Tag Archives: romance novels

PFF2: Crabby Book Review

Welcome to the second edition of Paula’s Friday Flashback! For this one, I present a crabby book review I wrote on June 14, 2013. What makes this funny (to me) is that just yesterday I was defending the entire romance novel genre from that twit Nicholas Sparks, but here 6 years ago I was disgusted with it myself! Hah. That’s probably because I was dating back then and trying desperately to blame my poor choices on anything other than my own bad judgment. Oh, it must be because I was overly influenced by romance novels. Sure, Jan.

Or maybe I’m just inconsistent. Whatever!

*

Animal Attraction

By Jill Shalvis. I gave this book a 2-star rating (“it was okay”) on Goodreads even though I enjoyed it for the most part, but I’ve given better books a 3-star, and I want to have some sense of fairness in my ratings.

As I thought objectively about AA, and disregarded the fact that I ripped through it because it was fun and sexy and had a kitty (and lots of other aminals too ~ hero Dell was a vet), I realized it had one of the Fatal Flaws of romance novel writing. The “plot,” such as it was, hinged on the premise that there was an End Date looming, a date at which our heroine Jade absolutely had to leave Sunshine, Idaho and return home to Chicago, therefore preventing Jade and Dell from becoming emotionally entangled, which they would resist in any case since Dell was one of those emotionally unavailable kind of guys we all break our hearts over in real life though in RNs they always become available which upfucks the brains of women who read these STUPID BOOKS but I digress, and they both knew this. (Of course Jade tried not to become physically involved with him either, but that didn’t work. Obviously.)

But as it turned out the End Date was totally arbitrary ~ Jade didn’t have to leave. She had made a promise to her family she’d come home, mostly because they’d been nagging her unreasonably, and since she was a 30 year old woman, it would have been totally acceptable, if not downright advisable, for her to tell them, dudes, I found a good job, a cool apartment, and a great boyfriend here in Idaho, so BACK OFF, I’m staying indefinitely. And so basically there was no plot if you discount this made up out of thin air date. If you do discount the date, then the whole story becomes this whiny thing of ermahgerd I gotta go, can’t let myself fall for hunkyvet, and him thinking why must she go, everyone abandons me just like mommy. Bleh.

Plus there were sloppy POV switches within scenes (annoying and unforgivable!) and missing quotation marks, super-distracting. Upside, the dialog was great and witty, and there were fun minor characters. Shalvis has a ton of books available and I can tell from the blurbs and reviews (however positive) that they’re all gonna be about the same. But one was enough for me.

~*~

Check out Fandango’s FF, where this whole idea originated. It’s all his fault! 😂

We Don’t Want Him

Nicholas Sparks is trending because he refused to accept an LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 club in the Christian school he founded and there’s some ongoing litigation yada. Apparently part of the case has been settled, and he has the legal right to be intolerant, so that’s cool. I more or less support keeping it legal for private clubs to arbitrarily let in and keep out whom they please, as opposed to landlords, employers, public schools, etc. (Whether they should get tax breaks is a different issue.)

Just because something is legal however doesn’t make it good or right. It’s also legal to cheat on your wife. But that’s not what I came here to discuss today. If you don’t already know, Nicholas Sparks is a writer, a hugely bestselling writer. His books have been made into movies. You’ve surely heard of The Notebook? Well, there you go.

In the frenzy to bash Sparks, people have been conflating his books with romance novels and dumping on the whole genre. Now, I don’t mind bashing Sparks ~ I made a yucky 🤮 face on Twitter myself. I can’t stand his sterile prose ~ and that was before I knew he was super religious. Now my review of Safe Haven from 2013 makes a lot more sense.

But let’s be clear: Nicholas Sparks is not a romance novelist. He says himself he isn’t one, and he is correct. He writes general fiction (“love stories”) with romantic elements. It’s an important distinction, peeps! To be a romance novel, a story must have a Happily Ever After ending. If you want to bash the genre, go ahead. If you want to rag on Sparks, for his politics or his writing or both, have at it.

But please don’t lump Nicholas Sparks in with romance novelists. Cuz that just pisses me right off. 😡💥🔥 He’s not welcome in our club. On the whole, you will find the protags in romance novels to be a tolerant lot, or they become tolerant as the story progresses.

I note that in The Daily Beast article I linked in my first sentence, Sparks bags on the whole romance novel genre because he’s a stupid ass who has read none of the books he’s criticizing. Romance novels are not about “the taming of a man” ~ if anything, they err on the side of misogyny, even though they are written largely by women and mostly from the POVs of the female protagonists. What they are, are fantasies of what it would be like if an alpha hero fell in love with you and wanted you more than anything on this earth, and indeed would do anything on this earth to make you his own. And he succeeds. That is what romance novels are and why those of us who love them, love them. ❤️❤️❤️

Sparks can stick with his yawningly vanilla pudding Ken-doll heroes because there is obviously a market for bland safe smooth love too.

