Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sex and Guilty Pleasures in Romance

Two posts at two separate blogs caught my interest today: Maili talks about why readers read romance, and thinks it is partially for the sex. And LLB talks at RTB about Guilty Pleasures, particularly related to her new interest in Harlequin Presents.

Both posters are, in my opinion, among the interesting thinkers about romance online, but it is not so much their comments as the comments of some of their guests that caught my attention. Maybe I'm just being argumentative today, but I really disagree with some of the things said by those visitors/guests.

On RTB, there are a number of people who proclaim that they have no "guilty pleasures" in reading, and that if they feel "shame" about reading a particular book, they won't read it, and that no one should feel guilty about what they read. I think these people are suffering from a couple of problems:

1 -- They either haven't heard the expression before, or they interpret it very narrowly. "Guilty pleasures" is a very popular expression that doesn't mean someone feels ashamed of the thing in question, but more that it isn't something they're out proclaiming to the world. I read a lot of books. Some are appropriate to talk about with certain people and audiences, and some are not. "Guilty pleasures", IMO, refers to those books that one doesn't necessarily feel compelled to talk about, to recommend to friends, or even to put on the keeper shelf. These are the books that we read and enjoy, but that we recognize have flaws, or hot buttons, or poor writing, or bad characters, or cheesy lines, or unoriginal sex scenes. There's not anything wrong with us for liking them, but we recognize that they aren't necessarily the best or most enjoyable thing we could spend our time with.

2 -- These people are being a little bit self-righteous. Are they saying there is not a single book that they read that they wouldn't talk to anyone and everyone about? Heck, I have lots. I even have some I won't necessarily talk to my husband about. There are some things some people just won't understand. Everyone who writes and reads romance is so used to being run-down or made fun of for it that saying a little thing like "guilty pleasures" brings out all the people who feel they must be on a crusade for romance. If you want to stand up for romance, why try to make fellow readers feel bad. Go after someone who actually runs the genre down.

So, in thinking about this talk of "guilty pleasures", I think it has a lot to do with sex. The things most readers call guilty pleasures are books that either have a lot of sex, or purple prose, or premises that are based on sexually-unequal situations (sheiks and harems, captor/captive stories, etc.). In America, especially, people are uncomfortable with talking about sex, and even with enjoying it. Some visitors over at Maili's said they skip the sex scenes in romances. Now if they skip the sex scenes because they are poorly written or are the same thing as the last five sex scenes a person has read, then I understand and I skip for those reasons myself.

But if people (particularly women) skip sex scenes because we think they're bad or immoral or because we think they "ruin" the romance, then I think that's pretty sad. Admittedly, I am still young, but I haven't yet met a couple that is truly happy with each other that doesn't have an active sex life. A lot of people aren't comfortable talking about sex, but when one or both members of a partnership is unhappy or unfulfilled sexually, it will become apparent in their relationship.

I've always thought that their are two things that are the most important for a good marriage/companionship/love relationship: friendship and sex. You have to actually like the person you are with, and you have to enjoy sex together. When I read about couples and relationships, I want to see both of those things explored. Without the sex, the relationship seems incomplete and unbalanced. I can't help but think, in a "sweet" romance, "What's this girl going to do after she gets married? What if he's lousy in bed? Or doesn't care about her enjoyment?" Is she going to divorce him? Spend the rest of her life in a marriage with a guy that doesn't sexually care for her? I can't help but think that those poor heroines are really missing out on a lot of what makes love.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Three for Two

Divine Fire by Melanie Jackson Posted by Hello

I picked this one up a couple of days ago at Borders because they were having their Three for Two sale on "selected" romance novels. I got Divine Fire, Amanda Quick's new historical Wait Until Midnight, and Jo Beverley's A Most Unsuitable Man, which I have read raves about over at AAR. I don't love the cover of Divine Fire, but I do think it is well-conceived and conveys what kind of book it is very well.

I really enjoyed Melanie Jackson's Lutin Empire goblins series, and I having been looking forward to this new one. Jackson is an author who is taking risks in her stories, and I, for one, appreciate it. I really get tired of the same old storylines and the endless cliches and stereotypes in romance. I love romantic stories, but sometimes in romance-land the stereotypes and the repetitive thematic elements take aware from my enjoyment of the story.

Oh, and whoever came up with the idea for the Lutin Empire site when the first of Jackson's goblin books came out is a very creative person and should be emulated by other authors and publishers. That site definitely got my attention and I sent lots of friends and fellow readers there.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The New Western

Deadwood Season One Poster Posted by Hello

I have always loved westerns, ever since I was little and I would sit down with my brother-in-law or my dad and watch such amazing movies as The Magnificent Seven or Rio Bravo or A Fistfull of Dollars. I loved those movies. I loved the honor and the setting of the American West, where I grew up.

