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Archive for the ‘feminism and romance’ Category

I was trying to come up with a nifty way to encourage romance readers to respond to my survey for my Phd. So I’m putting this here so I can test it. Smile!

survey ad readers

 

So here is the one for writers.

writers of romance fiction

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Since my previous post I’ve mulling over the so-called ‘passive’ heroine in romance novels. The stories I mentioned that didn’t have passive heroines in the previous post are fairly recent, say from the 1990 onwards. Also, the heroine I believe must be considered in context. The heroine in the Barbara Cartland novel discussed was an historical heroine. Would that account for her apparently passivity? Maybe. Then I thought of Georgette Heyer’s work and thought not so.

I have a weakness for Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances.(Heyer died in 1974 so her works are much earlier than 1990s)  They don’t have sex scenes all, but they evoke a period in time reminiscent of the great and wonderful Jane Austen. A fantasy world, I suppose, with particular tropes. (I am equally weak at the knees for Scottish historials with Lairds in them. Totally non-realistic. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy, right?).

So four books that I have been listening to on Audible a lot lately are, Venetia (abridged), Sylvester (abridged), The Quiet Gentleman and the Grand Sophy. I have lots of Heyer’s books in print, but these just happen to be on my Audible account and I replay them a lot. Venetia and Sylvester are read by Richard Armitage. Enough said. He does a brilliant job. Those two books got me breaking my Audible rule. I set out not wanting to buy books on Audible that I own in print. I confess I spanked myself thoroughly when I broke the rule, but you know…Richard Armitage!!%$$$###???

Then I decided I didn’t like the abridged books, so I bought The Quiet Gentleman (almost romantic suspense) and The Grand Sophy because they were heaps longer and I could go away into another world while driving long distances.

I thought about the heroines and about whether they were passive or not. There is definitely a spectrum here. Sophia Stanton-Lacey is the strongest, least passive and positively feminist heroine, in some regards. She is the centre of a whirlwind. The first time I read this book I quite missed that it was a romance, or meant to be. I had to read it again. I missed something. It’s quite a wonderful satire. Now more recently listening to it many times. I can’t  count them. I’m weak. What can I say? Sophy stands up for herself. She locks horns. Charles her cousin gets quite riled with her. He is probably the most aggressive out of the heroes in these four novels. Mind you he has to be or he’d be pulp on the bottom of Sophy’s shoes. I could go into the plot a bit more but why spoil it for you. Just read the damn thing or listen to it.

Venetia on the other hand has lived a very retiring life. She pretends to be passive but she’s got steel in her, resisting the boring neighbour who wants to marry her. She falls in love with a rake. Who might be a libertine but is not overly aggressive. They form a lovely friendship until they are separated by interfering relatives. But when she finds out about her past, which has been kept for her, she just goes for the goal. She makes the rake propose to her, against his will. I wouldn’t call that passive.

Sylvester features Phoebe, who runs away when she thinks she’s going to be forced to marry Sylvester, a duke, who snubbed her. I wouldn’t say she was feisty exactly but she’s very unusual and when they are thrown together her magic explodes. She laughs at the duke, tells him what she thinks (a bit like Margaret in North and South) and she’s quite clever. They have an accord. Sylvester is not aggressive at all. He’s a gentle man, but very capable of fixing mishaps. Phoebe also has courage and gets into scrapes trying to do the right thing, to right the wrongs she has done.

In The Quiet Gentleman there is no aggressive hero. He’s so laid back, he’s almost effeminate. In fact, he doesn’t think much of Drusilla at all. She’s quite plain, short and plump. She isn’t trying to win him either. There’s is a slow and gentle coming together.Drusilla is practical and also quite determined to prevent, St Erth being murdered. It is really quite interesting really. I have listened (as well as read) this story and I don’t know when the transition occurs. It’s just a slow warming of him to her. Apparently he’s so gorgeous he was out of her league in the romance stakes and yet…without trying in any way to fix him, he falls for her. While Drusilla seems a bit laid back, she rears up at the end and tells them all what’s what. I don’t consider Drusilla passive, but realistic. This story is also an excellent satire and Heyer is great with her character descriptions. What a gifted writer.

So I don’t think historical heroines in romance novels are passive either. Of course, there are some. But don’t say they are all PASSIVE. You’re wrong!

If you are a romance reader or writer, please consider taking my survey. It’s for my PhD on Feminism in popular romance fiction. Just click here for more details.

