Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Selene & Her Cold, Cold Heart: UNDERWORLD #5 Where Are We Going? Where Have We Been?

20 Oct
Cold kick-ass heroine? Yeah. LURV IT!

Cold kick-ass heroine? Yeah. LURV IT!

By Madeline Iva

I’m an Underworld follower—are you?  UNDERWORLD #5 BLOOD WARS comes out January 6th. I’m not a big movie franchise person. Didn’t see all the Twilight films. Didn’t see all the Star Wars films, Star Trek films, Hobbit films, etc, etc.

I’m going to go see UNDERWORLD BLOOD WARS for three reasons: Theo James, Theo James and Theo James.

If you’ve missed the whole Underworld franchise, below are reasons why I loved the original film-as well as which of the films to watch and which to skip. For those of you who have seen Underworld #1 – 4, check out down below where I parse the preview for Underworld #5.

WHY UNDERWORLD? It vampires vs. werewolves–or Lycans as they call them, and I’m all about cool, glittery Vampires with style. And even more about Theo James.

Before Theo popped up in Underworld #4, what first drew me into this world was Selene—cold, rational, ruthless Selene. All alone and perfectly bad-ass. Wearing head to toe black with ice blue eyes, she is a liquid ripple of lethal grace in a sapphire city. A female action adventure lead who sees trouble with a slight irritated wrinkle of her logical brow, and then proceeds to ruthlessly shoot up whatever needs obliterating.neehz2hlbagphk_2_b

But you haven’t seen the movies? You poor thing. Come with me, let me guide you through them.

UNDERWORLD #1 is awesome! Great casting. Great style. Great photography–shot in shades of elegant blue and black. Where are we? Who cares. Probably America. But not really.

The toys are fun too: Vampires invent liquid silver bullets–how do they stay liquid at room temp? Reasons. The silver spreads through a Lycans’ bloodstream killing them dead.  But the Lycans find a way to create these glow-y untra-violet liquid bullets.  It’s sunshine in a bullet and also kills vampires dead.

However, while the Lycans run around like homeless hipsters through the underground all fight club-ish in the sewers, the vampires have retreated mostly to their gated gi-normic estate where they hold parties and such.  Selene seems to be the only one out there doing the gritty job of nailing the Lycans with a spray of bullets in the subway system, while her cohorts are all obsessed with the pecking order and some stupid party.

michael

Michael is hot. And kinda cursed, poor guy.

One would think that Selene is without any feelings at all, but when she spots Michael she finds him interesting. She watches him from above – as he starts to experience a “my life is about to get pretty trippy right now” moment.  He’s hot in a Heath Ledger on steroids kind of way.

And yes, there’s a love story that develops.  Though at first it’s a “Shut up while I save your ass, idiot human” story.

The number one bad guy is played by the actor, Michael Sheen.  Michael Sheen’s greatness impresses me–I’m convinced he can do anything.  He was fabulous as “the pedantic one” in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, and so very good in MASTERS OF SEX.

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Michael Sheen–he’s soooo good!

To have a great story, your villain must be as compelling and as charismatic as your protagonists. We have that in Michael Sheen – he rivals our lovers in sympathy by the end, as well as in acting chops. Yet he’s willing to chew the scenery a bit, while the other two commit to underplaying their moments. (I love underplaying.  Seriously.)

And what’s-his-name –Bill Nighy, is GREAT as a clammy ancient vampire risen from his freeze-dried stasis. You get the feeling that if he was once human he’s long forgot all about it.  (It takes a certain kind of actor to sell that larger-than-life mythic quality–and Bill N is perfect.)

So we get a very good first half of the film, the beginning of the third act is great as well and the end wraps up with lot of fighting mixed with some dirty politics, then a lot more fight fight fight –and then we’re done.  Overall, Underworld #1 is very much worth seeing.

UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION is a great title–but a miss. Our protagonist from Underworld #1, Michael–aka Heath on Steroids–can transform into this bizarre, ferocious, black gargoyle thing.  The black gargoyle thing likes to fight.  And that’s what this movie is: fight fight fight, politics, politics, blah, blah, blah, fight fight fight. Selene, as always, has to get Michael back, fight everyone, then fight some more and–Yawn. Also the movie is shot too much in daylight. The Underworld franchise works best during the hours of midnight to 4am. I recommend skipping this movie.

Bill Nighy plays Viktor with relish.

Bill Nighy plays Viktor with relish.

UNDERWORLD 3, RISE OF THE LYCANS is freaky deaky. We go back to the past – and the past is bleak, my friends. It’s all stone castles, whips, and people layered in furs, wearing swords.  You know what I mean. I actually didn’t make it through the movie.  This ur-myth of the Lycans and how they came to be at war with the vampires for All Time was missing a crucial component for me–Selene.

I stopped watching when Michael Sheen and Rhona Mitra are making forbidden love. But they’re like, doing it sticking over the edge of a cliff. That was just odd. She was on top, and Michael Sheen was the one hanging over an abyss.  His character seems to like it.  Cliff kink.  Who’d a thunk it?

SIDE NOTE: Kate Beckinsale, by this time, was married to the director.  Which is like, uh-oh.  Because when she first came into the first Underworld movie she was married to Michael Sheen–with whom she has a child.  So there’s this whole personal relationship issue between Kate, the director Len Wiseman, and Michael Sheen–but Kate says they’re all cool.  Apparently she and Wiseman eventually broke up.len-wiseman

So although UNDERWORLD RISE OF THE LYCANS had it’s moments, it had no Selene. No Selene –and no Selene/Michael-Ledger-on-Steroids romance. This was a problem. Without Selene, I didn’t care.

