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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Uber Books That People Make Fun Of

I finally found a hotel in NYC midtown that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Just an arm, but seeing my leg is lost to my car insurance deductible, I'm going to be quite noticeable in NYC ;-).

Technology is so helpful these days. Not. Do you know it takes approximately 4-6 weeks for a copy of a Police Report to be sent from Charleston, SC. to Macon, GA., where my Geico office is? I guess they are using the turtle express instead of a fax machine. So anyway, my car's repair is in limbo waiting for this phantom report of a crime that no one cares to solve. Paper pushers. Now you know where Rick Harden's hate come from ;-).

We all hate the power of the paper pushers, don't we? Damn bullies. ;-P

Which gives me the perfect segue to a discussion I was having:

After I admitted to a certain liking of the Harlequin Presents tycoon "brutes," a forum-buddy posted a question about my guilty pleasure in reading these books. Some of my favorite authors from that line are Helen Bianchin, Michele Reid, Robyn Donald, and Susan Napiers. They have been around for decades, so I'm very familiar with their works, some of which I reread and consider keepers. Anyway, she commented that she didn't understand about the love for these tycoon stories, especially since they are just like school playground bullies to her.

Here is my reply to her (and I give myself permission to post my own words, ahem):

I understand. It's, perhaps, the wrong word to use; there's a difference between the tycoon brute and the playground bully. Whereas there is a super-protective streak in the former, the latter is just basically into power and gain over the weak.
This isn't a defense of the tycoon brute of the 80s at all, since some of them were rather high-handed, to say the least, where their women's freedom was concerned. When I was reading them during my teens, I was caught up by the emotional charge in every scene--the sexual power struggle between the female and the male. It was all very exciting and mysterious, this thing called sexual tension ;-).

Today, in spite of being bashed in the head repeatedly that women are powerful creatures ;-), I'm still fascinated by the depiction of power in an unequal romance. Because to me, the emotional highs and lows of this type of story can't be found anywhere else because of political correctness in today's romances, be it historical or contemporary.

Some readers can suspend their disbelief about vampires being walking corpses (heh). Some push away the analytical awareness of bestiality in a werewolf/animal romance. These two examples are given the subgenre title PARANORMAL, so that seems to be a silent okay to cross the line in using certain romance genre taboos.

Being a fan of paranormal books, from sci-fi romance to urban fantasy, I totally get it. I lose myself in those stories precisely because of the crossing the line stuff--the power struggles, the sexual exploration (besides the magic hooha as the savior of the universe stuff), the three or four potential heros, the near-rapes and dark seductions.

However, use the same elements minus the blood-sucking and "we are mates" talk in a very urbane setting, such as gabillionaires (power being) and model/secretary/simple working girl (human/normal), and disdain and phrases like "why do these books even exist?" are tossed like rotten tomatoes.

I think, the readers who love these books read them because they have emotional power. It's a different world, just as a sci-fi/fantasy is, but with elements that aren't techy or complicated or metaphysical. It's a world of glamor and bitchy women, or super-snobbish in-laws (the evil stepmother syndrome), or just very basic emotions--jealousy and possessive love--stripped of all sophistication in a "sophisticated" world.

Admittedly, they are still mind-candy. It all has to do with my mindset when I read them. I'm not looking for complication here; I just want my "greek-god" tycoon (ignore all current googled photos of shipping magnates, please) to notice my ice-cold socialite (secretaries are actually quite rare these days)/executive assistant and then the chase is ON! And there will be no side-stories or jumping around from thread-to-thread, it's straight chocolate, munch-munch-munch, till the tycoon goes down on his knees, baby! And requisite with diamonds and mention of exotic cities and oh, a villa, of course. Cannot not have the villa.

I know quite a few of you still enjoy the old-school romance, the so-called "bodice rippers" that are keepers on your shelves. Many are discussed under topics such as "Ugh, horrible brutal hero" or "Die, scum, die!" A notable author often brought up is Christine Monson, whose pirate historicals are, to say the very least, very, VERY politically incorrect. There are always very strong reactions to her books. Another author's works often being cited is Johanna Lindsey's older historicals, which consisted of a lot of kidnapping and rapes/near-rapes/virginal seductions.

