Danielle Steel Ruins Lives

This Valentine's Day morning I was cuddled up in my bed with one of my greatest loves- a book, of course, and I got to thinking. Books can make fantastic surrogate companions when necessary. They take you to new places, make you think, distract you from problems, cheer you up, and never give you shit. While they may lack in other vital areas, books can tide my over when my significant other is tied up at work or to his xbox.

Then, while contemplating a possible post to commemorate the absolute awesomeness that is this holiday, I started thinking about the romance genre and my (limited) experiences with it. Back when I was in maybe seventh or eighth grade I discovered the Queen of Mass-Produced Romance, her Majesty Danielle Steele. My mom had several books (Steele has published over 100), and the public library a million more, so I began my phase, excited to find out what the world of love had in store for me in just a few short years.

Holy mother of God, was I wrong. I caught on to the formula pretty quickly: woman falls in love, is hurt, some sort of tragic life event occurs, falls in love again (sometimes with the same guy), emerges happier and stronger than before, and then they all live happily ever after while having tons of sex, money, and good looks. Women were wooed with extravagant gifts or emotional tributes, and the always landed on their feet eventually. Luckily interest in this genre ended rather quickly, yet the seed had been planted.

As I moved into my dating years I became a much more sarcastic, cynical, and realistic person (whew), but in the back of my mind I secretly wished that the guys I involved myself with would take a hint from Steel. Not so much.

Now as an old married lady, I have a very jaded outlook as far as romance novels go. Who reads them? Young, idealistic girls and divorced or single middle-aged women. While I'm sure there are exceptions (there always are), there seems to be an obvious psychological motivation behind choosing to read them: living vicariously. They keep hope alive for women while simultaneously setting up potential suitors for failure. What, he drives a Toyota, has thinning hair and didn't bring you two dozen red roses? I guess you better wait around for Pierre to cruise up in his Rolls (driven by his driver, of course).

Maybe a romance novel is better than nothing when you're alone, but only as long as you're realistic about the whole dating world. Frequent flowers and weekends in France are rare, ladies, and seldom last past the first few months. You cannot rely on a man to come and fix your problems or teach you how to take care of them yourself, either. Also, be careful if you are involved and for some reason choose to read one- your expectations for poor [insert guy's name here] should not skyrocket just because you read about Preston renting out the penthouse suite and covering it in rose petals just "because it was Tuesday" (Preston, Pierre, they all sound like romance novel names to me).

And buyer beware- most romance novels are not quality pieces of fiction (if readers of such books care). I would put money on Danielle Steel farming out the several novels a year baring her name to ghostwriters who can easily follow the formula (she did write one book outside the genre, though, about her son who was bipolar and committed suicide, a topic that I can safely say she covered well).

Just be careful out there; that Danielle Steel is a sneaky lady that has managed to corrupt thousands and thousands of poor readers. Now back to feeling all fuzzy with your flowers and candy.

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