Confessions of an English Major

Finally, I have my first featured guest gangsta here on The Smartness! (You don’t count, Mom. You will count when you get your own blog instead of writing epic comments on my posts). I found Alyssa of Near Normalcy a couple of months ago on Twitter and have been following ever since. I also follow her mom, Cynthia. Cynthia also has a blog (DO YOU SEE THAT, MOM? Alyssa’s MOM has  BLOG), which you can find at Commonplace Crazy. Like me, Cynthia is a middle school English teacher. Sometimes we team up on Alyssa because ENGLISH TEACHERS UNITE. Or something. Alyssa gets my props, though, because she is writing a book, which makes me look at her all starry-eyed because I want to write a book,  but I don’t even have an IDEA. The synopsis of Alyssa’s book makes me wish she was already finished writing the whole thing so that I can curl up with it in lieu of feeding my children. BUT! Alyssa spends all her time on Twitter and her blog. I mean, seriously, Alyssa – stop blogging and Tweeting and write the damned book. A gangsta’s got to get her read on.

In the meantime, let’s all enjoy this hilarious post about what type of reading keeps English major graduates like Alyssa smart. Hint: Apparently, it isn’t literature from the Transcendentalist Era.


I was so thrilled and flattered to be invited to guest-post at The Smartness.  While I am probably a nerd (word), I could not be less Gangsta.  But today, I am, and it feels good.  Honorary Gangsta.  I just bestowed that title upon myself.

Since I’m away from home today, with a new crowd, and I’m being inducted as an Honorary Gangsta, I saw it as a chance to get some things off my chest.  And I thought confessing a dark secret from my past, an…addiction, would maybe gain me a little Gangsta cred.  So here goes.

Let me begin by saying I am in possession of a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from a respected and fully accredited institution of higher learning, in English Literature.  I am hopeful none of my professors are reading this, and that my degree will not be immediately revoked.  But that’s a chance I’m willing to take, because I need to come clean about something.

I’m here to confess that I used to have a little bit of a…nasty habit.  No, not cocaine.  Why would you jump straight to cocaine?  What have I ever said that would lead you to believe I was a coke addict?  Honestly.  It’s like you don’t even know me at all.  Oh wait, most of you don’t.  Well, it’s not cocaine, you guys.No, my nasty habit was…this is difficult to say…romance novels.OK, OK.  Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad?  Well, it is.  Because they weren’t just any romance novels.  Not like, high-quality romance novels.  Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel.  Right?  Boy meets girl, girl hates boy, conflict ensues, boy proposes.  BAM!  Romance novel.  So I could chicken out here and say that by “romance novels” I meant Jane Eyreand stop.  But I’m here to confess.  I’m all in.I’m talking about the ultimate literature-related vice, the trashiest of all romance novels.  That’s right.  I’m talking…about the Harlequin.

OK This one is not technically published by Harlequin, as far as I can tell.  And to the best of my knowledge I never read something with Fabio on the cover.  I’m just showing you this to illustrate the seriousness of the situation.

Because the ones I read weren’t lucky enough to have Fabio grace their covers, but they were every bit as trashy as Gentle Rogue, I’m afraid.  They were the mass-produced, assembly-line Harlequin/Silhouette/Mills Boon series romances, and I would like to publicly state that my first box of dusty Harlequins was given to me by my aunt, who should frankly be ashamed of herself.  That box included such gems as Arrogant Interloper:

“Without a fiancé and job where could Jane turn? Even her last place of refuge, her mother’s cottage, was to be taken away by a nouveau riche upstart by the name of Max Brigstock. Who did he think he was?” source
Oh, that Max Brigstock.  So arrogant.  So English.  So…rich.

I was a young teenager when I read Arrogant Interloper and other ’80s-era selections.  And they were a gateway drug, really.  Because it only got worse from there.  Selling my Sweet Valley Highs at the used bookstore to stock up on new material.  Even rereading those same outdated stories when I got desperate.  It was ugly.

But my addiction really hit its peak in college, when I was taking extra-heavy course loads (I’m an overachiever like that) of literature classes, at times reading as many as 9 or 10 Serious Literary Novels in a week (I use the term “read” loosely here, OK?).  The second finals were over and I found myself without homework, I went running for the used book store to get my fix.

Because I needed a break from the Serious Literature, but not from reading itself.  I need to read.  Taking a break never meant not reading.  It just meant…light reading.  Really, really, really light.

And please appreciate the shame this brought upon me.  I was a Literature student!  An honors student!  And this was before the Kindle.  I had to actually carry these books around in all their bodice-ripping glory.  Lurking in dark corners, hiding my paperbacks inside text books and magazines.  It was ugly days, folks.

But you know what?  In the midst of all that shame and guilt, I look back now and I have to find the positive.  How else could I live with myself?  The truth is, Harlequin taught me a lot about life and love.  As a young, impressionable girl with no real clue what I should be looking for in a man, I needed the guidance offered in these pages.

How would I have ever known, for instance, the romantic potential in human trafficking?

Well, she’s paid for, so at least he didn’t have finance her.  That would not be sexy.
Nothing gets me in the mood faster than the thought of being purchased and bred like livestock. Am I right, ladies??
It’s as good a reason as any, I suppose.

