Can I have a romance that won’t make me cry
One of the hardest requests I’ve had was to recommend romance fiction that was not going to make my reader cry.
Several years ago, I had two requests for romance fiction that was only happy. One was from a borrower and the other was from a friend (who was also a borrower at another branch in my library network) both of whom were having chemotherapy for breast cancer. Both of them had said “I just don’t want to cry. I need to stay positive and I really want to read some happy romance”.
Now this may seem to be a simple task for the non-romance reader for romance is perceived as pleasurable reading, it is light, it has a happy ending. But to achieve a happy ending and to keep the reader engaged most romances delve into some dark emotions and unbelievable sadness and betrayal. These obstacles can seem insurmountable, heartbreaking, tear-jerking and emotionally distressing so much so that the reader is left exhausted before the author brings the feeling up again.
I could never recommend Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband with the heart-wrenching lack of communication between Leo and Bryony to these women – yet it is a brilliant romance. I have read many Julia Quinn novels that are light and fun Regency romances yet to blithely recommend any of her books would mean I could inadvertently have a reader crying their eyes out over the Michael’s unrequited love for Francesca in When He was Wicked.
Book reviewers are always keen to tell you if a book is a tear-jerker but they rarely indicate when a book has brought a tear to their eye, particularly if the protagonists overcome their sad situation to have a happy ending. If I had not been asked for romances, I think I would have been more successful in finding books that were not sad. Any fiction that is based on characterisation and relationships has the potential to make the reader cry whereas I feel that this is less likely in reading an action adventure tale.
Knowing this, I felt that I needed to have read the books that I was recommending to both my borrower and my friend. I gave them both Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score and Susan Elizabeth Philips’s Match Me if you Can. Both came back happy with those books and asked for more. I gave them Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation but I made note to not give them The Cinderella Deal. We seemed to do the loops with these three authors with me carefully vetting each book recommendation first. After a while my borrower made her own way with her choices and we would chat at the circulation desk. Since I finished at my previous workplace I have not heard from her or how she has been.
I started lending my own books to my friend and though we didn’t get to see each other as much as I would have liked, our rotation of happy reads (delivered through another friend) continued. Sadly, a year and a half after I was first asked to recommend romances that would not make her cry my friend passed away. About two months later I received a small bag with the last four books I had lent her, one still had her bookmark left in it. As much as Rachel Gibson used to make me laugh with her wry observations and her funny dialogue, I can no longer read her books without have a cry first.