Romance for Librarians


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A humorous and highly biased introduction to the world's most popular and least understood genre: the romance novel.

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  • Flame and the Flower was the first romance to follow characters into the bedroom
    Nora Roberts greatly expanded use of the male POV
  • Fifty Shades uses female POV exclusively, like early/category romances
  • Romance for Librarians

    1. 1. A librarian’s introduction to the world’s best-selling, least understood genre—literature by women, for women, from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first.
    2. 2. It’s the best-selling genre of fiction. • In the 2008 recession, romance sales rose while all other fiction sales were flat • Romance is the top-selling genre, rivaled only by mystery/crime/thriller • Romance readers prefer ebooks and contribute significantly and consistently to Overdrive circulation in libraries
    3. 3. What is a romance? Three main criteria: 1. A romantic love story 2. that is central to the narrative and 3. resolves in a happy ending for the lovers. Source: Dear Author, "Too Many Rules, Too Little Romance" Jennifer Crusie, "I Know What It Is When I Read It: Defining the Romance Genre"
    4. 4. Is it a romance? Pride and Prejudice: Yes Gone with the Wind: Yes? Outlander: Yes? Madame Bovary: No Message in a Bottle: No
    5. 5. Romance Jargon Hero: male lead character Heroine: female lead character HEA: Happily ever after (see also HFN, “happy for now”) Alpha: Traditional dominating hero Beta: Mild-mannered, sensitive hero Gamma: Hero who doesn’t fit either mold TSTL: Characters who are “Too Stupid To Live” The Big Misunderstanding: tiresome plot device where conflict could have been avoided if characters communicated Keeper: that rare book so good you kept it (“it’s on my Keeper shelf”) Wallbanger: book so infuriating you hurled it at the wall DNF: Did Not Finish
    6. 6. How Romances Work Romances, like mysteries, have a formula and familiar tropes. In a successful romance: • Author must create equally compelling hero and heroine • Author must create conflict to keep couple apart • Author must resolve conflict believably • Any power imbalance between hero and heroine is rectified (both must show vulnerability) • Heroine’s desires (for love, pleasure, success) are fulfilled Romance novels are meant to be fun. There may be sorrow and pain, murder and mayhem, tears and loss. But in the end, our heroine isn't going to throw herself in front of a train. She's going to stick it out, shove up her sleeves, and dig deep. And when she wins, we win. -Nora Roberts, “Women Who Win” 2003 RWA Convention Speech
    7. 7. How Romances Work Some Romance Tropes: • Enemies to lovers (“Kiss or Kill”) • Damaged hero redeemed by the love of a good woman • Playboy falls for average-looking heroine • Uptight hero/heroine learns to let go • Damsel in distress rescued by hero (and she rescues him right back) • Estranged lovers reunite • Marriage of convenience • Secret/unexpected baby • Posing as lovers (“Fake It ‘Til You Make Out”) Thanks to Heroes and Heartbreakers for some great names for tropes!
    8. 8. Why Read Romance? I write romance novels because …it’s the best antidote I know for a graduate degree in literature. I spent years reading about miserable women like the one who pursued the life she wanted, had great sex, and then ate arsenic; or the one who pursued the life she wanted, had great sex, and then threw herself under a train; or my personal fave, the one who pursued the life she wanted, had lousy sex with a masochistic dweeb, and spent the rest of her endless life atoning by doing good works in a letter sweater. What a great literary education gets a woman is depressed. -Jennifer Crusie, “Glee and Sympathy”
    9. 9. Types of Romance Subgenres • Historical: Regency, Western, Scottish highlands, Viking, Medieval, Victorian, Georgian • Contemporary: funny or serious? May contain supernatural elements • Romantic Suspense • Inspirational/Christian (Amish settings popular) • Paranormal: vampires, werewolves, angels, mythical creatures, ghosts, time travel, futuristic • Erotica: Is this really a subgenre? Kind of…
    10. 10. Types of Romance Category vs. Single Title Single Titles : Harlequin HQN and Mira, Avon (HarperCollins), Berkeley, Jove, Signet (Penguin), Forever (Hachette), Casablanca (Sourcebooks), St. Martin’s (Macmillan) Category: Harlequin (which purchased Mills and Boone, Silhouette, and basically all its competitors!) AKA “Series” romance: a certain number of titles in a series/line are released each month.
    11. 11. Judging a Book By Its Cover
    12. 12. Those Covers
    14. 14. Types of Romance Heat Levels Mild/Sweet: like classic Harlequins that ended with a clinch or an offscreen sex scene Hot: the average romance. One or two partial scenes (foreplay), at least one descriptive penetrative sex scene Spicy/Scorching: all of the above with more positions, female on male oral, BDSM/”kink” elements Erotica: menage a trois, BDSM, anal, you name it
