And now, for a little romance…

Tell people you’re writing romance, and a good number of them roll their eyes.  We all know why; but in case anyone’s forgotten, here’s a list:

  • Romance novels are vapid
  • It’s just a formula.  That is, anyone could do it.
  • Despite that, they’re badly written
  • It doesn’t explore worthwhile themes
  • It gives women unrealistic expectations of relationships
  • It’s full of cliche – the moon is always full, the members are always throbbing, the bosoms are always heaving, etc.
  • The characters are shallow
  • And this

In his article, Mr. Elsner states:

I have nothing against such escapist fiction in principle. And I guess that women have as much right to enjoy pornography packaged to their liking as men. But I simply don’t find these books romantic.

He then goes on to compare modern romance novels with Pride and Prejudice.  Hm.  Well, here’s what I’ll say.  I seriously doubt that most authors of contemporary romance novels are trying to be Jane Austen.  That is, we know it’s not “literature,” and we don’t care.

Are there many, many very badly written romance novels?  Yes.
Are they all badly written?  No.
Are a huge number of romance novels vapid?  Yes.
Are they all vapid?  No.
Is there a formula?  Well, yes, inasmuch as any genre has a formula.
Can anyone write one?  No.
Is writing a good one easy?  No.
Do they give women unrealistic expectations of relationships?  You know, I really don’t think so.  No more, anyway, than romantic comedies do.  Is When Harry Met Sally realistic?  I don’t think so.  Does that make it less enjoyable?  No, it makes it more enjoyable.

Which brings me to my actual point.  When I’m reading, or writing, a romance, I’m not looking for realism.  The whole thing is about escapism.  I work a stressful, many hour a week job.  Other women are busy, raising families, taking care of elderly parents, serving on the City Council, running companies … when they read, at least sometimes, they don’t always want to have to think about it so much.  They just want something light and entertaining that will most likely have a happy ending.  We all know that isn’t life – that’s what’s so great about it. Life is many things, but it isn’t usually light, overall.

Now, ideally, a good romance will have a bit of depth to it:  characters who are more than one dimensional, a realistic conflict that involves more than “but I thought you hated me,” and a relationship that’s about more than “I thought you hated me, let’s jump into bed.  Holy shit, that was awesome!  I must love you!”

Added to all of that, despite the escapist elements of romance, some of us do actually have good relationships – as good as the relationships in good romances.  So it’s not, in the end, all that unrealistic, though the paths we travel to get to the good relationships might be less straightforward, or less fraught, or less condensed.  But who cares?

Not me!  I love romance novels – easy to read, happy ending … and if there’s some porn thrown in the mix, well, so much the better.

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To Be Laid Bare

To be laid bare, to surrender
between the lines
like sunlight through glass, like
flickering streetlights or
chanted prayer –
to wear midnight like a cloak,
collar drawn close to fend off
meaning; to drown by
moonlight, in reflection…
It’s this goddamned voice
in my head,
this yearning to confess
to let go
to offer myself up baptized in flame
to speak in tongues…
It’s that heartbeat, that
solitary throbbing
to the bone, all strings quivering,
the moment suspended to the end
of breathing, beyond sanctuary,
the lines so fine, so gently
drawn, so lightly marked:
there are no stones written on,
here.

Things I find erotic

The word “succulent”
Corsets
Mirrors
Rain
Boots of almost any description
Flannel shirts
Things that are round
Color
Feathers
Masquerade masks
Bells
Silk scarves
Eyes
The click of heels on a tile floor
Ladders
Snow
Ice
Vintage porn
That spot just above the collarbone right at the curve of the neck
A certain type of uncertainty
Lace, stretchy or not
Dancing
Trees
Shibari
Whispering
Stained glass
Laughter
Shadows
Things that tie or lace up
Silver
Breathing
Confidence without arrogance
Mystery
The word “mystery”
Accents
Nail polish
Intelligent conversation
Wit
Hands
Words well used

Draft Excerpt – Ansia Waking

He walked through empty rooms, light flickering off of white stone walls, and mirrors, and crystal goblets sitting where they’d been left by the attendants now asleep on the floor. Through the ballroom, his footsteps echoing in the heavy air. Wide staircases of marble, and long hallways… he lit torches as he went, and found tapestries wild with color and lush scenes. He opened doors and found the sleeping: groomsmen, children, maids… in one room were a groomsman and a maid, she lying flung across the bed with her dress open to the waist, the hem pushed up and bunched around her hips; the groomsman, shirtless, was kneeling on the floor in front of her, her thighs over his shoulders, his mouth on her pussy. The torchlight cast silent, quivering shadows across them, dancing over her breasts, his shoulders.

In another room he found a bowl of fruit, still ripe, and ate a plum.

The Shape of Desire

I love curves.

The way flower stems bend, blossom heavy, leaning toward the sun

Orbs of all kinds – plums and apricots; garden globes that reflect years of light and color; perfume bottles (especially the old ones, with stoppers)

That moment where a neck becomes a shoulder, the way palms curve around and fingers trace

I love the way raindrops and tears follow the lines of a face, the tilt of a jaw

Mugs full of coffee, nestled warm in my hands

Flower pots, and candles, and champagne flutes

Breathing, sometimes, follows a curve

Feathers

Snowdrifts before the world moves in

Sea glass rubbed smooth by waves

The arch of a foot

Punctuation