But I’m still a believer!

the

Theo James is the kind of hero I can get behind.

UNDERWORLD AWAKENING got a big boost of energy in the form of Theo James and a tight new script that wasn’t exactly just the same-old same-old.  Selene had been caught and frozen.  She wakes up at the beginning of the film to find that we’ve gone from the kinda present to the near future – awesome! But wait! What about Michael? Selene is busting out of some nasty lab facility but before she leaves, she uses her sense of connection to track down Michael in another vampire popsicle container.  Only, when she busts in, it’s not Michael in the container.  It’s some tweener girl she’s never seen before.  Cool! But what about Michael?

They escape and discover Theo James.  Hell yeah—but what about MICHAEL?

I mean, the bite of love Selene feels for Michael–this is why we root for team Selene. And yet, I have to admit, if Michael has to die saving his little family or something and then Theo James steps in, I could live with that. I’m ready.

Ultimate decision: Underworld #4 is a decent movie. Plenty of Selene, and I’m able to let go Michael and move onto Theo.  Definitely worth watching.

Moving on!

UNDERWORLD 5: BLOOD WARS.  Here’s the trailer:

Okay, what can we ken from this 2:41 minute trailer?

Well, we’re back to Selene. And…there’s more Theo James.  (Fist pump!) What else can we glean from this preview? It’s shot in that blue-y light which makes me very very happy.

However, it’s not a good sign that they spend the first minute or so of the preview on the past.

marius

Marius–watch out. Selene is coming for you.

The villain looks GOOD. It’s that British actor I see in lots of things that I think of as Not-Cumberbitch. (He’s tall, has the same coloring and small squinty blue eyes too. He plays a Lycan named Marius. I like the way Selene spits out the words “Tell your leader—Marius–” Ptwoo! “I’m coming for him.”

Theo’s around and he’s protecting Selene.  Great! Bring it on! Apparently the Lycans want the blood of Selene and her daughter and…somehow this will make someone invincible?  There are kick ass Lycans, power-hungry vampires, and a woman with long white hair. There’s some winter wonderland stuff that ends with Selene wrapped up like a mummy being dunked in ice water…and some kind of cage match.

Sign me up! I know, it all sounds sort of muddled, but I have faith.  They clearly have great actors, the blue-y light, and Selene plus Theo. This is what I like and for the rest, I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best, because this movie has such a great fantasy/paranormal vibe.

Alas, it’s going to come out months from now.  Meanwhile, my own fantasy romance is out in two weeks — and I’m having a give away to celebrate.  Stay tuned!

 

Right now you can click to pre-order it for .99 cents. Crazy, right?

Right now you can click to pre-order it for .99 cents. Crazy, right?

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available for pre-order and releases November 1st.  Sign up Madeline Iva news & give aways.  Follow her on facebook.

 

The Magicians: A Novel That Stabs Itself in the Heart

6 Oct
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Go ahead and click here to buy, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

By Madeline Iva

How do you destroy the genre of your own book? Lev Grossman managed this nifty little trick in his breakout novel THE MAGICIANS–a book that SFF people love to hate.  Meanwhile, everyone else is raving about it.  This fantasy book was clearly a huge best seller, but when checking out the reviews I noticed among the glowing accolades, a few ominous warnings: the book was derivative–HIGHLY derivative, and critics questioned the experience of reading the book, saying “What did I ultimately get out of it?” Nothing positive, I’ll tell you that.

By ‘breakout novel’, technically we’re talking about a novel that sells so well it changes an author’s life forever.  Harry Potter is an excellent example of this.  However, if you look at many other breakout novels, you’ll see that they often conform to a similar structure. While they have a genre framework, the story inside that frame is not really genre at all.  Such is the case with THE MAGICIANS.

Often a breakout novel disappoints readers of that genre.  Why? To hear Donald Maas tell it in his book HOW TO WRITE A BREAKOUT NOVEL, many breakout novels don’t fulfill the conventions that die-hard genre readers expect.  Instead the author explores a literary theme, talking about WWII or about the breakdown of entitled-yet-morally-corrupt-youths, or societal reform almost as if it were as important–if not more–than solving the murder.  These books also don’t end with the bad guys punished, order restored and chaos vanquished, or even with happily ever afters–which is why we read genre, isn’t it?

Here are some examples of break out novels: SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW, THE SECRET HISTORY, THE DA VINCI CODE, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. These books may start off being mysteries, thrillers, or horror novels, but they have literary themes and are written in a literary style.  The genre shell is merely a spoonful of sugar that makes the literary medicine go down.

Case in point: THE MAGICIANS.  When I started reading it – I loved it! I thought: This is my kinda book. Really well written, I lurv the main character and all the other characters, yes! Quentin is a tall, mopey, unhappy brilliant teen.  I was all over that.  He gets invited to a college where he can learn magic. Fabulous!

And then it’s Harry Potter in college–but with a lot of drinking, drugs, n sex.  In fact it was a LOT like another crazy brilliant break out book that I highly recommend: THE SECRET HISTORY. Really, it’s THE SECRET HISTORY meets Harry Potter.  I said to myself—Okay, I’m seeing the derivative stuff they mentioned, but it’s SO GOOD that I don’t CARE.

Even up to the middle of the book, I was like, Where is this going? Not sure and I. Don’t. Care. At page 274 I said to myself FINALLY!! Now we have a direction once again–Here we go! Wheeeeeee!

