Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Wednesday News and Deals: Romance novels are feminist documents

From reader Shula is this fantastic article about romances at The Awl.  According to the reader, “The Awl is one of a quartet of blogs (think Gawker media) that also includes The Hairpin, a ladyblog. What I thought particularly interesting was that instead of posting the article there, where one might assume something written by a woman on the subject of the “Golden Age” of Mills and Boon would go, it went up on the general interest Awl instead.”

Romance novels are feminist documents. They’re written almost exclusively by women, for women, and are concerned with women: their relations in family, love and marriage, their place in society and the world, and their dreams for the future. Romances of the Golden Age are rife with the sociopolitical limitations of their period, it must be said. They’re exclusively hetero, and exclusively white, for example. Even so, they can be strangely sublime.

It’s a marvelous essay that addresses the bad (see above) and the great (see above).  In sum, read the article.


Book Smuggler Thea is working on her thesis – a hypothetical international publisher of speculative fiction ebooks and select high-quality print books. You can access the survey here: Please help Book Smuggler Thea out on this peeps. The more data she has, the more invaluable her research.


All Romance released its compilation of AAR readers’ awards. The romance best book was The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne. We hosted a lovely guest review of that book.

This is a really important piece about the sad state of journalism. I’m not sure how many people read Tech Crunch (maybe not many) but Michael Arrington and his cadre of writers appear to be in the protection racket. Invest in us and we’ll promote you.  Don’t and we’ll savage you.  This all came to a head after one of the start ups, the creators of an iOS App called Path, was discovered to have been uploading all the data from a user’s phonebook.


Amazon is trying to boost its margin (or at least its profit).  Amazon Mom’s is a program directed toward young mothers.  It offers three months of free two day shipping and discounts on diapers, wipes and other baby products. Now, Amazon has reduced the benefit.

As of January 24, 2012, however, the maximum discount on diapers and wipes is 20 percent and it’s only available to Prime members. Customers who join Amazon Mom in 2012 get three months of free two-day shipping, and can no longer receive additional free months. “To continue receiving all the benefits of Amazon Mom, join Amazon Prime for $79/year,” the company e-mailed customers.

Moms are mad and have launched a petition.  Via Paid Content.


  • Perfect Partners by Carly Phillips * $0.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Once Upon a Wicked Night by Jennifer Haymore * $0.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Solitary Man by Carly Phillips * $0.99 * A | BN | K|
  • The Right Choice by Carly Phillips * $0.99 * A | BN | K|
  • A Dance in the Dark by Karen Ranney * $0.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Only Love by Elizabeth Lowell * $1.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Only His by Elizabeth Lowell * $1.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Only You by Elizabeth Lowell * $1.99 * A | BN | K|
  • The Inn at Eagle Point by Sherryl Woods * $2.14 * A | BN | K|
  • Charming the Shrew by Laurin Wittig * $2.99 * A | BN | K|
  • Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey * $2.99 * A | BN | K|
  • The Big Bad Wolf Romance Bundle by Heather Killough-Walden * $3.99 * A | BN | K |

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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. Danielle D
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 10:22:57

    Thanks for the link to Book Smuggler’s survey.


  2. Dabney
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 10:35:28

    I appreciated the link to the Awl piece. I’ve argued for years that the prejudice against romance novels is not only uninformed, it’s sexist. The Awl piece spells out why.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 10:57:06

    I loved that article right up until she trotted out the “romance might be porn for women” chestnut. Really? Ya HAD to go there? Pffftt.


  4. Thea
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 11:26:26

    Thank you so much for the link and shoutout, Jane and DA folks!!!


  5. Gina
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 11:32:46

    Considering the time, hassle, and expense involved in trudging to the store with baby in tow to pay full price for diapers et al, 20% off and home delivery for any length of time is a kindness, and $79 for the rest of the year is still a bargain.

    I have a hard time sympathizing with people who complain because they’re not getting ENOUGH free. The entitlement is staggering.


  6. Sofia Harper
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 11:37:13

    I never understood the romance is p0rn for women. I’ve never read a scene where the h/h experiences something emotional and started doing a little one-handed reading.


  7. library addict
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 12:19:25

    Took the survey.


  8. Karenmc
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 13:03:35

    I read that piece on The Awl last night. I thought it was generally a great piece, although the “romance might be porn” observation was a splash of cold water.

    The Silicon Valley journo piece sounds like the guys at CrunchFund have the same amount of credibility as political SuperPacs (“Coordinate? We don’t coordinate!”).


  9. lisabookworm
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 13:21:52

    @Gina: I agree. It’s like petitioning that stores don’t run as many good sales as they used to. Any discount is better than none – plus, it’s a FREE program. Amazon has the right to cancel the program at any time, so people should be happy that it’s still available, even at a reduced benefit.


  10. sarah mayberry
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 14:56:14

    If Amazon changed the terms of conditions for people who had already signed up, I would be pissed. If they’re changing the rules for new recruits only, that’s okay. I *hate* it when corporates/institutions lure people in with some kind of arrangement and then change the fine print half way through. As individuals, we don’t get the same leeway. For example, if I chose to change the terms on which I pay my mortgage, the bank would laugh at me. But it’s perfectly acceptable for them to send me documents amending some element or other to our initial contract. Not sure what the case is with Amazon, but there’s a difference between entitlement and feeling flipped over and done dry because you got suckered in with a sweetheart deal that turned out to be a funnel to feed you into a (paid) loyalty program.


  11. Mikaela
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 15:19:30

    Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation are available in an omnibus edition for 6.99. Since I am lazy, I’ll just post the link to her blogpost :).


  12. sarah mayberry
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 15:34:14

    You know, I wasn’t offended by the “porn for women” comment in The Awl article. Here it is in context “I have often wondered whether romance novels mightn’t generally serve the same purpose for women that pornography does for so many men. I do not mean as an aid to autoeroticism, though, so much as the imaginary fulfillment of a profound imperative that is never too far from your mind.” Isn’t she saying that while a lot of men think about sex a lot, women are preoccupied with the world of emotion, which is essential the sphere that romance operates in, and that romance novels help us explore and imagine and dwell in this world? She actually explicitly states that she’s not talking about one-handed reading. Given the profound popularity of romance, given my own lifelong addiction to it, I think it’s worth exploring the idea she raises.


  13. Sofia Harper
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:02:31

    @Sarah ” Isn’t she saying that while a lot of men think about sex a lot, women are preoccupied with the world of emotion, which is essential the sphere that romance operates in, and that romance novels help us explore and imagine and dwell in this world?”

    That’s a very interesting interpretation and it does give me pause. Yet, at the same time that would mean since most men think a lot about sex porn allows them to explore and imagine and dwell in a world full of sex. I just don’t see porn as an outlet for deep thought. It is what it is–titillation. I think romance is much more than that, which is why I’ve always found the analogy lacking, if not downright insulting. Also, 99 percent of the time it’s used in a negative way.


  14. azteclady
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:14:04

    @sarah mayberry:I love this way of looking at it (i.e., finding a positive interpretation to this oft used line) but I agree with @Sofia Harper: that it is quite problematic, as well as indulging in sexual stereotyping:

    men are shallow — men think of sex constantly — men watch porn

    women are deep — women think of relationships constantly — women read romance


  15. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:15:31

    @sarah mayberry: At this point, the minute “porn for women” is trotted out, it negates whatever message it is trying to send to non-believers.


  16. sarah mayberry
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:17:33

    @Sofia Harper: Oh, the porn analogy is definitely a derogatory thing. Which is pretty amusing, given how interested most men are in porn, and always have been. Even if romance *was* simply porn for women, why can’t women be interested in sex in the same way that men are? I always think that people (men in particular) who make those comments are almost resentful of the fact that a woman can sit on the bus and read a romance novel, while they would be pilloried for doing the same with a copy of Hustler etc. Given the rise in popularity of erotica and hotter romance, I think it’s only honest to acknowledge that exploring sexuality and sexual desire is *one* element of many romances. But I agree with you that romances are about so much more than that – as the popularity of more “chaste” romances like Love Inspired etc prove. As my husband commented only recently, a man’s involvement with porn lasts 5 to 10 minutes, while a romance novel requires several hours commitment from a reader. Two very different impulses at work there. If we take the porn analogy out of the equation, however, I am still interested in the idea of romance as “the imaginary fulfillment of a profound imperative.” I’m going to go away and think about it some more…


  17. Estara
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:20:29

    @Moriah Jovan: Reading carefully a whole lot of her explaining of romance’s interior workings are based on the “Golden Age” books she enjoys reading most anyway – so a lot of stuff is simply outdated – like the punishing kiss or the fact that the heroine usually is in a bad situation at the start of the story.


  18. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:21:15

    @Estara: I noticed that right away. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, actually.


  19. Ruthie
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:35:24

    I liked that piece in the Awl, though the subtext is kind of odd — it’s as if she’s saying “Romance is feminist, it has value, I love it a lot. Just not the new stuff. The new stuff is crap.” I respect that her interest is in collecting old HMB books from the “golden age,” but I thought her dismissal of anything published since the 1980s was sort of knee-jerk and sad.


  20. sarah mayberry
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:41:11

    @Ruthie: Yeah, I got that, too. And I didn’t like the reference to the books being formulaic, either. The idea that there is a “formula” for Mills and Boons is a piece of misinformation that has been used to denigrate category romance for decades, and it makes me cranky. As with any other type of genre fiction, there are conventions. But that’s it. It’s not a freakin’ cake recipe. I bloody wish!


  21. Sofia Harper
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 16:45:26

    @ Sarah “Even if romance *was* simply porn for women, why can’t they be interested in sex in the same way that men are?”

    Another reason why the analogy annoys me. Women are fulfilled and titillated by emotion and emotion alone. Excuse me while I go drool over pictures of Idris Elba. :)

    “I always think that people (men in particular) who make those comments are almost resentful of the fact that a woman can sit on the bus and read a romance novel, while they would be pilloried for doing the same with a copy of Hustler etc. ”

    E-books and tablets should cure the world of this, but I doubt it. I think the scorn has everything to do with the fact it’s made up of (mostly of) women. Women issues tend to get treated with…well, in a way that makes me grind my teeth. But that might take us down a completely different road. I’m letting it drop.

    “Given the rise in popularity of erotica and hotter romance, I think it’s only honest to acknowledge that exploring sexuality and sexual desire is *one* element of many romances.”

    I’d agree and go one step further and say it’s empowering to talk about sex and explore it in a genre made up of women without having to deal with shaming or objectifying. Not saying every single romance is perfect, far from it. I’m just saying when someone says romance = porn for women it makes me twitchy.


  22. Darlynne
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 18:18:15

    All I have to contribute is that Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is on sale for $2.99 at B&N, which means it’s most likely available at the same price everywhere else.

    Back to our regularly scheduled programming.


  23. Karen Knows Best » Is it a new phenomenon?
    Feb 16, 2012 @ 02:01:34

    [...] at Dear Author, Jane talked about amazon reducing the benefits of a discount program for new mothers–and having said mothers mounting [...]

  24. library addict
    Feb 17, 2012 @ 12:27:02 Sony Store has Nora Roberts’ Unfinished Business on sale for $2.99

    Looks like it’s that price at Amazon, too. I didn’t check the other stores.


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