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At the Back Fence Issue#130

December 15, 2001

ATBF would have been busting at the seams if everything I’d planned for it this time around actually made it into this column. And, some of the subject matter didn’t seem right for the Holiday Season; I’d hate to have been accused of being a Scrooge! One good thing about too much material is that is lessens the writing load for future columns; indeed the January 1st issue of ATBF is already written.

First AARlist moderator Anne Marble will help us delve into the matter of heroines and sex. A thread on “favorite themes” to one of our message boards that got me thinking about some of my own follows. Then, with the help of Pandora’s Box co-columnist Linda Hurst, we’ll begin a discussion on series romance.


Virgins, Sluts, & Experienced Heroines

It started with BarbaraJ’s thread called Posters cheer for the “cold-hearted bitch” heroine. It continued with a thread begun by Jennifer R asking Why the demonizing of the slut? Both led to discussions about sexually experienced heroines, virginity in romance, personal choices, and above all, a call for balance in the types of heroines we read about.

At times, these threads veered toward the Big Misunderstandings seen in so many romance novels. “Slut” and “bitch” are heated words, and everyone has their own definitions. Is a slut a heroine who has slept around a lot, or is a slut a heroine with only a few sexual relationships in her past? Is a bitch necessarily a slut? As the last At the Back Fence column has shown, even words such as “self-sacrificing” and “nice” can have more than one meaning.

Romance readers know that the word “virgin” is a powerful one. Publishers love to plaster it on titles, particularly in series romances. Some readers want nothing but virginal heroines. Indeed, a recent thread on the Reader to Reader Message Board requested suggestions for romances about truly virginal heroines, particularly books about heroes who distrust the heroine’s morality. For many readers, the heroine’s virginity is important because it makes the fantasy more special. When the hero is the “first and only,” the romantic element becomes stronger for them. On the other hand, some readers are steadfast about refusing to read contemporary romances about virginal heroines because they can’t relate to those characters particularly when they’re pushing 30.

Most readers seem to prefer a balance. Heroines can be virgins – even in contemporary romances – but please, we want there to be a believable reason for this. While experienced heroines may be “pushing the envelope” for some readers, virginal heroines who have never had a sexual thought, experimented upon their own bodies, or who have been married yet remain untouched may have broken the believability barrier.

Barbara’s initial question was to ask: “Posters say they prefer heroines who are much more sexually active, who are as materially motivated as male characters, and who generally are ‘bitchy’. Is this a trend? Do most romance readers want such heroines?”

Peg explained that she had grown up in the 1950s, so for her, “the heroically self-sacrificing and virginal heroine is a comfortable character to find in a romance.” Still, she didn’t like heroines who stayed that way throughout the novel, such as the heroines of Barbara Cartland’s books. As Peg put it, “they are dewy innocents at the start of the book; the hero likes them that way; and they never realize how they are shackled by convention and ignorance.”

Other posters were more ambivalent about both virginal and self-sacrificing heroines. Jennifer wants us to move away from the “safe” image of women – such as the 30-year-old repressed virgin. She would “love to see women’s sexuality not be the be all and end all of her character. I don’t see why a woman having condoms in her bag should be some sort of condemnation. Better than all the idiotic virgins and/or innocents who have sex without protection and get pregnant!” At the same time, she called for more moral heroes. If readers want virginal heroines, why don’t they also demand virginal heroes or at least heroes who show some respect for their sexuality?

June clarified that she wanted heroines with virtues and isn’t interested in reading about selfish bitches. Instead, she wanted to see an expansion of the term virtue. While she has no objection to virginal heroines, she wants to see more than that. June pointed out that a hero can have heroic traits such as bravery, nobility, intelligence, and a passion for his ideas. So why can’t a heroine with similar traits receive credit for them, even if she isn’t working at a homeless shelter? June pointed out that heroes can lie and be forgiven as long as they show other good qualities and added, “I just want heroines to get the same break.”