 

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I’m back on the PhD with a vengeance lately. This means I’m reading some academic papers that get me angry with their generalisations.

‘the ideal heroine in a romance is passive…’ Mary Ellen Ryder

‘Romance’s generic requirement that the hero should be volatile in his affections and sexually intimidating…’ Doreen Thierauf

These are throw away lines in articles that have some good in then but the stuff mentioned above makes me scribble ‘bullshit!’ in the white space.

Ryder in particular made me growl this week.I get strange looks from other PhD candidates. Ryder read some Barbara Cartland. Each to its own I suppose, but her greatest flaw was saying that because Cartland published 24 books when she was 93 she obviously wrote to formula…’which means that examining just one of her books should reveal a great deal about the whole romance genre.’ For godssake, the whole fucking genre, really? I wouldn’t say one book from any author would allow me to talk about all their works, let alone the whole genre.

Her actual analysis of the text was really quite interesting but why put that tripe at the beginning of her paper?  And it was a gothic bloody romance to boot.

I pull my hair out and shout why, why, why?

Luckily there were some good articles, like from Mairead Owen and possibly Laura Struve (I’m still pondering it). I guess I’m learning to be critical. Step one for me.

Also, I find that when academics talk about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey they lose their shit when it comes to romance. They may be blockbusters but that doesn’t mean they are the typical romance novel.

Actually, I don’t think there is a typical romance novel. There are key features of a popular romance novel but I won’t go into that. Others like Pamela Regis have already done that.

My current fiction reading though has run counter to what these people are saying about passive heroines and violent and volatile heroes. I’m reading some vintage, retro if you like, Amanda Carpenter. I’ve mentioned her before in past posts. The Great Escape (1984) and The Passage of the Night (1990). (Amanda Carpenter writes as Thea Harrison these days.). These book are examples of her early works. She’s a damn fine writer and I think has a great mind to boot. I can certainly tell she had the chops for paranormal writing in those early days. (I’ve read four of her books so far. They have been very different from each other!)

(possible spoiler)

The Great Escape features a 17 year old protagonist. She’s an heiress, unhappy but quite clever. She escapes from her guardians and is pursued by a PI, whom she outsmarts. In this book, she drugs the PI, she punches him, she seduces him and then after they fall in love, she gives away all her money without consulting him once about it. She hates the money. It defines her too much. If this book had been published later, I suspect it would have been a romantic suspense because someone is trying to kill the heroine.

So in this 1984 story, the heroine is not passive and has agency.

The Passage of the Night is also very interesting. The heroine kidnaps the tycoon hero at gunpoint, she drugs him and then takes him to a mountain top in Vermont. The reason she has kidnapped him is to save her sister, but the hero isn’t anything like her sister said he was. He’s angry at being kidnapped, of course, but he is never aggressive or violent. He chops wood continuously to ‘sublimate’. He’s not going to have her charged. He voluntarily stays with her and then she flies him back because she can’t justify her actions anymore. She’s a helicopter pilot and plane pilot and her family has a bit of money. She’s also loyal and brave.  He’s on seven figures. She sees his life and doesn’t like the long hours etc. She doesn’t demand he change his lifestyle but she’s walking out until he sorts his priorities. In the end, he gives up his job.  I think that about reverses the tropes.

I’m not done with the Carpenter read through yet. It’s fascinating.

Other fiction reading, Full Moon Rising, Keri Arthur. I’m sorry. Riley Jensen kicks butt. It’s urban fantasy on the’ boil the coffee over’ end of the spectrum but mmm…not much passivity there.

I’ve started rereading JD Robb’s …In Death series. I’m on book five so far (it’s been a week?) and there’s no sign of passivity there.

The In Death series is harder to peg. It’s futuristic urban fantasy with romantic elements or romantic suspense or just SF crime with romance. The heroine and the hero are the same couple all the way through (very well done by the way) and for me the series discusses child sex abuse all the way through, even peels it back to a very stark and dark root that makes me blanch. But I applaud JD Robb for doing it (JD Robb is Nora Roberts btw) and I think she’s brilliant.

In my reading of retro Mills & Boon, there are occasionally passive heroines and other times not. I’ve not read everything. No one will be able to. I’m not as well read in romance as people I know, but I know enough not to generalize about it.

But I’m happy to get angry at people who do and blog about it…maybe…

 

BTW I still have my survey going for my PHD study. If you write or read popular romance fiction, please check out my survey. I’d really appreciate the contribution. See blog post here.

