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Harlequin-Presents

Wednesday News: B&N Rebrands PubIt! and Water Is Wet

Wednesday News: B&N Rebrands PubIt! and Water Is Wet

But only 11% of overall revenues are from digital (but circulation revenue is not being separated out entirely because many of the subscriptions are a print + digital access). But the worst data point is that three of ten readers have abandoned news outlets because “it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.” Anyway, interesting stuff there. Newsonomics

Nook Press

The part that I thought was interesting was this tidbit “Customer demand for great independent content continues to dramatically increase as 30% of NOOK customers purchase self-published content each month, representing 25% of NOOK Book™ sales every month.” Amazon has said that a quarter of its top 100 books are self published. That’s not exactly the same statistic but those numbers give weight to the encroachment of self publishing into the book budgets of consumers.

The Nook Press Terms of Service indicate that the self published author is not in charge of retail pricing. “Customer Prices. We have sole and complete discretion to set the Retail Price at which your eBooks are sold to the customer.” Royalties are paid off the list price, however, similar to Amazon. Also, like Amazon, the price cannot be greater “at any other the eBook’s List Price at any other retailer, website, or sales channel.” Meaning, if you put a book on sale at Smashwords, it should be lower at BN as well. DRM is optional. Publishers Weekly | Press Release

But it’s the formula that Vivanco is critiquing here, not the writing. Because these novels are so formulaic, they are policed rather than edited. Anything that transcends the formula will be edited out if the publisher thinks that The Reader or The Buyer (much more important) will not like it, so applying the principles of literary criticism to a formula seems a bit pointless.

Don’t worry your pretty little heads about it, though, because, after all, WHO ARE THOSE WOMEN WHO READ THOSE BOOKS? ““But clearly there is a vast and satisfied readership out there who want to read novels written like this: they choose to buy these books, and that’s the problem.”

We’ve written about formula and romance a few times like here and here.

Romance is often criticized for being formulaic, but in a way that suggests that the genre is synonymous with formula, and that formula is bad.

Romance, as a form, has come to be known by three main elements: a) a romantic love story, b) that is central to the narrative, c) and resolves in a happy ending for the lovers. But within that form are many formulae. For example, take one broody rake, mix with an impoverished but noble housemaid, add in a dash of villainy from a long-lost mother, and shake until true love prevails.

When people call Romance formulaic, it’s generally in a denigrating way, as if to imply predictability, triteness, and staleness. However, both form and formula are important to generic integrity, because while form ensures coherence and definitional consistency, formula provides familiar elements that a reader may like and want to see in particular combinations. Category novels, for example, often rely on formulae, and in the case of lines like Harlequin Presents, the formula is practically announced in the book title: The Incorrigible Playboy; The Greek’s Blackmailed Wife; Spanish Magnate, Red-Hot Revenge. The common mistake people make in denigrating genre as formula and formula per se, is the assumption that structural and narrative limits are bad, and that they contravene artistic freedom and creativity.

But Defensive Romance Reader(TM), no need to head over with pitchforks out because Rosyb says “First of all, VL is friendly to ALL genres and is regularly invited down to the Romantic Novelists Association Awards because a lot of people and a lot of writers appreciate that we do read and critique all genres – whilst not being a specialist site. If you want a specialist romance or Mills and Boon site, this isn’t it.”

There are problems within the Harlequin lines, of course, but it’s pretty insulting to describe these lines as policed and the authors oppressed. A category title is supposed to be rigidly defined. That’s the point of the category but there are voices that are stars within the category lines and authors who are more popular than others. In sum, some of Kate’s assumptions she draws from reading a conclusory scholarly work on the HMB category books aren’t wrong. But identifying readers as problems and authors part of the same hive mind comes across as insulting and, well, inaccurate. Vulpes Libris

REVIEW:  Sold To The Enemy by Sarah Morgan

REVIEW: Sold To The Enemy by Sarah Morgan

Dear Ms. Morgan:

You’ve taken a number of standard fairy-tale and romance ingredients and turned them into something fresh and original in this book. I’ve always enjoyed your disadvantaged, yet plucky and intelligent, heroines, and in Selene Antaxos you’ve created a character that ranks for me with the heroines of Doukakis’ Apprentice, Twelve Nights of Christmas, The Prince’s Waitress Wife, and Sale or Return Bride. Selene isn’t badly off financially or an orphan, but her circumstances are pretty dire.

sold To The Enemy by Sarah MorganWhen we meet Selene, she is scheming a way to leave her isolated Greek island home and travel to Athens without her father finding out. Selene and her mother are virtual prisoners in a house that doubles as a fortress, victims of a man who insists on complete control over their lives in order to present to the world the picture of a perfect, virtuous family. He keeps them in penury and watches their every move, but Selene has turned a flair for creating handmade soaps and candles into a potential business opportunity. She uses her annual convent retreat as a means of leaving the island and approaching Stefanos Ziakas, who is her father’s enemy in business, but whom she remembers warmly because he was kind to her at one of her rare public outings. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous.

