Wednesday, September 9, 2015


 I started  reading romantic fiction in the early 80s when I was a teenager. I read the  romance novels published by Mills & Boon Publications, the  books authored by Barbara Cartland and books by my favorite romantic fiction author i.e. Georgette Heyer.  I also read romance comics (black and white pictures) borrowed from the circulating libraries in Bangalore. I read for several years the Archie comics which featured the romance of Archie with Veronica and Betty(Betty, Veronica, Reggi and Jughead are the characters in Archie comics)
Let me talk a little about the Mills and Boon romances. The ones I read were the ones published in the 70s and early 80s. In these books, the lady was always a virgin and always British while the gentleman(or ungentleman) was not necessarily British and definitely not a virgin! I liked the ones where the lady was spirited and spunky. I understand that,  the ladies in these books written in recent times are no longer virgin or British. There were some pretty good authors and though the stories could all be classified into categories and all were predictable, they were more fun to read than my boring textbooks!  I loved the covers which were watercolour paintings of women and men. The mills and boon books of those days followed formulas such as a whole series of doctor-nurse romances, Boss and secretary romances; British heroine falling in love with the Australian sheep farm owner when she travels there to work or the African estate owner where she gets a job; etc.  I cant recall the names  of the authors I liked. I wonder where one can get these books now? I am sure they published at least 5 books a month for years and years but who would store them? This generation wouldn't read the romantic novels of  the 'old' days as it's not their style. I wonder if there is a library or museum where all these books are stored and accessible to readers like me?
Barbara Cartland: I cannot imagine how the Barbara Cartland books had any readers at all! Her novels were sooooooo repetitive, boring, predictable and all stories were exactly the same...heroine who had a heart shaped face, 16 years old or younger, fluttering eyelashes,  trembling voice, etc. The only thing different from one book to another was the name of the heroine and the place of the story. Yet, the book's cover boasted that her books had sold in the millions! I always thought that her readers were the severely retarded!(I read Mills and Boon and I classify myself as mildly retarded!) Her romances were classified as historical romances and supposed to be written in the famous tradition of Georgette Heyer but she is as different from Heyer as chalk is from cheese.
I discovered that in Canada and USA there is a publication similar to Mills and Boon called Harlequin romances. I have not read any but I assume the books are like Mills and Boon.
Does anyone remember the digest size, about 40 page, black and white  paperback romance comics from the circulating libraries of Bangalore? I enjoyed those. The drawings were excellent but I cannot remember the name of a single book, author or illustrator. While roving on the internet, I recently discovered the drawings in those romantic comics are classified as pop-art.
At the same time, there were war-comics which were of the digest size; they were about the first and second world wars and the heroes were soldiers on bikes, etc going stealthily behind enemy (i.e.Nazi) lines and delivering or receiving secrets and some died in the war. I was so addicited to these books but as there were only limited books I had access to, I could not do anything about my addiction but reread what I had or spend my time craving and daydreaming!

I enjoyed the romance in books such as classics and the romance in movies too. For some reason, I no longer crave to read romantic books or see romantic movies... is it because I am older? Or is it that the romance hormones are dwindling  in my brain and body?  Or have I become cynical about romance in my middle age..I don't know! Now I prefer crime fiction to romance.

Love story by Eric Segal, which was probably the most loved romance fiction of my younger days is one of my all time favorites. (But I don't think I will be reading it again). Other romantic books which moved me include: The thorn birds, Gone with the wind, Pride and prejudice. I am not sure if people would call Thornbirds, Gone with the wind and Pride & prejudice as romantic novels but to me they were romantic.  
 I loved The far pavilions by M.M.Kaye intensely and have read it twice or thrice! The far pavilions depicts an India I have never known and I wish I was born the Pre-independence India, in the India of the Maharajahs. 
I have enjoyed and reread a few times a book called In pursuit of love by Nancy Mitford a relatively unknown writer (unknown to my circle of friends and family!). I think this is one of the few realistic love stories I have read; the lover, Fabrice loves Linda, yet he's not blind to her faults. 

I cannot recall what other romantic books I have read.(but I will return to this piece and add them as I recall)

I have loved and reread several times a short story(in book section) of reader's digest called ? Child of my heart. I cant recall the writer's name(it's a lady). The story is that of a young boy, about 15 years old who falls in love with his 18 year old teacher; he has a father who is brutal and casts aspersions on this teacher who is in fact encouraging him to attend school and study. The student and teacher, once, went up a mountain where he shows her fish in a pond. I adored his story and wish I could track it down in some way! It probably came in a 1980s Reader's digest in India.
Another favorite short story which is also movingly romantic is the classic The gift of the Magi by O.Henry.

