Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
Let’s face it: There’s never enough time to read everything we’d like. We carry around in our heads a list of books we’ve meant to pick up for years — those great novels and works of nonfiction we were never assigned in school (“The Education of Henry Adams”), or skimmed (“Animal Farm”), or slept through (“The Scarlet Letter”). We’d like to tackle one of those big, important classics (“Ulysses,” anyone?), but there are great new books to read … and some of those oldies are just so damn long!
Thinking about the gaps in our own literary educations, we wondered: What books have other people missed? So, to complement our list of great summer fiction, we are launching a new series called Summer School, in which some of our favorite writers will choose a book he or she had always intended to read, but hasn’t — until now — and write about it. We’re not setting out to topple the canon; we simply want to explore whether some of these Great Works really carry the impact we were always told they did. We hope you enjoy finding out, too.
Each Monday through August, we’ll offer another piece to further your knowledge of great literature. See below for the full summer syllabus:
8/8: “Lost Illusions” by Honore de Balzac
8/15: “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
8/22: “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
8/29: “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.