Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kickin' It Old School

So, this article on MSN got me thinking. For those who are too cool to click, the article is titled "Can't judge romance novel by its steamy cover"--Audience expanding as genre is no longer all about smut, shirtless heroes. (Thanks for the link, Sybil).

From the article: ATLANTA - Strong women and edgy plots about relationships are replacing the heated passion and ripped bodices of swooning damsels in distress traditionally associated with romance novels.

You know what? I like books about heated passion and ripped bodices. I like damsels in distress (granted, mine usually aren't swooning, but still.) In fact, I just wrote an almost-genuine bodice ripping scene the other day, in which the hero tears the heroine's dress off, and damn, I enjoyed that!

I miss romances like they were in the 70's and 80's (and if anyone ever wants to buy ol' December a giftie, I collect 60s/70s gothic romances, the ones where the heroine is always wearing something diaphanous and running away from a large looming mansion with her hair flying in the wind behind her. I love those books.) I miss shirtless heroes and those luridly colored old clinch covers--I love those covers. I miss the huge, bloated, sex-filled romances I read when I was a young teen. (Many of those, btw, were my mother's. I'm not THAT old, okay? I'm only almost 33.) The ones where the couples fight and fuck and have adventures across three continents, and there's very little worry about how they're growing as people.

This is one reason why I love Connie Mason's books so damn much. So Connie isn't the best writer in the world. So some of Connie's dialogue passes the verge of ridiculous and plunks itself right down in the middle of stupid. So her characters are sometimes a little TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). So what? How can one resist prose like, "His mouth took hers once more as he spread her thighs and fondled her, his drugging kisses turning her to putty in his arms" or "Their bodies were all but glued together, and she felt his man part prodding ruthlessly against the secret place between her thighs." Who doesn't love that shit? C'm ON! Connie's books are just sex scene after sex scene, and the spaces in between are filled with pretty people having dumb-ass arguments and doing dumb-ass things. But they're good books. They're FUN. Romance should be FUN.

Can I get an amen? Romance should be fun. I'm really rather tired of these romances that are all about social issues or how people learn to grow and change. They take themselves so seriously! If I want to read about people growing and changing, I'll read literary fiction. I like literary fiction. I have quite a lot of it. But I read romance to escape and enjoy myself. I write it because I love writing it.

I'm not saying issues and romance don't go together. Of course the people have to be real people (although this is one reason why I prefer historicals, both reading and writing--because I don't have to hear about nuclear war or the environment or whatever in a medieval.) Of course they have to have their issues. You guys know I love heroes with dark secrets and all kinds of damage done to them. Nobody's saying romance shouldn't deal with people and their lives.

But I'm so tired of socially responsible romance. I want some hairy alpha males, attempted rapes, forced seductions, life-threatening danger, virgins wondering at the strange new sensations in their bodies and turning into sex slaves, all that good stuff. I want to feel like I'm really having FUN when reading a romance.

And I think the fun has kind of been forgotten as everyone tries so hard to prove that romances are Real Literature.

I'll probably do a part 2 to this post. I'm planning to start blogging more often but with my sd here I'm not having much chance. She leaves end of the week so hopefully I'll have more time then.)


Bernita said...

I agree entirely. Absolutely. Positively.
Those books are FUN!
"Socially responsible" intrusions make me want to hurl.

December Quinn said...

Thanks, Bernita! What say you and I start a revolution? We'll start demanding novels like Lady Bryce's Secret Savage Love again!

I just get so tired of all the "These are good, socially responsible, deep books" stuff. Let's have some fun with the genre again, you know?

Robyn said...

*Sits next to december*

You are my new best friend. Don't you just love the old historicals where the hero growls at the heroine, "You are MINE!" Give me a possessive sheik and I'm a happy girl.

Socially responsible- right. I'm supposed to buy a modern, intelligent woman who tries to solve a murder or an age-old mystery despite the fact that she has no skills or experience and refuses to turn the whole mess over to the police after she's shot at and she falls completely in love in two week's time with a guy she originally hated...but we better be readin' that they used a condom.