There haven't been many good westerns in recent years. The few good ones have been brought to us by Kevin Costner. I enjoyed Dances With Wolves and Wyatt Earp, and last year's Open Range was excellent. But they are rare.

Deadwood, however, gives me hope. It's an excellent series and I'd love to see others try to emulate it. It isn't simple or cliched. The characters are complex. They are not all honorable and moral people. Most of them have their own goals and their own desires, and they conflict with each other. The "good guys" aren't all good, and the "bad guys" aren't all bad. It's produced by HBO, so the show is adult and complicated. There is violence and nudity and bad language, and IMHO, that "adult" factor makes it more believable and interesting. I like complexity. I like characters to face real challenges and dilemmas.

It also includes Keith Carradine as Wild Bill Hickock, and Timothy Olyphant (an overlooked actor if there ever was one) as Seth Bullock, an ex-marshal who just wants to run a hardware business with his friend, but can't seem to escape doing the right thing (And he's gorgeous too). There are a couple of romantic arcs as well in the first season, none of which are uncomplicated.

Season One is out on DVD, and my husband and I rented it from Blockbuster. I'm really looking forward to season two, which starts on HBO on March 6th. I may just have to subscribe to HBO so I don't have to wait!

Oh, and if you want to read a little about the real Deadwood, South Dakota, then look here.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sin City the movie

Sin City movie poster with Clive Owen Posted by Hello

If you haven't yet seen the trailer for Sin City, then you need to get to it. It is a very stylish and interesting comic, and it looks like the movie producers/director are making an effort to be true to the original. Robert Rodriguez even took Frank Miller (creator of the comic) on as a co-director when producing the movie.

And if you need anymore reason to see it, it has Clive Owen, who is absolutely gorgeous and made King Arthur worth seeing just for him. There are five different movie posters, and I picked the one with him.

The film also has a really cool website with clips of all the characters, most with pictures of their comic book counterparts.

Info about the movie:
Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”) and comic book icon Frank Miller co-direct SIN CITY, based on the series of graphic novels created, written, and illustrated by Miller. SIN CITY is infested with criminals, crooked cops and sexy dames, some searching for vengeance, some for redemption and others, both. The film incorporates storylines from three of Miller's graphic novels including 'Sin City,' which launched the long-running, critically acclaimed series, as well as 'That Yellow Bastard' and 'The Big Fat Kill.'
Rodriguez, along with Miller, translated these legendary stories from page to screen by remaining absolutely faithful to the look, feel and dialogue of the books.
SIN CITY stars Bruce Willis as Hartigan, a cop with a bum ticker and a vow to protect stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba); Mickey Rourke as Marv, the outcast misanthrope on a mission to avenge the death of his one true love, Goldie (Jaime King), and Clive Owen as Dwight, the clandestine love of Shelley (Brittany Murphy), who spends his nights defending Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her Old Towne girls (Devon Aoki and Alexis Bledel) from Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), a dirty cop with a penchant for violence.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Romance and Comics/Movies

Over at Maili's blog, she talks about her impression that there has been a recent rise in romance fans who also like comics/anime/action movies, etc.

I've been online for about eight years, and I don't post often on other people's blogs or on reader sites. Often because somebody else has already said what I was thinking, or because I don't have the time to write out everything I'd like to say, but also because I haven't always felt that I had a lot in common with other people I meet online, including romance readers.

I know there is a lot of diversity among romance readers, but I also know that frequently, when the collective "dissing" of the romance genre is discussed, those same people then in turn "diss" on science fiction and fantasy readers. Yeah, everybody thinks the typical science fiction or fantasy readers is some dorky teenage guy with glasses and a pocket protector who has never had a girlfriend. And yeah, those guys are out there. But there are so many people who don't fit that stereotype, including me. The romance readers complain that people say romance is formulaic, and they says that's not true. But then they say they don't read fantasy "because it's all the same"!

When I'm not working or working on homework for my college classes, I can be found playing Halo, or roleplaying games (D&D, Star Trek, my husband's homemade fantasy game, and my own homemade post-apocalyptic game), organizing my cards or playing Magic: the Gathering, watching cartoons like Aqua Teen Hunger Force (the best cartoon ever!) or shows like Star Trek, Firefly, and Smallville. I wait in line to see the newest comic book movies and the newest shoot-em-up, blow-em-up, cut-em-up movies at the theatre.

