Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dissing romances

I'm reading a chick lit novel called Playing House, by Patriacia Pearson (2003). It's pretty good. But in the last fourth of the book I came across a passage that kind of knocked me for a loop. Not only does it criticize romance novels, it criticizes a particular romance novel, which surprised me. The heroine has just discovered her mother-in-law has romances stashed in the basement:

At her urging, I got immersed in what was said to be the best of the lot, I Thee Wed, by someone named Amanda Quick... I read about half of it, unconsciously editing out whole paragraphs as I went along, and finally slapped it down on my knee. Romance novels! What a strange breed of fiction. No other genre devotes itself exclusively to exploiting reader sexual frustrations in such a long-winded manner...

After perusing the dust jackets on Shirley's collection I determined that the plots of romance novels vary in the following ways: name of heroine, location of love affair, synonym for penis. Otherwise, they appear to subscribe to fixed principles: Man and woman must meet within first five pages; woman must be proud, smart, and scrappy; man must be aloof, emotionally inarticulate, and insulting; they must hate each other; both must be stunning; they must get embroiled against their wishes; they must boink like rabbits; they must glide down the aisle.

The basic idea is that a woman's sexual fantasy is to find a gorgeous man with whom she can fight and screw like an alley cat, pretty much into infinity.

I get that some people don't like romances-- although considering chick lit is usually carried on the romance shelves, I doubt that the readership is that different, and I wonder if it's prudent for a chick lit author to bash romances quite so decidedly. As a romance reader and writer, I tend to resent the suggestion that romances are all the same, with just the names changed, and I don't much like the idea that romances "exploit reader sexual frustrations," either. But hey, it's her book, not mine. I'm just a little surprised to see a specific romance mentioned and implied to be full of bad writing ("editing out whole paragraphs"). Is it just me, or is that a little strange?


  1. Wow! I found the entire excerpt pretty surprising, particularly, as you said, that it named a specific book. Seems an editor would have wanted to edit that right out.

    My inclination would be to go see what other books the author has written...any romance?

  2. Thanks for posting that little excerpt Ellen. I happen to be a HUGE Amanda Quick fan and a stalker (see my JAK stalking post), and anyone who bites the hand that feeds it, is not going to get any more food from me.

    IMHO, not only did the author show poor judgement and taste, but the editor should have known better. Even if it was suppose to be said tongue-in-cheek, it sure didn't read that way.

  3. people live life to be happy and content. if some don't like the romance, then so be it. i am ana advocate for romance which was unlikely me back in my high school. i guess has made me the romantic girl i ought to be but haven't had to chance to finally let myself out. now i'm on the path to love and romance and nobody can stop me.