For those of you who find love in the confines of a paperback novel.
Christian Grey, Edward Cullen and Travis Maddox… these are some of the fine gentlemen that have charmed and courted women (and some men) over the past few years, and they’ve done it all on paper, literally.
Book boyfriends are the fictitious male characters created in romance novels where their charm, wit and romanticism win over readers everywhere and make them sa-wooooon. If one simply Googles book boyfriend, the results will come up with lists of book boyfriends or quizzes that will tell you which book boyfriend best suits you.
Lana Cutler, a 21-year-old university student, told The Newsroom that her feelings for certain book characters surpass the relationships she has with her friends in real life.
“They would never disappoint me, upset me or leave me,” she said of her book boyfriends. “Well, it’s not like they can anyway; they’re sitting in my bookcase after all.
“I just feel as if when I read these books, I make a real, genuine connection with the character, sometimes even better [than] with real people. I know that sounds kind of pathetic, but Travis [Maddox] wouldn’t up and tell me that he can’t stand me any more.”
While Miss Cutler understands that her relationships with these characters can never extend past the confines of her novels, she believes that her affection for these book boyfriends won’t jeopardise her future with real-life men.
“I’m not freakishly obsessed with them to the point that I totally disregard actual men,” she said. “I just feel as if these men have set a high standard for what I’m looking for and my expectations are set for an ideal future partner. I wouldn’t say I’m too picky or my standards are too high; I just know what I want in a guy now. God, men in books are just so much better.”
While these characters are described to be good looking – tall, dark, handsome and mysterious – it’s what’s inside them that makes them infectious, according to best-selling Australian romance author Rachael Johns. She told The Newsroom that to create the men in her books, she puts her ideal man on the page but adds a few flaws to make him real.
“A good-looking character is all very well, but what’s inside them is far more important to me and I think to most readers as well,” she said. “It’s a man’s hopes and dreams, his ambition, his wit, the way they treat kids and grannies, that can take a hot body to a whole other level and make him someone I, or a reader, would love to shack up with for life.
“Giving characters real issues to deal with and emotional upheavals that are universal and many readers can relate to is something that makes them accessible.”
She hopes that as an author, the characters she writes will become real people to the readers and make them fall in love with her creations, thus giving the reader the happily ever after feel as if it were their own.
But why do people turn to book boyfriends for comfort in the first place?
“Someone once told me that people read romance because everyone in the world is either in a relationship and happy, in a relationship and unhappy or wishing they were in a relationship,” Ms Johns said. “Very few people are content to go through life without that special companionship. I think books and thus book boyfriends provide something for all these three categories of people: those who are happy themselves who like reading about other happy couples; and those who are longing to be in a good relationship can take solace in the world of the book and have hope that their Mr Right is out there somewhere.”
A study by Harvard Health has found relationships and strong connections with others can “relieve harmful levels of stress which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system.” But what about relationships with characters in books?
Counselling psychologist and senior lecturer Dr Helen McGrath, from Deakin University, told The Newsroom that forming relationships with book boyfriends can be a good starting point for young women who venture into the world of dating.
“As long as the person doesn’t get obsessed with it, it’s probably a reasonable starting point and then each character you read in a novel or see in a movie… you kind of clarify what it is that you’re looking for,” she said. “The danger, of course, is not realising or not understanding that these [characters] are ‘fake perfect’.”
Along with the positives having a book boyfriend may provide, of course, there are some negatives to it. Dr McGrath finds that one of the main problems book boyfriends can provide for young women is setting their expectations too high for real men.
“The dangers are that when you meet real men, they fall very short of the criteria that you’ve developed based on the assumption that characters in the books are how real men are when they’re not,” she said. “None of us are like that.
“The danger is when they meet real people, they fall very short of the expectations of their fictionalised almost-perfect character. In the stories, they’re not perfect; they’re imperfect in a quirky way… just again, it’s not how real people are.”
Whether they’re real or not, it doesn’t seem as if the trend of book boyfriends is going to stop any time soon. Maybe everyone needs to pick up a romance novel and find out for themselves. – Reported and photographed by Noah La’ulu