The most memorable review I received for my so-called chick lit novel was written by an ex-soldier named Douglas. Bearded, clad in a black T-shirt and sporting dark glasses, Douglas' reviewer profile says his interests include honing his weapon skills.
The first line of his critique of Husband Hunters, my romantic comedy about women who use devious tactics to snag spouses, was that he came across the book accidentally.
I'm tipping it was a search for titles about hunting that led him to it.
However he found it, he was undeterred by its pink cover. He decided to read it, even after discovering it was more suitors than shooters, and stayed with it to the last page, even though it features more semi-formal attire than semi-automatic artillery.
He remains to this day the only male to have reviewed the novel. And he liked it. In fact, he loved it.
Justice for all
The one criticism he made of my scheming heroines was that they weren't more so.
"I wanted JUSTICE," Douglas wrote.
"I want every jerk to be taken down, every slight revenged. This book had a few too many realistic encounters and if I wanted realism I would read non-fiction."
Forgiving the bloody vengeance deficit, he urged others to consider reading the novel, saying it will make them laugh, and maybe cry.
Douglas was not discouraged by the feminine colour of the book cover. Nor was he fooled by a meaningless label like "chick lit".
No male reader should be.
Many publishers and writers, myself included, classify books as chick lit to reach an audience that enjoys this kind of comedy. It is hard to entice readers to take a chance on a new author so we slot ourselves into categories. But we bemoan the fact that by doing so we're potentially missing out on the broader audience.
Douglas' response to Husband Hunters shows this labelling does a disservice not to only our books, but also our readers. He saw past the superficial marketing necessities and was rewarded with a story he enjoyed. More male readers should be brave and do the same.
The daring male reader should put aside notions of "women's writing" and "men's writing" and try a book that looks like it wasn't meant for him.
Think of the illicit thrill of picking up a title society says you're not supposed to enjoy. If you're a man who enjoys books, you should rebel against conventions. Show the world you won't let some swirly, girly font dictate what you should and shouldn't read. Be adventurous and prove no cartoon lady in heels is going to stop you from enjoying a lively story.
Think of it as the literary equivalent of the great pink shirt trend of the early 2000s when men showed their mettle by stepping out in shades of rose or blush. In 2015 men can pose on trains or in cafes with pink paperbacks and demonstrate they're rebellious, bold and also well-read.
Pick up a Zoe Foster title and snort until beer comes out your nose. If you like sci-fi, cross the final social frontier and experience life as a member of the opposite sex with Kirsty Greenwood.
Whatever your next reading choice, don't be afraid to push the boundaries. Crack the spine on a pink novel and show the world you're comfortable with your masculinity.
Be a man, pick up a chick lit book.
Douglas is a real person and remains the only male to have reviewed Husband Hunters. You can read his full review here.