Stefan is annoyed with his personal assistant for letting Selene in to see him, but his annoyance dissipates as he is intrigued and attracted to her. He hears out her business plans and decides to offer her the loan she seeks. Even more impulsively, he invites her to accompany him to a party that night. Selene can’t resist; she’s never been to a party where she can just enjoy herself, free from her father’s threatening presence. The only hitch is that she has nothing to wear, but Stefan quickly arranges a way to overcome that obstacle. One thing leads to another and Selene and Stefan wind up in a mutually agreed-upon and passionate one-night stand. The morning after brings guilt, but not for the obvious reasons. Selene’s realization that the party was attended by guests who then plastered her picture all over the tabloids makes her outraged with Stefan and leads to her flight back to Antaxos, where she correctly fears her father is waiting for her.

Stefan rescues Selene just in time, but once she is safely away she escapes him too, angry that he took advantage of her to get an advantage over her father and fearful she’s traded one uncaring man for another. When Stefan is finally able to convince her that he wasn’t behind the photos and that his rivalry with her father is about more than business, Selene does an about-face and decides to go all-in with Stefan. Stefan has spent his adult life avoiding anything that looks remotely like a relationship, so she has her work cut out for her.

For me, this story is all about the heroine. Oh, Stefan is very appealing and sexy. But Selene is even better. She wants, more than anything else, to be her own person, and you get the sense that as much as she wants Stefan, she won’t compromise what she’s finally achieved to keep him:

He took a deep breath. ‘I realise we have some obstacles to overcome, but it would be much easier to overcome them if I wasn’t worrying about your safety all the time. I want you to come and stay at my villa, at least for a while.’

The temptation was so great it horrified her. ‘No, thanks.’

‘I don’t want you living on your own.’

‘Well, I want it. I’ve lived under my father’s rules for so long I want the freedom to come and go as I please. I can wear what I like. See whoever I like. Be who I want to be.’

‘And who do you want to be?’

She’d thought about nothing else.

‘Myself,’ she said simply. ‘I want to be myself. Not someone else’s version of who they think I should be.’

‘So if I ask you—the real you—out to dinner, will you say yes?’

Selene swallowed, unsettled by how much being this close to him affected her. What scared her most in all this was how badly she lost her judgement around him. She didn’t want to be the sort of woman who lost her mind around a man.

Selene is a classic HP virgin heroine, except she’s not. In this story, the virgin heroine is virgin because that is how her life has unfolded.  When I was reading Sold to the Enemy, I happened to follow a conversation among friends on twitter about how romances commodify virginity. Curious, I searched to see how it was used here. I couldn’t find a use of the words “virginity” or “virgin.” Selen’s virginity is not “taken” from her, and she doesn’t “give” it to Stefan. Yes, it’s her first time, but everyone has a first time. She wants to make love with him, she convinces him she wants it, and the next morning she’s the same person, just one who has had a great night. It’s a passionate, wonderful experience for her, and after she realizes that Stefan is not using her, she coaxes him into continuing where they left off.

I also very much appreciated that each of them has a major, traumatic backstory but they are also their own people, especially in terms of their attraction to each other and how each approaches a relationship with the other. And their histories were truly traumatic. Selene’s father was a not a paper tiger. He was truly awful, a scary, oppressive character, and her scenes with him were quite dark.

There were minor aspects of the novel that didn’t quite work for me. Selene’s mother was important in the early part of the book and then faded off the page; I would have liked to see more of her. I liked that Selene was willing to let Stefan fund her startup business, but putting his employees in the middle of the negotiations was unfair to them. And I don’t think I ever figured out quite what Stefan did to mke his billions. Finally, there were some abrupt shifts in plot and character behavior that could have used smoother transitions. But these niggles didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment.

The Presents line is often criticized for stereotyped, unbelievable plots and characters. But regular category readers know that there are also novels that take familiar elements and make something fresh and interesting out of them. Here we have a rich, handsome hero, a virgin heroine who needs rescuing from an ogre, and a happily ever after they are guaranteed to reach. How refreshing that while Selene can’t entirely rescue herself, she still manages a lot of it on her own, she never loses her desire to become her own person, and she tells the hero that he has to get his act together if he wants to reach that HEA with her. Grade: B+

~ Sunita

 

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