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.
Give Bob Costas a gold medal.
The veteran Olympics sportscaster called into “Today” this morning to announce that he’s taking a hiatus from the games as he recovers from an eye infection that has spread to both of his eyes.
Costas had spent the early days of the Olympics sick in a manner that was particularly visible. Were he ill with bronchitis, say, he might have soldiered through, waiting for a commercial break to stick his head in a humidifier but with no visible signs of distress the audience could notice. With his eye infection, his malady was written across his face. Surely I’m not the only audience member who grabbed at my own eye in painful recognition.
And yet, until now, Costas has gone through with a job he’s both contractually bound to and, more notably, one he seems to enjoy. He’s not completely insane — he bowed out when some combination of physical pain and extreme audience alienation compounded upon themselves. But he’s also a testament to the very sort of fortitude we celebrate in Olympic athletes. He’s committed only to taking a night off of broadcasting, and it wasn’t hard to detect in his jokey throw to his substitute Matt Lauer a certain competitive anxiety.
Those who are sick in their workaday lives shouldn’t feel bad about taking days off, of course. But the biennal spotlight of the Olympic games is different than an office job; just like the athletes, Costas has only so many Olympics in which he’ll be able to participate, and he clearly wants to take part in as many as possible. He’s getting a lot of good-spirited japery on Twitter (much of the best jokes have been collected here) and yet he’s as deserving of accolades as, 20 years ago, Nancy Kerrigan skating through her Gillooly-ing.
So much of NBC’s Olympics coverage is about constructing narratives around victory that often ring false. One gets the sense that Costas’ producers won’t be satisfied until they cover every bad thing that’s happened in an athlete’s life — and not every athlete, frankly, has overcome that much! There’s not always a redemption narrative that actually works. But Costas’ illness has cut through the Olympics cant. In persevering on-air and reserving comment on the matter until it was absolutely necessary, the anchor showed he’s actually learned from the champions he covers.
Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_More Daniel D'Addario.
"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.