    Of course, I was right at the scene where the villainess of the piece is experiencing one of those two-day long, horrific labours and, just to make things better, she gives birth to a two-headed monster and promptly dies.

    There are a couple of funny pictures of me: one taken on my way to the hospital, with the book tucked under my arm and another, taken after my son was born, with the book lying on my hospital bed.

    night83… This all took place in the middle of the night in 1983

  10. 10
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I suspect this happens to most of us from time-to-time, probably because all of us are avid readers and so much printed material works its way into our brain.  I find the reverse happening once in a while: I start to tell someone about an event I recently read about (assuming it was on a news site) and suddenly have to stop, realizing that I’m relaying something I read in a work of fiction.

    @Francesca:  There are several pictures of me reading MIDDLEMARCH in the hospital bed, waiting for my first child to be born.  I can never look at that book without thinking of being in labor!

    Spam Filter:  easy35.  Yes, I was 35 when my first child was born; but, no, the delivery was far from easy!

  11. 11

    I read so much on the Second Seminole War while I was writing Smuggler’s Bride that any mention of it now makes me come to point like my dachshund when she spots a mole digging in the yard.  Just today it was mentioned in a newspaper article and I wanted to go back and check my reference shelf.

    I also imagine that living in North Florida I probably come across more references to the Second Seminole War than romance readers living in Manitoba, so it’s not unusual for me to have real life and my romance reading and writing intersect.

  12. 12
    TracyTracy says:

    It is interesting that the death of a baby came up already a few times.  I have been doing a bit of a study on it.  I had a still born baby six years ago, and I really feel like it followed me around for a few years since.  Every time I turned on the TV, it was Grey’s Anatomy, and there was a baby dying.  Every book, every movie, the Nora Robert’s book with the flowers, it was almost unbelievable.  So I keep a list of the good, the bad the ugly.  And sometimes I email the authors.  I started to realize that when authors have to have a major inexplicable shift in a character or storyline, it does work.  well, not exactly inexplicable, but it does lead many female characters to do things not in their best interests, and then, in dealing with the (delayed) grief of their loss, they start doing things once again in their best interests, and get true love (not so much in Grey’s anat, but in fiction).  Or else, it’s related to the BIG MISUNDERSTANDING.  Or a shallow character suddenly becomes deep.  And I can now appreciate when it’s done well, because I am feeling better and force myself to be as clinical as possible.  It was interesting to watch Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in Country Strong drink her way through it, for example. I used to think many many books had early childhood sexual abuse in them (hello Oprah’s book Club), but now it seems I personally am a magnet for lost baby stories.

  13. 13
    dick says:

    No, I don’t think so, because the certainty that everything will turn out all right regardless how hopeless the situation, is a constant reassurance that what I’m reading is not RL.  Isn’t that what romance fiction is all about?

  14. 14

    Yes, because some set ups remind me of an extremely distressing part of my past life, which I’d rather not go into details about.
    That’s why I really appreciate good blurbs with warnings. If I come into a book blind, not knowing that situation will be part of the story, it upsets me. And it’s an extremely personal thing, so I have no right to ask that writers avoid it, because it can lead to a really dramatic and interesting story, so all I need is some warning.
    That’s why I object to vague, generic blurb. I want to know, people.

  15. 15
    JoAnnarama says:

    Interesting idea—especially in light of the many genres working to present HEA despite seemingly overwhelming odds. Do you think shape shifters, vampires, wizards and witches and assorted other super/non or not-quite human romances are opening our collective consciousness to otherness in a way litrachur will not allow? Especially interesting with only a rudimentary understanding of explorations in physics, chemistry, genetics et al … we can do the usual thing with that by turning the results of exploration into the latest must-have products, or we can go for a REALLY BIG ORGASMIC Experience and find the love for evermore…

    Gee—does it MATTER that the spamword is matter?

  16. 16
    Praxidike says:

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had an experience like the one the OP described.  But I am a lawyer, and sometimes I’ll read romance novels that revolve around lawyers.

