Keeping It Real

becauseI hadn’t realized until this week what a liar I was about romance books.  If anyone asked what kind of romances I like best, I would have said those that transport me away to somewhere I haven’t been in either time or place.

Then I read three books in a row that convinced me I was lying to myself.

  • Because of You by Jessica Scott looks at love in the setting of today’s military between a wounded sergeant and a nurse. In many ways it reminds me of Cheryl Reavis’ The Older Woman, another in my personal AAR Top 100 list, except with buddies for the nurse and soldier instead of a grandmotherly landlady as charming peripheral characters.  Like The Older Woman, Because of You explores war wounds and breast cancer, two of today’s hot spots, and like the other book isn’t an easy read. It reminded me all too vividly of visits I made to my cousin Jerry in a VA hospital after he returned from the Vietnam War as a paraplegic. Instead of taking me away from reality, it brought all the memories and feelings back to me.
  • Scandals by Sasha Campbell tells the gritty story of two African American women who are pushed into stripping for a living. One had been in college when her love for a man who wanted her barefoot and pregnant caused her to choose poorly and drop out of school. The other, through a faulty foster system, was given no direction and dumped on the streets too young to make even marginally beneficial decisions  I taught in a junior college for over two decades and saw the women Campbell depicts over and over again. While some I helped, many I didn’t. Again, this book brought me back to reality and often during the book, I could put a real face to the purportedly fictional story Campbell was telling.
  • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire also brought me back to college, but this time closer to my own college experience with the dating, drinking, and smoking that was prevalent at the time. Again, I could put real faces and names to the characters in the book and suffered along with them.

All three of these books immediately went on my personal DIK list for the impact they made on me and will show up in my next AAR Top 100 list. But none of them correspond with the lie that I most enjoy books that take me out of my time and place. Each is a contemporary and each has a personal connection to me.

So I went back to my Top 100 list. Fortunately, eight of the top ten fit my lie, but so many of the rest don’t that I’ve decided to change my story. Now when I’m asked, I can honestly say that I have favorites in all subgenres and that I’m pretty much open to any romance.

What about you? When someone asks what kind of romances you like best, what do you say? Looking at your personal Top 100 list, do your favorite books reflect what you’re saying? Or like me, do you have to revise your answer?

- Pat Henshaw

10 thoughts on “Keeping It Real

  1. Pat said:All three of these books immediately went on my personal DIK list for the impact they made on me

    That is what I look for in a DIK. Some of them impact me through their originality, others through emotional response but I have a strong response to the book and that is what makes it a DIK.

    I don’t have a favorite kind of romance (although I have certain unfavorites such as small town love stories, avon historicals). I just want a good story well told. I think many of our detractors believe that the romance genre doesn’t have such books. I completely disagree.

  2. Yes, I like books that make me laugh and my favorites reflect that. While I am impressed with books that challenge my beliefs or have the ability to transport me back in time it is uncomfortable – making me feel like my skin doesn’t fit my body. While I believe that I need to read these type of books every once in a while my core diet is humorous books and those are the books I read over and over.

  3. Sometimes books are too good at convincing the reader of the “real” emotions. I could never accept an HEA in a book like Beautiful Disaster. There is nothing beautiful about abuse. I like believable emotions, but when an author convinces me a character is beyond redemption, and then tries to turn the character around in a few pages, I want to throw the book at the wall. If you want realism for most of the book, you have to endure the realism for the ending, and HEA’s rarely if ever happen in abusive relationships. I avboid books with “realistic” portrayals of abuse, unless the abusee gets justice in the end.

    I do enjoy realism in other areas, such as PTSD and other emotional issues where healing and turn-around is more believable. For the most part, though, I have enough drama in my life and I read for escape. Books can be emotional, but they need to leave me feeling content, not emotionally wiped out.

  4. This is probably my third attempt to make a comment here. My first response is that I want to read the deep emotional epic where I laugh and cry and feel like I’ve been through an experience, for example, Kinsale’s The Flowers from the Storm or Gabaldon’s Outlander. Then I erased that and thought of the wonderful and funny stories like Phillips’s Match Me If You Can and how good and light I feel after I’ve finished this type of story. Funny and reflective all at once. Then I erased that and thought of McNaught’s Kingdom of Dreams and the enchanting medieval period. I erased that and …

    Before this morning I would have said that the historical romance without a doubt. But faced with my inability to make a decisive response, I must conclude that the time period fades to shadow and the answer must be memorable characters that have staying power and original and inventive stories; not categories, places, and times.

    Thanks for posing the question.

    • JFTEE-Auburn: Before this morning I would have said that the historical romance without a doubt. But faced with my inability to make a decisive response, I must conclude that the time period fades to shadow and the answer must be memorable characters that have staying power and original and inventive stories; not categories, places, and times.

      My thoughts exactly!

  5. I’m far more likely to think “C’mon, get real,” when reading a contemporary romance; the fantasy elements simply don’t work as well. I’m less likely to get that reaction when reading a historical, which is why I prefer them regardless.

  6. I like to sink into a contemporary that seems realistic. Not always, mind you..but I need it from time to time. They are hard to find in the romance genre. So many contemporaries seem ridiculous, and not that historicals don’t but I am less liking to wonder where the author thought up some of the scenarios. I agree with Dick in that I prefer historicals…mostly, at least in the romance genre.
    Beautiful Disaster…my 23yr. old daughter loved that book. She likes them gritty. I’m anxious to read it myself.

  7. I don’t see a huge difference between a story which transports you to another setting which you have never been to and a story which transports you to a setting which you have been to. Setting is important to me regardless of the level of “realism.” A meticulous historical, a thoroughly-plotted fantasy, and a detailed contemporary all please me for the same reason: they take me somewhere besides the sofa.

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