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Commentary Opinion

Middle o’ nowhere: Midwest ripe for torrid affairs

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. "American Gothic" painted by Grant Woods (1930)

If you’re like me, too busy to read engaging literature, you might be familiar with a particular branch of trashy romance that I like to call “location romance.” In a “location romance,” the setting influences either the entire plot or a character’s identity.

For example, the premise of the 2010 film “Leap Year” is people falling in love in Ireland. Or, in the 1981 Nora Roberts novel “Irish Thoroughbred,” Adelia Cunnane’s character is pretty much only informed by her Irish heritage (Nora Roberts loves to do location-informed characters – in one memorable instance, a character’s “British practicality and Irish passion are at war,” and yes, this was published during The Troubles). 

Now, there have been many locations tapped by this genre. Texans, English royalty and the rolling hills of Scotland have graced many a page – but what hasn’t graced many is the Midwest. 

What writers don’t realize is that the Midwest region of America has all the hallmarks of a great romance. 

People have a general idea of what a Midwestern person is, in the same way, they can picture an Irishman. Extremely talkative (to the point where they’d rather stand outside in the freezing cold for an hour than say goodbye), knowledgeable about all sorts of things (and always confident that they’re right) and helpful (there’s no way to be snarky about this). A Midwesterner would thrive in other locales, whether this be befriending (or romancing) the standoffish East Coasters or laughing at the frivolous Europeans.   

The Midwest also has an abundance of quirky-yet-welcoming townsfolk for a businessperson to meet and be charmed by! Just last week the USPS passport renewal services monitor remembered my name, and we had an engaging conversation about the state of journalism. 

It also has a wonderful array of regional foods. Picture this: the handsome love interest makes a casserole from a secret family recipe for the main character, and for dessert, something special to him from his hometown: Watergate salad! Or for a minor plot thread, one lead prefers sweet food, the other savory, and together they learn that the best food combination is chili and cinnamon rolls. 

The Midwest abounds with possibility of romance. Writers explored romance in Chicago during the 1990s, but none really inspired by the city itself or its residents. Picture this: romantic outings to “the Bean,” comparing NYC thin-crust pizza to Chicago deep-dish, or perhaps a Polish love interest falling for an Irishman! Or, a Chicagoan moves to a new city and has to deal with predictable weather, no longer having to check the forecast daily. Their love interest could explain that there’s no need to prepare for all four seasons in one afternoon! 

And beyond the Windy City lies only more romance. Two people who hate each other get stuck at the top of the cramped Gateway Arch. A tornado hits and two strangers end up in a storm cellar together. Two rival dessert salad-makers are forced to partner together to save the town’s annual Great Lakes Poetry Festival. 

One might think that the Midwest is at a disadvantage to many European countries as it lacks a royal line, but there is plenty of royalty and conflict therein to be found. The Sweet Corn Queen might fall for a businessperson about to shut down her family farm, or the Iowa Dairy Princess could fall for a lactose-intolerant love interest. Not only that, but the romance genre is no stranger to equating political dynasties to royal lines. The Midwest has plenty of strong political dynasties and rival politicians whose children could fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet, or where one could fall for someone from a lower class or someone controversial (and possibly tarnishing their parent’s political image).  

Now what will this bring to the Midwest? Tourism. Forks, Washington, where Stephanie Meyer set “Twilight,” a vampire romance, has a page on its website about “Twilight” sites to view and hosts a yearly Forever Twilight festival. 

Romance media has been proven to affect tourism in the Midwest too. The covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa, have a section during their tour about the movie production of “Bridges Over Madison County.” Beyond the romance, the baseball field from “Field of Dreams” is a popular tourist attraction in Iowa. 

So write to your favorite authors or take pen to paper yourself! Give the Midwest the romance it deserves. 

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