Smut Reporting

Heroines Who Giggle

I hate them. 

Actually, allow me to rephrase that to be more accurate. I hate it when a heroine giggles. I hate it even more when the heroine is an otherwise grown-ass woman with an established career but when the hero gives her the eyebrow wiggle or says something that’s mildly amusing she breaks into a paroxysm of giggles.

Let’s break this down. A “giggle” is a demure, girly kind of laugh. It’s quiet. It doesn’t take up space. It’s a bit fawning. It’s something little kids do. It’s something we do when we’re nervous. 

When a woman giggles, she signals to the man that she is with that she is not a threat. She is less powerful than he is. She is accommodating and therefore desirable. There’s a power imbalance there. 

Now, I admit, the occasional giggle around a new potential partner makes sense. You’re nervous. You want them to like you. But why is continuing to giggle at your partner as you move your courtship towards established relationship sexy or desirable? Why continue to perpetuate the power imbalance between the One Who Speaks Funny Things and the One Who Giggles?

I want to see romance heroines let out some good ole rip roaring belly laughs. 

This has been a Hot Take by Holly, brought to you by one too many grown ass women giggling in romance novels. 

Smut Reporting

Realism in Romance: Or, A Rant Less Academic than Holly’s Piece of the Same Name

For reference purposes, here’s Holly’s piece on Realism in Romance.

I sometimes get lost in Goodreads review rabbit holes, and that’s a whole thing –  

(For starters, do you know what’s not helpful? “OMGGGGGG!!!! This book was AMAZING!!!!! But I’m not going to tell you anything that you might be specifically looking for or why it was so amazing but it just WASSSSSS!” That. That’s not helpful. Anyway.) 

– but I was down this Goodreads rabbit hole, and I suppose at some point in my reviewing life I’m guilty of this, but I keep reading these reviews that are a variation on, “This was SO unrealistic!”

And I just – We’re reading the same genre, right? Romance novels, like, um, other novels, movies and TV shows, are highly dramatized stories, with romance novels specifically being designed to tap into our pleasure centers. 

You want to talk about not realistic

I should stop here, because I actually regularly text Holly and Ingrid asking, “Are people really like this? Are these normal feelings? This doesn’t make sense to me at all.” To which Ingrid typically replies, “Yes, Erin, people are really like that. Sometimes I wonder what planet you live on.” But I have been called a robot (among other things) before, so I guess it’s just a good thing I have useful people to tell me how other people function. 

SO I’M NOT GONNA STOP!

Continue reading “Realism in Romance: Or, A Rant Less Academic than Holly’s Piece of the Same Name”
Dueling Review, Let's Talk Tropes

Trope Duel: Two Views on Second Chance Romance

We haven’t done any buddy reads in a while, so for this installment of Dueling Reviews, Holly and Erin share their thoughts on Second Chance Romances. Holly thinks they’re great. Erin thinks they’re nothing but nonsense. Moderated by Ingrid.

Ingrid: Let’s start this Trope Duel with a definition of the “Second Chance at Love”:

This romance trope can play out in a number of ways. Perhaps a couple breaks up only to reunite decades later. Maybe they have been deeply hurt in the past, and have spent years avoiding any kind of romantic relationship. Now they will meet and learn to give love another chance. This is a hopeful trope that readers enjoy because it enforces the theme that “it’s never too late.”

Annnnnd…GO!

Erin: Okay, so now we all have the definition … of malarky. The problem with Second Chance Romance (henceforth SCR) is that the characters have fantastically wasted huge amounts of time and then they’re coming back to a relationship that didn’t work in the first place and somehow magically whatever’s wrong is not a problem anymore, which is ridiculous because things and people don’t really change. 

Continue reading “Trope Duel: Two Views on Second Chance Romance”
Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Gail Carriger

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Gail Carriger, whose books include Prudence, Romancing the Inventor, and The 5th Gender.

