I used to read romance novels when I was 13, and I only read them when I was babysitting. I babysat for a family that had stacks of them lying all around their house. I would start one after the kids went to sleep, and then spend the next couple of hours furiously reading it ina desperate attempt to finish it before the parents got home. When I heard them at the door I would throw the book back where I found it, and turn on the tv.
So, when I first started learning/reading in Spanish the first book I chose was a Spanish Harlequin novel called Boda de Conveniencia. It was the first in a 3-book mini-series, Bodas de Sociedad. At the time that I bought this (second-hand in Spain) I was pretty sure that Boda meant “Body”. It doesn’t. (It means wedding.)
Why read a romance novel in Spanish?
1. Increase your Vocabulary
The hero – “Era guapísmo… Tan masculino, tan fuerte… Tenía un aire de autoridad e indomabilidad.”
His clothing-designer fiancee (we hate her) – “Tenía labios carnosos, cabello dorado en un elegante recogido, facciones armoniosas, grandes ojos verdes, una nariz clásica y una figura esbelta, casi de modelo.”
The sex scenes. Gain an advanced body vocabulary. I don’t know if my Spanish prof was impressed or worried that I knew the meaning of nalgas (buttocks), entrepiernas (crotch) and pezones (nipples). Learn the sexy nouns – latida (heartbeat), gemido (moan), sujetador (bra), seda (silk) and terremoto (earthquake).
- Past tense – Everything is in the past tense. There is action (the preterit) and description (imperfect). Really helps you to get comfortable with when to use one or the other of these two conjugations.
- Subjunctive – For most people the subjunctive is the last (and most difficult) verb conjugation they learn. Reading it and seeing it over and over again really helps to enforce it. “No soy una juguete que puedas tomar y dejar!” “I’m not just a toy that you can play with and leave behind!”
2. It’s trashy but it’s learning! (The same goes for Spanish celebrity gossip sites and Telenovelas.)
Bodas de Sociedad is a translation of an English-language Harlequin. The plot is especially bizarre when read in Spanish. 1. It takes place in Australia but the family lives in a castle. 2. The female protagonist is of Italian descent and woos her lover with homemade lasagna and renditions of Celine Dion songs. So, no part of this novel lends to cultural understanding in any way whatsoever. Maybe the next book…
My recommendation for reading a book in a second-language is to be easy on yourself, read as much, or as little as you feel like. Every time I sit down with a book in Spanish I change it up. I do all, none, or some of the following:
- Underline words I don’t understand
- Look up underlined words right away and write them in the margins
- Read right through just making sure that I get the gist of things
- Review words that I wrote in the margins in previous chapters
- Say every word in my head (or out loud)
Some recommendations for Spanish romance novels:
Lenguajero Spanish language fiction recommendations