Day 17 Meljean Brook – Romance As Fantasy

A Variety of Fantasies

gd500A few months ago, my husband read part of his first genre romance. It wasn’t a book that I’d written, but one that I’d bought on sale and that had popped up on his Kindle. It featured a threesome on the cover, and he told me that he read the first few pages just out of curiosity. He wasn’t impressed with the writing or the book so he skipped to the end … then said he was completely astounded, because there was a scene in which the two men were in a sex scene together without the female. And he asked me, “This is really something that women like to read? Why?”

And I laughed and told him, “Oh, honey. You have so much to learn.”

This isn’t a blog post about converting my husband to romance. Everyone has their tastes and their preferences, and that’s fine. But when I think about why romance matters, I think back to my husband’s question – and of the many, many reasons that romance matters, that moment illustrates an important one: it offers women a place to articulate their fantasies.

Women haven’t always had that. Men have. Male fantasies are out there in the open. We know them, and are often pressured to conform to those fantasies – in both our behavior and our looks. We aren’t surprised when we hear that a man likes a sex scene between two women. Obviously, not every male fantasy is the same and some men have been marginalized just as women have. But stories have included those male fantasies in many, many forms over the years. Women’s fantasies…not so much.

RivetedIt’s unfortunate and damaging that the fantasy of romance is so often reduced down to: a woman needs a man to be happy. Romances are so much more than that – and the rise of m/m romances, which don’t even include a woman in the happy-ever-after but offer the same satisfaction to the reader should put paid to that notion a little. Finding a partner to love – that is a fantasy that some women who read romances have. Not all. Being with someone who routinely gives mind-blowing orgasms? That’s a great fantasy to have. Not all readers of romance share that fantasy or care much about it, but it’s there. Being cherished and loved unconditionally? That’s there, if a reader wants it. Some do, some don’t. Children and white picket fences? Some romances have them and some focus on slaying demons and beheading vampires. Some have beheaded vampires and had kids.

For a genre that’s often reduced down to one fantasy – finding a man – it contains a multitude of others. And not every fantasy works for every woman. Romance includes such an enormous variety of fantasies that I can’t imagine anyone familiar with the genre being surprised by just how different and how expansive women’s desires are – not just sexual, but emotional and intellectual.

And yes, that matters.

(Wonder which book it was? The Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson – an emotional and sexy story, which I think many romance readers will enjoy much more than my husband did.)


 Questions for Meljean:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it? 

The ugliest object in my house is my cat’s furry behind. That thing produces unimaginable horrors weekly – and sometimes daily, when I’m really unlucky. Why do I keep the kitty? I ask myself this question constantly. Maybe because she’s purr-y and plump and snuggles up really well, and because my daughter loves her. I definitely don’t keep her because I like cleaning up all the horrid stuff that comes out of her. At least her face is cute. So is her little meow.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

A movie about me would probably be called “Dork For Hire.” It would be about an awkward girl with geeky tendencies who managed to convince everyone that she had a brain in her head. But really, she’s just doing all of the dorky dumb things that make her happy – and miraculously making a living out of it.

I’d be played by Christina Hendricks, of course. Because she has red hair, and I’m just as curvy (except not in the same places.)

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

A paperback copy of THE LAST UNICORN. My dad knew that I loved the movie, and when he came across the book at a thrift store, he picked it up for me. It was used, slightly tattered, and a million times better than the movie. I loved every single page. And still do.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Oh, this is a hard one! I’d probably choose David and Annika from RIVETED. They aren’t representative of the couples in my books – every one of those is different – but they are both good, decent people who are trying to fix past mistakes and keep promises as best they can. Their relationship is a sweet one (but definitely has its hot moments, too!) and the way they fight to be together culminates in one of the most romantic and heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever written.

 

You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance and women’s fiction writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.  Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!


MeljeanBrook2-400pxMeljean Brook is the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Seas steampunk romance series and the Guardians paranormal romance series. Her latest novel, Riveted, won RT Book Reviews Editors’ Pick for Best Book of the Year. Meljean lives in Oregon, is socially awkward, and often tries to walk through closed sliding glass doors. Find Meljean online at meljeanbrook.com.

