Tag Archives: romance novels

Earning the Ending

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I think most of us like to feel that an ending is deserved in a book or a movie and that applies across the spectrum of genres. I’m only going to discuss romances however. The other night I watched Set It Up on Netflix after reading a glowing review from Vox. Meh. While the office humor was cute, the romance aspect was basically all snark and zero chemistry. The ending basically consisted of the protags going hey we might as well get together now since we’re both free and sarcastic. But there was no real epiphany or character arc or anything interesting wrt either one of them. What’s sort of ironic is that this is how we often behave in real life, since people don’t like to work for things (work? waaah!), which utterly sucks ~ and idk about you, but I want my fiction to be better than real life!

Compare this to one of the best romcoms of all time When Harry Met Sally. The protags change during the film and make the audience feel an anxious longing for them to work through the obstacles preventing them from being together. When Harry runs through the streets of New York City on New Year’s Eve to find Sally, we’re right there with him, feeling his desperation. Harry and Sally both grow as characters during the film (which takes place over a decade) and do more than just snark at each other to create sparks. Think about your favorite romcom ~ you’ll likely agree that the protags have to change and overcome character traits or fears in order to be with their soul mate. This doesn’t just happen via lazy banter and geographical convenience. Love should be earned and fought for, not handed out in the last scene like a party favor.

The same goes for romance novels, which are heavier on the romance and lighter on the comedy (though the best ones are witty too). I recently read two that seemed similar cuz they both were about fictional dukes in England around the same time period, but one had an earned happily ever after ending and one did not. They were both enjoyable, for different reasons, but I gave one 3 stars and the other 4, because of the earned aspect.

In How to Forget a Duke, neither protag changes significantly during the novel other than falling in love. The main issue that keeps them apart is resolved by someone else fixing it, not by either the hero or heroine figuring out a way around the issue or deciding it is not as important as their lurve. That gave me the sads. But in From Duke Till Dawn, both protags change during the novel (and more than once) and have various epiphanies about each other, themselves, and life in general. It’s a really good book and the ending is earned. I didn’t give it 5 stars because I simply can’t bear ridiculous coinkydinks, and if a duke with his massive resources can find people anywhere, why couldn’t he have found Cassandra when she disappeared the first time? Anyway…

I’m glad I stumbled across that Vox article I linked in the first para because it referenced The Daily Beast’s 2014 essay declaring that the romcom is dead, which I hadn’t heard before. Is that true? TDB makes a good argument for it ~ and I haven’t seen many (any?) decent new romcoms in the last 5 years or so. I loved The Big Sick, if that counts as one, but even if… that’s just one. Can you think of any other recent big-screen romcoms?

Oh well, there are still are romantic books to read. Remember books? 🙂

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Anything, Everything

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Anything is not possible; everything is not possible. We can begin there. If you disagree with those premises, I think you would be part of another conversation, Childhood Myths 101. Just down the hall.

I’ve always enjoyed fantasy though. It doesn’t seem incompatible to me, to disbelieve in the supernatural and also to entertain the possibility of impossible things. Maybe once, a long time ago, more things seemed possible to me. I think that must be true.

Fiction has to be more “believable” now to me in some ways however for me to escape into it. Forex, I’ll go along with time travel, but I won’t accept a character with a posh apartment overlooking Central Park on a waiter’s salary and no other means of support. Nope. I’m hyper-aware of economics in movies now. It really irritates me when writers give their characters homes and cars way out of their apparent budget sans explanation. But it’s fine if they stick a ghost in that same house. No problem.

It’s very trendy now, ever since Gone Girl perhaps, to give us unreliable narrator/s. One of the first times I can recall digging into such a story was as a teenager with Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing. It didn’t hold up as well on a much later re-read, but regardless it set the concept for me that an unreliably told story was something I enjoyed. The reader has to do more work and I don’t mind that at all. A friend mentioned that Hereditary could be viewed in this light, as a story told completely through the eyes of the schizophrenic son with no supernatural elements involved at all. Interesting idea!

