Book Review: The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life

Even a romance without explicit sex scenes, can still be written for a grownup audience. Which explains today’s book review of Sharon Pywell’s fabulous venture into the genre, The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life.

Unlike many romance authors, Pywell read her first romance novel as an adult. Which may be why this novel is written with enough complexity to cross over into literary novel territory. I’m grateful for that, because I’ve read a lot of simplistic romances recently and they were starting to make me nervous.

I don’t want to write like that. I want to write like Sharon Pywell.

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life is multilayered. There’s an entire romance novella embedded in the story. There are fantastical elements to it also.

For instance, there’s the family dog who, in the afterlife, wears dress whites, walks around in the types of shoes he used to chew and serves as a sort of spirit guide.

This sounds truly weird, but it works.

But the distinctive quality to the book is how philosophical it is in its approach to romance and to the beliefs about romance, especially in its exploration of the shifting balances of control between the two parties of a romantic relationship.

It’s not that Pywell turns the traditional romance upside down. Romance heroines nowadays are usually capable, spunky, even gritty. It’s that she is so contemplative about the nature of romance both through her heroine Neave’s  love for the genre and through how that love impacts Neave’s adult life and decisions.

Neave and Lilly’s relationship with each other as sisters who build a Mary Kay-like cosmetic business together is central to the storyline. It was fun reading tidbits about the history of the industry, especially how it was influenced by the movie industry. But really this is a story about growing up. About owning one’s adult self.

It has something to do also with the struggle to match belief to reality. Not just the quandary of whether or not one is seeing ghosts, although that can be mighty awkward, but the question of whether one should let go of dreams in the interest of being “sensible”.

I’d say no.

But then, I’m a romantic. It appears Pywell is one too.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. Wednesday is generally book review day. Unless it isn’t. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online. Waiting For You is coming soon.