Breaking Romance Ranks

womanIt’s impossibly hot here in D.C. today and writing a cogent opinion is beyond me, I’m sorry to say. The best I can do is come up with a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately.

But first I better explain what I mean by my title.  Here in the online romance world, some things become accepted as the general prevailing opinion fairly quickly.  After all, we are all smart women who also love romance, and, as in all parts of life, the loudest and most persistent dominate.  That is what it is.  But little old me  (and, I hope, others) don’t always feel as if I’m on the majority opinion team.  So, here are a few ways I don’t feel part of the prevailing romance voice.

  • I like Dukes marrying seamstresses. Okay, so I know it didn’t happen and I don’t give a rat’s ass.  I read romance for fantasy and the Cinderella story is one of my very favorites.  And when an author is as good as Loretta Chase, that’s all I need to know. I read the last two Chase novels with a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment.
  • I don’t want “gritty realism” in my historical romance. There is enough poverty and problems in today’s world that I don’t want to experience it in those of the past. I don’t care how they cleaned their teeth or where they pissed.  I just don’t want to know.
  • I do not believe that writing about premarital sex in historical times is unrealistic. People have always had sex.  People have always had sexual motivations. And they always will.
  • I am sick, sick, sick to death of the small town contemporary romance novels. Saccharine. Filled with Ma and Pa type characters who haven’t existed for 50 years.  And, of course, the sheriff is always hot.  And single.  I grew up in a small town and, trust me, the Sheriff was a Bubba who undoubtedly kept Mrs. Bubba happy at home.
  • I am sick of all the 50 Shades of Grey bashing. This is especially ironic when it’s clear that the bashers haven’t read the book.  I am certainly not saying that the book is great, but it’s at least a B- to me.  And, as I wrote before, there is something fresh there that I haven’t read in a while.  Bashing the book makes other authors look small and I am tired of reading it on Twitter.
  • I am sick of all the bashing of 50 Shades of Grey readers. What gives anyone the right to judge a reader for a book she likes?  I am sick of the vicious remarks I’ve read on Twitter, but the casual swipes are also getting to me.  And on that subject…
  • I have moved past the Harlequin love and I am mystified by serious readers who haven’t. I get that there are some good and maybe even great authors working in that genre, but, for the most part, they are formulaic novels that are, in fact, written to formula.  I understand how they could be a guilty pleasure and a comfort, but to wank on and on about how great they are as literature?  Here’s what I think: If all the Harlequin lovers were subjected to the stuff that is regularly aimed at 50 readers, the sputtering outrage would be off the charts.  But, you know what it comes down to for me?  I liked, but didn’t love 50.  I once liked, but now don’t love Harlequins.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could respect each other and coexist peacefully?  I won’t read the Harlequin reviews or the message board threads and it would be nice if the anti-50 people would do the same.

I hope everyone survives the heat wave wherever you are.  Look at it this way: It’s the perfect time to crank up the AC and read.

- Sandy AAR

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102 Responses to “Breaking Romance Ranks”

  1. Tracie says:

    1. I don’t care about the social ladder status as long as the story is good. Give me a good story and I’ll buy anything.

    2. I prefer my historicals to have some element of realism to them. But refer to #1. If it is a good story I’m certainly not going to complain and am less likely to notice the historical inaccuracies.

    3. Premarital sex was certainly going on during all times. I believe sex has a time and place in any book. No matter if it is a historical or a comptemporary I enjoy a well written sex scene.

    4. Got to disagree about the small town contemporaries. I just started reading them and love them. Although while reading Jill Shalvis’ Head over Heels I had to think that most sheriffs weren’t as sexy as Sawyer. I got chuckle out of your Bubba comment.

    5. I will admit to being prejudiced against 50 Shades and then I read it. It was better than I was expecting and was a page turner for me.

    6. I’m just sick of any bashing of readers. Why does it matter what we read just as long as we are reading? I read for enjoyment and escapism and I find that in different genres.