And then the author ruined it for me. How? Why? What went wrong?

First I have to ask myself: what do I get out of Fantasy? Why do I like it as a genre? I like it because it’s anti-high school irony.  There is an earnestness to fantasy. Enthusiasm and triumphing over difficulties is at the core of many a fantasy novel.  Also there are deeply held values of the characters often in play.  Even GAME OF THRONES has these aspects–(What is GAME OF THRONES, meanwhile, but a breakout novel about a fantasy world that–aside from a few dragons–explores the bloody brutality of what it took to survive in the middle ages?)

The point is, I savor these fantasy qualities because when I’m operating in the real world I feel out of step. I feel the world is too harsh or complicated, or sophisticated. I am looking to retreat into my sensitive shell, to enjoy something simple, and sincere.

Certainly Harry Potter is sincere. Even Game of Thrones is sincere—as my Sweetie said: the bad guys are sincerely bad. And one token of their sincerity (some of them) is that when they realize they’re being bad, they change. (I’m looking at you Jamie Lannister.) This is what I want out of a fantasy book.

THE MAGICIANS is not such a book. When Quentin realizes he’s being weak–he  keeps on being weak. There is no character change. There is no fundamental growth and development. It’s as if the author believes character growth and change are impossible.  All there is is time. Time for one to grow older and see over the scrim of youth to the backstage area, where nothing is as wondrous and captivating as you hoped it would be.

What a jaded attitude — especially for characters who learn magic, and travel to new fantastical worlds.  To embed a theme of chronic dissatisfaction in the face of such glorious adventure and then turn around and claim, it’s not really adventurous, we don’t know what we’re doing, and it’s all going to shit–it’s disgusting, really.  Yes, disgusting.

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This is the one. Click to buy this book.

Now, Donna Tartt does something similar in her book (which came out long before Grossmans, and I highly recommend it,) but there was a point to it.  We know the students in THE SECRET HISTORY killed their good friend.  We’re told that on page one.  The book explores why and how they tried to get away with it.  Relationships are destroyed.  They suffer–and this makes sense to us.  It’s satisfying because THEY COMMITTED MURDER.

I think Grossman is reflecting back some kind of commentary about the lives of the privileged elite – and yeah, I’m calling him that. If you went to both Harvard AND Yale, and you mention that on your freakishly successful book cover jacket, what else could you be?

So what’s he saying? His characters are living lives of fantastical proportions, but it never seems quite real to them.  They are always waiting for their “real” life to start.  It’s like being in a house where all the doors open onto each other. You keep going through doors, but you only end up going in circles.

Which makes the novel rather nihilistic at its core.  This is the antithesis of what fantasy novels and the fantasy genre are about.  Lev Grossman stabs his own novel in the heart until it’s dead and the reader is appalled.

Unless, of course, the reader doesn’t particularly care for the fantasy genre and is as jaded as Grossman.  Then they might love the book.

Another crime this book commits is that it starts out a leetle derivative, and swiftly towards the last third becomes crazily derivative. The former magic students enter a world called Fillory where we have trees like Tolkien’s Ents, we had Rams like the lion in Narnia, we had bears similar to The Golden Compass. We had a school for magic, like in Harry Potter.  I suspect Grossman intends to be derivative.  The more derivative the book, the more meta comments the characters make.  The meta elements, like the derivative  elements spread through the end of the book like a virus, snuffing out a fantasy reader’s pleasure. In the end, the amoral laxity that Grossman injects into his book kills the flourishing novel he’s created.

It’s like watching someone kill a unicorn. What’s the point?

All of this is done with maximal writing skill. I hate him. AND I envy him his writing chops. They’re making the book into a series–I wonder if they’re going to change it at all to accommodate fantasy TV viewer expectations?

CAVEAT: I know someone who is ready to defend the novel to the death (and does so frequently). She is willing to take on all comers. So she must have cared by the end of the book. Or loved NOT caring.

Follow us at Lady Smut.  We promise never to kill unicorns.

And come back tomorrow, folks–I’m having cover reveal for my fantasy novel WICKED APPRENTICE, including an excerpt and other fun stuff.  You can already pre-order the book on Amazon.

41tek67q8lMadeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek, is available for pre-order and releases November 1st.

 

 

 

 

Sex, Magic, Fantasy & One Cranky-Pants Heroine

18 Aug
Click to buy!

Click to buy!

by Madeline Iva

This is the one.  This is the book you gotta read.  That’s what I keep hearing about Amanda Bouchet’s debut release PROMISE OF FIRE, the first in THE KINGMAKER CHRONICLES with sex, magic, and fantasy woven together into one Greek Gods of a romance fantasy gyro.

But this is not a review.  I too, have a fantasy romance coming out soon.  I too, am trying to roll up magic fantasy sparkies into a delicious heap of smexy.  I could not review this book if I tried.  Instead I read it/inhaled it/grokked it with small stabs of anxiety and admiration. Look at how consistent she is in all the smexy, all the spells and everything.  Is my book this consistent? Is my book this polished?

No, it’s not.  I mean–I just got back my edits, and the editor explicitly said: “After you have done this, give me back a clean manuscript. I will then give it to a copy editor who will also look at its consistency and give you some feedback.”

(!)

