Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Give That Girl A Cookie

There's been endless debate in the romance community of late about Claiming The Courtesan by Anna Campbell, a debut novel from The Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named. The brouhaha stems from the fact that Campbell reached into her 1980s goodie-bag and pulled out the old "forced seduction" scenario.

For those of you who don't read romance, this is the moment in throwback, bodice rippers where the hero rapes the heroine and she naturally has a screaming orgasm. In other news, my two sisters just broke out in hives. To reassure my sisters that I haven't tossed off my feminist underpants - "forced seduction" is no longer the norm in romance. The bodice ripper days are well, well behind us. In fact, this is only the second book in 3 years (that I know of) that has featured it. In the meantime, how many mystery novels featured serial killers slicing and dicing female victims? I rest my case.

Now I haven't read the book in question. Yet. I had a patron request it at work many moon ago (before said brouhaha) and ordered copies, so my name is currently on the holds list. Which has got to be saying something because lord knows I can't remember the last time I read a historical romance set in England.

For a good summary on this spirited debate, Dear Author can give you the lowdown. I was most struck by a comment made by Robin Schone, which makes me very happy her legal dispute with her publisher is over and she's back on the writing scene.
I don’t think it’s fictional adultery or rape that impacts our lives . . . it’s the emotion that a writer generates, in showing us that there is hope and redemption through love, that stays with us.
That's it. That's why I read romance. Romance gives me something that no other genre can - when it's done right, it emotionally invests me. It speaks to me on a deeper emotional level. It has a lingering effect. Let us call it what it is - Reading Afterglow. With a good romance, I have total recall. I can tell you how I felt when I was reading it, and the emotional effect it had on me.

For the record, I am not a fan of "forced seduction" and I have no patience for old school romance readers who whine about the "good old days" and how romance today is a shadow of her former self. Not all the books that you read in 1985 were good. In fact, some of them were downright hideous. But as readers we tend to view the past, our reading history, with rose-colored glasses (yeah, I do it too). So while some readers applaud Campbell, others revile her book (and maybe her, hopefully she isn't getting too much hate mail).

Me? Well I'm wacky and think it's just fiction. The cries that this book will warp our fragile little minds (who will think of the children?) and promote abusive relationships is the biggest bunch of horse hooey I've heard in a while. And I used to work with the general public, so believe me I can smell bullshit like a fart in a car. If only our lives were that simple. If only fiction and reading had that kind of the power. The power to stop violence against women. The power to make the world Sunshine Happy Land. But it doesn't. Yes, fiction can speak to people. Yes, it can even empower people in the right circumstances, but ultimately people have free will. That is to say, they have a choice. And no book, nowhere, is going to take that away.

In the meantime, we have further proof that there is no such thing as bad publicity because I'm going to read this book. And I can firmly, and positively state, that I had no intention of doing so before this whole debate.


Alie said...

I totally agree with all of your statements about forced seduction. It's just fiction and in the real world that usually doesn't happen.

On another note, this made me laugh so hard! "And I used to work with the general public, so believe me I can smell bullshit like a fart in a car."

Man that cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh!

Lil' Sis said...

Yes - I just broke out in hives.

Rosie said...

What Alie said. And....

With a good romance, I have total recall. I can tell you how I felt when I was reading it, and the emotional effect it had on me.

I read alot of books and this is so true!!

Stacy~ said...

I agree with your comments, especially those about free will. Pointing fingers and accusing a certain book/author of promoting rape is exactly like those cases where rap/heavy metal music has been blamed for a crime such as murder - the inclination is already there, and it could have just as easily been a comment made on a news program that set someone predisposed to that type of behavior to act on it, so I don't buy into that theory. People have to be held accountable for their actions instead of finding another avenue to lay blame. So to bring this book to the forefront and say it's setting back the romance industry by decades because of A, B or C is unrealistic and unfair, imo.

On that note, I hadn't planned on reading the book either because the first rumblings I heard mentioned rape, but after reading several strong, articulate reviews, I've changed my mind. And morbid curiosity maybe has a little something to do with it as well.

Big Sis said...

Why am I itching? OH, must be the hives.

Wendy said...

Big Sis and Lil Sis: Ointment is in the mail.

Rosie said...

Wendy, have you had a chance to read Jenny Crusie's post at Argh Ink relating to this subject? Here's addy: