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.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney may wish he could take back these words. But pressed at a press conference to talk about whether the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy would motivate President Obama to push to renew the assault weapons ban, Carney replied:
It does remain a commitment of his. What I said is, today is not the day, I believe as a father, a day to engage in the usual Washington policy debates. I think that that they will come, but today is not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation in Connecticut.
I beg to differ. Today is precisely the day. It’s true, we still don’t know details about the weapons the school shooter, or shooters, used in Connecticut. But we know that there are too many guns, and that the gun lobby fights all efforts to regulate them. The grief and outrage sparked by the Newtown tragedy ought to strengthen the arguments of those who fight for sane restrictions, as well as broader mental health services.
Guns in national parks. Guns in church. Guns in schools and day care centers. All over the country, the spaces that used to be gun-free zones are now open to them. According to Mother Jones, in 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Now there are about 300 million, a 50 percent jump. Yet BuzzFeed found that President Obama only mentioned gun control three times in the last campaign.
It’s not just the NRA who are political villains in this story: the right-wing Koch-funded ALEC has been pushing to weaken gun laws too. In fact, the lame-duck right-wing GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature just passed an ALEC-backed bill allowing concealed loaded guns in schools, churches and day care centers, and abolishing the county panels that controlled concealed-pistol licensing.
After the Aurora, Colo., shootings, in which formerly banned assault weapons were used, even Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dismissed talk of renewing the federal assault weapons ban. Stricter gun control measures wouldn’t prevent “acts of evil,” Hickenlooper insisted: “If there were no assault weapons available and no this or no that, this guy is going to find something, right?” In fact, the Aurora shooting inspired more gun control legislation, but it went nowhere, as Alex Seitz-Wald reported this week. Only three days ago, formely banned assault weapons were used in the Clackamas, Ore., mall shootings. Will that trigger a new push to restrict and ban assault weapons and their ammunition? Probably not.
But today, a day when children as young as kindergarteners were told to hold hands, close their eyes and walk past scenes of unspeakable carnage – that’s a perfect day to begin a new conversation about what’s wrong with our gun culture. Clearly, we are getting numb to massive gun violence. It’s hardly inappropriate that the murder of at least 18 children, reportedly between the ages of 5 and 10, might shock us out of our numbness and inspire more activism and legislation – and political courage.
Jay Carney’s a decent guy, but the notion that we can’t politicize tragedy, and we can’t let a horrific act like a school shooting immediately galvanize action, contributes to paralysis and impotence. As Colin Goddard, a Virginia Tech victim, noted on MSNBC Friday: “We see these tragedies, we express our condolences, and that’s where it ends.” It can’t keep ending there. Leaders need to lead.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."More Joan Walsh.
"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.