Articles cited

Owen, M, Re-Inventing Romance: Reading Popular Romance Fiction, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 20. No. 4, pp.537-546, 1997

Ryder, M. E, Smoke and mirrors: Event patterns in the discourse structure of a romance novel, Journal of Pragmatics, 31 (1991) pp. 1067-1080

Struve, L, Sisters of Sorts: Reading Romantic Fiction and the Bonds Among Female Readers, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2011.

Thierauf, D, Forever After:Desire in the 21st-Century Romance Blockbuster, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2016.

 

 

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Now that I’m back from Shanghai, I am back on the ball with the PhD.

An important part of my research is obtaining the views of romance readers and romance writers. I have been working on these surveys for a few months and they are ready to launch.

Now there are two surveys: one for romance readers and one for romance writers. Please use the correct link!

Yes. Romance writers can be romance readers but I have questions on their romance reading  in the writer survey so you don’t need to do two surveys.

I think the survey can take up to 15-20 minutes to do. I do it quicker but I’ve been looking at it many times. So do allow some time.

I am also going to select some people for a follow up interview. There is space to indicate your willingness to be involved in this is the consent form. The consent form is the first part of the survey.

This survey is for my PhD, which is examining romance fiction. Please help!

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Writers

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Readers.

Thanking you all in anticipation. Donna!

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It’s been an interesting week of romance reading for me with two totally different books. One that triggered me and the other that blew me away.

First up was Haunted Dreams by Charlotte Lamb (1995). This is a Harlequin Mills & Boon and British author. This book had a lot going for it, particularly as the hero had a checkered past and the book discussed the conditions of the poor in Mexico, the picking over of dumps and the exploitation of kids. It also featured domestic violence. The hero’s father had been a drunk and violent towards his mother and him and his siblings. All this boded well for me, despite the fact that the heroine was very young (half the hero’s age) and virginal etc. Yet she had some depth to her because she had nursed her dying mother and then rejected by her father after he married straight after her mother’s funeral.

Ambrose (great name!) is a banking man and makes money. Emilie works for her grandfather and is essentially his heir. All well and good. I don’t normally like to do spoilers but hey, this time I have to.

This book triggered me, right at the end too. I had trouble reconciling this so I have come up with the notion that the book is flawed. I know Charlotte Lamb churned these buggers out and maybe she didn’t think this one through, because there were some perfectly good opportunities to make it work out better. OMG! I can’t believe I’m being critical.

Firstly there was a burglary. There was a good setup for this burglary I thought. Emilie had been given sapphires and diamonds for Christmas and the evil cousin was jealous and avaricious and even asked if they were insured. The description of the burglar could have been a woman I thought, but no. It was only an excuse to get the hero to stay over the night. Now random things do happen in life, but in fiction well not so much…not with the potential there to make it work in the story. So the burglary  was a minor inconvenience, even though the cousin was a thief!

Then there was the strangulation of the heroine by the hero and the words something like ‘I’d rather kill you than let another man have you’. That’s my trigger. This happened to be, not a strangulation, but a bashing with words similar to this. However, triggered as I was there was a way to pull back from the abyss and Ms Lamb missed that too. She plunged straight into the abyss without a yell.

Do you think in the emotional resolution to the story that the hero would be remorseful, that he would pledge on his life never to touch her again in that way, that it was his horrible background that made him an abuser etc. No. Not a bloody word.

The heroine was upset because he didn’t trust her. She didn’t want to get back to him because he’d refused to believe her. What the actual…??? He sees the bruises says something like I can’t begin to apologise but she says sweet FA. Surely to god, there’d be some request for a promise never to hurt her again or she’ll leave him. No. The bloody violence is not discussed, other than a thin apology. Sorry. That book sucked monkey balls. Well the resolution did.

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Then we come to Flashback by Amanda Carpenter (1984). Mills & Boon published in London by an American author. I had this book by me because I’d loved her Cry Wolf story about an artist. It was so emotionally intense that I wanted to read another one to see if that was similar or Cry Wolf had been a one off. Luckily I scored one in the Grace Collection. Funny thing was I reading either a book or an academic article that said Flashback was an amazing anti-war book. So that was it. I dived in. I was also trialing my new data gathering tool that I can hand write while reading for later input into a spreadsheet or database.