^^^ The sexual excitement level in a Sparks’ novel goes from zero to pudding.

Paula’s Friday Flashback

Fandango has yet another great idea! Is there no end to them? (Rhetorical.) He suggests we repost an older post today to give our readers a {{{ fLAsHBacK }}} to days gone bye. Now, I am not following directions precisely (when do I ever?) cuz I used to not only skip bunches of days but also delete posts on whims. Crazy wot? So, this particular post I’m sharing is dated June 6, 2011, which was yesterday. Deal with it!

More on Romance and Porn

Because you are not tired of this topic yet, nope. 🙂

(Look, it was either this or complaining about how my dad can’t handle his banking any longer and now I have to pay his bills on top of all my other monumental burdens like, um, deciding whether to blog or hem my beige pants.)

So this Salon article, which was criticizing a hit piece targeting romance novels, purportedly set out to defend both porn and romance, but did neither very well. Sometimes I wonder why I visit Salon at all; so much of the writing is pure crap.

But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I followed the link to the KSL article warning women away from the potential addiction of romance novels, which I have to say was much better written than the Salon piece, even if you disagreed with it. I suppose there is a nugget of truth to the idea that if you spend all day every day reading about perfect alpha fantasy men you’ll eventually find your own normal lump of a husband not measuring up in comparison, but most women aren’t going to be consuming romance novels like the way they eat bags of Snickers bars in the closet for Pete’s sake.  (Not SAYIN’ anyone here does that with the Snickers bars, ahem.)

Never mind that in any case. I followed a sidebar link from the KSL piece to Moore to the Point’s romance novel bloggery. Obviously this is a religious dude with an agenda, but so what if he makes a good argument, I say. And I’m saying that.

Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the “work” of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

And in both cases, what the “market” wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are “real” men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.

Ooh. Interesting, no? I think so! Discuss. I have to get ready for work.

~*~

I don’t actually have to get ready for work today, June 7, 2019, cuz I took the day off to celebrate National Donut 🍩 Day!

P.S. My dad passed away March 11, 2013.

The Weekly Smile

I’ve skipped a few of these, my bad. Last weekend was pretty smiley though. Three days off work is always welcome (though I did some side work). Received the good news that a story I submitted in March will be published in an anthology soon. Had a fun Saturday night playing games with friends. Spent a sweet Sunday afternoon with my daughter and granddaughter. And had a nice relaxing Monday doing nothing, my favorite thing. Mmm nothing!

J/k. I actually worked on that old novel I’ve been jabbering about, only to discover that it’s a colossal mess and I can’t deal with it. I fixed chapters 1-5, which were reasonably chaotic, but then the thing jumps off a cliff. I’m not jumping after it.

Back to short stories, poems, and stuff I can tackle in short bursts, until I retire or die, whichever comes first!

~*~

The Weekly Smile

Not A Poesy

Nosy neighbors populate my current novel in progress. Sometimes they come across as annoying, but then I’ll show another side to them. I don’t like my readers to get too cozy in their assumptions about what might be happening, although of course it is a romance, so we will end with the HEA. It’s funny that someone as cynical as I am about love will don her rosy lenses to write about a fictional world of relationships working out… or is it? 😍✨💕

Why I Write…

The answer to this question varies with my mood. Some days I have a story to share that I think people will enjoy. Other times I simply need to express myself and words are my best tool for that. There are times I feel like being clever with language. Other days I have this ridiculous notion I’ve come up with something important to convey. Once I answered this question by talking about how writing fiction and poetry is the best way for me to organize my scattered thoughts and make some kind of sense of this messy world too.

I was thinking about all this a little while ago when I re-downloaded my drafts of Attractive Nuisance and Sweet Nothings from the cloud. The other day I’d told a friend I hadn’t been working on a novel lately, only flash fiction and poetry, because I can’t focus for more than a few minutes at a time. But ever since yesterday, when I impulsively replied to Jim’s post about a song, by jabbering on about an old pile of writing, I’ve been energized about working on this layered tale again.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s coincidence that this happened at the end of a week when I’m feeling especially frustrated at other people’s behavior. I’ve never been good at seeing patterns in the actions of real characters unless they’re completely obvious. I’m much better with fiction. And, of course, writing my own gives me a feeling of control I get nowhere else ~ I create a new world, populate it with my creations, and make them do what I want.