A reader known only as “anu439″ counted herself among readers who dislike virginal self-sacrificing heroines. She simply wants to see more human heroines, ” . . . women who don’t think they have been set on earth to be everyone’s doormat, not out to save all the orphans, not sacrifice for the more beautiful bitch of a sister, take care of house, food, money, etc. and not disturb the absent-minded vicar/scholar father. And then they feel obligated to relive the whole psychological nightmare with the ‘hero’ (I use that term lightly).”

Barbara agreed that readers shouldn’t have to choose between either naïve virgins or promiscuous sluts as heroines. Above all, she clarified that she wanted to see something heroic in her heroines. Janet saw a discrepancy in romance novels, though, because so many romance heroes are “self-serving, hedonistic liars who are only out for their own goals in the beginning! Heroes who stomp across the heroine’s life on their path to whatever it is that they want! Why not reverse the roles? Is it because if we have to write of a woman being ‘saved’ by the love of a man, we might have to admit how unrealistic it is?”

The more passionate exchanges seemed to revolve around the difficulties with definitions. As Jennifer later asked, when expressing her thoughts on women who have slept with more than a man or two: “What makes a character a slut? How many people must she have slept with for her to be a slut? And if the idea offends us, if there’s some magic number that even the more liberal among us quail at, then why do we all look with impunity on the men who grace these books reiterating time and again that they live for serial monogamy? … And yet, we flinch when suggesting a woman has slept with more than two or three or so other guys.”

Jess countered that she doesn’t usually like reading about slutty heroes (aka, the The Duke of Slut), but she can see where the power of that archetype comes from. If the hero has slept with a lot of other women, it strengthens the idea that he is sexy and dashing. Other posters remarked on the power of the “virgin reforms rake” plot. Perhaps this is another aspect of the “woman as nurturer” archetype, similar to the reason so many women are drawn to emotionally wounded men.

Like Jennifer, Phyllis discussed the definition of “slut” while making her case for virginal heroines. She noticed that in this discussion, when readers discussed the disparity between moral heroines and immoral heroes, most posters seemed to ask for heroines with equally bad behavior. Instead, why weren’t readers asking for the hero to become honorable? Phyllis asked, “Do you think that is too unrealistic? I don’t know because I think that if women demanded it, men would shape up.” Like Phyllis, Janet doesn’t like promiscuity in either hero or heroine, but she doesn’t think that heroines should be judged on whether they are “intact.”

Many responses in this thread pointed to a potential “big misunderstanding” among posters. When a reader says she prefers to read about experienced heroines, does that mean she’s taking a stand against virginal heroines, or does it mean she wants a heroine she feels she can better relate to? Or for that matter, does she want a balance? When someone says she likes reading about sluts, does that mean she only wants to read about heroines who sleep around, or is she merely looking for a wide range of stories?

Is there really a line that heroines cross when they have had sex in the past? Some readers do want to read only about virginal heroines, and to some readers, heroines are immoral when they have had more than one other love. As some romances would lead us to believe, is the line crossed only when heroines have enjoyed sex in the past? It’s true that minimally experienced heroines who have enjoyed sex are much less common than minimally experienced heroines who have enjoyed sex. Heroines often suffer through dull or even horrible sexual experiences before meeting the hero. What better way to make the hero special than by making him the one who reawakens the heroine and cures her fear of sex? In the hands of a master (such as Mary Jo Putney), this plot can still be powerful. But because it is used so often, some of the magic has rubbed off this charm.

Another idea came to life during this discussion, one that I hadn’t given much thought to before this. If readers prize virginal heroines, then why is it all right for this virginal heroine to suddenly have sex with the hero? (Often, these heroines go from virginal to one-night stand by page 30.) We might know that he’s the hero, but she doesn’t know that. Self-sacrificing or not, is this heroine really making a moral choice with her virginity? Is she a virgin by choice, or is she yet another “accidental virgin”? Jennifer pointed out that her dislike of virgins in romance novels isn’t because they are moral. She points out that “in romance novels, the women are the ‘Oops’ variety of virgins. I don’t see why this appeals to anyone because it definitely doesn’t say anything about her morality. She’s never even been tempted!”

