by guest blogger Megan Mulry, writer of sexy, stylish romantic fiction
"It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness." --Alcoholics Anonymous
I spend a lot of my emotional, mental, and creative energy at the intersection of acceptance and resentment. Obviously, what this AA quote states are universal truths that are not merely about recovering from addiction. To me, this idea that we have "reasons" to hate people or situations, to not accept people or situations--and to cling to those "reasons"--is kind of the gist of everything. Happily-ever-afters are all about letting go of those "reasons" and moving on.
When Maya asked me to write a piece about self-acceptance in romance novels, all of this bubbled up, because that is the well from whence all my ideas about forgiveness and redemption spring. Romance novels? Redemption? What? Yes, there's sex (which can be very redemptive), and/but there's also this revolutionary idea that people who make horrible mistakes, bad decisions, and basically act human, are deserving of a happily-ever-after.
That's the real revolution that Maya dissects and depicts so beautifully in her new book. She asks all the questions that I've spent a lifetime asking. Who are women to want "free time"? Who are these upstarts who might want a life without a remit to care for children or parents or partners? Who are these crazy bitches who want to love and be loved and make their own money and not answer to anyone?
That'd be me. And romance novels gave me the courage to embrace all those upstart, crazy notions. I was in high school and college in the '80s, during the rise of second-wave feminism, and I was into it! Sex-positive, equal-pay-for-equal-work, boo-yah feminism! But...wait...where was the love? I guess I somehow internalized that love was for weaklings and softies. Then, a few decades and a few life incidents later (read: cancer), I realized love was everything, and everything else was nothing. I started reading romance novels like crazy (I mean, crazy-crazy, like one-a-day-crazy), and I realized I had found my place. Kick-ass women! Forgiveness! Hot sex!
Eventually, I became so immersed (inculcated?) in reading romance novels that I developed this compulsion to start writing my own versions of the happily-ever-after. (Apparently, this is not uncommon). So I tried to think of the least deserving heroine--sort of, well...me--because I'd always been taught that deep down it was just so grabby and selfish to actually want love. We are raised to be grateful! Wanting "more" is selfish!
So I wrote Bronte Talbott, the heroine in A Royal Pain. I wanted her to make terrible decisions for terrible reasons, but always from this place of hope--the hope that people could be good if you gave them long enough. (Heads-up: Some people are just not good for you, but you can learn from them, too.) The deeper I got into Bronte's story, the more I came to realize that everyone makes stupid decisions. Everyone falls in love with the wrong person sometimes. And even those too-stupid-to-live people deserve--nay, require!--their happily-ever-after. So, for a thinking-breathing-walking-talking-ambitious 21st-century woman, what does HEA (aka happy ever after) really mean? Is it the right guy? Is it the guaranteed multi-orgasmic daily sex? Is it the killer corner office?
It's my story, so I say, yes, yes, and yes!
A Royal Pain recently got a hilariously thorough one-star review on Goodreads that basically skewered Bronte for all her stupidity and bad decisions. It was hilarious because every example the disgruntled reader held up as a "fault" in the main character was something that I actually loved about Bronte. She is insecure. She loves beautiful clothes. She doesn't believe people when they tell her they love her. She is ambitious. At first I just laughed because I thought the reader's whole diatribe was so deliciously...rabid. But the next day, I started crying, just a little. Because if that reader thinks that Bronte doesn't deserve her happily-ever-after, then who does deserve to be happy? And who gets to decide?
Again, Maya hit the nail (so many nails!) on the head with her wisdom in Dangerous Books for Girls. I got chills while I read many passages that addressed this very thing, about who gets to decide. Because for so long, you know who got to decide? Men, that's who. And you know what they decided: WOMEN DON'T DESERVE TO BE HAPPY! Happiness is silliness. Joy is bullshit. Well...as Bronte would say, "Fuck that."
Welcome to the revolution! Welcome to Dangerous Books for Girls!
It's romance novel week at Maria's Farm Country Kitchen! This week, my mom has let me (Maya Rodale) and my romance-writing friends take over the blog to share personal stories about how these books have transformed our lives. They're best known for the naughty bits, but romance novels have so much to teach and inspire us about love, self-acceptance, hope, and HAPPINESS...all ideas I examine in my new book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained, which looks at the secret history of why these books have been scorned, but also why they've been the salvation for millions of women readers.
Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida. Her new releases are Roulette and Bound with Love.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com