How else would I have known that the primary purpose of employment was to seduce be seduced by one’s boss?

Billionaire.  OK?  He’s a billionaire.  Make no mistake.  Also?   Forbidden = HOT.
Literal is always best, so there’s no confusion.  He’s her boss, he’s Greek, and he is going to take her.
What more do you need to know?
Yeah, girls.  That’s gonna happen.
In general, anything forbidden is highly, highly desirable.  Take, for example, an unavailable man:
So inappropriate.

And of course: foreign men are incredibly attractive.  Any time you encounter a man who doesn’t speak English, know that he’s probably a sheikh.  Sheikhs are just hanging around everywhere, waiting to be caught and entranced by a mousy little American girl who’s never left her hometown.

Sorry, did I say mousy? Because you’re not mousy, babe. In the eyes of the sheik (sic), you’re a vixen.
Untouched is always good.  Remain untouched.  Until you meet that sheikh!  Then all bets are off.
He’s a sheikh, she’s a virgin, AND their love is forbidden?  How is Kate Hewitt not a household name?
You don’t have to be a sheik to get some action, though.  Greeks, Italians, and Frenchmen are all good too.
But only if they’re rich.  Obviously.  Bonus lesson: if you’re disobedient, he will whip you into shape, and that is HOT.

Something else I never would have known to aspire to if not for Harlequin?  Unplanned pregnancy!

Best use of punctuation in a title.
He’s Mediterranean.  He’s a billionaire.  And she’s knocked up.
If that doesn’t spell happily ever after, I don’t know what does.
(Also I don’t know about you, but I for one never felt sexier than when I was 8 months pregnant.)
Just to be clear.  He’s not just a prince.  He’s the future king.
And she is, you guessed it…knocked up.
Now he HAS to love her!!

Oh.  And of course.  Cowboys.  Cowboys are automatically hot.  This led to some uncomfortable moments in high school when I attempted to infiltrate the Future Farmers of America crowd in search of this guy:

Hint: He was never in FFA.
So, yes.  I was a romance novel addict.  But it helped make me the smart, healthy, romantically well-adjusted woman I am today.  And I’m recovering from the addiction.  Slowly.  OK?  I’m making progress.
And if I’m not, you’ll never know, because now I have a Kindle.

34 thoughts on “Confessions of an English Major”

  1. Ummm, Moxie? Is this where I leave my epic comment? Just want to say Alyssa’s addiction is all my fault. Addiction is hereditary. With her it was Harlequin. For me it was…Barbara Cartland. An infinite number of virgins waiting to be orphaned, kidnapped, displaced, and/or hired as a governess. So does my addiction make me a gangsta too?

  2. OMG this is so me! Except remove the harlequin books and insert all of Johanna Lindsay’s other books. I probably read them all! And I’m not ahamed to say that I have Gentle Rouge.

    Word up Gangsta!

    1. sssssshhhh! pamela sue! some things are better left unsaid.

      You guys, I have NO IDEA who this woman is, nor am I AT ALL familiar with this “bdb” of which she speaks. I certainly DO NOT own every book in the series.

  3. Oh honey, come back to the dark side. Romance novels have come so far. You HAVE to check out the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It totally rocks! And, you must check out and sign up for their newsletter…tons o’ freebies.

  4. El Cinco's Gran-Gran

    Oh my!!!!!!!!!!! I have to also confess. I’ve read some of these books. I remember when Harlequin went to a little more “racy” with Silhouette novels and Ta Dahhhhh , we now have Silhouette DESIRE, with tag lines like: “He rescued hostage Talia Burke from his royal family’s rival tribe and swept her into his strong embrace. But Prince Harres Aal Shalaan soon discovered there was more to the brave beauty than he knew. Talia held information vital to protecting his beloved kingdom…and she had every reason not to trust him.”

    I also confess that I went for the novels that had the coolest pictures on them, so yeah I was a Fabio fan. My former sister in law was a capital A addict so I didn’t buy any until I discovered Nora Roberts.

    I’d say my addiction lasted for a good three years because after while they all sounded the same. I’m still a Nora Roberts fan but I am totally addicted to her novels written as J.D. Robb. Very yummy, futuristic novels, with a tough cop named Eve Dallas and her sexy gozillianare husband Rourke. Yeah Baby!

    ******************************To Moxie***********************************
    Peer pressure can be resisted. LOL… I just love writing on something you’ve said. You’re my muse. As I said before, I don’t have much to say unless I’m inspired by your wit and wisdom. For realz! Although there are times I feel the need to speak on certain things but it would be more rants than anything else.

  5. I too have a romance novel addiction! My cousin & I both got hooked in middle school when her Mom brought home 2 large paper bags stuffed with romance novels from a garage sale. To this day we really don’t think she realized what great smut she brought home for us lol. At one point in high school I read all the romance books that my closest library stocked. Then when I moved I discovered the joys of used bookstores and I traded in or purchased books at least once a week. Now, after donating some of my huge collection I think I am down to 8 to 10 rubbermaid bins full. I also have a Nook so I can have an almost limited supply of romance novels on hand and nobody ever can tell. I am starting back to college next month so I can see my book reading being majorly reduced but, I know that I will still read to relax & unwind.

