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Thursday News: Erotic fiction writers may not look like you expect;...

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Junne
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 05:43:40

    I hope what I’m about to say isn’t too offensive, and I get that some people might take it badly. But the first time I got curious about very famous romance authors, and googled their name to see what they looked like, I was…surprised to say the least. These women were writing thin, size 6/8 heroines when they were clearly plus-size.

    I’m not saying you should only be writing about women that look like you ( or have the same skin color you have), but I just find it weird that so many of them look like the average western woman ( size 12 and over) and write about women half their size. Don’t they deserve love too? Some people said Bella was Stephenie Meyer. Same eye color, same hair color,pale skin etc. Yeah…except for that 50+ lbs difference in weight.
    Of course I’m not saying there aren’t any plus-size women portrayed in romance novels, but they’re not the majority.

    I just find the discrepancy sad. Once again just to be clear,I’m not judging specific authors here, only the big picture.

  2. Ros
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 06:03:13

    @Junne: It’s all complicated, but I think that part of the issue is that romance is often about fantasy and escapism. Not always, not for all readers or all writers, but quite often. And for many (again, not all) women, escapism and fantasy includes weight loss.

  3. Jayne
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 06:24:55

    I can’t remember one Barbara Cartland novel I’ve read

    I think if you’ve read one Barbara Cartland novel …. you’ve … read them …. all. And I say this as someone who read a bunch of them – with their dainty, heart shaped face heroines and dark, brooding heroes – in my younger days.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 06:38:58

    Just wondered if you realised that the picture you put up isn’t actually Dame Barbara, but it’s actress Ann Reid, in her portrayal of the Grande Dame.
    Here’s Dame Barbara (in the same clothes!):
    Fascinating woman, a mass of contradictions. Fiercely independent in an age and class that demanded feminine compliance, she supported her husbands rather than the other way about. Her feud with the other great lady of the period, the racier Denise Robins, was the stuff of legend, and I would love a movie about that! She was a fierce and staunch advocate and spokesperson for gypsies and itinerant travellers, and an astute businesswoman, understanding the power of image long before many other writers.

  5. Megan
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:37:36

    According to the release I read, Cartland had 723 books published–PLUS these newly-discovered books (I did a Morning Coffee at H&H about it). Also, she was accused (IMO, rightly) of plagiarizing Georgette Heyer back in the day. I started reading romance with Cartland, and probably read 50-100 of her books at the time, which is a mere fraction of her output. Amazing. I also find it hard to believe any fan, no matter how rabid, would feel that there was a need for MORE Cartland.

  6. DB Cooper
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:49:07

    Well, now I know why they did a movie about her.

    So, I looked up Dame Barbara Cartland’s entry in wikipedia for a quick read. Oh my, what an interesting life story. I may never get around to reading one of her books (not sure I’m interested in “tame” or prolific), but darn if she isn’t one of those examples of “authors have interesting lives”

  7. Jane
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:50:33

    @Lynne Connolly: I did not know that! Thanks for the h/t

  8. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:54:35

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Or if I were a Barbara Cartland heroine my “perfect cupid’s bow mouth.” One of my all time guilty pleasures is the made for TV movies adapted from her books. Watching Helena Bonham Carter trying to play” sweet” and some of her snark coming through the performance, or 120 pound young Hugh Grant (as nobleman turned Highwayman) threaten a burly prison guard and somehow be taken seriously, is entertaining stuff.

  9. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:57:32

    @Junne: Well to be fair regarding Stephanie Meyer, she is writing about a teenager. I’d rather be judged as my 16 year old weight than my current weight and we have no idea (at least I don’t) what she looked like at 16-18 years of age.

  10. Jayne
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 07:58:01

    @Christine: I’ve seen the Hugh Grant one but didn’t know about Bonham Carter playing a Cartland heroine. Must look and see if I can find this anywhere!

  11. Amanda
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 08:03:43

    As a romance fan Barbara Cartland is one of those authors I always felt I should read but just have never got around to doing so.

  12. Dabney
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 08:50:36

    I loved the column for the dad. My husband (he’s almost 60) has all these friends who say that “Not my daughter” stuff. It makes him really uncomfortable because he shares the sentiments of the writer. I’ve called a few of the men on it and they look discomfited and then say, “I just want her to be safe.” I can only hope the sons of those guys don’t internalize that attitude about the women in their lives.

