I Was Ravished by a Man Wearing a Cape and No Shirt (Or: how I came to love and respect romance novels) – Elaina G. Smith


When I was 16, I brought two romance novels to band camp 1.

Leah found them first. There were six of us crammed into the girls’ cabin, so Leah, the most mature yet at times the most daring, could rifle through my backpack with impunity. Teenage girls enjoy a lack of personal boundaries: your shampoo is my shampoo, your t-shirt is my t-shirt, your backpack is mine to rifle through, and so on.

Leah squealed when she found the paperbacks, aptly titled, Her Bodyguard and To Love a Thief. “Oh my god, you brought some?” My friends knew I read romance novels, but I’d never been stupid enough to bring any into their presence. Hannah regularly asked me if any had Fabio on the cover 2.

I tried to take them back. I begged Leah. No use. I just had to grin and bear it.

“I can’t believe you brought some!” Leah flipped through the pages, searching for the juiciest bits. (Pro-tip: sex scenes are usually 2/3-way through any novel.) She found them. She began reading the sex scenes in a deep, languorous voice, elongating each word as she went.

“He kissed her, his mouth hot—”

I turned my iPod up as loud as it could go in response, blasting the music so loudly into my ears that I gave myself a headache.


I attended a Christian school from grades four through nine. Sex was whispered about—the little that we knew—but never really discussed. The only sex talk I ever received from any adult (including my mother) was, “Don’t do it. Give away your virginity before marriage and you’ll regret it forever.”3




   1 The jokes write themselves.
   2 Fabio hasn’t done romance novel covers since the mid-’90s, way before I ever started reading them.
   3 Matthew 10:14: Jesus Hates Sluts

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Elaina G. Smith received her MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has been published in [PANK] and The Monarch Review. She was also the Managing Editor of the online literary magazine Revolution House. She currently lives on the Kansas side of Kansas City with her collection of cats.

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