What’s the difference between a curricle and a high-perch phaeton?

You know how sometimes when you read something, it lodges in your brain and becomes bigger than the thing it was in the book? I had that experience with Sarah Mayberry’s Satisfaction. I liked the book quite a lot, although I didn’t like think it was one of her very best books. But it had a line that really stood out for me. And in the context of recent kerfuffles, it seems even more important than it did when I read it a couple of months ago.

Our heroine, you see runs a bookshop. She sells all kinds of books but she likes to read romance. She tells the hero this and mentions Georgette Heyer among her favourite authors. Sometime later, lying in bed after the sexytimes, Rafel asks Maggie what the difference is between a curricle and a high-perch phaeton. He’s been reading Heyer.

Because she said it was good.

And he’s enjoying it enough to want to understand it properly. So he asks Maggie, who reads these books a lot, to explain it to him. And then they talk about romance books and reading and what he likes to read. And all the way through it is clear that (a) romance books are valued and worth discussing as much as any other book, and (b) that the newcomer to the genre is not the expert (even though he is a man). Rafel is not dismissive of romance books. Rather the opposite, he trusts Maggie’s opinion about romance because she is the one who has read romance novels. And because he likes Maggie and respects her opinion about things, he reads the books she enjoys. It’s one of the most romantic gestures I can remember reading, and all the more so because Rafel doesn’t do it with that intention. For him it’s a natural thing to want to do because he takes Maggie seriously.

If you want to show that you take a person seriously, read the books they are reading. If you want to show that you take a woman seriously, recognise when she is the expert and you are the novice. It’s not rocket science.


  • Hub and I have conversations like this all the time. He’s only read a few romances, but he does like to chat and riff with me about my interests, and occasionally makes use of my odd expertise.