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I’ve been trying to add some variety to my reading list lately, and it occurred to me that I had never read a romance novel. I asked my wife to recommend one, and she gave me The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn. One of the blurbs actually says, “If you’ve never read romance novels, start here.”
The characters are all British, and it takes place in New York during the Revolutionary War. Our leading lady has come to NY to look for her brother, an officer who was wounded and has gone missing. Instead, she finds his best friend, also a wounded officer, who is unconscious in a makeshift military hospital. In order to be allowed to stay with him, she lies and says that she is his wife, hence the book’s title. Of course, he eventually wakes up, and she has to decide whether to continue her deception or to risk everything by coming clean. Complications ensue.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that she is young, beautiful, and innocent; smart, brave, and determined; stronger than she knows yet moved by powerful emotions of joy and heartbreak. Her pretend husband is a little older, more knowledgeable in the ways of the world (and of the opposite sex), strong and disciplined, but also kind and playful at times. I hope I’m not giving too much away when I say that circumstances bring them together, then pull them apart, and then, when all seems lost, bring them together again at the end.
Now, I’ve watched lots of Hallmark movies with the wife, so this was not unfamiliar narrative territory. It was interesting to see it play out in this longer format, although at times it seemed to move rather slowly. It had a little more bosom-heaving than Hallmark, but not much. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of these.
I was looking to see if it had a theme described many years ago by Warren Farrell in his book Why Men Are the Way They Are. He wrote that porn for men meets an obvious desire – sexual access to lots of women – but what do romance novels (the closest thing to porn for women) supply their readers? He read a lot of them and concluded that the one consistent theme was that while the female characters were always capable, it was their connection to men that gave them access to opportunities and experiences they couldn’t have had otherwise. He called this being “Flashdanced” after the movie where a great dancer gets into a school she wants, against the odds, because a man is pulling some strings behind the scenes.
I think that applies to this book to some extent, where the main character plays on her connection to the wounded officer to get a place to stay, the benefits of being an officer’s wife, and help in looking for her brother, etc. I’m not sure it quite lines up as well as Flashdance.
In any case, on to other things. Now reading Troy Senik’s book on Grover Cleveland, which is very good. There aren’t many books about a guy who only served as Buffalo’s mayor for one year.Published in