I also love romance (historical, contemporary, paranormal, regency, erotica/romantica). The Age of Innocence, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Ladyhawke are among my favorite movies also.

I love to talk about all of these things. And often it seems like the traditional romance community doesn't have room for talk about Halo and the X-Men and Deadwood.

Drunken Angel remake

Movie Poster for the original Drunken Angel by Akira Kurosawa Posted by Hello

Today while surfing, I found out that the Japanese movie Drunken Angel is going to be remade in Hollywood. The original is an Akira Kurosawa film. For those who aren't familiar with Kurosawa, he was the Japanese writer behind many amazing movies, including The Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. The Seven Samurai was the inspiration for the American western The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, etc. Kurosawa's Yojimbo was the partial inspiration for the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. The anime series Kaze No Yojimbo (which is one of the best, IMO) is also based on Yojimbo.

And now, Drunken Angel is being re-imagined for American audiences. It is scheduled for 2006. Drunken Angel is set in post-war Japan and is the story of a young gangster treated by an alcoholic doctor, who discovers that he has tuberculosis. When the guy's boss gets out of prison, he has to face him.

I am really excited that this movie is being remade and perhaps American audiences will learn to appreciate Kurosawa more. The trio who made The Aviator are going to make Drunken Angel -- Martin Scorsese directing, John Logan writing, and Leonardo DiCaprio starring.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Unicorn on the Cover!

Stolen Magic by M. J. Putney Posted by Hello

Mary Jo Putney is an amazing romance writer. I have enjoyed just about everything she has written, but my favorites are The Rake and Silk and Secrets. I think she is a very talented author, and when I read her short story "The Alchemical Marriage" in the Irresistible Forces anthology, I was glad to see her try her hand at paranormal/fantasy romance.

I have her first full-length fantasy romance in my TBR pile right now. When I have a little more time, I will read it. But I was cruising (a definite pattern for me) yesterday, and saw the cover of her new one online. And lo and behold, it has a unicorn on the cover! The combination of a favorite author and a unicorn is just too much for me to pass up. I think I will pre-order it.

Charlaine Harris

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris Posted by Hello

I pre-ordered this one a couple of days ago from It's out on May 3, 2005.

I have been keeping up with this series as they came out and I am really glad that the series was able to go into hardcover with the last book. I had never read Harris before (her previous books were mainstream mysteries), but when the first Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Until Dark, came out a few years ago, the taglines "A Southern Vampire Mystery" and "Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn't such a bright idea" got my attention at the bookstore.

Back then, I was still a bookstore browser and I would go to Borders or Barnes & Noble every couple of weeks and just see what was new in the fiction sections. Dead Until Dark was shelved in the Science Fiction & Fantasy section, and I was just getting interested in vampire fiction. I was glad it was a paperback because it meant I could afford it. I was still in the Army, and I didn't have the money for hardcover books whenever I wanted. But I'm really glad to see that this series is in harcover now, because that will really increase the number of people and libraries that will look at the books.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Testing picture posting with Picasa

Melusine by Sarah Monette Posted by Hello

Testing posting pictures to my blog. Hope this works!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Friday night plans already

This Friday I am definitely going to see Constantine. It is based on the Hellblazer comics, and is about the character John Constantine (originally created by Alan Moore, who is a genius). John Constantine is an anti-hero, which is why I like him. It will be interesting to see whether they stick with the questionable morality he displays in the comic or whether Hollywood white-washes his story. They've already changed one major thing, which is that John Constantine is supposed to be blond. He is supposed to look like Sting, and Keanu Reeves looks nothing like Sting. A small thing to some people, but a big deal to comic purists. And what, there are no good blond actors in Hollywood? I don't think so. But it's a comic book movie, so I'll see it anyway. Plus, it has Rachel Weisz, who I think is a very good actress.

Constantine movie poster:

Susan Carroll is back!

I read The Bride Finder and The Night Drifter a couple of years ago and loved them both. Midnight Bride, which came out in 2001, was her last published book. But just a couple of weeks ago I saw that she has TWO new titles listed on amazon: The Dark Queen (March 29, 2005) and The Courtesan (July 26, 2005). They'll both be out in trade paperback, and I think her writing is worth the price. I already pre-ordered The Dark Queen.

See the absolutely gorgeous covers here:
The Dark Queen --
The Courtesan --

The Dark Queen blurb : From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

Love This Title!

You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing by Ed Polish
Bold and defiant like the women profiled between its covers, YOU SAY I’M A BITCH LIKE IT’S A BAD THING is a cranked-up collection of affirmations for mommies on the edge, self-styled divas, and domestic goddesses everywhere. Featuring full-color advertising images from the 1950s and 1960s paired with sly, laugh-out-loud sayings, this sassy little gift book tackles issues of love, motherhood, housework, menopause, shopping, and diet with daring humor and a healthy dose of bitchiness.

