Men Reading Romance



  Men Reading Romance by Jean & Paul Mason
------------------------------------------------ Yes, readers, all your emails did the trick! Jean was able to convince Paul to read another romance!

Jean says (by way of explanation):

Last December Paul and I "cooperated" on a review of Connie Mason's (no relative!) Sheik. Actually, cooperated isn't quite the right word. I was not enjoying the Mason book and was thinking about just giving up when Paul offered to read the book and make comments. The resulting feature was pretty popular, and we promised Dede to do it again sometime.

However, I wanted our next cooperative venture to be somewhat different. I wanted Paul to read a book by one of the top authors in the genre. So when Amanda Quick's With This Ring came my way, I decided that this would be a good book to review together. I also thought it would be interesting to have someone who had never read a Quick book review her latest work, especially since I had felt that her most recent novels were all too formulaic.

Maybe we should begin by asking Paul why he agreed to undertake this little exercise. So tell our readers, Paul, why?

Paul says:

Well, Jean, I did it to be agreeable. I've always been a person who likes to give his opinion about all manner of things (You can say that again! -JHM), so when I was asked to do this, I couldn't resist.

Jean says:

What was your overall response to With This Ring?

Paul says:

Despite the fact that I am an infrequent reader of fiction (I mostly like black comedies such as Thomas Pynchon's Vineland or John Barth"s Chimera), I thoroughly enjoyed With This Ring.The book has an older (well, forty) eccentric hero and a very adventuresome younger (near thirty) heroine who writes romance novels: "horrids" in those days. Plus lots of other interesting characters including a dog and the madame of a brothel (unfortunately, she specialized in discipline which I have never liked in any form.) All are caught up in a mystery which, in itself, isn't half bad. And the book has a great last line. No peeking!

But there is another reason why I like this book. The tone is wry. Wry romance/sex: that's a tough combination to beat like those wonderful thirties and forties comedies before Doris Day and Rock Hudson ruined them by making them so d**ned obvious.

There is one major flaw. The dog is missing from the concluding scene of domestic happiness. (Guess who Paul's "best friend" is? -JHM) But that to one side, my hat is off to Amanda Quick, whoever she may be. I give this one four hearts, no matter what my wife may have to say about its fidelity to the regency period.

Jean says:

Paul, did the book hold your interest?

Paul says:

Yes, I was anxious to finish it and find out how it came out. (He hurried through dinner to get back to the book! -JHM)

Jean says:

It was really fun watching Paul become engrossed with this book and complain that it might keep him up past his bedtime. That he read it with such enjoyment suggests that Quick has not lost her touch and, indeed, I found this latest novel a little less predictable that her recent offerings. (Or maybe, since I have skipped her last two, I was ready to "re-discover" Quick again.)

I, too, liked the hero and heroine. Mrs. Beatrice Poole (who secretly writes those "horrid" novels) seeks out Leo, the Earl of Monkcrest (known as "the Mad Monk") because of his expertise with antiquities. Her uncle has possibly been murdered because the legendary Forbidden Rings of Aphrodite had come into his possession. The rings are now missing. Beatrice needs to recover those rings to protect her niece's inheritance and comes to Monkcrest simply for information. But the earl decides that he cannot let Beatrice place herself in danger, and so insists on joining the quest. That the two are immediately attracted to each other adds spice to their partnership.

Wry what a descriptive word for Quick's writing! Indeed, With This Ring is full of her patented wry humor. No one does the quirky hero and heroine better, nor is more able to convince the reader that they are made for each other.

A caveat here. What Paul found so appealing the mystery, the plot, the intrigue may actually displease diehard romance fans if they feel the plot overshadows the romance. But this romance fan found the developing relationship between two strong-minded, intelligent, and needy characters quite well done and very satisfying.

So, I guess this will be one of those rare occasions when I agree with my husband. Four hearts. And yes, it is a great last line!

(Bantam, $23.95, PG-13) ISBN:0-553-10083-1

Readers, this is an experimental column. Please tell us what you think. Would you like to see more men reviewing romance?

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