Men Reading Romance

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  Men Reading Romance by Jeri Wright & her husband Terry
------------------------------------------------ Jeri Wright is a longtime reader (and often reviewer) of romance and most other types of fiction. Her husband, Terry is also a voracious reader whose library did not have a romance section until she joined the staff. <g>, Having tried, and enjoyed, a few specific titles she recommended, Terry was willing to discuss his reactions to a specific romance novel. This being a discussion, not a review, be aware that it may contain minor spoilers.

Mary Jo Putney's The Wild Child, is the story of a twin who takes his brother's place and undertakes to court his brother's fiancee. Who happens to be mad. Obviously, things get, well, complicated ...

Jeri: Why did you become interested in reading The Wild Child?

Terry: Because you were so enthusiastic about it, and because I enjoyed Silk and Secrets, the first MJP you recommended to me.

Jeri: So do you think my reactions to it influenced yours?

Terry: Influenced the decision to read it, but not my reactions to it. We both have different tastes, with an area in the middle where our tastes overlap.

Jeri: So, what did you think?

Terry: I enjoyed it. Without the flowery cover, I don't see why this would be considered only a "woman's" novel. Good fiction is good fiction. If MJP started writing SF, I'd probably read that too.

Jeri: I did notice you read it pretty fast.

Terry: I stayed up last night to finish it.

Jeri: Must have been good! But you did enjoy the romance, the relationship? For me that's the essence of a romance -- did I believe in the relationship.

Terry: Yes, I did. But I enjoyed the way it was woven in with the mystery (what had happened to Meriel and why she didn't speak), the setting, what was going on with the twins, and everything else.

Jeri: Okay, on to specifics ...

What about the hero? One complaint that I've seen voiced when the idea of men reading romance is raised is that men feel (or would feel) that romance heroes are really too feminine, too much a female fantasy for a male reader to relate to. How did you feel about Dominic?

Terry: No, he was real. One of my first comments, after I got into the book, is that "I was Dominic". I liked seeing myself as the dashing English gentlemen riding around on his fine steed. He was too fond of gardening, though. You know how fond I am of working in the garden. (Not.)

Jeri: Yes. But then he was trying to please Meriel, wasn't he?

Terry: Okay, you have a point.

Jeri: Well, as you know, I generally do fall in love with MJP's heroes. We obviously share similar tastes in men. So it makes sense to me that you'd be able to identify with one of them. <g>

So what about the heroine, Meriel?

Terry: She was an interesting character. Once you saw things from her point of view, her not speaking made sense. As Dominic says later in the book, by keeping quiet, she is able to keep things the way she likes them, dealing with the world on her own terms.

Jeri: So you were intrigued by the mystery she represented? I found her fascinating. I think I almost fell in love with her myself.

Terry: Yes. I was as curious as Dominic to learn more about her and her past.

Jeri: I was particularly interested about your reaction to the historical setting, the details, and how you thought they added to the enjoyment of the book. Since you spend a lot of time re-creating late 18th century life, and The Wild Child is set not too long after that, I knew you'd be very picky about authenticity. (I've seen Terry give up in frustration when an author gets something wrong!)

Terry: I thought it was done very well. Not only did it feel accurate, but I could easily visualize the settings: the house, the garden ..

Jeri: The madhouse?

Terry: <wincing> Yes, that too.

Jeri: To me, the scariest thing was the doctor's good intentions and belief in what he was doing.

Terry: The doctor was just one shining example of the state of early 19th century medicine.

Jeri: I loved the garden and the way Meriel interacted with the things around her, and how trying to figure her out has Dominic looking at things in a new way.

I was a little worried that there might not be enough "action" in The Wild Child for your tastes. Your first MJP book, Silk and Secrets, had more external adventure, exotic locations, and a daring rescue. This one focuses more on the relationship and the puzzle that Meriel represents. Did the "less adventure" aspect bother you?

Terry: Not really. What I was expecting was an enjoyable novel, and that's what I got. There is a lot going on in addition to the romance. Dominic's early life, his brief military career, and his experiences at Waterloo, for example. I enjoyed the relationship with Meriel, but I was also interested in what was going on with the other twin, Kyle (I thought for a while they might change places permanently), and in some of the other details. For example, I just knew there was something fishy about Kamal.

Jeri: Yes, I thought he was a bit of a mystery too. I knew we were going to find out more about him later.

How did you like the way Dominic reacted to Meriel's determination to seduce him?

Terry: I appreciated his behaviour <sic> as an officer and a gentleman. Just what I'd expect.

Though I did notice he didn't tell her his true identity until after they'd made love the first time. Obviously, he wanted to make sure it was too late for the brother to get her!

Jeri: Well, you can't really blame him. I thought it was pretty much the "right" time.

What other details particularly caught your attention?

Terry: I loved the scene when they get back from London and she says "do please come in for coffee".

Jeri: This is when she has just stood up to her uncle and shown herself to be sane (and speaking) to everyone in the household.

Terry: Yes, and I can HEAR her voice, very proper, when she says "do please come in for coffee" like it was an everyday social event.

I like her style.

Jeri: Yes, that's what I said too. I like the scene where he says "I like it when you're imperious" and she says "Then in the future you should be a very happy man." That kind of exchange makes them very real to me.

So, are you going to read more romances?

Terry: I don't see why not. <g> I know you've been feeding me the good stuff, the best of the best; don't you think it's time I tried something more "ordinary" for purposes of comparison?

Jeri: I have purposely been selecting titles that I think are wonderful --and -- that I think you would enjoy. I guess it is time for a more representative sample now.

Why do you think most men don't/won't read romance? Do you think many have tried and disliked them, or is it am image thing?

Terry: I think a large number of men wouldn't like romance. These are the men who read, say, only hard-boiled mysteries and are less interested in primarily character and relationship-based stories. The other side, men who would be interested, are likely put off by the image and the covers. If they tried some of the "good stuff", they might well be surprised.

June 27, 1999


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