Looks like fun. The cover has a retro 50s illustrated ad. It looks like a fun gift book.

Emerald Nuts and Unicorns

If you live in the US and you watch TV, you have to have seen the commercials for Emerald Nuts, which are pretty unique and inventive. Well, last night I was watching .... something, which was overshadowed by the commercial .... and a new EN commercial came on.

Here's the rundown: "Exaggerating Dad" opens with a father and his daughter sitting on a sofa in their living room. He's munching Emerald Nuts and she asks for some. Jealously guarding his snack, the father says, "Honey, if you eat an Emerald Nut unicorns will disappear forever." Suddenly the camera swings around to see a beautiful white unicorn standing in the living room doorway. "That's not true, Jim," the unicorn scolds. The camera spins again to reveal Santa sitting opposite the sofa. "Yeah, and saying I'd never come because she ate your Emerald cashews? Jim, come on," he admonishes. Dad looks sheepish and glances at the Easter Bunny now ensconced next to him on the couch. "What about, 'If you touch those Emerald Nuts the Easter Bunny gets whacked'?" the rabbit shrugs. Dad gives in and prepares to share the nuts with his daughter as a super appears with the copy line, "They're kind of hard to share."

Now the Santa and the Easter bunny I don't care about, but I think its really awesome that they put a unicorn in a commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. Made my day. And I had to call my husband at work at 1 a.m (he works nights most of the time) just to tell him about it. He thinks I'm crazy of course.

Beyond the Pale by Savannah Russe

Here's another title whose combination of beautiful cover and interesting synopsis caught my eye: Beyond the Pale by newcomer Savannah Russe. It's out in June 2005 from Signet, and in MMPB, always a plus for my purse. I enjoy books about vampires and vampire hunters, and this one has an interesting premise, though it sounds similar to Angela Knight's vampires from the Secrets anthologies.

The synopsis:
If you passed Daphne Urban on the streets of New York, you'd see a sleek brunette, young, dressed in up to the minute style. You'd never know she was a vampire. But the government knows.
Their ultimatum: Spy for the United States, or be terminated. And after all these centuries, Daphne is not ready to call it quits...
Even as vampires go, Daphne is extraordinary. She speaks thirteen languages, has lived in as many countries, and has a genius level IQ. She's also escaped detection and capture for nearly five hundred years - which makes her perfect for project Darkwing's most dangerous assignments. Her first mission is to get close to Bonaventure - a shady arms dealer with terrorist connections.
But while she chases Bonoventure, someone else is chasing her - the darkly sexy vampire slayer Darius della Chiesa. His mission is to kill her - leaving him torn between desire and duty. For his lithe, lovely prey is also his ultimate temptation...

And here's a link for the cover, though its not a very good scan:

On books and reviews

I love to surf the web and looking for new books, and the combination of a good cover with an interesting synopsis is enough to get me to put it on my wishlist. I usually wait for a while after that until a review shows up before I decide whether to buy the book. I look at reviews in Publishers Weekly (not very useful for genre fiction, but great for nonfiction), Library Journal (good also, but still not enough genre fiction), Locus (for SF), and Romantic Times BookClub (for romance and romantic SF). I also love the website All About Romance, where I don't always agree with the grades, but I love for the interaction with other readers and for the great information about plot points and thematic elements in the reviews.

Melusine by Sarah Monette

I'm always on the lookout for new authors and new books to read. I especially like fantasy and romance, and am thrilled when I see anything that mixes the two. I recently found a new dark fantasy title listed on, called Melusine by Sarah Monette. It's out from Ace in August. The cover and the synopsis look interesting. The cover also has a blurb from Jacqueline Carey, of the Kushiel trilogy, which I absolutely loved.

Here's the synopsis from Amazon:

Mélusine-a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption, and destinies lost and found... Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But the horrors of his past as an abused slave have returned, and threaten to destroy all he has since become. As a cat burglar, Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. But now he has been caught by a wizard. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay, but for Felix Harrowgate... Thrown together by fate, these unlikely allies will uncover a shocking secret that will link them inexorably together.

And because I haven't yet figured out how to post pictures, you can see the cover here:

Jumping on the bandwagon

Welcome to my new home on the web. Blogging has become the latest fad and I find it all fascinating and interesting. So I think I will join in. I am a reader and writer, and a huge fan of movies and video games. So that is what you will see me blog about here.