Maggie Robinson

May 30
Great Expectations, the Contest

Several weeks ago, Irisheyes made a comment that got me thinking. Are romance novels good for real romance? Are we all looking for that tall, dark and handsome duke/firefighter with a blazingly bright smile and tight buns…and instead find a shortish nerd with beer breath and belly flab? Can our husbands/lovers perform on par with Duke St. Flame and get it right every time all night? Do we get disappointed if they can’t?

Lots of women say reading romance has helped their sex lives, whether they’re involved in a joint or solo venture. What do you think? And how many books a week do you read trying to find out? Comment by midnight Saturday, June 2 and you may win a copy of Julie Garwood’s Slow Burn and other hot stuff. I’ll post the randomly-selected winner and a new blog Sunday, June 3.

38 comments to “Great Expectations, the Contest”

  1. anne
     · May 30th, 2007 at 7:43 am · Link

    Romance novels, with their promise of the HEA, have always been a form of entertainment for me. In reality, I have no time or interest in the handsome-hero type. I prefer the real-hero type, the one with intelligence, quiet integrity, confidence, a sense of humor and, perhaps greatest of all, compassion.

    Happily, the real-hero type exists. I know, I married one, and as I write this, he is on his way to war. Of course I’m sad and afraid. But the sadness is tempered by knowing that he believes in the mission, and I believe in and adore his courage and assurance about his purpose in life. There is unbelievable beauty in strength and conviction, so a real man need not look like a romance hero to have the soul of one.

  2. Azalea
     · May 30th, 2007 at 8:00 am · Link

    Hey! When did my Tim do a poster? ;D J/K!

    It may have upped the ante a teensy eensy bit when it comes to what he should look like, but it’s a book, not a movie, and there’s a level of fantasy involved when you read a romance novel where you can picture yourself and whomever you wish in those scrumptious positions–er–pages ;D

    I’d say that romance has helped my confidence, and my open-mindedness to explore “new things” in the bedroom, so yes, it has helped my bedroom life. Now if only I could get Tim to read a few of those passages and do a little LARPing…

  3. Azalea
     · May 30th, 2007 at 8:05 am · Link

    Anne. you are so right! and I’m so proud of your statement! There are many real-life heroes out there, especially our amazingly brave and awesome soldiers! best wishes and prayers for your hubby!

    there’s also the understanding that we all have different ideas of what makes up our own personal hero. someone out there may think it’s heroic to take over a commissioned sale of a particularly demonic customer and still share the commission… not anywhere near the level of a soldier’s sacrifice, but heroic just the same.

  4. anne
     · May 30th, 2007 at 8:16 am · Link

    Azalea,thank you so much for your kind words.

    And if your Tim looks anything like that poster…[puts eyes back in head, fans self with hand] God bless you–and Tim! 😉

  5. Maggie Robinson
     · May 30th, 2007 at 8:36 am · Link

    Anne, your husband is lucky to have you and your touching words of love. Actually, I imagine you’re lucky to have each other. God bless and keep you both safe.

    Aza, you can’t go wrong with a hot fireman. Glad I could wake you up this morning!

  6. irisheyes
     · May 30th, 2007 at 11:36 am · Link

    I’m with Anne. I’ll take the real life hero as opposed to fictional heroes any day. I also know they exist because I married one, too. The trick is being smart enough to recognize him when he comes into your life. I almost didn’t! I was looking at superficial stuff – the way he dressed, the music he listened to, his kindness and gentleness (which, I’m ashamed to admit, I thought of as weaknesses when I was young and foolish!). I’ve known my DH now for over 20 years and I actually love him more today than I did on the day we got married.

    I discovered romance novels about 6-7 years ago and they have done nothing but enhance my relationship with my DH. My sex life is a lot better! Mostly, I think because those books kind of gave me permission to explore a different side of myself I didn’t know existed, or was afraid to let loose. They also opened areas of discussion between me and the DH that might not have been opened otherwise. They made sex and passion such a positive thing, whereas growing up Irish Catholic it was anything but!

    I pretty much think if you’ve got a healthy relationship it adds to it and if you have an unhealthy or unhappy relationship it probably hinders it, but no more or less, in my opinion, than TV, movies and/or the whole entertainment industry.

