Sunday, October 21

The things I miss...


          I’ve been pulling out my hair here, trying to think of something to write about, so instead of trying to be original—it ain’t working, by the way—I’m going for something tried and true. As soon as I figure out which thing that might be, I’ll go on.
          This moment of silence is the sound of time passing while I think…
I know!
I started reading romances when I was in junior high. There weren’t very many publishers, and the genre was even less respected by non-romance-readers than it is now. Harlequin Romances all took place in exotic locations and way too many of the heroes were old enough to be the heroines’ fathers. There wasn’t any sex, nor was there any mention of anything even distantly related to a social issue. (Other than what some of us would now consider pedophilia, that is.)
I was then and still am absolutely captivated by the concept of Happily Ever After, so even though my reading leans more toward women’s fiction than straight romance these days, I still want my happy ending, thank you very much.
But I have a question for you—which I’ll get to. Honest. I think many of the changes over the years since I was in junior high have been wonderful ones. There is a sub-genre to suit everyone. If you don’t happen to like certain trends (like me and vampires), no problem—there are tons of other books out there to read. But I still miss…something. Just sometimes, and I was having such a time putting my finger on what it was I miss. But now I know.
Contest judges and the occasional editor have referred to my voice as “old-fashioned”—not much of a stretch because in many ways, I am old-fashioned. And it would be a shame if an out-of-date voice was what you got every time you picked up a romance. But I also think it’s too bad when old-fashioned becomes synonymous with obsolete.
I miss Betty Neels. I miss LaVyrle Spencer. I miss early Nora Roberts and Mary Balogh. Sometimes, when I’m struggling to sound so much younger in written prose than I really am, I miss me.
Which brings me to my question—what about you? Is there anything you miss from the “olden days” of romance?

22 comments:

  1. love this post, Liz! I do miss some of the early romances, or maybe it's that I miss how I reacted to them. I started reading romances in the late 80s , but most of my stash came from my grandma whose stash went back to the 70s and earlier. I would be taken away to another place and time and just be lost for a while.

    I still get that taken away feeling but it's a little different now and I can't put my finger on what, exactly, is the difference...but those older books still have a place in my heart.

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    1. You know, Kristi, you may have a good point there. Maybe it IS my reaction I'm missing. I used to sneak my mom's "True Story" magazines, and I remember that from them.

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  2. Great post. (And I had that Second Chance at Love by Lavyrle Spencer back in the day, BTW!) I started reading romances in the early 80s, and while some aspects of those days, I don't miss (heroines that HAD to be virgins, whether it made sense to the plot or not, for example), I do miss others. I was thinking recently that IMO too many romance authors are trying to write "erotica lite." What I mean by that is that they writer fewer and less descriptive sex scenes than an erotic book would, but they're still concentrating too much on only titillating the reader, not on moving their emotions and taking them to another place the way a good romance does. There is plenty of room for both erotica and romance, but I think it's a shame when romance is trying to be a pale imitation of erotica rather than focusing on what it does best. Just my opinion.

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    1. I agree, Linda, but I think many writers feel compelled to write more and more that way--and many like to, as well, w/o having the still-existent stigma of erotica attached to their work.

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  3. I'm older than y'all. I started reading romance in the late sixties. I've changed a lot since then, so has romance. For one, there is less scene description. Remember in those old gothic romances how rooms in large, extravagent houses were explained in detail down to the matieral and pattern of the drapes? We could pan around the room in our mind's eye. Now, most editors make us take excessive description out. It slows the pace of the story, they claim. The reader wants action, emotion and dialogue, according to them. So perhaps romance readers have changed, too. I'd like to see more "romancing and wooing" put into our stories. And strive to put it in my own writing. Editors don't always like it, though.

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    1. Readers HAVE changed, Vonnie--you're right. We started reading romance at the same time. I LOVED those old descriptions--they put us right there!

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  4. I like your line that sometimes you miss you. I like old fashioned. It's simpler, sweeter... Just a nice clean romance where people still cared about reputation.

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    1. I liked when "nice" was a good word. Thanks for coming by, Patty!

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  5. I only kept two of the Harlequin's I acquired (the rest I borrowed from the library), and one of them drove me crazy. Heroine meets stranger; she makes him so mad halfway through the book he strips her clothes off, then 'checks himself' and stalks out of the room. She finally manages to get away from him, but in the last chapter, as she's at the airport, suddenly has a change of heart and goes back to him. WTH???? And both books drove me nuts because they'd get to a 'certain point', and would either be interrupted, or one would say something, ruining the mood. I was always screaming, 'Go ahead!! You're already THERE!' But no....not until the last chapter or 'off camera'. Then thankfully in the late 90's, I read a few more which were more to my liking. And I did NOT know Lavryl and Nora were originally with HQ:) Going to have to look up that Forsaking All Others:)

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    1. LOL. You're younger, Molly, and it shows! I loved it when they "did it" off-camera. I think love scenes are--in large part--boring, no matter how good the writer.

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  6. Thank you, Vonnie. I was starting to feel old. I started reading romances in the late sixties. Some were pretty trashy, such as Anglique. Which I thought was very racy. Then I discovered Georgette Heyer and fell in love with her wit, strong characters and historical accuracy.

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    1. Oh, yes, wasn't she spectacular. I still go to Carla Kelly for that same "feel." I'm old, too, Ella, and it's fun, isn't it?

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  7. I miss the sweetness. Even though I write pretty steamy myself, I liked less sometimes. Those old romances were like old movies--the tension was there without everything being shown.

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    1. There's the magic word, D: sometimes. I like steamy, too, and adventurous, and suspenseful, etc., but SOMETIMES I want sweeter. Nicer. You said it just right.

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  8. Hi Liz,
    I miss the thoughtful hero. Finished a 2012 romance, the hero pouts, while his girlfriend goes into certain danger. He hangs around the house feeling sorry for himself while she's jailed and ready to hang. He wasn't too alpha before this point either. I want a alpha male hero, not a sullen boy.

    I also miss Doris Day movies.

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    1. Oh, yeah, me, too. I just like my heroes to be nice guys. I like them heroic, but not above whining or being carsick or losing at poker--you know, regular guys! :-)

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  9. I miss historical accuracy in historical romances. I want the characters to at least sound like they're in the right century! I'm also going to have to agree with Vonnie on the scene descriptions. I like a lot of Atmosphere. And I, too, can do without the erotica lite. Long love scenes are boring.

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  10. I miss that, too. 21st century protagonists ins a 19th century costume drama just don't do it for me.

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  11. I write steamy too, but sometimes, the closed door approach was nice. What I really miss is are the days when the h/h were in love before they had sex. It was nice,

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  12. Dear Liz,

    Do what you do and do it ruthlessly. I learned this from Richard Curtis of "Notting Hill," etc. He said all he could write was comedy; he didn't try to fit himself somewhere he didn't belong because he would lose his passion and authencity. If you yearn for the old-fashioned romance, there are loads of women who do as well. See what you can do--and do it ruthlessly. Who knows, maybe women will boomerang back to being courted and wedded, rather than vetted and bedded.

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    1. LOL. I hope so, Charmaine. "Notting Hill" had one of my favorite scenes of all time in it--just a small one. My husband watched it with me, I told him there was a scene I loved, and he picked it out immediately--gave me my own little reminder of why I love him so much.

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