Posts tagged romance genre
WIPs and Chains
Sorry this is a day late - for some reason Blogger decided not to post it yesterday.
 I'm not sure how many words I wrote this past week because I don't always keep track of that. I don't think it was the most productive week ever, but I did do some work on my WIP, which I posted a little excerpt from last week. I also spent some time working on a couple of new ideas, getting them started. This time I'm using a little different planning process, thanks to the workshop I've been taking called The Big Question. In fact, in that workshop I've been working on  yet another idea and planning it out. This process of starting with "the big question" that your story is about works the opposite of how I usually plan a story. Sometimes I have a story idea and sometimes I start with the characters, but I always start the planning process with the characters, developing them and then figuring out plot points that will challenge them and make them grow. With this other process, I have the story question and then come up with some plot points and THEN develop the characters, developing them to fit the story. There's no right or wrong way, but I'm going to try this and see how it works out.
What I'm Reading Wednesday
Happy Wednesday everyone! Last week I finished off my Kristan Higgins marathon with Catch of the Day. I really, really liked it, but it wasn't my favourite, though I'm not sure I could say which one was - really loved Just One of the Guys. Also The Next Best Thing. My only complaint about her books is they end too abruptly - I'd like a little more satisfaction with ending, if that makes any sense at all.

Decided to switch conteporary gears and go with a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel - and I chose It Had To Be You. Now I've already met these characters in a later book, but that's okay.The thing about this book that really struck me (and not in a great way) is the omniscient point of view in the entire first chapter. Which might also be called head hopping. Holy man, times have changed I think. That really just set me off. Into Chapter Two we seem to have settled into one character's point of view. We'll see how it goes.
What I'm Reading Wednesday
This week I finished Bound and Determined by Shelley Bradley. Having expected bondage, (although ultimately I wasn’t disappointed in the story!) I decided to next read Submission by Cherie Feather. Unfortunately, too many explanations and “definitions” keep taking me right out of the story. I know what “aftercare” is, thank you. If you must explain it, find a better way. And her description of an orgasm: “She just came.” Next paragraph: “He didn’t come...” Sorry, not to discourage anyone who wants to read a story about Domination and submission. I’ll probably finish this, but I had to stop. Instead I started reading Donna Kauffman’s Let Me In. I like many of Donna Kauffman’s books. I think she’s very good at building sexual tension. But I’m getting impatient for a payoff...this one’s moving very slowly.

Big sigh.

What happens when you’re favorite go-to authors disappoint you?

Lately I’ve read a few books by my favs that just haven’t excited me and I’m not sure why. In fact at the bookstore, I picked up the latest release by one of my LONG time favorite authors and started randomly reading. I could tell right away that the male character was exactly like every other male character in her other books, and the conflict between the two of them was the same as every other story. So I didn’t even buy it.

Some authors switch genres, like Lori Foster writing as LL Foster. Except I have to say, I read the first Servant story but it was so dark and didn’t have enough sexing and loving for me, so I haven’t read the next one. In Lori’s most recent romance, she experimented with time travel. That was new and different.

What can authors do to keep things fresh and interesting for their readers?
Insatiable Part 17

