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The Test of Time
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:44 am    Post subject: The Test of Time Reply with quote

+IHS+

In another thread, Jenny quoted an Amazon user who said that Romance has no "lasting value." My response said, among other things, that only time will tell if a book has "lasting value."

Yet I have to admit that I cannot really think of a Romance writer who has been consistently read and loved for decades. Don't we make fun of "70s Romances" and "80s Romances" now that we're twenty to thirty years removed from them? Jude Devereux, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Beatrice Small are still in print, but I frankly don't know anyone in her twenties who likes them as much as their younger counterparts. (If I am just in my obscure corner of the world again, please enlighten me!)

To be fair . . . Small's books still seem to have the original cover art, as if the publisher didn't even try to market them to younger readers. So it may not be entirely Small's "fault" here. (I wouldn't know, though, as I tend to stay far, far away from old-fashioned purple prose. Embarassed )

Looking over my own (very small)) personal collection now, I'd say that the authors with the best chance of being read for many more years are Loretta Chase and Julia Quinn.

Then again, I might just be getting influenced by the reissues of their books. Quinn's Bridgerton books have ChickLit-ish cartoon covers now, but they make her stories seem more fresh than the original clinch covers did. And the old-fashioned cameos and patterns on the new covers of Chase's Carsington books make them almost Heyerish in their appeal--a definite improvement over the covers with half-dressed hotties. I'll bet that people who otherwise would not have read Quinn or Chase tried them because of the new art!

I guess my questions are:

1) Who among your favourite authors do you think the "next generation" of Romance readers will still love?

2) Would you say that repackaging the books in more tasteful (or more clever) covers will make a "lasting" difference? Wink
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1) Who among your favourite authors do you think the "next generation" of Romance readers will still love?

2) Would you say that repackaging the books in more tasteful (or more clever) covers will make a "lasting" difference?


I think that Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh in particular will be read by the next generation of romance readers, particularly those who like Regencies and the sort of comedy of manners that Heyer wrote. The Regency has been popular, really, since Jane Austen and I believe will always have a (probably limited) audience.

I think the newer covers for Heyer’s books and some other Regencies in particular that use wonderfully evocative portrait paintings in the style of Joshua Reynolds are fantastic and should make the books they cover more saleable. Many of my ancient Heyers have covers without any sort of picture and would not draw a modern audience of readers who are very attuned to the visual world. I listen to a lot of radio (The BBC has great radio programmes – without commercials – on BBC Radio 4) for plays, historical programmes, gardening, cooking, law, medicine, travel, entertainment, news, etc, etc, so I do not worry so much about the visual. Many of my favourite keepers (Marjorie Farrell springs to mind) have those hateful bodice-ripping Fabio covers but my mother always told me not to judge a book by its cover so I try not to!
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Schola



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
I think the newer covers for Heyer’s books and some other Regencies in particular that use wonderfully evocative portrait paintings in the style of Joshua Reynolds are fantastic and should make the books they cover more saleable. Many of my ancient Heyers have covers without any sort of picture and would not draw a modern audience of readers who are very attuned to the visual world.


I love the new Heyer covers! Very Happy I know a very intellectual man who stayed away from Heyer for decades and only started reading Venetia because of the new covers. He has since ruefully admitted that, had he known what he was missing, he wouldn't have let covers stand in his way. Oh, well . . . My friends and I had only been recommending Heyer to him for years. Rolling Eyes
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Last edited by Schola on Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:01 am    Post subject: Re: The Test of Time Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
1) Who among your favourite authors do you think the "next generation" of Romance readers will still love?

2) Would you say that repackaging the books in more tasteful (or more clever) covers will make a "lasting" difference? Wink



Well, lest we forget, there were romance authors even before the 70s and some of them are still in print and being sold consistently. Are they "bestsellers"? I have no idea but they are still sold. Oh, let's see, there's Victoria Holt, Grace Livingston Hill, and Emilie Loring that immediately come to mind. All appealing to niche audiences and all originally published well before the World Wars, true, but I think that's part of their ability to last so long.

As far as the newer current crop, I don't know that I've ever really thought about it from the author standpoint because I've always seen "classic" as more of an individual book thing, i.e. just how rereadable the books are.

So, my first choice would be Julie Garwood's original historicals for lasting value because I still reread them on a fairly regular basis. There's a certain, um, attitude to them that may last, too. True, technically, the writing may not be that great but we're not talking about the greatness of the writing here. We're talking about the impact of the storytelling and don't confuse the two. Her earlier stories had an impact and I suspect they will continue to have an impact on newer readers if given the chance.

I wouldn't discount someone like Krentz or Roberts because of the sheer depth of their backlists if nothing else.

