Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Amuse-Bouche and a Post-Script


I order a lot of used books, usually one at a time, as a result of recommendations and mentions on the Internet.  This means books arrive in the mail, one or two a day, all individually wrapped.  Christmas in -- well, December, but mid-December.  And all for me.

Yesterday, I opened the day's package and out tumbled two books:  Jo Goodman's Never Love a Lawman and Bronwyn Jameson's Silhouette Desire The Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress.  The latter was, I believe, on someone's Best of 2009 list, but I don't recall whose.  I apologize for that.

Now, I'm in the middle of a Big Book -- I'm going to post about it as soon as I finish it, so I'll keep its identity secret for right now -- but as soon as Jameson's slim volume hit my lap, I just had to start reading.  It's the equivalent of an amuse-bouche, that perfect morsel of food you get (free!) at finer restaurants.  I read it straight through, finishing it before turning out the light last night.  (Not quite an espresso book for me; more a case of "Oh, I'm so close to finishing, I might as well...")

Isabelle is a professional housekeeper who gets temporary jobs in the Peninsula region of Melbourne.  She comes to the attention of Cristiano Veron, the majority shareholder of a luxury jet company.  (Literally, a jetsetter!)  He thinks she may be pregnant with his sister's fiance's baby.  So he arranges to hire her services for a week in Melbourne.  That leads to a few more weeks in England, first pretending to be his mistress, then actually being his girlfriend.  It was well done for a series romance, and I enjoyed it without thinking it extraordinary.

But it got me thinking about some comments I read on Twitter about my last post on the sexual double standard in romances.  Now, Twitter's a funny thing.  It's a public feed, but I can't link back to any of what I read; Twitter is deliberately ephemeral and those tweets were meant to melt away as being "just so yesterday, dude."  Plus, none of the comments I read was actually directed at me, although they referred to yesterday's post.  It's a bit like seeing that a group of people are talking about you, but not to you.  It's their conversation, which they're entitled to have.  If any of them had wanted to post here, they could and presumably would have.

But some of their comments were interesting, and I would have enjoyed their discussion.  In particular, one tweet made the comment about romance novels that they are written by women for women, so you would think this sexual double standard would be gone by now.

So, there I was thinking about how romances don't permit their heroines to have a more realistic (and sexually liberated) life while reading a book about a multi-millionaire who breeds polo ponies and the decidedly working-class heroine who's swept up in, but comfortable with, his lifestyle.  Not exactly a realistic depiction of any female I know.  I've remarked in the past that we don't want to read about leaky toilets in our romances; they are certainly intended to be fantasies to the extent that the mundane realities of our lives can be left out.

But even in my amuse-bouche book, the hero used "protection," so safe-sex is a reality to be acknowledged.  Why not allow the heroine to have a more realistic sexual history?  Now, I'm not defending this, you understand, but I do think that in our fantasy romances, there is a tendency to have the heroine be really really happy with the sex she has with the hero.  Best. Ever. Orgasms. -- that sort of thing.  Is it lazy for an author to get that particular fantasy by making the hero more experienced than the heroine?  Maybe, but it sure helps build the fantasy that the heroine experiences so much more with the hero than she has before.

And in a book with a helicopter-piloting, luxury-jet-company-owning, polo-pony-raising hero - - does the sexual double standard really leap out as the most unrealistic thing?  It's possible that the market has spoken here:  more sexually realistic heroines would be a good thing on moral and philosophical grounds, but they don't seem to be what authors are writing and publishers publishing, and maybe they're not what readers want to read.

4 comments:

  1. Twitter is odd. It's one of the few social arenas where eavesdropping and interrupting are not only acceptable but encouraged!

    I'm curious to hear what you think of the Goodman book. I loved it but I know Jo Goodman's style isn't for everyone.

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  2. Magdalen -- This is my favorite freaking paragraph of the last ... well ... day! LOL Seriously folks, we're getting book after book like this and wondering why the Duchess of Slut updated is not a reality?

    "And in a book with a helicopter-piloting, luxury-jet-company-owning, polo-pony-raising hero - - does the sexual double standard really leap out as the most unrealistic thing? It's possible that the market has spoken here: more sexually realistic heroines would be a good thing on moral and philosophical grounds, but they don't seem to be what authors are writing and publishers publishing, and maybe they're not what readers want to read."

    Interesting twist on this fascinating convo! And I'm glad I was able to cut and paste ... I'm pretty inept at this stuff :(

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  3. http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/08/04/review-magnates-make-believe-mistress-by-bronwyn-jameson/ ... ok, I tracked it down: this housekeeper/polo player romance was on Jane's Top Ten List for 2009. Magdalen, you're gonna have to lend it to me. I seriously and I know, beating a dead trope here, don't know how on the one hand some of us are asking for more realism and on the other, plots like this land on Top Ten lists. There's a disconnect here, well at least there is for me.

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  4. Sarah -- I will let you know what I think of Jo Goodman!

    Janet -- Well, I know it was NOT Jane's top ten list that prompted me to buy Bronwyn James, but I think it might have been another reviewer on Dear Author. (It couldn't have been Jane's list because she posted that last Thursday, and I'd ordered the book more than a week ago.)

    The Bronwyn James is a charming book, but not very distinctive. I don't read a lot of series books these days, but when I re-read Glenda Sanders for Monkey Bear Reviews, I was struck by how strong and personal her Harlequins were in the early 90s. And it wasn't just her: Barbara Delinsky, Gina Wilkins, and Kristin James (aka Candace Camp) were all writing then.

    If "The Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress" is among the best series books published in 2009, I worry that series books aren't as receptive to strong, personal voices like Sanders, Delinsky, et al.

    Then again, maybe 2009 wasn't a great year for series romances, and 2010 will be...

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