  13. Jane A
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 08:58:27

    At the risk of people laughing me out of the room… I have enjoyed (and sometimes still enjoy) some of her older titles like The Odious Duke, A Ghost in Monte Carlo or The Hazard of Hearts. I think the latter title was the one that had a movie made with Helena Bonham Carter. IMO there are differences in the quality of Dame Cartland’s work. These not yet published books are likely her later work and probably aren’t worth picking up. However, her older titles are a bit more substantial. YMMV.

  14. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:25:19

    The Helena Bonham Carter Cartland movie is “A Hazard Of Hearts.” Diana Rigg is in it and gives the most campy, over the top performance you have ever seen. Stewart Granger has a cameo as well. It was the first Cartland movie made (apart from an older 1970’s one with Linda Pearl and Timothy Dalton as the satan worshiping villain called The Flame Is Love).

    There is also “The Lady And The Highwayman” with Hugh Grant and Emma Samms, “A Ghost In Monte Carlo” with Lysette Anthony and Marcus Gilbert, And “A Duel Of Hearts.”

    There are a lot of great supporting actors and actresses in them such as Oliver Reed, Michael York, Claire Bloom, Sylvia Miles and Joanna Lumley.

    I’m sure some of them are up on You Tube. I know A Hazard of Hearts used to be.

  15. mari
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:28:02

    I found the column about the Dad creepy and strange. I am really glad my husband has internalized protective instincts toward his daughters. As far as “calling other Dads out” for not being proper, feminist fathers…I think hubby wouldn’t waste his time or energy on men like the idiot who wrote this

  16. Kwana
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:32:55

    I couldn’t wait to look at the photos of the writers, but then I made the mistake of reading the comments. Just awful how they immediately went to judging the women for their looks and their weight. Talk came up about if they were date-able or not as if that had anything to do with their ability to write a good book. Once again it speaks to how women are superficially judged. Just sad.

  17. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:34:20

    @Jane A: I still own dozens of them stashed away in bookshelves all over the house. They were my gateway drug to romance reading back in my younger days. If nothing else the clothes descriptions are usually fabulous. The heroines wear a lot of diaphanous dresses and occasionally diamante. The heroines were even more naive than my extremely naive younger self. I remember one book where the hero kissed the (improbably named) heroine and then alludes to going further and she asks him “there’s something more?”

  18. Rebeca (Another one)
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:52:09

    I thought the dad column was great. Then some of the commenters said he shouldn’t tell teenage girls this, when there was a picture at the top of him with his adult daughter. Way to miss the point. Of course morals then got drawn in: sex before marriage is bringing the distruction of mankind. Don’t cha know.

  19. RowanS
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:56:45

    The Lady and the Highwayman is available on Netflix, but not streaming (sob). I have to admit to a fondness for the over-the-top movies, but… the novels… give a whole… new… meaning… to… ellipses…. As Jayne says, if you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read them all….

  20. Jody
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 09:59:19

    There are two kinds of Cartlands, as Jane A commented. I still remember the first one I read…something about a leopard. It was great; reincarnation, India and don’t know what all else. I glommed onto a whole stack of cheap Cartlands from the UBS with varying degrees of joy. Her later ones left me feeling insulin deficient, but the early ones were good.

  21. SAO
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 10:49:29

    The first Barbara Cartland I read was hilarious. The sweet, shy heroine had some kind of mental illness that made . . . it . . . hard . . . for . . .to . . .talk, which was certainly a way of filling up pages. It was such a hoot that I read another, which was remarkably similar, despite being set on a different continent. By the third, the joke had worn thin. I always assumed Cartland was one of the first robo-writers, getting her secretaries to do most of the work.

    She was, I believe, step-grandmother to Princess Diana.

  22. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 12:03:52

    @mari: Seriously? I find it way more “creepy and strange” that so many men think the proper response to their daughters having consensual sex is to go for the shotgun. And why do we want to protect our daughters from these dangers but not our sons?

    Personally, I found this section of that letter from the dad particularly touching and wise:

    You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts.