Tyler mixed kosher salt, coarsely ground pepper and ground coffee. He tasted it, knowing it would be harsh, but...“Bleh!” He scowled. “These peppercorns are stale.”
In the dry goods room, he rummaged around for the peppercorns.
“Carlos!” he yelled. “Don’t we have any peppercorns?”
Ryan appeared. “I just did inventory, I’m sure we do.” He peered into the shelves. “Calm down, Tyler.”
Tyler looked at him, puzzled. “I am calm.”
Ryan’s head jerked around. “Uh...yeah. You are. Sorry.” He found the peppercorns and handed them to Tyler. Tyler smiled.
“Thanks, man,” he said. “The ones I have are old and taste like shit.”
He replaced the peppercorns in his grinder. “Anyone else need fresh?” He held up the container. “For God’s sake, don’t use old peppercorns. Please.”
His staff exchanged glances.
“You get laid last night?” Carlos asked him with a grin. He traded a look with Ryan.
Tyler started. “My business,” he said with a one-shouldered shrug. Although he had no intention of hiding his relationship with Chloe, he didn’t want it to start by announcing they’d slept together. They’d go out this weekend, out in the open, and then everyone would know. Yeah.
He continued working on his new creation and slid the pork tenderloins into the oven to roast. Now for the sauce. He went to the bar for inspiration. He wanted a cream sauce...but it needed a kick, a boozy kick. He studied the multitude of bottles lining the mirrored wall behind the bar. Brandy...cognac. Nah. Too...predictable. He grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels and carried it back to the kitchen.
He chopped shallots and tossed them into a sauté pan with butter. They sizzled as he minced garlic, found demi-glace and heavy cream. When the shallots were nicely softened he added the garlic, then poured the Jack Daniels in. Flames shot up, attracting the attention of the others.
“What are you making over there, Chef?” Alejandro called.
“Trying something new,” Tyler muttered, focused on his creation. He added the demi-glace and the cream and left it to reduce. Then he started on something else.
A while later he cut a piece of pork and popped it into his mouth. He closed his eyes, chewed, savored, swallowed. It was good...but not fantastic. It was the rub. He needed to adjust the proportions and add something...thyme. Yeah, thyme. That was it.
By the end of the afternoon he had a new special that blew his mind.
“Chloe!” He pounded up the stairs.
“What do you want me to taste?”
“How did you know?” “I just know.” She smiled. “Should I come down?”
“Yeah. Please.” She followed him downstairs to the kitchen where he cut a piece of perfectly cooked pork, then lifted the fork to her mouth.
She tasted it, swallowed. “Oh, that’s good,” she said. “It’s fabulous! I love it!”
He gazed at her. She always gave him her honest opinion, but today she was A night of sizzling sex had loosened her up. He might have a new Chloe on his hands.
She tipped her head to one side. “What?”
He smiled slowly at her. “You are so sexy.”
She blushed and he was aware of the kitchen staff watching.
“Carlos, come try this!” he invited, and Carlos and the others surrounded them for a taste. Everyone expressed complete approval of his new creation and his chest swelled with pride.
“I’ll make it one of tomorrow’s specials,” he told them. “Carlos, what do you think we should serve it with?”
Carlos considered. “Let me taste it again.” He tasted and thought. “Potatoes,” he said. “Something simple.”
“Potatoes!” Tyler said. “No way. I think pasta.”
They argued for a while and then Tyler got his way as usual.
The next day when Tyler did the tasting for the floor staff of the day’s specials, including his new pork tenderloin creation, everyone was unanimous that it was fantastic. But when Tyler tasted it with the pasta he knew it was a mistake.
“Carlos, you were right,” he said, going into the kitchen. “Potatoes, man.”
Carlos grinned. “Thanks, Chef.”
As Tyler walked out to go reprint the specials with the change, he heard Carlos say, “That’s why I like working here.”
Tyler smiled.

