A romance novelist who’s never written a book, Carlotta de Galleon (a creation of performer Charlotte Gallagher) is here to provide commentary on romantic fiction and why we need to challenge the preconceptions associated with this ‘trashy’ genre. After all, a romance novel is bought every five seconds in the UK – so do we all secretly crave a romantic happy ending in our own lives?
The stage is set with a littering of novels, and there are books placed on the chairs – we’re encouraged to take one with us at the end. But we’re also promised an improvised romance story; with our help, Carlotta will create a novel during the show.
De Galleon’s discovery of the art of romance starts at the age of 11, when she finds that her grandmother has cunningly disguised Passion in Her Heart under the less interesting-sounding cover of Fishing in the Lakes. This leads to the sharing of titillating romps among de Galleon’s peers.
In adulthood, this in turn develops into a love/hate relationship with the genre: she’s torn between enjoying the clichés of the happy endings, and the denouncement of the romance novel by feminists. If these books are trash, are women trashy for reading them? Can you love romance and be a feminist? De Galleon partly tries to answer this by providing a mini university-style lecture on “The Eight Essential Elements of the Romance Novel”. Audience participation is required, so you might want to brush up on your Austen.
However, the promised improvised novel doesn’t feel particularly improvised. The audience suggestions (a sea captain for the hero, a dancer for the heroine and the setting of Edinburgh) are easily inserted into a very stereotypical scenario and it was, coincidentally, the exact synopsis of the book that had been placed on the seat next to me.
The educational tone of the show was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, and de Galleon is certainly a passionate advocate for her chosen genre. Additionally, her personal journey with romance literature is startlingly similar to my own – and I suspect many others’. So maybe it’s time to admit that we do all like a little romance, and that we do want our happy ending.