One of the criticisms of romance novels is that they’re “formulaic,” but to the romance reader that’s not a bug but a feature. We want to know going in that no matter how bad the odds look for the future of this couple, no matter how much they appear to “hate” each other when they first meet, and no matter how many miles separate them, they will end up together at the end. The pleasure is in watching them navigate all the obstacles set in their path, knowing they will overcome them because they love each other, simple as that (as opposed to real life where people break up over the dumbest things). I don’t enjoy romances when the protags aren’t struggling to be with each other and it’s only a twist of fate which throws them together at the last mo. Unsatisfying!

I think the Jennifer Crusie romance novel Faking It about art forgery/fraud would make a good movie. Someone should get on that.

I sometimes enjoy an action/adventure movie where the protag (or anti-hero) takes crazy risks when I know he’ll prevail. It’s funny how these films aren’t usually dismissed as “formulaic” while romcoms are, maybe because they’re marketed more to men. It’s fine to be formulaic if we’re talking car chases and gunfights! I never hear 007 flicks disparaged like that. Anyway, I like these on occasion, even though we never get to see the ones where a hero takes a risk, fails, and ends up on disability for the rest of his life. There’s a lot of various suspension of disbeliefs necessary in many of the action movies too, such as why the hero never misses with one shot while managing to dodge a hail of bullets from professional assassins, etc.

I’m ready for some good dramas ~ I was telling peeps this last night. The Seagull was good and I want to see a few more on that level or better. Complex, character-driven stories that stick with me for a while. But I don’t know if any of those are coming up in my area. On my list now: Distorted, The Cakemaker, Mamma Mia, Puzzle, The Spy Who Dumped Me. Assuming any of these end up playing conveniently near me, that is. So tired of seeing my local theaters all overloaded with blockbusters on every screen. BORING. Do not want to see dinos, migraine triggery cartoons, or Star Wars #857. Changed my mind on The King, since it’s not actually about him but the 2016 election. Gahhhhhhhh! Talk about a horror movie.

I go to the movies to ESCAPE from that.

MP5: The Seagull

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I wouldn’t have even known about this movie, except for a couple of my eagle-eyed friends having spotted it playing in Irvine earlier and chirping excitedly about it. All of us love Saoirse Ronan ~ the first time I saw her was in Lady Bird, which I thought was fab, but my peeps didn’t get into that flick so much. Anyway, a different friend and I winged our way to Westpark 8 yesterday to check out The Seagull.

First, the acting was incredible. What a cast! Annette Bening. Love her. She was superb as the aging, jealous, petty yet complex matriarch. Saoirse was wonderful. Elizabeth Moss was great. And Brian freaking Dennehy! Everyone else was amazing as well.

Second, the first third of the movie was boring AF. My friends disagree and it’s true I am not known for my patience. But I was literally tapping my foot and yawning. It dragged on and on setting up these characters. This would have worked better in writing. I could totally imagine reading The Seagull as a romance novel and becoming engaged after skimming through the beginning. Country house, games, clothing, flirtations, play within a play, yada, etc.

Third, once things began to happen, the movie fully enchanted me. It was the age-old story, perfectly summarized by the J. Geils Band in “Love Stinks” (“you love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else; you just can’t win”), but there are no new stories, so everything depends on how you tell the ones we have. The Seagull is a great one, which we would expect, given that it’s based on the play by Anton Chekhov.

I got confused at the end and thought they messed up the movie, but that was just my brainfog. In my defense, that’s actually happened to me in a movie and the audience began yelling that the film was all screwed up. I took migraine meds yesterday and started taking allergy meds too because I’m tired of being itchy and stuffy along with suffering stabby pain. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, since that sometimes happens with allergy meds, but my sleep was “normal.”

After I got things sorted out in my mind, all was excellent again. I recommend this movie, as long as you’re chill with a slow start.

Not sure which movie I’ll see next. Not everything plays conveniently to my location.