    1. This sounds exactly like my story! Except, naturally I have a Kindle, because it is FAR superior to the Nook in every way. 😉

      Isn’t the advent of the e-reader an amazing thing for closet trash-lit junkies??

  6. I’m sorry, but that last romance is too Broke Back Mountain. Talk about forbidden love!

    My secret reading habit was really, really bad sci fi and fantasy novels. I started out on the ‘good’ stuff, but my addiction quickly spiraled out of control. But at least I wasn’t into romance novels (or so I told myself) and I could quit at any time (hardly). Now I’m sitting here in a corner biting off all of my nails and rocking back and forth waiting for the next Game of Thrones to come out. Sad…sad…sad.

    1. I managed to stay away from fantasy…until vampires came along. Gulp. OK, OK, now I have to confess again: I’ve moved on from Harlequin. Now my thing is…Paranormal Romance. Oh, the horror!! The wonderful, wonderful horror.

  7. Yep, I’ve got that addiction too – although I like ’em a bit longer than the Harlequins. I like the historical romances…Julia Quinn and Amanda Quick are my favorite authors. I will read pretty much anything, but most of the time I must have a trashy novel of some sort in my batch of books. FYI, has several romance novels free for downloading…

    1. “ has several romance novels free for downloading…”

      OH. I am way ahead of you, my friend. 🙂 Also, did you know that once something is in your Kindle library, you can NEVER FULLY DELETE IT? So “Slow Hands” can never be undone. I can never show my Kindle to anybody. Ever.

  8. It’s been a while since I read a Harlequin, but I used to read the all the time. I think my cousin may have gotten me hooked on them. And, my SIL wrote one I think…I remember her saying she was (she was an english major before she went into medicine) but I never heard if it was ever published. The best thing was when I discovered that the Harlequin site has free daily and weekly online reads…so I could sit at my desk at work, and read a chapter on my lunch! ANd no one would know! Btw, they still have them. 😉

    oH, and Alyssa, it’s @IDoCakes 😉

    1. Ah, we meet again! And we have so much in common!!!

      OK, yeah, I did the Harlequin free daily and weekly reads too. Um. I MAY have figured out how to manipulate the URL to jump ahead to posts that weren’t technically published yet so I could read the entire book at once. It’s possible I did that.

      Also? I, too, have written & submitted for publication a Harlequin Romance Novel. That’s a whole other post.

  9. You’re not alone. I don’t read romance novels (although I do watch super-crappy TV), but I once had a linguistics professor–yes, a freakin’ PhD in the study of language, with a teaching gig at a highly-ranked university–who was a romance novel writer. Her #1 literary ambition was to be featured in the checkout aisle at the grocery store. You’ve gotta have goals, right?

    1. See, I want to write books that my former lit professors will teach. I want to speak at universities. Then I want to head to the grocery store and pick up some reading and some gum. 😉

  10. Alyssa,

    This post is so awesome, I’m pretty sure I like you more than my own children right now…
    (and not just because they’re doing homework which is annoying all by itself.)

    You’re flat-out hilarious and I may also have a degree in English literature from an institute of higher learning AND may also be writing a book AND may also be an English teacher and may also have read masterpieces such as these like a fiend throughout several decades of my life.

    May also.
    I generally shy away from absolutes.

    Unless it’s about Gentle Rogue.
    Because I’m that perky-busted maiden on the cover with Fabio.

    For sure.
    Sorry ladies. He’s all mine.

    1. Julie Gardner…
      You are my current bloggy crush. I’m just so beyond enamored of you. So I MAY be squealing like a fangirl in response to this comment. Possibly.

      Also? You are rocking that dress, girl.

  11. I remember snickering at my older cousins’ obsession with Mills & Boon novels. I then concluded (at age 10) that all men must wear cowboy hats or look like Fabio, with shirts unbuttoned down to their belly button, and their women are always half-naked, or one would not be loved.

    I was scarred.

    For about 5 minutes. Hee!

  12. I love how you drew me in with one cover, then another..then MORE! I had to laugh as I have literally 25 seconds per blog post reading these days and you kept me around to comment.

    I am a SVH addict. I hope you know what that means. Elizabeth & Jessica? Driving a Fiat?

    1. What a wonderful compliment! I’m so glad you made it to the end. 🙂

      Girl. OF COURSE I know what you mean by SVH. Sadly, most of my SVH gems were sold off at the used bookstore in exchange for trashy harlequins. Sad, I know. I miss those two perfect size six girls with their golden hair and aquamarine eyes and identical dimples in their left cheeks. And their gold lavaliere necklaces, whatever THAT means….Ahem. Yes. I’m familiar with the series. 😉

  13. I am not much fond of reading romantic novels. But the cover and story made the novels look interesting to me. Bedded for passion novel reminds me a short comics that I’ve read before. This post reminds me to check out the local bookstore for new novels. Thanks for the amusing insights.

  14. Pingback: Now For Something Completely Different…Classic Romance Novels | Too Many Fish to Fry

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