Sunday, September 30

The times--they are a changin'...


          I read—and loved—two books this past week. That’s more than I ever get read anymore unless it’s RITA-judging time, and the fact that I loved them both makes it even more of a rarity. In case you’re wondering—you are wondering, aren’t you?—the books were The Soldier’s Wife by Cheryl Reavis and The Lovesick Cure by Pamela Morsi.
          One of the books was historical, the other contemporary; one was category, the other single-title; one was inspirational, the other not. Both were classified as romances and both were, no mistake about it, good romances.
          However, what made them keeper-shelf books for me wasn’t the romance at all. It wasn’t that I heard Women’s Fiction voices within the stories, though I most certainly did hear them. It wasn’t even the heroes and heroines, all of whom I loved. What made both these books over-the-top special to me was the secondary characters.
          In The Soldier’s Wife, Rorie and the magnificent Blue Ridge helped me see the whole story in vibrant HD. In The Lovesick Cure, it was Aunt Will and Tree and Cammy and the Ozarks.
          In the early years of my writing, when very little of what I did was right, one of the things experienced people told me was to be wary of letting my secondary characters be too strong. In that time, they were probably right, but I believe and I’m grateful that romantic fiction has evolved. While we do still adhere to the much maligned “formula” of genre fiction, we’ve been able to soften its edges, make 90-degree corners into curves and add the aforementioned HD to what was already Technicolor. We can now, as Pam Morsi said in a long-ago article in RWR, color outside the lines.
          In truth, I’d like to see a little more latitude in romantic fiction. I’m here to tell you love, sex, and everything that goes with them stay pretty cool at least into your sixties even though gravity and other insidious manifestations play havoc with your skin, your hair, and your ability to wear great shoes while standing up. I’d love to see some protagonists I can identify with.
          I have faith that—and other growth—will happen. Until it does, I’m glad for how far we've come. The strengthening of secondary characters is one of my favorite changes that has happened in romantic fiction. What are yours? And, for that matter, what changes don’t you like?

22 comments:

  1. Great post, Liz! I love the changes in romance novels, and your secondary characters are part of it...small towns are still my favorites to read, but sometimes those secondaries you mentioned can add the small town feel to even sophisticated, city books.

    I also love that all heroines can now be as strong or stronger (in some cases) than the alpha men they're dealing with!

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    1. I agree, Kristi. No one ever has to be stupid!

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  2. I'm with Kristi on this one. I got tired of the "wilting lily" a long time ago. I love that nowadays the heroine can be the one that saves the day.

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  3. I started out reading romance in my teens and always loved the stories, but I have to admit that I got a bit tired of the heroine's professions...if they even had one. lol I like the fact that heroines today can be whatever they want to be. They don't have to be a teacher or nanny or nurse...they can be the CEO of a company, doctor, truck driver...whatever. I like that the women are more modern and like Kristi said, strong. I also like that there can be more humor. I really don't recall reading a ton of romances in the beginning of my reading career where there was humor..to me there is nothing sexier than a man with humor who knows how to use it! lol

    Enjoyed your post Liz!

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    1. Oh, I love the humor, Christine, though I admit I like it best when it's subtle, almost subliminal.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate you stopping by!

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  5. Excellent post and beautifully written! I also like the secondary characters. Life is so much more colorful with colorful people around us. :)

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  6. Lovely post. I love books with great seconday characters and I love to write them. In my blog post today, two of mine take center stage.

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  7. Great post! I love good secondary characters as well. They add a wonderful dimension to a story as long as the author doesn't involve them in too many sub-plots. That can be annoying when I want to what is going on with the hero and heroine. There is nothing wrong with a great kick-ass heroine either but I think the heroine should still act like a woman and not try to be like a man which some of them do. She can still save the day wearing a little lip gloss and bemoaning that fact that she broke a nail. :)

    My .02 cents,

    Cheryl

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    1. I think it's a wobbly line sometimes! I'm a girly girl, but I hope not a wuss, and that's what I try to write. Thanks for coming by, Cheryl!

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  8. Great post, Liz! Interestingly, I've gotten way more comments about my secondary characters in RULE NUMBER ONE than my hero and heroine. Everyone has loved Uncle Doyle and Jack's mom, Muriel and enjoyed heck out of their little side romance. Frankly, they were so much fun to write. I feel freer to let myself go with my secondary characters than I do with the main ones--almost as if the main ones need to follow a certain pattern, but the secondary characters can be fun and quirky. I think I want to write a quirky heroine...

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    1. I loved Doyle and Muriel, and I agree--I think we're less heavily invested in them, so they can just be...fun. :)

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  9. I love seconds! They're such fun to write!

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    1. They sure are, aren't they? Thanks, D.

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  10. Hi Liz!
    I love Pamela Morsi books. :) I also love strong secondary characters. I'm totally with you about the latitude on romance part, too. That's why i love the Last Rose of Summer line from The Wild Rose Press which features over forty romance. I've written a couple of books for the line, and I'm here to say - It's never too late to fall in love. Right?

    Thanks for the book recommendations.

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  11. In the novel I just submitted to Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write contest, the female lead is a high powered big city lawyer -- and the male lead is a small town coffee shop owner. Maybe I'll get a chance to see if readers and editors will accept that much change from the old stereotypes!

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