Everything* I Know I Learned From Romance Novels

Some non-genre readers scoff at us fanat–that is, engaged readers of genre fiction. Romance, for example, they deride as being fluff, female porn, and the ever-loathed term “bodice ripper.”
But I have learned a lot–A LOT– from romance novels. For example:

One Saturday, the spouse and I were listening to NPR, and they had one of their quiz shows (no, I don’t remember the title. If I did, I would have said!). They were playing Dictionary, where someone finds an obscure word and the contestants have to make up definitions, and the real definition is included, and the other side has to vote on which definition is the right one.
The word was “delope.” I knew, of course, that it meant to shoot your pistol into the air during a duel because I . . . drumroll please . . . read historical romances.

I was up on the whole War of the Roses controversy because I devoured Anya Seton‘s Katherine. I also knew the prose Wat Tyler chanted during the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt because of the same book (“When Adam delved and Eva span/Who was then the gentleman?).

I’ve always used the phrase “mutton dressed as lamb” to indicate an older woman wearing garments better suited for a younger one, and now my Swank Husband (and his NY-editorial friends) all use the term too. I routinely ask my husband “Do I look muttony?” before going out.

“Hard-pressed” refers to the forced conscription of men into the navy during wartime.

I know all of Henry VIII’s wives in order: Katherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Katherine (that is from memory, I think I got all the ‘Katherine’s done properly) because of reading historical romance.

).While watching Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World, I leaned over and told my husband Admiral Lord Nelson had lost an arm, too, so Capt. Aubrey’s next revelation to the young injured cabin-boy made me look extra-cool (or geeky. You decide

I know all about how important it was to be seated above the salt at a banquet table. I am a big fan of salt, btw.

I know there’s more, but I think I’ve blathered enough–what facts have you learned from reading romance?

*Well, not everything, but a lot of things.

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7 Responses to Everything* I Know I Learned From Romance Novels

  1. Cara King says:

    I learned an awful lot of things.

    I learned about perfume from a Harlequin Romance.

    I learned about radio, and more about perfume, from Harlequin Temptations.

    I learned about B&Bs, and more than I ever wanted to know about the “mystical” properties of crystals, from Silhouette Romances.

    I learned about the Moravians and old Pennsylvania from an American historical romance (Selina MacPherson).

    I learned huge amounts from more Regencies than I can count.

    I learned fascinating nursing info from old Kate Norway Mills & Boons.

    I learned about soap operas and country music from contemporary romances (Kathleen Gilles Seidel).

    I learned about dogs, Chinese take-out, and Dove Bars from Jennifer Crusie novels. 🙂


  2. Amanda says:

    I learned about hockey from Rachel Gibson novels.

    I learned about football and publishing children’s books from Susan Elizabeth Phillips novels.

    I learned how to play cricket from Jo Beverly’s The Fortune Hunter.

    I learned about the Jacobite uprising from Patricia Veryan’s The Golden Chronicles.

    I learned about Waterloo from Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army.

    I learned about nineteenth century methods of contraception from Cleo Chadwick’s The Scarlet Spinster.

  3. Santa says:

    I’ve learned how a young lady is dressed (and undressed) from the many, many Regencies I have read.

    I learned how an army hospital ‘bugs out’ (MASH terminology) during the last days of the Pennisular Wars in Carla Kelly’s ‘The Wedding Journey’

    I learned how to shot craps (Hazard) from Jo Bevarley’s ‘Hazard’.

    I learned that a duke could own at least seven quizzing glasses from Mary Balogh’s ‘Slightly Dangerous’.

    I can now recognize more Shakespear from reading all of Eloisa James’ books.

    I learned how to build a Guinness from Nora Roberts’ ‘Irish Trilogy’.

    I learned about, and embraced, the term ‘blue stocking’.

    I’ve also learned that outside of this group of Regency fans, no one else uses Regency-speak in everyday language. More’s the pity!

  4. I know who Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra is because of Bertrice Small, and Boudicca because of Anya Seton. I know the origins of the War of the Roses because of Katherine by Anya Seton and also those Jean Plaidy novels I read. In fact my entire history of England, I learned from reading Jean Plaidy.

  5. I have learned way too much from reading romances! Jean Plaidy was my first intro to English history, too. I loved her “fictional bios.” And when I was in the fifth grade (after I started reading Regencies) I wrote a short story where my heroine drove a phaeton, and the teacher didn’t know what it was! Even then I was a trivia geek. 🙂

  6. See? We can all dazzle our friends (and enemies) with our knowledge because we read romances!

    (My son said he wanted to be a minotaur in pre-k, and the teacher had no clue what that was. My son, the incipient geek).

  7. Elena Greene says:

    From reading Georgette Heyer (while in grade school) I learned the meanings and spellings of words like “ubiquitous” and “ebullient”.

    From recently published Regency romances I might (if I didn’t know better) think:

    – that Lady Jersey, patroness of Almacks, was Prinny’s mistress (that was earlier and it was her mother-in-law)

    – that marriages could easily be annulled as long as you didn’t do the deed

    – that the same horse could go 15mph for hours on end

    Elena, feeling grumpy today, perhaps I should add some smileys?

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