The Story Is Everything

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One of my friends asked about The Wedding on Twitter. She was developing a slight interest but was still perplexed at the intense fascination it held for some people, mostly women a little older than herself. I fall into that group. Now, I’ve not been obsessed with The Wedding itself; in fact, I found the relentless coverage as irritating as anything else the “news” media decides I must have shoved in my face 24/7, whether it’s the KarJenner baby mama drama BS or that horrible man’s lawyers’ lawyers’ lawyers’ lawyers.

However. I loved the story of Diana (and cried at the tragedy). Her story kept me vaguely interested in her children all these years. William and Kate’s story was sweet, but the Meghan Markle story is fascinating. Everything I learn about Meghan is fabulous. She’s a proud and accomplished feminist! She went to Northwestern! She has a rescue beagle! I think she is utterly gorgeous and her mother is gorgeous too. I adored seeing the dresses and silly hats on the royals and celebs at the wedding and after-party. (I didn’t watch the actual ceremony ~ I’m not big on vids.) And the children were adorable! Meghan’s little doggie rode with the Queen, omgawd!

And I clicked on bunches of pics that “proved” Meghan and Harry were in super duper lurve because of all their PDA, which is generally Not Done by royals but they don’t care. They’re so cute and wonderful, proving that soul mates exist in this scary terrible world. It’s the perfect time to be reminded of that. Yes, I have examples of soul mates in my own life, but this is different because it’s a story for the world to witness as one.

This is why people love a fantasy. This is why romance novels outsell every other genre. We want to believe in the love story. We want to believe in magic and romance. We want the fairy tale, the prince and the princess, the horses, the gowns, the flowers, the kiss that lasts a lifetime, all of it.

We want the story.

Peeve Tuesday

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Last week I ordered a couple essentials from Amazon: cat food and hairspray. I order a lot of stuff from Amazon, a lot. They know who I am and where to find me. As does the clown who signed me up for Us Magazine ~ thanks a lot, dingdong. I don’t want it, I’m not interested in celebs, and it’s going straight to the trash. No one better bill me for it either! (Okay fine, I have been glancing through it, under protest. It’s very shiny.)

Anyway, I forgot my essentials were scheduled to arrive on Sunday because I was so wrapped up in watching The Big Game, as one does. But yesterday I thought, hey, where’s my stuffs? So, I did the tracky thing and lo found an exception. Amazon outsourced my delivery to USPS, who couldn’t get in.

Let’s think about this for a moment. The actual U.S. Post Office, who delivers my actual mail (rain or shine), didn’t know how to get into my apartment complex. WTF? How do they deliver my real mail then? No problem, I figured, I have an account with them, so I will contact them, give them my gate code (idiots), so they can redeliver.

Nope, nope, nope. Can’t do that. Only the sender can intercept. I could be some weirdo trying to steal someone else’s cat food and hairspray in the middle of the delivery. With my own log-in credentials where they have my real name, address, etc, and I’d be at risk of a felony for committing mail fraud. To steal cat food and hairspray. Yes, that could happen and the Post Office isn’t taking any chances. Can’t contact Amazon to give them the gate code to give to USPS because the transaction is now out of their hands. All gone, wheee!

The only thing for me to do is wait and see what happens. Either the USPS buttheads will redeliver my package properly or they’ll return it to Amazon, at which time I can ask them to use another delivery service, or pick it up myself at one of their stations. Luckily however on Monday (yesterday) the next USPS mailperson figured out how to get into my apartment complex (miracle!) and delivered my package.

I received an email notice at noon that my package had been “left with an individual.” An individual? What? Why? Who? I don’t even know any of my neighbors. Would I have to knock on doors saying, “Excuse me sir do you haz my cat food and hairspray?” Was not looking forward to this scenario. NOT AT ALL. Though it could be a romance novel cute meet… But this is real life, and I don’t meet men cutely, or in any way whatsoever. I just want my G.D. cat food and hairspray!

Why is life so hard? I want my mommy! Waaah!

