Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Real Prince Charmings

A lot of people—both men and women—turn their noses up at women’s fiction, so often dismissing it as “chick lit.”

But I love this genre. I most ardently love it.

Bring me your flawed, relatable protagonists. Bring me your quick, witty dialogue that literally never happens in real life. Workplace drama? Awesome! A fiercely loyal and clever best friend? I'd expect nothing less. A tumultuous “will they or won’t they” romance?

This is where things get fuzzy.

As my plane landed in Cincinnati this evening, I was flying through the final pages of a recent novel written by a favorite women’s fiction author.

And I was feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Because yet another smart heroine had ended up with yet another eternal-player-turned-monogamist love interest.

Okay, seriously.

Can we *please* stop this already?

It’s not that I’m against a great love story that keeps the reader guessing. I mean, a great love story should have its ups and downs and leave you on the edge of your seat, right?

But there are so many more creative ways to achieve this rather than placing a commitment phobe on a pedestal and having him magically change his ways in the last 5–10 pages.

Why do smart writers continue to allow the clichéd “Carrie and Mr. Big” setup dilute their work? Has everyone forgotten what Jane Austen taught us? The Mr. Wickhams of the world are not to be trusted!

And to make matters worst?

There is generally an older, wiser female character who warns the protagonist of the alarmingly handsome, impossibly charming, astonishingly smart, mind-bogglingly wealthy womanizer.

And yet, the lovable heroine just can’t help herself and falls for him anyway. And—surprise!—after all his mixed messages and unreliable behavior, he changes. Because she was special.


As a voracious reader and an aspiring author, I am disappointed when I see this trope appear again and again. It hurts my heart a little bit. I think of all the novels I read at ages 11, 15, 18... And I can’t help but wonder how they affected me and my own romantic expectations.

I spent a whole bunch of years entangling myself in flings that were toast before they even started. Some were fun, some were agonizing, and all of them were doomed. Because they all involved men who were carbon copies of the characters I read about in women's fiction.

So while the smart, funny banter, handsome looks, and eternal, beguiling ambiguousness were all there, that final plot twist never came. These guys? They never changed.

When I met Adam, he asked me out on a second date before our first had ended. Within two weeks, he was proudly calling me his girlfriend. On evenings I had grad school class after work, he'd cook me a late supper to enjoy when I was finally free at 10pm.

Adam let me cry big, ugly sobs into his chest when my family dog had a cancer scare, and then he took me to get margaritas after. He literally ran over a bouquet of flowers to my office the afternoon I received good news from a literary agent.

Adam sends me a text each morning, asking how I slept the night before and wishing me a good day. He doesn't let me grow quiet after an argument; he is a fixer and makes things right. When he arrives home from work, he stops into my writer's nook, kisses the top of my head, and then engulfs the dogs into huge hugs. He loves me when I'm not acting very lovable.

He is my actual, totally real Prince Charming, and he's made me realize that true love doesn't play games.

And yet, it's just as much fun. Usually more so.

It's time we celebrate the good guys and stop telling girls the other ones are worth waiting for, that they're going to suddenly undergo some magical, radical metamorphosis.

Besides, can't we all agree Harry Goldenblatt was a way better catch than Mr. Big?

He let Charlotte keep a litter of King Charles Spaniels in the penthouse, for goodness sake.

There are better love stories to be told.

So let's write them.

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