Wouldn’t it be great if there were more men who admitted they read romance novels? And wouldn’t it be even better if they reviewed romance in general? If only there were more blogs or review sites where men reviewed romance! Luckily for us, I may just have your answer. Last fall, my friend Ryan I were talking about books. Ryan loves to read as I do and he knows of my love for romance books in general. I told him of All About Romance’s Top 100 Romances of All Time poll. He was really interesting in how this poll came about and which books were considered the best of the best in romance. He was especially interested in the number one book, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. He wanted to read Lord of Scoundrels right the and there. I was practically jumping up and down because to have a man read such a wonderful novel was something I have wanted for such a very long time. I even went one step further and asked Ryan if he would review Lord of Scoundrels, and he said yes!
It took some time for Ryan to read Lord of Scoundrels and write down his thoughts because Ryan was transplanted from
Lord of Scoundrels--as reviewed by Ryan Louis (newcomer to the Romance world, for sure)
Back in college I wrote a speech entitled "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover." In it, I strike down the myth that romance novels are flippant reads. In fact, I argue that their quality of substance rivals that of any other style of fiction. My arguments were three-fold: romance novels are good, healthy forms of escape, they often present provocative arguments to the readers (issues of gender and feminine empowerment, particularly) and third, they should be taught in schools. My premise: kids today would much prefer learning parts of speech from a romance novel than from other, boring examples. So, for instance, teach adjectives as "Her eyes were wide and black and achingly alive”—the underlined words being wonderful examples of descriptive imagery. To learn an imperative statement, one need only turn to this phrase: "If you don't stop that right now, I will have to throw you to the ground and ravish you." It would go on like this until the entire lesson is fraught with anxieties. As kids who've only just discovered their hormonal antipodes, these books would speak to an animal instinct just craving release.
Certainly more, in any case, than your typical example: “Nouns: A boring stick fell from a stupid tree.”
Obviously romance novels are not for everyone...and I certainly wouldn't recommend teaching whole romance novels to children. Much of the literature would fail any appropriateness litmus test. My point in the venture was to start a dialogue about romance novels—in an academic sense. I used one book at length to fix my point: Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance; edited by romance provocateur, Jayne Ann Krentz. The book’s still in print, if you’re interested.
Thus, my interest in romance is largely scholarly. At one point during my college career I read Lisa Kleypas’ stunningly dirty book Suddenly You and that, as they say, was that. I understood that sex could be had in a raspberry field but would be likely never to partake.
Until this year, I hadn’t really considered reading another. After all, being a gay man, there isn’t much directly appealing to me about ‘ladies that doth protest too much.’ When All About Romance held their top 100 romances of all time poll for readers, however, I immediately became enamored with curiosity. This book ranked higher than Austen and Bronte, for cry-eye! Growing up as a lit-lover, I seriously took up arms in defense of the Canon when I read the top entry. But, then again, I have a wild side. I thought to myself “let’s throw caution to the wind and read the damn thing!”
Enter Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels.
As an aside, I’ll need to remind myself to ask katiebabs where certain stock phrases originate. Have “member” and “rod” always been the delightful euphemisms I’ve come to cherish? Is there always a “no no no” before the eventual “yes?”
The story, if retold in simple sentences, is not exactly complex. The novel creates a series of events for the two central characters (Jess and Lord Dain) to change just enough for their love & lust to become complementary rather than oppositional. Not a simple challenge considering they are, in essence, two ends of the same stick (is “stick” another good euphemism for a peter?). The dark, debauching world of Lord Dain counteracts the servile and spinsterly world of Jessica Trent.
Slowly. Surely. We head closer and closer to our inevitable end: marriage, pregnancy. The journey, though, is the appealing part. And, from my research into the world of romance novels, the journey is everything to a loyal romance reader. How will it happen? How will Lord Dain be tamed? How will Jessica understand that her longing is legitimate? How can Jessica quell her feelings of shame? And can Lord Dain, please, feel a little more shame? Please?
The novel takes us through the streets of
Paris, through the countryside of , through the geography of a woman’s anatomy. Seriously, I learned a lot—not because I’m completely clueless as a gay man, but because a woman writing about a woman allows me to attach meanings that I would rarely impart myself to a gender I rarely consider sexually. Chase attaches such vivid metaphors and adjectives to Jessica’s many (did I say “many?” I meant MANY) orgasms. I really did stir—something about complete and uninhibited passion that bridges worlds together. Here hetero met homo in a blitzkrieg of emotional rampage. London
I wonder if the world could be bridged by romance novels. Peace, after all, starts with a little bit of love. Or, in this case, the right finger in the right orifice.
Around the end of the novel, though, I was surprised by the bastard-son subplot. Surprise quickly gave to real awe. The ethics debate hit me hard—especially after having been forced into an inordinate amount of political ethics debates. Loretta Chase took me away from the droll world of contemporary politics by a simple story about doing what is right. It seemed refreshing. It also seemed somehow vindicating.
If you’re adding up positives and negatives for my review, don’t bother. I’m fairly split. But, in the end, I stand by my belief that romance writing and, by extension, romance reading is a vastly important form of expression. I used to work at Borders, I also have a friend whose mother writes romance novels, so I’ve seen my fair share of romance readers justifying their hobby to non-believers—imploring that they understand it’s more than just the sex. Ladies and gentleman, as a former nonbeliever, I’ll add my voice to the debate: sure it’s about the sex. But it’s also about so much more.
There’s a little bit of power when you take both sides.