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Monday News: Massachusetts finally criminalized upskirting, more on Harlequin’s troubles, a personal reflection on sheikh romances, and @GSElevator loses his book deal

Monday News: Massachusetts finally criminalized upskirting, more on Harlequin’s troubles, a...

Massachusetts bans ‘upskirt’ photos, closes Peeping Tom loophole – A mere two years after the original criminal charge was filed against a man for taking upskirt photos on public transit, the Massachusetts legislature managed to re-write the law so that it explicitly applied to these types of situations. I know people have been cheering the legislature for its allegedly quick response, but if you look back to 2004-2005, you will see that the state had an example of a federal peeping tom law to work from, which explicitly targeted upskirt photos, among other forms of electronic surveillance and image capture. I also find it interesting that the Senate President focuses on the moral dimensions of upskirting, essentially saying that the law jails people for immoral behavior. While there are definitely ethical issues here (and upskirting would certainly qualify as a crime of moral turpitude), can’t we just focus on the idea that women have a reasonable expectation of privacy under their clothes, and that it should be and now is illegal in Massachusetts to deprive them of that?

“We are sending a message that to take a photo or video of a woman under her clothing is morally reprehensible and, in Massachusetts, we will put you in jail for doing it,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a release. –Reuters

Love Affair With Digital Over For Romance Publisher Harlequin? – A more extensive analysis of the declining revenue story about Harlequin, including an interview with Harlequin CEO Craig Swinwood. Swinwood claims that the company is “in transition,” which I sincerely hope is true. As I’ve remarked before, Harlequin’s focus on and willingness to sell directly to readers has made it a valuable player in the Romance publishing marketplace, and I believe that the continued viability of that market depends on the vitality of the greatest diversity of writing and publishing players.

A decade ago, publishers like Harlequin only had to compete among themselves to attract and retain authors; now they have to compete with the option to self-publish, too. For its part, Harlequin, like many other publishers, is scrambling to offer authors more and better service. Swinwood pointed out to me Harlequin’s Author Network, a dashboard where authors can check sales, get market intelligence and have all their questions answered by a concierge service. –Forbes

The Sheikh’s Prize Is Usually White by Natalie Storey – An interesting, honest, and very personal contemplation from a white reader of skeikh romances that does not shy away from the more difficult issues of race, culture, and constructions of the exotic. The way she touches on the problematic fact that the white woman becomes the cultural outsider in these books made me think of Reina Lewis’s wonderful Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation, and Jennifer DeVere Brody’s fantastic work in Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture.

But my interest in sheikh romances doesn’t end simply with wanting to believe in their depictions of cross-cultural love. I had never read any of the books before I traveled to Jordan, but their stories were so recognizable to me that I began to wonder if their narrative is so pervasive that it influenced the way I lived and loved without my knowledge or consent. I’m sure this suspicion developed from reading romance novels alongside Orientalism and other writings by Edward Said, which show how some cultural narratives are so deep-seated that we hardly notice them for what they are or whom they misrepresent. But there’s a difference between Said’s orientalism and that in the romance novels. Orientalism demonstrates how stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs have been embedded in popular culture and academia and how they continue to circulate, perpetuating fear and racism. The romances cope with the stereotyped images of fear and hatred of Muslims and Arabs in the popular media by reversing them to love. I think the romance novels’ reaction to hate bears some similarity to my desire to understand the Middle East for myself, the desire that propelled me to Jordan, helped me learn Arabic, and led me to begin a relationship with a Jordanian man. The romance novels seem to contain a positive message, but their reactive love relies too much on a fantasy of racial and cultural difference. Exoticism, in the end, objectifies others as much as hate.–Los Angeles Review of Books

Book News: @GSElevator Author Loses Book Deal - Despite the fact that Simon and Schuster admitted that it knew about the fiction that was @GSElevator’s twitter experiment, Touchstone has cancelled publication of his book. There’s an interesting email from LeFevre posted on the NPR blog, but no real explanation for the cancellation. –NPR

Daily Deals: Determined spinsters, a good friend, and a genius

Daily Deals: Determined spinsters, a good friend, and a genius

Heiress Without a Cause by Sara RamseyHeiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey. $ Free Amazon | Kobo

From the Jacket Copy:

One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he secretly desires the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.

One chance to break the rules…

Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.

The negative reviews say that the backstories are fairly predictable and shallowly developed. One complained that it would have been great but for the pages and pages of graphic sex.

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The Nosy Neighbor by Fern MichaelsThe Nosy Neighbor by Fern Michaels. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

Lucy Baker walks away from her high-flying legal career when she successfully defends yet another heinous criminal. Almost a year after her life-changing decision, Lucy has never been happier. Leaving New York City for the suburbs, tending her garden and her dog, Lucy is making future plans with her fiancé, Jonathan St. Clair — and getting acquainted with her neighbors, including the handsome, exasperating one next door, Wylie Wilson. But when FBI special agents confront Lucy with shocking revelations about her fiancé’s secret double life, everything about her husband-to-be is cast in suspicion. Recovering from a freak accident that has left her with a heightened sense of intuition, and getting closer than she ever dreamed to Wylie, Lucy must determine who to trust — and fast, before someone breaks down her defenses and targets her….

I confess that I’ve never read a Fern Michaels’ book – at least not that I can remember.

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A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia NasarA Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:

“HOW COULD YOU, A MATHEMATICIAN, BELIEVE THAT EXTRATERRESTRIALS WERE SENDING YOU MESSAGES?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner. “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize for triggering the game theory revolution. The inspiration for an Academy Award–winning movie, Sylvia Nasar’s now-classic biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over adversity, and the healing power of love.

Nash sounds fascinating. ” Despite his condescending manner and personality quirks — Nash was known for incessantly whistling Bach’s Little Fugue, chewing empty coffee cups and having notoriously complicated romantic relationships with both men and women — he flourished in the elite hierarchy of first-rate mathematicians. Most of his peers agreed with the eminent geometrician Mikhail Gromov, who called Nash “the most remarkable mathematician of the second half of the century.””

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Strangely Normal by Tess OliverStrangely Normal by Tess Oliver. $ .99.

From the Jacket Copy:

A unique summer job lands eighteen-year-old Eden Saxon into a lifestyle completely different than her own. She becomes a companion for nineteen-year-old Finley King, the daughter of a rock legend. Finley suffers from severe anxiety, and her father fears her being alone. Eden leaves her loving, but wildly dysfunctional, parents and dreary apartment and enters a world where no luxury is overlooked. She instantly adores Finley and her charming, quirky personality. The whole situation has only one flaw– Finley’s older brother, Jude. Jude King is cocky, arrogant and irritating. Unfortunately, he’s also completely irresistible.

Eden realizes she’s underestimated the depth of Finley’s problems, and suddenly her dream job turns out to be a lot more than she’d expected. Eden soon finds herself in over her head . . . and her heart.

I thought the premise was really interesting and the few reviews indicate that the topic of the anxiety disorder was treated respectfully. The heroine does not come from a dysfunctional family and there is a great friendship between the girls. Plus, the author’s books don’t have a gazillion reviews making me believe that the reviews are mostly authentic.

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