The other day a woman asked Mary Jo if my football-watching buddies knew I wrote a romance novel.
“Of course,” she answered, “and they think it’s pretty cool.”
Which they do. No surprise there—why would I be friends with guys who think it’s not cool for a guy to write a romance novel?
But do they read romance novels? Not that I can tell. It’s something a guy might not feel comfortable telling another guy, no matter how many Brett Favre interceptions they endured together.
I’m guessing, though, that these guys don’t read romance. One of them is a magazine editor who tweets often about the depths of whatever non-fiction book he’s plumbing. Another is a financial advisor who prefers reading—well, I don’t know what he prefers. He never says.
The statistics reveal my buddies are regular guys. According to Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2011, women buy about two out of every three books sold in the U.S. Narrow that down to romance, and it’s nine out of ten. Even then, no one knows how many of those ten-percenters are just guys buying gifts for their sweethearts and moms.
But should regular guys read romance novels?
Quoting an Iowa lawyer in 2009, the New York Times said, “Given the general dismay and gloominess, reading something like a romance with a happy ending is really kind of a relief.”
That ain’t “guy,” according to Eve, who commented on the Baltimore Sun’s Read Street blog. “Most females I know live in a sort of fantasy world. They use novels to escape their daily lives and live through the characters. Are men more reality centered? Would they rather learn about facts than about fantasy? Or live out their fantasies through video games instead of reading?”
Patrick begged to differ. “Novels are about emotions—not the long suit of most males,” he wrote. “The words ‘let’s talk’ grab a woman’s attention but send a man scurrying in search of a place to hide, unless the talk is about business or sports.”
Stacy said she knew men who were getting into erotic romances. I found no stats on that, but when I was presenting at a writers conference a few weeks ago, it was a guy who asked me to read “one of the racy parts” of Fast Lane.
Hot women and sex: Two reasons for men to read romance.
In a post on L.A. Dale’s blog, though, romance author Nicky Wells supplies other reasons: “Everyone loves a happy ending. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone is looking for that special someone in their life. Why should men not enjoy a romantic novel?”
Furthermore, she says male readers tell her they take kind of a non-fiction approach to the genre, looking for insight into the wiles of womankind. “It makes sense,” Wells says. “Don’t we spell out, at great pains, all the things that annoy the heroine about her boyfriend/lover/fiancé/husband/ex?”
“The clever man,” Wells concludes, “will read romance as a ‘how to’ manual, a deep and meaningful insight into the female psyche. Even if our seeming erratic behaviour or overly emotional responses continue to perplex the male reader, at the very least he takes away the comforting knowledge that his beloved is quite normal and does like to be told that she is beautiful and loved. Every day. Several times.”
Still, Wells understands men who read romance aren’t likely to talk about it or “be seen holding a romantic novel in their hands during their lunch break at work. It’s just not the done thing.”
But on a rainy autumn Sunday, with a warm bowl of chili in my lap and a cold beer in my hand, I can relax knowing that with Brett Favre retired, the next pass is not likely to be intercepted. And that my buds on the couch don’t just accept my having written a romance. They’re thinking, “That guy wrote a romance. Pretty fuckin’ cool.”