The Seducer and the Seduced

doublestandard As a genre, romances have largely moved beyond the “bodice ripper” forced seduction-style stories (despite lingering stereotypes). They still pop up from time to time, but generally now the “she said no, but I know she really means yes” and “her body betrayed her” are ridiculous, sexist, and indicative of rape, not romance.

Gender norms have long dictated that men are insatiable and always willing, while women are more hesitant and require an emotional attachment. There was a double standard: men were allowed to sow their wild oats (whatever that means) and women who behaved similarly were sluts. It’s been this way for centuries, until the past few decades in which society has recognized that, yes, respectable women are allowed to have sex before they get married as men have been doing for centuries, and they can enjoy it, too.
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Updating the Conversion Kit

giftbooks All About Romance has discussed conversion kits for non-romance readers for quite some time now. The list of resources has helped me tremendously and for the first time, I now have offline friends who read romance! However, many good books have come out since these lists were written up, so I thought it would be fun to try to assemble updated conversion kits.

Some of my friends have been leery of reading anything that even looks like romance, either because they fear ridicule or because they’ve bought into the idea that romances are all badly written garbage. The fact that many romances are packaged to look like badly written garbage doesn’t help here, but that’s a subject for another blog piece. When trying to show my friends that there really is good romance out there, I’ve found that romantic suspense are paranormal romance are both good gateway genres. I also try to pull out some books that have crossover appeal. And obviously, when trying to convince people that romance is worth reading, I pull out the books that are written well!
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Trauma as Plot Device

The use of rape as a plot device in romance books has been on my mind for a while. While I feel very strongly about it, I hesitated to write about it for fear of coming across as getting on my soap box.

If you look back over the history of romance books both authors and publishers have been at least somewhat responsive to changing societal mores and attitudes. I am sure that one reason is economics because if readers are turned off by plot devices, then they don’t buy the books, but I also believe that authors are interested in readers’ opinions. As we are being educated and our attitudes change, so do those of authors. Not all readers here have read the bodice ripper books of the 80’s where it was not uncommon for the hero to rape the heroine because he “knew” that her no really meant yes, but with readers’ feedback and public awareness about date rape, this plot device has for the most part fallen into disfavor.
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Flying the Romance Flag With Pride

flying_books Think about this: According to Romance Writers of America, in 2009, romantic fiction garnered the largest share of trade book sales, outselling mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and religion/inspirational books. In physical books sales, only general fiction sold (by less than one percent) better. Currently, romance is the fastest-growing segment of the e-book market, beating out general fiction, mystery, and science fiction. So, I have to ask, why all the derision of the genre?

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Pet Peeve of the Moment

prefaceUsually I try to make my expositions on annoyances a bit more analytical and open-minded than this, but I’ve got my rant on, and it’s directed at chapter prefaces. You know, those quotes that start every chapter. Usually they’re famous literary quotes, but I’ve also seen fictional journal excerpts, fairy tales, made-up quotes from characters in the book, fashion tips, recipes, and song lyrics.

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Going to Extremes

virginriver I love going to RWA nationals for a variety of reasons. However, one of the major thrills for me comes from getting to hear about upcoming books and forecasts for various subgenres of romance. This year, hearing about the various trends in publishing really struck me because many of the types of books listed seemed to hit at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the one hand, we seem to be inhabiting a period of sweetness and light in book choices. Small-town romances with home and family themes seem to sell quite well. Indeed, some authors with small-town series such as Robyn Carr and Debbie Macomber have almost a cult following among readers. Similarly, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen stories about the astounding popularity of Amish/Mennonite romances. Their focus on the simple life and strong family ties again seem to speak to a lot of readers. And in historicals, the light, wallpaper Regency/Victorian is not exactly hard to find either.

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Reader Prejudice, or Don’t Knock It Until You Try It

daniellesteelbooks As readers of romance, we’re familiar with literary prejudice– the Fabio jokes, the scoffs and eye rolls, the shame in reading one in public. I always defend my preferred genre, and berate people for making such judgments about an entire genre that they’ve never read. Woe be they who dare disparage a romance novel without having read it.

And then there’s Danielle Steel. When talking about romance novels, I’m careful to distinguish between what I read, and her “family dramas.” I hedge when they’re lumped together. I roll my eyes. I scoff. And I’ve never read a single one of her books.

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Bittersweet Stories

Love.StoryIn a nutshell: I hate them.  I really, really hate them.

When I was in middle school, Titanic came out.  A classmate came in one day and raved about it: “Oh my God, I’ve seen it like four times already, and it’s sooooooo good.”  Why, says I?  He dies.  A lot of people die.  It’s four hours long.  What’s the point?  She looked at me, shocked.  “It’s for the romance.”  But so many people suffer, I said.  “Yeah, that’s the point.”

Clearly, I didn’t get it.  I have seen Titanic and I still don’t get it (no offense, Leo, but you never did it for me), but it’s the heart-wringing and tear-shedding and nose-honking and mucous-dripping that I can’t stand.  I mean, why put yourself through all of that when it doesn’t even end happily?

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Why I Read Romance Novels

renoir20I’ll be the first to admit that I have a propensity towards criticism and pessimism.  Take romance novels, for example – I could go on for hours about the general Decline and Fall of the Romance Civilization.  But you know what?  I still read romance novels.  I still love them.  And I still defend them to the death, despite all the weird looks I know I get from my friends.  (Yes, LKY, I’m looking at you.)

I’m tired of whinging, and while I’m in the mood, I want to focus on the positive.  With that in mind, here are the top five reasons I read – and love – romance novels:

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My Tortured Relationship With the Regency

regency_dances First things first: I don’t hate the Regency. If you check my old reviews, you’ll find some Regency historicals out there that I’ve liked or even loved. Julia Quinn, Tessa Dare and Carla Kelly are all autobuys of mine. However, the Regency is like cake to me. I may like it occasionally, but I really don’t need a constant diet of it every single day of the week. I need a lot more variety than that.

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