August 6, 2013

The Bridegroom Wore Plaid

If you've ever toyed with the idea of reading a romance novel, I have a great starter book for you: The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, by Grace Burrowes. It's a big, juicy read about a Scottish family in the Victorian era with a title in hand but less in the way of cold, hard cash; a visiting English family with an excess of daughters; and a corrupt patriarch whose perfidy simmers below the surface.

It's a romance novel, so it's not really a family saga; not as character or plot driven as, say, The Thorn Birds or The Forsyte Saga. But it has all the best features of a romance novel—characters you're rooting for, interesting dilemmas, witty dialogue, lots of sex—and almost none of the worst features. The characters are not dumb: the protagonists become aware of the villain's true nature gradually and realistically. The heroine is not overly conflicted: she doesn't dither about her attraction to the hero, who is supposed to be courting elsewhere. The hero doesn't boomerang between hot passion and cold retreat. There are no stupid misunderstandings or overly complicated backstories (just interesting ones). Instead there are just people experiencing each other, learning things about themselves, and dealing with the complications that arise with kindness and care, trying to balance their responsibilities to others with their responsibilities to themselves.

I'm not sure if a guy would like even the best of romance novels. They are ultimately feminine fantasies, and it's hard to see a guy relating to the sex scenes, which are heavily, let's say, gynocentric. There's lots of worshipping of the beautiful male body, but even more male adoration of the female body—all of which has a basis in reality but might be straining credulity in its intensity. It would be interesting to know. It's possible that guys might be able to relate more to the kind of contemporary erotica of Cara McKenna's Willing Victim or After Hours, whose erotic heroes tend to be construction workers and medical assistants rather than lairds and barons.

Normally I'd include an image of the cover of a book I'm recommending, but the cover of The Bridegroom Wore Plaid is just too cheesy. Maybe someday the graphic design of romance novels will catch up to the increasing sophisticated writing within.

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