Jennifer also clarified her stand on the “bitch controversy” by saying, “As regards the ‘cold-hearted bitch’ this is the definition given to the characters I like by other posters. It’s not that they are cruel to the hero, but they keep their emotions in check. They don’t cry or love easily. Since this describes 95% of heroes, what’s wrong with it describing the heroine? Personally, I don’t consider these women cold-hearted, just very guarded. Lots of people are. And women who love easily and cry a lot are not people I can relate to.” (Having one read a romance novel where the heroine cried in every other chapter, I agree on that one!)

Though separate from the virginity versus experience issue, the “bitch controversy” brings up the problems with definitions and with loaded words. Is a heroine who gives up everything for her family a strong heroine or a doormat, or can she be both? Is a fiercely independent heroine who works out her own problems necessarily a “bitch?” God, I hope not.

As for readers who enjoy reading about sexually experienced heroines, they’re not really clamoring to read about nothing but sluts, they just want more variety. Many of those we heard from simply want more books about heroines who have loved someone in the past – without that someone turning out to be abusive or bad in bed or both. One of the great things about romances is the variety. Even if some readers feel plagued by virginal heroines and rakish heroes, or others feel beset upon by immoral heroines, there are so many heroes and heroines to choose from.

We’ve all read plenty of romances where an innocent heroine reformed a rake. Yet these posts have made it clear that a novel about a hero who reformed a promiscuous heroine would become incredibly controversial. Still, if stories about virgins taming rakes can be so powerful in the right hands, why can’t a story about a sexually inexperienced hero reforming a slut be just as strong? Are there any takers?




Anne Marble’s discussion of heroines came at a particularly good time for me. When I received her segment, I was just finishing up Emma Lange’s traditional Regency, The Earl’s Season. The heroine, Lady Juliana Whitfield, is making her return to Society after marrying an old man presumably for his money since he was known not only to be of a lower class, but uncouth and brutal as well. Now a wealthy and independent woman, a childhood friend is essentially sponsoring her return and would like nothing more than to see Juliana get together with her brother, the Earl of Hampton, who has nothing but disdain for the Lady given her history.

Of course, appearances are not what they seem, and the reasons for Juliana’s earlier marriage are eventually uncovered. At that moment when the hero discovers the truth, the “aha!” moment is one I’ll remember for a long time. Whether or not the hero learns on his own or the heroine tells him herself, often in a desperate moment, the “aha!” moment is often touching. Heroines thought to be gold-diggers, sluts, whores, liars, betrayers – I have a soft spot for “misunderstood heroines,” and I think I’ve finally figured out why.

I don’t know about you, but I was considered the family oddball. Neither my parents nor my sister had a clue as to what I was like – my hopes, dreams, desires – and they still don’t get me. When I met my husband and we fell in love, not only did he “get” me, but he could relate. As the third of four sons, his parents are still often asked how their three sons are doing.

For me, identifying with the heroine is something that is unconscious, and if I can’t relate to the heroine at all, the book is even less likely to mean much to me than if I haven’t grown to care for the hero. But when I identify with the heroine on some level I’m almost always hooked. Certainly I was never accused of being a gold-digger, slut, or whore, but I have relished being on the other end of an “aha!” moment more than once. Years ago, a woman I promoted remarked months later how frightened she had been to come and work for me given my reputation as a relentless task-master. What she learned, of course, was that I was a fair boss who only asked for the very best each employee could deliver.

Lange’s Lady Juliana Whitfield joins an ever-lengthening list of heroines whom I believe are misunderstood and well-deserving of their own “aha!” moments. That moment when the hero realizes he’s been unfair might include a comeuppance or big grovel – or it might not – but there’s always something incredibly special for me when this recognition occurs, particularly when it follows another important moment. That being the time when the hero is sure the heroine is using her womanly wiles to ensnare him and the heroine is petrified of losing her heart to a man whom she believes holds her in utter contempt.