    Another thing I think that is really great about romances is that the hero and heroine are not standard. There is no formula – blonde rich man only falls in love with blonde 95 pound female. The heroes and heroines come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds. They range from princes to construction workers, even rat catchers. They’re not always from the right side of the tracks or have the perfect breeding. But the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they love each other exclusively and unconditionally and most HEAs end in marriage. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing to aspire to.

  7. Janga
     · May 30th, 2007 at 11:39 am · Link

    Anne, what a lovely tribute to your husband and your marriage. My prayers will be with both of you.

    I think romance readers understand the difference between fantasy and reality. And I think the evidence suggests that a rich fantasy life improves real life romantic relationships. A study that appeared in Psychology Today found that women who read romance novels make love with their partners 74% more often than women who don’t. One argument is that women are turned on by the emotional satisfaction they experience in reading romance just as men are turned on by visual stimili.

    And no one seems concerned that women are going to be too influenced by the behavior of most women in the literary classics. I love Jennifer Crusie’s statement about her experience with romance fiction: “For the first time I was reading fiction about women who had sex and then didn’t eat arsenic or throw themselves under trains or swim out to the embrace of the sea.”

  8. irisheyes
     · May 30th, 2007 at 11:41 am · Link

    Anne – you and your DH are in my prayers.

    Azalea – I’d put you in my prayers too, but if your Tim looks anything like that fireman Maggie was so generous in sharing with us it looks like your prayers have already been answered!:)

  9. irisheyes
     · May 30th, 2007 at 11:50 am · Link

    Janga said: I love Jennifer Crusie’s statement about her experience with romance fiction: “For the first time I was reading fiction about women who had sex and then didn’t eat arsenic or throw themselves under trains or swim out to the embrace of the sea.”

    Janga, that is so hysterical and so true!!

  10. terrio
     · May 30th, 2007 at 3:04 pm · Link

    OH. MY. GAWD!!! Can I win that? Seriously. I’ve got savings. I’ll pay you. *wipes drool from keyboard*

    Well, I don’t know that it ruins us but I do think it might make us a bit more disappointed in the reality. I have had (BEWARE TMI APPROACHING) sex the way it is written in some romances but I’ve had alot more that was waaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark. The bottom line is – some women are lucky and some women aren’t. But I’d like to think that all the stuff in the books is written from real life inspiration so we know it CAN be that good. Even if it isn’t alot of the time.

    Now, seriously, can I have him?

  11. terrio
     · May 30th, 2007 at 3:21 pm · Link

    Now I go back and read the responses.

    Note to self: do not type posts under influence of hormones!

    Anne – Thank you, thank you, thank you to both your DH and to you. You are both in my prayers. And you are both heros in my book. *g*

    Aza – hate you.

    Janga – I’d have said that but I didn’t want to show you up.

    Irish – you are so cute. I’m with you on that Catholic upbringing thing. There is no telling how much *more* repressed I would be if I hadn’t found the books.

  12. island girl
     · May 30th, 2007 at 4:32 pm · Link

    I love that statement by Crusie.

    Romance novels have been great for my youth as well as my adult single and married life. There is a different expectation of the pursuit of romance and the romance that comes after marriage. In fact, I’ve read very few (or close to nil) romance novels where it features the hot couple who’s been married for ten years, raising 5 children.

    Most Romance novels are usually at the beginning of the relationship. Where the pursuit is swift, hot and addictive.

    My expectations of real life comes from real life. Novels, are great in capturing a feeling, or a story line with characters that remind me a little of my life. It’s like getting an invitation to watch someone else fall in love. And well, I’m all about seeing everyone (non-fictional and ictional) find their HEA!.

  13. Ericka Scott
     · May 30th, 2007 at 10:40 pm · Link

    I adore Cruisie’s outlook on sex. . .

    Anne, you and your dh are in my prayers.

    Azalea — you lucky, lucky woman you!

    Me. . . I know there is such a thing as a HEA. And it doesn’t matter what size, shape, or color your mate comes in. . . that’s one of the good things about romance novels compared to movies. In movies, the women are almost always blond, 20 something, with big boobs on a size 2 body. . .

