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Romance novels and what it means to be transported

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I like soap operas and I like romance novels. There, I’ve said it. Throughout the years, both those pastimes have been guilty pleasures that have gotten me teased an awful lot by my high-brow peers (and even some of my low-brow ones). But I no longer care; they have both given me hours of enjoyment and escapism and I accept your derision with a shrug. They are their own art forms, coming in varying degrees of quality and engagement. For the longest time I’d devour my books like candy, barely paying attention to authors, picking them by the cover art (no bodice rippers), settings/time periods (preferably English Regency or frontier American West), and of course the well-written jacket copy — sure, there’s a formula to them all but I just can’t have it be too obvious. Lately I’ve become more discerning, appreciating authors’ styles. Yet even though I’ve branched out to other subgenres, like paranormal books such as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series, I was still certain I wouldn’t like time-travel books. They just seemed too out there for me. But when I’d gotten to the bottom of my latest romance novel care package (thank you, Tina Jordan), I found Flirting With Forever by Gwyn Cready, and I expanded my horizons again.

In it, modern-day art historian Campbell Stratford is accidentally transported back to 17th-century England, where she encounters playboy artist-to-the-king Peter Lely. Without spoiling too much, it turns out that Peter’s not all that he seems and he ends up following her back to present-day Pittsburgh. Roll your eyes if you must (I know I did), but between the chemistry Cready gives to Campbell and Peter and the witty lines, Flirting pulled me in. I save my guilty-pleasure reading for my train commute and one sure sign of a good read is that after my train has pulled into Grand Central, the last stop, I sit there trying to finish that paragraph, page, or chapter instead of popping up and marching off with the other determined New Yorkers. And Flirting passed the test. There are definitely some sluggish parts but Cready’s understanding of and flourish in writing about an artists’s aesthetic and mindset helps make up for that.

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