In Which We Encourage Reporters To Visit Bookstores

July 3rd, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Forgive us, but we’re feeling a bit ranty this morning. We have long decried the lack of creativity in the news media. We realize that it’s not always the fault of the reporters, but we have to wonder why the press cannot be bothered to do a smidgen of research before writing “This Just In: Romance Novels Have Sex” stories.

Let us all take a trip back to approximately 1984. That was when the first official release the now-defunct Harlequin Temptation imprint hit the shelves. Temptation was notable for a lot of reasons — creative storylines, for example — but most especially for the sexual content. The bedroom doors did not, as our hapless article suggests, remain shut. Heck, bedroom? Who needed a bedroom?

Now, romance novels were clearly sensually-oriented long before 1984. These are books for women after all, and we all know that women tend to enjoy sexual content as much as men, albeit presented slightly differently. It makes us giggle when we read this type of naive commentary:

In the old days, girl met boy, her heart would flutter and there would be fireworks. They would overcome enormous obstacles, realize their love for each other and embrace with unbridled passion. Everyone, including the girl, the boy and the satisfied reader, knew the couple would live happily ever after. These days, girl meets boy but the fluttering and obstacle-overcoming may instead just lead to them jumping in bed and tying each other up.

Uh huh. Our earliest recollection of the tying-up thing happening in a romance novel was circa 1991 (Forbidden Fantasy by Tiffany White, an author often pushed the envelope), though we’re sure it happened much earlier and we simply didn’t pick up the right book. So what has changed? Ah, right, the Internet allowed writers, readers, and publishers of erotica and even highly erotic romance (note the different terms, please; they are indeed different concepts) to connect. Ellora’s Cave proved that there is a market for this. Mainstream publishers weighed corporate interests against tradition and decided to make room for erotica and/or erotic romance in their product catalogs.

The so-called chaste romances that are now a thing of the past? Let us politely suggest that someone needs to go to the bookstore. Here is how it works in the world of romance fiction. First, you have a highly diverse reading audience. Some people like a sweet romance without a lot of physicality. Then you have readers who like a lot of steam with their passion. Then you have readers who enjoy a good laugh. A good cry. Werewolves — hey, who are we to question someone’s fantasy world? Mere flipping through pages would reveal, if one were to do the research, that romance fiction covers a broad range of reading tastes.

All that is different is that mainstream publishers are actively putting highly explicit content on shelves. It’s a little like putting Playboy or Penthouse out for any reader to purchase, but with words instead of pictures. And why do mainstream publishers offer these books? Because a lot of women are buying them. This is not new and it is not news, except the part about mainstream publishers listening to audience wants and desires.

Finally, we end our rant with a sigh because of the final sentence in this paragraph:

Modern erotic fiction knows no such bounds. In Getting Even, for example, only one of the female leads ends up with a man, but only after she catches her husband in flagrante delicto, he abandons her for the other woman and she then hooks up with someone who is investigating her husband. It’s definitely not your grandma’s sweet tale of love.

Who, pray tell, does this reporter think is buying and reading this stuff? The purchases cross a wide range of age groups. Grandmothers like sex, too. Get over it.

And please, American media, go to a bookstore when writing about books. We promise it won’t hurt a bit.

File Under: Square Pegs

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