So, the “misunderstood/not really no good heroine” theme is a clear favorite for me, although sometimes I want to smack the hero upside the head for waiting so long before he’s figured it out or she’s made him see he’s been an ass. Both Elizabeth Lowell and Linda Howard ride this fine line closely; at times it works while at others it fails, and when it does, it fails miserably.

This theme is but one that’s been on my mind lately. Themes have been on the minds of other readers; indeed, a recent thread on our Reader to Reader Message Board was begun by Keishon, who presented some of her own favorite themes and asked others to do the same. She also asked which themes seem overdone. Keishon is tired – isn’t everybody? – of the secret baby theme and the bodyguard/protector hero who invariably ends up with a TSTL heroine. On the other hand, she enjoys the “older woman/younger man” romance, romances featuring a second chance at love, heroes who have secretly been in love with heroines for years, and governess/Duke romances.

Many of these themes are enjoyed by so many readers that we maintain lists for them. Although certain types of stories do have wide appeal, not all do. While I enjoy guardian/ward romances, Alison doesn’t, although she and Keison and I enjoy adventure-themed stories like you’ll find on our Road Romances list. Other themes enjoyed by readers include friends turned lovers, redemption, and self-sacrifice. I’d like to add into this mix the fake rake, the weary warrior, and variants on beauty and the beast (including “fake beasts” and beast and the beast).

What are some themes you enjoy reading? Are there some you would love to read but haven’t yet found or haven’t found done well or haven’t found enough of? And, what about themes you don’t like?



The Series Romance

In this issue and the next one, I’m going to argue that there are too many series romances published each and every month. I’ve always said that the great number of romances published means there’s enough variety to satisfy all readers. Lately I’ve changed my mind; quantity does not guarantee variety. There were nearly 80 series titles published this month. I wonder how many offer up variants of the baby, secret baby, and cowboy/ranchers most of us believe are overdone?

Harlequin/Silhouette sells series romances not only individually through stores, but as series lines through mail order bookclubs. Many readers receive every Temptation or Intimate Moment that is published every single month in the mail. To be honest, this seems odd to me and reminds me of those voting booths that allow citizens to vote a straight party ticket without considering the merits of each individul candidate. Rather than promoting individual talents, Harlequin/Silhouette seems to be marketing a product. (I know many consider Harlequin Historicals titles to be series romances; I don’t, and for the remainder of this discussion, I will only be discussing contemporary series romances.)

This idea that H/S is marketing a product rather than individual books makes all the more sense when considering those editor-created mini-series like last year’s Year of Living Dangerously or this year’s 20 Amber Court. Of the twelve titles in the former series, only two or three stood out as being particularly meritorious to many readers. As for the latter, I read the first title in this four-part mini-series because it was written by a favorite comfort-read author of mine, Elizabeth Bevarly, and vowed not to read the remaining three. It seemed to have been more gimmicky than anything else, what with all four heroines living in the same building and working at the same jewelry store as though 20 Amber Court were some sort of 1800’s “company” boarding house.

Then there’s the Maitland Maternity/Maitland Maternity Clinic mini-series, set in Austin, Texas. In the title I read last week, the hero stands accused of fathering a baby out of wedlock and abandoning the baby and the baby’s mother. The plan to fix up this mess? He decides to marry his secretary – temporarily – and she, of course, has loved him afar for years. Not only was this one of those “this could never happen in real life” premises, the Austin described in the book bears little resemblance to the “real” Austin.

It’s one thing, I think, for a single author to build a series around a family, a set of friends, or even a profession. Those stories are, for the most part, organic for that author. These editor-driven mini-series, however, which are written by a number of authors, have not engaged my interest and beg the larger question: Are series romances too often based upon unlikely premises?