Most readers who've been reading romances since the 70s have enjoyed this kind of books at one time or another. Some of us may even cringe that we did; some of us still actually enjoy them when the mood strikes us.

It is an inexplicable thing, this feeling evoked by a romance we enjoy. We can make fun of the elements separately when we discuss about them--the kidnapping by the prince, the matyrdom while being humiliated, the long, long flowing hair that never gets tangled in spite of being tossed about by callous men and waves and whatnot, the heroine with the sharp tongue who seems to just melt with one kiss. However, when the package is put right, some of us old-schoolers can still delve into those scenes and get sucked into the story just as badly as those who cannot resist JR Ward's rapping vampires, even though they hate the brothuh-language, the leather, the inequality between the sexes.

Technology enriching and speeding lives? So not, judging from all the phone-chasing I do and the inability of the storegirl to tabulate without her machine when it's down. Old-school romance vs newer edgier romance? Those old school romance sometimes seem to have been edgier, taking more risks than today's Lord of Sluts Who Are Really Spies in Love with the Bluestocking Heroine starting some School for Bluestocking Heroines.

My point is, the more things change, the more they remain the same, not so?

What is your guilty pleasure book that you just know everyone is going to make a face at, and wonder at your IQ and female sensibilities if you admit that you love it now still? You can tell me! I'm, after all, outing myself as one of those readers who don't mind propping up The Tycoon's Virgin Bride's Secret Baby for a couple hours of happy munching.

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Jordan Summers said...

I like a lot of the Presents stories too. The thing I realized though is that I like them for the heroes, not the heroines. Some of the heroines are likable and some are just out and out frustrating. You know they couldn't cross a street without someone holding their hands. I suppose that's what makes them perfect for a controlling hero. *g*

Monique said...

Actually, I still like a lot of the older Johanna Lindsey books, especially Secret Fire. I don't own it, but it would be my one keeper of hers. I also like The Cutting Edge by Linda Howard. Brett Rutland is hated by many cause he's soooo hard hearted. And Tessa is equally reviled. I like Presents, Desire, and most of their lines. I used to read the Blaze line, but the plots these days are non-existent. LOL - truth be told I even know the plotline based on the nationality of the guy. But, it is a welcome respite for the mind. I've read all the authors you mentioned and yes, I like them too. LOL

vanessa jaye said...

I love Alphas. Even the Alpha Jerkosaurus, the Alpha knuckle dragger, and the Alpha-make-me-wanna-pop-his-head-off-and-use-it-as-a-spitoon-he's-such-an-ass. So no guilty pleasures to cop to there. lol.

But I'll just hang around and collect recs. ;-)

Btw: "and I give myself permission to post my own words, ahem" -- You slay me. *gg*

Elaine said...

I see a lot of these tycoon, millionaire - and due to inflation - billionaire Silhouette titles but always wrinkled my nose at them. The titles alone make me cringe but I was recommended Jessica Bird's Billionaire Next Door and liked it very much. So I went and ordered ten Silhouette titles though I couldn't not include a couple of romantic suspense ones...:P

Am keeping my fingers crossed that I'll like them as Billionaire Next Door is only my 2nd category title after Bird's Billionaire Drifter which I also liked and read a few years ago. I haven't dared try any other author in the belief that I only liked those 2 billionaire books because they were written by J R Ward. So we'll see when my order arrives.

I'm not sure what everyone means by a 'controlling' hero, though. I like masterful men. Men who have leadership qualities and men who don't sit around waiting for someone to tell them what to do. So I can't say I've met any controlling heroes whom I hated but I've met a lot of heroines who don't deserve that title, and wouldn't have a clue how to be a billionaire's wife.

I read the early Mills & Boons romances as a schoolgirl and already detested those culturally-ignorant virgins. I have to admit I still have the - erroneous, I'm sure - impression that these tycoon-Greek billionaire heroines haven't changed much.

