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Sucked In

I know a lot of readers are obsessed with romance novels. My mother was one. I certainly am not one. Romance books, along with cozy mysteries, just don’t float my boat. I’d rather have a root canal than read one of them. So when I made a pact with myself and actually committed, in writing, that I would read only romance novels for the entire month of August, I expected to be bored as hell.

It all started with an article I wrote in early August in celebration of Read a Romance Month (RARM). My mom was a big fan of historical romances, so I read (listened to) four well-known popular historical romances. I wasn’t doing anything else. My reading syllabus included Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I told you that I would report later about how the month progressed, so that is what I am doing now.

Just so you know, upfront, I didn’t die of boredom. My toes aren’t permanently curled. And, I’m not pregnant.

Here is how my listening/reading time evolved, from my least favorite book to my fave.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Listening Time:
19-23 hours depending on the reader
Narrator: There are many

I confess, I actually didn’t listen to the full version of this book, I did the 5-hour abridged version. I thought that I had read Jane Eyre a long time ago, but maybe I just saw the movie or something. Wow! Talk about a messed-up story.

I think Bronte probably hit upon every social issue of the 19th century in this book. Heck, it just about covers most of today’s issues too. This book is dripping with topics like bullying, child abuse, mental illness, and deception, lots of deception. The hero, Rochester, is a pompous jerk who just happens to have a lot of baggage which includes a young girl that he is raising who may or may not be his daughter, an arrogant, dark, moody personality, and a wife whom he secretly keeps locked up in the attic. Real boyfriend material, huh?

But poor, nerdy Jane just can’t help herself. Like so many romance heroines and many of us, she loves the bad boy. But piety wins in the end and Rochester gets his punishment. I won’t give it away but it involves houses burning to the ground, losing a hand, and blindness. He definitely gets his own, but he also gets the girl, to which I say, “Jane, you ignorant slut…..”

If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, do it. I’m glad I did.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Listening Time:
12 hours, 23 minutes
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor

If I ever were to read this as a real book instead of listening, I would cover up the title while reading it in public. I still can’t believe that I read/listened to it and that, gulp, I sort of enjoyed it. Now I understand the Bridgerton craze.

This book was much lighter than Jane Eyre. Yay! I was ready for a much more gentle read. Kate Sheffield, the heroine, is a strong-willed bookworm who feels compelled to protect her Barbie-doll sister from the cads of the world. For herself, Kate sees no chance of romance and is content to be an old maid. Frankly, she is so ill-suited for any kind of social interaction with a man that it is almost embarrassing. You’d think, with all her smarts, that she would be able to clue in to what was going on.

Then the hero, Anthony Bridgerton comes along. He, like any romance novel’s hero, is a “rake.” A bad boy. He also happens to be smoking hot. But he has a secret that his pride will not allow him to divulge to anyone. It’s a bee thing, and who would have ever thought that a steamy romance could begin with something as mundane as a bee sting? The romantic scenes are plentiful, so be prepared to…well, just be prepared. Of course, there is a love/hate relationship between Kate and Bridgerton which is overcome in the bedroom, and eventually in their lives.

Even though I found the heroine a bit of a ninny (how can someone be that smart and that dumb at the same time) I liked this hero. Will I listen to another Bridgerton book? Probably not. But Julia Quinn is the perfect writer to provide the vessel for my maiden voyage into contemporary romance novels.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Listening Time:
32 hours, 38 minutes
Narrator: Davina Porter

I tried to get through this book a few years back and gave up after a few hours. This time I was committed to muddle through all 32 hours of it, and I did. After trying to stay awake for the first 8 hours, something clicked, and I really enjoyed the saga of time-traveling British World War II army nurse, Claire Randall, and the hunk-of-a-guy Scottish clansman Jamie Fraser.

I’ve never been attracted to overly hairy red-headed men, but Gabaldon outdid herself with the character of Jamie. You can’t help but like him. This poor dude is tortured, maimed, molested, and forced to endure extreme conditions that no one could possibly survive, but somehow, he does. Actually, the whole book is pretty violent and raw, but maybe that is why it has such overwhelming popularity.

Would I sign up for the second book? Maybe. I think that there are a total of 9 novels in the series. They are not at the top of my to-read list, but I’d love to see how everything turns out. I can’t imagine Jami’s body surviving 8 more books, but who knows? Maybe the couple will do some futuristic time travel and he’ll get all new bionic body parts.

Davina Porter is an excellent narrator. I was engrossed in this book and looked forward to the next listen.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Listening Time:
2 hours, 32 minutes
Narrator: Rob Reiner

I’ve seen The Princess Bride movie a gazillion times. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, but, until RARM, I had never read the book. As I started listening, I saw how absolutely, over-the-top wonderful it was going to be and so, on my birthday, Capt’n Clean and I listened to it together.

William Goldman was a Hollywood writing genius. He won Oscars in screenwriting for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men. He was a very gifted writer.

He wrote the book version of The Princess Bride in 1973, but it took more than a decade for it to be made into a movie.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie and if you love it as much as me, do yourself a favor and read or listen to the book. Rob Reiner is a wonderful narrator and it made my birthday very special.

So there. I did it. A full month of romance novels.

Was it a waste of time? Definitely not.

Would I do it again? Probably not for a whole month, but I will add a romance every now and then to my reading list.

Did I learn something? Oh yeah, I learned a lot.

I learned that it takes a special kind of writing talent to describe sexual intimacy without turning it into porn. Romance writers are really good at it.

I learned from Jane Eyre that a woman can be independent and still find love.

Bridgerton taught me that discussing your fears with others can be a good thing. I have a new appreciation for bees as an aphrodisiac.

Jamie and Claire taught me that love can overcome time, distance, societal norms, and a lot of physical pain.

From The Princess Bride, I learned that sometimes people need to be rescued and that loyalty and true love can conquer just about anything. Oh, and I learned that Wesley and Buttercup are really good kissers.

“Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”
~the last sentence of The Princess Bride


I wonder about those four runner-up kisses.

I guess I’ll just have to get sucked in to a few more romance novels to find out all about them.


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Deborah Urycki
Deborah Urycki
10 months ago

This was interesting and informative.

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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