Every girl in her teens dreams of the iconic tall, dark and handsome (TDH) man in her life thanks to romantic novels.
Teenage girls usually read at least a couple of titles from Mills & Boon and Silhouette, from Denise Robins, Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland before creating an image in their heads.
Though most girls outgrow the habit, some women still read romances well into their 40s. So what's the lure?
When Sophiya Jeykumar left for Muscat to join her husband, her bags included one suitcase full of M&B romances.
"I find reading these romances relaxing. After a stressful day, it's best to escape into the world of two characters with plenty of passion," she says.
Even though there have been new publishers, M&B fans remained loyal to their authors. Shubha R, who has two teenaged daughters, began reading romances in her early 20s. <b1>
After marriage and babies, she lost track of her reading.But when Shubha went back to work, the train journey that lasted an hour made her return to the good old M&B novels.
Shubha says, "I think reading is better habit than watching TV soaps. At least one can improve one's vocabulary and stimulate one'simagination."
It's her way of switching off from the real world with favourites like Janet Dailey, Ann Mather and Violet Winspear. "When the workload gets too much, I read M&Bs. At times, I pick up five books at a time and read all of them together.. and then just dump them," she says.
Filling a lacuna
Malini Shah, a counsellor, says, "Romance novels are okay for teenagers. Reading is also a way of coping with stress. But reading romances beyond a certain age, especially explicit ones, could mean that the woman finds her sexual life deficient".
"Perhaps the reader could be running away from reality Romantic novels could be filling up a lacuna in her life."
Nirmala Rao, psychiatrist, adds, "The problem starts when most young girls expect to be swept off their feet by a handsome guy. These notions lead to frustration these girls start wondering why it's not happening to them."
In the case of married women, the husband never lives up to the fictitious heroes.
Malini feels it's better to face reality after the age 28 or so. "Be realistic and practical. Close the novel and get back to life."