Monday, November 3

That was then, this is now

          I don’t remember when I started reading romance novels, only that Harlequin Romances were—I think—40 cents apiece. I say “I think” because I read used ones whenever I could get them and that may have been their price. They were easy to read, exciting travelogues, and no one believed them. 
          No one believed them because, good grief, the heroines were children and the heroes were pedophiles. There were no degrees of personal sexuality for women—they were either virgins or they were promiscuous, with no middle ground. The men, however, were free to sleep with anyone with a vagina. No one was gay, no one was average looking, no one except the Cinderella nurses in Betty Neels’ books lived paycheck to paycheck.
          Slip forward 50 years. (This is actually very easy to do. I’ve done it, and I swear it happens so fast you don’t know what hit you.)
          Most everything has changed. There are more sub-genres than someone who only reads contemporary or historical can keep up with. The trends alone can lead to crossed eyes and intelligent remarks like, “Huh?” Virgins are things of the past—I suppose they really are; I don’t know—and romantic fiction now recognizes that some people are gay and un-wealthy. Not all that many people are average looking yet, but I have hope.          

          However, scarcely anyone is over 50. And I am amazed that when they are, they are more likely to be a caricature than someone I can identify with.
          I know this is not a new complaint—I’ve made it myself way too many times. I also realize some writers—take a bow, Nan Reinhardt!—recognize that you don’t lose your sexuality when gravity becomes your enemy. Others—stand up, Muriel Jensen!—notice that protagonists’ older relatives are still productive, smart, and funny. I still re-read Muriel’s Trust A Hero 24 years after its release not because I love its hero and heroine (though I do), but because the heroine’s mother-in-law and the man she loves have been charming me for that 24 years I just mentioned.
          What about you? Who writes your favorite…er…old people? Who makes them funny and believable and smart? Because, you know, that’s how most of us are.

12 comments:

  1. I love this post, Liz! You write some of my favorite non-20-somethings...so does Jayne Ann Krentz.

    Romance has changed a lot since I started reading it...even more since I started writing it. One of my first romance reads was Snow Bride...I loved it (still do) but the big problem I have with it is its *only* told from the heroine's POV...I wish I knew the hero's POV and how he changed and what he wanted...

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    1. Oh, that was one change I loved, when we started slipping into the hero's consciousness!

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  2. Ah, Liz, you're singing my song! Your older characters make me so happy! Lynne Marshall writes great older heroines, too and I know there are others I've read and enjoyed, but their names are escaping me right now. And yes, yes, Kristi! Love writing the hero's POV and reading it as well.

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    1. I feel almost guilty sometimes because the older characters are so much fun to write. :-) Although I loved Lucy and Boone in JAR OF DREAMS, it's Aunt Gert in her Birkenstocks that I hear more about!

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  3. No. It can't be 24 years?! Thanks for the plug, Liz! I read a lot of Jayne Ann Krentz along with Kristina - currently as Amanda Quick - and her regency period and Victorian older ladies are always fun. The pair I love most, though, is from television - Frank and Marie Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond. I grew up in Massachusetts where so many mothers and mothers-in-law were buttinskies like Marie! You have to admire a love that's that strong - if a little off kilter. Fun to think about, Liz.

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    1. I loved them, too--when they weren't driving me as crazy as they were their offspring! Right now, I'm loving Tim Daly and Tea Leoni on MADAM SECRETARY.

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  4. Liz, great perspective! It seems that as we boomers who have read romance novels for years are getting older we would be a great market for books aimed at an older audience. I love MADAME SECRETARY also!

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    1. I think we would, too, but I don't see it happening.

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  5. I'm not hung up on specifics like that. If all characters young, small, old or not are well-written, then I'm in.

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    1. I'm in, too, or I'd have quit reading romance a long time ago. Doesn't stop me wishing for differences!

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  6. The first romance writer I really latched onto after Rosamund Du Jardin, was Danielle Steel--in her early years, The Promise, Season of Passion. I liked her before she got so famous and started "plumping, fluffing" up her books.

    After her, I'd have to say LaVyrle Spencer. Gosh, I loved her books. And Jude Deveraux--Lovedd the Montgomerys and Taggarts.

    The first Harlequin I ever read was a Christmas book by Heather Allison, Deck The Halls.

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    1. Oh, yes, LaVyrle Spencer...and I loved the Montgomerys and the Taggarts, too.

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