The other day, my family and I sat down to watch the 2010 movie Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It is a fast-paced, spy/romance/comedy, bang-bang, shoot-'em-up and kiss-kiss kind of film with enough of both kiss and shoot to keep the two males and three females of our unit happy.
Halfway through, I realized—though I am sure the boys did not—that the film has all the qualities of something they would never be caught dead reading: a modern romance novel. Or at least, one of the fun and spicy romance novels written by Mt. Lebanon resident and internationally published author Gwyn Cready, featured in Wise Women's June issue.
In Cready's books, as in the movie, the hero is over-the-top capable and drop-dead handsome with a great sense of humor. But he's never too self-serious. The heroine, finding herself unexpectedly in an exotic and dangerous situation, quickly shows resourcefulness, courage and awesome pistol aim she never knew she had.
The hero falls hard for her but not in a cloying, annoying kind of way. He shows admiration for her abilities, respect for her needs and a willingness to treat her as a partner. They take turns saving each other's lives, and ultimately, drive off into the implied happily-ever-after with nary a wedding dress, household chore or pay inequality issue in sight.
Of course, the chemistry is intense, and the hero is a wee bit of a bad boy—but with integrity. He is someone you could take home to Mom or proudly exhibit to friends—if you needed that kind of validation, which Cready's confident heroines do not.
Total fantasy? Yes, but this kind of book has created a $1.4-BILLION industry, greater than the mystery and science fiction genres combined. Cready contends the romance novel has changed a lot since the 1970s. A far cry from the old stereotype, Cready's novels are full of witty dialogue and clever steamy scenes (double entendre, anyone?). The values that come through her characters are self-determination, self-reliance, vibrancy, respect, mutual appreciation, integrity, loyalty and valuing others' needs.
Judging by the positive reception my husband and son gave the romance novel in movie format—though they did groan at the kissy parts—the appeal of these values is not limited to one gender. Despite a tendency in the male-dominated literary world to snuff at the romance genre, the wider world would do well to heed what women seem to want.
It could be good for business ... and a more amicable world.
Wise Women is an e-journal for and about dynamic women in Pittsburgh's South Hills area. You can join—it's free—at wisewomenlife.com.