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The Shatnerization of Romance Books

On Friday, I posted a video of David Hasselhoff in a terribly cheesy music video. The video is quite entertaining from an “I can’t believe this is real” sort of way. Perhaps this video is so over the top that it is actually good. Perhaps this is the Shatner effect, where something uncool hits the lowest level of uncoolness and starts to circle around. It’s like the opposite of jumping the shark. Or perhaps it is where you can go after you’ve jumped the shark.

Maggie Davis’, Hustle, Sweet Love, is one that has a bit of the Shatner effect to it. The whole story is over the top from the clothes to the characters but all of the book is done with a sly wink and a nod as if the author knows the story is over the top and is going for exactly that effect.

Diana Palmer has a loyal following of readers, and smart ones at that. Her male characters are alpha to the extreme. They are callous, hard nosed, and rarely act with even of modicum of gentleness to the heroine. Yet, the males are loveable and readers can’t get enough. Aren’t these male characters being shatnerized? They are so bad they’re good?

I even saw Eloisa James post a picture of herself and Fabio. Fabio is the definition of cheese in the romance industry yet here is a well respected, educated romance novelist who boasts about meeting him and then actually posts a picture of herself next to Fabio. Fabio is definitely undergoing a shatnerization.

Lynsay Sands, in short story in Dates from Hell , attempted to be over the top and none of us who read it thought it was very funny. Obviously the attempt to shatnerize a story is perilous.

Cheese, like humor, is an individual thing. When can a book be so bad it’s good?

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


  1. Keishon
    Jun 26, 2006 @ 09:57:16

    Coltrain’s Proposal by Diana Palmer. Hero is a asshole, heroine a bit mousy but the book was very good. Read it one sitting. Palmer is my guilty pleasure read. I should hate her stuff because she sticks to formula but some of her books are good.

  2. Tara Marie
    Jun 27, 2006 @ 06:54:38

    Palmer is a guilty pleasure for many readers, I’ve not read anything by her in years, but The Australian sat on my keeper shelf for more years than I care to admit.

    I love alpha heros, but I can only take AHs in small doses. I’m thinking I might give one of her books a try during my next slump.

    Or perhaps it is where you can go after you’ve jumped the shark.

    LOL–that’s it.

    Cheese, like humor, is an individual thing. When can a book be so bad it’s good?

    I think this really depends on the situation and the book. If it’s done with a wink and a nod, you know the author isn’t taking herself too seriously. Yet, I’ve always thought the Palmer books deadly serious and this probably works because they’re technically well written, with a well defined story arc.

    The Hasselhoff thing is just wrong.

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