In another book by the same author who wrote the Maitland title I mentioned, the heroine is set up on a blind date with a man her sister picked for her. Instead of the man her sister set her up with, the man sends his friend in his stead. She, knowing her sister’s button-downed tastes, dresses like a skank to meet the blind date (she’s even fondled as she walks through the bar – ick!). Since he’s not really buttoned down…well, you all know where this one is going, and it has little to do with reality.

Lest anyone think I’m picking on one author, I’m not. I can also mention Vicki Lewis Thompson’s RITA-nominated Pure Temptation, featuring a young woman who wanted to lose her virginity before moving from the family ranch to The Big Apple and set out to seduce her best friend, the local hunk, into being her stud. While this story actually might have worked had it not been for the “suspense” sub-plot, doesn’t the premise sound like something you’d see on Lifetime TV?

I’ll also be the first to admit that romance is fantasy-based, and cop to enjoying some series titles with extremely unlikely stories, such as those featuring witches, vampires, beasts, and spies – none of whom any of us encounter on a regular (or even irregular) basis. But those tend to have some semblance of originality to them while others somehow manage to take an amazingly unbelievable premise and still make it read like twenty other romances you’ve read. When I’ve encountered a series title that stood alone and was simply built on a believable premise without gimmicks or walking stereotypes, I’ve quietly applauded the author, including Maddie James, whose Falling for Grace was a pleasure to read last year even though it disappeared without any notice at all.

In looking back at the romances I’ve read, more than one-fifth have been series titles. Of those series titles, nearly half have received grades of B- or higher, so please realize that this isn’t a condemnation of the form, although I’ll admit I was surprised to discover that, when compared to all the romances I’ve read, the number of series titles I’ve liked/loved is substantially lower (series romances grade B- or above is 25%, total romances graded B- or above is 50%). But in reviewing those titles I rated as average at best and boring or bad at worst, most seem to have contrivance-based premises.

When I mentioned to my AAR colleagues that too many series titles seem amazingly far-fetched, Rachel Potter quickly reminded me that many single title romances – both contemporary and historical – also feature rather unbelievable premises. She asked, “How many gently-born young women are kidnapped by pirates who turn out to be noblemen in disguise?” Perhaps the difference, she said, is that length constraints inherent in the series format may work to hamper believability. She added, “The author of a longer book has a more generous amount of time and pages to convince me that something improbably might, just maybe, if you stretch the rules a bit, happen.” There’s something to this argument, but I would probably add that it’s easier to “buy” implausibilities in an historical setting in general because of their existing fairy tale aspect.

AAR Reviewer Anthony Covington, who has primarily read series titles, finds that the stories are not only hampered by length, but by the premises and other restrictions that seem to be built into them. He’s gotten burned out and is now reading more historical romances because there are too many baby or cowboy or some such plot devices in series books. “So many series titles come with a gimmick or a hook and it seems that the notion of telling a good story sometimes gets lost. The length may sometimes hurt things too, I guess. You can sometimes feel the author leaving all kinds of stuff on the ‘cutting room floor’ in order to keep the book a certain length. In the end, though, I think the main problem lies with the increasing reliance on gimmicks or high concepts to sell a book. You see that in series romance more than anyplace else.”

Au contraire, says AAR’s Linda Hurst! As someone who often reads a book a day, she loves the series format. Her thoughts on the topic follow.



More on the Series Romance

There are two types of on-going mini-series in the world of category romances and each serves a distinct purpose. The duos/trilogies/quartets written by one author tend to have less contrived themes, as they usually revolve around a group of friends, a family or workplace. Some of these series like Joan Johnston’s Hawk’s Way are in the third generation and fans look forward to each new installment. Diana Palmer’s Long, Tall Texans and Mercenaries run past and future characters seamlessly thru the books – she even mixes these characters in her single title books, which pleases her long-time fans a lot. Lori Foster’s latest series started in a single title release and then continued in two series books – which may be a new trend for Harlequin.

