Tag Archives: What is romance?

Why do all the romance heroes have six packs? – Guest post by Roni Loren

First, I’d like to thank Kat for inviting me over here to her blog. You gotta love someone who says–I’d like you to guest post and can you make it about sex? LOL

Why, yes, yes I can actually. : )

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this article via Twitter (where all interesting things come from) on Slate called P0rn Women Want: Why Does it Make Men So Uncomfortable?  The post was basically about this guy:

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James Deen. (Pauses to snicker about the ridiculous stage names.) But anyway, apparently this guy is causing a stir because he is appealing to women-which is obviously not the market p0rn targets. Here’s what they say of Deen:

Deen has carved out a niche in the industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top p0rn agency sites and you’ll find… just a few dozen men available…. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.

Which of course made me think–yes, this is why most women roll their eyes at p0rn. Beyond the complete lack of story line and emotional connection, the dudes are ugly and the girls are fake-looking. If the male actors looked like Alexander Skarsgard or Bradley Cooper, I’m thinking we ladies might change our mind and take a peek.

Come on, you know you’d look.
But the reason, the article hypothesizes, that guys who are “prettier” don’t get hired in p0rn is because it makes the guys watching it uncomfortable. Because *gasp* they don’t want to have any sexytime feelings about the guys. The post says:

The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire.

Hmm. Okay, maybe I could see that if a guy is particularly homophobic or un-evolved. But it seemed a little far-fetched. So, of course, I asked my husband (who is mostly evolved and finds p0rn more comedic than sexy) his opinion. After a derisive snort, he said, “It’s not about guys worrying about gay feelings. The reason is the same reason your romance novels have Mr. Perfect as the hero and Ms. Average Every Day Girl as the heroine.”

And you know what? He had a good point.

In fantasy, whether it be via books or something visual, we naturally put ourselves in the heroine’s (or hero’s if you’re a guy) shoes. If the heroine is written as some gorgeous model type who never gains a pound, never has an insecurity, and who wakes up with perfect hair–none of us are going to be able to relate. So most often, romance writers create heroines we “get”. And though she may actually BE beautiful, she doesn’t know it. We only see her beauty through the hero’s eyes when we’re in his POV. (Because isn’t that really our fantasy? That the guy we love sees us as the most beautiful girl even if we aren’t to the rest of the world.)

But on the flipside, in our fantasy, in addition to having the guy be smart and kind-hearted and loving, we do want him to look like Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgard. Men haven’t cornered the market on being visual, you know. It’s not to say we hold up our mates to those six-pack ab, slay the dragon, alpha standards, but everything is exaggerated in fantasy.

Which is the same reason why the guys look like they do in p0rn and the girls are the exaggerated female “ideal” (giant boobs, skinny, long hair, always ready and willing, etc.) The guys don’t want to think–damn, in order to land that kind of girl I’d have to look like Brad Pitt. They want to think, hey, I’m better looking than that frosted-tipped, tribal tattooed guy. I could totally bed this girl.

*snort*

So even though men and women are built very differently, it seems we have some things in common when it comes to this. We’re all a little insecure and we all can go a little overboard in fantasy land. It does kind of make me want to write a less than perfect-looking hero though, just to make a point.

But in the meantime, you can admire the perfect abs of my hero Reid on the cover of CRASH INTO YOU. 😉  *pets*

Any thoughts on all of this? Anyone think it really is guys being afraid the pretty boys will make them think impure thoughts? And how do you like your heroes in your books? Does your mate ever give you flack for reading romance novels with half-naked men on the front?


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has.
Her debut romance CRASH INTO YOU releases January 3, 2012 from Berkley Heat/Penguin. If you want to read more posts like this one or follow her journey to debut authorhood, you can visit her writing blog FictionGroupie or her author blog. She also tweets way too much for her own good.

Giveaway!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Roni’s debut, Crash Into You. I’ll randomly select the winner on Tuesday December 27th. Good luck!

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Filed under Author interviews, Contemporary romance spotlight

5 reasons I wish I were a romance heroine

Many of us romance readers wish we had the same things the heroines we read about get: a beautiful man who adores us, a close community of friends, fantastic sex, and a guaranteed happy ending.