  14. midwestgal
     · May 31st, 2007 at 12:22 am · Link

    Ditto to everything that’s been said. Love that Crusie comment too. I think romance reading adds to the reality of finding and sustaining love in RL. Sure, for the most part it’s fantasy and an escape but one still leaves with a kind of validation that being loved completely is an actual thing & possible for anyone. That’s why I like to read romance – it’s an optimistic experience AND yes . . . you better believe it’s helped with my marriage.

  15. India Carolina
     · May 31st, 2007 at 3:50 am · Link

    I’d say your husband is the real deal. Not a wanna be hero, a genuine hero.

    Maggie, I’m lovin that eye candy! But seriously, whether in fiction or reality a hot bod alone is not enough to inspire, and while I do drool over the bad boys, it’s their heart of gold that makes me fall in love.

    Romance novels are meant to entertain, but the best ones also inspire us to make our own hero’s journey. To challenge ourselves to confront our fears, embrace ourselves for who we are and then grow from there. They don’t just improve your sex life. They improve life period.

    And back to Anne’s point for a moment. It’s not that I want “real” men to live up to book heroes, it’s more like I’m looking for book heroes who live up to the best a real man can be.

  16. Maggie Robinson
     · May 31st, 2007 at 6:39 am · Link

    Welcome, midwestgal (who I think is a first-time visitor)! And thanks for stopping by Island Girl, Terrio, Janga, IrishEyes,Ericka and India.I love your continuing thoughtful comments.

    If I can distill what I think you all have said so far, romance novels are a supplement and not a substitute for the real thing. And the real thing doesn’t have to be perfect, altho it seems for some of you lucky ladies it comes close! Your names are being placed in the virtual hat for Sunday’s drawing.

  17. anne
     · May 31st, 2007 at 7:53 am · Link

    Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, ladies! This is the DH’s second go ’round over there, so you’d better believe that my emotional and spiritual seatbelts are fastened tight!

    The Crusie statement that janga contributed gave me a good laugh. It’s so true–and also one of the reasons why I always tend to blow off Bovary and Karenina, LOL.

    On a more serious note, I think India made a wonderful point about “book heroes who live up to the best a real man can be.” That’s the kind of hero all writers should strive to create. The HEA is so much more meaningful when the H/H are more like real people, not genre stereotypes.

  18. beverley
     · May 31st, 2007 at 2:18 pm · Link

    Hmmm, I think it depends on what age you start reading them at. I think if you’re too young and don’t really comprehend the difference between the fantasy man and reality, you set yourself up for certain failure. It’s like guys who spend their entire life looking at air-brushed women in Playboy and then expect that’s what they will get in real life. Sets up some unrealistic expectations and could prevent you from finding real love.

  19. MsHellion
     · May 31st, 2007 at 3:36 pm · Link

    Sometimes I think I’ve ruined myself for all real men with my choice of books. But sometimes I think they’ve taught me to aim higher (after all, if the adage of: “She married up; all women do” is true, then I think I can do better than beer-gut-sitting-on-my-couch-and-being-useless.)

    AND…it’s not just the heroes that men have to live up to…the heroines in these books aren’t sitting on their couches, eating chips all the time, waiting for Mr. Right to knock on their doors, selling the Encyclopedia Brittanica. These women are strong; they have a sense of self and identity–and they have their own things to do that are interesting. They are *interesting* (as well as beautiful)–and the former is going to win out in the long haul.

    No, men don’t have to fear much they can’t live up to Duke St. Flame–because most of us reading these books aren’t as wild as these heroines. Most of us are happily eating potato chips while we read our books…

  20. TiffinaC
     · May 31st, 2007 at 6:53 pm · Link

    Holy Mother of GOD…look at that package…brb to comment more must stare…

  21. TiffinaC
     · May 31st, 2007 at 7:01 pm · Link

    Anne…those words are sweet and true… A real life hero over the sex god…but hey, I wouldn’t complain if I could have both *g*

    I don’t want to wax sentiment here, but I think perhaps romance has made me want a little more tenderness in matters between the sheets… I’m a player (coughs) sorry, was a player so to have someone you love and share intimate moments with and to read in your books makes you want it a little more…I could be wrong though.

