the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bodice Rippers

So. . .  I dove into that stack of books pictured in the previous post, and OMG, what a shock!  I rediscovered why I used to absolutely DETEST romance novels. 

USED TO, I said.  I love them now, and am proud to say I write them.  The heroines are strong and smart, and the heroes admire them for it. 

Not so twenty-five years ago.  Heroines were naive and weak, apparently even the ones who ran successful businesses.  Small businesses, of course - let's not get carried away here.  They might know their customer base and marketing strategies, but still can't see the glaringly suspicious behavior in bad guys that even my dog wouldn't miss.  No wonder the hero is so patronizing.  Little Fluffy-head needs someone to look out for her.

But here's the really bad part, the part that I would never want a daughter of mine to read for fear she might think it was an accurate portrayal of romance - sexually, the stories were just like this picture.  (With the exception that Fluffy would not put her face there without a full page of horrified blushing.)
Women were submissive.  They might even need to be physically dominated first, because they're going to like it, they just don't know it yet.  They'll  thank him later.  As I said, OMG!  If a man in one of my stories treated the heroine like that, he'd be reaching down his throat to retrieve his nuts after she kneed him in the groin.  Then shot him.  It's called rape, sweetheart.  Honestly, I had to keep setting the book down until I stopped seeing red.
These pictures were actual book covers from romances.  I won't name the titles or authors, because it doesn't matter.  Authors don't choose their cover art.  But they do write the content, and that's where you have to remember that WRITING IS A BUSINESS.  Authors write what sells.  The particular book I read is not pictured here because I happen to know the author is quite good, and her current books do not reflect those attitudes.  She wrote what I'm sure her publisher wanted at the time.  I'm just angry that it helped perpetuate an abusive myth. 

Those old romance novels are the reason I used to snub my nose at the genre.  Thankfully, some authors refused to let their heroines take crap from men, and refused to let their heroes confuse force with affection.  Readers agreed, and publishers got smart about selling to those readers, and we now have heroines smart enough to track down terrorists or kick vampire butt - whatever's needed.  And to be their partner's equal in the bedroom.  Or the crypt; one never knows when the mood will strike.  But wherever, she'll be his equal in every way. 

Unless of course, she likes force, but I don't write those kinds of books.


  1. Sadly, rape was often used in older romances. I stopped reading several authors when rape of the heroine was pretty much assured, and not by the hero, by other men! And sometimes a lot of them!


  2. It is no wonder I stuck to sci-fi and Dungeons and Dragons stories.. Dungeon masters and Dungeon mosters don't descriminate based on your gender... Wow are those covers from so called 'romance' books or porn.. LOL

  3. The romance genre has changed so much in the last twenty years. I remember reading the author of these covers on a regular basis, but as a teenager just getting into the genre I often found myself hiding them. Women in general have evolved since the 70's and 80's which in turn dictated the change from the submissive heroine into a woman who was strong enough to fight back.I won't name the author who's books these covers derived from but these days I find myself having a hard time reading her writings as she has not evolved with the changing times.That being said I tend to lean towards the suspense and contemporary genres before grabbing an older historical romance. That is not to say there are not any good authors with strong central female heroines out there.

  4. It sounds like you know the genre well, Misty. Don't you wonder how this will all be viewed a hundred years from now?