 

Buy Meljean’s Book on Amazon

  • Nancy Huddleston

    I love what you said about women’s fantasies and that through wonderful books we are able to enjoy without being judged. Love this.

  • Suzanne Clune

    That’s what I love about the romance genre. No two books are the same, and there is such a variety of fantasies and scenarios to explore!Sometimes I’m in the mood for a family orientated romance, sometimes I’m in the mood for an action packed romance.That’s what’s great about this genre,there is something for everyone,and there is always more worlds and fantasies to explore 🙂

  • Meredith Richardson

    Very well said. There is definitely a double standard when it comes to men and women and things that are deem ‘appropriate’ to talk about. At least where I live no one really talks about romance books and most women wont admit to reading them even though I know they do while men and women openly talk about sports, sci fi, and murder mysteries.

  • Thank you so much for the interesting post and for the international part of the contest! 😉

  • MK

    My husband was surprised to hear that women like books with M/M action as well. I agree with your comment that male fantasies have been out there for everyone’s knowledge forever- it’s good that ours are getting out there now too!

  • Kim Cornwell

    Everyone has fantasies! If they deny it they are probably fibbing! Some haven’t come out of the closet per say. We are so afraid of being judged and not being perfect to the world! I could care less! I’ll read what I want to! Thanks for stopping by!

    • I think that fear of being judged is a big part of it — mostly because women’s fantasies haven’t been accepted as “normal” (unlike many male fantasies.) Hopefully that will change over time so that reading romances — or anything else — doesn’t result in so many snide remarks or looks.

  • Melanie Backus

    I have never read this type of book so I might find a whole new world in my love for books.

  • glittergirl54

    I love intelligent authors and this post just proves it. Thanks for DAYS of happy satisfying reading and fantasies =D. Keep up the awesome writing. Oh and keep throwing those romances (by accident?) at your husband — he might read a few like my husband and be gently converted, lol.

    • I don’t think he’ll be converted, but it’s not really anything about romance — a lot of genre fiction just isn’t his thing. Like, if he enjoyed science-fiction or mysteries or suspense, I’d probably gently nudge a few books his way.

      But he’s primarily a non-fiction reader, with a heavy dose of the classics and modern lit thrown in as his fiction reading. He does love Lord of the Rings and books like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, so he’s not *against* genre fiction or fantastical fiction. He likes Jane Austen well enough, although she’s not his favorite. So I think it would just be a hard conversion.

      • glittergirl54

        My hubby likes humor, science fiction, suspense and action type movies and books so… I gave him those type of romance series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lynsay Sand’s Vampires, Special-Ops type and G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin. Right now he’s reading Larissa Ione’s Demonica/Four Horsemen Series. After that I’ll throw Thea Harrison’s Elder Races. I think I’ll try your Iron Seas soon.

  • ki pha

    I can say I never thought I would ever read M/M but I find them quite fascinating. And everyone needs to have some sort of fantasy. Why can’t women be more adventurous? Anyways, I suppose women are more open to same sex relationships……some of them.

    • Even the way that women approach it is different, I think. Some love the sexual fantasy. Some love the emotional fantasy. Some love both. And I’m not sure if we’re more open to the idea of same-sex relationships, but I do think that romance and its emphasis on love *mattering* makes it difficult to draw a line and say … “well, *that* love doesn’t matter so much.” Because that kind of ruins the fantasy of love conquering all.

  • Mo

    Perfectly said. The range within the romance genre is so very wide and there is something for everyone to enjoy.

    • And hopefully it will always grow — and include more and new types of stories. I’m always interested in seeing what new kinds of ideas writers can bring into a genre that has so many books already crowding the shelves (and writers always end up doing it! It’s kind of incredible.)

  • Cheryl C.

    Well put, thank you. I enjoy living vicariously through books of many different genres. The most important thing to me is that the story be well written and interesting. I can enjoy reading an ad label if it’s well written (and funny).

    • Right! No matter what, the story has to resonate with us personally for the story to really *work* for us. Well-written and interesting is one of my requirements, too.

