Human beings exist on a spectrum of diversity and differences, and romances that reflect that are touching my heart lately. The widest range of life experiences represented in stories can only be a good thing. Being seen and accepted, not treated as an exception, is inspiring. It's all part of the flow of life.
April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day, and April is National Autism Awareness Month in the US. Audible has a fantastic roundup of audiobooks in all genres that celebrate neuro difference and diversity.
Interesting article in Forbes on disability representation in film.
I call Michael, the hero of The Kiss Quotient, a cinnamon roll in this episode and realized not everyone's familiar with the character labels of Romancelandia. There are so many I still don't know :) A cinnamon roll hero is the sweetest, kindest, most supportive, all around nicest person to a heroine. Here's a great roundup of books featuring cinnamon roll heroes.
The Bride Test audiobook. Have I mentioned how much I love it? It's narrated by Emily Woo Zeller. She has won awards. I would follow that voice anywhere.
The third book in the series, The Heart Principle, is coming soon! Learn more about bestselling author Helen Hoang here.
At the moment, it looks like Doc Martin can be streamed on Hulu, Acorn TV and YouTube TV in the US.
Here's the compilation of the Doc's most awkward moments from S1 and S2.
Michael is described as looking like a particular K-drama heartthrob in The Kiss Quotient. If you haven't watched these, they're like a romance/soap opera combo. Netflix has a ton and wow, they're addictive. I used to work in book publishing, so I'm currently gobbling up the K-drama Romance Is a Bonus Book.
This is Confessions of a Closet Romantic, a podcast where I celebrate my favorite romantic TV shows, movies, books and talk in detail about why I love them so much. Without embarrassment or shame-mostly! This is Poppy and in this episode: The Romantic Spectrum/Romance with a Difference: The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test, Doc Martin
I live with a chronic illness, so I usually avoid movies or romances with themes of illness or disability because art is my escape, not a place to experience what I struggle with every day. And many representations feel shallow and exploitative—like drawing a random short straw in life is somehow "inspirational" or “a triumph of the spirit" when people with physical, mental or emotional challenges are simply trying to accept what is, and get through the day like everyone else. No heroism involved.
I’ve been reading lots of contemporary romances, working my way down my TBR pile, enjoying myself immensely but like I said in my Love, Sex and Romance--Over 40 Edition episode recently, I get a little tired of reading about able-bodied, fit young people finding hot romance—I would say that makes up the main characters in at least 90% of the contemporary romances out there, as if they're the only ones who can or should or deserve to enjoy these things…
So I finally got around to reading two highly recommended books—The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang.
And the author starts the book by revealing that she lives with autism.
What’s so cool about this, is that for the heroine in The Kiss Quotient, the challenges of her autism are a springboard, not for “inspiration” but… wait for it…. super sizzling hot action. And fun and humor. Zero pity involved.
Here's the set up: Stella, a bright beautiful, successful Asian American woman, lives with autism and has been humiliated by some past partners who’ve said she's not good at sex. And now sex—even kissing— freaks her out.
So she hires Michael, a popular Asian American escort, to teach her the art of seduction and making love. Ohhh yeah.
He’s so gorgeous, he could star in a K-drama, but he's not only hot and obviously great in the sack, but he’s a kind, empathetic human being who’s put up some walls himself.
But he’s touched by her struggles over these rejections, and breaks one of his rules that help him keep his distance from clients so he can help her. Oh Michael ….The whole story becomes the dreamiest of romances, Full of acceptance, affection, passion, mutual respect.
The Kiss Quotient is book one in this short series which features a large, extended Vietnamese-American family, some of whom live with autism as adults. This situation is treated like any other differences within a large extended family. The love and support the characters get in this series are treated as part of the normal flow of any family. It's not a big deal but it's also not nothing.
The Bride Test is book 2 (apparently book 3 is close to being released). How how to describe this insanely absorbing book, especially in audiobook form?
I was so swept away by the story of Khai, a super successful stunningly handsome Silicon Valley accountant who also lives with autism (he’s Michael’s cousin, that’s so is how he knew how he might help Stella)
Khai has lived with misguided criticism of his behavior all his young life, so he just decides in his 20s that he's just not designed for romantic love. Oh: “I’ve given up on love, just try to change my mind” trope, how I love you. Let me add this audiobook narrator is everything. I'll link to her in the show notes. Don't miss the audio version of this book. The way she reads the main characters just melts my bones.
He becomes a workaholic, avoids all entanglements — until his mother returns from a trip to Vietnam, having invited a beautiful Vietnamese woman to spend the summer with them, because she’s perfect for Khai.
The way this story unwraps… it exposes so much beautiful interior life for both the main characters and I gobbled up this audiobook in one massive 10-hour stretch.
To say these amazingly rich, layered, heartwarming romances are page turners is a huge understatement. I'd also say they’re the very best examples of what romance can achieve—they’re heart and soul expanding.
Helen Hoang treats all differences, cultural or physical, with respect. These characters aren't pity porn: they’re people with multiple facets. Like all of us.
Like any differences that can take us out of the flow of life, The television show Doc Martin is a fish out of water story and dramady, about an esteemed surgeon who moves to a seaside village from London because he’s developed some phobias, namely an aversion to blood.
So he becomes the reluctant new village GP — not that they’re happy about it because he's such a grump.
His abrasiveness and awkwardness might be due to being on the spectrum though it’s never articulated.
Martin’s curmudgeonly ways are huge source of comedy but there’s also drama, misunderstandings, and plenty of romance involving Louisa, a beautiful elementary school teacher. She’s attracted to the doc, who’s obviously attracted to her, but she finds him difficult to know and he’s hopeless at reading the room.
What's wonderful about the arc of the series is, despite his initial derision towards the villagers— and their suspicion of him—the doc is gradually accepted into village life. Because they’ve already accepted each other in all their quirky humanity.
Doc Martin’s relationship with Louisa deepens and becomes a focal point of the action and the challenges of intimacy with an adult on the spectrum are never whitewashed. it's presented as completely natural that they’d work thru those differences.
This show can be difficult to stream in the US, I'll try to put a link in the shownotes. I'm betting many UK listeners have seen it. But it’s worth seeking out— it’s easily one of my favorite television shows from the past 20 years. The scripts and the characters are so rich and layered, and simultaneously funny and touching. Just like the best romances in life.
If you enjoy this podcast, hope you’ll consider clicking share from your podcast app, or following me, or telling a friend about it.
Special thanks to BRF McKay and Monique for your recent reviews on Apple Podcasts— I'm so glad you enjoy the show! And bonjour-hallo! to my listeners in France and Austria.
Find Show notes with links to what I've been babbling about at confessionsofaclosetromantic.com
So nice to have your company…until next time, wishing you shame-free romance full of the differences that make us all human!