But a tweet from Lauren Plude, editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing, got me thinking. Lauren wrote: “One of the many reasons I sometimes wish I was a romance heroine–they never seem to have to wait for AM laundry delivery.”

Since I read that while working on a really annoying project, I started thinking about all the little blessings romance heroines have in their lives.

Forget the hot heroes; these are the real reasons I wish I were a romance heroine:

1. They never have to scrub toilets, grout or bathroom caulking.

2. Their hero is always willing to pitch in with dishwashing—often insisting on it without even being asked (unthinkable!).

3. If I were a Harlequin Presents heroine, I could own an art gallery in Sydney without actually having to work hard at managing it while I run around with my billionaire lover.

4. I’d have friends with exactly the skills and experience I’d need to rely on for every problem in my life.

5. Perhaps most importantly, though, nine hours at the office could be glossed over in a paragraph.

What are the little blessings that make you envy romance heroines?

This is cross-posted at The Season

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Does it matter what an author looks like?

Have you ever scheduled a professional photography session, then woken up five minutes beforehand, not taking time to wash, brush your hair or gather enough energy to smile?

Neither have I—at least, not since a hot guy I liked looked at my college ID photo and said, “Ugh! Looks like you just woke up from a crack sleep.”

Authors take a lot of care over the photo that will be printed in the back of their books and all around the internet as they promote their work. Debut authors today even get their blog, Facebook and Twitter followers involved in selecting the best photo.

Why? Because, to a certain extent, it matters what we look like. We all want to present ourselves in a way that makes readers feel connected with us, and humans connect when they can read signals in each other’s faces—like a friendly smile. And thank God we do that, because looking around the animal kingdom, it seems that the alternative is sniffing each other’s rear-bits, and I dread to think how publishers would replicate that in the back of a book.

The problem is that we’ve all got insecurities, right? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Several weeks ago I asked a professional photographer friend at work if he’d take some pictures of me for my blog. Most of the photos I have of myself are taken on holiday, where I look happy but sweaty or tired. Ever since Mat agreed to take my picture, I’ve been putting off the date. My hair’s too shaggy. My brows are too bushy. My chin’s too…well, let’s be kind and say “undefined”.

Those are mostly things I can control. But what about characteristics that we can’t control—like our age—which can lead to others judging us?

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Simply Inflatable – and other romance titles

“What’re you reading now?” my husband asks. “Buggered by the Butler?”

Yeah, yeah. Everyone who reads romance knows the titles can earn them some raised eyebrows and a few sniggers.

They don’t embarrass me, and I’m happy to see some of my favorite authors having fun with them too. Sound quality’s not great on this, but how cool is it to see so many greats enjoying themselves?

And, it includes author Jill Shalvis, whose novel Simply Inflatable, er, Simply Irresistible I’m giving away this week!

Make sure you watch the outtakes at the end!

Can you think of any romance novel titles you could improve on?

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Filed under Love your language

Creating alternate endings

This is cross-posted at The Season.

Gone With the WindI hate Gone With The Wind. Hate it.

I know it’s supposed to be one the all-time greatest films, but I’ve seen it once and as God is my witness, I shall never watch it again.

I was 13 when I watched it. No one had spoiled the ending for me yet. My mom told me it was her favorite film, so we watched it together. After investing quite a bit of my heart in the story…after watching the characters’ painful struggle to grow…the film ended sadly?

Uh uh. Not for me, thanks.

The Romance Writers of America defines romance as having an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. Perhaps my aversion to sad endings is a sign that I’ve been conditioned by all the romance novels I’ve read. Maybe I’m just naturally someone who loves a happy ending. But in my mind, Rhett and Scarlett stay together in the end. It isn’t a perfect relationship, but they’re perfect for each other and they continue to have a passionate, tempestuous marriage.

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Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader

Late one evening, when I’d just finished writing my post on being a feminist romance novelist, I was chatting with friends on Twitter when a tweet by agent Sara Megibow from the Nelson Agency popped up. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but she emphatically said that a woman can be a feminist and still love to read romance novels.

Since it was a subject that had been on my mind, I replied and soon we had a little conversation going. She’s very kindly agreed to share her thoughts here.

Sara MegibowIn my experience, here’s what happens:

Me, “I represent literary fiction” (true.)
Person, “OH, anyone I’ve read?”