    That’s the way parents *should* feel about their children. Regardless of gender. Does that mean you let your 16yo do whatever the hell he/she pleases? Of course not. But children aren’t minors forever and they’re not your eternal appendages. Someday, you have to let them fly and be free.

  23. DS
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 12:18:23

    I’ve spent enough time making fun of Cartland’s heroines– really, the ellipsis thing makes it sound like they are all having asthma attacks– but I will suggest if you want to try a novel by her to go for the older ones. She was trying harder then and they were less formulaic. My theory has always been that the gasping came about in an effort to make her really short books longer.

    One of the few books ones I remember was The Black Panther (I think it had another title in the US) which had a reincarnation theme. Looking back I think there was some 1930s Anglo/Indian racism. It was also my first introduction to the word banting– the name of an obese English undertaker who developed a weight loss diet based on carbohydrate restriction. It apparently meant dieting. There was also something about the heroine bewailing her big feet. She wore a size 6 shoe. Even if that was a UK size it still isn’t outrageous– 8 1/2 in the US.

    I remember a lot of trivia from that book considering I can’t remember much else about the story.

  24. Jody
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:35:37

    Aha! It was a panther, not a leopard! Thank you, DS. That was the one I read and remembered. I’d read it again.

  25. Beth
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:57:46

    I’m sorry but what does the author’s weight have to do with anything…
    I can’t remember anyone saying that writer has red hair why does she always write about blondes, maybe she should dye her hair blonde ?????

  26. Rubina
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 14:01:05

    I really would be looking forward for these books. Thanks for this update. This was one of my guilty pleasures as a back bencher in the moral science class in my school days. :) So have to honor her by getting these books.

  27. Estara
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 14:26:23

    @Jayne: I love your subtle use of ellipses there, but shouldn’t we use dashes — as well? ^^ I read a lot of Barbara Cartland when she was the one historical romance writer that I knew of, right after graduating from my grandmother’s Hedwig Courts-Mahler, so it wasn’t such a stretch, heh.

  28. Fiona McGier
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 15:40:23

    People judging the books by the author’s appearance is why I don’t put my picture on my books, or on most of my guest-blogs. I don’t write memoirs…I write fiction. If readers will accept that I can write about being a vampire or a shape-shifter, why can’t I write about a heroine who looks nothing like me? And women write m/m romance without actually being men. Why only judge women authors on their weight?

    Re: the Dad’s advice: Everyone has a different level of sexual desire. For some it’s once a day. For others it’s once a month…or once a year. If you don’t have sex until you get married to another virgin, what happens if/when you discover that you are incompatible? My parents were, and them staying together “for the kids” made them and us miserable for the whole time we lived at home. Kids know when a relationship is bad, and they learn not to want to get married at all. I have told all 4 of my kids to be safe and careful, but not celibate before marriage. I’ve been happily-married for almost 30 years, but I kissed a lot of frogs before I found my prince.

  29. AmyW
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 16:00:15

    @Christine: I would watch the hell out of Diana Rigg being totally campy!

  30. Susan
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 16:27:46

    @Jane A: Cartland was my gateway to romance novels when I was very young (back in the Paleolithic Era) and I think I still have a few of her books in a box somewhere–along with some 70s Harlequin Presents titles. I even watched several of the BC movies when they were shown on TV. A number of years ago, I bought a couple of the DVDs when I saw them on Amazon. I’ve never gotten around to re-watching them–suspect they’ll be really cringeworthy or really camp.

    As others have noted, her daughter was Princess Diana’s stepmother and there was a big flurry around the time of the royal wedding with BC hosting fan events.

    The earlier books really were better than the later books (when I think she did start to just dictate outlines and have assistants add final touches).

    I can’t imagine reading any of those newly-discovered books, but it made me feel really nostalgic when I read the news about them a couple of days ago.

  31. Little Red
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 17:55:05

    I thought I was the only one to remember those TV movies based Cartland’s novels. I only really remember two of them but they’re are cheesy, campy goodness that are a lot of fun to watch. And yes, they’re definitely available for viewing on Youtube.

  32. Christine
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 18:30:04

    @AmyW -and anyone else interested in Diana Rigg and Helena Bonham Carter camping it up in the first Barbara Cartland Movie “A Hazard Of Hearts” here is the you tube link to part one
    Check out this video on YouTube:

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