Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
It’s a well-established reality of contemporary American politics: The Republican Party is struggling to find ways to better connect with female voters. The “War on Women” and all that.
Well, here’s some unsolicited advice to the GOP on how it could perhaps have more success convincing women that they, too, care about their freedom and autonomy — tell New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce to go far, far away.
In his initially little-noticed memoir —”Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!” — Steve Pearce argues that, like the military’s chain of command, every household should be run according to a rigid hierarchy. And, wouldn’t you know it, guess who Pearce imagines should be at the tippy-top of the family pyramid? Steve Pearce!
Not just Pearce, of course, but rather all men, in the Republican’s opinion, should be the clear and undisputed masters of their families and homes. And best of all, it’s all based on the Bible. (For more on this disturbingly widespread belief within the right-wing Christian fundamentalist community, check out this report from Mother Jones.)
“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice,” Pearce writes. ”The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”
No doubt anticipating that writing about how women should submit to their husbands might give people the impression that he thinks women should assume the subordinate role to their husbands (via submission), Pearce assures the reader that this Bible-based understanding of marital relations is “not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed [by the wife] as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband.” Got it?
At the very least, Pearce is self-aware enough to know that his views are not without their detractors. ”The principle is among the most controversial of all directives coming from the Bible,” he writes. “Critics abound, both Christian and non-Christian. Many of my friends dealt with the directive by ignoring it …”
Anyway, good luck with the whole rebranding thing, GOP. You’re going to need it.
"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.