Men Reading Romance
by Jean Mason and her husband Paul
"When I picked up Connie Mason's new release, Sheik, my first thought was that this was a parody of all those 1970's romances that drove me away from the genre. You know, the mysterious Arab marauder, the beauteous blonde captive, the love slave entranced by the sexual prowess of her captor, and all described in prose so deeply purple as to be nearly black.
Well, about 50 pages into the book I realized that this is not a parody. About 100 pages into the book I moaned that I couldn't take any more, that I was suffering too much. It looked as if The Romance Reader would fail in its duty to its readers to review the book that was featured on the cover of last month's Romantic Times.
But then my own personal white knight came riding up on his charger. My husband, intrigued by the sighs of pain and suffering that were falling from my lips, picked up the book and proceeded to read it.
So you must consider this feature a joint effort. I tried to get him to write the review for me but Paul did not feel comfortable doing a formal evaluation. Although he has read other romance novels (he assigned them in a course on Popular Culture), he didn't feel that he was familiar enough with the conventions of the genre. But I talked him into describing the plot and characters to me and offering his own opinion about how the book worked. Maybe I can get him to write a review next time!"
"Jean, here is the requisite plot synopsis: Sheik Jamal is a Barbary pirate and loyal subject of the sultan of Morocco. As the book begins, he is returning from a visit to his mother in England (yes, his mother was an English captive who captured a dashing pirate's heart but who returned home after his untimely death.) He is called at once to the sultan's palace. The sultan has a problem: the Berber tribes are raiding his caravans and villages. He wants Jamal to capture the Berber leader Jossef.
Jamal sets a trap for Jossef and the Berbers, but instead of capturing their chief, he captures his daughter, blonde, blue-eyed Princess Zara who falls behind as she tries to rescue her dying fiancÚ. Jamal is shocked, simply shocked, to discover that Zara is a woman who, unlike the soft and subservient Arab women, is forceful and brave.
So he convinces the sultan to give her into his custody, and proceeds a campaign to entice her into his bed. No wait, that's not quite right. His purpose is to use his seductive skills so that she will "willingly accept his full and heavy erection into her inner wetness."
The remainder of the book details Jamal's varying degrees of success in achieving his goal and in holding onto Zara, as she is rescued, then captured again, then rescued, then she rescues him, and her father rescues them both, and whenever they get together, well, he simply drives her out of her mind with pleasure. And they finally sail away to England where they will live and have sex happily ever after at his English estate. (He turns out to be an English lord, somehow or another)."
"So Paul, how do you evaluate this stirring tale?"
"Well, to begin with, I am not convinced that Sheik is really a romance. I see it rather as an adventure story with lots of sex, sort of like one of those old time movie serials that had either the heroine or hero in dire peril at the end of each reel. Apparently there are more rescues in this book, more close calls, more dangerous encounters than poor imperiled Pauline ever dreamed of.
Second, if you are a reader who is interested in character development, I would warn the reader that there are too many adventures and too much sex for there to be any time to dwell on the characters' motivations. I am pretty clear as to why Zara falls for Jamal. After all, I would think if a woman had a handsome man finding every imaginable way to insure that she had an ecstatic sexual experience every ten minutes or so, she'd be pretty taken with him, too. Jamal's motives are less clear. While Zara is a comely enough wench, the only thing that explains Jamal's passion is that she is the only thing he
"Okay, Paul what did you think of the sex scenes?"
"Jean, I thought those were just fine." [big grin]
"So there you have it. If you want an adventure story with lots of sex, Sheik may be just the book for you. But not for me. Ok, maybe for Paul."
Readers, this is an experimental column. Please tell us what you think. Would you like to see some men reviewing romance?
Please tell us what you think!