* * *

Chloe had RSVP’d to the invitation to the Sea Center fundraiser, never in her wildest dreams imagining “Tyler Gregg and guest” would be her.
She’d gone shopping for a new dress. The strapless fitted bodice was intricate layers of sheer fabric, a sandy-pink color, flowing into a slim but soft skirt that floated around her ankles. She turned on her new snakeskin stilettos in front of the mirror, one way then the other, and bit her lip. Did she look okay for her first public appearance with Tyler?
Her doorbell rang and then the front door opened. Tyler. She hurried out of her bedroom and down the hall, heels tapping on the hardwood floor.
Of course, he was stunningly gorgeous in his tux.
“Oh,” she breathed, eyes moving over him.
He grinned and stuck a finger inside his collar. “I hate wearing this thing, but women do seem to like it.”
Her excitement dimmed, just a tad, at the reminder of how many women Tyler had worn this tuxedo for.
His eyes moved over her in turn, and the way they heated up erased all those other women from her mind.
“You look incredible, Chloe,” he murmured, stepping into her house. “I want to kiss you, but I don’t want to mess you up.”
Did she care about getting messed up? Not in the least. So she set her hands on his chest. Even in her heels she had to go onto her toes to reach his mouth. His hands held her waist lightly, then tightened as she kissed him again, and again.
He moved her away from him. “We won’t make it there if you don’t stop,” he warned, eyes glittering, a smile tugging the corners of his mouth.
“No, you’re not.” He grinned.
She arched a brow at him and went to find her purse and wrap.
The fundraiser was being held at Fess Parker’s resort in the outdoor rotunda. Arched windows provided views of swaying palm trees and the ocean across the street, and soft evening breezes wafted through the space. Tiny white lights twinkled in potted palms, and flowers scented the air.
Waiters mingled with guests, offering trays of champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Chloe sipped a flute of champagne as she stayed by Tyler’s side. He knew so many people there and chatted and flirted his way around the room. He introduced her to everyone, at times holding her hand, circling his arm around her waist, leaning in to whisper in her ear. This was the kind of party she and Michael had so often attended, the kind of party she’d detested, but Michael had never made her feel this special or included.
And speaking of Michael...there he was. Right in front of them, an attractive brunette on his arm.
As the four of them came face to face, a moment of heavy silence enveloped them.
Then Tyler broke it. “Michael,” he said easily, extending his hand. “Glad to run into you. I owe you an apology.”
Michael took Tyler’s hand somewhat reluctantly and the woman with him frowned.
“Sorry about hitting you, man,” Tyler continued with his most charming smile, and Chloe almost laughed. “Hope there was no damage done.”
Michael scowled and shook his head, his eyes moving between Chloe and Tyler, so close together there was no mistaking their relationship. “Hello, Chloe.”
“Hi, Michael. How are you?”
“I’m fine.” He introduced Tyler and Chloe to his companion and after a few more polite words, they moved on.
“Well, that was awkward,” Tyler said, a smile touching his lips as he sipped his champagne.
“Thanks to you, you pugilist.”
He grinned. “Hey, I was defending you.”
She smiled. “Thank you,” she said softly. “That really is very sweet. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth; that would have saved your knuckles. And Michael’s nose.”
Tyler removed her glass from her hand and set both flutes on a small table. Then he swept her into his arms and kissed her, right in the middle of the party, bending her back over his arm so far she had to grasp his shoulders to keep from falling. When he lifted his mouth and she gazed at him in astonishment, he smiled into her eyes.
Tyler glanced sideways, and following his gaze, Chloe saw Michael watching them. Tyler smiled with satisfaction. She whacked his shoulder lightly, but couldn’t help the smile that tugged at her lips. He was staking his claim, deliberately, in public and very, very possessively. It made her feel warm and tingly all over and she, in turn, kissed Tyler back.
His big hands slid down her back, briefly over the curve of her behind as he released her slowly. Then he picked up the champagne flutes and handed one back to her, eyes hot and sparkling at her over the glass as he sipped.
Chloe gulped her champagne, the bubbles stinging her throat and nose.
Later, they danced, the soft breeze off the ocean sliding over them, the sky midnight blue velvet sequined with glimmery stars. Palm trees drifted in the breeze. Tyler held her in his arms, close against him, her hand tucked between them as they moved to the music.
She pressed herself against him as they danced, buzzing with sexual excitement and anticipation. She kept remembering the things Tyler had done to her and how it had felt and every time she thought about those things her tummy fluttered.
“I want to take you home,” he whispered in her ear. “I want to lick you right between your legs.” A small moan escaped her. “I want to eat you until you come and then I want to fuck you every way I can, front, back, sideways, until you can’t even walk.”
“Oh God.” The ache between her legs intensified and she almost stumbled as they danced. “Let’s go.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Just a little longer. I want to dance with you more.”
She almost moaned again. “You’re torturing me.” She let her breath out long and slow.
He laughed softly. “I know. But the build-up is half the fun.” He kissed her cheek and she closed her eyes and sank into him. Heat radiated off his big body and she inhaled as she pressed her face against him, loving the warm spice and citrus scent of him.
When the song ended, Tyler led her back to their table, where they’d eaten dinner with some of his friends. Chloe picked up her glass and pressed it to one hot cheek while Tyler sipped his wine. She was acutely aware of the looks they were getting from the others, but couldn’t bring herself to care, she was so buzzed, so high from being with Tyler and wanting him.
She wanted to get up and drag Tyler out of there as they sat talking to other guests. She rested her hand on his thigh, beneath the table cloth, then shifted her fingers up, closer to his groin...just brushing...yeah, he was hard. Then his face changed and he abruptly said, “Let’s go.”
After quickly smiling their good-nights to the others, Tyler all but dragged her out of the rotunda and down a dark path toward the parking lot. Her heels clicked rapidly on the stone path as she hurried after him.
“Slow down, Tyler,” she begged, laughing, as she tried to keep up with him.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I waited too long. I need you, now.”
“I needed you three hours ago,” she replied, and together they almost ran to the car.
They fell into his Jag, laughing, breathless, and Tyler started the car. He leaned over to kiss her, his hand on her face and she kissed him back, long and deep.
“God,” he groaned, moving away from her and slamming the car into gear. The wheels spun and spit gravel as he exited the parking lot. “Are we going to my place or yours?” He glanced sideways at her.
“Oh.” She hadn’t thought about that. “My place.” Then, “Is that okay?”
“Christ, yeah,” he said roughly. “I’d do you on the Breakwater right now if I had to, I don’t care where the hell we go.”
What I'm reading Wednesday
Not much.
Last week was really busy with the release of Friends With Benefits - so I'm half through Lora Leigh's Nauti Intentions. I love Lora Leigh, and this book is as sexy and hot as ever, but I'm increasingly thrown by her point of view shifts. Even minor characters get brief periods with a POV. And while I love her mega alpha heroes, the conflict between Natches and Alex over Janey seems a bit overdone. But I am enjoying it!
Bodice rippers????
Twice in the last week or so I’ve come across the term “bodice ripper” referring to romance novels. It surprises me that anyone still uses that term. Today I came across an article from The Times Literary Supplement by Lidija Haas, who works at the London Review of Books. She states “For many decades now, the detailed treatment of conventional love and its happy endings has been all but exiled from serious fiction….The romance novel’s exclusion is made more obvious by publishers’ attempts to disguise its true nature, and many books are pitched awkwardly halfway between literary fiction and bodice-ripper.” (italics mine) She further says that even in these awkward half-romance/half literary fiction stories, “the essential story remains that of a plucky young woman, poor, or at least a misfit in some way, who struggles to make her way in the world, facing loneliness and adversity, before at last being rewarded with a conventional happy ending: successful love, and perhaps babies.”