    And maggie you are talking to a girl that by the age of sixteen had read marquis de sade’s justine. And a huge poppy z. brite fan at around that age too…there is no holding back in her books.. so romances didn’t teach me any new tricks once I got into them. I was a well versed gal….

    And like bev said…it depends what age you get into romances or if you stick with them maybe you grow, well of course you grow and change your outlook a little on life…

  22. Manda
     · May 31st, 2007 at 10:07 pm · Link

    OMG, Maggie, that is some fireman!

    To answer the question, I’m single and haven’t dated anyone in a while, but I don’t think I’ve ruined myself for real men with romance heroes. I think my single state has more to do with dating a jerk early on and then getting into a pattern of hopeless crushes on guys who were the polar opposite of jerk b/c I didn’t want to risk my heart again. Which is such a cliche, but there’s a reason for them.

    But, I can say that romance reading has made me much more aware of what I’m looking for in a relationship and I’m not willing to settle. If I haven’t met Mr. Right yet, it’s because I’m comfortable in my own skin and don’t really feel driven to find someone. Getting married and finding HEA would be wonderful, but I can be happy whether I find someone or not. But it’s not like guys are asking me out every day and I’m turning them down because of some ideal.

    But, I have to say, some guy out there is missing out cause I’ve learned all sorts of tricks from romance reading;)

  23. Maggie Robinson
     · May 31st, 2007 at 10:23 pm · Link

    Beverley, interesting point about age. Kind of like watching TV sitcoms and movies as a kid and expecting our own families to be like what we see. Bound to be disappointing. Father Knows Best, anyone? Kitten, Bud and Princess.God bless Nick at Nite.

    Hellion, I’m eating the honey barbecue chips and I’m not sharing.

    Tiff…the tenderness factor. Often missing, always welcome.

    Manda, I think you’re absolutely right–you’ve got to love yourself before you can really love someone else.

  24. santasmbslt
     · May 31st, 2007 at 11:59 pm · Link

    My real life heroes share the same characteristics that romance heroes do. They are trustworthy, strong, intelligent (really), proud, firm in their convictions and honorable men all.

    Do they have rock hard abs I could spend a week on? Not in a while. Do they have eyes that defy definition? Well, yes, actually. Do they have a butt you could bounce a quarter off? A long time ago but hell so did I! Do they take your breath away? Always.

  25. Lindsey
     · June 1st, 2007 at 12:20 am · Link

    Wow, this is such a great discussion!

    For me, part of the appeal of romance is knowing that it is fantasy. Tortured heroes are all fun & sexy in fiction, but I’m not really sure I want to put up with all that angst in my day-to-day life!

  26. Tessa Dare
     · June 1st, 2007 at 12:52 am · Link

    I love everyone’s comments so far. In my case (and sorry if this gets too shmaltzy), I really feel it’s the other way around. My real-life romance is what lets me enjoy fictional HEAs. I really do believe people can fall in love quickly, fiercely – because it happened to me!

    Mr. Dare is nothing but pleased with my reading and writing romance. On my side, I do feel like writing it works against me occasionally, because I now have a lot of trouble shutting off my writer’s brain during romantic and/or intimate moments. I find myself thinking, “how would I describe this?” or “can I get my h/h into this position?”, LOL.

  27. Di R
     · June 1st, 2007 at 10:02 am · Link

    I think if you are looking for a real life hero in a novel, he’ll always fall flat.

    If you look for a real man with the characteristics of a romance hero-compassion, kindness, loyalty, honor, respect, …-then you’re on the right page.

  28. irisheyes
     · June 1st, 2007 at 11:30 am · Link

    I’ve been thinking about what Terri said about the whole S.E.X thing when it comes to romance novels. That may be an area where I think women can set themselves up for disappointment. I love the storylines of love at first sight and kismet and fate and all, but when it comes to the actual act of making love (especially for the first time), sometimes it isn’t all roses and moonbeams!

    Like Di R said – I don’t think you are deluding yourself if you look for a man who has the characteristics of a romance hero. That’s doable, in my opinion. But looking to romances for accuracy where sex is concerned may be a little off the mark. One of my favorite stories of a heroine having sex for the first time was Josie in Eloisa’s PFP. It hurt, she was uncomfortable, she was questioning Mayne’s expertise in this area. It was not only hilarious but more realistic than I’ve seen in a while.