  • Glenda

    All well written novels have the potential for providing escape and fantasy fulfillment. Romance novels are just more honest about what they are doing. 🙂

  • MaryC

    Love your husband’s reaction – a dear male friend of mine had the same reaction when we were discussing books..

    • Ha! Yes. He just didn’t understand WHY women would want to read that. But two women together? He thought was perfectly natural for a man to fantasize about it. But it’s only because it’s been accepted as natural for so long. Hopefully in a few years, women’s fantasies (that they even HAVE fantasies beyond the ones we’ve been told it’s okay to have) won’t come as such a surprise, because they’ve been accepted as normal, too.

  • Patty Vasquez

    While my husband has never read any of my romance novels (although I read parts out loud to him), my reading in many different sub-genres has lead to some interesting conversations between us. We were talking just last weekend about menage, not as a fantasy, but as a love story and how that works between committed couples (trios?). I’ve been reading m/m for several years, and that, too has been great discussion. Topics along the line of there isn’t a “male” and “female” role within the relationship, that’s a terrible stereotype. So not only do romance novels provide us great vehicles for fantasy, they’re also great for conversation- and that matters.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I get really irritated when ideas or fantasies or *anything* in reading is dismissed out of hand, because the question of WHY? leads to so many fascinating places. And for women, to many of those places simply haven’t been explored by the larger population.

  • Karin Anderson

    Everyone has their own personal fantasy. Reading about other people’s dreams can give us a more well-rounded view of life. Or new ideas. 😉

    P.S. Young you should be played by Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13. She’s a beautiful younger red-head.

    • I have Warehouse 13 lined up as my next show to catch up on. I’ve heard so many great things, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. I’ll keep an eye out for Allison 😀

  • Kareni

    Many thanks for your post; it’s definitely food for thought. I look forward to reading one of your books.

  • Kim

    I really enjoyed your post. The variety of romance would cater to a variety of fantasies. I love that romance allows women to explore new and different fantasies with each book.

    • Meljean Brook

      Right! And I don’t know any romance reader who loves all types of romances or all romances equally. We all have different tastes, different ideas of what “romance” is, different ideas of what a good hero or a satisfying story is.

  • Awndrea Caves

    You are so correct that women’s fantasies have rarely been out in the open. It has only been recently, in the last 15 years, that romance as a genre has begun to get any of it due from the general reading public. Still people denigrate it as less than when, as a PhD candidate in literature, I can tell you that is not true. The best writers in romance are every bit as talented as writers of fiction we deign to call “literature.” Romance deals with the same issues and more often does it from a female perspective, sometimes in truly radical ways. Keep up the good work, Meljean!

    • Thanks, Awndrea!

      I always think of the reaction to 50 Shades. Hate or love the book, the shock that followed (because women might have these fantasies, omg!) was very telling. No one expected that this might be something that’s popular with women.

      But if they’d been reading romance, they wouldn’t have really been surprised at all 😀

  • Cindy A

    I am “riveted” by your books from the first – The Iron Duke

  • Thanks so much Meljean for posting here today – great essay! Your books are so creative and imaginative, and I love the fact that you’ve pushed the genre into yet another timeline/realm. xoxo

  • Ann

    “Romance includes and enormous amount of fantasies” – So true!

  • Kim

    Thanks for the essay. While there is a lot of variety out there, it also feels like publishers jump on whatever is hot at the moment. This is taking a short-term view of the industry.

    • They do jump on what is hot — they are businesses, after all, and their goal is to make money. But that is why the rise of self-publishing is so important: the variety of books and stories isn’t so dependent on trends. So the variety of stories available isn’t dependent on publishers, either — only on the writers’ imaginations and readers who spread the word.

  • Jen C

    What a great essay. 🙂

  • Barbara E.

    I enjoyed your post Meljean, and I really love your Iron Seas books. I thought David and Annika’s story was fantastic and look forward to more of your wonderful books in the future. I still have some catching up to do with the Guardian novels, so I have that to look forward to. 😀

  • Marjorie morris

    Great essay! I loved your acceptance speech at RT convention. You are on my to be read list!

