Literary love affairs causing shame despite reading uptick

Published on Saturday, 27 July 2013 23:55 - Written by By Vanessa Pearson

I’ve got problems — tall, dark and fictional ones.

I have been reading like crazy lately. I went through something like 20 or 25 books this month. Which is a good thing.

But I feel ashamed about what I’ve been curled up in bed with.

Why? Because they were mostly romance novels, and that’s just not what I’m supposed to be spending my time on.

Sure, I read some other tomes this month, but I had little variety.

Three of them were “The Hunger Games” trilogy. One was a mystery.

Before I attended the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference last week, I read a good ways into Hampton Sides’ “Hellhound on his Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin” and part of John Vaillant’ “The Golden Spruce.” Both are nonfiction, and I read the Kindle samples from most of the weekend’s other authors.

The problem is free books. I’ve been snagging them for my Kindle as long as authors and Amazon have been offering them. My Kindle Fire’s book menu is cover after cover of trite “attractive man holds woman in corseted dress” image after another as I’m partial to the historical romance genre.

I find the generic modern ones somewhat grating. But give me a truly funny modern romance, and I’ll lose a couple of hours.

Why do I keep reading?

My co-worker Kathy suggested it was a seasonal thing. I think it probably has a little to do with my mother’s decades-long habit of “buying her books” — Harlequin releases a new batch every month. (But she doesn’t read the historical ones.)

And I lack actual romance in my life right now, but I think having to go out to balls every night during “the season” trying to “catch a man” while wearing a corset and slippers sounds like the most tedious way to spend my time. And at 30, I’d long be “put on the shelf,” otherwise known as an old maid.

But I want to get driven around by horses. That’s always fun — I took a tour in a horse-drawn carriage in Charleston, S.C., and ate it up.

Also, those huge houses are pretty amazing, and it always seems like there are scads of people to clean it for you and do your laundry and cook for you, too.

But the stories all end the same, with the happy couple overcoming some sort of (sometimes) contrived drama to live happily ever after.

Maybe that’s why I’m reading: The story is predictable and therefore I don’t have to be stressed out when something bad happens to the main characters.

Perhaps dancing all night in a big dress once in a while would be fun, but I have other things to spend my time on — like trolling Amazon’s website for the newest crop of free historical romance novels full of men with shiny Hessian boots and perfectly tied cravats.