On romance

What do you want in your chicklit?

My needs are simple. I want to not think the heroine is a drip.

I want her to have a life and a brain. I want her to have friends that I’d hang out with. I want to fancy the dude. I want to find their conversations compelling and surprising and real.

I want to not want to miss a single word because the whole thing is crafted so delightfully.

I want, oh my GOD I want to laugh. And of course, I want an emotionally satisfying, optimistic happy ending. (With most chicklit – mine included – you can usually guess she’ll end up happy in some form or other. I don’t mind knowing the destination as long as I enjoy the journey.)

What I don’t particularly want is romance.

You see, I forgot my book on the way home to London from Cork last night, so I had to pick one up at the airport. I wanted a chicklit book, but there wasn’t much choice, and I’d read quite a few of the good ‘uns, and finding one that I thought would do all that… God, it was a nightmare.

I spent what felt like hours picking up book after book with covers jammed with flowers/hearts/stars/shoes/jaunty foot kicks/script font/cartoons (I try to look past the covers now, for reasons that are a whole other blog post and probable shitstorm), and turning it over to read the blurb. Every single one boasted about romance. And that’s just not what I’m after.

Perhaps I’m callous. Maybe I’m the only one who wants a little bite with her chicklit, who doesn’t want something overtly sentimental. I’m not a particularly romantic person. I don’t like long walks on the beach, slow dancing or the opera. I didn’t love The Notebook*. I will never watch Marley And Me. I don’t like Audrey Hepburn films, especially Breakfast At Tiffanys, or teddy bears holding hearts or surprise picnics with chilled white wine at dusk on Hampstead Heath. That sort of romance is just too contrived for me. It’s predictable, and a bit annoying. Surprise me with a romantic picnic and about three minutes later I’ll be bored, dying for a wee and the grass will be making my legs itchy. I’d much rather go to that bar around the corner and have a real drink.

Romance is boring.

But love is awesome.

And I do want to read books about love. I LOVE love. Real love. Falling in love, and love at first sight, and second-chance love. And I crave books about that giddy, exhilarated, almost unbearable full-of-joy feeling that you get when you realise that the person you know and love more than anyone else in the world knows and loves you even more.

Why is that so hard to find?

The morning after our wedding last month we lay in bed, ate smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and gossiped about the night before whilst half-watching A Fish Called Wanda. (Kevin Kline! So awesome.) It was brilliant and funny and silly and intimate and deeply satisfying. Everything I think love should be. But was it romantic? Fuck, no.

In the end I bought Jane Fallon’s Foursome, by the way. The blurb said nothing about romance and someone on Twitter said it was funny.

*I did, however, cry at The Notebook, but not at the romance bits. I do cry at quite a lot of things. Brothers and Sisters fucking slays me, every episode, even though I only started watching it when editing The Dating Detox as I thought it wouldn’t distract me. I seem to cry at Glee a surprising amount. And once I cried when I saw a very old man posting a letter. But that is different from romance. Oui?

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6 thoughts on “On romance

  1. Goddess of Blah

    I think you're my tiwn. Its kind of awful of me but I like books with revenge – and “allow” the mushy romance (I've been picking up street slang).

    I love chemistry, sparks and all the fireworks to be found – but not the overly dramatic Rhett Butler sh**iite, or the tragic heroine and obsessive Heathcliff enactments (if I met a contemporary Heathcliff I'd put a restraining order on him and direct him to the nearest psychiatric ward).

    I'm not a girly girl and I don't want a sensitive pushover type of guy constantly buying me flowers and teddy's or a macho man thinking he's Tarzan either. I don't do the rakish players either coz “oh please honey” leopards only change their spots in regency romances…

    btw- I LOVED your book The Dating Detox. Sass was a brilliant herione – I started listening to 99 Problems after that book. I loved the way she dressed, her sense of humour, her friends (Bloomingdale and Mitch are awesome), her wacky parents, and of course Jake (pure hot stuff).

  2. K

    I get what you’re saying about romance. But… you should watch Marley and Me. Look past the mushy bits and there are moments of real, gritty ugly life in it. I recognise this blog post is six years old, but still felt the need to comment because I judged it at first too and actually it’s pretty real.


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