She further cites some novels as examples, but these novels are not romance novels. Perhaps they are those “awkward half literary/half romance” novels she refers to and maybe that’s why they don’t satisfy.

Many of us saw the recent MSNBC poll about whether people read “bodice rippers”. Turns out 46% of people who responded read romance and 23% read it sometimes (a total of 69%). Only 31% said they never read romance.

According to the Romance Writers of America website, romance fiction outsold every market category in 2006, with the exception of religion/inspirational, and 26.4% of all books sold are romance.

Yet, despite the popularity and widespread sales of romance novels, the genre still attracts derision (which I feel when I see the term bodice ripper) skepticism and criticism. There is still a stigma attached to reading romance novels.

Why is this?

According to fiction author Melissa Pritchard, the romance novel "perpetuates something slightly dangerous, that there's this notion, that there's this perfect love out there, and it can distract you from the work of loving yourself."

Janice Radway’s 1987 study concluded that women feel guilty about reading popular romances, and the shame is often as result of husbands who criticize them for wasting 'their' hard-earned money and for spending time absorbed in a novel rather than devoting time to the household, their family and husband.

Does this still hold true in 2008? Do women still feel guilty about reading romance for the same reasons? Do women who take time away from their home, husband and family to read literary fiction feel guilty? How about readers of science fiction? Do men feel guilty about taking time to read a western novel or Maxim magazine? Or is it just the belief that that romance fiction has no value, that we can’t learn anything about human character, relationships or humanity in general by reading such fiction?

When Lidija Haas states “the essential story remains that of a plucky young woman, poor, or at least a misfit in some way, who struggles to make her way in the world, facing loneliness and adversity, before at last being rewarded with a conventional happy ending: successful love, and perhaps babies.” - this too is misleading. If the climax and resolution of a story is just that someone is “rewarded” (for what?) by finding love (and perhaps babies…????) certainly that is not going to be a satisfying story. And yet, the other elements she mentions – a protagonist who is poor or a misfit in some way, struggles to make her way in the world - how is that essentially different than any other novel: something significant happens to the character, who then decides to pursue a goal, devises a plan of action and even though there are forces trying to stop him/her, moves forward because there is so much at stake, the goal being so important to him/her that he/she will do anything to achieve it, struggles against adversity, faces an ultimate decision in a last effort to achieve his/her goal/solve his/her problem, and in making that decision satisfies a need in him/her created in his/her past, giving us a view of his/her depeest character and humanity...?

Many of those who criticize romance fiction seem to think that the protagonist’s goal is simply to find a man, or to find love, at the expense of finding herself. I don’t know of any romance novels (not that I’ve read them all!) where the heroine’s goal is to find a man. Even if it is, that’s not her only goal – there’s a deeper, more complex goal than just finding a man, getting married or finding love.

A good story is emotionally satisfying; it validates our values, and shows us that the struggle to live our values is worth it all. But when the protagonist remains true to her values, achieves her ultimate goal (or sometimes not, but is stronger and better for it) AND finds love – that’s even more emotionally satisfying.

Love is one of the most common themes in any kind of art. Most movies have a love story and most pop music is about love. Because deep inside everyone one of us, despite our struggles to achieve our most important goals or to solve our biggest problems, we all want to love and to be loved.

Anyone who uses the term “bodice ripper” is out of touch with the changes that have taken place in romance publishing over the last twenty years. And I’d like to say that’s all there is to it. But with the negativity towards the romance genre, using that term to refer to all romances is completely misleading and spurious and only serves to further undermine the legitimacy of the romance genre. The term comes across as demeaning to women, with the portrayal of a weak heroine being at the mercy of a hero who forces her to submit to him. But wait…there are stories about domination and submission where the heroine wants to be dominated by a strong man. And if a woman’s motivations are portrayed in a believable and convincing manner, if she is a strong woman who knows herself and knows what she wants, and she wants to be dominated, isn’t that okay? But I still would never call that story a “bodice ripper”…