Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love conquers all

Why do I read romantic fiction? 

The critics of the genre dismiss it as predictable, formulaic, addictive, unrealistic, pornographic, bad for your mind, bad for your soul, bad for your body image, bad for your relationships, or just plain BAD. If recent articles are to be believed, romance novels are giving us entirely the wrong idea about most things, but especially about pectoral definition and what can reasonably be expected from a man with a twinkle in his eye and a well-sprung mattress.

I hereby announce that I fully intend to keep reading romantic fiction, teen fiction, historical romance, paranormal romance … the list goes on. Will it damage my mind and ruin my marriage? Come on! It’s commercial fiction, for heaven’s sake, not a hallucinogenic drug. I’m curled up with a good book, keeping the bed warm for my husband, that’s all. I’m reliving the moment when I fell in love with him – not searching for something or someone that doesn’t exist. Who are these sad people who imagine that good times, handsome guys and great sex are ONLY found in romance novels, anyway?  They obviously lead very sheltered lives. I shall ignore them. I shall flout the danger and read on, despite the risk of becoming a wildly optimistic person who hopes, nay, EXPECTS to find love, happiness, and fulfillment in life!

Today – I want to address the complaint that ‘all romances are the same’. Here is a (very) random selection of books from my keeper shelf, and yes, in every case, LOVE CONQUERS ALL. But that isn’t the point. It’s WHAT love must conquer, and WHY.  Here are just a few of my favourites: heroes so troubled and tortured that they almost seem beyond love, and heroines with more (emotional) baggage than Rose DeWitt Bukater when she gets on board the Titanic. But don’t worry. Love conquers all.

In Captive of Sin (Anna Campbell) the hero has been hideously tortured. It hasn’t affected his face or other crucial-to-the-plot parts of his anatomy, but he is ‘ruined’ emotionally and scarred just about everywhere else.  This book has the sweetest description of BAD HONEYMOON SEX that I have ever read – and the story of how the couple overcome Gideon’s difficulties is enchanting.

In The Marriage Bed (Judith Arnold) the hero weds a girl who is already pregnant by someone else – thinking that he’ll get shot to pieces in Vietnam and she’ll get the widow’s pension. I was drawn into this book by the true-to-life struggle to get him back into bed when he comes home; a shattered veteran of a horrible war. Crucial to his recovery is his love for ‘his’ daughter – but circumstances threaten to take her away, and the trouble begins. 

In Love You to Death, author Meg Cabot gives us a supercilious heroine who can see dead people, and shows that no guy (who dumps you) is worth dying for. But what do you do if the guy you fall for is just a ghost? Teen angst and great dialogue. You just have to suspend your disbelief ...

In Evermore, Alyson Noel gives us a heroine changed forever by the loss of her family, and a hero whose grip on immortality is both a blessing and a curse. I liked the flashbacks into their past encounters, and I am seriously envious of Damen's bookshelf!

In Second Chance Family (Karina Bliss) the hero and heroine have split up, blaming themselves and each other for the death of their baby. They’ve moved on, met and married other people, and made as big a botch out of their new relationships as they did with each other. The odds are stacked against this couple, but fate pulls them together again.

In the classic novel Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), the hero and heroine cross several barriers, he’s younger, she’s older, he’s Scots, she’s English, he’s from a brutal, male-dominated past, she’s a forward-thinking modern woman. He's single, she's married. He's a virgin, she's not. Fireworks are guaranteed.

And last but not least, I want to draw your attention to a little Indie book that captured my heart. Replaced by a Stranger (KC Stone) deals with a young woman looking for love outside her marriage. The books reads like a powerful TV drama, and tells the story of a foolish mistake that rips a young family apart. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that one man emerges as a true hero from a heart-rending love triangle. 

I'd love to hear about some of your 'keeper' books - and what you like best about them.


  1. Love the post, Cody.
    There's something wrong about a society that thinks violence is ok, but love is BAD. Maybe it is just that all those literary folks are not happy in their... ahem 'home lives'.

    My most recent keepers are ones that transport me to a world i can move into in my mind. Jacqueline Carey's racy version of middle-earth in the Kushiel series. Patrick O'Brien's napoleonic sailing series, CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series, and the current favourite: Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series.

  2. Thanks Sarah - that's exactly the problem, I reckon! Thanks for putting me onto some of those books. I'm going to Amazon right now ...

  3. Hi Cody!
    Love the post! I'm with you on reading romances. I have a pretty stressful life - why not escape into a book with a HEA at the end. What's wrong with a little fantasy? I like your comment about reliving the moment you fell in love with your husband. Some days you just need that! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I have to say that we should have more romance in our lives, perhaps we'd be a gentler society. Nice post Cody and you've given me some new books to add to my TBR pile.

  5. Great post! There are certainly some killjoys out there with ridiculous ideas about romance. I'll never understand why some people act like a LOVE story sets people up for unrealisitic expectations and is pornographic. Look at all the movies in the box offices. Almost all of them (except for kids' films) contain gratuitous sexual content. And are the movie star bodies featured in those steamy scenes 'realistic'? For most people, hell no! So why is it that it's perfectly normal and acceptable to WATCH sexy scenes with near perfect bodies just for the pleasure of doing so, yet readers are criticized for reading romances? It's total hypocracy, if you ask me.

  6. Thanks Bron, and thanks Ranae - loved the comment about 'movie star bodies'. That is so true!

  7. And thanks too Sugarbeat - didn't mean to leave you out! I think happy endings are crucial - and let's hope they aren't always just a fantasy either! I like to put quite a lot of hope and optimism (and humour!) into my books and people seem to enjoy that.

  8. The cover is gorgeous! Makes you want to jump right in and turn the pages! I agree - we need more romance, lots more; and humor!!!! Donna

  9. Good for you! you keep on reading them and so will I:)

    I love that you mentioned Outlander. I think this has to be one of my favorite!