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.
Plenty of new moms have difficulty just getting an infant to latch on. So you’ve got to hand it to a mother who doesn’t just breast-feed her baby, but has figured out a way to do it “willfully and contemptuously.” Missouri mother and would-be civic duty doer Laura Trickle is currently facing the possibility of contempt of court charges, a $500 fine and even arrest — for taking her 7-month-old son with her to jury duty.
In Trickle’s home state, pregnant women can be excused from jury duty, so she deferred when she received her first summons early this year. But in September, several months later and with a young baby, she was called again. In 38 states including Missouri, breast-feeding mothers are not exempted from jury duty. That’s when Trickle, who says she’s never even had a traffic ticket, brought her child Axel with her for jury selection and tried to ask for a deferral. She says she’s willing to do her duty — she just can’t do it right now. But when she tried to ask for an extension, she was slapped with a court order stating she’d “willfully and contemptuously appeared for jury service with her child and no one to care for the child.” Another local woman is currently facing similar charges.
Jackson County Presiding Judge Marco Roldan told the Associated Press Monday that “breastfeeding mothers can pump or nurse on breaks or bring someone along to care for their children when serving as jurors.” How accommodating! But Trickle says her son doesn’t bottle feed, and that as a stay-at-home mother, she doesn’t have childcare. “It has been really scary.” Trickle told a local news affiliate, “It has been very stressful for our family.”
What Marco Roldan – and the entire Jackson County court system, apparently – fails to understand are a wide variety of economic, logistical and physical conditions that nursing mothers and their babies are operating under. Not everyone has the luxury of baby sitters or nearby family members to care for a child. Not everyone has a partner with a flexible work schedule who can assume the daytime parenting responsibilities – especially when facing a jury duty term that could stretch on for days or weeks. Have you ever done the work of caring for a 7-month-old child? Have you ever tried to make ends meet for a family on one salary – and maybe not a judge’s? Try it sometime, and see how easy it is to make arrangements.
And nursing mothers and their babies physically need to be near each other, and often. Babies don’t tell time; they don’t break for lunch when everybody else does. If they’re hungry, they’re miserable, and it doesn’t matter if the wailing starts precisely four hours after their last feeding or 10 minutes after. Likewise, when a lactating woman is deprived of reasonable access to expressing her milk, she’s in for discomfort, pain and possibly a sopping wet shirt. Now maybe that makes some people uncomfortable to think about it. But that’s the reality of a breast-feeding mother and child’s life together. It’s an intense and mutually dependent relationship. It’s not a clever ploy to get out of jury duty.
Ironically, Missouri allows for exceptions for “an undue or extreme physical or financial hardship” – an option Roldan says he’s granted in the past. And legislation is currently being considered that would excuse nursing mothers from jury duty. But for now, Trickle is set to have a hearing Thursday to make her case. “It is not right. It is not fair for us. We’re just trying to do what is best for our children,” she says, “and we shouldn’t be penalized and fined for it.” And, she adds, $500 buys a lot of diapers. For a judge not to recognize that? That’s truly contemptuous.
"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.