April 2, 2013

A Lifetime of of Lust and Longing

I’ve just finished reading a novel that I think you might enjoy—BEFORE I FORGET, A NOVEL OF LUST AND LONGING by Andre Brink. The author brilliantly weaves his main character’s erotic memories of all of his lovers, while giving the reader a glimpse into the struggles of South Africa. The way in which he describes sex and female body parts, in particular, is artful, respectful, and extraordinary.
I am touched by the poetic ways in which the character considers his lovers. At the beginning of the book, for example, there is this passage: “Each separate limb, as it touches or responds to touch, becomes a miracle beyond flesh and blood, illuminated by its own light, its own lambent fire, but without being consumed….Eye, mouth, ear, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, back, each the opening line of a poem, casting a spell, lifting a veil. Toe , foot, ankle, knee. Thigh. I pronounce you. You utter me utterly. ”

One of the most unique and exciting qualities to this book is his treatment of older women lovers. Let’s face it, most contemporary novels sort of skim over the aging, but still sensual, bodies that make up a large portion of the world’s population. At one point he writes something like this…I am paraphrasing…but something like “it wasn’t just that I could see she was beautiful as a young woman, but that she is beautiful. Here and now.”
It is not necessarily an easy read. But if you stick with it, you will be glad you did.
By the way, there are several sex and food scenes—the most delicious, I think, was a scene during which he poured champagne into his lover’s navel and drank it from her. Mmmm…

Sorry got a wee bit distracted there. Grin. But reading this novel made me start to think of the romance genre and how for many years MOST main female characters are in their twenties now many are in their thirties.

One the best contemporary books I’ve read lately is  “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand ” by Helen Simonson, and one of my favorite parts of the story was the romance between retired folks.


Let’s hope that romance, love, and sex continue to be a part of our lives as we age. According to  a blog post on Heros and Heartbreakers, which cites DearAuthor.com, the average age of heroines in romance fiction written in the U.S. ranges from 24-26. The average romance reader is a generation older, 44.6, to be exact, says RWA. The breakdown of readership by age is no longer available on RWA’s statistics page, but earlier figures placed the number of romance readers over 45 at 44%. But Harlequin’s Next and Everlasting Love lines which frequently featured heroines over 40 are defunct. Which begs the question: is part of the romance fantasy also a part of our longing for our youth? On the one hand, I get that, but on the other hand, I think it’s kind of sad. Once again, romance, love, and sex continue to be a part of our lives as we age, so why isn’t is more a part of what we read? I’m not coming from a place of judgement, here, I’m as guilty as the next reader and writer, I’m just curious. (Just for the record, my main characters are in their late twenties/mid-thirties.)

I’d like to read more romances with characters in their forties and beyond—not that I DON’T want to read romances with younger characters. Do they exist? I searched for them and found a list someone came up with on Goodreads. I’ve not checked out each book, but it looks promising. Does anybody have any recommendations?

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  • ellaquinnauthor

    This sounds like an interesting book. As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed many younger men seem to be interested in older women. As subplots in three of my book, I have couples in their mid-to late thirties and early fourties falling in love. I tweeted.

    Reply to ellaquinnauthor
  • Post authorLizEverly

    Thanks, Ella! So glad to know that about your books. I’m already looking forward to them. I do know quite a few younger men interested in older women. 😉

    Reply to LizEverly
  • Elizabeth Shore

    Beautiful review, Liz, and I also liked the questions you pose about “aging” heroines. (horrendous to think of aging being in one’s 40s, but there it is). I’m wondering if heroines in their 20s is similar to fashion models being young. Women of all ages use beauty products, but showing younger women in the ads subly hints that you, too, can feel that young (even if you’re not) by using that product. The average age of romance readers may be 40+, but since readers project themselves as the heroine of the book they’re reading, it’s their chance to feel like they’re in their 20s once more.

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
    • Post authorLizEverly

      Thanks Elizabeth! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

      Reply to LizEverly
  • Post authorLizEverly

    Reblogged this on Liz Everly and commented:

    A Lifetime of Lust and Longing on Lady Smut today!

    Reply to LizEverly
  • Leah St. James

    I never would have picked this book up, Liz, but now I’m going to look for it. Thanks for your thoughtful review! (Interesting stats about romance readers, too. Who knew?!) I don’t know of any specific books with older heroines, although Nora Roberts has at times incorporated an older (40-ish) secondary character and thrown in some romance for her.

    Reply to Leah St. James
    • Post authorLizEverly

      Thanks for commenting. It seems like there are plenty of the secondary-character romances that are 40 or over. And Nora is the Queen, heh?

      Reply to LizEverly

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