    Some of them are good – I’m thinking specifically of Julie James here, who was a lawyer before she started writing romance, and who obviously remembers what real practice is like.  Some of them are infuriating.  Here I’m thinking of Kathleen O’Reilly’s book “Nightcap,” which supposedly involves a high-powered NYC Big Law attorney.  Throughout the course of the book he says things like, “I can take as much time off as I want” and “I’m not that busy”.  I could therefore tell that Ms. O’Reilly is not a lawyer, not married to a lawyer, and has no real concept of what being a litigator (or any other type of lawyer, really) is like.

    When I read stuff like that, it really takes me out of the book.  I used to do what Sean O’Sullivan supposedly did in the book and the words “I’m not that busy” never left my mouth unless I was being sarcastic.  The complete lack of realism and research also makes me unlikely to buy another book by the same author.

    Anyway, that’s what I pay attention to when I read novels.  Do the descriptions of the hero and heroine’s daily lives echo my own experiences?  If not, is it because my own experiences are too limited?  And if not that, then … I’m done with the author.

  17. 17
    Chrissy says:

    Does this count:
    The first time I watched You’ve Got Mail (for a college class on media and society), I was working in bookstore that was in the process of closing. It couldn’t compete with the big chain bookstores that had saturated the downtown area. Managers from the chain bookstores kept coming into my store to tell us that they’d be happy to hire us once our store closed. The movie infuriated me. Yes, I cried when my store closed.

  18. 18
    Brit says:

    I just wanted to let the original writer, Meg, know that I just finished that book, and there was really only that brief early mention of the Indian Mutiny. It is only the catalyst to get them on their adventure, the plot drops the mutiny in about half a minute once they are underway

  19. 19
    JamiSings says:

    I honestly can’t think of a single thing. I sometimes come across characters that are a smidge like me – but I’m so weird, being a comic book collecting, Barry Manilow loving, fat, short, Star Trek fan that I don’t think there’s much in any book that’s like my real life.

    I’ve yet to come across a character with PCOS. I might read one like in Girl From Mars who has some trouble socializing (but really, she’s not as bad as I can be). Sometimes there’ll be one that has a lot of older brothers (I’m the youngest of 4 and only girl) – but nothing that really stands out like “Oh my God that is so much like my life!” No brothers marrying the town bicycle then abusing their kids like in my life. No grandparents having to take guardianship of one or more of the kids. (My folks had to take guardianship of my soon to be 15 year old niece.) No brothers who are recovered drug addicts or alcoholics.

    I don’t think I’ve even read a book where the heroine adopts a dog who likes to wear clothing. Which is something that happened to me. Somehow I came home from the shelter with a 7 pound canine diva.

    Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books?

  20. 20
    John says:

    There’s always those little things that sometimes freak me out.  Can’t say I’ve noticed it in romance so much, but in books in general (and other media) I easily find connections.

    While I was reading Gone by Michael Grant, I recall being surprised at the random Thanksgiving scene near the end (considering I was reading it on Thanksgiving, it was a surprise.) 

    Biggest was while watching In the Heights on Broadway last year.  This one character I connected with perfectly, and she was JUST like my mother.  She even had the same name and emotional buttons.  It really tweaked me out.  O.o

  21. 21
    LisaJo says:

    I don’t know about intersecting exactly, but my complete Cynster collection by Stephanie Laurens allowed me to answer a number of trivia questions about the wives of British nobility, i.e. an Earl’s wife is a Countess, and Marquess’s wife is a Marchioness.

    Yay for romance knowledge being useful in real life!

  22. 22
    RebeccaJ says:

    Once I was reading this romance novel about a police officer who pulled a woman over for a traffic stop and during the course of it, they engaged in some heavy flirting, then they got invovled. Fast forward to present day, and yeah, I’m still waiting for that to happen to me.  :)

  23. 23
    rebyj says:

    THE book to read in 95 was Bridges of Madison County. It was also the year my now ex cheated on me.  I hated the book, I thought the heroine was an idiot and risked her family for nothing and I bet I cussed while reading that book more than I’ve cussed ever in my life. It irritated me so much that 10 years later I talked to my therapist about it lol.

