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?