We throw around titles of the most romantic books, plays, movies, stories. Gone with the Wind is a major favorite, along with the tales of King Arthurâ€™s round knights. Mustn’t forget some of the musicals – My Fair Lady, Camelot (Arthur again) and of course Phantom of the Opera. I find Weberâ€™s music helps words come through my fingers and often ignore the words for the tunes.
Recently I listened to Phantom when I wasnâ€™t writing and could pay attention to the words. This is romantic? We have a lovely young woman terrorized by a mysterious man yet when she tries to tell her story, sheâ€™s told he doesnâ€™t exist. Even the man who will become the love of her life insists she doesnâ€™t know what sheâ€™s talking about. According to him she needs to forget her fantasies and let him make all her decisions. Supposedly they live happily ever after but one wonders how often Christine is encouraged to ignore her own thoughts and blindly follow the manâ€™s.
Camelot, that classic tale of love is actually about an inconvenient marriage and a woman who canâ€™t keep her word. Yes, Lancelot betrays his king but Guinevere is the woman who made an advantageous marriage then got restless when someone cuter came along. This is romance?
Gone With the Wind doesnâ€™t do much for me as romance, though as a tale of living through a social upheaval itâ€™s marvelous. Iâ€™ve never found Scarlet to be a sympathetic character.
How much of what was once thought extremely romantic can stand up to current thinking? For years the pattern of popular romance was a domineering male and the pure, honest, but plucky virgin. Of course the male was a prince or knight or lord of the manor, later a captain of industry. Quick – how many of those books can you remember as individual stories instead of one in a group of many? Right, same here. But how many of the books that stay with us are about the domineering male who gets taken down a peg or ten by the plucky heroine?
My most romantic book? Probably Mary Stewartâ€™s “My Brother Michael.” Without deep soulful kisses or heavy breathing clinches, at the end of the book there is no doubt these people have made a commitment to each other. But Sharon and Tom Curtisâ€™ “Lightning that Lingers” is right up there. Anyone else? I could use a good classic romantic read right about now.