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.
The big, if entirely expected story is Monday’s announced merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines.
At the moment, United is the world’s third-biggest carrier, transporting 63 million passengers annually and logging 17.7 billion revenue passenger kilometers. Continental ranks fifth, with 49 million customers and 13.3 billion RPKs. Stick them together and you’ve got the largest airline on the planet, operating 750 aircraft — including an immense fleet of long-haul widebodies — to 59 countries. The new combo leapfrogs ahead of Delta, which took world’s biggest mantle after its merger with Northwest earlier this year.
Strategically, the combined carrier makes sense much the way Delta-Northwest made sense. Delta covered much of Europe, reaching into India and the Persian Gulf, plus multiple destinations in Africa. Northwest had been flying across the Pacific for 50 years, serving more than a dozen Asian cities, including coveted routes into China. Together, they’re big everywhere. United-Continental takes advantage of Continental’s heavy East Coast presence (Newark hub), and its considerable transatlantic and Latin American networks. United contributes its West Coast presence and Pacific network, including its hub at Tokyo-Narita.
So this is the latest chapter in the industry consolidation people have been talking about ever since the airline apocalypse that followed Sept. 11. Northwest-Delta, US Airways-America West, United-Continental. Are yet more mergers on tap? Possibly.
This is worrying to some consumers. Doesn’t industry consolidation mean higher fares? The answer is maybe, to some degree, in certain markets. But on the whole, no, and there will still be plenty of competition out there, both domestically and internationally. And on the upside, consolidation means more rationalized scheduling practices and less congestion. Honestly, passengers have less to be concerned about than the employees of these airlines. Mergers often result in fleet trimming, which in turn brings redundancies and layoffs.
In any case, nothing about the United-Continental deal is a done deal. Airline mergers are notoriously knotty, and things could grow contentious as the paperwork wends its way through the approval process. Nothing will be official until the Department of Justice, Department of Transportation and the unions all sign off. How long that might take is anybody’s guess, but you can anticipate a year or so before airplanes are repainted.
And that brings us to the fun part.
The combined airline will carry the United name, which has slightly more global recognition (and fewer syllables) than Continental, but will wear the Continental livery. I’m not sure this works, branding-wise.
In my mind, United just ain’t United without the iconic, four-petaled U on the tail. Meanwhile, the flanks of Continental’s planes are an attractive, two-tone white/gray with a slender gold stripe, but the logo — a sectioned globe in relief against a navy background — looks like a PowerPoint presentation. It would be handsome if it weren’t so immaculately inoffensive. This was a good opportunity to rejigger the whole design. Instead, slapping the United name onto the side makes for one oddball hybrid.
And as for the name, I’m disappointed they didn’t go for my own suggestion: Continented.
There’s a fine line, sometimes, between a merger and an outright takeover. Here are some of history’s most notable airline combos:
United / Continental (pending)
Delta / Northwest
Air France / KLM *
America West / US Airways
American / TWA
Air Canada / Canadian Airlines
Air France / UTA
Northwest / Republic
Delta / Western
Continental / Frontier
Continental / PeopleExpress
Pan Am / National Airlines
* AF and KLM are legally merged, yet continue to have separate operational structures and employee groups. Married, living apart, you could say.
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"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.