In any case, I had to go out to dinner with friends last night and was forced to play a long complicated game that was sort of like… scrabble plus poker and… well, I can’t explain it, too weird, but it went on forever and I got home after 10PM… and guess what?

MY PACKAGE WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE MY DOOR!!!

What a week I’m having. And it’s only Tuesday.

 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dukes…

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Jennifer Weiner has an interesting op-ed in the NYT celebrating sex ed via the romance novel. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Ms. Weiner’s novels and I want to change that soon. I’ve put her memoir Hungry Heart on my wish list and will be grabbing some of her older novels as well. But in the meantime I enjoyed her article in the NYT, even though I didn’t agree with all of it.

We’re on the same page with the idea that “what goes where” sex ed is necessary but not sufficient for young peeps and of course they will be curious for more information. They will search for it relentlessly. I definitely agree with Ms. Weiner that romance novels give a woman’s sexual satisfaction equal priority to a man’s. No fantasy duke or pirate or spy or CEO ever forgets to please his heroine in the bedroom (or wherever), multiple times. Ms. Weiner makes a good point that, unlike pr0n, romance novels describe complete scenes, including birth control (in contemporaries), various other awkward moments, and follow-up conversations.

Talking is important!

But romance novels, like so many forms of entertainment, focus mostly on fabulous looking characters with beautiful faces and perfect bodies. These are the kinds of people deserving of soul mates, true love, fantastic sex, and happily ever afters… this is the message insidiously drilled into our minds as soon as we’re able to read a book or watch a movie. Ms. Weiner quotes Jennifer Crusie in her article, and Ms. Crusie has given us plus-size heroines in several of her novels, but still they are gorgeous overweight women with great legs, lips, and hair, not the ordinary fat chicks you find shlumping around the supermarket. This is not to criticize ~ I lurve Ms. Crusie’s novels and they’re among my favorite romances. I am… JUST SAYING.

[I know some of you go into a peevey fit when peeps just say. Sorry about that.]

Point is, there’s a downside to young people (aka women let’s be honest cuz young men aren’t going to be reading Crusie et al) consuming the emotional content of their sex ed via romance novels. I should know. I was one.

On the bright side, people are still reading books.

The Overheard Confession

There are so many overused tropes in romance novels that if I see one in the blurb I’ll immediately lose interest in reading the book. Amnesia, mistaken ID, twins switching places, dukes pretending to be not-dukes, heiresses pretending to be not-heiresses, the jaded military man, the loner cowboy, the manic pixie dream girl, vampires, yada. One that you generally don’t get alerted to in the description but which sneaks in later is the overheard confession.

It goes like this. One of the protagonists, usually the heroine, will “confess” something, maybe her attraction to the hero, or something else incriminating, and he overhears it, or he hears part of it. He just so happens to walk past the room at the exact moment she says: “I poisoned my father so I wouldn’t have to marry my cousin Fenwick.” Naturally our hero misses the first part of what she says: “I can’t believe anyone would think I poisoned my father…”

This will propel the plot quite some distance before the protags sort it all out. Heroine won’t understand why hero is mistrustful of her when earlier he was so charming and attentive. He can’t understand why such a lovely girl, who cares for the orphans and the puppies, could have coldly killed her father. It’s such a dilemma! And yet he’s still madly attracted to her, which is so horrible for him that it puts him in a foul mood and he’s always snapping at the secondary characters. Naturally they avoid him and gravitate to our heroine, which makes him angrier. Why is she so popular? She’s a murderer, for heaven’s sake! Gah.

Idk if I’ve ever read that particular book, but I feel I have. It seems very real to me now that I wrote the paragraph. I believe it’s a parody/pastiche of various romnovs.

Sometimes it’s the hero who has the overheard confession. I read a romnov where the heroine believed she heard the hero say he never wanted children but in fact he said he didn’t want them with his first wife who would have been a bad mother since she was a drunken whore. Luckily she drowned, hurrah. And the protags solved some mystery and sorted out the baby making so all was well.

I think I’m over my burst of science fiction reading and back to romances, mysteries, and dramas. Of course I’m always up for a good book of pomes or a well-written aminal story (the non-fiction science type).

