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Can Guys Write Romance Novels?

11/19/2013 03:33 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • John Blumenthal Former Playboy editor/Novelist/Screenwriter ('Blue Streak')

Hoping to cash in on the insanely lucrative market for romance novels, I decided to write one with my friend, Barry Golson. Granted, the genre is dominated by women, but so what? How hard could it be?

Besides, Barry and I weren't exactly neophytes. Some years ago, we'd cut our teeth on a short romance novella called Love's Reckless Rash, written under the pen name Rosemary Cartwheel. Granted, it was a spoof but it gave us a feel for the lingo. Also, we'd read quite a few romances for research. We knew our way around the territory.

Sort of.

But this time, we vowed to write a straight one. Our heroine would succumb to fiery passion, flaming eroticism, burning desire and lots of other forms of romantic arson.

Sure, there would be challenges. First, we would have to attempt to see things through a female's perspective, which meant that power tools would not figure prominently in the plot. We asked our wives for help but they thought the idea of guys - especially us -- writing a romance novel was... well... idiotic.

We decided to ignore them.

Having written Love's Reckless Rash as a period piece, we felt comfortable with the historical approach. It would take place in Jane Austen's era. There would be dukes and earls and princes, all of them incredibly horny because in those days first base meant getting beyond the bustle.

The era's sexual repression also appealed to us as did the language of the day -- words like "bodice" and "hither" and "hence."

So far so good. We'd mapped it out. Now, all we had to do was fill the pages. Easy right?

Nope.

Ten pages into it, we encountered problems. Every time our story required us to describe ball gowns, sensuous fragrances, the intricacies of corsets or most importantly, the mysteries of the female heart, we'd get stuck.

How did we compensate for our ignorance? Simple. We went for laughs. Again. We simply couldn't write it without cracking up. Every time we tried to craft a lurid sex scene we couldn't resist a punch line or a pun.

Often, we'd start a sentence with the best of intentions, but end up with this:

"I have never felt my heartstrings pulled so sharply as they are being pulled at this moment. I feel as if they will snap, and my heart will be flung across the garden into yonder lake."

"'Sir, kindly remove your nose from my bosoms this instant! Bosoms are not places into which one inserts one's nose. If bosom nosing is a custom in this vile place, it is not one that I care to have performed on my bosoms!!'"

"She knew her One True Love was out there somewhere, practicing cruel expressions in the mirror, opening his shirt just so, and in general posing rakishly, roguishly, and redundantly."

You get the idea. Eventually, we succumbed to temptation. We expanded our original spoof to novel length, sending our heroine on new adventures to foreign places where she would encounter a variety of slow-witted potential paramours of different nationalities, and upper-class twits, most of who would -- of course -- ardently attempt to unravel her sixteen petticoats. We titled it, Passing Wind of Love.

In other words, we fell back into the ditch.

So can guys write romance novels? According to an article in Publishers' Weekly, there are actually quite a few male-written romances out there, many of which seem to be faring quite well. Of course, some men use pseudonyms; some use gender-neutral initials; others go full out and use their real names. Female romance readers don't seem to mind which gender is tapping the keys as long as the genre's key elements are present and convincing. I suppose some guys just have the gift. So the answer is yes, men can do it.

So can we. Only not with a straight face.

Here's the question: Serious romance novel aficionadas sometimes buy their books by the dozen but will they be interested in reading a full-length satire of their favorite genre? Will the fair sex hie hither to Amazon and downloadeth it? Will the unfair sex -- guys - find the satire amusing?

We'll see.

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