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.
In New York, PBS’s affiliate channel Thirteen has been taking on the state of reality TV. The ads are for such shows as Knitting Wars, Clam Kings, and Bad Bad Bag Boys, and each comes with the accompanying text: “The fact you thought this was a real TV show says a lot about the state of TV.” Embedded in this quiet jab is Thirteen’s mission – making quality programming that enriches the lives of those who tune in, rather than simply leaving them to vegetate in front of the screen.
But let’s take a step back. Certainly Cupcake Wars and Knitting Wars share the same sort of innocuous sounding name (how much of a war could that really be? Frosting missiles?). And yet, Cupcake Wars is a real program airing regularly on the Food Channel. And how much stranger is it to have a show about bag boys than about people who are deeply interested in storage units? Reflecting on the programming that fills even primetime television makes Thirteen’s mock shows seem perfectly reasonable.
In fact, Thirteen even upped the ante a bit recently. Knitting Wars, Bayou Eskimos, and several other fake programs were launched solely with print campaigns. After the success and positive response they received about those print ads, however, Thirteen dreamed up a few more shows, including Clam Kings and Meet The Tanners, which they then produced commercial spots for. The thirty second commercials play out like any other reality show advertisement and then are suddenly cut short as we are reminded that this is not real, and moreover, that television could be better.
With it’s fake reality show ads, Thirteen is taking on a deeply beloved market for television viewers, but there is no question these ads are effective. As much as you might want to watch Knitting Wars, the reminder that TV has greater potential than this looms. Now into its fiftieth year of providing quality programming, Thirteen continues to demonstrate what quality programming looks like. And with this ad campaign they have also shown a little bit of a tough edge (and a great sense of humor!) that we might not have thought they had.
Have you seen any of the Thirteen advertisements? What do you think of this marketing stunt?
"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.