Sarah said...

Still have loads of older Linda Howard that I indulge in and also J Lindsey that I re read every year once at least. But I like the alpha bloke, I started out reading Ginny and Steve, Mr Alpha ass himself.

And, I kinda like the brotherhood language, no idea why...seriously! My reading buddy Julie cannot cope with it even thoguh she has really enjoyed the books.

As for the leather pants, while we were away the dh read an article that said leather should never been worn unless it is a jacket, shoes or a belt LOL! BUT even though I would snort and giggle at someone wearing leather pants down the street who was not a biker getting on his bike, you're correct in saying there is something about it when an author gets it right! Butch in leathers just floats my boat.

Chez said...

Oh yeah I too admit to the guilty pleasure of reading those old school romances. The early Catherine Coulters, Lindsays, etc., etc., and actually find that some of them are my most reread books. Yes, they are totally un-PC, but who cares, they fitted what was being written at the time and were just sort of accepted then. I still like the alpha hero the best and probably like the current flock of paranormals because they are allowed to have "animal" actions and instincts.

Fanciful Fern said...

While I used to read a lot of Johanna Lindsey, the pirate romances didn't really do it for me. I did, however, loved the era of the super-wealthy tycoon romances. One of the first ones I read was by Judith McNaught. I think it was called Double Standards. Then there were Perfect and Paradise. Good times indeed.

Gennita said...

Yes, the heroines are suckily weak, aren't they? Most of them, anyway. It's so strange how I can stomach their actions in a Presents, but if they show up in a Romantic Suspense, I'm instantly gagging and sputtering over the book.

Oooh, you picked two books well hated by many new-school romance readers--Secret Fire by Lindsey and Cutting Edge by Linda Howard. Both were great reads for me back then too! I don't reread Cutting Edge as much as Sarah's Child, which had an emotional edge rarely seen in those books at that time. I don't know why I have this affiliation with heroines who suffer their hurt by acting woodenly, walking around as if nothing could touch them. It's so not me, LOL.

Alpha Jerkosaurus and Alpha Knuckle Dragger???! Hahahahhahahaa. Love it, love it!

I think I'm going to have to use those terms for deeper discussion!

And I'm winking in answer to your :gg:

From what I know about your reading taste, I don't think you will enjoy the Presents type of story that I'm talking about at all. First, there's no suspense in them. Second, they are just basically mind candy, and the sex scenes aren't erotic or edgy at all. They are just addictive for other reasons.

I enjoyed a lot of the early Mills and Boons of the 70s, actually, when traveling was like some impossible goal, what with the cost of plane tickets at that time. I learned a LOT about Australia, NZ, South Africa, Greece, and Arizona/Montana from those books! :-) The world was so much bigger back then without the Internet.

Gennita said...


Steve Morgan, yes, yes, yes! A classic Alpha Jerkosaurus! Gawd, what he did to Ginny was hateful and yet I loved him way back then. I still remember the scene in which he told Ginny he went back to the bar to kill the man who made her a prostitute. Knife fight. AND I still remember how it ended (the first book). She was doing one of her dances and he was watching her from the shadows, and he was thinking, WTF, he came here to rescue her and there she was dancing the dance of the harlot with total abandonment to scandalized hotel guests. Then he walked and swept her up into his arms and took off with her again! I need to reread that scene! :grin:

Oh yeah, I totally forgot Coulter historicals which were all about forced seduction! And how about that one about the Viking slave girl? I can't remember the title.

Paradise was one of my favorite books. That was a tycoon single title...the only one!

There were several tycoon books that totally turned me off, one of which was Howard's All That Glitters, which crossed the line with the cruelty and hysterics. I remember that was my first TSTL heroine announcement on a public Internet forum on Prodigy in the mid-90s. Linda Howard and Anne Stuart were on that board! I look back now and wonder what the hell I was thinking, posting about how stupid I found that heroine where the great La Linda hung out! I must have been a stupid, stupid, insane girl.


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