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.
According to a report in the New York Times, member-nations of the European Union — but especially those in the south — are gutting pro-worker labor laws in a desperate effort to reduce the cost of labor.
Portugal, for example, has reduced the number of private-sector workers covered by collective bargaining agreements from 1.9 million in 2008 to just 300,000 in 2012. Spain, meanwhile, has loosened restrictions on collective layoffs, and softened limits on extending temporary work, now allowing workers to work on fixed-term contracts for as many as four years. Ireland has frozen its minimum wage, and Greece — perhaps the ground zero of the anti-labor austerity movement — has shaved its minimum wage by a fourth.
All of these dramatic social and economic changes have happened in just a few years, causing many to worry that Europe’s social contract is rapidly undergoing dramatic changes without adequate democratic accountability. “The speed of change has certainly been very fast. As far as I can tell, these are the most significant changes since World War II,” Raymond Torres, the chief economist of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, told the Times.
Torres is far from alone in expressing doubts over austerity’s consequences. “It has a disastrous effect on social cohesion and a tremendous effect on inequality,” Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economics professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, said to the Times. Fitoussi went on the claim that well-being across the continent has declined. He blames austerity for the recent rise of far-right extremist parties throughout Europe.
What’s more, these reforms of the labor market seem destined to exacerbate inequality, which is currently less extreme in Europe than it is in the United States. More from the New York Times:
Europe’s strategy offers a test of the role played by labor market institutions — from unions to the minimum wage — in moderating the soaring income inequality that has become one of the hallmarks of our era.
Inequality across much of Europe has widened, but it is still quite modest when compared with the vast income gap in the United States.
The question is whether relative equity can hold as workplace institutions that for decades protected European employees’ standard of living give way to a more lightly regulated, American-style approach, where the government hardly interferes in the job market and organized labor has little say.
The evidence so far suggests the answer is no. The drop in unionization in Portugal “is going to blow the wage distribution apart,” David Card, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said.
"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.