Every four seconds a romance novel is sold somewhere in the world. POV: Guilty Pleasures, airing Tuesday, July 17 at 11 p.m. on KUED, uncovers a global community of shared imagination whose yearning for romance fiction’s Holy Grail—true love—seems to know no barrier of language or culture, nor show signs of abating any time soon. The people profiled in the film include:
- Stephen, the handsome and well-built American model featured on more than 200 Harlequin/Mills & Boon book covers. He is that dark hero with the torn shirt, staring deeply into a woman's eyes. ("You're either wearing nothing . . . or you’re decked out in ruffles and puffles and truffles,” he muses. “Lot of swords. Shirtless with a sword.”) Yet, incredibly, this man who can’t walk from the beach to his Miami apartment without causing a sensation isn’t even in a relationship when the film opens, but would like to find true love himself.
- Japanese housewife Hiroko, who feels something lacking in her comfortable life. Her husband, Seiich, is an adoring spouse, and greatly amused by his wife’s romantic fancies, which include being swept off her feet by a David Beckham look-alike. He even encourages her to take up ballroom dancing. But will glamour and excitement spur Hiroko to act on her infatuation with her handsome dance instructor?
- Shumita, an Indian woman whose husband left her for a younger woman. “Mills and Boon, you know, they create an excitement in my life,” she says. “When I look at the lovely, heady relationship . . . it gives me a buzz. It’s not going to be that knight in shining armor. It’s about romancing yourself in a way. That’s what will save me.”
- Shirley, an English mother of three, wants to spice up her marriage. Her husband is a “working man’s man” who is likely to be found reading a mechanical manual or something titled Unnatural Death in bed, while Shirley peruses a steamy Mills & Boon number.
- Mills & Boon author Gill Sanderson, who has legions of devoted readers across the world, is actually Roger, a pensioner writing from a trailer park in England’s Lake District. Roger displays a pride in craftsmanship and an affection for his readers. He may have the objectivity of the formula writer (“Could you have a red-headed hero? Never done one, never will,” he says), but his fictional characters somehow get under his skin.
Guilty Pleasures is a delightful and touching discovery of the depths of human emotion in what may at first seem the cultural shallows. The success of romance novels seems to stem from the power of the ideal of true love and its pull on the human heart. Romantic novels, despite their formulaic quality, may be more authentic expressions of human nature than more “literary” tomes.
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