The Scene Where the Hero Reads a Romance Novel to his Gran
There’s a scene in Insecure where Mace reads to his grandmother, Buster. He’s quietly squicked out about the book she wants him to read. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book. Here’s how it goes.
In the afternoon he read to Buster. Something he often did, but usually it was magazines or the newspaper. She wanted him to read one of the skinny books that regularly came in the mail and were jammed in their hundreds into the bookshelves at home.
They should probably be talking about the future, about what he wanted to do and how he needed her to be careful not to get sick again, not to scare him so badly. Plus the book looked cringe-worthy.
“We should talk, you know about…”
He snorted, his resolve gone. He didn’t know how to tell her not to die without sounding like a stupid kid, like a selfish man. And she was so much better than yesterday, colour in her face, able to eat and stay awake. It could wait, he should simply enjoy being with her.
He picked up the book, An Affair to Remember. “You want me to read this one?”
“The things I do for you.”
He opened the book at her dog-ear. He made her wheeze with laughter when he stuttered over a love scene that came a few pages on. It wasn’t graphic, didn’t mention a single body part, but his face got hot and he flapped his jaw all the same.
In the book, the couple had reunited after a steamy affair years ago. There was all this sappy stuff about wasted years and wrong-headedness, but how their love was stronger than the winds of change and the tides of fortune. Fricking heck.
“How long was their affair?”
Buster held up two fingers.
“Nights,” she croaked.
He laughed. “Two nights! How many months ago?”
She held up a trembling hand.
She shook her head.
“Five years!” He laughed. That was insane. “I’m not sure you should be allowed to read this stuff. It’s pretty…” He didn’t know what it was, it wasn’t porn, despite the passionate lip-locking, it wasn’t racy, no one even swore. But it was delusional. He flicked back to the cover. Maybe it was meant to be a fantasy, but no, two perfectly normal people in a clinch, pictured inside a floral porthole design; no fangs, no wings.
Despite the crappy cover art and the wacky set-up, it’d sucked him in good and proper, and as weird as it made him feel, he wanted to keep reading to see if Antonio and Lucinda finally got it on again.
Antonio was some kind of billionaire who never worked, with boofy hair and a yacht. Lucinda was his secretary. Antonio was a tortured alpha douche predator and Lucinda was a breathy waif with stars in her eyes, not quite a dumb blonde, but close.
“He’s going to dump her, isn’t he?”
“Man, that’s twisted. He’s her boss.”
Buster rolled her lips into her mouth, she was laughing at him.
He slapped the book on the railing of the bed. “She’s not my actual boss and I’m not naive enough to think she’d wait for me for five months, let alone five freaking years.”
“Who knows? Maybe.”
“I bloody well know. It doesn’t work like that in real life.”
“That’s why…” she coughed.
“That’s why you like these books, right?” She liked them because they were nothing like the life she’d had. A husband who’d abandoned her with a young baby, the baby who grew up not strong enough and had her own kid too young, then having to raise that kid too. Not much romance in Buster’s life; not much comfort, security, support, or love flowing back her way.
She nodded and he wished he could build her a Tardis, time travel her, have her meet a man with money and boofy hair who’d kiss her like she was his sun and moon.
“Keep hoping, Mace.”
He squinted at her. Did she mean the book? There was no hope for the book, or any reality to Antonio and Lucinda, and Buster was no dummy, she’d worked as a florist for most of her life and volunteered at the local library. She knew about all sorts of books, but yet she chose these flaky romance ones. He shook the book, he had no idea why she liked this junk so much.
“Lucinda will win him back,” she said.
“Jesus, why would she want to?”
“She loves him.”
“She’s an idiot.”
“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”
He laughed. So simple. So stupid. These books were grandma crack, addictive and probably not good for you. “Have you read this before?”
She moved her head, no.
He flicked through the pile of books and magazines on the dresser. “If you’ve guessed what’s going to happen, maybe I should read something else.”
“No, finish what you started.”
He grinned. That was such a Buster thing to say. Keep trying. Finish what you started. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Be your own person. The phrases he and Dillon had grown up with. “You want me to keep reading this?”
“You just want to make me squirm.”
She gave a breathy cough.
So he read on. Antonio dumped Lucinda as predicted. Lucinda cried a lot and quit her job, so now she was both heartbroken and unemployed. Antonio suffered, which meant he walked around in a bad mood shouting at his employees and tearing at his boofy hair.
“He loves her, Mason.”
He looked up and grinned at Buster’s use of his full name. “He’s a bad-tempered bastard. He doesn’t deserve her.”
He turned the page and discovered another year had passed. Antonio was still a crank until the day Lucinda walked back into his life. She was all grown up, sophisticated and independent. She’d inherited money from a rich relative she didn’t know she had, and didn’t need to work anymore. Lucky bitch.
“This is where you tell me you’ve got a secret Swiss bank account and I’m going to be able to buy a yacht and a vintage Norton motorbike, after I start a business with Dillon.”
Buster frowned. “No bike.” And no secret fortune either. She wiggled a finger so he read on.
The new Lucinda managed to reduce Antonio to a quivering wreck by refusing to look at him, though secretly heartbroken, every time they ran into each other—which seemed to Mace to be every second page for no apparent logical reason.
“These two are ridiculous.”
“It’s love, silly.”
“If you mean love is silly, yeah I’m with you.”
“Not from reading this I won’t.”
They both laughed and he went back to the book. Antonio finally grew a pair and confronted Lucinda. This part was full of sentences Mace could hardly spit out.
“‘I can’t live without you’,” he spluttered.
“‘I would give up my fortune, my business, my world if you’d agree simply to smile at me like you once did.’ Freaking heck!”
And finally, “‘I do not deserve you, my darling, but I will dedicate my life to becoming worthy’,” after which he put his fingers to his open mouth and coughed to indicate he could vomit. “This is a train wreck.”
“It’s a happy ending.” Buster made an impatient go on gesture.
On the last page, after way too many useless misunderstandings that might’ve been fixed with a quick discussion, Antonio and Lucinda kissed. There was no tongue. There wasn’t a hint of moisture and definitely no grinding hip action, but it was oddly satisfying in a way he would never admit to a living person. Antonio was less of a desperado with Lucinda and Lucinda stopped being a stuck-up bitch and became, if not a cool chick, at least less of an airhead.
He looked across at Buster, her eyes were closed and her breath quiet. He didn’t know if she’d managed to stay awake till her happy ending, but he hoped so.