    7. Sorry have to disagree again with this. I read categories and I love them. I think there is a place for them. They are perfect for a weekend read or a quick evening read. Sure there are some bad ones, but there are also some real gems in there. It is just like with any other genre. There are good and bad. I’m sure there are also formulamatic stories in historicals, paranormal, mystery, etc.

  2. Julieanne says:

    I’m finding this a disheartening discussion for a number of reasons.

    If I try really hard, I can kind of see what Sandy meant (although I can easily see why others are mystified), but- and I may be doing her an injustice here- I can’t help but read the references to ‘loudest voices’, prevailing opinions and ‘wank’ as a dig at blogs like Dear Author. And some of the commenters defending this post- making digs about so-called intelligence etc- aren’t helping to make this site any less of a toxic environment. I’m a longtime reader and I love the reviews, but sometimes the discussions (here in the comments and in the forums) can be so hostile. Although the hostility is obfuscated by carefully polite language, I find it nonetheless hateful.

    As someone who likes this site, it’s really depressing.

  3. Yulie says:

    I was an AAR reader and poster for a very long time, and have largely given up in recent months because the tone here has become quite unpleasant.

    This site has been a wonderful advocate for the genre for so long and it saddens me to see the official blog being used by an AAR publisher to insult readers, bloggers and authors with such a broad brush – not to mention the ensuing nastiness in the comments. And really, the suggestion that 50 Shades readers have been exposed to more negativity than Harlequin readers (two groups that may – gasp – overlap) is laughable. How much ridicule have Harlequin readers and authors faced over the years? How long has Harlequin been used as shorthand for silly, trashy books that no *serious* person would read? Romance readers should know better than anyone that category romance is too diverse and varied to be dismissed like that.

    It’s possible to be critical and honest without resorting to generalizations and insults; AAR did it for years, and I hope to see more of that in the future, and fewer posts like this one.

    • xina says:

      Yulie: I was an AAR reader and poster for a very long time, and have largely given up in recent months because the tone here has become quite unpleasant.This site has been a wonderful advocate for the genre for so long and it saddens me to see the official blog being used by an AAR publisher to insult readers, bloggers and authors with such a broad brush – not to mention the ensuing nastiness in the comments. And It’s possible to be critical and honest without resorting to generalizations and insults; AAR did it for years, and I hope to see more of that in the future, and fewer posts like this one.

      Yulie, I have been reading and posting on AAR for probably as long as you have, and I just don’t remember AAR being a Hearts and Flowers type of message board. For as long as I remember, there have always been dust-ups and ruffled feathers, along with the very easy going conversations and pleasantries among posters. In fact, many of those who have started their own blogs were the very ones that got in the fray, and that are now gossiping (like jr. high girls) about AAR posters on Twitter, almost daily about what idiots we are and how we clutch our ever lovin’ pearls. My point is that none of these blogs or message boards are perfect for everyone. Some stay here because they feel comfortable and some leave because they don’t like the company. Either is better than the other, more like a better fit.

  4. AAR Sandy says:

    Julieanne and Yulie,

    First of all, I was referring to the online romance community as whole, not specifically Dear Author, though I do find I disagree with them fairly often. So there’s that.

    Secondly, Yulie I was not resorting to “generalizations and insults” in my post so I don’t know where that’s coming from. It was designed to be a somewhat tongue in cheek post about ways I differ from the online romance world — DA included.

    Thirdly, romance world spreads far and wide these days and, yes, it is toxic out there. On Twitter alone, AAR readers have been called dunces (I really like that one), harpies, morons, throwbacks, pearl clutchers, idiots, and the list goes on and on. Our readers know all this and that is what they are reacting to. Some of the name callers have no online site affiliation and others do. Frankly, I am glad to see our readers defending themselves.

    I was also the target of a wanky (yes, I think that word applies) DA post recently and I undoubtedly will be again. So it goes. I don’t recall anyone taking the poster to task for being impolite.

    Back in the old days of AAR, before Twitter and before a proliferation of blogs giving voices to so many, it was far easier to keep it all here at AAR. The insults included. Now it’s a different world.

    A cease fire would be lovely, but it can’t be unilateral.

