Um Susan, that’s one of the big reasons to read fiction is because it does enable you to suspect reality for a while.
But her view is that reading Pride & Prejudice or its modern variant, Bridget Jones’ Diary, is that having read about Mr Darcy, we will be unable to settle for anything less in the real world.
And even worse than that, that we will expect sex to always be incredible and relationships to be straightforward.
Oh come on – one of the reasons we like these books is because they don’t portray the grim realities of our real world and real lives.
Even worse than making us set our romantic sights too high, American sociologists think that chick-lit novels have done something further. US author Dr Julianna Slattery, author of the ‘interesting guide’ Finding the Hero in Your Husband; Surrendering the Way God Intended has gone so far as to label romance novels “an addiction” and an addiction that places an unreasonable burden on the husbands and boyfriends of those of us who read them.
The men in question are being forced to live up to the standards of the romantic heros with the threat that just as soon as they have been got rid of, their wives will be riding off into the sunset with a bigger, better looking, richer version in tighter trousers.
But what is so wrong about women setting their standards high? About women wanting to grasp a bit of romance in their lives? About women wanting strong men who can provide them with security, safety and take-your-breath-away seduction?
In fact, perhaps the problem is not that women are reading these novels but that men aren’t – perhaps the average bloke should be taken to one side and given a copy of a Georgette Heyer regency novel and told that this is the sort of behaviour that women are keen on and that a few hours spent reading about the antics of the hero might reap him untold benefits.
At least it has to be an improvement on thinking that the world really is like the inside of something by Terry Prachett.
*she does make one good point in that only 1 in 10 novels features condoms and that isn’t helpful from a family planning perspective but the whole fact they are fiction and not supposed to be reality does seem to have passed her by. And safe sex is a good idea in the real world with real nasty diseases. Obviously.