Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's Talk about Text: A Few Words about Nora Roberts

I'm in the midst of reading a Nora Roberts romance novel. Well, two Nora Roberts novellas, "Night Shield" and "Night Moves," packed into a paperback that's the last in the illustrious Night Tales series. Are you laughing? If you are, then I don't blame you. Romance novels are, well, silly, not to mention predictable. But therein lies some of their appeal. Unencumbered by the search for themes and symbolism that comes with reading weightier fare, my mind is free to revel in other details. For instance, the language. Say what you will about bodice rippers. But you can't deny that they are often rife with descriptive, fluid writing - and I don't just mean the sex stuff. Outfits, meals, and vacation spots are illustrated with gusto, stirring in the reader an almost forgotten appreciation for life's finer things.

An even more salient hallmark of a Roberts novel is the heroine's passion for - wait for it - her career. I've read dozens of these books, and each one focuses on a protagonist who loves what she does. She may be a chef, an executive, a makeup artist, or a cardiologist, but she is always unequivocally fulfilled by her occupation. Which is kind of interesting given that these women are fleshed into fiction solely to bag a man. I mean, you'd think they'd be fainting away on divans eating bonbons or something. Then again, such behavior wouldn't be very flattering, would it? These books are, after all, written for women. And most women want to believe that they can be whoever and whatever they want. Granting these heroines dream jobs is Roberts's way of adding yet another dimension to the fantasy in which her books deal. Well, Roberts and her phalanx of ghostwriters, anyway.

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