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.
When you measure it against the absolute panic that surrounded his campaign in the 48 hours before polls closed, Mitt Romney’s night couldn’t have gone any better on Tuesday.
The final surveys in Michigan had shown his lead over Rick Santorum melting away, and the GOP race seemed on the verge of a type of uncertainty and chaos never before seen in a modern nominating contest. Previous Republican and Democratic front-runners had faced crises like the one Romney’s Colorado/Minnesota/Missouri meltdown triggered earlier this month. But every one of them had bounced back and won the next contest, putting their campaigns back on track and ending the talk of brokered conventions and white knight candidates. It looked like Romney might be the first to fall short.
So the simple fact that he managed to win Michigan is cause for a huge sigh of relief for Romney. In victory, he’ll be spared what would have been days of truly hellish press coverage – headlines about defecting donors, vanishing coffers, cratering poll numbers, and terrified party leaders scrambling for a new candidate. The effect might have been devastating. Instead, Romney got to deliver a victory speech, and at a relatively early hour too, thanks to his solid margin of victory. And that margin, 3 points, feels a lot bigger right now, given how many people expected Romney to lose.
The bottom line is that Romney won a victory he absolutely had to have. And thanks to his unsurprising win in Arizona Tuesday night, he’s opened up a sizable lead in the delegate race (even if the vast majority of delegates have yet to be awarded). He remains the Republican front-runner.
That said, the Michigan results hardly represent an emphatic answer to the question of whether the Tea Party-era Republican Party is ready to rally around the former Massachusetts governor. This was his native state, as everyone knows by now, a place he won in 2008 and a state that was always expected to be a Romney state this time around, until the last few weeks.
So when you consider his built-in advantages, the money he poured into the state, the attacks he leveled against Santorum, and the dreadful debate performance Santorum turned in last week, Romney’s 3-point margin seems a lot less impressive. This was not like Florida, where Romney utterly decimated his chief foe (Newt Gingrich) and posted a lopsided victory. This was a must-win state that Romney threw everything he had at … and managed to win by just 3 points – apparently with a big boost from early voters, many of whom cast their ballots before Santorum surged into contention.
This suggests that Romney may not get much of a bounce out of Michigan – and that he could find himself in big trouble again one week from now on Super Tuesday. The biggest state to vote that day is Ohio, a big Midwest state culturally and demographically similar to Michigan. The latest poll in the Buckeye State, released early on Tuesday, gives Santorum an 11-point lead over Romney, 37 to 26 percent. Maybe those numbers will tighten in the wake of Michigan, but Romney is going to have to fight for it.
And then there’s the South, with contests in Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma set for next Tuesday. Romney’s chances in these states range from distant to nonexistent. The evangelical voters who dominate Republican politics in these states have been more resistant to Romney than any other voters in the country. His Mormon faith surely has a lot to do with this, as do his Yankee background and moderate reputation.
Romney was blown out in Oklahoma and Tennessee four years ago and finished a close third in Georgia. His best hope this time around is for Santorum and Newt Gingrich – who represented Georgia in the House and who will be kept afloat for the next week by another Sheldon Adelson check – to split the evangelical vote, creating an opening for Romney either to win or at least make it look respectable. But Santorum’s strong (if not quite strong enough) showing in Michigan may make it tough to Gingrich to regain traction. If it’s mainly a Romney-Santorum race in the South next week, Santorum could post some very big wins.
So while the GOP didn’t venture into uncharted territory Tuesday night, we might find ourselves wondering if it’s about to all over again just a week from now.
Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornackiMore Steve Kornacki.
"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.
Alex Pareene surveys the burgeoning and bloated world of political news and opinion and explains the day's most essential story in Opening Shot, posted by 8:30 a.m. each weekday. Bookmark this page; follow @pareene on Twitter.