    My favorite stories are the ones where the heroine was in a bad relationship and having bad sex. Then she meets the hero and because he loves her and puts her first, she starts having good sex and now knows the difference!

  29. Sue A.
     · June 1st, 2007 at 4:57 pm · Link

    The biggest sex organ is the brain. And reading erotic romance is the best way to exercise it.

  30. Maggie Robinson
     · June 1st, 2007 at 5:20 pm · Link

    Santa, those rock hard abs kind of scare me anyway.

    Tessa,now I’m crushing on Mr. Dare.

    Welcome di r and sue a.! I couldn’t agree with both of you more….altho I think my brain has shrunk some.

    And irisheyes (never sure what to capitalize), see what you started? This had been a great discussion, just like Lindsey said. I’m with you. Forget the brooding guys…life’s too short.

  31. BernardL
     · June 1st, 2007 at 10:22 pm · Link

    Our sex lives, man or woman, married or not, depend on shared love, experiences, and enjoying the pleasure we evoke in each other. Imaginative fiction would help I’m sure. After decades together, memories serve as the main fuel of attraction though. The ease in which all the parts fit together so comfortably, can drive a continuing desire, which knows no age or limit. Familiarity heightens, rather than diminishes the act of making love, for two people in love. Good fiction is just that, good fiction. It can’t hurt. 🙂

  32. lacey kaye
     · June 2nd, 2007 at 12:41 am · Link

    OMG, funny post. I have a Mr. Nerd but he happens to be very sexy, too. Lucky me! I get it all 🙂

  33. RevMelinda
     · June 2nd, 2007 at 2:09 pm · Link

    Things I Learned From Romance Novels. . .Confessions of RevMelinda

    1. There is a thing called Sex that people enjoy. (ok, nobody in my famiy EVER had “The Talk” with me. . .had to learn everything myself. . . what was my mother thinking?. . .well, she wasn’t thinking, that was the whole problem)

    2. How Sex Works (Tab A, Slot B, foreplay, oral sex, positions, etc)

    3. What an erection is.

    4. There is such a thing as a hymen and losing your virginity can sometimes hurt.

    5. Sex without love ain’t so great.

    6. Orgasms exist.

    7. Men like women’s bodies Just The Way They Are (softness, curvy bellies, boobs, hips and thighs are all Desirable).

    8. Men think women are attractive First Thing in the Morning Even Without Brushing Your Teeth or Shaving Your Legs.

    9. A good man is worth waiting for, and I am worthwhile enough to Wait for Him.

    10. Loving relationships are possible and can last forever (my parents’ marriage to the contrary–Maggie, your Brady bunch example was right on, those “perfect” TV families were like a Lifeline of Hope to me growing up).

    Romance novels have Definitely Improved My Life.

  34. RevMelinda
     · June 2nd, 2007 at 2:13 pm · Link

    Maggie, you said “Father Knows Best” and my brain translated that to “The Brady Bunch.” Weird but that’s where that came from.

  35. Maggie Robinson
     · June 2nd, 2007 at 9:07 pm · Link

    Bernard, you’re becoming a regular! I love it.

    Lucky Lacey indeed.

    Revmelinda,your confessions are hilarious, especially #8. But I bet even if you’d lived in the Sark Ages with no books, you would have figured them all out eventually!

  36. Maggie Robinson
     · June 2nd, 2007 at 9:08 pm · Link

    That would be Dark Ages…and I haven’t even been into the Cutty Sark.

  37. anne
     · June 3rd, 2007 at 10:54 am · Link

    Alas, maggie, you may never again have the chance to see the Cutty Sark, let alone walk her decks. She was all but destroyed in a fire late last month (a week or two ago, if I recall correctly)!

    (And again, kudos for MsHellion, the cheeky wench! 😉 )

  38. anne
     · June 3rd, 2007 at 10:58 am · Link

    Oh! and more about Maggie’s Sark Ages comment: You weren’t that far off, actually. We are, after all, living in the SNARK Ages, are we not? 😉