I've had some lovely feedback on The Refusal from men. And I guess it surprised me, it shouldn't have done, but sometimes it's difficult to see past our own biases, not to mention all my lovely female readers! But I love having my preconceived notions of who might read my book challenged.
"Terrific start for a new author. Intriguing romance woven into a solid story; both worth the read. A very good debut novel from a talented author. I’d call this an explicit romance or an erotic romance because there’s an interesting and compelling story in the background."
When I got this lovely review from Andrew, I became curious about men reading romance, so I typed "men reading romance books" into Quora, one of my favorite sites for answering questions on the internet. The question, 'Do men ever enjoy reading romance novels?' popped up, and here's what Werner had to say:
"I love it. My wife knows when she hears me cleaning my nose that I am reading Nora Roberts again. I just love most of her books. She is such a fabulous writer. Everything works in her novels even though they are utterly predictable. She hit a winning formula right at the beginning and never deviated from it. Another hundred of her books to go!"
Werner sounds like a delight! And the other delightful thing about Quora is that professionals also answer these questions. Here's some insight from Pamela, who works at Harlequinn Mills and Boon:
"My NASCAR romance novels had a huge male fan base. Nothing tickled me more than getting fan mail from men who were surprised by how much they enjoyed a "romance novel."
I also loved the following answer (although it was written by a woman!) because I'm a bit of a fan of military romance myself.
"They just have a different idea of romance. It usually involves fast cars, gunfire and espionage."
Get me that book!
And then there was Kara's story about her amazing Navy boyfriend:
My boyfriend of long-standing (10+ years) reads romance novels. And online romance fan-fic, too.
There’s a funny story behind it, that he tells. You see, he was in the Navy, and they’d put out to sea and be out there for weeks or months at a time.
This wasn’t quite before the internet but it was definitely before you could read a book on your phone (it was pretty much before you could carry a phone in your pocket). And well before e-readers and the ability to stuff hundreds or thousands of electronic books onto a teeny little SD card and carry it with you.
My boyfriend has always been a fast, and avid, reader. But you didn’t get to carry hundreds of your own books with you, on a Navy ship. You might have room for a few. Maybe.
The reading material on Navy ships was provided by USO donations. My BF describes it this way. “Imagine there are two bookshelves. One shelf of the first bookshelf is the good stuff - science fiction, fantasy, adventure novels. I’d usually gone through those in the first couple weeks out. Another quarter of the first bookshelf is the kind of self-help books that tell you to meditate and reach out to your inner child. Yech. The rest of the books are romance. After a month or so with nothing new to read, even those start to look appealing. And you kind of develop a habit.”
Now, that’s how he tells it. But the truth is, my BF is much more romantic than I am ... And you know what? Despite the fact that there are absolutely things he does that I bitch about, he’s one of the more self-aware guys I’ve ever met, and when he’s the one who’s in the wrong, he apologizes, usually before I’ve even calmed down enough to try to talk to him about it again.
And I don’t know whether that’s a result of reading romance novels and developing more empathy for the other partner in a relationship, or whether he enjoys the romance novels because he’s empathetic enough to get into the feelings on both sides of the relationship. But seriously?
I’ll take it. :-)
Quora has also been an invaluable aid for medical questions for Book 2, where the main female protagonist, Kate, is training to be a doctor, and I wanted to get the scenes right. Medicine is insanely complicated - who knew?
I love the fact that men are embracing all sorts of interests and sides to their personalities that at one time would have been viewed as unacceptable. I want to reflect these men in my books - different men, interesting men, men women would actually want to marry.
I feel like I owe a big thank you to Andrew for inspiring an hour of delightful reading about men's enjoyment of romance. But let's finish with one last comment from David. David, I love how you are challenging the stereotypes:
"While I am not a grown-up man yet, I am a heterosexual male, and I LOVE romance. It is not unnatural for a completely straight guy to enjoy the more ”feminine” things. I enjoy interior design and customization. I enjoy romance novels."
Does your significant other like romance books? I hope they do! I can't imagine any better, shared experience than a great romance book! I've even managed to persuade my husband to read some of mine.
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Until next time,
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