I Was Ravished by a Man Wearing a Cape and No Shirt – Elaina G. Smith


  1. Do not buy romance novels (see 3—the Barnes and Noble cashier will judge you.). For the romance novels the library doesn’t have . . . sucks to be you.
  2. Always use self-checkout. ALWAYS. And for fuck’s sake, be quick about it.


Romance novel titles blur together because they all contain the same words in different orders. Most commonly, Scandal, Embrace, Lover, Kiss, Forbidden, Ravish, Seduction, Dangerous, Notorious, Wicked, Devil, Beauty, Dreaming, Passion, Temptation, Desire, Bride, Marriage. The list is endless; do you really want me to keep going?


I was 19 before I got the nerve to buy my first romance novel.

I kept my bottom drawer of my dorm desk filled with romance novels. Later on, I just stored them in plastic tubs. Where everyone else hid their pot and alcohol, I hid my romance novels 7.

As my college career progressed, I discovered blogs—smart, snarky blogs run not by grandmas but women in their twenties and thirties—dedicated wholly to discussing romance novels. I found this rather surprising: didn’t only old ladies on buses read romance novels in public without shame? Women closer to me in age read them openly and even reviewed them for other readers? Reviewed them based on plot, character development, language—everything you’d imagine should be reviewed in a real, literary book. They even rated the sex scenes (the best-written sex scenes are more complex than you’d imagine). Realizing that you could treat romance novels as a legitimate type of literature was something that had never occurred to me: I’d always categorized them as other, as less than. But reading these reviews made me want to buy—and eventually read—these romances like these women did: in public, without shame.

There’s something liberating about going to Borders and buying your first romance novel, taking it to the counter, swiping your debit card, heart pounding, wondering if the cashier will say something (he only tells you to have a good day in the end), and driving home, the book in the front seat, free from the tethers of misplaced shame and anguish and embarrassment. Or at least, not afraid to buy romance novels in public—I still wouldn’t read them in public. But, baby steps! It was progress at least.





7 Books on open shelves are meant to be easy conversation starters. Ergo, I wasn’t the least bit interested in talking about why I had a book called HIS FORBIDDEN KISS or whatever on my shelf.

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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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