It all started rather harmless. When my friend Monique* handed me a tattered, pink paperback, I was a tad bit surprised by the cover. The photograph of a girl and a boy in a tight embrace, apparently joyful smooching away, made my cheeks burn with embarrassment. And desire. Desire to open the book and plunge right into the story of love, pre-pubertal lust and longing.
Monique was trouble. The kind of girl teachers would tell your parents about and urge them to make you stay away from. The kind of girl I looked up to, watching in awe when she was easily chatting to boys, when she was talking back to teachers or when she was smoothly and catlike roaming around the school’s playground.
Something told me that the books Monique seemed so obsessed with were better not discussed with my mother, who pestered me with her great old tomes à la Brothers Karamazov or The Buddenbrooks.
Thus my faiblesse for romantic novels was born and nurtured in secret.
About 50 pink paperbacks later, I bought fewer and fewer of the pink little booklets. Slowly but steadily, they disappeared from underneath mattresses, from secret drawers and out of dusty old tomes. Fortunately, I had outgrown this saucy stage of adolescence and started to discover the pleasures of more subtle literature.
The story could have ended here.
Who would have thought that, out of all things, my love for coffee would reignite the flame of my secret love affair?
A few weeks ago, Starbucks (whom I already owe the completion of my master’s thesis, the finalisation of a couple of work assignments and more recently, the survival of seemingly endless nights and days with a screaming baby) invited me to an ‘Evening of Escapism’. They had teamed up with Mills & Boon and invited a handful of bloggers to a creative writing evening.
The drinks were flowing, and so were laughter, words and writing. I met author Heidi Rice, who writes ‘Sexy, Sassy, Sophisticated Romance’, and who is just great to get to know. On my way home I skimmed through my goodie bag. And there it was: after almost 20 years of ‘abstinence’ I was holding a romance novel in my hands. Ok, I actually let it drop back into the bag like a hot potato. If the cover back then made me blush a little, this one had me go bright red in no time. And the title didn’t help either.
I finally got to read ‘Unfinished Business With the Duke’ on my recent trip to Stockholm. Once I was hooked on the story (i.e. right away), I stopped caring about the nosy and bemused views I received from co-travellers. Thanks to Heidi’s vivid descriptions of the physical aspects of her characters I was sporting a healthy and youthful glow throughout my journey.
Romance novels and me – finally reunited. I don’t think I am going to go as mad about them as I once was, but I am certainly going to nourish my guilty pleasure once in a while. And maybe one day, I am going to make the attempt to write one myself. Because romance, my dear friends, is not dead.
*No, I didn’t make that name up. It’s not my fault that she’s got the name of a 1980’s late night Superchannel-starlet.