  5. Julieanne says:

    Sandy, which DA post? I’d like to read it.

  6. lj_68 says:

    “This is especially ironic when it’s clear that the bashers haven’t read the book.”

    Funny, when you guys give a book an F, no one claims you haven’t read it but when someone dislikes a book you like? We haven’t read it? Gotcha. Nice to know that All About Romance continues to drift away even more from my what it once was when I first started reading this site. Next you’ll be giving Twilight A+ status. Christ.

  7. AAR Sandy says:

    lj-68, many of the 50 bashers are open in saying they haven’t read the book. It’s no secret nor is it an assumption on my part.

  8. lj_68 says:

    @Yulie

    Exactly, this post along with a few others regarding 50 Shades are just disgusting. To imply that if you have an opinion opposite to that of the blogger that you either haven’t read the book or you are jealous is simply insulting to the reader and then to go on and insult other readers simply to be cruel for the sake of being cruel? What the ever living hell?

  9. Yulie says:

    I have moved past the Harlequin love and *I am mystified by serious readers who haven’t* – how is this not an insult and a generalization? Even if it was meant to be funny, I’m sure you are aware that online humor does not always came across as intended.

    I don’t see how that DA post you linked to targets you in any way; Robin referenced an AAR post and your comment, said that she disagrees and explained why while developing her thoughts beyond the original post. That’s typical of online discussions. Nobody attacked you in any way, shape or form, and you were welcome to respond to her in the comments. Why didn’t you, if you thought your views were being misrepresented?

    BTW, I thought it was Laura Vivanco and Teach Me Tonight that you were unhappy with, and I know I’m not the only one. Not that I see any reason to complain about TMT or Laura’s writing.

    Despite what some here seem to think, the online romance community outside of AAR is not a single entity. Perhaps if AAR reviewers and readers were more willing to engage with others in the romance community – and not just to explain how AAR is the best – there would be more positive interaction and less of what seems to be this prevailing sense that there’s some sort of war that requires a ceasefire.

    • AAR Sandy says:

      Yulie: I have moved past the Harlequin love and *I am mystified by serious readers who haven’t* – how is this not an insult and a generalization? Even if it was meant to be funny, I’m sure you are aware that online humor does not always came across as intended.I don’t see how that DA post you linked to targets you in any way; Robin referenced an AAR post and your comment, said that she disagrees and explained why while developing her thoughts beyond the original post. That’s typical of online discussions. Nobody attacked you in any way, shape or form, and you were welcome to respond to her in the comments. Why didn’t you, if you thought your views were being misrepresented?BTW, I thought it was Laura Vivanco and Teach Me Tonightthat you were unhappy with, and I know I’m not the only one. Not that I see any reason to complain about TMT or Laura’s writing.Despite what some here seem to think, the online romance community outside of AAR is not a single entity. Perhaps if AAR reviewers and readers were more willing to engage with others in the romance community – and not just to explain how AAR is the best – there would be more positive interaction and less of what seems to be this prevailing sense that there’s some sort of war that requires a ceasefire.

      I agree that the commenters didn’t attack me. But, considering all of the dire insults of which I am being accused, read the context of her post. It was written to invite bashing. I am just glad it didn’t take place.

      As for my commenting there, are you that naive?

  10. lj_68 says:

    Sandy, that doesn’t give you the right to assume that everyone who bashes the book hasn’t read the book which you have done.

  11. AAR Sandy says:

    “This is especially ironic when it’s clear that the bashers haven’t read the book.”

    You are correct. I should have said “many of the bashers.”

  12. AAR Sandy says:

    Jill, I am going to take exception to your “retaliation at bloggers you feel slighted by” interpretation of my post. That was not my point at all. I was writing about the ways in which I differ from the romance mainstream, not retaliating against anyone.

    And I think we all know what’s bashing and what isn’t.

  13. xina says:

    edit…meant to say..”Either is not better than the other,”

  14. Sally says:

    I love books where the man is rich and titled and he falls for a poor working class lady. These are actually some of my favorites.

