The phrase “reading a romance novel” tends to conjure up a specific image for most people: that of a teenage girl hiding under the covers at night, flashlight in hand, reading a book she either sneaked onto the conveyor belt at the grocery store when her parents weren’t looking, or took from her grandma’s bookshelf when no one was watching. It is therefore not surprising that, despite the popularity of the genre, so many lovers of romance novels still hide their obsessions from friends, family and coworkers alike, indulging in their favored reading material only in the comfort of their own homes, or among like-minded peers.
During my six years living in New York City, my subway and bus commutes to work have never been long enough to sufficiently dig in to my own reading material, so one of my favorite commuting pastimes is to check out what other people are reading. If you live in Manhattan, and use public transportation on a regular basis, there is no need to go to a bookstore to see what books are trending. Last Tuesday there were three people on my bus to work reading The Help. The subway selections have been a little more varied as of late, now that Oprah is no longer telling us what to read, but they still run towards selections that the New York Times Book Review would certainly approve of.
Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes like those book too - so long as they don’t break my cardinal “only happy endings rule” - but am I really supposed to believe that I am the only commuter in New York City who likes a good dose of love and fun in my morning (and afternoon and - oh hell lets be honest - evening) reading material? I wouldn’t be averse to starting a romance novel book club that met Monday mornings on the bus. Can you honestly think of a better way to start the work week?
On the exceedingly rare occasion that I see a romance novel in the hands of one of my fellow straphangers, My heart fills with joy, and a smile rapidly spreads across my face. I try with all my might to catch this delightful reader’s eye, if only for a second, to pass her a message:“me too.” If I sense that she is “loud and proud” like I am, I might say something like, “I loved that book.” If she is open to conversing, I have even been known to make a suggestion like, “if you like this book, you will love [fill in blank with amazing title here].” I once even took out a pen and wrote down every title in Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s unbelievable Chicago Stars series for a woman I was sitting next to on the subway. I hope she enjoyed them.
What you probably know by now is that I never hide the books I read. At any given time you can find at least 2 romance novels in my bag (if I finish one, I obviously need to have a spare), and at the height of the elevator phobia that I acquired when I moved onto the 23rd floor of a 24-story apartment building, I sometimes carried 3 or 4. In case I got stuck in the elevator, I really wanted to have something to do to pass the time.
I once caught up with Bobby Tom and Gracie in the lobby of the Loews Lincoln Square Theater on 68th and Broadway. I learned about construction and comic books with Cilla and Ford on a bench in Central Park. I spun Irish fairy-tales with Jude and Aiden in the elevator of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and I built sailboats with the Quinn Family in the Thursday evening check-out line at Fairway on 75th and Broadway.
3 years ago, in one of my most flagrant displays of loud and proud romance-novel worship, I even pulled out a copy of It Had to Be You - and soaked up Phoebe and Dan’s epic romance - on the very first day of my new investment bank job, in a conference room full of new-hires waiting for orientation to start. I glanced up from my book at one point to see if I could find another book in the crowd, a soul sister if you will, but to no avail; all the other faces in the room were obscured by the mammoth pages of the Wall Street Journal. And you know what? I had a really good first day on the job.
If you are reading this blog, and, like me, really love a good romance novel, then love it out loud. Don’t be embarrassed about the book that gives you a little spring in your step as you go about your day. Read it in restaurants, waiting in line at the grocery store, and on the way to work. Maybe someone on the subway is looking around for a good book suggestion. And if you ever want to start that Monday morning romance novel book club on the M-57, just let me know. I’ll bring the coffee.