'To See You': A fresh look at romance novel stereotypes by a Pittsburgh novelist
August 14, 2016 1:01 AM
Pittsburgh-based romance author Rachel Blaufeld
By Lorinda Hayes
Remember Fabio? Hot blonde romance cover model, hair flowing in the wind his ship moves quickly to the Tropics, a raven-haired beauty in a gorgeous gown—with plenty of décolleté—stretched provocatively across his knee? Yeah, let’s forget that right now. Because, while the historical romance is still written and read, a whole new breed of romance authors have entered the field.
Pittsburgh native and author Rachel Blaufeld has written one of the freshest contemporary romances this year: “To See You” (Rachel Blaufeld Publishing, $13.99). Fabio is not in it. Instead, we are treated to Layton, a regular guy. Layton has nerdy friends he meets in a local bar in California to play darts and drink beer. He has a Golden Lab, lots of rock t-shirts and jeans that are kind of loose in an era of skinny jeans. And, the only six pack this guy has comes in bottles or cans. Layton is a music guy—in that he edits sound and designs soundtracks for film. He’s is a good son and only child—born late in life to older parents who are in nursing care now. Layton sits in first class when he flies for the extra space and, even then, his thighs are a little too close to the seat next to him where he meets Charli.
Charli is a genius whose career fast-tracked along with both her high school and college educations. At 28, her writing dreams have taken a back seat to her job as fitness editor of an on-line magazine—Bubblepop. She runs, practices yoga, eats well, dresses well, drinks fancy, and is unhappy to get that last seat on the plane from Chicago to New York next to the fat guy.
Now the shoe is on Layton’s foot. He is smitten. They have communication in common—his in film, and hers in promoting said film. He is able to track her through that conversation and begin an e-mail romance that starts with an apology. What? In a romance novel? The hero is insecure, maybe ashamed of his appearance, maybe that nice guy who is taking care of his elderly parents before he celebrates his 35th birthday. That guy that is always around, but does any gorgeous fit female want to date him?
Charli, whose designer shoe clad foot is firmly entrenched in the career she believes she is to follow, can’t understand the attraction she has for this warm-eyed man who is approachable, sweet, awkward, and not-her-mother’s choice. (Because, yes, widowed mom has her nose in this relationship, too, with her “what would your father want” guilt trip). What is about Layton that intrigues Charli?
And what is it about Charli that prompts Layton to keep on the cross-country pursuit? Body image is a typical theme in romance. The plus size heroine is popular in books as writers acknowledge the weight issues women carry with them adding some bonus emotional pounds to their burden. But an overweight, underactive man, how does that happen? Women read romance so that no matter how they see themselves, they can see themselves with that athlete, male model, tatted biker, MMA fighter, alpha billionaire who does not exist in most of our social circles.
Ms. Blaufeld takes the story beyond the gorgeous bodies and focuses on how a person’s self-image, accomplishments and goals are influenced by more than just good grades or a love of music. As an experienced social worker, one of the bonuses of Ms. Blaufeld’s writing is her understanding of trauma and growth as children become adults. Love still can conquer all, but not without self-reflection and self-acceptance.
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