So I’m a little in awe of Amanda’s book.  But let me entice you a little more:

What we’ve got here is a world in which our heroine has literally run away to join the circus.  How fun is that? She’s swiftly kidnapped by a hot warrior dude and Amanda Bouchet keeps the smexy sparks rolling between these two through the entire book. He needs our heroine to keep his kingdom intact.  See,the heroine has this handy little gift: when people lie to her it shreds her brain with pain. Handy, if you’re wondering who’s going to be loyal to you and your family in the new regime, no?

Along the way, we witness magic in a variety of inflections, but also tweaked and tumbled by the Greek Gods, who frequently stick a finger in humanity’s pie.  As I was reading (and fretting) my sweetie wondered aloud how Bouchet carries off Greek Gods without Greece. Very adroitly, is my answer.  There’s a Mount Olympus, thus there are gods crawling off it and littering the landscape. Bam!

And…I won’t add any more spoilers, except our cranky-pants heroine is tied to a rope with a muscled bunch of hotness on the other end, and while they stalk the landscape, we capture glimpses of her (literally) tortured past.

Okay–so buy it already!  But what I really want to talk about is an issue near and dear to my heart — a topic I’ve repeatedly discussed with Kiersten Hallie Krum:  How to get people to like your strong, intelligent, sassy-pants heroine?  I mean, she sounds great on the surface, right?  You’re thinking: I love strong, intelligent heroines! Bring ‘er on!

No you don’t.  From a romance writer’s point of view, you’re just waiting there in the weeds, sneaky reader, ready to suddenly dart out on Goodreads or in the Amazon reviews section and declare our beloved heroine a selfish bitch, who’s very snarky (but not in a good way) and completely unlike-able.  Yes you do.  And I know this, because I’ve read romances and had this same reaction myself. Oh, the humanity!

Btw, you can check out Kiersten’s book Wild on the Rocks, if you relish an independent, relentlessly snarky heroine.

So I’ve fretted over this problem for years–all the years I’ve been getting on my feet as a romance writer. At first I was reassured by what Elizabeth Shore (fellow Lady Smut-er) said: “It’s okay if your heroine is intelligent.  As long as she’s not perfect.”  Smart words, Elizabeth. Other romance writers say we want to read about people smarter than ourselves.  Don’t be afraid of strong heroines.

Yeah! But. Um.  When I told my fellow romance writer (and thus romance reader) friends that the heroine of my novel loved magic and her raison d’ etra was to know and master magic in all it’s forms they reacted with a unanimous ew.   I said, ‘No, you don’t get it. Um.” And then Joanna Bourne said: “She’s like Tinkerbell.”

“Yes!” I said, pounding the table at Panera.  “Yes! Thank you, Joanna.” Turning to the rest, I said,  “She’s like Tinkerbell.”

“No one likes Tinkerbell,” Joanna said.

(!)  o_O

So this is the cross I bear.  How to make readers engage with my heroine when she doesn’t want babies, or to be used as a door matt by her man, her family, and the masses in general? I’m exaggerating here, of course, to make a point, but I direct you to Virginia Kantra‘s paranormal series Children of the Sea.

imgres

I *think* this is the paranormal book Virginia was referring to. Check it out — click on it to buy.

Kantra, at a Washington Romance Writer’s meeting said it was a challenge getting her publisher to accept a older, unmarried, female heroine who was content being alone and just wanted to have some hot sex.  (Sound familiar? Half my friends are like this.)

They said, “Well Virginia, as long as, you know, she’s nice to animals and maybe the occasional old person, you’re good.” (These are completely made up quotes on the part of her publisher, by the way.)   Kantra said by the time the story had gotten through all the edits, the story was set in this very peculiar beach town, strangely littered with hundreds of stray cats and elderly people on every corner. My point exactly!

Okay–back to Bouchet’s book.  How, I ask myself, how does she carry off this cranky-pants heroine who is unwilling to get close to anybody and anyone, and ultimately, is more powerful than anybody and anyone in the whole book? How does she pull this off? (?!?!?!)

Well, I will tell you.  After chewing over the plot in my mind, I think her secret sauce is the backstory. Bouchet’s heroine was repeatedly taught that to love someone is to see that person (again, literally) gutted.  To trust is to kill.  She keeps anyone and everyone at a distance, but at the same time (and this, Kiersten, is the key point) as readers, we feel the longing she has to make connection to the people around her.  We see how, despite her prickly defenses, the cranky is rapidly slackening.  She genuinely likes and respects these people.  She wants to be one of them–she can’t quite admit it to herself, but she does.  And she is becoming one of them–which is putting each and every one of their lives at risk.  This is the drama that winds up the end of Bouchet’s book.

…And now I’m swiveling my head back to my own manuscript, taking a deep breath, and getting ready to plunge back in.  Bye!

Follow us at LadySmut.com and clap if you *do* like Tinkerbell.  She’s iconic you know — iconic!

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out REAL SOON!(September, 2016.)

Magically Sexy: Strange & Norrell

7 Jul

I hear that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has made it over to the other side of the pond now, so I want to say a few things about how much I love this show. I’m reading the novel now and it’s one of those rare cases where the pleasure of the programme increases the pleasure of the reading. It hits all the marks for me because it’s magical and historical with a stellar cast — and costuming. I’ve already found several tumblrs that go crazy over the clothes.

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Stange and is just about as dashing a magician as you could wish, though perhaps the most attractive thing about him is how he dotes on his singular wife, Arabella (played by Charlotte Riley whom made a great Catherine Earnshaw opposite Tom Hardy’s Heathcliffe). I said on Twitter that I’d love to see an offshoot series, Arabella Strange Learns the Language of Birds. She’s such a terrific character.

