Saturday, August 05, 2006

Love Goddesses and Hyper Sex

Picked up another handful of romance novels the other day for research.
You know the type - Love Goddesses Unleashed!! - Desire !! Temptation !! Blaze !! Heat !!
Have read two of them.
The first relied heavily on pages and pages of babminton type dialogue with lots of sexual double entendres.
Some would go over our sweet, innocent heroine's head ( half of them went over my head too, and I didn't even have to duck ) and then she would shock our hero by deliberately fielding a few of her own.
There wasn't much action during all this.
Just back-and-forth, back-and-forth.
They were at a week-end house party. They went upstairs. They went downstairs.
Thought they would never get to the lady's chamber.
Think the problem with this cerebral technique, is that to get the full import of the sexual dialogue, one is forced first into one head and then the other, even if the writer adheres to the ostensible rules of POV shift.
I gave the dialogue the bird.
That took care of over half the book.
Also, there was the slight problem of Aliens Arriving.
We were supplied with the stereotypical Other Woman - the first class bitch who dumped the hero for bigger prey in backstory, destroyed his self-esteem and screwed his self-confidence.
Now, I like The Bitch, particularly if she is stereotypical. I like to see her get hers.
These bitchy Other Women provide an excellent foil to our resourceful heroine and all those other convenient things.
And I don't want to traverse the round inner mentality of every single character in a book. I don't want to sympathize with each and every introduced individual.
Screw that too.
Here, however - in the very last chapter - the Other Woman, in a conveniently arranged conversation, is revealed as wise, considerate and kindly. She helped set up the situation that brought the hero and heroine together. Out of the goodness of her heart.
Never mind that we have already been told the the hero's boss and best friend arranged it all.
How sweet.
Oh, and the book began with the hero sitting in a car watching a conversation on the girl's doorstep.

Do you really want to know what I thought of the second one?


Dennie McDonald said...

um... that would be a no...

God I hope I do a better job than that!

Dennie McDonald said...

oh and Yippee - I was first - that hasn't happened in a long time - hehehe - I am so easily amused!

Jaye Wells said...

Bernita, I don't read a lot of category romance (which I assume these were). Instead, I prefer the longer, more complex plots and characterization found in single title.

However, category is tough to write. A lot has to be covered in a short space. I know some people who do it very well. And the others? Well, it can be painful.

Bernita said...

I'm sure you do, Dennie.
Just glad to see you whenever you show up.

I can't say that I read a lot of them either, Jaye.

I an not, however, damning category romance.
Perhaps I should emphasize that?

I usually enjoy and often admire them - particularly for the skill exhibited in creating interesting characters,and romantic entanglements and complexities within what is largely a very rigid formula.

kmfrontain said...

I've noted a general drop in quality in the last twenty odd years in the romance genre. Some books remain outstanding, others just suck. Hence readers going back to their favourite authors. One way to avoid the awful books. I actually gave up reading romance novels at one point, because of the downward trend in quality, and then I started looking only for books written early eighties and avoid books from the nineties. But there seems to be some good authors getting published in the new century. I get books passed on to me from my mom still, and that's when I see new authors that can actually tell a decent story.

Bernita said...

I'm just into the third, Karen, and so far it's shaping up very well for both character and complication.
The second, though it has some strengths, had a different set of problems from the first one.

EA Monroe said...

Wow. I'm always curious. I checked out a book by a romance author I had read way back when (one of the prolific writers), and I could not read it. Everything about writing I've learned not to do, this best selling NYT author was doing (or maybe dictating the story to an assistant). I felt as if my own writing was going to go "retrograde" and suffer if I read any further. I have a hard time reading category, but I pick them up for "study." If the writing and characters do not pique my interest, I get bored. I can't write boring. But it's a good way to study the complications/problems to learn what not to do! And to discipline yourself as a writer. Darn, I never could color inside the lines! The author who wrote your romance novel must have been passionate about badminton! ;-)

Bernita said...

It's also a good way to see what works really, really well, EA, perhaps faciliated by the restrictive word count.

Some of the innuendo contained was clever and funny. There was just too much of it and my neck got sore.

EA Monroe said...

Benita, here's something interesting I learned from Darlene Graham who writes for the Harlequin Super Romance imprints. At one of her romance writers' panels, when asked, she said that when Harlequin buys her books, she no longer "owns" the story or has any rights to the characters, etc. (other than her royalties and we did get it out of her that she's paid about $25,000 for each book). Since she has become more established, she now has ownership rights written into her contract so that she can write sequels and use her same characters, but they are still Harlequin "owned" books. I wonder if that is still true? Do you know anything about this?

Bernita said...

Know nothing about it, EA.
Though off the top of my still-bobbing head it sounds like the publisher's clause used for series writing, which enables the publisher to contract other writers to continue a popular character and plot arc.
Much like the Nancy Drew/ Tom Swift/ Hardy Boys books.
Harlequin does, I believe, own the rights to Don Pendleton's "Executioner" series, for example.
Perhaps this is standard to all Harlequin contracts, perhaps not.
I do not know.

kmfrontain said...

EA Monroe said: .I checked out a book by a romance author I had read way back when (one of the prolific writers), and I could not read it. Everything about writing I've learned not to do, this best selling NYT author was doing (or maybe dictating the story to an assistant)."

I feel for you there. I read the older ones and I see all the things that crit groups say not to do today: too flowery, the female characters are too naive, too many saidisms, too many whatevers. But this is what worked at the time, and the readers liked it. It is, for us, hard to read, but remember that what we don't like, readers might.

Bernita said...

That is quite true, Karen, there are styles in writing.
Styles and tastes change, even technical styles change. It was not unusual for books written 20-30 years ago to have leisurely introductions, just for example, or other structures, like the saidisms you mentioned, that today's audience might well consider tedious.

Just as some of the best-selling books of the past might not get out of the slush piles of today, some of the books of today would never have seen print had they been submitted back then.

kmfrontain said...

Yes, the style of writing is as subject to trends as blue jeans. ;-)

I have a hard time reading The Sword of Shannara these days, though it was a favourite in the past. It's ponderous.

December Quinn said...

I agree, km. I think the general quality of romances has dropped, even as everyone says how much better they are than the "cliched and silly" romances of 20-30 years ago.

And Bernita, yes, I would like to know what you thought about the second. (Although I'm ashamed...I have an ex-gf who has an epiphany and becomes nice again in my first vampire story. Oops.) :-)

Robyn said...

the Other Woman, in a conveniently arranged conversation, is revealed as wise, considerate and kindly. She helped set up the situation that brought the hero and heroine together. Out of the goodness of her heart.

Oh, hell no! Even if I ended up with the world's greatest man I would smack her down for that. Let her be a bad girl! Let me hate her!

Bernita said...

It would have been fine if this revelation had not been dropped in at the very last moment, December.
Epiphanies work, so does using the former lover to show how immature the heroine is.
But not at the last moment for no good reason I could see unless it was a everything is sweety-pie, all-friends-together.

That's right, Robyn!
I had a really nice hate going. Felt tricked.

averagedrinker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
December Quinn said...

Bernita, looks like my spammer came by here! What say we start putting out the word that these people are a bunch of sleazy scumbags?

Bernita said...

I just gave her the finger, December... on the delete button.
This is a new low in street corner spamming.