December Quinn said...

LOL Robyn, you're my best friend too!
I'm supposed to buy a modern, intelligent woman who tries to solve a murder or an age-old mystery despite the fact that she has no skills or experience and refuses to turn the whole mess over to the police after she's shot at and she falls completely in love in two week's time with a guy she originally hated...but we better be readin' that they used a condom.

I couldn't have said that better myself!

And yes, I desperately miss those old historicals. I'm really thinking of trying my hand at one, even if I only post it on a blog somewhere...if I ever have a break in the stream of stuff I'm supposed to be doing I will...:-)

Mmmm. Possessive sheiks. Sigh.

Isabella Snow said...

I read this on yahoo yesterday and couldn't stop rolling my eyes. I agree completely, I like the way they were.

I don't mind the women being stronger - but I think that just means the men have to be more so as well.

I blame this on Gloria as well.


December Quinn said...

The thing is, nobody pays attention to articles like that anyway, and I dn't think today's books are so much better anyway. I think they're duller.

Big difference.

As far as writing quality-yes, they might be better. But they're not as good, so something's lacking.

Gloria's got a LOT to answer for.

Erik Ivan James said...

Definitely! Romance should be fun. If it's not fun, what the hell's the point. And social responsibility? I try not to have any.

Isabella Snow said...

I think the sex is definitely better in todays novels (in terms of how explicit they've become) but I'm not so sure the writing is..

In some cases yes, absolutely.

I can't bring myself to publicly gossip about this, but I'm sure you know where I'm going with that.

Present company excluded, of course.


Bernita said...

Long ago read the Sheik - and it was old then - one of the most deliciously "dirty" books I ever read.

Anonymous said...

You make a good point, december. It can be applied just about all the way across the genres, though. Look at "A Clockwork Orange" and "American Psycho" -both had their problems with the social responsibility police. The film "The Boondock Saints" was not released in theaters because of the Columbine incident. It is a sad reality that art is sometimes diluted because of political or social "concerns". By the way, if you haven't seen "The Boondock Saints", that is your assignment for the week -put the kids to bed early and watch it! If you liked "Snatch" and "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" you will love "The Saints". If you haven't seen those films, shame on you. Of course, this is waaaay off the subject of romance and erotica. -JTC

Sherrill Quinn said...

You go, girl. I think this is why erotic romance has been such a huge hit. It's about sex, sex, and more sex--and it's all good. And fun! :)

December Quinn said...

Hmmm...have I been spammed? I'll leave the comment for the monet, but if you want it to stay up you better prove you're not a spammer.

December Quinn said...

Good for you, Erik! Men with no social responsibility are HOT.

And exactly, why read it if it isn't fun to read?

December Quinn said...

Agreed and agreed, Isabella. But I'd love to hear your other comments. :-)

December Quinn said...

Sigh, Bernita, there's just something about books like that, isn't there? The lure of the forbidden, maybe? Or just that ideas about what's romantic and what really atracts the average woman haven't changed, although some people want us to believe they have?

December Quinn said...

Very true, JTC. People are afriad to write the way they really want--or afraid to publish it, or to admit they like it--and what we end up with is a sort of vanilla custard. Plain and okay, but not very exciting. (Although I actually like vanilla custard.)

Unfortunately, I did not particularly like L,S & 2SB--I'm not a fan of the "crazy, twisty heist gone wrong" storyline. Didn't even see Snatch because I loathe Guy Ritchie. If you say the Saints are that good, though, I'll see what I can do.

December Quinn said...

Totally agree, Sherrill. Sex and fun, and fun sex--that's what it should be all about! And I agree that's why it's become so popular. I think readers are sick of the social responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Alas, I discover december is not the perfect woman I thought she was, sigh. But, pretty damn close. -JTC

December Quinn said...