  15. Okay, Sandy. I interpreted your cease fire comment to mean that you’d been fired upon and were firing back.

    What some consider bashing others consider honest criticism, so I think it’s worthwhile to distinguish between the two. Just to clarify, I was saying in my original comment that criticism is fine and bashing (reader shaming and name calling) is not.

  16. farmwifetwo says:

    Sandy, I’ve played in romance and autism-land for years. The heckling will never change and I’ve learned that I prefer to take the high road, instead of returning to being a teenager.

    People want free and open internet as long as you do as they say. I’m impressed with the number of internet “police” out there no matter what the topic nor if you posted to them. The number of people that claim to disagree with you but refuse to stop reading your postings b/c that would mean not being able to disagree with you.

    I still slum in autism-land, posting rarely anymore. I’ve don’t have twitter nor facebook and truly only play on goodreads. I’ve been on numerous boards – including AAR over the years. The comments in the news articles (I’m a news junky) are so childish and immature to be frightening if that’s the intelligence and ability to debate of most people. I admit to reading the comments for entertainment.

    The internet is not “real”. It is for “entertainment”. I enjoy a good blog post. I agree or disagree, and don’t care if you do or don’t.

    Just remember when you email me “spam” or when you comment… if you wouldn’t say or send it to your Mother without the internet… then maybe don’t do it, with. So far, I’ve managed to lose 4 RL friends for refusing to take their spam… their choice I haven’t missed since all they ever sent was junk and didn’t want to “talk”.

    • xina says:

      farmwifetwo: Sandy, I’ve played in romance and autism-land for years. The heckling will never change and I’ve learned that I prefer to take the high road, instead of returning to being a teenager.People want free and open internet as long as you do as they say. I’m impressed with the number of internet “police” out there no matter what the topic nor if you posted to them. The number of people that claim to disagree with you but refuse to stop reading your postings b/c that would mean not being able to .The internet is not “real”. It is for “entertainment”. I enjoy a good blog post. I agree or disagree, and don’t care if you do or don’t.

      Just read your post and I agree with you on all of it. The point that you made about the internet not being “real” is so true. I have always been quite amazed at the number of people who live through their time online. I think it goes way beyond entertainment for some, and those self-appointed internet police just crack me up. People behind their keyboards, taking themselves so seriously, actually imagining that the people who disagree with them are jealous and wish to be their friend. I pity them, always have, who wouldn’t? They seem to have very little outside their time spent online, and it is not longer entertainment for them but their life.
      Anway…great post and spot-on observations.

  17. AAR Sandy says:

    farmwifetwo, Kathy, and xina, sometimes I wish the AAR blog had a like button.

    I am going to step away for a while now.

  18. dick says:

    I’m “mystified” when people extol Georgette Heyer’s books; to me, her typewriter, pen, whatever had diarrhea. But, I don’t think that my being “mystified” by that admiration necessarily questions those readers’ intelligence or the seriousness of their reading choices.

    However, I do think that, since readers of blogs have only the words which the blogger puts on the screen in the order chosen, when and if those words and order are misunderstood or taken in the wrong way, it’s really best to revise and clear up whatever confused or was misunderstood.

  19. PatH AAR says:

    LOL, Sandy! You certainly did get everyone’s blood pumping and popping here before the 4th. I’d like to add my 2 cents worth:

    * I burned out on historicals (to me hystericals) for just the reason you gave. (which makes me a hypocrite if you keep reading…)

    * I’ve always seen category romance as the training ground for new authors and a way for mid-listers to remain in business. So categories seem to be a fairly uneven group, which is what eclectic readers like.

    * The small town contemporaries are just as unrealistic as the Cindarella Regencies. So it’s just a matter of picking one’s poison.

    * At least 50 Shades put romance novels back in the forefront, and anything that’s pop culture will be discussed and argued whether anyone actually has experienced it (read the book, seen the movie, listened to the song, etc.). Today it’s romance and 50 Shades; tomorrow it will be (fill in the blank).

    Hope you had a great weekend, commenters! And thanks for enlivening my evening, Sandy. I go to bed smiling.