It’s a delight to see the machinations of The Gentleman with the thistle down hair as he tries to move people around like chess pieces, though you rather hope that the utterly elegant Stephen Black (played with amazing power by Ariyone Bakare) and poor Lady Pole (Alice Englart) manage to survive. You don’t have to know anything about the period to love the characters, for their plights are totally engaging.

I haven’t mention Mr Norrell yet, have I? He’s played by the absolutely riveting Eddie Marsan. But he’s a bit of a fusspot to be honest. Not that I don’t totally envy his library with great drooling desire. And I completely identify with his preference for books to people and parties.

But I feel more in tune with Strange’s trust of his intuition and enjoy his cheerful buoyant optimism in the face of all kinds of adversity — and there is adversity to spare in this tale. Here’s to practical magicians in preference to theoretical ones!

Oh, but I haven’t got to the most appealing character, have I? Well, let me now turn to the curmudgeonly, gruff, unpolished, Northerner (of course 😉 ) Childermass. He’s nominally Norrell’s servant, but he’s so much more. The horrible Londoners who bewitch the magician overlook him at their peril. It is the power of the ignored to see so much more. I’d gladly spent an evening in a rundown pub with Childermass and his hand drawn tarot cards than with the finest of the ton in London. But that’s me.

Are you on Goodreads? Join the Lady Smut crew there and enter to win one of four copies of The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires. Hurry, time’s running out! And always follow us — we have such sights to show you…

Raindrops, Roses, Femdom and Warrior Women

7 Dec
domme chronicles

Warm thoughts for the holidays. Click for your very own.

 

By Alexa Day

Living as an erotic romance writer means, to me, that I have an obligation to keep my days as full of sexy, sensual stimulation as I possibly can. If I’m feeling stimulated, then I can pass the joy on to my characters, who in turn will hopefully share a little with you, the readers. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Now, I don’t want you to imagine that I’m spending all day engaged in … inappropriate activity. Who could afford that, really? Who has the energy for it? No. I just mean that I try to keep things joyful. Delicious. Fascinating. Sigh-worthy. Sometimes it means having one of those fried apple pies for breakfast. Sometimes it means reading that extra chapter when I ought to get to sleep. This time of year, it means I get to add peppermint mocha creamer to my favorite alcoholic beverage. (Vanilla soy milk, instant coffee, cake vodka: I call it Illya Kuryakin.)

Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that the last few weeks have sorely tested me. I am not feeling pleasantly stimulated. On the best of days, I’m really annoyed, and on the worst of days, I’m pissed off.

Just last week, I thought I was just a little annoyed with People magazine, when it turned out that I was pissed off at the whole stupid history of the Sexiest Man Alive. Seriously, would it be a huge problem for them to make at least a token effort to find actual sexy people for that? Are their hands full with hard-hitting news?

And can I just send a special thank you to Rolling Stone magazine? Because it’s not often that someone can actually answer the question “Gosh, how could this story be worse for everyone involved” by making a story worse for everyone involved. That was special, guys. Congratulations. Humanity needed that, just as little as it needed continued unrest, division and despair in Ferguson and Cleveland and New York.

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Click for your own.

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Click for your own.

And on top of that, the holiday movie season fills me with a very un-festive despair. The movies in general typically make me lightheaded with rage. I do not live in a selected city; in fact, if I were truly angry, I would say I lived in a godforsaken backwater. And so I expect that the movies I most want to see will keep their distance in Washington while the ones I’m trying to avoid will be here until June. I don’t know if Foxcatcher has been here, is still coming here, or will fail to appear here. I won’t get into my little issues with Exodus: Gods and Kings, which is evidently set in a version of Egypt where people don’t even tan, and just to further protect my blood pressure, I won’t ask how hard we tried to represent the diverse film-going population with the casting of Into the Woods.

This does not begin to cover everything that’s working the holy hell out of my nerves, but I refuse to give all of it the gift of my continued attention. Instead, I’m going to share some of the things I’m actually anticipating this holiday season. It feels nice to look forward to something.

Here’s where I’m finding pleasure lately.

1. The Theory of Everything. I caught Hawking on PBS a while back (the documentary, not the other movie with Benedict Cumberbatch), so I know a bit about the love story at the center of the film. I am very, very partial to an outside-the-box, no-matter-what love story (Rocky is actually my favorite movie romance). And I read that Stephen Hawking was so impressed with the film that he permitted filmmakers to use his distinctive voice, to which he actually owns the rights. There’s just too much to love about this movie, and so I hope I’m able to catch it on the big screen before it’s gone. And if not, I love the idea that Stephen Hawking owns the rights to the sound of his voice. That’s enough to cool my slow-smoldering rage for a little while.

2. Dossouye. Many years ago, in a fantasy anthology, I met Dossouye, a warrior woman from the

Dossouye makes her entrance here. Click to buy.

Dossouye makes her entrance here. Click to buy.

ancient kingdom of Abomey (an alternate of the real African kingdom of Dahomey), in a short story by Charles Saunders. (“Gimmile’s Songs” appeared in the first edition of Sword and Sorceress thirty years ago.) Dossouye’s encounter with a musician under a magical spell made for spectacular reading, and I’ve never seen anything like that story since, although the Lion’s Blood alternate histories by Steven Barnes struck the same chords for me. I’ve just found that Dossouye has two of her own novels (I might be the last person on Earth to hear about that), and I’m looking forward to checking them out. I believe the first is assembled from Dossouye’s short stories, but the second one, Dossouye: The Dancers of Mulukau, is new.

