By  on March 5, 2007

PARIS — In romance novels, a twenty- or thirtysomething heroine is generally caught in the grip of love and peers at the world through rose-colored glasses. Her mother, in the meantime, is expected to be home knitting, squinting through bifocals.

Not in the eyes of Ariel Ricaud, author of the recently published romance novel "Pretty Man."

"A woman of 55 is 35 years old in her head," explains Ricaud. "She doesn't want to renounce her life as a woman. She's part of the first generation of women who worked en masse, had diplomas and important jobs. She doesn't want to be in the park with her grandchildren full time."

"No books like this existed for women over 50," continues the French ex-journalist and public relations officer (who also happens to be a mother of four and a grandmother of four).

In "Pretty Man," Ricaud describes a woman on the verge of her 55th birthday. Her life seems to be on cruise control until — voilà — some longed-for romantic intrigue makes things a lot racier.

Take the narrator's description of preparing to see her lover: "Getting ready to meet Claudio is already a moment of sensual pleasure, of excitation, a sort of heightening of desire before climax. Why for Claudio, in particular? Because he detests everything that's conventional. He waits for me to surprise him, seeing me excites him, I should never be the same…"

And that's just on page one.

"When I speak to women over 50 years old, they say, 'That's me you're describing in your book,'" says Ricaud.

The idea for "Pretty Man" came about when Ricaud and a group of female writer friends decided to pen novels with "a second chance" theme. Fleuve Noir picked up "Pretty Man" and published the 286-page book in January in French. The romance novel will be followed by at least two others by Ricaud.

She is totally charmed by her creation. "I don't need to meet anyone — my hero is 10 times better than the men I know," laughs Ricaud.

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