Does my adoration of John Woo and kung fu movies make up for it? :-)

Anonymous said...

It certainly doesn't hurt.

S. W. Vaughn said...


I still can't stand the "ass-kicking heroine syndrome." My absolute fave plotlines involve dark, brooding (SHIRTLESS) heros and the intelligent-but-still-vulnerable-damn-it women who love them even though they're bastards.

No matter how much we try to "sensitize" men, they are still men. There are things men do and feel that are manly and cliche, but they are cliche because they're truth. Let our heroes act like MEN! :-)

December Quinn said...

Totally and completely, SW...and oooh, I'm going to blog about the ass-kicking heroines next, I think!


Bernita said...

Please define "kick-ass heroines" first though.
Think mine's kick-ass yet the characters about follow SW's outline.
Am I damned?

December Quinn said...

Of course not! I'm thinking specifically of kick-ass historical heroines, really. The ones who always ask for swords for their birthdays.

Hey, I'm working on a female cop book right now (although I must admit making her a cop was my wp/cp's choice, not mine. But I adore my wonderful cp, so I'm happy to follow her instincts.)

Jenn on the Island said...

If I ever get published my cover will have a shirtless hero and a ripped bodice.

Yours rocks BTW

December Quinn said...

Thank you!

And I agree. One of these days I'm gonna single-handedly bring back the clinch cover. There was something so exciting about them, wasn't there? You really felt like you were going to read a Romance.

Elizabeth said...

I gave up reading romances when they started using condoms in the sex scenes. Who the heck started that anyway? Not that I want to appear socially irresponsible -- but if I'm going to read about social responsibility, I'll read the newspaper. Reading romance novels -- or thrillers or mysteries or sci-fi for that matter -- is supposed to be an escape not a reality.

December Quinn said...

Absolutely, Elizabeth! When did it stop being about the fantasy, and what's arousing?

I don't write condoms. I know some writers who do, because they think an example should be set, and that we want people to think of condoms as sexy. I do understand that, but I don't like it.

It's a book. It's a fantasy. Condoms are neither.

Southern Writer said...

There, December, you just hit 30. I read this article from the tickertape-like news headlines that scroll across the top of my toolbar. To be honest, I think Whitney My Love is the only romance I've ever read (that I can recall anyway), but I have liked what little of yours I've read, and might be willing to give it a go. I do like erotica. I've read all of Anais Nin, and a book or two I found in the attic when I was a kid. I actually learned to read by looking at Playboys that belonged to my grandfather. I wanted to know what that shit was about, I guess.

December Quinn said...

Wheee! I hit 30!!

You know, I've never read Whitney My Love? I know I should, but I just never have.

Was it good?

If you're just starting with the whole erotic romance/romance thing, I'd recommend you not read my January's really, really graphic, and I'd hate for you not to enjoy it. :-)

Colleen Gleason said...

Is Whitney My Love good? You bet your damn thong it is! The original--you'll love it. Read the original version, if you like those lovely "my traitorous body" romances.

I know I do, and I know that I hold Bertrice Small up as the icon of those kinds of books...Bertrice and Kathleen Woodiwiss.

Wish I hadn't come late to this conversation; I feel like it's over and done. Can't wait till you post Part II.

Lynne Simpson said...

Some houses insist that sex scenes mention the use of condoms. I've known people who had to make changes to their manuscripts to include them -- even if the characters were non-human or from the far future and thus unlikely to contract present-day STDs.

December Quinn said...

Better late than never, Colleen! Nice to see you--and your book(s) looks faboo. I'm definitely putting that first one on my "to buy" list.

December Quinn said...

Is that so, Lynne? That explains a lot.

I read somewhere (maybe the RWR?) about an author who had a character microwaving a cup of coffee, and her editor instered something about putting a stick in the coffee to make sure it didn't boil over or something?

You know...editing is one thing...turning into a Safety Nazi is another, don't you think?