3. Domme Chronicles: Erotic tales of love, passion, & domination. Megan Hart always brings me joy. Recently, she interviewed Sharyn Ferns, the author of a collection of essays and vignettes about female dominance and male submission. I touched briefly on the subject here because I find it fascinating, and Ferns reinforces in her interview the notion of the male submissive as the knight who rides for his queen. Hart strongly recommends the book (she described it on Facebook as “mm, mm, good”), so I can’t wait to get it onto my Kindle. And that cover is hot. It’s hot, right?

I know you all are finding the good hidden away inside this trying time of year. Let me know how you’re doing it down there in the comments.

And be sure to follow Lady Smut before the holiday break!

Take Me Away: F Coupes and Fantasies of Abduction

19 Oct

 

That's nice, isn't it? It'll be his turn soon enough.

That’s nice, isn’t it? It’ll be his turn soon enough.

By Alexa Day

I love this year’s line of Jaguar commercials. The ones that reassure us that Brits make the best villains. I think they started during this year’s Super Bowl. I remember watching Mark Strong driving that gorgeous F coupe around. Between his sinfully sexy voice and the delicious growl of the engine, I’d have bought whatever the television told me to. It’s probably best that the base model F coupe costs $65,000, or I’d be living in it now.

I lost sight of the ads for a while, until I heard bits of breathless praise for one featuring Tom Hiddleston. Tom doesn’t do anything for me. I’m sure he’s a lovely person; I just don’t find him attractive. As a result, I didn’t pay loads of attention to what people were saying.

Tom Hiddleston … something something … Jaguar … something … bag in the trunk … something … what’s in the bag?

Here’s how it really goes.

When I finally watched it, my first thought was that the bag was too small. I had envisioned a large bag, made of silky black fabric, with a sleek length of rope to fasten the top.

You know, something big enough for me.

I’m not saying that I fantasize about being dropped into the Jaguar’s luxuriant trunk by Tom Hiddleston. I’m not attracted to Tom. If Mark Strong wanted me in the trunk of the F coupe, however, he wouldn’t even need the bag. I’m not just going to hop in because he says to, mostly because I enjoy listening to him talk. But I would offer him only token resistance. I might bite his hand just to see what sort of sound he made, but my plan is to end up in the trunk like a good girl.

The abduction fantasy has been one of my favorites for many years, at least since high school. I’ve long indulged thoughts of being carried off by strong, powerful men who needed me for something they knew I would not surrender willingly. The fantasy’s politically incorrect surface discourages most people from examining it further. I think people struggle to understand that it has no correlation to actual abduction, and I think they struggle with this more than they do with a lot of other sexual fantasies. Because I enjoy the abduction fantasy and its permutations so much, though, I don’t mind studying it from time to time. Themes of power, surrender, control of self and control of others pop up in my writing fairly often. I just think that sort of thing is hot, and I like experimenting with all those boundaries.

The abduction fantasy wears many faces. I maintain a mental shortlist with a rotating cast of fantasy kidnappers. (And they are all mine. Not sharing them.) Some of them are good-looking sophisticates, guys like Mark, who want something I have. A state secret. Launch codes. Passwords. Knowledge of arcane languages. They’re endlessly patient and wonderfully seductive, and this flavor of fantasy is more about power than about sex. I mean, until I give up the launch codes or whatever, the plot for world domination is at a standstill, right? I’ll get to see just what this person will do to get what he wants from me. That’s a nice train of thought.

Click to get in line for release day!

Click to get in line for release day!

And sometimes I’m dealing with a rough character with baser interests. These guys look more like Jason Statham, accustomed to the use of force. They might deliver me to someone who wants the launch codes, but along the way, any number of inappropriate things might happen. This one’s about power, too, but not in the same way. It’s about being desirable enough to erode a man’s self-control. It’s about driving a man beyond regard for consequences. In a world where successful single women still hear that men are “too intimidated” to approach them, the rougher abduction fantasy, starring men who are not at all afraid of women, will always have a place.

I’m so tempted at this point to get into the family of fantasies featuring us women as the abductors of men. If you’re following my author page on Facebook, you’ve already seen occasional pictures of hot shirtless dudes tied to beds, showerheads and the like. I think that sort of thing is stimulating. But it is perhaps another story for another day.

For now, I’m going back into the trunk of the imaginary F coupe. I’m going to look at the trunk release handle — because a $65,000 car certainly has one — and I’m going to wonder just what Mark Strong is going to ask me for and whether I’m inclined to give it to him today.

As for you, get your own F coupe! Preorder your copy of The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires for more hotness.

And follow Lady Smut if you know what’s good for you.

Manservants ‘R Us

22 Sep

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I’d planned an entirely different post today and then this crossed Twitter feed.

 

Um. Wow. And also…What?!

I went from GIMME to CREEPY in a New York minute, but then I settled down to read the particulars and turned fully into hmmmmm. This is what snagged my attention: “That’s when we realized male-strippers are hand-me-down fantasies.”

I’m amused by the smug judgmental diss at the end of the ManServants video: “Ladies, if you hate your friend–and yourself–get her a stripper.” I’m all about empowering women and particularly empowering them to claim their sexuality. I’m just not convinced a male strip tease where the dude is all over you like A Night at the Roxbury does that.

