Sunday, May 7, 2006

Blurring The Lines

First - I have news. We just ordered a new home computer from Dell this afternoon. I'm so excited I could plotz. Seriously. You have no idea the hunk of junk we're using right now.

Also, I'm about three sheets to the wind. Wow - I forgot how different a $10 bottle of wine was from a $4 one! So I'm blogging tipsy. Probably not a good thing. In fact, I'm guaranteed to mouth off - but at least I can blame it on alcohol consumption. Consider that my warning.

I wrapped up Tease by Suzanne Forster this past week. Review posted - and I think it's one of my better ones if I do say so myself. This is of course one of the launch books for the Harlequin Spice line, and I've already seen bitching (um, concerns) online about how, "OMG - NOT ROMANCES!!!! THE HORROR, THE HORROR!"


OK, let's state the obvious here. Harlequin isn't marketing these books as romances. Tease says right on the front cover "an erotic novel." The word romance was nowhere to be found anywhere on the ARC I had - so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, "Gee, it must not be a romance." Nobody pitches a fit about Luna titles not being romances or Red Dress Ink not being romances - but something about the Spice line has everybody's panties in a wad.

Let's be frank here - romance as we traditionally know it has become stagnant. Exhibit A - I stood in Borders yesterday tearing my hair out to find something to buy with my $15 in gift certificates. In the old days this wouldn't have been an issue. But given my current reading slump, and my disillusionment with my favorite sub genre (historical) - pickins were mighty slim.

The rebirth of paranormal and erotica hitting mainstream has blurred the lines considerably. Paranormals are bringing in a new group of readers (the non-romance reader) and erotica....well, I think there is a lot of confusion on what erotica is.

Erotica is not the same thing as erotic romance/romantica. Erotica does not require a happy ending. In fact, the only things I expect from erotica are:
  • lots o' naughty bits
  • a heroine who changes/grows/awakens over the course of the story
  • a heroine who is "better off" at the end of the story
A happy ending is a bonus - but not required. Actually, I tend to prefer erotica where the heroine doesn't get the guy in the end, but is instead strong, assertive and an all around with-it chick. I actually like it when the heroine realizes, "Gee I don't need a man after all! I'm pretty damn awesome all on my own."

But I suspect I'm a freak. I also suspect I'm this way because I've only been reading romance since 1999 and didn't cut my teeth on it. Blurring lines is alright by me. Blur away.

But a lot of romance readers tend to freak out when the lines get blurred. It goes outside their comfort level. It sends them into a tail-spin if it's too different. Which is why we're stuck with the crud that is being passed off as historical romance these days. Take a look at the June RT if you don't believe me. How many times can a girl be expected to read the words "Regency England" before she runs out in the middle of traffic?

So we have one camp digging in their heels resisting change and the other camp (OK, me) ramming their heads into the wall.

And for the record - I bought the My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys anthology because I like Teresa and Heath has finally written another western. Also The I Hate To Date Club a May Harlequin Next title by Elda Minger.


Kristie (J) said...

Isn't it kind of fun blogging when you have a nice glass (your second) of wine in your hand? I've done it a time or two and it's rather liberating. *G*

Susan Wilbanks said...

The strange thing is, I love the Regency era (and am trying to write in it myself, though I'm not yet published), but I've been frustrated with the state of historical romance, too. Most Regencies today, IMO, use the era in such a shallow way, like the setting is just an excuse to dress the heroine up in a high-waisted gown and have a pretty pretty princess fantasy.

That's not what I want in historical romance--my ideal is an excellent work of historical fiction with a love story with a happy ending as its A-plot. I also read straight historical fiction, historical mysteries, military historicals, alternate history fantasies, etc. And I don't see why the Regency setting of a romance has to feel like a painted-on backdrop when the same era makes a perfectly good rich, three-dimensional setting for Aubrey/Maturin, Sharpe, Naomi Novik's new trilogy, Regency romances written 10-20 years ago, etc.

Wendy said...

You're right of course. While the Regency has never been my favorite time period - I've gotten a lot more intolerant of it lately because romance has given it a candy-coated shell. The Regency can still work for me - but I gravitate towards the dark underbelly, which is a tall order in today's romance climate.

Susan Wilbanks said...


I'll be sure to let you know if my agent ever finds a home for my rather gritty Jane-Austen-meets-Sharpe's-Rifles Regency. *g*

I really don't get how very very fluffy Regency historicals have become. If you look at the actual history, it was quite the turbulent, transitional era.

Amie Stuart said...

Wendy loved the review! I might have to check it out. Frankly it sounds like WF with hot sex (notice I didn't say romance *ggg*)

Kate R said...

I like Teresa too and I wish a publisher would buy another of her books.

Jane said...

I'm pretty old. My first Regency Romance's were Georgette Heyer when I was young. Sexless wonders every one but very entertaining all the same. I stopped reading them after awhile and did not read a single one for years and years. When I did finally pick one up, lo and behold, there were actual depictions of sex! Not even particularly well done sex. And I guess that is my point. I expect sex in "Erotica", that is its whole reason for being,though plot would be good too. In a "Romance" I actually NEED a well done plot or I can't really read it. That appears to be what is missing from current romances, Regency era in particular.