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Dear Bitches, Smart Authors Podcast, Episode No. 22, The Romance Canon

This is a big ol’ podcast: we start out talking briefly about novellas and short digital reads that I liked, but our main topic is the canon. What romances form the genre’s canon for historical, contemporary, and paranormal? We talk in circles a good bit (sorry about that) and we discuss what a canon is, and why it means different things to different groups. Writers and readers, for example may have different ideas of what their romance canon would be. ┬áBy the end, I’m convinced that what books belong in the canon depend in large part on how you define the canon. I’m not sure I know what the definition is.

I’m sure there’s many writers you think have been left off, and so if you’d like to add or subtract from our list, you can email us at

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Or, and this is new, you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-DBSA. If you want to tell us why we’re wrong (or right!) about something, leave us a message, and please don’t forget to give us a name and where you’re calling from so we can work your message into our next podcast.

The music this week is, as always, provided by Sassy Outwater, and yes, we are all about the peatbog! The track is called “Room 215″ and it’s by the Peatbog Faeries from their albums, which are available at their website. You can find them at iTunes as well.

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Here are some of the books we mentioned in this week’s edition:

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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

4 Comments

  1. Kim
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 12:33:00

    @Jane: I think you may have been incorrect about Nora Roberts being popular, but not necessarily canonical. I think she changed the face of category romances. Up until her time, many of the Harlequins consisted of emotionally abusive alpha males and their submissive heroines. With the launch of the Silhouette line and NR in particular, she imbued her heroines with inner strength and contemporary careers. A Nora Roberts’ heroine isn’t a doormat for any man.

    Also, as far as authors that take on controversial topics, I think Mary Jo Putney’s contemporaries and Paula Detmer Riggs’ categories probably rate a mention.

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  2. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 14:36:52

    I think she changed the face of category romances. Up until her time, many of the Harlequins consisted of emotionally abusive alpha males and their submissive heroines.

    As you suggest, though, there’s always been quite a bit of variation among Mills & Boons/Harlequins from any particular period, and in addition, there’s been variation from one decade to the next (as demonstrated by jay Dixon in her The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s. Some authors, like Violet Winspear, did write lots of very dominant heroes, but other M&B authors didn’t (for example, I’d never classify Betty Neels’ heroes as “emotionally abusive” even though they do tend to be older and richer than their heroines). What Nora herself has written (in North American Romance Writers is that

    in the late seventies and early eighties, many of the heroines of the romance novel were young and naive and most usually orphaned. The hero was typically older, more experienced – in every way – and too often, perhaps, emotionally domineering. (199)

    Interestingly, she also mentions that she “zipped through Cinderella, moved on to Nancy Drew, and headed full steam into Mary Stewart” (200). Mary Stewart wasn’t mentioned in the podcast, but she wrote romantic suspense and although quite a lot of her heroines are young and/or orphaned, they tend to be quite determined and brave, so it seems one could consider her novels an influence on Nora Roberts.

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  3. Jane
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 18:11:10

    @Kim – I am not familiar with the category history. I hope I didn’t sound as if I didn’t think Nora was influential. I think she is hugely influential and she belongs somewhere at the top of the list of influential authors. But for some reason I find her writing very unique. It’s possible that her influence is simply so pervasive that no modern day heroine escapes the Roberts’ influence.

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  4. MaryAnn
    Mar 29, 2012 @ 19:06:50

    Great podcast! I love thinking about the romance canon, especially the historical one. I think you guys missed a couple of key canonical authors though.

    Loretta Chase is definitely a canonical historical romance writer and her books have been enormously influential. Lord of Scoundrels may be the most important historical novel published in the last 20 years. And her books continue to be influential… just look at the rash of courtesan romances following the release of Your Scandalous Ways. In terms of the authors that are most directly influenced by Chase, Tessa Dare comes most immediately to mind but there are a number of others.

    Judith Ivory’s influence isn’t as widespread but I think she has been at least as influential as Kinsale on the new wave of serious historicals writers that has emerged over the last five years. Duran and Thomas in particular are clearly deeply influenced by her work, most obviously by her use of a Victorian setting, but also by her careful use of history, her highly nuanced characters, and her desire to push the envelope creatively. I think she’s also been very influential on Coutrney Milan and Elizabeth Hoyt. Ivory’s a great example of how a little read author can nevertheless be extremely influential.

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