What She Writes:

As Gail Carriger: Victorian Steampunk Paranormal Adventure Stories, all set in the Parasolverse. Dirigibles abound. Love story not guaranteed, low to moderate heat.

As G. L. Carriger: M/M urban paranormal or futuristic sci-fi romances with high heat.

What Makes Her Unique:

Carriger writes exuberant prose that centers on socially unusual protagonists, including shifters and vampires, but also including characters who might engage in trades or activities that feel unusual. We have mad scientists (who are maybe less mad than they seem) and servants who moonlight as spies (and whose main job is locking up their werewolf masters on the full moon) and professors who teach aspiring young assassins the fine art of hosting a dinner party (it’s important to manage your arsenic budget properly!) and a gang of werewolf bikers (who have periodic run-ins with the selkie mob). She leans into the world-building; her imagined steampunk universe is top-notch. A thematic focus on queer acceptance features prominently.

Writing Style:

Carriger embraces a witty writing style, chock full of wry humor and droll asides. Jokes about stereotypes appear frequently; for example, a character’s actions might be explained away “because she was an Italian,” but in a very self-aware, tongue-in-cheek manner. Typically the POV focuses on one character, even though it’s written in the third person. Expect some opacity where love interests are concerned. 

How we feel when we read her books:

Why We Love Her:

Her books are just so stinking fun to read. And there are bonus points for completionists: we love that she has so many books, of various lengths and levels of sexyness, all set in the same universe, with recurring characters that pop up in unexpected places.

She Might Not Be For You If:

Twee makes you itchy.

Notable Quotation:

Then, she added, because Alexia never stayed silent when she ought, “These feelings you engender in me, my lord, are most indelicate. You should stop causing them immediately.”

Soulless

The Bottom Line:

You might pick one up as a lark, because the synopses sound totally bananas, but you’ll wind up having a great time reading if you just let go for the ride.

Start With:

Soulless

Smut Reporting

Some Reasons I Love F/F Romance

A million years ago, I read Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance, and something Jayne Ann Krentz wrote really stuck with me: that readers of romance identify with the hero and project their emotions onto him as he goes through his journey to love (I paraphrase). And I was like: “Huh. That is not my experience at all. I am not that interested in the interior life of the hero, except perhaps as a projection of exploring the desires of the women who read and write about them.” I have always been more interested in the journey of the heroine. 

Imagine my joy, then, when I started reading F/F romance. Here were stories that focused exclusively on female desire, without the distraction of alpha males, opaque males, emotionally constipated males, constipated opaque alpha males, etc etc etc. 

Erin wrote a great post last week that talked about her love for M/M romances, and some of that’s true for F/F romances as well: characters tend to not fall into (or focus exclusively breaking out of) traditional gender roles, and some of the tropey behavior that you see in M/F romance falls by the wayside. 

Here are some other reasons I love F/F romance:

  1. I will never come across the phrase “steel wrapped in velvet.”
    See: every M/F historical romance ever written. 
  2. The power dynamics between the protagonists is more fluid – especially in historical romances, where, to maintain any semblance of historical accuracy, the characters have to grapple with the fact that a married woman, by law, is under the control of her husband.
    See: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, She Whom I Love
  3. There are twice as many opportunities for fabulous outfits. I hate shopping, but love reading about clothes. Romance authors rarely give their heroes interesting outfits. Which is sad, because we can learn a lot about a character by how they present themselves to the world.
    See: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
  4. I might be falling into stereotypes here (I totally am), but when characters talk about their conflict and emotions in open and honest ways, I don’t have to be all shocked about a dude processing his feelings like an adult.
    See: Being Hospitable
  5. Sexuality is a spectrum. I am mostly heterosexual, but I would not put myself at 100% all penis all the time. So reading F/F romance gives me a safe space to explore other fantasies. (Sorry, Mom, if that was Too Much Information. That’s what you get for reading my smut blog so faithfully!)