Monday, February 15, 2010

Reader's Diary #582- Abby Gaines: So, how did you two meet?

This Valentine's Day, I went looking for a romance. Which publisher do you associate with romance? Harlequin, of course. Harlequin, many people don't realize, is a Canadian company. According to its website, Harlequin is Canada's most successful publisher, publishing a whopping 130 million books in 2008, of which only 5% were sold in Canada. This may help explain why they have a line of romances set around the NASCAR circuit (I'm not kidding), but none based around hockey. Harlequin's success is sort of like our music scene, isn't it? We export the multi-platinum selling Celine Dion and keep the Tragically Hip for ourselves. By the way, there hasn't been a single Harlequin book reviewed in 3 years of the Canadian Book Challenge.

So, like very few Canadians have done before me, I went looking for love at Harlequin. Not looking for a long term commitment, but more of a quickie, I figured they must have at least one short story available online. They didn't. However, I did Google some of their authors. Almost all of them had webpages, and one of those, Abby Gaines, also offered up a couple short story freebies.

"So, how did you two meet?" is about a doctor at a gerontology ward who is bothered by a woman visitor who likes to ask his female patients how they'd met their husbands so many years ago. According to her, she's simply providing a service to these elderly ladies who want someone to talk to and reminisce. According to him, she's dredging up old memories and reminding them of death and loneliness. A man and a woman who initially don't click? Gee, I wonder where this is going.

Despite it's predictability, I didn't mind the story. Like most romances (both real and fictional), there has to be a moment of magic. People have been trying to discern between love and Love and LOVE and Love for ages and Gaines hints around about at least a couple of those. The doctor, obviously representing the more practical side of love, talks about love beyond that first hookup. That's where the work and genuine long lasting relationships are made. But the visitor's focus on that initial chemistry isn't without importance. True, most romances seems to put too much importance on the latter, but it's a magic you almost need to believe in when you're first falling in love. Facts can come later.

Incidentally, if you have a nice "how you met" story, you might be interested in this.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Margot said...

I enjoyed reading your post for both the talk about Canada (I'm cheering for you in the Olympics) and romance/Harlequin. I love character-rich stories and I sometimes tell myself that's why I read romance books. But it's probably more for the magic you were talking about. A good author will make me feel the magic of the characters.

I'm off to read the romance story but let me tell you that I have a Short Story Monday post today. You can find it HERE.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy a good romance occasionally.

I read a fairy story this week.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are going to make me read a romance story? Hmmm, do I want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon or do I want to read this story? Decisions, decisions. Okay, I will read it, but you owe me.

John Mutford said...

Margot: This one won't convince me to stock up on Harlequins, but it was okay.

Carolsnotebook: The slogan over at Harlequin is "For Women Who Love To Read" so I don't think they're even trying to hook me, but oh well, I'll read what I'll read.

Barbara: I'll make it up to you. Go see Valentine's Day and I'll let you in on my class action against Garry Marshall for the severe emotional abuse we suffered.

Abby Gaines said...

Wow, I made it to within shouting distance of the Canadian Book Challenge! Thanks for reading, and I hope no one felt obliged to gouge their eyes out with a teaspoon for light relief...

Remi said...

I had a prof once who said everyone should read at least one Harlequin just to see how a formula novel is made. My mother and sisters read them on occasion but so far I've avoided that pleasure.

I'm a fan of all reading so, while I have made my jokes about Harlequin (it's too hard not to), I actually have no problem with them. They can't be any worse then some of the formula fantasy and sci-fi novels I enjoyed as a kid. Just a different formula is all.

Teddy Rose said...

Hmm, I read a few of my mom's Harlequins' when I was a kid. I didn't mind them when I was 11 but grew out of them very quickly. (yes, for those of you who don't know, I am originally from the U.S.A.). They are all pretty much the same story over and over. I guess the formula allows the books to be pumped out fast. Quantity over Quality. Sorry Abby.

Here's 2 more Boyle's: