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A Reader in the Middle

ViceThere are two competing threads that took place last week amongst the romance circles. The first discussion arose out of a post by Daniela A, a reader blogger, who wrote that she did not like books featuring adultery. Some readers felt it was written in stone that infidelity could not occur. Others felt that in certain books, it could work.

Companion threads sprung up at author blogs and reader blogs debating not just the infidelity rule, but the idea that there were some unwritten rules that prevent publication of certain scenes or elements that some writers feel are crucial to their story. The case in point was Eva Gale’s novella (a work that is usually under 100 pages). Ms. Gale wrote a story which featured her hero having sex with his mistress after meeting the heroine but before coitous with the heroine. A couple of her beta readers told her to trash that scene because romance readers would not stand for such activity, often viewing any on screen sex between the hero and the heroine as being infidelitous.

As a stark contrast to authors such as Selah March, Eva Gale, and Barb/Caridad Ferrer who want to write whatever they want, damn the uptight reader, is the call for censorship by Eileen Dreyer. And yes, I said the C word. Ms. Dreyer, in her blog post and on the RRA-List stated that Claiming the Courtesan should not have been published because rape does not belong in romance and neither does a hero who speaks like an abuser. The justification for this argument is that romances are to be uplifting and empowering.

As a reader, I found myself in the middle. On the one hand, I felt like I was being chastised for not being open minded enough. That if I wasn’t such a tight assed moralist, I would see the value in the hero (note it is almost always the hero) having sex with others (Caridad Ferrer called those who said that it should not be romance – Romance Nazis). On the other hand, if I was someone who cared about my fellow woman, about the message that books were sending, I would join in the call for the abolishment of abuse and rapes in romances.

What I realized is that my acceptance of topics such as infidelity or rape, adultery or abuse depends upon the author. To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney remains one of the seminal romances in my library. Powerful, emotional and breathtaking in its reach, a ban such as one that is urged by Dreyer would have prevented this story. While ordinarily not a fan of infideility, I was not bothered by JR Ward’s Lover Eternal which finds Rhage off sating his lust for blood and sex with someone other than the heroine, Mary.

Each author must have the latitude to write whatever she thinks is best. But I ask those authors, with each scene that you propose, ask yourself whether it belongs in the story. Does having your character rape or abuse the heroine make for a stronger, more emotional read or can the same story could be told without those devices. To each author who wants to write the infidelity scene, ask yourself what you are trying to prove? Is his ability to get hard and lay his pipe in a woman offered up as some type of measure of virility? Is the ability to have sex and pleasure other women indicative of his alpha male status? I’ll extend this even farther to one of my greatest pet peeves and that is skanky villian sex because it seems authors tend to show how truly evil a villian is by how perverse his or her sex choice.

Let me request one more thing. Let’s stop making value judgments about readers based upon what they do and do not like in books. More often than not the reader is really saying “this piece of the story didn’t work for me” rather than “I don’t ever want to see another infidelity scene again.” Just because a reader doesn’t like infidelity in her romances doesn’t make her a Romance Nazi. Just because a reader likes forced seductions doesn’t mean she is perpetuating the cycle of abuse for other women. Insulting the readership, even if you don’t believe that reader is “your” type of reader, doesn’t really do any good at all.

I believe a reader can accept anything so long as there is a good reason for it, so long as it is integral to the story, so long as the reader buys into your premise and connects. So long as I can’t remove that scene and still have the same effect. Otherwise, the scene is just trying too hard to be edgy and provocative for the sake of being edgy and provocative instead of actually advancing the plot. In the end, the cost will be pissing off the readership in exchange for the dubious honor of being a so called rule breaker.

Next week: Let’s Get Real. How reality in romances bites both ways.

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

161 Comments

  1. Estelle
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 05:03:03

    Very well said Jane. I agree 100% and have nothing more to add really, except perhaps that I hope this will be taken into account by writers and publishers.

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  2. Jan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 05:35:42

    Amen to to a moratorium on skanky villain sex! There are better ways to show that a character is nasty. Besides, skanky sex is so much more fun when it’s between the h/h. *g*

    As far as adultery, it’s not hard for me to extrapolate from Mary Balogh’s wonderful Regencies in which the hero keeps his mistress long into his marriage causing major problems and a turning point for the heroine, to a book which deals with the same yet includes sex scenes. It’s all in how the author deals with it.

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  3. Nora Roberts
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 05:37:08

    It’s all about the story, and the execution of the story. Then the individual reader’s reaction to the story, and its execution. Romance is a very wide umbrella, with many, many readers who choose to pick it up. Each would have his/her own reasons and expectations when they do.

    For every one who thinks NO! That didn’t work for me at all, there’s another who thinks YES! That’s exactly what I wanted. And both are absolutely correct.

    Just as the author was correct when he/she created the story, because it undoubtedly worked for him/her.

    Writers and other readers don’t have the right to tell a reader what she should read, or how she should feel about the book before or after the read.

    Writers and other readers don’t have the right to tell a writer what she should write, or how others should feel about the book.

    Rules, for me, aren’t meant to be broken just because they exist. That’s ego. They should be broken if the story demands it. That’s writing.

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  4. Jaci Burton
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 06:11:57

    I abhor censorship in any form, no matter how it’s couched.

    There are and have been books that I hated, and others have loved. There are books that I’ve loved and others have hated.

    I would never presume to tell others what to read or not read, nor do I ever want someone to tell me what I should read based on content. I have an opinion on what I like and don’t like, just as others do. What I find acceptable I’m sure is different than what others find acceptable.

    I think there have been and probably always will be stories that bend the rules of what is considered ‘romance’, based on certain elements contained in the story or the entire story itself. What one embraces, another may loathe.

    Writers should be allowed to write their story any way they want without censorhsip. Readers can then buy or not buy and express their opinions accordingly. But I can’t begin to imagine someone trying to tell me how I should feel about a book. That’s as individual as our DNA.

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  5. Barb
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 06:42:35

    Rules, for me, aren’t meant to be broken just because they exist. That’s ego. They should be broken if the story demands it. That’s writing.

    As usual, Ms. Roberts has put it succinctly and echoes precisely how I feel. I don’t ever break rules simply to break them– for the longest time, I was writing with the blissful unawareness of any rules even existing, until the first time I received a judge’s comment saying, “You can’t do that,” with the excuse boiling down to, “That not how it’s done in romance.” And it wasn’t about any one thing– it was about when, precisely the hero and heroine should meet and feel attraction (by page five) and which POV is acceptable (never First Person– didn’t I know that NO editor would ever buy First Person POV?) and yes, whether or not a hero or heroine should be married at the outset or have a relationship with someone other than the hero or heroine in the course of the plot prior to committing themselves to their one true love. From those comments, I learned pretty quickly that unpublished contests weren’t necessarily for me. I learned, too, that this attitude didn’t just exist amongst contest judges (most of whom are writers, yes, but ultimately, also readers).

    However, even though that’s had the end result of creating a bit of a knee jerk reaction to being told what I can or can’t do, I still maintain that people are free to write and/or read whatever they prefer.

    I believe a reader can accept anything so long as there is a good reason for it, so long as it is integral to the story, so long as the reader buys into your premise and connects.

    This. Exactly this. Let me say it, again, I have no beef with anyone choosing to write a story a certain way or with anyone’s objecting to reading it. Please, please, please, though, don’t tell me I can’t. I know that as a writer, I work very hard to make all of my premises work, to make each scene count– to have it blithely disregarded and reduced to, “you can’t do that because then it’s not romance,” especially as it is often said, without context, is condescending in the extreme.

    I guess my base feeling is, as again, Ms. Roberts said, there are so many wonderful stories out there and so many ways in which to tell them, why are there those who are so intent on shoving it all into one narrow box? There’s more than enough to satisfy every reader’s taste. And in the end, it’s really the writer who’s taking the risk, no? That the work we spend endless hours on, that we pour our hearts and souls into may be rejected on so many levels, from an agent, to an editor, to the reader. Ultimately, we have to be happy and at peace with what we write, because it’s the only thing in the entire process we can control.

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  6. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 06:43:15

    People come from all kinds of different backgrounds, experiences and walks of life, and of course that can affect your you likes and dislikes. And I don’t want to dismiss anyone else’s preferences, but what works for some people doesn’t work for me. But that doesn’t mean that books should only be written to my likes/norms/morals. There’ll always be books that push people’s hot buttons or be written about controversial subjects, have problematic characters and so on. And those who don’t like those will stay away from them. But they shouldn’t dismiss or pass value judgements about those that do.

    Now if an author manages to make me enjoy a book even though it’s an issue/topic/characters that I’d normally have a problem with, then more power to the writer. That’s where the author’s skill can transform the reading experience. So yeah, some writers can make controversial topics work, and some aren’t as successful. For me. And it’s ok that something doesn’t work for others. But that doesn’t mean that there should be censorship. (That always raises the issue of who decides, and whose norms for me).

    And as Jane said:

    I believe a reader can accept anything so long as there is a good reason for it, so long as it is integral to the story, so long as the reader buys into your premise and connects. So long as I can’t remove that scene and still have the same effect. Otherwise, the scene is just trying too hard to be edgy and provocative for the sake of being edgy and provocative instead of actually advancing the plot. In the end, the cost will be pissing off the readership in exchange for the dubious honor of being a so called rule breaker.

    Absolutely.

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  7. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 06:45:12

    [quote comment="26297"]People come from all kinds of different backgrounds, experiences and walks of life, and of course that can affect your you likes and dislikes. [/quote]

    And that’s supposed to read as: “… and of course that can affect you and your likes and dislikes.”

    Sigh.

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  8. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 06:54:53

    I thought Robin at yesterday’s Readers’ Gab said it perfectly in the last two paragraphs of her post. There are too many people out there who like stuff different from the stuff I like. I adore Joey Hill. Some people can’t stand her because of the extreme nature of what she writes. That doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be allowed to write…or that any of the other authors on Ellora’s Cave who write female submissive stories shouldn’t be allowed to write because someone finds female submissiveness offensive to women. Obviously, other readers love them. Ditto M/M stories. Or inspirational. I think if we turned this around and said that Inspirational authors shouldn’t be allowed to write because I personally, as an atheist, find their stories offensive, people would send out a pitchfork-and-angry-peasants party for me, as well they should. Books with forced seduction or even rape obviously work for someone and we shouldn’t condemn the reader for reading and enjoying them anymore than we should condemn the author or publisher for producing them.

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  9. Rosie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:03:26

    Well said Jane. It’s the most coherent rational editorial on the subject I’ve seen. It certainly captures my feelings. Guess I’m a reader in the middle too.

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  10. Shannon Stacey
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:06:43

    I don’t know anything about the RRA-list, but I didn’t see any sign of the nasty C-word on her blog. There’s a big difference between a writer calling for censorship of another writer (which is abhorrent) and a writer expressing her personal horror that a book was published and giving her reasons for feeling that way. But, like I said, I don’t have access to the RRA-list.

    As for subject matter, if enough people feel the same about CTC as Ms. Dreyer, they won’t buy her next book. (I haven’t read it yet.) I blogged just yesterday about some feedback I’ve received on some of the choices my characters made in my recent release, and I knew when I wrote it I might lose a few readers. And that’s okay. Censorship is not. Ever.

    But when I read Ms. Dreyer’s blog entry, I see an author giving her honest opinion of a book, which is something authors are usually criticized for not doing. Is it her standing in the romance ranks that makes her review a call for censorship, or was there something more on the RRA-List?

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  11. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:15:42

    Yes, good luck defending yourself after you’ve been called a Romance Nazi.

    I, too, am in the middle. Since I wrote the infamous AAR review of Claiming the Courtesan, it’s clear where I stand on that book. I hated the rape, despised the “hero”, and, as a romance, I thought it was an abysmal disappointment. But, OTOH, I am with Jane in loving To Have and To Hold which I think is one of the most brilliantly written romances of all time. It is, as Jane says, all in the execution.

    What bothers me, OTOH again, about CTC is that it’s published by a Mainstream (and, yes, I meant mainstream with a cap “M”) publisher with no real clue on the cover about what’s inside. And, yes, I am right there with the tight-assed moralists in being concerned about the message it sends to young women who pick it up expecting Avon’s usual round of light romance featuring painfully implausible virgin widows.

    But, bottom line for me, is that even though I personally disliked CTC, I will defend to the death Anna Campbell’s right to write it and Avon’s to publish it, though I certainly wish that some kind of “mature themes” label had been put on it. (Gee, and wouldn’t that really jack up sales?)

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  12. Selah March
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:17:35

    I never used the word “censorship.” Never once. And like Caridad, I’m all for allowing readers to buy and read whatever they want, whenever they want. And I’ve said that. Repeatedly.

    I simply want the same right to write whatever I want and not have it called “not romance” simply because it breaks someone else’s definition of romance.

    Before Jane jumps in with her repeated question “but who is keeping you from writing it?” the answer is “no one.” No one is keeping me from writing what I want. I’d prefer it if we just didn’t sling around labels and rules like they were handed down from the Gods of Romance. They weren’t. There are no golden tablets with the 10 Commandments of Romance Writing. There is only the love story that ends happily. Everything else has been done – well and poorly – and sold – well and poorly.

    The marketplace always wins. Which is why Jenny Crusie (see this post) and Lynn Viehl (see this post) make the bestseller lists with startling regularity. Because they write what they want and they write it well. And they don’t care if someone comes along and says “that’s not romance.”

    So. I’ll take a page from their very healthy checkbooks and not care so much, and just work on my craft. The marketplace will take care of the rest, as you, yourself, have pointed out.

    As for writing stories that break what I consider artificial rules for “the dubious honor of being a so-called rule breaker?” Not in this lifetime. If it doesn’t serve the story, then it doesn’t stay. But since no one other than a handful of beta readers — some of whom loved the “mistress scene” in Eva Gale’s novella — has ever read Ms. Gale’s story, I’d say the jury is still out, no?

    It’s a big genre. There’s room for all kinds of stories. I’m preaching the gospel of diversity and freedom of expression, which can only be good for romance. Can only keep it healthy and open it up to new readers.

    And I really have to say this: constantly setting up this artificial battle between authors and readers? It’s getting old.

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  13. Kerry Allen
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:18:33

    Books in which every character is well behaved and nothing bad happens to anyone would be incredibly boring. Murder, abduction, war, and treachery aren’t “uplifting and empowering,” either, but they regularly appear in all types of fiction, even in romances. They make for much better conflict than The Big Stupid Misunderstanding That Could Be Resolved With A 30-Second Conversation But Instead Drags On For 200 Pages, in my opinion.

    A writer has no control over how any given reader will respond to an element in a story. Reader A will hate it. Reader B will love it. Reader C will accept it as part of the whole and not dwell on it. Reader D will find it unnecessary. Reader E will think it would have been better if aliens had abducted the heroine and staged a coup to ensconce her as queen of the booger people instead.

    It’s impossible to please everyone, and even attempting to do so is the kind of compromise of artistic integrity that ends careers. If you can’t tell your story without caving in to someone else’s opinion of how it should or should not be told, you can’t tell it at all. Hang up your pen and check your keyboard at the door – you won’t need them when the puppeteer sticks his hand up your butt and words that aren’t your own start coming out of you.

    No story is written out of disdain for the reader. Writers need readers and are universally appreciative of their patronage. All a writer can do is tell the story in the best way she can. What readers make of it is entirely up to them.

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  14. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:26:32

    I don’t know anything about the RRA-list, but I didn’t see any sign of the nasty C-word on her blog.

    Certainly when she came over to Teach Me Tonight and explained a bit more about her thinking on this issue she wasn’t calling for censorship. Her argument seemed to have more to do with genre boundaries/definitions:

    I only said that I think CTC does not belong in the limited world of genre romance. Not that it doesn’t deserve to be published. Genre fiction, by definition, has boundaries (just try killing off a baby on a romance audience and see how far you get). There are other places (a very good example is fan fic) which has none, or different ones. I write in more than one sphere for this very reason. The books I write in romance I do deliberately. I also write mainstream to write about what doesn’t fit.

    and she also gave a longer explanation about why she feels this particular novel isn’t one she thinks fits in the romance genre.

    Some people have stretchier boundaries for the genre than others. Also, romance is a huge genre. One of the ways that readers negotiate the vast number of choices available to them is to read within their favourite sub-genres and/or they make use of labelling such as the kind Sarah mentions, ‘female submissiveness [...] M/M stories [...] inspirational’.

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  15. Tara Marie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:35:14

    It’s all about the story… These were the exact words that came to my mind. Authors need to tell their stories and not have to worry about being second guessed about motivation or even worse censored. Saying that we as readers don’t have to love or even like what’s written.

    Rules, for me, aren’t meant to be broken just because they exist. That’s ego. They should be broken if the story demands it. That’s writing.

    I’m a reader that likes to see rules broken, it shows the author thinks outside of the box, that doesn’t mean it always works, but it’s refreshing when an author does make it work.

    There’s this fear that Claiming the Courtesan will somehow throw us back to the stone age of romance, it’ll be considered ‘edgy and cutting edge’ and it will be this season’s black. I think those who want to censor authors give the reader very little credit. I’ve been reading romance since “forced seduction/rape” was the norm rather than the exception and there’s no way that today’s readers are going back. The readers of yesterday watched as the genre evolved into something better, why would they tolerate it going backwards. Authors speak through their stories, but the balance to that is readers speak through their pocketbooks and that will keep the genre from reverting back.

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  16. Kerry Allen
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:37:24

    [quote comment="26303"]And I really have to say this: constantly setting up this artificial battle between authors and readers? It’s getting old.[/quote]

    Seriously. I just don’t know where to stand, being both an author and a reader. Do I insult my own intelligence and motivations?

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  17. Alison Kent
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:39:30

    (Only here subscribing to comments. Ignore.)

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  18. Tara Marie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:50:13

    What bothers me, OTOH again, about CTC is that it’s published by a Mainstream (and, yes, I meant mainstream with a cap “M") publisher with no real clue on the cover about what’s inside. And, yes, I am right there with the tight-assed moralists in being concerned about the message it sends to young women who pick it up expecting Avon’s usual round of light romance featuring painfully implausible virgin widows.

    You’re doing young woman a diservice by giving them less credit than they deserve. Do you really think young woman who read and enjoy Julia Quinn or Loretta Chase aren’t going to be able to see the difference between their light/humorous tales and a darker one like CTC. Are they going to now think that forced seduction and rape are acceptible–I’m not buying that. Did Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss somehow warp young minds 30 years ago? I don’t think so, or the genre wouldn’t have ever moved away from forced seduction/rape as the norm.

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  19. Emily
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 07:51:43

    I don’t think there are an rules for being a romance other than love and HEA. But it think that if the plot involves rape, child molestation, extreme torture etc I should be given some way of knowing that this is not the book I want to spend my hard earned money one *in advance*–others feel similarly about infidelity, the death of pets etc.

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  20. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:00:28

    Dreyer posted at the RRA list

    Well, damn it, I’m not about to start apologizing for my genre all over again. Because this time, it’s worse. We know better now. And we can’t blame it on the rape fantasy. What kind of genre promotes the abuse fantasy? I so hope this is a flash in the pan that backfires in the face of Avon, and that they ask the author to rethink her next book.

    This sounds like she wants the editor to serve as a censoring mechanism for the genre to keep out those books containing the undesirable. Obviously it is my interpretation and everyone else’s may differ.

    I am with Tara Marie in that I give readers alot more credit. I don’t think that they are going to start romanticizing rape by reading books about forced seduction or rape. This type of ideology presumes that women are so weak minded that a few books they read for entertainment will start shaping their moral code and their conduct. Are women going to start leaving the city and moving to the small town and all its glories? Are women going to start hiding their pregnancies and refusing to take child support from their rich millionaire sperm donors? Are women going to start eating Chicken Marsala and Krispy Kremes for every meal? Probably not in large numbers.

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  21. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:06:39

    Sigh.

    I don’t think any of us said Damn the uptight reader. Nor did we call the morality flag. It was about what we’ve encountered as writers and the rules of romance. Not about readers. I didn’t read all the posts about infidelity (gee look, I spelled it right today) so I have no idea about what was going on with those posts. I was a bit astounded when the subject came up with my story-but now knowing that the conversation was going on in other places I understand.

    I think Jenny Crusie said it so well on Smart Bitches, (Selah linked). It’s all about the story.

    I have very wide open reading boundaries. Entertain me-that’s all I ask. And that’s all I ask as writer. Let me entertain you. I may be able to pull it off-I may not. It’s subjective according to reader.

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  22. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:10:45

    You’re doing young woman a diservice by giving them less credit than they deserve. Do you really think young woman who read and enjoy Julia Quinn or Loretta Chase aren’t going to be able to see the difference between their light/humorous tales and a darker one like CTC. Are they going to now think that forced seduction and rape are acceptible-I’m not buying that. Did Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss somehow warp young minds 30 years ago? I don’t think so, or the genre wouldn’t have ever moved away from forced seduction/rape as the norm.

    I hope you’re right and I’m wrong, Tara Marie, but reading or seeing something repeatedly desensitizes. Especially when we’re talking about very young minds. And was I warped by reading Woodiwiss? I’m honestly not sure. I certainly put up with some heavy petting I didn’t want back when I was 14 or 15 because I was reluctant to make a scene and that seemed more important than standing up for myself. Is that warped? Maybe.

    And, once again, I support Anna Campbell’s right to write the book and Avon’s to publish it.

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  23. sandy l
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:15:00

    I had the same impression as Laura. I’ve only read the RRA-L and not the blogs, but my feeling was that it was more of an issue of genre boundaries and reader’s expectations when choosing an Avon book. I don’t recall censorship being used by Ms. Dreyer.

    Obviously the book didn’t work for some romance readers as a romance. It must be a very thin line when the writing is cutting edge. One comment (and I apologize for not remembering the name) said we complain when it’s the same old/same old and we complain when it is cutting the edge too close. Is Avon stretching their own boundaries?

    Overall, I came away feeling that this book may have worked better either as an erotica or a different publisher (one of whom readers have different expectations).

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  24. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:22:22

    I am with Tara Marie in that I give readers alot more credit. I don’t think that they are going to start romanticizing rape by reading books about forced seduction or rape. This type of ideology presumes that women are so weak minded that a few books they read for entertainment will start shaping their moral code and their conduct. Are women going to start leaving the city and moving to the small town and all its glories? Are women going to start hiding their pregnancies and refusing to take child support from their rich millionaire sperm donors? Are women going to start eating Chicken Marsala and Krispy Kremes for every meal? Probably not in large numbers.

    Jane, that wasn’t my point. My point was to raise concern about very young minds exposed to rape from a mainstream publisher, which is something I don’t think you or anybody would advocate.

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  25. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:26:23

    [quote comment="26310"]I don’t think there are an rules for being a romance other than love and HEA. But it think that if the plot involves rape, child molestation, extreme torture etc I should be given some way of knowing that this is not the book I want to spend my hard earned money one *in advance*–others feel similarly about infidelity, the death of pets etc.[/quote]

    Do you mean like warning labels? But who decides what all should have labels? Should there only be labels for rape, torture, molestation? But that could also lead to ratings like: “Warning extreme alphaness inside! Hero acts like an idiot! ” for those readers who don’t like alpha heros.

    I guess I find putting labels on books problematic (and then there’s the whole issue of ratings and that they can serve as an enticement to some people).

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  26. Jessica Inclan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:26:56

    This is really an interesting disucssion. My feelings about the creative process are that my characters often do things I don’t want them to. Yes, I am writing the story, but the next thing I know, if I let go and just follow along as I often do, I find that my characters have gone and done something I wouldn’t have in my “real” life. I remember in my second novel actually thinking, “God, Stella, don’t do that.” But she was out the door and I just went along for the ride.

    Now, I have only written three published romances, but in some of my other stories, characters have had affairs. I hope that the reason for them doing so was made understandable and clear. Maybe the reader won’t agree with the decision, but I hope the reader understands it.

    The prime example for me of understanding if not liking a character comes in the novel Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. In that novel, the main character is a young man so disturbed that no one wants to be near him. He decides to study up on the process of lobotomy, and tries to do a couple at home–he figures he will make a zombie, a person who would actually love him.

    He makes a few mistakes along the way, and it’s not pretty. His process is horrifying. But I “got” him because the writing is so good.

    Of course, I had a few nightmares about the book, but it’s an example I use in my classes of the the use of the the first person narrative and just flat out good writing to bring a character to us–make us care about someone not us, not in our moral landscape. I don’t want to write this character, but I’m glad Oates gave it a go.

    I do feel that there is some pressure in romance writing to make things “hot.” And as we know, hot is subjective, in the realm of fantasy, and fantasies are very personal and varied. So there should be a spectrum of writing out there to appeal to all.

    Jessica Inclan

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  27. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:28:05

    Since when is the romance industry responsible for “young minds”? Isn’t that the parents job? I have a young daughter and when she starts to read romances, it will be my job to talk to her about what she is reading and monitor what she is reading.

    Romance books are marketed to adults. They are not Young Adult books. They are books for adults. Yes, of course, they are purchased and read by young adult and teens but the publishers can’t start editing with an eye toward that. It’s the parents job, not the publishers, to make sure that the books a child is reading is appropriate for that child.

    I heartily dislike the idea of erotica being the catchall for romances with provocative subjects. I can’t really articulate this very well because I’m just speaking off the top of my head but it’s like everything that is objectionable gets the “erotic” tag which makes “erotica” then being equated with the objectionable and I don’t think that should be the defining aspect of erotic romance or erotica.

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  28. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:33:42

    Jane, I didn’t say it should be labeled as erotica. I merely said some kind of mature themes label might have been warranted to tip off a mom that the book wasn’t in the vein of Julia Quinn.

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  29. Tara Marie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:40:39

    Sandy, I too cut my romance reading teeth on Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers at a young age, but I honestly don’t think on a whole it’s going to cause havoc with teenage girls. There are some many influences that keep girls quiet or allowing bad behavoir from boys–peer pressure, parental (good and bad), cultural norms and those raging teenage hormones.

    Honestly, I think I’d rather see a teenage girl read romance than watch MTV. A book like CTC is the exception not the norm and by the conversations that are going on all over the on-line romance community it’s going to remain the exception. It’s readers that have moved the genre forward and there are enough of us that remember the old days that an occasional throw back book isn’t going to send the genre screaming backwards any time soon.

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  30. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:43:26

    I had to go back in the RRA archives to find what I was looking for regarding Ms. Dreyer.

    She stated “My persona contention, though, is that what I read in this book does not belong in a genre romance.” In responding back to her regarding that latest Linda Howard book I read that had more objectionable behavior on the part of the hero, she replied:

    “As for Linda’s new book, I have to say that I don’t think it belongs in romance any more than Courtesan. No, I haven’t read it. No, I won’t. I find the concept offensive, which is my right. And Silhouette will make its decision based on how the book and subsequent ones do. Of course I wish they would have passed on the idea.”

    It is one thing to say, I won’t buy that book, and another, in my opinion, to say I wish that they hadn’t published that book as a romance. To me, that is censorship.

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  31. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:43:40

    Tara Marie, I agree with every single word in your most excellent post.

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  32. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:49:27

    Sandy – I wasn’t say that you were saying the book should be labeled erotica. It was in reply to another commenter. But ironically, the topic came up on the RRA list under the heading “kinky” in which people were discussing erotica. So . . .I think that there are people who view “erotica” as the catchall where “bad” books should go and die.

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  33. Keishon
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:49:48

    I agree 100% with you on this one Jane. Excellent editorial. With every point I’m just nodding my head. Loved what Nora Roberts said, too. Writers should and can write whatever they want but execution is key.

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  34. Keishon
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:56:59

    [quote comment="26321"]I had to go back in the RRA archives to find what I was looking for regarding Ms. Dreyer.

    She stated “My persona contention, though, is that what I read in this book does not belong in a genre romance.” In responding back to her regarding that latest Linda Howard book I read that had more objectionable behavior on the part of the hero, she replied:

    “As for Linda’s new book, I have to say that I don’t think it belongs in romance any more than Courtesan. No, I haven’t read it. No, I won’t. I find the concept offensive, which is my right. And Silhouette will make its decision based on how the book and subsequent ones do. Of course I wish they would have passed on the idea.”

    It is one thing to say, I won’t buy that book, and another, in my opinion, to say I wish that they hadn’t published that book as a romance. To me, that is censorship.[/quote]

    I agree. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. You don’t speak for me. I am open to anything and everything except bestiality but I wouldn’t demand that they don’t publish it for those who enjoy that kind of stuff (not an animal lover, sorry). I think Ms. Dreyer is outrageous in her claims and is reacting without thought and talking a lot of rhetoric to feed the flames of critical discussion.

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  35. Tara Marie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 08:58:55

    Jane, I didn’t say it should be labeled as erotica. I merely said some kind of mature themes label might have been warranted to tip off a mom that the book wasn’t in the vein of Julia Quinn.

    I can honestly understand your concern, but I think I come from it from a different perspective. It’s the not the norm, if it were I’d say parental warnings may be needed, but it’s not. I still think we need to give young adults more credit. If they are reading a steady diet of upbeat and fun romances (using Julia Quinn and Loretta Chase again :) ) and then read something darker, I think they can tell the difference. And to be honest, there are a lot of books out there that have dark themes–romantic suspense, paranormal, urban fantasy–how do we go about labeling these?

    I lean toward agreeing with Jane, in that it’s the “parents job”, though I think it’s a little naive to think… when she starts to read romances, it will be my job to talk to her about what she is reading and monitor what she is reading. (sorry Jane :D) My parents had no idea what I actually was reading and then sharing with friends.

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  36. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:02:50

    That’s because your parents probably trusted you. I plan to toss her room every other day and do every other objectionable, privacy invading thing I can. LOL. Who knows. That’s the plan today.

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  37. MCHalliday
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:08:08

    Overall, I came away feeling that this book may have worked better either as an erotica or a different publisher (one of whom readers have different expectations).

    I agree. Readers have expectations when selecting a book listed as romance but clearly, there are vastly different ways and means of a getting to HEA. A more informed choice could be made if print publishers clearly defined content, genre and subgenre. Most ebook publishers are doing it.

    I have a niggling doubt print publishers will want to catagorize a book in the event it may limit sales. But I say, readers will pick up another one more suited to their taste and everyone will be happy ever after.

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  38. Keishon
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:08:24

    I hope you’re right and I’m wrong, Tara Marie, but reading or seeing something repeatedly desensitizes. Especially when we’re talking about very young minds. And was I warped by reading Woodiwiss? I’m honestly not sure. I certainly put up with some heavy petting I didn’t want back when I was 14 or 15 because I was reluctant to make a scene and that seemed more important than standing up for myself. Is that warped? Maybe

    And around and around we go…who else was harmed by reading romance novels? Come on, fess up. I’m outta here.

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  39. Tara Marie
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:09:22

    That’s because your parents probably trusted you. That’s probably true, I’ve been stuck with a “good girl” label my whole life, probably helped my reading material, not so great when you’re a teenager and dating, but works out better as you get older. :)

    I plan to toss her room every other day and do every other objectionable, privacy invading thing I can. LOL. Who knows. That’s the plan today. LOL–good luck with that and the ensuing riots. :D

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  40. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:19:12

    I heartily dislike the idea of erotica being the catchall for romances with provocative subjects. I can’t really articulate this very well because I’m just speaking off the top of my head but it’s like everything that is objectionable gets the “erotic" tag which makes “erotica" then being equated with the objectionable and I don’t think that should be the defining aspect of erotic romance or erotica.

    Hear Hear.

    Seriously, and that’s what’s happening.

    I know the calls being put out to writers for erotica lines are ASKING for envelope pushing stories, and that’s where you will get them, because that’s where people are having going to read them. But I wholeheartedly agree-it’s a shame.

    And as far as readers being disappointed and angry about what they read is there any way to prevent that apart from a laundry list of warnings? Blurbs don’t cover content-they present a conflict in hopes to entice you to purchase the book. I can understand a person maybe getting angry that they paid $ and they did NOT want to read what they consider rape/forced sex. But like it was stated above, all subjects are not the same to all readers.

    And having daughters, what they read is my job, not the publishers. I know I had Rosemary tucked under my mattress. (look there Jane. :))

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  41. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:22:11

    And around and around we go-who else was harmed by reading romance novels? Come on, fess up. I’m outta here.

    Keishon, that was a h-u-u-u-g-e exaggeration of my point.

    What we read and see in popular culture — and not just what we read — affects us in many ways when we are growing up. That’s hardly a controversial contention.

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  42. Teddy Pig
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:25:30

    I guess I am of the opinion that rules in the writing of any genre should be broken again and again and again till it works. The smart writer will make the breaking of a rule or rules central to the selling of a plot or a character.

    But… most good writers will not break the rules unless they see a benefit or a freedom gained by doing so.

    Anyway, I think rules were made to be broken. I love being shocked. I like having my brain engaged and even if I do not like the story or it’s outcome I will respect those attempting to make it work.

    Otherwise WHY we would give people bonuses for “thinking outside the box”. Which in essence is not following someone else’s rules but making your own.

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  43. Shannon Stacey
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:27:31

    I know I had Rosemary tucked under my mattress. (look there Jane. :))

    I hid mine in the pockets of my winter coats hanging in the back of my closet.

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  44. Vivi Anna
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 09:33:46

    Interesting post. And the comments are even more so. You’re right Keishon, around and around we go.

    I’ve been on a lot of reader forums lately that have been demanded the old romances back, Romantic Times being one of them. That those books are what they want to read. Maybe Avon has heard the call and is back to publishing ‘bodice rippers’ for lack of a better term. Some readers are going to dig it, and some readers aren’t. Just like some people like Eileen’s books and others don’t.

    I hate romances with TTSL heroines and think that it is a disservice to women everywhere to write them, but I’m not going to stand up on my soap box and complain about the abhorrance that a writer wrote about one or that that publisher published it.

    I think Ms. Roberts said it the best.

    And as a young girl of 12 I read Stephen King and other horror writers, but I didn’t grow up with violent tendencies. And I got a sex education from Penthouse…and I grew up okay…oh wait, no, I write erotic/romance…hmm, so that MUST be the reason I like to write about HAWT sex.

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  45. Vivi Anna
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:07:40

    Damn, that should say, TSTL, not TTSL…LOL

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  46. Nora Roberts
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:23:48

    ~But- most good writers will not break the rules unless they see a benefit or a freedom gained by doing so.~

    I’m not sure I understand this. What benefits? What freedom? And how do those relate to the story being told? I don’t think about benefits or freedoms (never have) when crafting a story. I think about the story.

    I can’t agree that rules are made to be broken. Rules have a purpose, so breaking them must have a purpose as well. I don’t write with the intent or the desire to shock the reader. I write with the intent and purpose of telling the story, with the hope that story will engage and entertain the reader.

    I have to equate the goal of shocking the reader to ego again. IF the shock value is integral to the story and the characters, great. If it’s there because the writer feels: Boy, I’m going to mess with people’s heads, or I’m going to blow the rules to hell and reshape the structure of the genre, the story is almost certain to fail. Because the story isn’t the purpose.

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  47. Gretchen
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:34:28

    Tossing her room Jane? Believe me, you don’t want to do that. If you leave her no privacy she will not trust you and never confide in you. The thing that can do a teenager the most harm is not a romance novel, but the internet. It is the best and the worst of everything. Checking her history online is more helpful to your piece of mind that tossing her room. As of now, there are blogs, message boards, myspace and facebook accounts where they can talk to their friends and whoever else is lurking about. Not giving our their private information is the most important thing you can teach her when online, and they tend to be online quite a bit. By the time your little darling reaches that age, there will be more of the same. I wasn’t beyond checking text messages from time to time either, but she never knew I did that.
    I haven’t read the book in question yet, but are young girls really interested in romance novels anyway with so much wonderful YA literature out there. Either of my daughters were interested in them nor were their friends. I suppose some are, but I don’t see them as a threat when there are so many more powerful influences out in the world to be concerned about.

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  48. Teddy Pig
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:37:00

    “Boy, I’m going to mess with people’s heads, or I’m going to blow the rules to hell and reshape the structure of the genre, the story is almost certain to fail. Because the story isn’t the purpose.”

    Sorry Nora, but I repeat William S. Burroughs, Phillip K Dick, and Carlos Casteneda just to begin. he list is much bigger.

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  49. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:38:12

    I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 12. I also read Clan of the Cave Bears and sequels. The Ayn Rand scarred me more than the sex in CotCB. I think it’s disingenuous to say “My point was to raise concern about very young minds exposed to rape from a mainstream publisher, which is something I don’t think you or anybody would advocate” as someone does above and not worry about the thousands of images that degrade women and instill unrealistic body types that young girls see every day of their lives. I think any young girls reading books like this, in this day and age, are going to be of the variety to take everything they read with a grain of salt and to understand that this is FANTASY, not reality. These debates are more than 250 years old–the same debates happened about novels in general and their effects on unsuspecting young women when the genre was first created in the 18th Century. I find it fascinating that we’re still rehashing the same territory: oh, but they won’t know any better! Oh, but they won’t be able to separate fantasy from reality! Oh, but they’re too sheltered to have their own opinions! I call Bullshit! just as much as it was bullshit 250 years ago.

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  50. Jaci Burton
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:38:26

    I read The Flame and The Flower when i was 17. It was my first romance read. I followed it up with a lot more Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers and many more sweet savage romances. Loved them. They never influenced the sexual decisions I made. We grow up with values and parental influence, and what we learn and how we choose to use those lessons learned are what guide us, not the books we read. IMO.

    I raised two sons to adulthood and have a teenage stepdaughter, all who read voraciously. I tried to teach them the same types of values and talk to them about what they read, but in the end it all comes down to choice, lessons learned and how they choose to apply what they’ve learned. As with all kids, some choose wisely, others don’t.

    I really don’t think our fiction reading influences who we become or the choices we make. Again, my opinion only.

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  51. Teddy Pig
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:40:33

    To me their style of writing the way they wrote became the substance of the story. That was not writing to follow any rules but their own.

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  52. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:45:36

    Isn’t it in Fountainhead where Dominique is raped? I remember reading that scene as a teen and wondering, isn’t she supposed to be unhappy about this? I think it was the first “forced seduction” “rape fantasy” I ever read.

    I don’t know that I want to be shocked although there is certainly a place for shocking content in romances. I also think that “writing outside the box” can refer to reinventing the old themes and making them fresh again, like the boss/secretary tale in Laura Lee Guhrke’s latest book, And Then He Kissed Her. There was nothing rule breaking in that book, but I thought it was fresh.

    I think of Jennifer Crusie’s Don’t Look Down where they have the sex scene between the hero and an actress. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to show. That JT was a real man? That when confronted with a nubile woman, he immediately succumbs? I am never sure how or why a man’s ability to have sex is equated with heroic status. It’s like the more sex we can show this guy having with other women and the more we can show he’s irresistible. I think it tends to show that the guy is someone of indiscriminate taste. It’s not so much that infidelity turns me off as that the constant catting around by some guy shows me he is unlikely able to make a committment or is led around by his dick. Neither of which seem like lovely traits.

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  53. Teddy Pig
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:52:41

    “I have to equate the goal of shocking the reader to ego again. ”

    Actually Nora, I equate “ego” when talking about writing to Ernest Hemingway.

    But… That never seemed to stop people fawning all over his stuff.

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  54. Teresa
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 10:57:43

    I’m not generally in favour of adultery plots in romances, BUT, I also know that they can and do work. Jo Beverley convinced me of this years ago in The Shattered Rose. Which is why I don’t understand the attitude that adultery must NEVER occur is a rule set in stone for romance writers. Rubbish.

    As for a hero not sleeping with another woman after merely meeting the heroine, well, I don’t even know what to say to that. Ok, I do – that’s ridiculous. Totally and completely ridiculous, especially if it’s a historical romance.

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  55. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 11:06:01

    It’s like the more sex we can show this guy having with other women and the more we can show he’s irresistible.

    Hmm. I don’t think that at all. I wrote mine in as a character flaw-not something to show his prowess. I see it the same way in others writings. It makes his conflict to his HEA harder, and I love a high climb for the characters.

    *looking up at some previous posts of mine-sorry for the mistakes*

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  56. Nora Roberts
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 11:10:29

    ~Sorry Nora, but I repeat William S. Burroughs, Phillip K Dick, and Carlos Casteneda just to begin. he list is much bigger.~

    I can’t get inside those authors’ heads–or into any author’s but my own–but I’d maintain that the story came first for all of them. Shock value, rule breaking were PART of the story–not the goal of the writing. And I don’t know how it’s shocking for an experimental writer like Burroughs to break rules.

    I’m talking about focusing on the shock or the rule-breaking rather than using either or both of those elements to tell the story, and to use them for the writer’s own desire to push rather than using them because the story needs them.

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  57. Robin Schone
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 11:16:08

    Wow. How funny to see the same hot topic now as it was back in 1999.

    I hope no one minds if I weigh in on this one. BTW, Jane and Jayne, I love your blog, you bring up some really interesting topics, and keep flaming to a minimum, which is greatly appreciated by this reader.

    Anyway, back to 1999, and the debate about genre romance and the affect it has on kids. Kids see this kind of stuff (adultery, alcoholism/drug addiction, abuse in all of its myriad forms [emotional, psychological and physical] all the time, for goodness sake. If not in their own homes, then in the homes of a relative, or a friend, or a neighbor. I don’t think they’re going to learn much from a romance – no matter how dark – that they haven’t already seen in real life . . . or in a V. C. Andrews book. Or on LifeTime tv!

    Furthermore, while romance and passion are timeless, times are different. Laws are different. The twenty-first century is NOT the nineteenth century, no matter that we are still steeped in Victorian ideology. Surely to portray it as such does a disservice to everyone, no matter their age.

    Rape, adultery . . . such things happen, both historically and now. Why should the topics be taboo in romance? And if they are, then how can romance fiction ever hope to be taken seriously? If authors and publishers stopped writing outside this imaginary box, then romance books would truly deserve the term “Fabio books,” wouldn’t they? Even books written for children deal with realities . . . Anyone for Where’s the Poop by Susan Kathleen Hartung? But, ooops! I forgot, no one in romance land ever goes to the bathroom.

    Why must romance always be divorced from reality? It’s nice to read fairy tales every once in a while, but variety truly is the spice of life.

    And . . . I have to say it . . . My idea of hell would be living in a Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch world. And much as I love Donna Reed, please don’t put me back in the kitchen wearing never-wrinkled shirtwaist dresses and baking cookies that are made from scratch. Better to occasionally eat a burned loaf of bread . . . or store-bought bread! . . . or heavens, no bread at all! than to be locked in a perpetual time-warp where everything is sunny and pg and we all agree.

    Okay, I’ve rambled enough. Now to tie in with my opening . . . One of the most emotionally satisfying letters I’ve ever received came from a twelve year old girl who read her grandmother’s copy of The Lady’s Tutor. In my 1999 release, the heroine commits adultery with the hero. The twelve-year-old girl did not write she was going to boink the first man she met after marriage. What she did write was that she was not going to throw her virginity away on a boy just to be popular, that she was going to wait until she found a man . . . like Ramiel . . . who cared about her emotional, physical and sexual needs.

    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.

    :::stepping off my soap box:::

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  58. Tilly Greene
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 11:21:03

    Yeah! Jaci, you and I seem to be on the same page :-) I remember Erin B. reading Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers outloud to the rest of us who sat at the back of the school bus to hear the latest! Am I damaged, heck no, I was hooked.

    I read and write romances for the extraordinary path to a HEA. Is it always beautiful, easy and full of roses? No, nor is every hero/heroine perfect and knows the moment when they’ve first met their heart mate. Maybe we could do away with needing to put “rules” on a very natural course of events being played out in a fictional setting.

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  59. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 11:22:01

    I think the whole process is much more organic than what is assumed. Like with what Nora said-I also bet the story comes first. It does with me. And in all honesty, I find it slightly offensive that writers sit down and make up a list of rules they’re going to break in their story. Maybe some do-I’ll give you that, but I think it’s a small amout. The majority just write, and it can be as right-brained as any other form of art. The subconsious knows. many times I see things only when my crit partners point them out, and I know I do the same for my crit partners.

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  60. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 12:21:42

    I think for books that aren’t what you expect, readers should use the return policy. Maybe this isn’t a popular idea with the authors but if a reader really hates a book, it might be the best way to send the message to the publisher. Return the book.

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  61. Emily
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 12:24:55

    [quote comment="26316"]

    Do you mean like warning labels? .[/quote]

    I mean blurbs. I have picked up several books that even the careful reader would have assumed to be pretty sweet, let your daughter read them stuff, with titilating non-consensual material inside.

    Print paperbacks including gay sex let people know without using a pink triangle. Epublishers insist on putting big red warnings on my M/M and MMF and everyone is find with that.

    Books including rape etc could easily do the same.

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  62. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:03:42

    And, once again, I support Anna Campbell’s right to write the book and Avon’s to publish it.

    Really, Sandy, because I thought your review was way more inflammatory than Campbell’s book. Frankly, I was shocked at the selective attention you paid to the book, as well as your slap against readers who DO find the book edgy, and a factual error that Anna climaxed when Justin forces himself on her in anger (she didn’t). As I said on Teach Me Tonight, I’d love to do a line by line analysis of this book with anyone who’s read it, because for every line that supports your view, I think I can find one that completely contravenes it. I can respect readers who hate this book, but I find myself flummoxed by the assertion that this novel advocates rape, its condemnation by people who haven’t read or finished it, and the idea that a book like Anne Stuart’s Ice Blue, in which Taka actually knocks Summer out and pushes her underwater to drown her, gets a B- and CtC gets a D and a designation of rape-pusher. I. don’t. get. it. IMO these extremely important issues require more analysis, more detailed and nuanced treatment, not less.

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  63. Jane
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:09:08

    but I find myself flummoxed by the assertion that this novel advocates rape, its condemnation by people who haven’t read or finished it

    I think this is an important point. While the redemption of Justin did not work for me, I never felt like Campbell was condoning rape. Part of my disappointment with Dreyer’s comments was the wholesale condemnation of a book she never finished. I am not sure how much she read but on the RRA list she said page 50.

    I think its fair to say “I don’t like rape in romances” or even “I’m not going to read it” but to say that “this book doesn’t belong” without reading the entire book puts the argument on shaky ground.

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  64. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:18:54

    I think this is an important point. While the redemption of Justin did not work for me, I never felt like Campbell was condoning rape.

    IMO it’s objectively misleading to make that claim, because so many times during the later part of the book Justin expresses — over and over and over again — that he was wrong, that there was no excuse for what he did, and that he regretted it. I do think it’s always possible to argue that the presence of rape in Romance is difficult and problematic, that in some cases its presence seems to suggest that it’s not such a big deal to authors or readers. BUT, even in this case, IMO you need to actually *analyze* the books in question, not just make inflammatory accusations.

    One of the problems more generally, IMO, is that this whole debate seems to be cast as an all or nothing. Readers who don’t want to read about certain things are seen as censoring, and readers who support certain books are seen as advocating abuse, infidelity, etc. But it’s soooooooo much more complicated than that, IMO, and we are so selling ourselves short as women to maintain the zero sum position.

    Me, I’m on the side of thoughtfulness, for authors, for readers, for reviewers, for bloggers, etc. I remember after the whole Adele Ashworth/Duke of Sin virgin widow debate on AAR making the comment (in response to Ashworth’s stated inability to understand what the big deal was) that when we mimetically repeat certain stereotypes, tropes, character traits, and plot lines in Romance, we threaten to make them inane and to reinforce certain social messages that may not be in line with where we really want to be. At the time I was accused of trying to censor authors. So I understand when readers like Laura Vivianco say, “hey, I don’t want to read about rape and I want to be able to be warned,” aren’t trying to censor anyone, and I understand when authors like Eva Gale feel frustrated by the idea that she should discard a scene that might piss off readers. That we so easily fall into the polemic mode with all this is both unnecessary and unproductive, IMO.

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  65. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:20:27

    Oh, and by “mimetically repeat,” I mean continue to use without thinking them through or interrogating their usefulness and their implications — that is, just mimicking them from book to book.

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  66. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:28:24

    Robin, re the” factual error”:

    On page 139 of CTC:

    “She finally lost control and convulsed around him. He kept still, luxuriating in her quaking pleasure.”

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  67. Dalia
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:44:12

    Robin, the Ice Blue B- review was written by Leigh. The CtC D review was done by Sandy. Different reviewers, different mindsets count for variant review grades.

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  68. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 13:59:28

    Oh, goodie, textual analysis.

    First, that’s not the first scene, not the explicit rape scene (the one where he “rams” into her) you’re quoting here, Sandy. Also, directly after that first scene, here’s what Justin thinks to himself:

    Less familiar were the guilt and regret that lurked in the sordid vacuum within him where most men had a heart.

    Tumbling his mistress had always left him with an inner peace nothing else in life offered. When she’d gone, she had snatched away his only source of happiness. He’d been desperate to get it back, like a child who had lost his favorite toy and cried until it was restored.

    Well, he had his favorite toy back and he still felt like crying.

    His rage at her disappearance. Three months of miserable celibacy. Her insults. All these might explain what he’d just done to her.

    Nothing could excuse it. (p. 132)

    You’re absolutely correct that the next two scenes also contain force, but at that point, Justin is literally trying to force seduction on Verity, to bring her back to him as his mistress. Yes, its’ WRONG — Justin knows it’s wrong:

    But he refused to act the mindless savage again. He’d done that last night. And he’d made her cry.

    He’d hurt her, and in spite of three months of dreaming nothing but revenge, he was piercingly sorry. The recollections of tears drying on her pale cheeks gentled the hand he cupped around her breast. The gesture became one of aching tenderness.

    Her skin was cool and smooth beneath his fingers. He tested the glorious roundness of her breast, then bent his head and took her nipple into his mouth. Immediately, it pebbled under his lips.

    Triumphantly, he recognized this as familiar — it seemed Soraya wasn’t totally lost to him after all. She tasted like ripe raspberries, and he gorged himself on her summer sweetness, licking and laving and sucking, listening to how her breath hitched with every marauding caress.

    She didn’t want to respond to him, he knew. But she couldn’t help herself.

    He turned his attention to her other breast. Lengthy delay was beyond his capability, after so many empty months of wanting her and last night’s unsatisfactory coupling, but even so, he was desperate to erase the memory of his earlier brutality. Something in him wanted to cherish her. She was so small and brave and beautiful. (pp. 135-136)

    No kidding she climaxed that time — crazy Justin is *seducing* her, as in *forced seduction* — that she responds is something she finds shameful, but IMO it would be strange if she didn’t. How the hell many Linda Howard heroes “pound” into the heroines, or have angry sex — and where are the cries that SHE’s advocating forced sex????????? Let’s take apart that scene from Dream Man where Dane takes Marlie from behind, where he “drove into her with battering force” (p. 251) — her being Marlie, the torture and sexual abuse survivor who teased Dane in the car until he, you know, couldn’t control himself.

    And as for Verity’s climax, even in real life women report having sexual feelings in force situations — do we say that those feelings justify the force? NO! So why here? Is what Justin does to Verity a GOOD THING? NO — he’s craaaazzy at this point in the book! But that’s the point, isn’t it? That there’s this enormous complexity in the relationship between these two people, who were lovers for over a year, and one of whom was so tortured and tormented as a child that he doesn’t know what it means to actually take care of the person he cares for. That VERY SOON he comes to full awareness of what he’s done and NEVER EVER EVER EVER mishandles or mistreats Verity EVER EVER EVER EVER again in the book cuts so hard against the idea that Campbell is making the rape okay I don’t know how the accusation can be sustained within the pages of the book itself.

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  69. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:04:49

    Robin, the Ice Blue B- review was written by Leigh. The CtC D review was done by Sandy. Different reviewers, different mindsets count for variant review grades.

    Oh, I’m well aware that the reviewers are different, Dalia; that’s not my point. I’m simply trying to say that when one book is picked out for a certain kind of condemnation it strikes me as problematic given what’s being published contemporaneously. And Sandy has actually awarded two B range grades to two other Stuart books, which is another reason I chose Ice Blue (since I just happened to have read it).

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  70. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:05:41

    As I said on Teach Me Tonight, I’d love to do a line by line analysis of this book with anyone who’s read it, because for every line that supports your view, I think I can find one that completely contravenes it.

    My copy just came and I’m reading it now. Since I’m on the far end of the reading spectrum, I bet I’ll be one who disagrees with the rape scenario. You’re right though-I bet it’s going to come down to a line by line analysis.

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  71. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:07:37

    Disagrees with calling it a rape, I mean.

    Funny-Ice Blue just came too. I have some great reading ahead of me, I can tell.

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  72. Sandy AAR
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:08:30

    Robin, as we say over and over (and over and over) at AAR, a review is just one person’s opinion. You have your opinion and I have mine and, clearly, never the twain shall meet.

    But the accusaion of a “factual error” is one I take quite seriously.

    From my review of CTC:

    “The second time (God spare us) her body “betrays" her and this act of power and control – and rape, as we all know, isn’t about sexual pleasure – actually brings her to orgasm.”

    This is it for me. I’m out.

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  73. MCHalliday
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:13:22

    Isn’t it great that books can create such delicious food for thought? We should question what we accept or reject as good for us, our children or, in the case of a politician, society.

    After the last discussion on rape in romance, I decided to take a good long look at my feelings and opinions. The conclusion I cam to is that books are an art form to induce emotion, among other things. A painting might be a nude but we sense the nuances of the beauty and accept it. Or look away, if it doesn’t.

    Might I suggest, we look for the beauty that appeals to us…with a code of sorts, as suggested by Emily. And then a reader can ‘look away’ if they choose and spend their money on something that appeals to them.

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  74. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:18:32

    I’m sorry, Sandy, I was actually responding to this sentence in your review, which refers to the details of the first scene:

    I don’t like the idea that women secretly want to be raped, something that is definitely implied when a heroine has an orgasm after a man “rams" and “pounds” (the author’s descriptors) into her and leaves her hurting.

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  75. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:30:44

    [quote comment="26309"]You’re doing young woman a diservice by giving them less credit than they deserve. Do you really think young woman who read and enjoy Julia Quinn or Loretta Chase aren’t going to be able to see the difference between their light/humorous tales and a darker one like CTC. Are they going to now think that forced seduction and rape are acceptible–I’m not buying that. Did Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss somehow warp young minds 30 years ago? I don’t think so, or the genre wouldn’t have ever moved away from forced seduction/rape as the norm.[/quote]

    If any kiddo is going to be influenced by a book, tv, song, whatever… there is a problem. And it resides with the kid and their parents.

    The idea, ADULTS need to censor things for the children is stupider than crap. It generally takes a village to raise a child because people can’t be arsed to raise their own kid.

    Labeling is another thing I think isn’t needed. Of course I am a wacky person and think a romance is a story with the central plot being the love story and it ends in a HEA. I don’t need a romance label, with a scifi button and a couple of flames if the book is HAWT! Read the back of the book if it is that important. Look for reviews… if running into sex in a book will send you crying – don’t read books about people falling in love. Look for the inspirationals… hell they are microlabelled and prolly ‘safe’.

    How the author gets there is up to the author. If a reader reads it, is up to the reader. Rule breakers can do whatever they want, some will rock and some of their books will blow. And another reader will come up behind me and think differently.

    got to love it… CHOICE, isn’t it great

    I do find it beyond funny the people who keep crying the rule breakers will be remembered FOREVAH and they are the MOST SUCCESSFUL, are people I have never read or heard of… there is prolly a point in there I am missing.

    hmmm all this has prolly been said already, I really should read the comments first.

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  76. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:33:16

    My copy just came and I’m reading it now. Since I’m on the far end of the reading spectrum, I bet I’ll be one who disagrees with the rape scenario.

    You know what’s funny, Eva? I generally dislike forced seduction scenarios in Romance. And it was no fun at all reading those scenes in CtC. But for me this issue has become about so much more — most especially about making the leap from talking about what a book portrays to saying the book advocates those things and also saying that a book like CtC endorses abuse and shouldn’t be labeled as genre Romance (which Dreyer has said subsequently is really her point). Depending on the source of the comments (and my surprise at said source), I will respond with anything from an exasperated snort to a detailed rebuttal.

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  77. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:38:39

    [quote comment="26310"]I don’t think there are an rules for being a romance other than love and HEA. But it think that if the plot involves rape, child molestation, extreme torture etc I should be given some way of knowing that this is not the book I want to spend my hard earned money one *in advance*–others feel similarly about infidelity, the death of pets etc.[/quote]

    See to me, I think we as readers are the ones that should be expected to ‘research’ the book if we are that worried. I don’t think it should be up to the author or publisher.

    Should it? That is why I read blurbs, reviews and such…. I would think it is impossible to label every hot button. And you get to a point where it is just silly. Why read a book if you know everything that is going to happen? You could just read the back and the 20 warnings it has.

    But that could just be me…

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  78. Teddy Pig
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:41:28

    “Shock value, rule breaking were PART of the story-not the goal of the writing.”

    How can it not be the goal if it is interwoven into the story. I mean steam powered dildos????

    I think we have to give credit to people who break the rules and do so on purpose. They may not win this time or even next time but if they keep trying they can succeed create things of beauty and I would hate to tell people not to or ban their writings.

    On the flip side it is good to remind people…
    “do so at your own risk” right?

    But… thank god for the rule breakers and the shock miesters and the people who ask why.

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  79. Emily
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:43:02

    [quote comment="26384"] That is why I read blurbs, reviews and such…. I would think it is impossible to label every hot button. …[/quote]

    My point was that the blurbs aren’t doing this. I have read books with abduction of a married women, slavery, training with electric shock and involuntary impregnation where the blurb looked like sci fi romance, no kink–reviews also failed to mention this. Of course I read the blurbs.

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  80. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:46:54

    [quote comment="26313"]And was I warped by reading Woodiwiss? I’m honestly not sure. I certainly put up with some heavy petting I didn’t want back when I was 14 or 15 because I was reluctant to make a scene and that seemed more important than standing up for myself. Is that warped? Maybe.[/quote]

    And that is all the fault of the books you read?

    At 12 I started to read Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz… I can say I have never put up with anything I didn’t want. And have no issue now or then standing up for myself.

    I had a days of our lives addiction and one of my oldest memories is being fivish and watching the General Hospital intro with my mom.

    Of course there is no way my mother would have let me be in the position to be petted in anyway at 14 or 15, so what do I know.

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  81. Zeek
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:51:29

    I had a days of our lives addiction

    God, wasn’t Beau and Hope back then the BOMB!

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  82. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:53:34

    [quote comment="26330"]That’s because your parents probably trusted you. I plan to toss her room every other day and do every other objectionable, privacy invading thing I can. LOL. Who knows. That’s the plan today.[/quote]
    bad jane, bad bad! That is wrong in soooooo many ways… you know that right?

    LOL of course my mom trusted me too, well until 17 *eg*

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  83. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:55:25

    [quote comment="26388"]

    I had a days of our lives addiction

    God, wasn’t Beau and Hope back then the BOMB![/quote]
    omg!

    And patch and kayla, no shit my dad has video of my friend and I watching patch’s ‘funeral’ and crying like babies.

    hmmm of course I liked Eve and Nick too *g*

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  84. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:58:49

    [quote comment="26386"][quote comment="26384"] That is why I read blurbs, reviews and such…. I would think it is impossible to label every hot button. …[/quote]

    My point was that the blurbs aren’t doing this. I have read books with abduction of a married women, slavery, training with electric shock and involuntary impregnation where the blurb looked like sci fi romance, no kink–reviews also failed to mention this. Of course I read the blurbs.[/quote]
    uh

    Well… what publisher is it? Or line? Cuz I would guess that should help tip you off too.

    But really, you want a book to label a warning for everything you don’t like. Then it should do the same for everyone. Can’t you see that getting a bit much? Why can’t you just close the book? Return it if it is something that bad for you.

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  85. Zeek
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 14:59:09

    As a reader from waaaay back when lindsey, busbee, woodwiss, & rosemary rodgers was the rule, I can handle just about anything in my romance novels. If I can’t handle it, I chuck it against the wall and know to generally avoid that author because, hey, it’s just not my cuppa. Ya know?

    Cruise pretty much summed it up for me too- as is the case with Eva’s story, the hero and the heroine had not established a relationship – though they did meet- when the scene with his lover happened. As Eva has said, the hero knows it’s over with the soon to be ex and ends it. The scene IS in for a reason so- works for me.

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  86. Zeek
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:00:59

    omg!

    And patch and kayla, no shit my dad has video of my friend and I watching patch’s ‘funeral’ and crying like babies.

    hmmm of course I liked Eve and Nick too *g*

    HA! Patch and Kayla! YES! I lOVED Jennifer and jack!!

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  87. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:03:25

    My point was that the blurbs aren’t doing this. I have read books with abduction of a married women, slavery, training with electric shock and involuntary impregnation where the blurb looked like sci fi romance, no kink-reviews also failed to mention this. Of course I read the blurbs.

    That is because the blurb’s job is to not laundry list what might be offensive-it’s job is to entice readers to purchase it.

    I agree with Jane where she said, if after reading it you were so offended that you didn’t want it? Bring it back.

    You know what’s funny, Eva? I generally dislike forced seduction scenarios in Romance. And it was no fun at all reading those scenes in CtC. But for me this issue has become about so much more — most especially about making the leap from talking about what a book portrays to saying the book advocates those things and also saying that a book like CtC endorses abuse and shouldn’t be labeled as genre Romance (which Dreyer has said subsequently is really her point). Depending on the source of the comments (and my surprise at said source), I will respond with anything from an exasperated snort to a detailed rebuttal.

    I admit-I haven’t read a FS is a long time. But I have a theory that I am going to mull over with CtC, (and I could be talking out my ass-it’s always a possiblity :) ) and that is that forced seduction is to romance what submissives are to BDSM-it’s just a change of setting. If it were true rape? I would be disgusted, but sometimes I think the writer doesn’t have that in mind at all-it was just poorly executed. And again-there is the subjectiveness of it all.

    I think that sometimes the hot emotions of content overrides the actual reading and processing of the words on the page. When a certain reader picks up on scenarios that are their personal hot buttons, they start getiing angry and skimming- and in the back of their mind is a high pitched angry screech obliterating all of the nuances that the author is trying to get across.

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  88. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:08:45

    [quote comment="26328"]I agree. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. You don’t speak for me. I am open to anything and everything except bestiality but I wouldn’t demand that they don’t publish it for those who enjoy that kind of stuff (not an animal lover, sorry). I think Ms. Dreyer is outrageous in her claims and is reacting without thought and talking a lot of rhetoric to feed the flames of critical discussion.[/quote]

    I agree! And I am not open to anything and everything *g*. In fact, as you well know, I love a lot of shit most people are over.

    I like the virgin thing, have no issue with widowed ones even if the author can make it make sense. Don’t care for cheating. You know… like the otherside of keishon.

    BUT I want there to be books for keishon to read even if they suck because there should be books for all of us to lurve, hug, squeeze and call george.

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  89. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:11:17

    [quote comment="26393"]HA! Patch and Kayla! YES! I lOVED Jennifer and jack!![/quote]
    ooooohhhhhhh

    YES! I think they are like back too. OR something. Maybe.. they were on a cover of something.

    But santa barbara was the bestest soap evah.

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  90. Jorrie Spencer
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:23:12

    And was I warped by reading Woodiwiss? I’m honestly not sure. I certainly put up with some heavy petting I didn’t want back when I was 14 or 15 because I was reluctant to make a scene and that seemed more important than standing up for myself. Is that warped? Maybe.

    And that is all the fault of the books you read?

    At 12 I started to read Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz- I can say I have never put up with anything I didn’t want. And have no issue now or then standing up for myself.

    You know, I’ve seen these discussion before. Where some people throw up the names of books they read and say that they either weren’t or maybe were influenced as a young teen. It’s possible that some people were affected and others weren’t. It’s possible said effects weren’t simply due to, I dunno, weakness of character or bad parenting.

    I don’t think reading Susan Howatch at 12 did me any favors and I would have objected to my kids reading the same at that age. I’m sure others of my generation (kids don’t really read Susan Howatch these days) felt SH had no effect whatsoever.

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  91. Jorrie Spencer
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 15:25:29

    Oops, I got the quotes wrong. My own words start at: You know.

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  92. DS
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 16:22:56

    I haven’t read CtC and I’m pretty sure I won’t. I also haven’t followed the controversy about Dreyer although I read her blog entry. This of course means I’m going to comment.

    I also am exposed to a lot of battered and abused women and the description Dreyer gave of the beginning of the plot was spot on for the reaction of an abusive spouse. Just last week I had a woman tell me about her two day ordeal as the captive of her ex-husband who had broke into her house when she was out just after the divorce was final. He had been following her for days while she had been staying with family members waiting for this chance. Her two toddlers were also involved as hostages for her cooperation.

    That sort of real life exposure soured me on capture romances all around.

    Oh, and the abusers are always so remorseful. They won’t hurt their woman again. They love her. Until they do it again.

    There are some problems that I do not believe love will redeem.

    Would reading such a book make someone believe that their own dire situation would be better if they just loved their abuser that much? I don’t know. Patient Griselda was never a role I liked so I might have been innoculated against it at an early age.

    However, I can understand how Dreyer reacted the way she did.

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  93. Keziah Hill
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 16:26:46

    And yes, I said the C word. Ms. Dreyer, in her blog post and on the RRA-List stated that Claiming the Courtesan should not have been published because rape does not belong in romance and neither does a hero who speaks like an abuser. The justification for this argument is that romances are to be uplifting and empowering.
    This not my definition of romance. She does not speak for me. Life happens, people write about it. The life of a courtesan in 1825 is different to the life of women in 2007. Although certain aspects are the same – women still get raped. I doubt in 1825 anyone would have had much sympathy for Verity, but Campbell writes about the rape in a firm and definite moral context of condemnation. That Verity is also in love with her rapist is the difficult part of the story. In my view Campbell make this plausible, but not everyone will agree with this, because for some it is simply impossible. But that’s what should be debated, whether or not the story works, not whether or not is should be published and in what genre. What a silly irrelevancy. And I worry about this whole idea of being warned before you read something. Read everything and come to some conclusions. Don’t avoid out of fear. The nightly news contains more horror.

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  94. Vivi Anna
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 16:46:26

    I agree Keziah. I don’t want anyone telling me what is safe or unsafe for me to read. I don’t want to live in a world where Big Brother makes my decisions for me, or produces a safe bubble for me to live in where I won’t get hurt or offended or sickened. Our world has become too PC. Don’t write about hurting animals because you might offend Greenpeace workers, don’t write about m/m sex because you might offend some religious people who believe gay people should go to hell, don’t write about heroines who drop their whole lives for the hero because you might offend feminists, and don’t write about rape or forced seduction because you might offend someone that has been raped.

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  95. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 16:59:16

    I admit-I haven’t read a FS is a long time. But I have a theory that I am going to mull over with CtC, (and I could be talking out my ass-it’s always a possiblity :) ) and that is that forced seduction is to romance what submissives are to BDSM-it’s just a change of setting.

    Since I’m not familiar with BDSM stories, can you explain what you mean?

    As for Campbell’s book, I think the first forced scene is pretty obviously an outright rape, but I don’t think Campbell’s hiding from that at all or trying to dismiss it. For many readers, Justin won’t be redeemable, and I understand that. IMO one of the weaknesses of the book was that he came to his senses (on many levels) so rapidly given all the torment in his past. But I never for a second felt that Campbell was romanticizing force.

    I think that sometimes the hot emotions of content overrides the actual reading and processing of the words on the page. When a certain reader picks up on scenarios that are their personal hot buttons, they start getiing angry and skimming

    I admit that I’ve wondered about this, too.

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  96. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 17:06:31

    Sigh. I almost escaped posting on this. Damn.

    And I worry about this whole idea of being warned before you read something. Read everything and come to some conclusions. Don’t avoid out of fear.

    Whoa. Back up there. First of all, in the same way that one can tell us what we should or shouldn’t be reading, no one can tell us what we should or shouldn’t be reading. Yeah, I know, I just repeated myself. ON PURPOSE, people. Because that’s the sum total of this entire discussion when you get right down to it, isn’t it?

    We are adults. Period.

    We can make our own decisions. Period.

    Nothing makes me crazier than someone telling us that we should read everything regardless of whether we like it or not. If I want information about whether I might not even want to finish a book or not before I even buy the damn thing, then you better believe I’m either going to get that information or I’m not going to get the book. There is no middle ground on that one except with authors I already know and trust.

    Trust is earned and trust can be lost.

    And then there the other two factors, which are time and money. Now some of you might have unlimited amounts of both but I suspect most of us don’t. We have to budget both. Budgeting means prioritizing and prioritizing means figuring out what gets us the most bang for the buck.

    Read everything? Yeah, right.

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  97. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 17:36:48

    There are two problems for me -

    One, saying that something should or shouldn’t be a romance. That just smacks of the whole ‘defining romance’ thing, and well, we know where that went.

    And then the labeling thing. While understand that some people want labels attached, there are also people who don’t want labels attached. Apart from the whole what all should be labeled, and according to whose decision, where should these be labeled? In the books? I think that publishers might hesitate, since places like Walmart might decide to not carry any books featuring non-consensual sex, and other iffy labels etc., leading to (some) publishers potentially pushing authors to not write about such issues and affecting writer’s freedoms and choices. Plus the logistical factors. For review sites to add labels, well, that’s up to the those sites, and again, as there are readers who want books labels and others who don’t want them labeled.

    Personally, I try to get information on books, and well, there are going to be hits and misses. There are writers that make some subject matters work for me, even if I don’t normally like them. And of course, there are misses too. If I really don’t like it, I return it. C’est la vie.

    I find it highly ironic that on the one hand, some people criticize Avon as a mainstream publisher for putting out a book such as CtC, and at the same time there are all the criticism about the Avonization of romance. Seems like a no-win scenario for Avon.

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  98. Janine
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 18:08:53

    I find it highly ironic that on the one hand, some people criticize Avon as a mainstream publisher for putting out a book such as CtC, and at the same time there are all the criticism about the Avonization of romance. Seems like a no-win scenario for Avon.

    But are these the same people making these two criticisms?

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  99. Stephanie Feagan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 18:27:48

    Okay, somebody fess up – this is all an elaborate publicity stunt, right? It worked – I never heard of this book until all the brouhaha and now, well, I have to read it.

    Have to.

    (And yes, I’m kidding – I know it’s not a stunt. But I really do have to read it now.)

    Anytime I hear something that smacks of censorship, or curtailing what’s out there to read, it hits a chord with me. I’ve been told I can’t write a women’s fiction about a woman who has an affair. Oh, I can write it, but no publisher will buy it, because they fear no readers will buy it. I was also rejected on a project that featured anti-heroes who are sons of the devil because Wal-Mart wouldn’t stock it. The project has been revised and Lucifer downgraded to a minion. It rankled to do it, but I love the project, so I revised with an eye to Wal-Mart, because I’ve been told, without Wal-Mart, you’re toast. (Aside: It’s a bit ironic, since so many consider Wal-Mart to be Satan. LOL!)

    I’ve had a few other ideas for projects over the years that got shot down because ‘no one will buy it.’

    I’m very curious to read this book – but even if I never get around to reading it, I’ll buy it to show support for an author and her publisher who took a chance on something ‘no one will buy.’

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  100. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 18:41:46

    I’ve been told I can’t write a women’s fiction about a woman who has an affair. Oh, I can write it, but no publisher will buy it, because they fear no readers will buy it.

    What?!?

    I suddenly feel like Jack on Stargate. I need a translation. Or a drink.

    Why wouldn’t this be okay in women’s fiction?

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  101. LinM
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 18:56:55

    There are two problems for me – One, saying that something should or shouldn’t be a romance

    This is the sticking point for me as well.

    A few months ago, Jane asked “Does a romance need an HEA”. I would have said “no” (this puts me firmly in the dunce corner – too bad, so sad, won’t be the last time).

    Bronwyn Clarke asked if the romance genre is too broad. I was surprised that the question was even posed – I want to choose from the entire spectrum – the good books, the trite books, the books with TSTL heroines, the books that push the envelope, the books that sit comfortably in the genre and still shine. Some days I like the envelope pushers and some days I like the TSTL virgin taking care of her sister’s secret baby. I want them all whether or not I choose to read them.

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  102. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:11:17

    [quote comment="26416"]

    I find it highly ironic that on the one hand, some people criticize Avon as a mainstream publisher for putting out a book such as CtC, and at the same time there are all the criticism about the Avonization of romance. Seems like a no-win scenario for Avon.

    But are these the same people making these two criticisms?[/quote]

    Hmmm, good question, I really don’t know, but I don’t think so. I would be interesting to ask those who object to CtC being published by Avon.

    I guess that’s part of the problem Avon faces – that some people have certain expectations with regards to Avon romances, and then those who are frustrated with Avon ‘not breaking the rules.’ So that’s what I mean what the no-win scenario is – those who want other books from Avon, and those who are upset when there are other books from Avon.

    [quote comment="26420"]I suddenly feel like Jack on Stargate. I need a translation. Or a drink.[/quote]

    Jack! I love Jack! I miss him on Stargate.

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  103. Stephanie Feagan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:12:57

    Bev, it goes to what women want to read – and they evidently don’t want to read about a woman who has an affair. I remember reading a statistic of how many married women stray, and I can’t recall the number off the top of my head, but it seriously blew my mind. I guess June Cleaver never thought about having an affair because she was at home, vacuuming in her pearls. Nowadays, June’s out in the world, sees alternatives to her unhappy life. Wrong, yes, but it’s not as uncommon as we wish it was.

    I thought to show a woman who gets broadsided with what looks to be recovery of a lost chance – who among us hasn’t wished we could go back to the fork in the road? – and as her journey progresses, she realizes it’s impossible, that to be happy in life, we have to make peace with the decisions we made. If they were wrong, go forward and make changes – but nobody gets a do-over.

    I had this whole grand idea – had half the damn book written. But it was shot down before it ever got out of the gate. I could do it if the husband was the one to stray – but obviously, that would be an entirely different story.

    Sorry – I didn’t mean to ramble on…and on. :) This is just a subject that hits home for me – NOT writing books we want to write because of reader prejudice. Then again, the businesswoman in me totally gets it – if no one will buy it, why publish it?

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  104. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:24:54

    I suddenly feel like Jack on Stargate. I need a translation. Or a drink.

    I just opened a bottle of one of my very favorite wines, and already things are looking better.

    I had this whole grand idea – had half the damn book written. But it was shot down before it ever got out of the gate.

    When you got shot down, was any authority given for the opinion that no one would read it? Like, is it because publishers get so many letters or is it reader blogs or review sites or sales numbers or what? I sometimes get the impression that this whole sales and publishing thing is a bit of “ignore the man behind the curtain” smokescreening, with a bunch of assumptions that become self-fulfilling without ever being tested. Or at least that’s how it seems down here in the cheap seats.

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  105. romblogreader
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:25:13

    I think that sometimes the hot emotions of content overrides the actual reading and processing of the words on the page. When a certain reader picks up on scenarios that are their personal hot buttons, they start getiing angry and skimming- and in the back of their mind is a high pitched angry screech obliterating all of the nuances that the author is trying to get across.”

    I think Eva hits the nail on the head here. Obviously, there’s a huge market for inoffensive, feel good, middle of the road romance. Plenty of people buy it and write it by the boatload. But when you start working controversial content in (whether it’s anal sex or forced seduction or adultery or what have you) there’s a certain portion of the reading public that simply can not enjoy your high wire act, no matter how well you execute it (and others who’ll love it no matter how crappily you write it because for them, forced seduction is the thing.

    And them you can’t control, so fine. But for the majority of us, you’ll probably have juggle carefully with those potential fireballs, because it’s a delicate thing to make a some of them work. You’ll be reaching, and if you don’t do it right, you’ll probably fail more spectacularly than if you stuck to the rubber balls and bowling pins.

    On the other hand, for those of us who’ve seen the same serviceable balls and pins show for the last five books we’ve bought, and the only variation we’ve seen has been the color of the balls…if you do manage to pull off the chainsaw and torches routine…if you do stick that landing, we’re going to remember you.

    Not that this analogy isn’t full of holes, mind you, but the writers who push the boundaries of not only what’s acceptable but also what’s emotionally comfortable yet manage to bring us out the other side with a believable HEA…they will necessarily lose a portion of their audience because of the topics they choose to address. And obviously they have to face a lot of “That’s not juggling! Juggling does not involve chainsaws and torches and OMG are those chickens? No one warned me about the chickens! I can’t stand cruelty to animals, I want my money back.”

    But if they pull it off? They’re going to stand out in a sea of servicable or even very good rubber ball jugglers. You may not want to invite them to your kid’s birthday party or always have the emotional energy to watch them, but for those of us who, frankly, are often disappointed by predictable plotlines, who long for surprise, chances are we’re going to appreciate the variation.

    If (and this is hugely important) you manage to pull your juggling act off. Because if you drop a few rubber balls and pick them back up again and keep going, eh. Okay. Tepid applause. No one’s going to run you out of town. With the chickens and chainsaws, though….you’ve got the chance to fail much more spectacularly. That being said, if you do manage to pull off the chickens and chainsaws, I’m a hell of a lot more likely to go tell all my friends about it than I am with even the most skillful 7 rubber balls cascade that I’ve seen before.

    Anyway, I think I’ve run this analogy in to the ground (and to think it originally was going to involve cilantro and salsa) but suffice to say, I agree with Eva. Doesn’t matter how well you use your hot button issue, some readers are allergic to it, and you are necessarily making your book poison to those readers. But it’s precisely that intense emotional energy that can make some of those buttons so damn effective if used with care and skill and creativity. I don’t fault rubber ball jugglers, the world needs a lot of rubber ball jugglers. And I can really enjoy a good rubber ball juggling act. But I’m going to remember the chickens.

    I draw the line at kittens, though. Just a personal thing, YMMV. ;)

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  106. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:26:45

    Yeah, well, I could understand if they didn’t want to label a book with a woman having an affair in it romance but not women’s fiction? As to that, couldn’t you just sell it as fiction?

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  107. Janine
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:28:24

    Then again, the businesswoman in me totally gets it – if no one will buy it, why publish it?

    Hm. But how many people buy books on modern art? Poetry? Mysteries set in Venice? Those books still get published. I sometimes feel that the definition of “no one will buy it” that is used for the romance genre is different than the definition used in some other genres. As a reader, that bothers me. If mystery readers get diverse settings, why can’t romance readers? Do those mysteries with unusual settings really sell better than romances with unusual settings?

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  108. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:28:50

    Doesn’t Susan Kay Law’s new book feature some infidelity on the part of the wife? Or doesn’t it count if the husband does it first?

    ReplyReply

  109. Janine
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:33:33

    Megan Hart has an erotic novel from Harlequin Spice coming out that features adultery on the wife’s part, too.

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  110. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:41:36

    Okay, something’s tickling at the back of my admittedly very tired brain and it’s driving me more nuts than usual. I know Dreyer has at least one pen and I did a brief check of her site but didn’t see what I was looking for. I don’t think I’ve read any of her books under any name but somewhere in the back of my head I’m thinking she has a book that got a lot of discussion years ago for being extremely controversial for some reason.

    I’m thinking a medical storyline of some type. Tearjerker. Which would definitely explain why I haven’t read it but what I can’t recall is why it would be controversial. Or was it?

    Or am I thinking of completely the wrong author? Completely possible but it’s bugging me all day and I finally had to ask.

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  111. Shannon
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:47:23

    Kathleen Korbel—amazing category romances. Amazing. I loved Some Men’s Dreams, though A Rose for Maggie is one of my all-time favorites, and features a child with Down’s Syndrome. Wicked emotional books.

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  112. Stephanie Feagan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:53:40

    As I recall, we were targeting a major publishing house’s trade paperback women’s fiction line, some of which border on literary fiction. I’d rather not get into the whys and wherefores, because it’s personal business and all that – but I was given an emphatic no on the idea from one who has the ability to say no. If that made any sense at all?

    I was knocked clean off my soapbox – the double standard blew me away. We can write angsty stories about women who are cheated upon, but make a heroine the cheater and you may as well slide that sucker under the bed to keep company with all the romance manuscripts with rape scenes. (kidding!)

    Back to the point – I don’t find rape at all romantic, or seductive. But then, rape has touched my life to a degree that makes me extremely prejudiced. I’m also not big on romances with kids in them, probably because I raised two and as much as I love them, they didn’t do a lot for my love life. Very unromantic, are kids – to me, anyway. I’m also not fond of romances set in Chicago, because something very bad happened to me in Chicago. Hmm, let’s see – I’ve never been a big fan of romances that feature cowboys, but that’s because I live in west Texas, where cowboys are a dime a dozen, and the real thing just can’t hold up the fantasy for me.

    Does that mean someone shouldn’t write about a cowboy with a kid in Chicago who forces his woman into having sex with him? Hell no. I won’t be a buyer of the book, but the lady next to me at Barnes & Noble might think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

    I don’t think juggling chickens and chainsaws will get a writer run out of town. From where I’m standing, if she gets somebody to underwrite her juggling act, she’s pretty damn awesome already. If some readers call foul (fowl?), others will applaud.

    Ain’t diversity grand? And isn’t it lovely how we’re all adults, with the ability, and I should say the privilege, of choosing what we want to read? What a dull life it would be if writers began second-guessing their story premises.

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  113. Anji
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 19:54:25

    Did some googling and found her referred to as Eileen Dryer aka Kathleen Korbel for the 2007 RT Booklovers Convention.

    And she’s posted in on her webpage too.

    Oh goody. They have a Mr. Romance Cover Model Competition at that convention.

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  114. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:00:23

    Kathleen Korbel—amazing category romances. Amazing. I loved Some Men’s Dreams, though A Rose for Maggie is one of my all-time favorites, and features a child with Down’s Syndrome. Wicked emotional books.

    Yeah. Has she done anything with a transplant in it? Because that’s the word that’s been whispering in my head all day. Seems like there was quite a stir several years ago over a romance with child getting a transplant in it because there was something odd about the romance in it. I just can’t remember if it was Dreyer/Korbel or another author.

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  115. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:05:35

    Bev, maybe the book you’re thinking about is Korbel’s A Soldier’s Heart — which features a heroine (trauma nurse — Vietnam?) with post traumatic stress disorder? I own it but haven’t yet read it.

    Stephanie — thanks; I wasn’t trying to pry into your personal business; I’m just curious about whether anyone actually *knows* books with X, Y, and Z won’t sell or whether they, you know, just assume.

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  116. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:15:22

    Bev, maybe the book you’re thinking about is Korbel’s A Soldier’s Heart — which features a heroine (trauma nurse — Vietnam?) with post traumatic stress disorder? I own it but haven’t yet read it.

    Oh, no, that wasn’t the one I’m thinking of, but I do remember people talking about it now that you describe it. Not all the comments were positive either if I remember correctly.

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  117. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:21:08

    [quote comment="26416"]

    I find it highly ironic that on the one hand, some people criticize Avon as a mainstream publisher for putting out a book such as CtC, and at the same time there are all the criticism about the Avonization of romance. Seems like a no-win scenario for Avon.

    But are these the same people making these two criticisms?[/quote]

    Seriously? LOL you don’t visit AAR much do you? You can search by reviewer in the review database, prolly by reviewer and publisher. Yes same people saying it. No clue about the Eileen person.

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  118. Stephanie Feagan
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:23:09

    Robin, I totally see what you were getting at, and frankly, the answer is – I don’t know. In my opinion, this is why the eBook industry has grown by leaps and bounds and will continue to do so. They’re willing to take risks and put something out there that’s controversial. Print publishers seem to be far more conservative. Like I said, the businesswoman in me can see why. If they put out a book with a premise that’s traditionally unfavored by readers, they’re taking a huge chance. I suspect, if Nora or any other author in the stratosphere chose to write a book with a controversial element, she might be given that chance, based on her readership. But for a newbie like me, whose readership is small and limited to Bombshell readers – where ARE they??? – not so much.

    Hey, I write. I don’t market, and don’t have access to surveys and demographics. If someone in the publishing world tells me something won’t sell, I take it at face value. It’s not as though I have a choice, actually. I want to sell books to readers, but first, I have to sell it to a publisher.

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  119. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:28:03

    Oh, no, that wasn’t the one I’m thinking of, but I do remember people talking about it now that you describe it. Not all the comments were positive either if I remember correctly.

    I know she writes Romantic suspense, but haven’t read any of her books. I understand Dreyer, Crusie, and Stuart have all co-authored a book, though, and I wonder about her take on Sister Krissie’s books — no abusive dysfunctional relationships there, LOL!

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  120. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:38:17

    Robin replies:
    April 10th, 2007 |

    Since I’m not familiar with BDSM stories, can you explain what you mean?

    Wine in hand. Long post ahead, and I’ll try and make myself clear, because at this point the theory is just solidifying. (Warning to all BDSMers-this is abbreviated, I’m sure I’m not going to get it all, K?)

    I’m going to assume you know what a Dominant and Submissive are? When a submissive shops for a Dominant they like and trust, before any sexual/play begins there will be a signing of a contract. ie; safe words, no anal, no ropes-what have you. It’s a very precise thing. (I’m sure it can also be done on a napkin:)

    Now this sub has agreed to let this Dominant have a certain measure of power over them-whatever they allow. (And the sub has control in the relationship. Took me a while to get that one, but tis true-the Dom/me acts for the pleasure of the Sub-which puts the Sub in control)

    So, say for instance, the Sub wants to be overtaken, and sets this scene up with her Dom. She wants it a little rough, she wants to be overwhelmed by him.

    The only thing that seperates a BDSM scene like that, from a forced seduction is the contract.

    My theory is that writers of forced seductions have certain aspects in place-trust, on some level, and desire.

    Many sexual statistics also say that a forced scene is one that women most fantasize about-we hear it-we poopoo it, but it always comes out ranking first. this doesn’t mean that the woman wants to be raped, it means that she wants to be sexually overwhelmed by a person she trusts. (and that level of trust is different for everyone) To me- that sounds like a Dom/sub relationship, played out in a diferent setting. I have a lifestlyer friend who says that ANY bondage in the bedroom is a form of BDSM play, even though the couple may not knowingly understand the term. It’s a power play, an exchange of energy. I think forced seduction writers tap into this and it’s all in the nuances of the motivations of the characters.

    Huh. that wasn’t as long as I thought, but I still may not have gotten my point across. Volly to Robin. :)

    I had this whole grand idea – had half the damn book written. But it was shot down before it ever got out of the gate. I could do it if the husband was the one to stray – but obviously, that would be an entirely different story.

    Read Hot Water by Kathryn Jordan. Wife strays-not only strays-but sets up her to be ex diabolically. Really great book. One of my faves. I can hear the quick intake of breath. OH! How horrible! Not in the hands of a gifted writer. It’s all in the motivation of the characters.

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  121. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:43:54

    I suspect, if Nora or any other author in the stratosphere chose to write a book with a controversial element, she might be given that chance, based on her readership. But for a newbie like me, whose readership is small and limited to Bombshell readers – where ARE they??? – not so much.

    All of which practically begs the question as to how a first time author got what they had to know was going to be a hugely controversial storyline past the editors at Avon of all places . . . .

    Okay, I’m going to bed now. My cynicism is showing. ;p

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  122. LinM
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:50:38

    I wonder about her take on Sister Krissie’s books — no abusive dysfunctional relationships there

    My poor keyboard – I picked up “Ice Blue” and read the end – a re-union worthy of Mary Balogh – Sister Krissie – nooooo. I fled.

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  123. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:53:25

    Man, I completely LOVE Sister Krissie. Ritual Sins? What a great weird book. The more tormented and strange the hero, if the writer can give me a HEA, I’m so there.

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  124. Sybil
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 20:53:52

    [quote comment="26440"]Kathleen Korbel—amazing category romances. Amazing. I loved Some Men’s Dreams, though A Rose for Maggie is one of my all-time favorites, and features a child with Down’s Syndrome. Wicked emotional books.

    Yeah. Has she done anything with a transplant in it? Because that’s the word that’s been whispering in my head all day. Seems like there was quite a stir several years ago over a romance with child getting a transplant in it because there was something odd about the romance in it. I just can’t remember if it was Dreyer/Korbel or another author.[/quote]
    I think you are thinking of A Rose for Maggie.

    She has Down’s but also has a hole in her heart and there is a surgery… she almost dies… lots of angst and such.

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  125. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 21:02:26

    Okay, I didn’t quite make it to bed before I saw this.

    Many sexual statistics also say that a forced scene is one that women most fantasize about-we hear it-we poopoo it, but it always comes out ranking first. this doesn’t mean that the woman wants to be raped, it means that she wants to be sexually overwhelmed by a person she trusts.

    Yes, somebody gets it. She’s talking about those attitudes I’ve been harping on for the last several discussions where this has come up. Trust is one of them. Respect is another.

    The ones that have read CotC – go back and reread the “rape” scene, then come back and tell us something. Does Verity trust Justine? Put that into perspective and it answers quite a few questions. Why? Because it shifts the focus from his future redemption to her immediate situation. And when we get right down to it, that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Should we be worrying about him or her?

    Of course, none of you are probably going to agree which will naturally complicate things but what else is not new. Have fun anyway. :D

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  126. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 21:15:17

    Bev, I’m reading CtC right now,and already, by page 22, I see the writer laying the framework, but she does it so deftly if you’re flying over it you’ll miss it. I am underlining the sentances. :)

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  127. Eva Gale
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 21:18:07

    And the hardest part, is that women are being told the wanting of the fantasy is bad. So that aspect of their sexuality must be wrong, and therefore, turmoil.

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  128. Bev(BB)
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 21:35:24

    And the hardest part, is that women are being told the wanting of the fantasy is bad. So that aspect of their sexuality must be wrong, and therefore, turmoil.

    Well, wanting the fantasy with someone you can’t trust is usually disasterous. Period. And therein lies the reason it isn’t about the sex but the attitudes. Always, ALWAYS look at the underlying attitudes.

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  129. Rules « Trivial Pursuits
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 21:54:11

    [...] There are a couple of different places in blog land talking about rules.  Over at Dear Author, Jane raises some valid opinions about things like rape in romances, abuse, and [...]

  130. Robin
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 22:16:05

    Eva: I wondered if you were getting at the power/trust issues, especially as they pertain to the sub actually holding the reins, which is, I agree, a dynamic that seems to be identical to that of the rape fantasy as a sexual fantasy.

    I actually think there are several ways in which rape and forced seduction are used in Romance, and the one you’re referring to is, IMO, the one where the heroine might not say yes, but we know at some level she’s cooperating and we sort of vicariously experience the turn on through her, even if she’s not explicitly consenting. I tend to track the rape/fs thing on a sliding scale of consent, from a clear consent on the part of the heroine to no consent and the decision on the part of the reader as to whether she consents, either on behalf of the heroine or in spite of her. By reader consent, I don’t just mean that the reader thinks it’s okay for the hero to force the heroine, but rather that she allows the force to exist within the parameters of the romantic relationship and HEA.

    Sometimes a heroine is, IMO, truly forced, as in Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold, and then the dynamic in the book is different, because it’s not about the reader getting off on the fantasy (even though she might, since that’s the nature of fantasy — it’s not always logical or PC), it’s about all sorts of other power and control issues, which IMO have to be analyzed differently. Those are the scenarios where we tend to debate things like can the hero be redeemed, can the heroine be seen as equal in her power, can we forgive what happened, etc. Some readers can’t see a raping hero as redeemable, and others can. Some readers tend to look at whether the heroine has equivalent power, and others tend to look primarily at the nature of the HEA or the amount of groveling the hero does (or some combination). One of the problems, IMO, when we talk about rape in Romance, is that we don’t even get a chance to parse out these nuances because we can’t get past the “how can an author say rape is okay” debate.

    So when you and Bev, for example, talk about trust, that seems to me to relate expressly to the rape fantasy as a sexual fantasy (which, as you say, is still very misunderstood). I don’t think that kind of scenario is what Campbell has created in CtC; for Justin and Verity, the forced scenes are quite dark, and IMO the first scene is unequivocally a rape. As someone (Keziah Hill?) said, what’s sticky in Campbell’s book is that fact that Verity has feelings for Justin, which eventually evolve into love, and Justin cannot, of course, initially disentangle his desire from desperation, anger, and fear, which prompts him to force himself on Verity in a way that isn’t healthy or truly consensual. But I think Campbell is absolutely aware of what she’s doing there, and that she really is using Justin’s domination of Verity to show his completely ass backward idea that he can force him to love her and to become the woman he always imagined and wanted her to be because he’s so whacked himself and incapable of having a normal relationship. And IMO that’s a totally valid Romance scenario, because whether or not we all think Campbell did or didn’t pull off Justin’s redemption, IMO a great deal of Romance is about how love heals, and about the extreme conditions under which love can prevail. So in some ways, I think you could argue that testing the boundaries of that is actually one of the *fundamental* projects of Romance.

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  131. Charlene
    Apr 10, 2007 @ 22:55:48

    Nicely said, Jane. Both readers and authors have to choose what works for them.

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  132. Eva Gale
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 07:42:18

    Wow. OK-let me get more coffee and come back to this. Before I lose the thought though, there are many of different levels of the Dom/sub relationship and sometimes the sub may not want what the Dom is doing, and there is a subtle power play at work where a sub will have to rely on the trust only.

    I haven’t gotten to the first scene yet, but where I said that I saw Ms Campbell laying the foundation was in a few lines here and there of how Justin was never violent, how his father was an addict etc. His extreme control, his emotional barriers. There were more, I’ll go back. But what I think she’s trying to do is show that what he does is out of character for him, and that it’s the extreme his emotions are brought to. But again, I haven’t gotten there.

    Well, wanting the fantasy with someone you can’t trust is usually disasterous. Period. And therein lies the reason it isn’t about the sex but the attitudes. Always, ALWAYS look at the underlying attitudes.

    Of course.

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  133. Bev(BB)
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 08:57:02

    Uh, guys, er, gals, just ran across an interesting post on Angela Knight’s blog called Where Have All The Balls Gone? that dovetails nicely with this discussion.

    Sort of. (Blinking innocently)

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  134. Laura Vivanco
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 09:35:34

    Bev, that is so cruel. I already have eye-strain from reading the current round of debate and now you’re throwing this in. (Blinking and square-eyed) ;-)

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  135. Jane
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 09:53:45

    I don’t really get Knight’s argument because I feel like so many of the heroes are pricks these days. I wonder where the honorable guys have all gone! LOL. different strokes, definitely.

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  136. Eva Gale
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 10:07:17

    Well there were a lot of undercurrents in the post. Imus, what’s been happening in the blogs.

    None of the heroes I’ve read have been pricks-but I’m not done with CtC. But so far, I see no prickage (angry man who does something wrong is not a prick to me-we all do wrong things).

    OK, must go write. *peels herself away from screen* this is why I write on the laptop.

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  137. Eva Gale
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 10:09:02

    Huh. Comment didn’t go through. Grrrr….

    Gah. Can’t do it again. Must go write. This is why I have a laptop.

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  138. Bev(BB)
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 10:09:31

    Well, how do you think I feel running across that one without coffee in my hands this morning?!? Which is probably a good thing or most likely I would’ve spewed it over the keyboard all things considered.

    Hey, and it didn’t help that I was already a little distracted trying to decipher Robin’s last post from last night. ;)

    Life is just not fair, people. Hehehe.

    Not to mention, I’m trying to figure out how Knight’s blog got into my subscriptions in the first place since I haven’t read any of her books. Maybe. I’ll have to check. I think my daughter does and I may’ve been doing research for her. At least that sounds reasonable . . . I think I’m going to let her start doing her own from now on. :p

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  139. Bev(BB)
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 11:55:16

    [quote comment="26508"]I don’t really get Knight’s argument because I feel like so many of the heroes are pricks these days. I wonder where the honorable guys have all gone! LOL. different strokes, definitely.[/quote]

    You know the part that gets me? Where someone, and I’m not sure who at the moment and I’m not going back to reread it again yet, complained about all the ballsy heroines turning the heroes into wimps in romances nowadays.

    Huh?

    First, where are they finding these books because I want to read some of them but the next question is how do I reconcile that with all the complaints about wimpy, TSTL heroines? I mean I know the genre is broad and diverse but come on,

    Or am I in generalization hell again?

    ReplyReply

  140. Wednesday Web Wanderer « Milady Insanity
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 12:20:22

    [...] A Reader in the Middle on Dear Author. Me, my take is that a reader, you have no right to tell a writer that she cannot write anything. And on the reverse, it’s not like any author’s going to force you to read her book, right? [...]

  141. Robin
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 14:06:40

    I have to admit that I chuckled a bit when Knight praised JR Ward’s books as innovative and boundary-pushing in terms of the heroes. Yeah, the homoerotic elements are edgy, but I don’t know how much else is, really. Yeah, they’re over the top, but is that groundbreaking? And what about the heroines; for every inch the heroes gain in ballsiness, the heroines lose, which is what, IMO, allows Ward to get away with so much. And IMO she tames every one of those guys so ruthlessly by the end of their respective book, that the message that real men have big balls, or whatever Knight’s going for there, is basically a hypothetical where Ward’s guys are concerned. Zsadist had some teeth, especially with the whole penis/it thing, but he’s basically reduced to an insecure kid at the end of the book, hoping Bella will approve of his roughly written declaration of love. Poodle or no poodle?

    I’m so on board for interesting heroes, but I am a little concerned that there’s a perception that they can’t be nice guys or beta heroes or whatever. I loved Hugh from Meljean Brook’s Demon Angel, and Christy from To Love and To Cherish is still near the top of my list of greatest Romance heroes ever, right next to Ruck from Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart.

    IMO *interesting* heroes don’t boil down to a choice between good guys and bad boys; it’s all about creating depth in one’s characterization, and we see the lack of such in both the good and the bad hero types these days.

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  142. Robin
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 14:08:23

    Hey, I got a message that my “comment looks dirty” — is that because I used the “p” word?

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  143. Janine
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 15:01:16

    I think Knight was referring to authors (rather than characters) with balls in the title of her post. I think the edginess of Ward’s books goes beyond the homoeroticism. For example there’s Rhage’s feeding from one of the Chosen and at one point, sleeping with someone other than Mary. Or Mary remaining infertile. Or Wrath’s being married to Marissa (even if only in name only) when he met Beth. Or Marissa’s first experience of sex being awkward and painful. Ward takes some risks in these books, in my opinion.

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  144. Robin
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 16:36:17

    I think the edginess of Ward’s books goes beyond the homoeroticism. For example there’s Rhage’s feeding from one of the Chosen and at one point, sleeping with someone other than Mary. Or Mary remaining infertile. Or Wrath’s being married to Marissa (even if only in name only) when he met Beth. Or Marissa’s first experience of sex being awkward and painful. Ward takes some risks in these books, in my opinion.

    On the surface, Janine, I agree with you. But maybe because MaryJanice Davidson already did the whole feeding/sex with other people thing in the first Betsy Taylor book, some of that stuff in Ward doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking to me. And the thing with Marissa felt really traditional to me, because she was the virgin heroine, and pain is a traditional marker of the virgin heroine, paranormal or not. As for Mary, yeah, maybe that’s riskier. Why doesn’t it feel that way to me, though? I’ll have to think about that. I know I felt disappointed when Ward put a nix on the Vishous/Butch possibilities so explicitly in Lover Revealed. And I wonder if in V’s book, once he finds his mate, will he still dig on Butch?

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  145. Eva Gale
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 17:42:21

    Robin, was it you that commented somewhere about horses being gentled/broken? That was what started me on the BDSM thought process. Because sometimes a person is ‘broken’ in a BDSM story. Eden Bradley’s Breaking Skye pubbed by Phaze.

    And I have not read all of JR’s books and in all honesty, I don’t remember the details of them to know who did what first. Although I’d say Lk Hamilton did most of it first? But that might not count because it’s not ‘romance’?

    Jane-what heroes are pricks? I have to admit-I read all over the place so I might miss a lot.

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  146. Robin
    Apr 11, 2007 @ 22:48:41

    Robin, was it you that commented somewhere about horses being gentled/broken? That was what started me on the BDSM thought process. Because sometimes a person is ‘broken’ in a BDSM story. Eden Bradley’s Breaking Skye pubbed by Phaze.

    I know I responded to Bev’s use of the horse metaphor, but she initiated it (I’m not a big fan of that metaphor — too many years of horse rescue work, probably). I’m anxiously awaiting your extended BDSM analysis, though — very provocative idea, that’s for sure.

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  147. Tara Marie
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 06:41:59

    I know I felt disappointed when Ward put a nix on the Vishous/Butch possibilities so explicitly in Lover Revealed. And I wonder if in V’s book, once he finds his mate, will he still dig on Butch?

    Even though I was disappointed, I wasn’t really surprised by the “nix” I’m not sure how ready mainstream romance readers or a Mainstream publisher would have been for a m/m relationship or a m/m/f since Butch was still obsessed by Marissa.

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  148. Robin
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 08:54:52

    Even though I was disappointed, I wasn’t really surprised by the “nix" I’m not sure how ready mainstream romance readers or a Mainstream publisher would have been for a m/m relationship or a m/m/f since Butch was still obsessed by Marissa.

    Very true; plus apparently the Cellies were very vocal in their dislike for even the attraction. I actually never expected Ward to take it to the limit with Butch and V, but I enjoyed the undercurrents. Though as someone pointed out to me, Butch was largely oblivious to V’s desire for much of the time. I’m guessing once V finds his woman that he just doesn’t have “those feelings” for Butch any longer, which IMO will take some of the fun out of their relationship.

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  149. Shannon
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 09:15:00

    I know I felt disappointed when Ward put a nix on the Vishous/Butch possibilities so explicitly in Lover Revealed. And I wonder if in V’s book, once he finds his mate, will he still dig on Butch?

    I kept hoping Marissa would mysteriously evaporate, leaving V and Butch to live happily ever after. I found their relationship to be one of the most compelling in the series. But I think the mainstream market would have choked on their cornflakes and no matter how big your boat is, you can only rock it so much.

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  150. Janine
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 09:26:57

    On the surface, Janine, I agree with you. But maybe because MaryJanice Davidson already did the whole feeding/sex with other people thing in the first Betsy Taylor book, some of that stuff in Ward doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking to me.

    I haven’t read MJD’s Betsy Taylor books, so I did not know that.

    And the thing with Marissa felt really traditional to me, because she was the virgin heroine, and pain is a traditional marker of the virgin heroine, paranormal or not.

    I didn’t state my point well. Romancelandia is full of orgasmic, even multi-orgasmic virgins. Yes, pain is a marker, but so is orgasm, especially with the hero. For a heroine to sleep with the hero and not see rainbows is unusual. For her to feel disappointed and not particularly enjoy it is even more unusual.

    As for Mary, yeah, maybe that’s riskier. Why doesn’t it feel that way to me, though? I’ll have to think about that.

    Let me know if you come up with a theory.

    I know I felt disappointed when Ward put a nix on the Vishous/Butch possibilities so explicitly in Lover Revealed. And I wonder if in V’s book, once he finds his mate, will he still dig on Butch?

    I was disappointed by the nix too. It will be interesting to see what happens with V and Butch.

    I see Ward’s books as a mixture of elements, some progressive and some regressive, but to me, that still makes her more ballsy than authors who don’t attempt to do something different in their books.

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  151. Robin
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 10:46:28

    I see Ward’s books as a mixture of elements, some progressive and some regressive, but to me, that still makes her more ballsy than authors who don’t attempt to do something different in their books.

    I think this is it right here, Janine — what I call the “Almost A Gentleman Effect.” When I read AAG, I thought at first, wow, look at how edgy this is — the hero actually has feelings for someone he thinks is a guy! But then, when the secret was revealed so early on, and the hero made the heroine dress as a girl so immediately, and when he was all relieved that he was really a she, blah blah blah, it felt like bait and switch to me. So instead of feeling that the book still went out on a limb, I felt instead that not only did it hug the trunk, but it cut the limb clean off the tree (and if you’re thinking castration here, I think that’s the appropriate metaphor).

    It’s the same with the BDB books for me, I think. At first, for example, right after I read LR, I thought it was kind of neat the way Ward blended V’s desire for Butch with his own unacknowledged yearning for a mated relationship. But then, after people started talking more about Butch and V, and when a friend of mine insisted that LR was a failed Romance to her because Butch and V were the *real* couple in the book, I started rethinking my own interpretation of V’s mixed feelings. Were they a nice nuance or a way to mainstream an erotic attraction for Butch by making it all about sublimated desire for his own mate? Or how about the way the BDB is so feral in some ways, but when it comes to their women, they’re basically slaves? When that point got pounded into the ground in LR I sighed, as well (poodles, anyone?).

    I haven’t traced through all the elements in the books, Janine, and you’re probably right that Ward should get more credit than I’m willing to give her right now, but whenever I get the sense that a book is rolling something edgy out only to transform it into something mainstream, I’m less tolerant than in other situations. Also, let me be clear that I’m not talking about simply declawing a danger, but actually turning something progressive into something *regressive* — that is, drawing it backwards so far it lands farther back than the place from which it seemed to begin.

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  152. Janine
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 15:57:05

    Robin, my take on LR is different because I never felt that Butch and V were the real couple. To me the book was always about Butch and Marissa — I felt a real and sizzling chemistry between those two (much stronger than any between the other couples in the BDB series) that was far more powerful than anything between Butch and V. So when I read that other people felt differently, I have to shrug it off because it was so far from my experience that it seems like wishful thinking to me.

    Maybe the reason Butch and Marissa felt more magnetic to me than Btuch and V was that Butch and Marissa were the first couple in the BDB series that felt like equals to me. Marissa, although she was a vampire, was just coming into some power, and Butch for most of the book was human and as vulnerable as she was (I was actually disappointed that Butch was turned into a vampire at the end). They were on equal ground, each had his or her strengths and weaknesses, but they were more or less equals and I found that really, really sexy.

    Butch and V were never equals, so that relationship, as interesting as it was, just wasn’t as hot to me. Butch felt like V’s pet in that relationship, and so, it doesn’t have the same appeal to me.

    I liked V’s feelings and I didn’t think Ward needed to make so explicit the fact that nothing would happen between him and Butch, but they never, ever felt like the real couple of the book to me because the zing between Butch and Marissa was just so potent.

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  153. Keziah Hill
    Apr 12, 2007 @ 23:40:52

    (I was actually disappointed that Butch was turned into a vampire at the end).
    Me too. I was hoping for something different. I’d like a human/vampire couple particularly having the woman as the vamp.

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  154. Robin
    Apr 13, 2007 @ 00:05:18

    I really envy your reading experience of Lover Revealed, Janine. For me the book was a disappointment, made bigger by the fact that I had really been looking forward to Butch’s story, because he had always been one of the most interesting characters to me. I thought, okay, if Ward can do the “normal” (i.e. human) in the paranormal, I’m in this series for the long run. But she just didn’t completely pull it off for me, and not because I think its impossible to make a human character as compelling as one of the vamps. The Butch-Marissa pairing felt lukewarm to me and I was kind of sorry to see Butch’s ultimate fate, mortality-wise. V had some great moments in LR, but in the same way Zsadist felt more dynamic to me in Rhage’s book, I’m afraid V will be domesticated in his own book. I know the “slave to love” thing is kind of the romance shtick, but I tend to find her characters most compelling when they fill a secondary role. Which I guess is a good thing, since so many secondary characters fail to engage my interest, but I wish I could recapture the excitement I felt when I read Dark Lover, which remains my favorite of the series by far.

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  155. Info for Romance Writers... « MoonSnails Magazine: The Official Blog
    Apr 14, 2007 @ 16:57:59

    [...] are a couple of different places in blog land talking about rules.  Over at Dear Author, Jane raises some valid opinions about things like rape in romances, abuse, and [...]

  156. Eva Gale
    Apr 14, 2007 @ 21:16:48

    ~I'm anxiously awaiting your extended BDSM analysis, though -’ very provocative idea, that's for sure.~

    I’m working on it. :)

    Also-why was everyone disappointed about Butch? I didn’t read it-but for him to get together with Marissa didn’t he HAVE To become one? Plus, wasn’t he becoming an AA candidate in the last one? (I forgot) Thos two tip offs to me meant he was going to be one. And he loved the Brotherhood, so I have to admit, I wasn’t so stoked for LR because I guessed where she was going with it.

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  157. Janine
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 15:03:36

    Robin, to reply to a couple of different points, I think I differ from you in that a mixture of progressive and regressive elements interests me more than blandness, and I’m not as hard on the authors because I often suspect that the the regressive aspects may come from demands that are made on them by others — perceptions of what some readers want, for example.

    Also, I don’t expect fantasies, especially sexual and romantic ones, to always conform with the politics of women’s liberation and other issues. I can accept a certain degree of regressive elements for that reason, and I will often follow an author whose books are progessive in some regards, to see if that impulse toward progressiveness will break free in future books. To take your example of Rosenthal, even though I did not care for Almost a Gentleman, in large part because it wasn’t as progressive as I wanted it to be, I continued to read her and was rewarded with the (in my opinion) very daring The Slightest Provocation.

    To get back to Ward, although it was not the case for me with Lover Revealed, I do agree with you that often the side characters are the most exciting. I will be very interested to see where Ward goes with Xhex, for example. And I will be sorry when John Matthew goes through his transition. But the fact that the side characters are more interesting doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the books overall. I have yet to love one of her books eough to give it an A- or A, but they have all been solidly in the B range for me. And since I enjoyed Lover Revealed most (it was one book where the main characters interested me most), I’m feeling more optimistic about the series than you are.

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  158. Janine
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 15:07:44

    Also-why was everyone disappointed about Butch? I didn't read it-but for him to get together with Marissa didn't he HAVE To become one? Plus, wasn't he becoming an AA candidate in the last one? (I forgot) Thos two tip offs to me meant he was going to be one. And he loved the Brotherhood, so I have to admit, I wasn't so stoked for LR because I guessed where she was going with it.

    Eva, no, Butch was not a candidate in the previous book and I don’t think he had to be a vampire to be with Marissa. My own disappointment in his change stems from the fact that I liked him better than the vampire characters because the fact that he wasn’t super-hero strong and was filled with insecurities about that made him feel more flesh-and-blood real to me, in comparison with the Brotherhood, and this made me care about him more.

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  159. Magical Musings » Blog Archive » Ramblings of a Wandering Mind
    Apr 18, 2007 @ 07:15:24

    [...] to dip my toe in the controversy pool by even bringing this up, but recent blogs, particularly this one, addressing the issue of forced seduction / rape in fiction, with specific reference to Claiming [...]

  160. kanya
    Jul 03, 2009 @ 02:04:33

    Thanks guys, good info.

    ReplyReply

  161. Info for Romance « EK’s Star Log
    Oct 19, 2009 @ 03:12:53

    [...] are a couple of different places in blog land talking about rules.  Over at Dear Author, Jane raises some valid opinions about things like rape in romances, abuse, and [...]

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