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.
No pain; weight gain! As the American love affair with credit and debit cards has burgeoned over the last few decades so have our waistlines! And guess what — the correlation may not be a coincidence.
I confess, I originally followed a link from Credit Slips’ Katie Porter to the forthcoming Journal of Consumer Reports paper “How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases: Visceral Regulation of Vices” because it reminded me of the so-far totally false “starve-the-beast” theory, which pretends that cutting taxes will lead inevitably to smaller government. But I ended up falling in love with the paper on its own merits, aside from any possible relevance to tax cut shenanigans. After all, if there is one thing that I am a true expert on, it is the sad reality that “the depletability of cognitive resources” often leads to a failure to fend off our “visceral responses to vice products.” Or, more colloquially, when we don’t think things through, we tend to splurge on that extra order of fries.
In their paper, researchers Manoj Thomas (an assistant professor of marketing at Cornell), Kalpesh Kaushik Desai (an associate professor of marketing at State University of New York, Binghamton) and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan (a doctoral candidate at State University of New York, Buffalo) make a pretty authoritative case that grocery shoppers who pay with credit or debit cards tend to purchase larger quantities of unhealthy food. Basically, when you pay with cash, the theory goes, you tend to weigh your purchases more carefully. Credit and debit cards, on the other hand, seem to encourage impulsive behavior. Or, as the authors put it, “the abstract and emotionally inert nature of card payments … reduce the pain of payment.” Whereas, cash hurts , and “visceral responses such as feelings of pain can extinguish consumptive desires. With the extinction of desire, vice products no longer seem so appealing.“
(I think the Buddha taught something along those lines, though I’m not sure he backed it up with peer-reviewed data. Read between the lines, and not only will you shed some pounds, but you could also avoid some disastrous relationships.)
The argument jibes very nicely with the explanation for why, historically, tax cuts that are not matched by spending cuts actually result in increased government spending — for the citizenry as a whole, the pain of payment for products received has been eliminated. When we receive government services without paying their full cost, we consume more such services. If every spending initiative had to be matched by a tax hike or cut elsewhere in the budget, we would end up behaving much more frugally. But starving the beast just makes us more profligate.
"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.