Is there room in romance for Real Women?

picture of Barbie dollThere’s been a lot of talk about heroines of late. What makes a kick-ass heroine? Tough, sassy, strong etc etc. And I suppose that’s an attempt to distance them from the fluffy women you find so often in romance novels. But even so, I always feel they’re are a bit like Barbie dolls. You know what I mean, an unrealistic ideal. Young, beautiful, smart, sassy, sure of themselves, with tiny waists and legs up to here. So many are princesses, or uber-talented something-or-others brought up by adopted family. All images carefully air-brushed to hide any imperfections, of course.

There’s nothing like a serve of fantasy, I suppose. But at the end of the day, how many of us fit that model? I don’t know about you, but I’m the wrong side of forty, carrying weight I never did in my younger days. But who’d want to read a story about somebody like me?

Enter Diane Nelson.

Diane’s been writing for twenty-five years and more. She’s produced award-winning YA, erotica, paranormal – and this little set of gems. Romance with Reality. She writes romances about Real Women with kids and pasts and cheating husbands and love handles – and let me tell you, they’re funny and super entertaining, and you can relate – really relate – to what’s going down. Three short reads bound to appeal to the slightly older reader. Just click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page.

picture of cover of the conferenceA tropical paradise does terrible things to the human psyche. Maggie, a systems analyst a little way past the blush of youth, finds herself the object of lust for three men. You might say ‘who’s complaining’ but Maggie left her confidence (in the romance department, anyway) back when she was a couple of dress sizes smaller.

This is a funny story, sure to strike a chord with those of us of a ‘certain age’. Maggie has packed the wrong clothes for the conditions. Killer heels don’t work on the beach and polyester tights aren’t comfortable in the heat. Some of the one-liners are just wonderful. For example “I can feel my ass straining the pencil-skirt, tight enough that even the slip has no `slip’, nailed in place between my pantyhose-covered cotton briefs and the thick-weave fabric.” While she’s at the conference she still has a teenage daughter and an elderly mother to contend with, both of whom give her grief in different ways.

Under all the humour lurks a wistful soul who has compared herself to others and lost confidence. It’s a gentle and tender love story as Maggie comes to terms with herself and the men in her life.

picture of the cover of the 90 day ruleJes’s story is one many women have lived. Get married, have kids, give up everything for the husband’s career, let yourself slide, put on some weight. And then one day she finds her politician husband in bed with a girl young enough to be his daughter. It’s the last straw.

Jes starts off sleeping on the sofa in her daughter’s college digs while she tries to piece together a new life. Her self-esteem is at rock bottom, her skills rusty, her financial situation dire. But help comes from an unexpected source – the ghastly mother-in-law and the basketball coach at her daughter’s college. Help is one thing, having the courage to take a chance, something else again. How many women do you know who have had to face a challenge like this? Cast out, alone, the skills they had before they married all but forgotten. They’re past first youth, so far from the romantic stereotype they might as well be in another galaxy. Jes’s story is told with compassion and humour.

picture of Points on a curve coverTaylor is 38 and six feet tall, an ex-professional basketballer player who fell foul of a conniving, manipulative husband. Robert is a sports journalist, younger brother of Taylor’s best friend, and just a little bit shorter than her. At first meeting, he comes across as a slob. But he’s an unforgettable slob, a man who makes her hormones race. As for him, he’s beginning to tire of the cheer-leader bimbos. Besides, he smells a story in Taylor. She reminds him of someone… And away we go on a rocky romance tightly mixed in with a story of use and abuse, self-esteem, courage and a whole lot of love.

Like The Conference and The 90 Day Rule, there’s a whole bunch of laughs as well as angst and hot romance in this story. It probably helps if you like basketball – it’s a definite minor character  – but it’s not essential. I’m not a basketball fan, I don’t know much about the sport, but I got by.

If you’re like me and you’ve been around for a few years, every one of these books will strike a chord. Been there, done that – or you’ll know somebody who has. Maybe not the precise scenario, but close enough. I think each of these wonderful stories sends a message of hope for those who need it. Even if you don’t need hope, you’ll laugh out loud along the way and find yourself cheering for the characters.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still like the alpha females and their alpha males. But these stories provide an anchor, something to hold onto when the thought of yet another billionaire or prince or princess becomes a bit stale. Please – have a look at these books. Tell me what you think.

14 thoughts on “Is there room in romance for Real Women?

  1. Deborah S

    I loved this post! I agree with you 100%. The popular media is trying to give women a bit more empowerment by providing heroines that are independent, stand up for themselves, etc BUT they are these drop dead gorgeous completely unrealistic women who end up making us normal women feel bad about ourselves! I want to read stories about women who I can relate to! There are some amazing books that are geared towards women with inspiring heroines and captivating plot lines! I just read a fantastic historical romance novel entitled “Shanghai Love” by author Layne Wong (laynewong.com) with a leading lady that is respectable, inspiring, and bound by tradition and family. It is an unlikely love story between a Chinese herbalist and a Jewish refugee looking for safety from Nazi Germany. The herbalist, Peilin, was betrothed to a man who was killed before their wedding but tradition and honor forced the marriage along anyways. She is sent to Shanghai to manage his family’s herbal shop. Shanghai is also Henri’s destination as he has graduated from medical school as Hitler is rising to power. He flees to Shanghai where he’s befriended by Ping, Peilin’s brother. Through her kindness, Henri becomes fascinated with Chinese herbs as well as the exotic culture surrounding him. It’s a novel with a female character that you care about and that deserves a happy ending! Hope you will give it a try and add it to the list of empowering chick lit books!

  2. Julia Rachel Barrett

    If romance doesn’t have room for everyone it needs to make room. Many of us may write 20-ish heroines but we don’t necessarily want to read about them. At least not over and over again.

  3. Diane Nelson

    Thank you all, so very much. Every woman in my life is a woman of merit, extraordinary in some way, and my stories are a homage to their wit, intelligence and courage.
    Again, thank you, you honor me.

  4. Bill Kirton

    I’m sneaking in as the token male to second everything you say about Diane’s writing. Her females are highly credible, self-assured people (even as they’re expressing apparent vulnerability) and far more attractive than the vacuous stereotypes with the legs. The writing’s always energetic and focused and the often self-deprecating humour is always there to keep things balanced.

  5. Toby Neal (@tobywneal)

    These sound great, and while I’m about to debut Stolen in Paradise with a heroine you love to hate, (aka beautiful, great shoes, smart) I enjoyed showing her human side too. Sometimes we have to explore the stereotypes too, and make them real…
    Thanks for these great tips!

    1. Greta van der Rol

      I thoroughly enjoyed Stolen in Paradise. Your heroine has another type of reality – the insecurity of a beautiful woman is quite real. But Diane’s heroines are all more or less damaged goods. Please do check one out. I’m sure you’ll recognise them from your work.

  6. MonaKarel

    I hope there is. I’m sick to death of the Barbie-esque heroines. Especially when they whine about their LONG legs and their ugly LARGE breasts.

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