Romance, deconstructed

Ever wondered what’s inside the pages of a romance novel? Pick up any one, and you’ll find some variation of this:

Our heroine (let’s call her Lily) is a spunky, smoking-hot career woman that leads an average life. One day, she gets laid off of her job and comes home to find her boyfriend cheating on her. This spawns a quarter-life crisis, and now Lily must “find herself” by going AWOL. Conveniently, Lily’s uncle Ron owns a vineyard and winery in Napa Valley, which is an ideal place for doing new-agey soul seeking. (Romance heroines always find the means to go on expensive vacays to find themselves.)

A few days before Lily leaves for her uncle’s estate, Lily’s friends throw her a going-away party. While Lily tries to keep wannabe suitors at bay, someone bumps into her and Lily spills her drink all  over herself. She turns around and sees that a Mr. Darcy clone is the perpetrator. Oh, and he’s 6’4”, chiseled in every way imaginable, and has dark, penetrating eyes.

After initially reeling over “Darcy’s” hotness, Lily realizes she recognizes him. He went out with her roommate back in college and cheated on her. Ugh, that manwhore. Lily gives him a cold look and accepts a pile of napkins from an admirer. After doing a double take, Darcy apologizes and walks away. For the remainder of the party, Darcy and Lily obsess over each other instead of enjoying all the free booze.

As the party dies down, Lily steps out for some air and comes across Darcy while he’s smoking a cigarette alone on the balcony. He’s alone because deep down he’s a misanthrope, and she’s alone because she doesn’t need a girl posse. Darcy, drunk, comes on to Lily, but she doesn’t go for it. Lily slaps him and says something profoundly witty as she storms away. Cut to the next scene.

It’s a week later, and Lily is in Napa, still obsessing over Darcy’s piercing eyes, broad chest, and animal magnetism. Darcy is thinking about how Lily’s special, not like all the other girls. Basically, not a slut. They all said “yes” to him. But this girl is feisty, has an intellect, and the body of a “goddess.” (Romance heroes think the cheesiest things when they think they’re in love.)

Now, romance novelists rely on serendipity―it’s their favorite form of deux ex machina. Coincidentally, Darcy co-owns a vineyard and winery in Napa. Lucy discovers this while strolling through her uncle’s vineyard when she meets―surprise―Darcy!

Darcy is an old friend of Lily’s uncle, who invited him to his estate for a weekend.
Now Lily feels obliged to her uncle to get along with Darcy. Uncle Ron, scheming matchmaker that he is, invites them to a picnic in some idyllic meadow. They go, and after an afternoon in the sun picnicking, Lily and Darcy go for a stroll through the meadow. On their way, they accidentally bump hands. Because they’re harboring waaay too much sexual tension, it feels like an “electric shock.” They stop and speak openly about their attraction. Darcy reveals that he only cheated on Lily’s roommate after she cheated on him. Hmmm, Lily thinks, he’s not as bad as I thought he was…

After that poignant conciliation―that’s when it happens. They finally………kiss! On average, readers have to wait 120 pages for that to happen. Meager compared to the Twilight series. It took four books for Edward and Bella to have a sex scene.

Okay, so back to the kiss. It starts out gentle and gradually gets pretty steamy. Afraid of her own urges, Lily pushes Darcy away and runs back to the picnic site. Darcy, stunned, follows her. They pretend like nothing happened and return to Ron’s estate.

Do they finally consummate their…er…passionate acquaintanceship that night? Hardly. A good romance novelist knows to hold off on the sex scene to build tension, but we can fast forward 60 pages. It’s all meaningful looks and holding hands until that point. Now, be prepared for two things: first, Lily is a virgin by choice. (Romance heroines are almost always sexually inexperienced.) Second, I’m not going to get graphic. Then I’d have to go on about Darcy’s “pulsating member” or Lily’s “glistening mound.”

Anyway, they have sex after Darcy lets Lily cry on his shoulder about her ex. They start making out, things get heavy, and Darcy begins to explores Lily’s perfect virgin body. Lots of writing about nipples, quivering flesh, and warm entrances. Also, despite her inexperience, Lily appears to have a knack for pleasing Darcy. Finally, after three pages of elaborately written foreplay, the plot’s climax occurs―at the climax.

Of course, you can’t end the novel at the “monumental eruption” or spasm of release.” That would be bad form cause this is romance, not erotica. All you need to know is that Darcy and Lily are 100% enamored with each other for the next fifty pages. It’s all rose petals and delusions until they have a Big Misunderstanding.

Lily discovers that Darcy is still in touch with his ex/her ex-roommate by accidentally snooping through his call history. She tells Darcy he’s a compulsive liar and that she never wants to see him again. Of course, she doesn’t let him get two words in because if she did, she would know Ex-Roommate and Darcy still talk because they had a child together and share custody. After months of estrangement, Lily’s uncle mentions Darcy’s child in a conversation and Lily realizes she was wrong about Darcy.

Lily’s uncle Ron also tells her that Darcy started seeing someone else, and that they’re engaged. Paranoid that he’ll be married before she gets to see him again, Lily Internet stalks Darcy and finds his address. She takes a last minute flight and shows up the next morning at his doorstep. It turns out she showed up just in time―Darcy is about to leave for his wedding. Not anymore, though. Darcy knew Lily was The One from the very beginning, so he ditches the wedding and elopes with Lily. The novel ends with Darcy and Lily cozying up on an exotic beach, happy-ever-after-the-end.
–By Jenna Cooper

16 thoughts on “Romance, deconstructed

    • Thank you, Lindsay :D Sorry I got these comments so late. They would’ve cheered me up immensely over the past week. Got some more really bad new concerning a friend…I’ll tell you later. Will probably need you and your Cure wisdom.

  1. love it… hilarious take on romance .. and i needed something to lighten the mood on my first day of back to work week :) i love your humor!

  2. I love this post!

    I’m certainly not adverse to reading romantic stories, but I’ve always preferred them when they are an element of a more complex tale. But I’ve been so put off reading anything remotely “romantic” lately because romance novels and their tired, stale tropes seem to be bleeding out into other forms of fiction. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to read a novel with a great plot, but a really camp/cliche/sexist love story element. So this post really made me laugh. :)

    Am I the only person who’d like to read a story about a male-female (or any other to be fair) relationship that actually bears resemblance to real life?

    • Some of my fav “chick lit” books are written by Susan Isaacs. Almost Paradise and Shinning Through (despite the cheesy titles) feature more realistic characters and plots. Plus, she’s got a great sense of humor.

  3. I love it!!! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this….so witty and well-written! You certainly have the whole romance writer’s plot “outline” down pat! Sure…most of them are just variations on the same theme, but then…there are always some that end up being a little better than others (Oh, Clayton!…Whitney, my love!)

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