Just noodling. Back to work! 😀

Y is for You [A2Z]

You’ve Got Mail is my favorite romantic comedy. It stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, both outstanding, and it’s written and directed by Nora Ephron. I love the build-up of conflicted feelings between Kathleen and Joe, who not only are business rivals but also are with other partners as the story opens. (Both sets of couples break up before K&J get together.) None of that can overcome their growing attraction toward each other though ~ and for quite a while it’s not a physical attraction, which is the best part to me. It’s a combination of an emotional and intellectual connection sustained in writing via chats.

I’m not gonna lie: it’s always been my preference/dream to find this with someone before meeting in person and discovering that it translates to physical chemistry as well. Probably this is why I was so magnetized by the idea of dating sites in the first place. But just like in this movie, most men are deceptive in chats; in real life, though, the ending doesn’t work out so happily ever after.

To me, You’ve Got Mail is simply perfect, the epitome of a romcom. The best of the best. I only wish I could have saved it for last, but there’s one day left…

X is for Xenobia [A2Z]

Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James is a perfect Regency romance novel. It has everything a fan of the genre wants. There is a beautiful and headstrong heroine, who is determined to live life on her own terms, even if it is 1799. We also have an arrogant, handsome, bastard son of a duke, focused on marring someone sweet and biddable. Said sweet miss is terrified of the bastard and would much rather hang with the affable country doctor. School friend comes to visit bastard and says hey nice decorator you got there… shame if some other man took her away from you. Bastard doesn’t like that idea!

Very fun book with little Easter eggs (homages) to other pieces of literature buried in the pages. I probably missed some. Explicit sex scenes abound.

U is for Until [A2Z]

Until We Kissed was such an enjoyable read that I went and downloaded the other 6 Pine Valley contemporary romances right after I finished it!

Librarian Livvy believes she’s dating the perfect man until she meets writer Mason. Sparks fly immediately. Why doesn’t she feel this amazing chemistry with Mr. Perfect, the doctor? It’s a mystery she’ll have to solve as Mason returns to the library day after day to work on his next novel.

Neither Livvy nor Mason are flawless, and they overcome their imperfections to become better and build love and trust. Some readers dismiss books where protags are imperfect, but I like to see characters work on themselves as humans do (ideally) and become their best selves with the help and support of someone who cares for them deeply. When that happens, I find the happily ever after to be more satisfying.

This romance novel does not have explicit sex scenes.

S is for Splash [A2Z]

Splash is a fun, fantasy romcom starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah in the lead romantic roles, and it also has the ever-hilarious John Candy (RIP) and Eugene Levy. The movie was directed by Ron Howard. Tom Hanks has done a lot of comedy, and also many serious roles too, but I like him best as the good guy in a romcom. We’ll be seeing him again toward the end of the alphabet.

What’s interesting to me about the plot of Splash and so many of these romcoms and romance novels too is that one or both of the protagonists are absolutely sure of what they want, and don’t want, in a life partner. This is just like real life, especially now in the age of dating sites when we have our lists of must-haves and can’t-stands. We know the kind of person we’re attracted to and have a hazy picture of him or her in our mind already before we’ve even spoken to anyone. We kinda know how tall they should be, their age, their body shape, their political positions, their hobbies, what music and movies they enjoy, how much money they have, what kind of traveler they are, their feelings on kids and pets, and most importantly exactly how many miles away they live. Someone might be perfect, but we don’t want to drive more than 27 minutes to date them. God forbid.

In real life, and in fiction, we treat people like objects, to be examined for flaws and then rejected in the endless quest for a better one. But in fiction what happens is that the situations are contrived so that the protagonists are forced to spend time with each other. During this time, they realize that their preconceived ideas of what makes a perfect partner are wrong and that this other person, who seemed like “a bad match” on paper because s/he didn’t fit into the checkboxes, is actually the right one for them.

Dialogue between the brothers in Splash:

Allen: I don’t understand. All my life, I’ve been waiting for someone and when I find her, she’s… she’s a fish.

Freddie: Nobody said love’s perfect.

Allen: Oh, Freddie, I don’t expect it to be perfect! But for God’s sake, it’s usually human! Every day, people meet, they fall in love, every day! And look at what I got.

[…]

Freddie: Yeah? Well, that’s a crock. It doesn’t work that way. Look, do you at least realize how happy you were with her? That is, of course, when you weren’t driving yourself crazy. Every day? Come on. Some people will never be that happy. I’ll never be that happy!

So, this is why I like the fantasy stories with the guaranteed happy endings, unlike real life where fussy people end up alone.