I'm not ashamed to admit that I sometimes read romance novels. Indeed, I just finished Nora Roberts's Cordina's Crown Jewel (one of two novellas included in Bennet & Camilla), and found that I have a lot to say about it. It's your basic Roman Holiday-esque story in which a princess, Camilla, is bored with the duties of royalty, lops off her signature long locks, and happily runs off into the Vermont wilderness to cook, clean, and play secretary for a cantankerous archeologist, Delaney. She takes too long in stores, overspends his money, and fantasizes about being a housewife while strolling the supermarket ice cream aisle. Moreover, she becomes so engrossed in Delaney's work that, groupie-like, she contemplates following in his muddy footsteps and dedicating her life to digging up bones. As such, she is the embodiment of every negative female stereotype, a woman who sets out to find herself only to end up being beholden to a man. (For accuracy's sake, this is probably a good place to add that the archeologist turns out to be a viscount [as is so often the case in such stories] and therefore a suitable match for Princess Camilla, which is pretty much the antithesis of Roman Holiday's bittersweet ending.) Why, then, did I find this silly story to be so entertaining? How could I view crude backwoods living through the rosy lens of cozy domesticity? Or romanticize a situation that I, as a lover of independence and individuality, should have found to be insulting? The easy answer is that I, like millions of other readers, was being manipulated by Roberts's writing. The more complicated answer is that the real fantasy being spun by this book and those of its ilk isn't romance, but paradoxically, the attainment of an uncomplicated life, the kind that can be put to rights by a trip to the grocery store. And honestly, what woman doesn't want that?
That's enough of being up on my literary high horse for one post. And also, I have to go to the grocery store. Where the book/greeting card/stationery aisle is crammed almost exclusivly with romance novels.