I enjoy an escapist beach read as much as anyone else. I’ve got no literary pretensions.
That said, however, I was concerned to learn that many romance novels are not as harmless as they seem.
Some marriage therapists caution that women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ entrancing but distorted messages as men can by the distorted messages of pornography.
Many of today’s romance novels have a huge soft-porn influence. Nearly all major publishers are rushing to put out mainstream “erotica” titles to meet exploding demand.
When should we admit there is little difference between the influences of graphic images on men and seductive, graphic words on women?
Erotica provides a porn-laced story with no worry about a spouse catching you online.
Even traditional romance novels promote – almost by definition – an unattainable romantic ideal. The male heroes are all strong, rugged and breathtakingly handsome yet sensitive, patient listeners and utterly unselfish.
Dr. Julianna Slattery, psychologist and author of the excellent book “Finding the Hero in Your Husband,” says: “For many women, these novels really do promote dissatisfaction with their relationships.
“There is a neurochemical element with men and porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels. I have met women that are addicted to these novels.”
If you think that is an insignificant trend, think again.
The Romance Writers of America Web site says 64 million people, mostly women, read at least one romance novel last year, accounting for 55 percent of the mass-market fiction sold.
Although I wish erotica would disappear, I’m not suggesting women ditch other books that also happen to be romance stories.
But this summer, those of us who like a good beach read would do well to remember, as we fold up our towel and head home, that it’s our choice to find the hero in our husband and not in the pages of a fiction book.
Diane Glass, from the left: Romance novels a harmless diversion.