I'm sure there are more, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment. Wink
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:12 am    Post subject: Re: The Test of Time Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
Well, lest we forget, there were romance authors even before the 70s and some of them are still in print and being sold sonsistently. Are they "bestsellers"? I have no idea but they are still sold. Oh, let's see, there's Victoria Holt, Grace Livingston Hill, and Emilie Loring that immediately come to mind.


Clueless me! I've never heard of them. Embarassed

Would you say that if these "niche" books were marketed more aggressively they would prove to have mass appeal?

bbmedos wrote:
As far as the newer current crop, I don't know that I've ever really thought about it from the author standpoint because I've always seen "classic" as more of an individual book thing, i.e. just how rereadable the books are.


I was thinking more along the lines of someone doing for Romance what Ray Bradbury has done for Science Fiction. (I may just be shooting my argument in the foot here, though, because I think Bradbury is best loved not for his SF, but for Dandelion Wine.)

So it's a mix of individual preference and just how many individuals (especially over a large number of years) happen to prefer the same thing.

bbmedos wrote:
So, my first choice would be Julie Garwood's original historicals for lasting value because I still reread them on a fairly regular basis. There's a certain, um, attitude to them that may last, too. True, technically, the writing may not be that great but we're not talking about the greatness of the writing here. We're talking about the impact of the storytelling and don't confuse the two. Her earlier stories had an impact and I suspect they will continue to have an impact on newer readers if given the chance.


Hmmmm. There's a "certain attitude" to Bradbury, too. I think you're on to something! Very Happy

It's almost enough to make me reread Garwood again . . .
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Last edited by Schola on Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a number of authors will be read by isolated readers who happen upon them in the same way that the reader of Venetia schola mentioned did. But I doubt that many of them will be as widely read as say, Putney, Balogh, Quinn, et al are today, except perhaps by academic researchers looking into the phenomenon of "romance fiction." Romance fiction has an ephemerality about it that's difficult to overcome, partially due, I think, to the insatiability of readers for the fantasy of it, a circumstance from which Harlequin has made a great deal of money.
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Elaine S



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Goodness, hadn't thought of Grace Livingston Hill or Emilie Loring for decades - my mum read them! And Victoria Holt was one of my very early ventures into "grown up" reading. However, although I may be shot down for this, I suppose that Barbara Cartland will live on - if for no other reason than the sheer size of her output. Actually, some of the stuff she wrote in the 1950s wasn't half bad ........
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject: Re: The Test of Time Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
Clueless me! I've never heard of them. Embarassed

Would you say that if these "niche" books were marketed more aggressively they would prove to have mass appeal?


Don't know, primarily because their writing is pretty dated and, yet, aren't all "classics" to some extent. I do occassional pull out one or two of my Emilie Loring books and reread them. One just has to overlook the truly dated stuff at times. Don't get me wrong, they aren't the only hold-overs from the pre-seventies eras, just the ones I'm the most familiar with.

Quick descriptions of their particular niches, then I'll get back to the other questions in another post:

Victoria Holt - one of the original "romantic suspense" writers from the early part of the twentieth century, all very Gothic in style, they were real romances and yet real mysteries also. Even though many of them didn't have paranormal element, they are the "mood" percursors to the current crop of paranormals/romantic suspense in romance from the mystery standpoint. Part of reason I can't read romantic suspense nowadays if that it falls way short of what I read from these women. It just ain't suspenseful enough.

Grace Livingston Hill - inspirational author who always had a romance element to her stories, look for her in the religion section of the bookstore if she's not in fiction, this woman's books started being published in the late 1800s and are still being printed and sold. Partial warning, though, these books have some of the longest descriptions of, well, just about anything that I've ever seen in my life. If you love prose just for the sake of prose, you'll be in heaven. Otherwise, not so much. Rolling Eyes

Emilie Loring - larger category-sized romances ranging from the 1930 depression era all the way through the war years into the 1950s, always featured a semi-career-minded herione and hunky honorable hero solving a mystery of some form in more or less high society - quite often involving national security secrets (boy, have we come full circle Wink )
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Schola



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
I think a number of authors will be read by isolated readers who happen upon them in the same way that the reader of Venetia schola mentioned did.


Care to hazard some guesses? Wink

dick wrote:
Romance fiction has an ephemerality about it that's difficult to overcome, partially due, I think, to the insatiability of readers for the fantasy of it, a circumstance from which Harlequin has made a great deal of money.


I was thinking something along the same lines . . .

I'm still holding out for a "Ray Bradbury of Romance", though!

ElaineS wrote:
although I may be shot down for this, I suppose that Barbara Cartland will live on - if for no other reason than the sheer size of her output. Actually, some of the stuff she wrote in the 1950s wasn't half bad ........


