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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Time now for our summer series, My Guilty Pleasure, in which we ask writers to talk about the books that they've loved only secretly until now.

Writer Jack Murnighan is the author of "Beowulf on the Beach," and he picked a book that both shocks him and makes him blush.

Mr. JACK MURNIGHAN (Author, "Beowulf on the Beach): He held her weak, trembling body, and when she would've protested against the liberties he was taking, his lips covered her mouth, stifling the words she tried to utter. She struggled then, but only half-heartedly. Both his arms imprisoned her and she closed her eyes and let him have his way.

I get to the end of a passage like that and I can only think, dios mio. Any guy can tell you he loves romance, but how many men would admit to liking romances? But reading lines like those from Rosemary Rogers' "Sweet Savage Love," how could I resist? And thus, you have my guilty reading pleasure.

For honestly, I shouldn't be caught breathing reading Rosemary Rogers. And there's no question that mid-page, I blush more than your average Jane Austen character. I'm a medievalist after all, so to me, romances from the old French romant for story, used to mean courtly tales of mounted knights and damsels in finery, not those pink-covered, florid, Fabio-emblazed paperbacks with titles like "Surrender in Scarlet" or "My Gallant Enemy."

Back in my haughty grad-student ignorance, I looked down my pince-nez at the lot of them. I had seen the covers, read the titles, knew their popularity, but never cracked the spine of a single one.

Times have changed. Now if I happen to be alone on the Greyhound and find an abandoned Harlequin or Silhouette, left in a tizzy by a lovelorn runaway, I quickly tuck it into my briefcase amid the papyri and incunabula, to read furtively in my office later or in my lap during faculty meetings.

I wouldn't want to read romances all the time of course, but still, all those smoking-hot virgins liquefying in the arms of their swarthy, unyielding seducers, that's excellent. I just can't believe these things were written by and for women.

See, I had always thought that the idea of coercing the fairer sex into abandonment stemmed more from the male than the female gray matter. A friend of mine once dreamt that he was a pagan god to whom a tribal culture would perform ritual female sacrifices. And silly me, at the time, I believed that was an archetypal guy fantasy. Not unlike the great late-teen realization that girls like sex too.

The very thought that men and women were occasionally conjuring the same sugarplums made me feel much closer to my female compeers in general, and less like a creeping lust monster.

I'm aware, of course, that there's a cultural bias, and if the women in my university department were to see me with a copy of "Sweet Savage Love" under my arm, I wouldn't have many friends left. But freed of the ivory prison, guilty pleasures are different. So now you might well see a tweed-clad ectomorph flipping pages in the aisles of a Wal-Mart near you. And members of the jury, I won't be reading "Field and Stream."

SIEGEL: Jack Murnighan is author of "Beowulf on the Beach." And his pick for our Guilty Pleasure Series is "Sweet Savage Love" by Rosemary Rogers.

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