Another  one of my favorite love stories is that of Tristan and Isolde, ; I prefer the  version where the two are 'good' i.e. they are under the influence of the potion and din't mean to cheat Mark!
I also recall enjoying the wonderful short stories, some of which were romantic,  in Illustrated Weekly of India of the 80s and some great short stories(some of which were romantic) in, believe it or not, Debonair magazine of the 80s! Debonair a porn magazine, was actually pretty classy and 'literary' under the editorship of a great editor, whose name I cant recall now.

To my thinking, some books come under the "romantic" category though  there is no 'man-woman' romance as such. These books which I classify as romantic are Kim by Rudyard Kipling, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, and other such adventure laden classics.

The romantic movie which has moved me the most is Marocharitra, a Telugu black and white movie with Kamal Hassan ( he's my favorite Indian actor) and Sarita. Believe it or not, I saw this movie three times and cried all three times! Another Indian romantic movie which cast a spell on me at the time(I was a preteen kid) was Bobby in which Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia have acted.
I enjoyed a lot of Indian romantic movies in the 70s and 80s in my childhood and teen years. But now, I have changed to such a great extent that I don't have the patience to see the movies I once enjoyed. Years ago, I saw Indian movies like Marocharitra with tears running down my eyes; today, I don't want to see them or I can only mock at them. 
 There are literally millions or movies in India Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, other languages. And at least 80% of them must be romances. But a vast majority of them are repetitive, un-original, with poor acting, poor plot, poor direction, poor everything. Yet for some reason, there are people who watch these and enjoy. I don't know if the Indian film goer is unlucky to see these slip-shod movies or lucky that he has the capacity to enjoy them.

I cant recall reading  Indian romantic books(I can read only English and I don't recall reading Indian romantic novels; there are lakhs of romantic novels in Kannada I am sure but I cant read Kannada fluently). Of course I know the classic love stories of India from mythology and history such as Prithviraj Chauhan and what's her name; Anarkali and Salim, Shahjahen and Mumtaz; Radha and Krishna, Nala  & Damayanti, Heera and Ranja, etc.

I don't know why the hell certain romances in India are considered classic romance at all as I don't find  much romance, at least not expressed by both parties !These romances are the  mythological romances of Nala- Damayanti, Sathyavan-Savitri, Shiva-Parvati, Rama-Seetha. I think these are not really famous for the romantic angle  but for the fidelity of the women in these pairs. Even Europe is full of tales of such women...women who loved their husbands even if they were treated like shit! One example is Griselda by Giovanni Boccaccio. I am sure there is several such stories from cultures all over the world...tales of  wives who loved and were loyal to their husbands, despite the hardships they faced due to their husband's harsh treatment towards them. But this is NOT ROMANCE. These are stories of wives' fidelity, loyalty, tolerating-shitty-treatment-by-being-a-doormat and in my opinion, this is quite different from a 'reciprocal romance'.
I am ashamed to admit that once upon a time, long long ago, when I was young and stupid, I had  several times, read and enjoyed with an orgy of tears, the sufferings of Griselda!

Googling for romantic fiction from India and elsewhere, I see that I am totally out of touch with the HUGE number of publications! Romantic fiction has also evolved and changed so greatly, and I find it difficult to like and accept the current fiction. Some of the modern stuff seems like porn; I am also so conservative in my tastes that I can't get myself to enjoy the romance going on in science fiction stories and movies or  the modern supernatural stuff involving zombies, blood sucking men, etc.

Below are a list of Georgette Heyer novels I love and read sometimes, despite my current disinterest in romantic books!
Regency buck
The Corinthian I adore this book and have read it many times, especially a few sections!
Friday's child
The reluctant widow
The foundling
The grand Sophy I adore this book and have read it many times, especially a few sections!
The quiet gentleman'
The tollgate
Bath tangle
Sprig muslin
April lady
Sylvester/The wicked uncle I adore this book and have read it many times, especially a few sections!
The unknown Ajax I adore this book and have read it many times, especially a few sections!
A civil contract
The nonesuch
False colours
Fredrica I adore this book and have read it many times, especially a few sections!
Black sheep
Cousin Kate
Lady of quality
The black moth
Powder and patch
These old shades
The masqueraders
Devil's cub(This is a sequel to These old shades) I adore this book
The convenient marriage
The talisman ring
Faro's daughter

I will add to this list all the romantic books I read or have already read as and when I recall.

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