Clueless me again . . . Does this mean that Cartland is still in print? The last time I saw one of her titles, it was in an untidy stack at a UBS, with what I think was the original cover. That was about a decade ago.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
Goodness, hadn't thought of Grace Livingston Hill or Emilie Loring for decades - my mum read them! And Victoria Holt was one of my very early ventures into "grown up" reading. However, although I may be shot down for this, I suppose that Barbara Cartland will live on - if for no other reason than the sheer size of her output. Actually, some of the stuff she wrote in the 1950s wasn't half bad ........


Cartland, sigh. She's like a bad weed one can't quite make disappear, isn't she? Laughing

You know, I'm sure that at one point or another I actually read a book or two of hers but I do believe I've completely blocked the experience out of my brian because I honestly can't remember if I have or not. If I did it was long, long, long, long, lllllooooonnnnggggg time ago, too. That helps in the forgetting department. Wink

I know what you mean about Holt and grown up reading. I think librarians of a certain, um, era were trained to give young girls Holt when they asked for myteries and/or romance. In some ways it was a nice fit. Those books were definitely a step up from Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. Hehehe.
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
Clueless me again . . . Does this mean that Cartland is still in print? The last time I saw one of her titles, it was in an untidy stack at a UBS, with what I think was the original cover. That was about a decade ago.


That's actually a very good question. My first impulse is to say yes they are still in print. I could almost swear I recently saw one in the store somewhere. Only . . . I honestly don't know if it was the UBS or not.

Hmmm.

I can't see them not still being printed and sold somewhere. Just don't have any proof one way or another.
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MrsFairfax



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
I suppose that Barbara Cartland will live on - if for no other reason than the sheer size of her output. Actually, some of the stuff she wrote in the 1950s wasn't half bad ........


I'm just laughing ... that you used an ... ellipses... when you mentioned her because ... that's the only thing I remember from her books ... and I know I read several... way back when.


Schola wrote:
I love the new Heyer covers!


Aren't they gorgeous? The very latest reissues of Mary Stewart aren't bad, either. (Her heroines smoke. She can't be your Ray Bradbury surrogate, but I still love her books.)
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Elaine S



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does this mean that Cartland is still in print?

Yes, indeed!!! I read a recent interview with one of Barbara Cartland's sons who said that the trustees of her estate have got a supply of yet-to-be-published books in stock and they will be releasing them over a period of time in the future. So, from beyond the grave, she will continue to be a presence for a while!!!

Romance fiction has an ephemerality about it that's difficult to overcome, partially due, I think, to the insatiability of readers for the fantasy of it

If nothing else, any romance novel read a generation or more later is a real window on what (some) women of that time wanted for leisure reading; they also reflect the manners, ethics, mores, interests and concerns, etc, of the time in which they were written - hence the flood of doctor/nurse stories during and after WWII by such writers as Lillian Andrews and the many M&B books in the UK set in Spain/Greece (cf Violet Winspear) with Spanish/Greek heros in the 1970s as this was about the time that the British started going on overseas package holidays. A friend unearthed several English ladies' magazines from the 1930s and gave them to me recently. A real sociological study! A bit like the Stepford Wives ......
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RichMissTallant



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh my God, I actually have read a Victoria Holt title! I got curious after seeing this thread and checked her books (I know it's just one of many pennames) and, sure enough, once upon a time I read The House of a Thousand Lanterns. I used to have a hardback copy that I shelved along with all these other really old Gothic-y type titles. I don't remember the actual story at all...!

I firmly believe Georgette Heyer has already stood the 'test of time'. I used to think it was just me and my grandmother, but then I randomly started meeting other Heyer fans my age who had also been reading her since a young age. In fact, I've gotten a couple of friends into her books pretty easily. When I was living in Brighton, I recommended Regency Buck to a few girlfriends since it takes place partially in Brighton, and they all loved it!
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RichMissTallant wrote:
Oh my God, I actually have read a Victoria Holt title! I got curious after seeing this thread and checked her books (I know it's just one of many pennames) and, sure enough, once upon a time I read The House of a Thousand Lanterns. I used to have a hardback copy that I shelved along with all these other really old Gothic-y type titles. I don't remember the actual story at all...!


I got curious and did a websearch on Holt. Good lord. Shocked Hundreds of books under five major AKAs? Before the age of computers? It boggles the mind.

Anyway, one site has the heading of Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert, "Queen of Romantic Suspense", September 1, 1906- January 18, 1993.

Wow.

Still wish I could remember who the other romantic suspense authors I read about the same time as I read her were though. Guess she made the biggest lasting impression.
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