    15. 15. Romance: A History A “romance” was originally a verse narrative, usually a story of chivalry (Le roman de la rose) 1740: Pamela: Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson 1794: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 1813: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1919: The Sheik by Edith Maud Hull 1935: Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer 1936: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 1938: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 1972: The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss 1979: The Fulfillment by LaVyrle Spencer 1981: Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts 1991: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    16. 16. Dame Barbara Cartland (1901-2000) Romance: A History Cartland’s name was practically synonymous with romance from the 1920s on.
    17. 17. Romance: A History 1970s: The “Bodice Ripper” is Born 1980s: Rise of the Contemporary 1990s: The Reign of Queen Nora 1985: Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love revolutionizes the Regency 1974: Rosemary Rogers, Sweet Savage Love 2000s: Attack of the Vampires 2004: MaryJanice Davidson, Undead and Unwed 2005: J. R. Ward, Dark Lover, Stephenie Mayer, Twilight 2010s: Age of Erotica? 2007: Amazon Kindle 2011: E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey1996: Bridget Jones’ Diary spawns “Chick Lit” 1960s: The Gothic Legacy* * A humorous side-trip to the era of gothic romance
    18. 18. Collection Development • Most romances are published as mass-market paperbacks, so older works disappear quickly. Libraries should take care to stock more than just the newest works by an author. • Many single-title romances are part of a trilogy or series. Increasingly, authors assume readers have read the previous books in the series. • Romance readers were early adopters of ebooks, and ebooks now dominate romance sales. • Many romance authors are turning to self-publishing due to shrinking advances, the decline of shelf space in brick and mortar stores, and the demand for ebooks. Many out of print titles are now available as ebooks.
    19. 19. Readers’ Advisory • Romance fans are mostly self-sufficient. They get their recommendations from online communities or word of mouth. • Romance is an appeal factor in many types of books! • When recommending a non-romance book to a romance fan, be sure to ask if lack of an HEA , infidelity, or promiscuity are major turn-offs.
    20. 20. The Romance Canon? All About Romance Top 100 The Ten Romance Novels You Should Read (Heroes and Heartbreakers) RITA Award Winners RT Award No fan will agree with everything on these lists, and romance has never had serious critical attention…but here’s a starting point for the best of the genre.
    21. 21. For Further Reading: Until recently, academic writing on the romance tended to focus on whether reading romances was good or bad for women. Early feminist criticism raised many valid concerns, but fortunately more recent scholars have taken a more nuanced view. A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis, University of Pennsylvia Press 2003 Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, University of Pennsylvia Press 1992 The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity by Carol Thurston, University of Illinois Press 1987
    22. 22. For Further Reading: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Also check out the two Smart Bitches books, Beyond Heaving Bosoms and Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels Dear Author Heroes and Heartbreakers Romance Writers of America RT Book Reviews (formerly Romantic Times)
    23. 23. For Further Reading: And finally, Jen’s highly biased list of best romances: Contemporary: Suzanne Brockmann: Hot Target (Suspense; features a gay subplot!) Jennifer Crusie: Bet Me, Faking It Lisa Kleypas: Smooth Talking Stranger Susan Mallery: All Summer Long, Two of a Kind, Three Little Words Molly O'Keefe: Can't Buy Me Love (damaged hero and heroine) Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Match Me If You Can, Natural Born Charmer Nora Roberts: Three Sisters Island trilogy, Irish trilogy, Vision in White (great example of a Beta hero) Historical: Jennifer Ashley: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (features an autistic savant hero!) Joanna Bourne: The Spymaster's Lady (Regency spy vs. spy) Celeste Bradley: The Pretender Connie Brockway: The Other Guy's Bride (if you like Amelia Peabody, you might enjoy this!) Loretta Chase: Silk is for Seduction, Lord Perfect, Miss Wonderful, Mr. Impossible Tessa Dare: Goddess of the Hunt, A Week to be Wicked Juliana Gray: A Lady Never Lies (closer to Edwardian period, involves early automobiles!) Elizabeth Hoyt: To Seduce a Sinner, To Beguile a Beast, Wicked Intentions Eloisa James: The Taming of the Duke, Pleasure for Pleasure, Desperate Duchesses series Sabrina Jeffries: To Pleasure a Prince Lisa Kleypas: Again the Magic, Worth Any Price, Devil in Winter (Wallflowers series) Rose Lerner: In for a Penny Teresa Medeiros: The Bride and the Beast (Scottish) Courtney Milan: Unclaimed, Unraveled Amanda Quick: I Thee Wed Julia Quinn: The Viscount Who Loved Me, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgerton series) Jodi Thomas: To Kiss a Texan (Western) Sherry Thomas: Delicious
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