Goodreads says I read 28 books in 2017 (may finish another one this week). That doesn’t seem like very many, but four of them were A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) ~ in other words, enormous (around 1200 pages each). Lotta confessions going on in GOT, overheard and not.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Confess

Expect

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After much fluctuating, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo. I’m building in five October “cheat” days to make up for my rocking social life, and the first one is tomorrow. I’m getting excited! It’s been a long time since I wrote my butt off for hours, without expectation. I don’t know what kind of novel this will be, or if I’ll even approach the 50K wordcount at all. Maybe it’ll be semi-autobiographical, or perhaps I’ll cut the selfies later. It might be a suspense novel or a romance. For sure, it will have ghosts, real or metaphorical… or both, most likely.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Expect

My Take on PassionFlix

I know my blogfans can’t wait to hear what I haz to say about PassionFlix: “a premium streaming entertainment service that will provide your fix of classic romantic movies and launch original film adaptations of romance novels.” [quote via Bustle]

Honestly I was pretty freaking excited about the concept, one which I thought of myself ages ago. I mean, of course I thought of it ~ why wouldn’t I? There are so many mediocre romcoms (and lots of great ones too!) and so many good romance novels; it’s only natural to wonder why “they” don’t make the better ones into movies, beyond P&P. It puzzles me, forex, why no Jennifer Crusie romances have been made into movies. Faking It could be a super fun movie, among others. Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, etc. Then there are the old-timey romances with dukes and pirates. Peeps luv pirates. So much potential!

Anyway, after reading the Bustle article, I ran right over to the PassionFlix site, thinking hey maybe I will subscribe right away! But um… none of the books they have on their list to be made into movies are ones I’ve heard of. Some of the authors ring a bell, like Sylvia Day and Jill Shalvis, but not in a happy bell ringy way. Oh well.

They also stream other romantic movies, so I might sign up for a couple months just to be supportive of the concept. We’ll see. It’s a great concept. Maybe eventually there will be a Crusie book movie. A girl can dream…

And I know some of you are suspicious (or hopeful) that this is simply a pr0n site. Well, it does have a “barometer of naughtiness” (lol), but from the streaming movie list, it doesn’t look that way, unless you consider these movies pr0n:

“We have everything from Moonstruck to Thomas Crown AffairClueless to Last HolidayOverboard, BabyBoom, Roman Holiday, Strictly Ballroom, Love Story, Like Water for Chocolate, Bride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Mansfield Park, Kate & Leopold, She’s AllThat, Sabrina and Wuthering Heights. [from the Bustle article]

Unfortunately, I’ve seen almost all these movies, or can easily get them from Prime or wherever, so the only thing that would really tempt me to join would be fab original content. As I said… maybe later on.

Romance Awareness Month

August is RAM. I bet you didn’t know that. I didn’t know that. But luckily I have romance novels set as a key term in my Google News feed and ~ voilà ~ an article materialized to inform me of such.

I enjoyed reading what the various authors in the linked article had to say about the genre, about the joy of the happy ending, and especially how predictability is not a bug but a feature. Sarah MacLean noted that the genre is evolving to highlight not only the empowerment of women in general but also has given prominence to the “non-standard” heroine. Yes, we can have overweight women finding their soul mates now, along with older women, disabled women, women of color, on and on. Gone are the days when only “perfect” 19 year old white girls were allowed to find true love.

But romance novels are still scorned by many in a way that other genre novels are not. Sure, there are a lot of crappy romances out there. There are also a lot of crappy science fiction stories, crappy murder mysteries, etc. It does take some effort to find a good romance, since the market is flooded with them, but the same holds true for the other genres as well. This is where the library comes in handy, so you don’t waste $8 on impulse, and/or exchanging paperbacks with friends.

SSC: I have been on a break from romance novels for most of this year, but I’m sure I’ll go back eventually. I always do.

SSC2: I may do NaNoWriMo in October (would end my count on 10/30 to be fair)!

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