The Bold and the Biblical
What do some romance novels have in common with Scripture? Both celebrate feminine wisdom
I read the Bible for stress release. My friend reads romance novels. Once I was smug enough to believe there was an unbridgeable chasm between the two. No more--not since realizing that both Scripture and romantic fiction preserve aspects of the feminine often ignored or denied by society.
My interest in the romance genre was piqued upon the death of Barbara Cartland, Dame of Hatfield, whose 723 novels have sold 1 billion copies worldwide in 36 languages. That statistic was worth exploring. I checked out three of the romance queen's novels at the local library, along with her nonfiction "Etiquette for Love and Romance." The pages housed characters of chivalry, courtesy, long-suffering, and undying love in the forms of courageous, protective heroes and demure, fiercely loyal heroines.
Dame Cartland dared to preach that the man should take the initiative in a relationship: "Man is the hunter and should never be hunted. In fact, if you want to be a success, the great thing is to be slightly elusive and let the man realize he is successful if he manages to tie you down." She risked saying that men and women psychologically experienced the sexual act differently: "What modern couples forget is that for a man, sex is a physical desire that can be made uplifting and spiritual by the real love which comes from the heart--but this is too often forgotten. On the other hand, for a woman every act of love is a moment of soul-stirring adventure in which she is very emotionally involved. This is the difference of the sexes that causes so much trouble and so much unhappiness."
Most would regard the dame's comments as sexist and sentimental. I myself laughed out loud when I read the climactic sentence of her work “Lights, Laughter and a Lady”: "Then there was only the music of the angels and the blinding light of eternal love." But the woman did sell a billion books.
I called my expert friend to find out what the attraction was. She pondered this for a moment. "The attraction is that as a woman, it would be nice to have a man take care of you. We all want to be superwomen, but I would have liked to have been born in another time, to have been the heroine in a romance novel, a time when women didn't have to take on the responsibility of the world."