A couple of weeks ago on one of my loops my friend Cecelia Dowdy mentioned this blog. The blog is one of those supposedly positive articles about romance writing which winds up to be insulting anyway.
“You only have to read one. They are all the same.” Oh, yeah????
“These books are admittedly too simply written, too predictable and melodramatic, too one-dimensional even to ever be considered literature….” Excuse me?
“The sad thing is that the majority of romance novel readers are married women, women who, for whatever reason, get their fill of love and romance from the pages of pulp fiction rather than the arms of their husbands.” This is, of course, simply not true.
But the blog did spark a little discussion on our loop and led to this terrific spontaneous essay on romance novels by Kate Worth, aspiring Historical writer. Judging from this, Kate has a great future in this genre!
Kate agreed to let me post this here today. Give her a big welcome!!
I read the article in question and found it fascinating. I agree more than disagree with it. But it misses the point that romance novels are escapist romps, like going to the movies. So what if Romancing the Rake isn’t The Grapes of Wrath. Have you ever read that book? Depressing does not come close to describing the relentless slog toward misery. It went from bad to worse until I dreaded picking it up. I wanted to scream, “Rosasharn, hop out of that truck, girl, and hitch a ride back East!!!!” When I go to the movies, I like a happy ending. Is this shallow? Bourgeois? I don’t know. I saw Precious, a socially important piece of work without a doubt, but it left me depressed for days. That doesn’t take away from its artistic worth, but I was not happy to have paid good money to leave the theater in search of a razor blade. And I paid good money to feel that way! Sheesh! Call me shallow and buy me a ticket to Legally Blonde.
Conversely, romance novels are feel-good getaways from your real life of diapers and dinners and your wonderful husband who you adore despite his 42-inch waist and tendency to fall asleep in front of the TV. Mental funnel cakes and candy, and I mean that respectfully. I read them. In the end, the romance reader wants to feel good. If the hero dies of a brain aneurism, it’s not a romance novel. If the heroine goes insane and ends up alone in Bedlam contemplating her navel, it’s not a romance novel. The pay-off is a happily ever after. Are they marriage manuals? Could be, I guess. The hero always makes sure his lover reach nirvana… several times before he does! Yee-ha! Hand your husband a romance novel and hide the remote? Hmmm. Might work.
It is true that the modern heroine is more feisty, capable, intelligent, and strong (and every other I-am-woman-hear-me-roar adjective you can think of). HOWEVER, I think the pendulum has swung pretty far past center. I think part of the enduring appeal of historical romances is that the heroes are confined to chivalrous conduct, if not in the beginning, by the end of the book. Sure, they may be rakes, they may have strained the boundaries of acceptable sexual behavior in their misspent youths, but in the end they truly care for their women in an old-fashioned, hold the door, love and cherish only her, sort of way.
No matter how many new sub-genres emerge… buff, dark angels who descend from the heavens to shag you blind… sexy, well-hung, insatiable undead… or time-traveling satyrs, the old-fashioned cowboy/gentleman/knight/protector paradigm will always endure. Women know they will probably never meet a sexy shape shifter… but a handsome gentleman? They may not be thick on the ground… but it’s not altogether impossible.
Isn’t that great? I emailed back “I love this!!!”
What do you think? Do you read Romance for the Happily Ever After? Do you agree with Kate’s opinion on what is the appeal of the historical romance?
Get ready, everyone. The Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveaway is almost here with daily prizes and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire! More on that next week.