A trilogy often cross series lines as well, which hopefully get the reader to try a line they normally don’t read. I personally prefer this type of series written by a favorite author. Leanne Banks’ Cherry Lane series or Jennifer Greene’s Stanford Sisters are two that fondly come to mind.

The series that have multiple authors are somewhat more problematical in terms of their premises, but that doesn’t keep me from reading them. Fantasies, Inc., for instance, is based upon a Fantasy Island scenario. What can I say? I gobbled each of the four books like candy. The thread that holds all the stories together is a hero, presumed dead in Viet Nam, who was actually a prisoner of war and is trying to rekindle romance with his lost love, who has mourned him for years. Their story is always secondary and its resolution in the final book made Janelle Denison’s Wild Fantasy the best of the four.

Currently I’m reading a Silhouette Romance series called Having The Boss’s Baby, which revolves around a mix up at a sperm bank. If one went by the number of books involving sperm bank mix ups, one would think it happened daily! Why am I reading a series with such a dumb premise, you ask? Well, Elizabeth Harbison wrote the second book in the series; she is an autobuy for me. Her book was so good that I decided to read the rest of the series. This is the point of a series with multiple authors.

Alas, having to put in details of an on-going series can sometimes seem “tacked on.” Diana Palmer’s otherwise wonderful Rogue Stallion, first book in the Montana Mavericks series provides the details of a murder at the end of the book and seriously detracts from what came before.

The best part about the muti-author series is that they introduce readers to new authors. These series are usually anchored with one “name” author like Palmer, Dixie Browning or Leanne Banks. These authors are autobuys for many of us and so we buy the whole series and try other authors who hopefully become autobuys too – or at least that is the theory.

And if I may say so, I don’t believe that there are too many series books published. The proliferation of lines with their varying degrees of sexual explicitness and themes does run the gamut of readers tastes. Harlequin has cut back on the number of books each month – Silhouette Desire used to have 6 and now publishes 4, so obviously their sales were not high enough to justify those two extra books.

I read a lot of series books; their length fits my reading habit of a book a day (popcorn books, lasts as long as a movie) and frankly I am less often disappointed in a series book then I am in a single title, perhaps because I do not expect an author to accomplish in 200 pages what she should in 300 or 400. But, I am constantly amazed at what authors like Virginia Kantra are doing within the limitations of the form and many now single title authors like Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz and Suzanne Brockmann got their start writing series romance – reading their backlists can show how they learned their craft while writing within the formula of category books. Having just read one of the prized Jayne Bentley books (JAK), I can tell you that JAK has improved vastly!

Whenever I read a new series author I always hope that I will discover the next Nora Roberts or JAK. If an author puts a new spin on a tried and true theme or ties manages to tie together a goofy plot that binds a series, I’m pleased. Many of the authors on my auto-buy list at this point came after I read one of their series titles, fell in love, and went on a glom. Feeding a book-a-day reading habit is not an easy thing, but with so many options available, I’m never at a loss for something to read.



Happy Holidays to All

I went to a talent show at my daughter’s school this week. It was different than the talent show I saw at my neice’s public elementary school last spring, where girls and boys tap danced and did karate, played piano and performed gymnastics.

My daughter goes to a therapeutic school, filled with kids who have to cope with a variety of physical, emotional, intellectual, and social disabilities. Her own problems stem from having intellectual gifts far surpassing her social and physical abilities (think Einstein with an attitude). At nine she understands irony and yet is gullible enough to believe things younger children instinctively know are not so. There are kids in her school with autism, bi-polar disorder, ADHD and other neurological problems, to name but a few – none of these kids could find a home in public or private schools. They attend her school, hopefully for two or three years before mainstreaming – although many of the brightest never mainstream, instead finding their way to small colleges after continuing through high school. We hope that after 2 and 1/2 years at Vanguard, Rachael will be able to do mainstream next fall. It’s not enough, we tell her, that she does individually tailored work between two and five grades above her age: you can’t argue with your teachers in the mainstream.

