Saturday, October 8, 2011
Real Men Read Romance
First things first: My Jeopardy contest isn’t over yet, so if you think you know Halifax history – or like looking up arcane facts on Google – skip down to the next post and play along!
Now on to today’s thoughts.
Over the past few days, a couple of male readers (who are also authors) have told me how much they enjoyed Shattered. This is really gratifying, as I always assumed the story would appeal mostly to a female audience. These gentlemen have got me thinking: How many real men read romance? And how many will admit it?
Here’s a hypothetical plot line for you: Loner hero with a dark past comes across an attractive young damsel in distress. He wants nothing to do with her but his protective instincts won’t let him be, so he helps the lady out. They have all kinds of adventures, and in the process the brooding hero decides being in love is more fun than brooding. The bad guys are dealt with and the happy or learning-to-be-happy couple ride off into the sunset together.
Sounds like a romantic suspense? Of course. It also sounds like a good old-fashioned Western, the kind I grew up reading, written by and for men.
I read these books as a teenager for one reason: I found them incredibly romantic. The heroes loved their women with a passion, even though the passion wasn’t explicit: Louis L’Amour once said he avoided writing sex scenes because when he read them in other authors’ books, they always seemed like an ordeal or an athletic competition, and Zane Grey was restricted by the publishing strictures of his time, though both wrote scenes that were passionate to a point. The heroes also treated their women with respect, something else that I appreciated, then and now. Cross the line between alpha and ass, and I’m putting the book down.
The difference between men’s romances and women’s romances is, of course, point of view. Which makes me wonder – why aren’t there more female and male authors teaming up to write love stories, with the man writing the hero’s point of view and the woman writing the heroine’s, so that the two are balanced and as authentic as possible? Would those books sell like hotcakes, or would it be a case of pleasing no one by trying to please everyone?
I haven’t analysed my own books to see what proportion of each story is told from the hero or heroine’s point of view, but I know McShannon’s Chance and Shattered are both weighted in favour of the hero. This wasn’t intentional on my part. The male characters just came to me first, leaving me with the job of finding them suitable mates. The fact that men find Shattered appealing makes me think I did a reasonable job of getting inside Liam’s head and writing from his point of view. So, Dan Strawn and Desmond Haas, thank you for the kind words!