Male Romance Novels
This week, the Lipstick Chronicles will bring back a few of our our favorite blogs of 2006 -- the ones that made you laugh, cry and hurl epithets at your computer. Happy New Year, and may 2007 bring you everything you want -- but not everything you deserve. Elaine
By Elaine Viets
By Elaine Viets
Let’s talk about male romance novels.
You’ve read them. You just didn’t realize it. That’s because the critics call these books "gritty realism," "hard-boiled," or "scathing social satire."
In these highly acclaimed mysteries, the hero is a broken-down forty-five-year-old man with no job and a drinking problem. A gorgeous twenty-five-year-old woman falls madly in love with him – and he doesn’t even have money.
Not in my book. There’s fiction, and then there’s fiction.
These are male romance novels. Most women are smart enough to know this doesn’t happen in real life. Too many men have this touchingly naive belief that beautiful young women will love them for their flabby bodies and fine minds. Even smart men fall for this fantasy. I was lunching with a reporter friend who’s hard-boiled as a four-minute egg. He saw an old gentleman escorting a young woman with man-made mammaries and three thousand bucks worth of Versace.
"What do you think she sees in him?" my friend said. He really was puzzled.
"He’s rich and she’s pretty," I said.
"How can you tell that?" he said, as we watched the flossy knockout settle into the old geezer’s Mercedes.
"Why else would a young woman date an old man?" I said. "She’s a material girl. She’s wearing more than you make in a week. Somebody has to buy it for her."
Why couldn’t he see the obvious? This man had a pile of high-powered journalism prizes, but he couldn’t figure that out. I’d worked a dress shop that catered to bimbos and learned that lesson in one week.
I think there’s a disconnect in the male psyche. When a younger man hits on me, my first reaction is: "What’s wrong with him? Does this guy have a mother complex?"
When a younger woman hits on the average male, his first thought is: "I am hot stuff."
But the love-struck bimbo is only one character in the male romance novels. There are at least two more:
(1) The sensitive stripper with the heart of gold.
In male romance novels, a sensitive stripper has been abandoned by a cruel husband. This sweet creature must support a child or an aging mother by working as an ecdysiast. Sometimes, she’s also working her way through school. She’s ashamed and hurting, but she has a family to support, and Mum needs an operation.
As a former reporter who actually knew strippers, I know this is pure male fantasy. Most strippers have boobs of silicone, not hearts of gold, and they’re supporting cocaine habits. The rest have figured out they can make more money taking off their clothes than keeping them on. Hard work is for the suckers stuffing twenties in their G-strings. Worse, from the male romance viewpoint, some of these women don’t like men at all. They prefer the love of a good woman.
(2) The psycho friend of the hero.
Another male romance favorite. In these novels, the hero is too noble to actually torture and kill anyone. Good thing he’s got a wacko best friend to do it for him. Then the hero can disapprove but still get the bad guys dead. The psycho friend has enough weaponry to invade Montana.
I really like it when a minivan dad and his psycho friend take on a couple of hired killers. In these novels, Minivan Dad’s wife and/or children are being threatened, and the police are useless to save them. In that case, a good man has to kill to protect his family. Minivan Dad, with a little help from his pet psycho, blows away the bad guys. In a pinch, he may even save the psycho from certain death with his newfound shooting skills.
I grew up in split-level land, surrounded by Minivan Dads. They were nice guys who made great fathers and loving husbands. But the only thing they ever killed was crabgrass. Real Minivan Dads love reading about Minivan Dad and his psycho friend. It gives them hope that under their dull suburban exterior lurks a cool killer.
There are lots of guns and gore in the male romance novels, but they’re as sentimental as a royal wedding. If men want to buy books that cater to that fantasy, fine. It’s harmless, no worse than the women who read romance novels where hunks carry them off to satin-draped beds.
But here’s what gets me: Female romances are derided as fluff. Male romances are treated with respect. Even critics buy into the male romance. I can understand men critics falling for this claptrap. They want it to be true. But what about women reviewers? What happened to your common sense? Didn’t your mamas teach you anything?
Please don’t tell me, "I never read cozies." Or, "I don’t like chicklit. I prefer serious mysteries" – then name one of the big male romance novelists.
I’ve got news for you. My Dead-End Job series is more realistic. It shows the drudgery of minimum wage work. It has bimbos who milk rich old men for money, which really happens. It also has a few laughs and pastel covers, but don’t let those scare you. It’s social commentary wrapped in pink ribbons.
Let me break it to you gently, gentlemen. There are no sensitive strippers, Minivan Dads with psycho pals, or sweet young things with designer duds and fake boobs who fall in love with much older men – not unless the gray guys can advance their careers or keep them in style.
Bite the bullet, boys. Be a man and admit that "Lord of the Rings" is gritty realism compared to your three favorite fantasies.
Should you read male romances? Of course. I do. I love them. I even take them to bed with me. I enjoy them all night long.
But I don’t respect them in the morning.