This book was amazing. It blew my mind. It is not your average Mills & Boon and even using Pamela Regis’s barriers to analyse it, I found it hard to pin down. It seemed to break all the usual tropes over the head with beer bottles.

I won’t spoil this one but I will note a few features. It has a foreword by the author. This is an unusual feature for the time. It expressed sentiment about the loss of life in war. So clearly the author’s intention was to have an anti-war message.

My premise in reading category romances is that they try to depict reality. Doreen Watt set me straight on this. Before Harlequin Mills & Boon brought in all the lines, the Mills & Boon were one line. I’ve found some stories that would be more intrigue than straight romance. There was one where the protagonists remembered their past lives.(Charlotte Lamb’s Dying for You). Well Flashback features a telepath. Yes, you saw correctly. A bloody telepath. This is probably why it was really hard to identify any barriers to the hero and heroine getting together. They were linked telepathically and it was an intense and emotional story. Amanda Carpenter writes very well and I’m glad to see that after having a break she came back to writing as Thea Harrison and she writes paranormal romance. I have to check her out. She’s snared me!

So this story doesn’t feature another woman to make the heroine jealous. She lives with her mother and is very close to her. So she’s not an orphan caught in the hero’s web of sex and intrigue. She lives almost as a recluse. The telepathy drives the story. There is no sex scenes. It’s so damn intense it doesn’t need them. I think I need to measure my blood pressure after reading it. And what happens to the heroine in the end. Jesus. Mary. And Joseph!

Anyway, read Flashback.

Thea Harrison released her titles again with Samhain. Here is a link to the book. Here.

Also check out Thea Harrison. Here.

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That’s me!

It’s a forewarning that I’m going on a rant.

What caused me to rant? Ah life. In all its intricacies and heartache.

I presented my Introductory Seminar nearly two weeks ago now. I sat in on the other presentations. One of the earlier presenters was talking about representations of domestic violence in the media (in Australia) since Rose Batty became Australian of the year. The presenter was saying she wasn’t sure she was going to keep the title ‘domestic violence’ because it’s difficult.

This certainly had me thinking. I object to the term domestic violence for a number of reasons. For me in evokes the Victorian sensibility of the man in his castle and women and children as property. It brings back the times when my mother was bashed and the cops did nothing. The sixties was like that. It’s like it if is labeled domestic violence it somehow has a veil over it and it’s no one else’s business. It’s domestic. It’s behind closed doors. It’s not ‘real’ violence. The media treat it like that and that angers me.

But it is violence.

If women and children for that matter are human beings with equal rights, then any violence done to them is violence and should be treated the same as other types.

If my partner came home and shot, strangled or bashed me dead. It would be termed domestic violence. If I did the same to him, I reckon the media head line would be ‘murder’. (Not that I’m going to do that to you darling, Dweeb.)

The other thing that irks me about the term is that it has a sense of shame associated with it. The victim is shamed. Not the perpetrator. Thankfully this is changing, but not enough, not by a large margin and not fast enough. I feel shame twice over. I was a victim of child abuse and domestic violence. Why is it my fault? Why do I have this shame? Oh because I chose that fellow and therefore I got my just desserts. Or I was from one of those families. White trash. Just stay away from me, you might contaminate the rest of us. Why for godsake do I feel shame for something that was done to me? Because I was brought up in a world where you don’t talk about that, you pretend it doesn’t happen, or if you do you, look the other way and, by the way, if you interfere, you are going to look like a jerk.

Stuff that in your jumper, patriarchy!

So what do we call this. The presenter suggested intimate partner violence, but then that doesn’t capture the violence against children, which can coincide with violence against the mother. I was thinking patriarchal violence myself, but that’s a bloody big umbrella. Under patriarchal violence, you have war, abuse of: refugees, prisoners of war, women, racial minorities, gays, lesbians, trans, the poor, children… need I continue?

Patriarchal violence-sub category women?

The other aspect to the talk was the media representation of domestic violence. If media are the invisible arm of the patriarchy then they do a good job of whitewashing domestic violence. Man goes home, kills wife and kids. Media asks, what happened to this decent bloke? Poor man. Let’s all think about this poor man and what he went through to cause him to (destroy his property? )Not man turns violent; cuts the throat of his wife and kids. Or man keeps kids, then when wife is trying to get custody, he kills them rather than let her have them. Man throws children off bridge because no one else should have his kids. Man strangles child while having a visitation. Women denied protection by police and then is murdered in cold blood in her car on at the road. It is happening every day. It’s awful. Tell it like it is media. Stop whitewashing this bullshit. We shouldn’t have to have sites that reedit your whitewash to make it tell the truth.