When they announced the talent show a few weeks ago, I was apprehensive when Rachael told me she’d signed up to sing – in our house we sound more like Lucy than Ricky, Ethel, or even Fred. She wanted to sing Michelle Branch’s Everywhere, so I did what a good mom would do: I downloaded the song, put it on a CD for her, and kept my mouth shut as she began to practice, attended rehearsals, and practiced some more.

After buying a new pair of particularly fetching on-sale jeans encrusted with colored rhinestones that I’d never otherwise have bought for her at Target, arguing with her about whether body and face glitter were really necessary for the event, Rachael made her singing debut. Her solo followed the band, in part made up of the science teacher who also plays the trumpet, a high school teacher who also plays the tuba, and a boy who plays the violin. This boy had been in my daughter’s class beginning February of last year following two years of acting-out behavior; his mother had died and he was incapable of handling the grief in a public school setting. Following Rachael was a young boy who sang the Star Spangled Banner; speech obviously being part of this sweet little boy’s problems, he received such loud applause that the smile on his face was well worth the torture he no doubt went through as he prepared his song.

I don’t often share my private life, but the feeling of goodness in humanity I felt after watching today’s performance is a far better way to remember the day than recalling the bin Laden tape I listened to on the radio as I drove to the school. This has been a horrendous year for my family and for the world; when we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, my husband and I gave thanks that the year was nearly over.

I’m going to try and remember the love and compassion I felt in that crowded gymnasium – as teachers and parents and students coaxed and applauded and loved one another, whatever their limitations. This tiny island of hope in a sea of madness our world has become causes me to believe the coming year will be better.

Happy Holidays to all…we’ll see you in the New Year.



Time to Post to the Message Board

Here are the questions we’d like to have you consider this time:


histbut Virginity, Naïveté, Sluttiness, and the Bitch – Do you think readers look for slutty and/or bitchy characters because heroes are given more moral latitude? Is this merely a bizarre form of political correctness? Shouldn’t we be asking for more – instead of less – morality?

histbut The Adult Woman Virgin in the Modern World – Many readers object less to contemporary virgins than they do to these heroine’s naïveté. If either bothers you to any extent, which bothers you most? And, even if this type of heroine isn’t a favorite, which author(s) has made either a contemporary virgin or a contemporary and naïve heroine work for you? Which books, on the other hand, hinging on that aspect, failed to engage your imagination?

histbut A Bitch by Any Other Name…. – One of our readers believes that most heroines who are believed to be bitchy are merely keeping their emotions in check, are guarded, which is what you’ll find with most heroes. Do you concur?

histbut Would You Read It? – As Anne wrote, a romance about a hero who reformed a promiscuous heroine would become incredibly controversial. Would you want to read it?

histbut The Misunderstood/Not-really-no-good Heroine – Do you enjoy romances with this theme at its base? If yes, share some of your favorite titles. If not, share why not.

histbut Favorite Themes – Help us compile a list of Favorite Romance Themes and possibly a Hall of Shame where “bad” themes should be confined.

histbut The Series Romance – Are there a good number of series romances published each month, too many, or (god forbid) too few? Is quantity a good measure of variety?

histbut The “Product Line” – Do you read every Silhouette Desire or Harlequin Romance that’s published every month? If so, share your experiences. If not, do you wonder about those who do? Do you get the feeling Harlequin/Silhouette is more interesting in producing and marketing a line rather than individual books?

histbut The Gimmick – Many would agree that gimmicks and hooks are too often a part of series romance, and perhaps never more obvious in those editor-created mini-series featuring titles by different authors. While I’ve not had luck with them, Linda Hurst enjoys them often. What about you, do you think gimmicks are more obvious in series romance than they are in historicals or other single title romances?



In conjunction with Anne Marble and Linda Hurst




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