So I have been practicing a voracious reader’s idea of pure, simple escapism – reading time-travel medieval romance novels.
These novels stick to a tried and tested formula which ensures that it’s readers get exactly what they want from all 200 pages of that flimsy paperback with the racy covers that they rent from second hand bookstores and always forget to return.
There’s the handsome, rugged, male lead (English knight / Highland Laird / Italian Comte / Southern Cowboy) – let’s call him Mr Rippling Biceps and the wistful beauty born in a modern age where neither her lissome, full-lipped looks nor comely curves are appreciated by the 21st century man.
Anyway, this wistful beauty either doesn’t know she’s gorgeous or is in some kind of messy relationship / family situation and requires rescuing. Yes, you got it, she’s your Damsel in Distress.
And somehow, by way of Magic and One True Love, she finds herself transported into the past (via Stonehenge / magic artifact / sheer will / misled wishes) and into the arms of her soul-mate, aka Mr Rippling Biceps
Insert tumultous historical events like war / unhappy scheming nobles / childhood betrothal / drunken sex and the next hundred pages are spent in the intense, exquisite agony of spurned romance and suppressed desires.
Finally, they end up together, usually staying in the past – I think simply because it leaves more to the imagination ( scraggy moors, charming Parisian streets, laced gowns) and completes the picture of escapism.
Well, K and I have had a long discussion about these books and I’ve realized after reading about ten such novels that I am an eminently unsuitable candidate for the role of the wistful beauty, and here’s why:
- No.Hot.Water. Cold showers for the rest of my life? No thanks. Not even the “warm, lusty heat” from Mr Rippling Bicep’s body will be able to give me the same satisfaction as enjoying the pounding spray from a steaming hot shower after a long and tiring day.
- My skill sets are not applicable to Long Long Ago. What’s a journalist like me going to do in a Scottish moor? I can’t sew, I can only passably crochet (and only scarves), I can’t cook medieval food, and I most definitely cannot sing like a lark.
- No contact lenses. No, don’t laugh. What am I going to tell my newfound 16th century subjects when they ask me about my spectacles? “Myopia” will probably get me condemned a witch and burned at stake. And you can only ship over a limited boxes of daily contact lenses.
- No rice. I think they only ate potatoes and “wild grains” then, right ? I’m Asian. I need my rice. BTW this wouldn’t apply if I was a back-in-time heroine to a romance novel about The Last Samurai or summat.
- No contraceptives. I’m not going to use a sheep’s bladder (google “medieval contraceptives” for some mind-boggling and nausea-inducing fun facts). But if I don’t, I’ll have a herd of children and no time to lose weight. Mr Rippling Biceps will find a “doxy” and I will no longer be his One True Forever Love.
- No planes. What, am I supposed to take a YEAR to travel from one country to another? And face bloodthirsty highwaymen in between? No thanks. Send me back in time to just before the Concorde was launched, please.
- Poor medical technology : I might die. Young. And in Pain. The Forever in One True Forever Love may be just six months. So not worth it.
- I can’t leave my family behind – Can you imagine being all alone in a different time? That would be so lonely – at least, before you meet Mr Rippling Biceps and produce a fleet of children (See No. 5)
There are many more to add to the list but here’s what I got so far, and it’s enough to make me want to delete all those romance novels from my cute little Kobo.