Man is denied his property so he destroys it. No one else gets to play with his toys.

Anyway, it all boils down to how women and children are viewed, valued and validated. Here I think there is a long way to go to making them equal.

And my last bit of rant– the fight against domestic violence is seen as a feminist issue. Why the hell is that? Feminists have been fighting against domestic violence and providing avenues for women to escape it since the first wave of feminism, this is true.

Why is it just a feminist issue? Why isn’t everyone concerned? Why isn’t it a social issue that we are all working to eradicate?

Sadly this post is not as eloquent as I envisaged first up when my rant factor was running high. I will also acknowledge that women can also be perpetrators of domestic violence…but I consider them victims of patriarchal violence too.

I have violence in me. It was beaten into me. It’s a darkness that is sometimes hard to control. I’m not perfect. I see it is there and I try to rein it in.

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I can’t believe it is six months already.

I’ve been at this gig for six months!

Do I miss work? No.

Do I miss the money? Yes, a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. I keep telling myself I will get a part time job, but I’m not desperate enough yet.

Do I miss my work mates? Yes, I do. The social scene at uni is different. You come to the study centre and you study. Occasionally you chat to people. It takes time.

As a PhD is self-directed research it can be difficult to judge your progress. If I sat around at home and did nothing, then I’d have the guilt meter out. But I’m on campus usually four days week and if I don’t then I’m working from home. If I consult my guilt meter it’s pretty good actually. No falling into the red zone there.

Actually, I’m just getting to the part of my study where I’m calming down. I won’t call it slowing down. Looking back I can see I approached this PhD like a bull charging a red flag. I was anxious. I was stressed. I was working like a maniac at times, dreaming up papers in my sleep. There was so much to know and I wanted to know it all. But that’s been settling down now for a few weeks.

I think there came a point that I thought I can do this. I can understand. A bit earlier than that I knew I had to dial it back as I couldn’t sustain the pace over three years. I was studying on my day off. Technically my day off is my writing day. My fiction not related to PhD writing day. It also doubles for catching up with friends day, which means I usually don’t get to write much when I do the social thing.

I’m enjoying it though and it can be absorbing. Some days on campus, I look up and see the time and think what am I doing here at 6.00 pm? Then I scurry home.

I’m coming up to my six months study. I am going to be doing my introductory seminar next week. That’s where I get to stand up and talk about my research topic, methodology and my creative project. I think my supervisor is optimistic that I won’t flubber, blubber…splat. This is a compulsory seminar, but it is not assessed. I have a bit of work to do before my first year is up as I have to do my confirmation seminar. Yes that’s right. I can be booted. I can’t see that happening but you know I have to get things up to scratch.

I’m heading for the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Adelaide this week. We are driving down because we’ve not driven to Adelaide before. We are driving over two days. I’m doing a signing there. Waves! There is an academic stream for the conference. I put in for a paper but didn’t get chosen. Apparently there was an over supply of papers. But I believe it is a truncated stream. I am putting in a paper for the conference proceedings. Well I will. I’m just waiting on some final comments from my supervisor. I’ve been working on this paper since March. But as it is my topic area, none of it’s wasted. It was probably a good way to get across the topic, having that paper to write.

When I get back from Adelaide, I’ll be reorganizing myself. I want to start working on my creative project. So far I’ve thought about it and drafted a short outline. However, I think I have to write it and see if it works, then change it if it doesn’t. This is a fiction piece I’m giving myself time to draft. I think I might have mentioned it will be SF with romance. The other task I have to complete for my confirmation seminar is my literature review. I still have stuff I need to read, most stuff I will read two or three times before I’m done. Then I have to read romances! This means dividing up my time so that I get things done. I like to be flexible of course, but still…Would you believe I’ve been tidying my desk today? I’m sorting my journal articles into alphabetical order and putting flags on them as to why I think they are important. I feel saintly and so unlike me. I think it’s because I’m treading water. I’ve done my prep for the seminar. I’m heading to a conference and I’m waiting for comments on a paper so I can send it off.

I also have a romance readers survey and a romance writers survey as part of my PhD and it’s ready to go. Give me a hoy if you want an invite. I’m going to kick that off in September post introductory seminar.

 

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