    Maybe in another 20 years I’ll try to re read it.

  24. 24
    Jennifer says:

    I just finished reading A Discovery of Witches and I’m researching daemons.

  25. 25
    orangehands says:

    Oh yeah, I experience the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon all the time. (And déjà vu.) Not just romance books, but yes.

    Jen: Hugs if you want them. I hope you have a healthy and happy baby.

    Ann Somerville: Wow re links. I was at a conference months ago and one of the speakers was a reality TV star (the first bachelor?) and he talked about how he struggled with that missing spotlight. It was interesting and he was a very good speaker, even if I find shows like that on the border between distasteful and just icky. As for the cop link, what a horrible f-ing monster, and that’s a really interesting website.

  26. 26
    henofthewoods says:

    There are times when the books I am reading have a strange parallel to each other – something unexpected like a character with the same name and personality in totally unrelated books or three books in a row mention the same rare disease or have an obscure word.
    I have a hard time focusing on romances when the hero or heroine has a name of someone I know, maybe this is part of the reason why there are so many Colt’s and Gavin’s and relatively few John’s and Jim’s in romances?
    For example, I would find it distracting to read about Sean O’Sullivan since I interact with someone with that name. With good writing, I can get past that, but the book needs to overwhelm me quickly.
    For the most part, I think that if you are sensitive to a particular topic you will find that topic popping up in your life.
    On a vaguely related front, are the captcha words chosen to reflect the content of a website? Today I have want84 and I want all kinds of things, probably 84 of them. It seems like they often mean something to me, even when I don’t comment on it.

  27. 27
    Wahoo Suze says:

    In the mid-80’s, I read a serial romance in which the hero (firefighter) and heroine met when her apartment building caught fire.

    A few months later, I went to the wedding of my uncle (not a firefighter) to a woman he met when their apartment building caught fire.

  28. 28
    Tinkerbon says:

    I was about 2 chapters in to Suzanne Brockmann’s “Over the Edge” when 9-11 happened. Reading a fictional account of a plane highjacking for entertainment was more than a little disconcerting (and stomach-turning) so I put the book aside, and probably didn’t pick it up again until 5 or 6 weeks later. I *love* that book but it’s not an easy re-read, to this day.

    — Bonz

  29. 29

    the certainty that everything will turn out all right regardless how hopeless the situation, is a constant reassurance that what I’m reading is not RL.

    Really, dick? You are so desperate to grind this axe, you’re happy to reveal that you lead such a miserable, lonely existence that romances and real life have no similarity for you? You never met and loved anyone? Your children are all worthless failures? You’ve never shared moments of joy or sorrow with a lover, and felt comforted to have them there? You’ve never had that heart-stopping moment when you knew this person was the one for you?

    If this is the case, I must stop letting you piss me off with your constant digs at the lack of reality you perceive in romance novels, because it sounds like you’ve had a really shitty life. No wonder you’re such a miserable sod and so cynical and rude about the romance genre. Maybe you need to get out and find the spice of love in your life before it’s too late.

    My moment of cognitive resonance was created by one of my own books. I wrote a story where an elderly character suffered a Transient ischaemic Attack. I described the symptoms and the response of the paramedics, as well as the reaction of another character who had to watch his friend carted off to hospital.

    A few months later, that ‘elderly character’ was my not so elderly husband, and I was the frantic onlooker. Everything else was pretty much identical to how I’d described it in my story. At least my research taught me that this was not something to dismiss lightly, and I called the emergency services immediately. Spouse is fine now, and the stress a distant memory, but I’d be grateful if none of my other horrible scenarios turned out so predictively! (Though the author in me was busily making notes in the back end of my brain because I knew the experience would be useful fodder :) )

  30. 30
    susan says:

    I just read Zoe Sharp’s Fourth Day (new book in the Charlie Fox thriller series, which involves a romance between lead characters). I am not going to spoil anything but the ending has parallels to an event that has been in the news in the US over the last few months. Clearly the book was written before this event . . .

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