For those of us observing holidays during this winter season, no matter what those holidays may be, it’s a good bet that, at some point, those holidays are going to involve gifts, Though the old adage about giving being better than receiving abounds at this time of year, there’s also a special thrill in opening exactly the right gift, given by someone who knows what we want, or even what we didn’t know we needed. In romance fiction, no matter what time of year it may be for readers and/or characters, it’s also a good bet that presents are going to come into play at some point. What kind of presents? Let’s unwrap that idea and see what’s inside.
Romance is often called fantasy, and there are some elements of that, that do ring true, but romance is also reality. Not only is the average person more likely to find a partner than they are a new planet, lost mine, or race of supernatural beings living beneath the city streets, etc, but romance is all about the very real emotions people who are in love, or falling in love, or trying to tell themselves that they are not falling in love (and if they are, they are lying liar mclyingpants, but we get it; love can be scary.) and gifts are a time honored way to express what words cannot.
The gifts we see in romance novels have the big advantage of not coming from a crowded, noisy mall (though the characters may have to brave one or a dozen, in search of the perfect gift) and make absolutely no dent in the old credit rating (apart from money spent on books, which, in itself, can make a sizeable imprint, so we'[l move along away from that one, right quick.) You get the picture. If there is one thing better than window shopping, for all of the pleasure with none of the bills, it’s fictional shopping. Whether it’s a historical heroine going hog wild at the modiste (on the hero’s dime…er, pound, we should say) a contemporary hero going all out to impress, or a futuristic character navigating the wares of an alien bazaar (which might well end up as extremely bizarre) we can do that shopping in our pajamas, our comfy chair, or even our bathtubs, up to our neck in scented bubbles. (No pajamas in the bathtub, please. Nobody wants to clean up after that.) Gift wrapping is free, delivery is not a problem, and there will be someone to whisk away the debris after presents are opened. Authors are good at that.
As in real life, gifts in romance fiction don’t have to be big, or expensive, to have a big impact. Hand-picked wildflowers are always equally welcome from a lover or child, as is a home cooked meal, or even a kind word or act of service. Family heirlooms handed down from parent to adult child can hit us right in the feels, and that moment when the hero or heroine zeroes in on that one thing nobody else would have picked up on their beloved wanting, well, that’s about as good as it gets. When one of the lovers can identify the other’s need, or preference, and then make that happen, that often says what no language could even hope to attempt.
No discussion of the gifts of romance would be complete without mentioning gifts that are romance. Picking out a new book for a romance reader friend can be equal parts fun and frustrating, When both giver and recipient have similar tastes, there’s both the thrill of sharing a book the giver loves, and the chance that, because of their similarities, the recipient may already have it. Great minds think alike in matters like these, but it’s always the thought that counts. When the giver and recipient have different tastes, the focus becomes a little different. This could be a good chance for the giver to introduce the recipient to something that may well become a new, if unexpected, favorite, but there can also be that moment of wondering if the giver knows the recipient at all. Good thing many bookstores and e-retailers have exchange policies, if things don’t work out the first time, and there’s always regifting.
Romance is all about sharing the love, and, in the season of giving, what could be more appropriate than sharing the stories of hope, redemption, and love?
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you like gifts in romance fiction? Do you prefer extravagant shopping sprees, or touching, heartfelt tokens? Do you like to give or receive romance novels as gifts? Both? Is there a favorite romance novel or related gift you’ve ever given or received? Pull up a chair in our comment section and tell us all about it. If the whole idea of gifts involved in romance elicits a resounding “bah, humbug,” we want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.