  20. Barb says:

    Leslie, I want to read this:

    “immortal virgin witch/librarian…In the Hamptons!”

  21. kathy says:

    Sandy, maybe the next time you feel cranky you could you know, go for a little walk, maybe a little swim, get a really strong drink!! ANYTHING but blogging! I have to say though I have enjoyed it. I love it when everyone gets their panties in a knot.

    • Xina says:

      kathy: Sandy, maybe the next time you feel cranky you could you know, go for a little walk, maybe a little swim, get a really strong drink!! ANYTHING but blogging! I have to say though I have enjoyed it. I love it when everyone gets their panties in a knot.

      They should toss them away, because they are impossible to untangle! LOL! what a kerfuffle. Only in Romland!

    • Beverly says:

      kathy: Sandy, maybe the next time you feel cranky you could you know, go for a little walk, maybe a little swim, get a really strong drink!! ANYTHING but blogging! I have to say though I have enjoyed it. I love it when everyone gets their panties in a knot.

      Do you love it when your panties get in a knot over something you don’t like?

      Honestly people, just because people disagree doesn’t mean you have to try to think of ways to insult or condescend to them.

  22. leslie says:

    Barb: if you are serious. The Witches of Eastend and Serpents Kiss. Very silly stories about Beauchamp Family of witches/norse godesses. Can’t remember author’s name.

    • Cora says:

      leslie: Barb: if you are serious. The Witches of Eastend and Serpents Kiss. Very silly stories about Beauchamp Family of witches/norse godesses. Can’t remember author’s name.

      Melissa de la Cruz

  23. Barb says:

    Leslie: I absolutely have to find out whether I was serious! Thanks for the details.

  24. Anon76 says:

    I learned about this kerfluffle from other sites. The original post chuffed me a bit, but I always try to dig a bit deeper to form my own opinions. Read all the posts, get all the pros and cons.

    I’m really sorry, PatH, but when you stepped in with your opinion, I crossed to the other side of the fence. Your other bullet points didn’t bother me, found them insightful. But this…

    * I’ve always seen category romance as the training ground for new authors and a way for mid-listers to remain in business. So categories seem to be a fairly uneven group, which is what eclectic readers like.

    You can’t take away from that first sentence by sugarcoating, in an odd way, with the second sentence.

    We all have opinions, and mine is now formed. The original post was a genre slap.

    Have a great 4th.

    • kathy says:

      Anon76: I learned about this kerfluffle from other sites. The original post chuffed me a bit, but I always try to dig a bit deeper to form my own opinions. Read all the posts, get all the pros and cons.I’m really sorry, PatH, but when you stepped in with your opinion, I crossed to the other side of the fence. Your other bullet points didn’t bother me, found them insightful. But this…* I’ve always seen category romance as the training ground for new authors and a way for mid-listers to remain in business. So categories seem to be a fairly uneven group, which is what eclectic readers like.You can’t take away from that first sentence by sugarcoating, in an odd way, with the second sentence.
      We all have opinions, and mine is now formed. The original post was a genre slap.
      Have a great 4th.

      and here we go again!

  25. Mel says:

    I could care less if someone else does or does not like 50 Shades. I personally have read it, did not care for it, and moved on. I definitely understand many of the viewpoints of those who have read it and who DON’T like it, but I am not about to sit in a gripe circle with them and commiserate about how bad it was. Neither am I interested in flaming people who DO like it. Many of my friends liked it, and I think we’re allowed to disagree. Ditto Harlequins; the first several I tried just did not do it for me and I found lots of other genres that did.

    I share my opinions on books that I have read in book reviews, whether I am sharing a negative OR a positive assessment. If you don’t like my review, positive or not, just don’t read it. All there is to it. I have an honest reaction to a book, I share it, I move on to the next book. So many books, so little time!

    If 50 Shades bashers bother you, my advice is, go do something else with your time. Turn off the TV. Get off the forums and close the internet page. Take your dog for a walk. Clean your bathtub. In the scheme of things it’s a pretty minor irritation.