Me, “I represent science fiction and fantasy novels” (true)
Person, “Hmmm…like the Hobbit?

Me, “I represent romance novels” (true)
Person, “Good grief, WHY? Aren’t they all just smut or porn?”

This conversation is about the same if I tell someone, “I read literary fiction”, “I read science fiction” and “I read romance.” My immediate reaction is always to feel hurt when someone says “WHY” – I mean whether I’m talking about my career or what I enjoy reading for pleasure, I say “romance” and someone says “blech.” I feel hurt. And mad. And then…defensive.

Over the years, I’ve come up with any number of responses to people when they give me heck. By now, I’ve narrowed my response down to one sentence, “I love romance novels because as a feminist with a women’s studies degree, I find the genre to be inherently pro-woman.” Now, THAT generates a great conversation! And, it’s true. The basic tenants of the genre – happy endings, healthy relationships and great sex are all pro-woman.

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Confessions of a feminist romance novelist

Tomorrow is the 100th International Women’s Day, and I’d like to talk about something that’s been on my mind for a while – the way novels written by, for, and about women are often dismissed as being harmful, demeaning or stupid.

The first female brain surgeon I ever came across was the heroine of a romance novel. I was twelve, and the idea of a woman being a brain surgeon was such a revelation that I remember it twenty years later.

Looking back, I have no idea why I thought women couldn’t be brain surgeons. I’d always had female pediatricians, dentists and orthodontists. I don’t recall my parents ever calling themselves feminists (the label being too tainted for them to feel comfortable with it), but they held the fundamental feminist beliefs in equality of treatment and opportunity. Likewise, my teachers never used the f-word, but when I was nine and George HW Bush ran for president the first time around, my teacher pointed out that only one classmate had used the phrase “he or she” in their essay “What would make a perfect President?”

It wasn’t me.

Whether I was lacking imagination or hard-wired by evolution to see myself in a certain role, I don’t know. What I do know is that the romance genre—which first introduced me to women smashing through glass ceilings—is often maligned as being anti-feminist, backward, and even harmful to women. The truth is much more complex.

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Do you want your fiction realistic, or real?

View of Prague castle and St Vitus Cathedral from Charles BridgeI met my husband in one of the world’s most romantic cities – Prague (Czech Republic, not Oklahoma). We were sitting in a smelly classroom at an English language school. When we introduced ourselves, I arched my brow (which he thought meant I had attitude) and he spoke with a deep voice and British accent. We started falling in love almost immediately.

A love story worth writing a novel about? Meh.

This month, a new line of romance novels (True Vows) is being published based on real-life experiences. Their tagline is “Life romanticized,” and they’re advertising themselves as a new subgenre of romance: Reality-Based Romance.

One of the first books out is Meet Me in Manhattan by Judith Arnold. It tells the story of high school sweethearts who split up and later reunite. You can see a pic of the real couple with Judith Arnold on the publisher’s blog.

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No one forgets their first (vicarious) sexual experience

The other day, I was reading a post Imogen wrote at The Writing Groove about the first romance novels she remembers reading, and it got me thinking about how many of us romance readers got started when we were kids.

As I told her, I remember very little about the plot of my first grown-up romance novel (which I read when I was about 12), but I very vividly remember that the hero touched the heroine’s nipple.

With a tweak of that man’s fingertips, I became a life-long fan.

But even before that Harlequin mysteriously found its way to my doorstep, I’d voraciously read YA romances and mysteries that had a significant romantic storyline. Most of my friends read books featuring ponies.

Makes me wonder if some of us are hard-wired to be romance readers. Is there something in us that makes us more inclined to love a story with a happy ending? Or is it that an early introduction to written sex leaves a bigger mark on impressionable young brains?

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What hits your hot button?

(Note: the hot button I’m referring to isn’t related to our previous discussion on how to heat up the fictional bedroom. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)

Last week I randomly clicked on a link to a review for Judith James’ Libertine’s Kiss. (I can’t find that link now, so if this description of the review sounds familiar, please let me know.) The review was thoughtful and complimentary, and awarded the novel 4.5 stars out of 5.

At the end, the reviewer gave her reasons why she’ll never re-read Libertine’s Kiss, even though she thought the book was well-written. It features two subjects she doesn’t like reading about, even in fiction: sexual abuse and domestic violence.

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