Stripping isn’t organically a female fantasy, but one essentially reclaimed from men. Don’t get me wrong, we like to see guys take their kit off. (Boy. Howdy.) But male stripping as entertainment is something women have appropriated from the original male fantasy and it has very different power dynamics then its female counterpart. A bachelorette gig at a male strip club–sorry, male revue club–can be a damn good time, but it’s ultimately not so different from a trip to Medieval Times only with less clothes and no horse shit.

Well, no actual horse shit.

The ManServants web site makes it clear that’s not what they’re about. Based in San Francisco and opened for business this fall, ManServants initially positions itself as an antidote to any woman stuck on the…horns of a stripper dillema. Its raison d’être is to empower women in order to give them an experience that makes them feel worshiped and adored.

ManServants aren’t about what men think women want, or about women acting like men and objectifying men—it’s about the fantasy of finally getting the royal treatment. It’s about adoration, not domination.

With ManServants we want to empower women to define what’s sexy and make their own rules. Rules that a ManServant may then follow.

Sounding better by the minute. Though there’s still a whole “obedience” issue going on there so in that sense, somebody’s being dominated. But wait! How does an enterprising, charming, woman-loving, hot dude get to become a ManServant? So glad you asked!

As a general footnote, this is not an adult entertainment service. No nudity or illegal activities will be permitted. For the love of all that is good and holy, do not send us naked photographs. Your penis will not get you a job, but a great smile and winning personality will. Do not consider applying if you have ever been called the following: douchebag, sexual offender, sexist, creeper, nut job, weirdo, or convicted felon.

I would now like to go do tequila shots with the founders of ManServants. They had me at “your penis will not get you a job.”

manservants

Order up!

ManServants can act as chauffeur, bodyguard, picture taker, purse holder, party wait staff, bag carrier, dog walker, grill master, butler, bartender, live music performer, personal assistant, cabana boy…basically whatever tasks might make you want to call out “oh, monkey boy!”, a ManServant will do. You can customize your ManServant too and choose the clothes, hair color, and even the accent of your choice! Darlings, you know how I feel about certain accents…

It’s fun to joke about the studly guy we’d get to mow our lawns and clean our floors, but do we really want to see that fantasy become reality on our doorstep like a Swifter box delivery? Mmmmmmaybe. But if we reverse the genders and make it Maidservants with similar sycophantic adoration for a fee, it shifts the entire power dynamic and becomes more derogatory, offensive, and pervy. Much like the change in power dynamics between a “male revue” strip club and a standard club with women on the pole.

Factor in that many aspects of a ManServants job are as simple as “compliment her every quarter of an hour” or “go for a walk with her” with even a massage upgrade on the offer. It seems ManServants means to make the most of the (generally true) assumption that women are just not being loved and appreciated enough by their mates or their families or both. It means to provide women with some en pointe solutions to combat that lack. Husbands and lovers take note–and perhaps take lessons.

Gotta say, while I’m not sure I’d do it (I’m fairly certain I can’t afford it), I can totally see the fun of hiring up a handsome ManServant designed and chosen specifically to my tastes whose sole duty is to make me goddess of all I survey for a day. Even if only short-lived. that would be some fantasy. Would you?

Follow Lady Smut. Go ahead. Adore us.

LonCon and ShamroKon

15 Aug

by C. Margery Kempe

I’m away this weekend in London for the 72nd World SF Con and then next week I’m off to Dublin before returning to NY to teach. Busy doesn’t begin to cover it. Look for me under my given name, K. A. Laity.

LONCON 3 The 72nd World Science Fiction Convention 14-18 August 2014

LONCON

Tove Jansson’s Moomins: Their Legacy and Influence

Thursday 12:00 – 13:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

It’s 100 years since the birth of Finnish author/artist Tove Jansson, the award-winning creator of the beloved Moomins. Moomins appeared in novels, illustrated books, comic book strips and today are celebrated with their own theme park called Muumimaailma (Moomin World).

Why did Jansson’s Moomins capture the attention and affection of the panellists, and how do Moomins continue to fire the imagination of new generations despite being nearly seventy years old?

What is the legacy of the Moomins, and how do they continue to influence European comic books today?

K. A. Laity (M), Lynda Rucker, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Mary Talbot, Karrie Fransman

You can watch the BBC documentary ‘Moominland Tales: The Life Of Tove Jansson’ here: http://youtu.be/tSZKzLHI5wg. There will be a showing of this documentary at the convention in the Capital Suite 17, at Thursday at 17:00.

Medieval Influences and Representation in SF/F

Thursday 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

Three academics each give a 15 minute presentation. These are followed by a 30 minute discussion jointly held with the audience.

Constance G. J. Wagner, “FRODO AND FARAMIR: Mirrors of Chivalry”
K. A. Laity, “The ‘Old Weird’: Recognising the Medieval Roots of the ‘New Weird’”
Julie Hofmann, “The Year of the Fruit Bat, the Middle Ages, and the Long 19th Century”
Shyamalika Heffernan (M)

Fantasy and Medievalism

Friday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

High fantasy is almost invariably set in invented worlds inspired by medieval Europe. Can we put this down to the legacy of Tolkien and to genre works being in close conversation with each other? Or is there something about the place that medieval Europe occupies in our imagination that makes it a perfect companion for tales of epic striving and larger-than-life Good versus Evil? Either way, does this help or hinder the genre?

K. A. Laity (M), Gillian Polack, Robin Hobb, Marieke Nijkamp, Lynda Rucker

The Weird on Screen

Friday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

In their introduction to their anthology “The Weird”, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer describe the form as “unapologetically transgressive, imaginative, and strange.” Where can we find the weird on screen? What differences are there between the written weird and the weird on screen?

