Reforming The Rake (and other romance novel lessons)

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you’ve all recovered from the post-holidays. I’ve been working on the next book and trying to get back to exercising and NOT eating leftover Christmas candy.

I’ve also been reading fashion magazines and some celebrity gossip blogs while pretending to write. And something struck me when I was reading that Katy Perry and Russell Brand split after 14 months of marriage (something besides the fact that I thought “If she had just read a couple chapters of My Bookie Wook she would have totally known he was not a good husband bet” that is…). In romance novels we’re always asked to suspend disbelief and trust that a man with a, er, colorful past (say,your average historical Duke of Slut, TM) will meet his True Love and happily settle down for life with nary a thought to his old wild ways. Or that a marriage of convenience will work out to romantic bliss every time. Stuff like that.

I have been reading romances a long time, and I’ve also been dating a long time. I’ve never taken my dating cues from books (there are no dukes around here, for one thing). Aside from the fact that I learned one valuable lesson from these stories that has always served me well–never stay with someone who doesn’t treat you well, doesn’t respect you for who you are, or just plain doesn’t feel right. That can mean it takes longer to find the Right One maybe, but then it’s a lot easier to spot him when he does come along…

What life lessons have you learned from romance novels? Which lessons would you stay clear of? And have you read anything good lately??

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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10 years ago

It might be hard to prove based on series’ characters and their stories, but the adage “look at his friends” applies. If his friends are rude, crude boors, I wouldn’t bet on fidelity longer than month 3 of raging hormonal, morning sickness. Seriously, even if you buy into the HEA with Duke of Slut [awesome, BTW], can we all predict self-indulgent behaviour the moment things get rocky? Peer pressure and habituated behaviours are powerful things. Yet, this is often the type of character that is presented as reformed and idealized in this genre. I never completely got that.

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

I think reforming the rake is just a version of the Beauty and the Beast theme. In romance the rakes are not really all that bad inside, are they? Don’t they have their own sense of ethics? Don’t they just look beastly on the outside?
I do agree that in real life you cannot count on the rake really reforming, though.

Amanda, I think romance novels provide a great example of the value of regarding yourself as worthy of respect, good treatment, and acceptance of who you are. You made an excellent point!!!!

10 years ago

Yes, the question is, is he a Duke of Slut (TM used by permission) because he truly likes women or does he use sex because it feels good and as another means of competing with his male friends. If the former, there is hope, if the latter, not so much. For this kind of man the only value women have is for physical release and as a means of furthering his male relationships.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Dee, I completely agree that looking at a man’s friends is a very good indicator of the sort of man he is (also his relationship with his mother and other women in his life)…

Diane, I totally credit reading romances with saving me from many of the pitfalls of dating! 🙂 I’ve never gone out with a total jerk beyond a couple of dates and never had anything really terrible happen, all because of the lessons I’ve learned from reading (and watching my friends dating). That’s one of the reasons why I get so mad at ignorant people who say romance novels give women “unrealistic expectations” of men and relationships….

Beth Elliott
10 years ago

One of the more realistic portrayals of a Rake is in Georgette Heyer’s ‘Venetia’. Venetia accepts that – given temptation – Damerel may not always be faithful to her but she believes he will always love her. Just saying…

Generally I like to think that in a story the Rake reaches maturity when he finds his true love. In Regency genre novels, a rake is handy because he doesn’t run away screaming at female indispositions – gad, I’m falling into the vocabulary of the genre so better stop here.

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

Many people condemn romance novels for giving women unrealistic expectations of men. I feel that attitude is 100% WRONG !!

The fact is, my reading romance novels made me believe I DESERVED a gentleman, a real man. Those novels did make me set the bar impossibly high. But you know what, they also taught me I was worth it. They taught me I was worth a man who would respect me as a person. They taught me I deserved a man who was going to treat me well, make me feel like the most beautiful and desirable woman in the world. They taught me I deserved a man who would be faithful because he loved me and couldn’t imagine being unfaithful to me. And if that is unrealistic of me, so be it. I’m worth it!

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Even in my teens I was suspicious of the reformed rake who says the heroine is the perfect woman he never thought existed (implying all the other women are gold-diggers or whatever). I always wonder if he’ll break down if she has a cranky day or happens to notice another goodlooking man.

I always prefered the ones in which the h/h help to bring out each other’s basic goodness and learn to love each other with all their quirks and imperfections.

10 years ago

I really love to read historical and contemporary romance, fantasy, and young adult fantasy.