  • Author Jeanne Adams

    Hi Meljean! I adored your story about your father buying you the tatty copy of The Last Unicorn! How lovely. :> Great to share the day with you on Read A Romance Month! :>

  • Hi Meljean! Pleased to find out about you here! Steampunk AND romance?! This I need to check out. Your covers are fantastic!

  • Stephanie Fredrick

    Love your work. You write such beautiful books.
    I completely agree with you on why woman love romance. I think that if men really gave them a chance they’d discover how great they are. My husband has said the same thing about some of my books and I just give him the look.

  • rebecca moe

    Oooh, your books are already on my TBR list. And moving up, after that post 😉

  • Pamby50

    I look forward to reading Riveted. I agree that romance comes in all kinds. I can read just about anything that deals with romance.

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Men can be so naive sometimes, lol! Loved your blogpost today, Meljean. You are a new author to me, I like your style! Where do I start?

  • MooMoo Cake

    I really enjoyed your post. I don’t look for mm couples, but if they’re well written I love them, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the giveaway. I really like your books and would love to win a copy of Guardian Demon.

  • brhill2010

    I enjoyed knowing why you love romance. It is really interesting when a guy picks up a romance nove4ls and flips the first couple pages and his expression is a little wary then when he reads it a little more he is either hooked or puts it down like his hands caught on fire.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    First of all, The Last Unicorn is my all time favorite book and movie. My mom gave me a copy of the paperback, my dad gave me my first VHS copy and most recently my husband got me the 25 year anniversary DVD a few years ago. So happy to find a kindred spirit out there 🙂 Love your take on why romance matters and all of the different forms of romance throughout the genre. I’ll look forward to checking out your books and adding them to my to be read list!!!!

  • Lisa Glidewell

    Thank you for being here today! I love your books. I found your post very interesting. Today’s romance novels do offer stories for all types of people. Whatever you want it’s out there for you to read. What one finds interesting another might find distasteful. I say, ” To each his own. Different strokes for different folks! ”

  • Aniko Laczko

    I really enjoyed your post, Meljean. I read some of those m/m romance books, as well as het Urban Fantasy/paranormal, and love both equally. I’ve always considered a well written story with engaging characters is a well written story with engaging characters. There are some amazing authors in both genres. And, really, if one sexy man is hot how can you go wrong with two (or three)! Lol.

  • BookLady

    The variety in romance certainly offers something for everyone. Contemporary, historical, and paranormal are all on my bookshelves. Love your covers and will be putting your books on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on romance.

  • Pam P

    Great post. While I don’t particularly care for m/m, I know others who do and agree the variety should be available for all tastes. Riveted is one of my favorite books of yours, yes sweet for the most part but showed such depth of emotion; I was happy to see you win that award.

  • Larena Hubble

    I enjoyed reading what you had to say and I love that there are so man different types of romances out there that readers are sure to find just what they would like to read.

  • leah g

    My father still buys me random used books periodically. Its usually something I have never heard of though or something I would never have thought about. I love that I can find new favorites for relatively cheap, or free for me I suppose.

  • Janie McGaugh

    I’m glad there’s so much variety in the romance genre, so everyone can find something to satisfy their fantasies.

  • Mary McCoy

    Thank you for your post. My husband will sometimes open up a book I have sent to the Kindle cloud because it looks like one of “his” sci fi or mysteries and makes it several chapters in before he asks “Is this mine or yours?” and laughs when I answer “yes”. He couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about 50 Shades because he just assumed most women had already been reading “that stuff” for years as I have often shared passages of books I read with him. He is really enjoying the steampunk genre BTW.

  • Marcia Berbeza

    OMG, I love my husband but he just NEVER got the lure of romance or even fiction! The man fills his days with news and other non-fiction. While laudable, I think he’s missed out on the rich fantasy life that I’ve been able to lead! Thanks for providing fodder for my mind!

  • Toni Adams

    ha….i totally get the horror that come out of a kitty cat butt….try four horrors coming out of different aged cats….and the tiny horrors of a puppy…sigh…

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I just discovered Steampunk books and now have added so many new books to my TBR pile. I love romances in any form.