K. A. Laity (M), Dominick Grace, Robyn Talbot, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Jaq Greenspon

Vox Populi: the new voice of comic book criticism?

Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)

Anyone with a blog or social media presence can send their opinion directly to comic book creators. How is this affecting comic book criticism?

Is this the death of the old stuffy regime of taste-makers, or the rise of a new type of creative pressure? How is the closer connection between creator and audience affecting the work?

And what happens when the collective force of a fanbase focuses upon ‘punishing’ critical voices?

K. A. Laity (M), KT Davies, Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson, Marcus Gipps, Didi Chanoch

What does Ireland have to offer?

Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)

Ireland is distinctly different as a nation and its people posses a unique identity. How does this work through the creative fiction of modern times? Has the mighty weight of Irish Mythology that have permeated fantasy had an impact on modern writers in Ireland? Where is the new fiction coming from, and what issues of interest are explored?

Liz Bourke (M), Susan Connolly, K. A. Laity, Ruth Frances Long, Bob Neilson

Full programme here. If yo know Debi, you know she’ll be everywhere and she’ll cajole me into going to more things than I would on my own. I hope to see a lot of friends, but there will be thousands of people there O.O so I’m glad some folks like Maura McHugh will also be heading to Dublin –

SHAMROKON 22-24 Aug 2014

European Focus: Missing Medieval Women

Friday 15:00 – 16:00, B. Lansdowne (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

Women farriers, Viking Shieldmaidens, Court Poet Christine de Pizan… there were lots of women who weren’t damsels in distress or burnt at the stake. So why don’t we see them in high fantasy?

Liz Bourke (M), Susan Bartholomew, K. A. Laity, Gillian Polack

As you can see, I won’t be too busy in Dublin, so I will likely be catching up with friends (I hope including my publisher Kem from Tirgearr) and reacquainting myself with some of the finer pubs around the city. On Sunday morning (24th) I will be NY bound as classes begin on the 25th. So much for giving myself more leeway…

Full programme here.

The Privilege of a Woman’s Pleasure

21 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Our Sexy Saturday Round Up included a link to an article I’ve been retweeting the heck out of over the last few days: Dear Columnists: Romance Fiction Is Not Your Bitch. In it, Australian book professional Kat Mayo wonders why romantic fiction is the “laughing stock” of feminist commentators.

Why is romance fiction the punching bag of the literary world? Why are romance readers the laughing-stock of feminist commentators? Why can’t people just let women read sexy things without telling us we’re doing something wrong?

She goes on to highlight the general smarts and savvy of the average romance novel reader and the feminist-related conversations that spring up among and around the discussion of romance novels. “Feminist discussions not only occur within romance communities, but they thrive and spawn pages and pages of commentary as romance readers attempt to unpack a diverse range of ideas and problems, both within romance fiction and outside of it.”

One of the main reasons the romance genre is so often derided is due to its primary focus on women. Rather than being the girlfriend or the wife or the victim of the protagonist, it is the woman around whom the story is constructed. “Romance fiction puts the female experience at the center of the story,” Mayo writes. It can even be called an essential aspect of all genre fiction. Nearly all genres—fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, etc—include love stories between their pages. Even Peter Jackson recognized that his Tolkien opus had to include a romantic angle in order to appeal to more than just tried and true fans. This is why Aragon and Arwen’s love story was included in the original LOTR movie trilogy even though it exists only in Tolkien’s appendices, not the original text. Fan boys howled about the divergence from the sacred original, whinging that it was only to make girls buy tickets, but the fact of the matter is that love is the center of every story be it love for a country, a friend, an ideal, or a man or woman. LOTR includes each of these options and that’s before the overt romance is added in.

The problem isn’t just that women and love relationships are the center focus in romantic fiction. Mayo ascertains that when romantic fiction is constructed around the woman, it privileges female pleasure, sexual or otherwise.

Romance books privilege female pleasure, and they often do so in ways that are more nuanced and complex than flippant references to “mummy porn” would imply. No matter the kink, contract or calamity, romance heroes serve to make their heroines happy.

Yeah they do! This is where much of the disparagement is rooted. The woman’s happiness is not only as important as the hero’s to the story but often even more important. And not only that of the woman between the pages, but those women reading the pages too. Romance fiction guarantees a happy ending, be it HEA or HFN, which basically also guarantees the reader will feel warm fuzzies and find true pleasure in the ending. Mayo references a post written by romance scholar Jodi McAlister called Why The Romance Genre Is Interesting, Relevant, and Important—Even If You Think It’s Bad where McAlister expands on this idea of the privilege of pleasure. 

I’m not just talking about the sexual pleasure of the heroine here, though romance is exceptional for the way that it privileges female pleasure and that is something we should absolutely be talking about way more than we do. No, I’m talking about the pleasure of the reader here. I doubt that there is another genre so concerned with the emotional journey not just of the characters, but of the reader. Put simply, romance wants to be pleasurable—and the way it does this is incredibly intriguing and more complex than it might seem on the surface.

I love this idea of the privilege of a woman’s pleasure and it’s something romance fiction exclusively prioritizes and expresses be it sexual pleasure, the pleasure of emotional fulfillment, or a reader being satisfied by the emotional journey she’s taken while reading a well-written book with a happy ending. Indeed, such pleasure should not have to be anyone’s privilege but rather every woman’s de rigueur.

 

Follow Lady Smut. We’re privileged to always bring you pleasure.

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