RB-0811836428-LgI’ve got my cranky pants on today.

First of all, I’ve always loved contemporary romance.  And there are many – many – writers of contemporary romance I love.  Really love.  Welcome to Temptation is my touchstone for all that is perfect in contemporary storytelling.

Still, I’ve been burned a bit lately and I could use a little help in identifying the books I want to read.

In historical romance, we’ve got handy code words to help readers know what they’re going to get when they open a book:  Wallpaper or Not Wallpaper.  Though some may define what constitutes a true Wallpaper a bit differently, I think most of us would agree that we know one when we see it.  (Clue:  If a 19th century heroine uses “whatever” as a snotty response, you’re looking at a Class A Wallpaper.)

In contempories, however, we’re swinging out there in the breeze.  There’s no way to tell between a …say, a Rachel Gibson-smart small town book or a “contemporary” romance featuring a setting straight from the turn of the century.  And I’m talking the 20th century.

You know the books I’m talking about.  The ones where nobody from said small town seems to have had any exposure to television, newspapers, radio, or even American Idol, for heaven’s sake.  And the Internet?  Gosh golly, I’d bet even Ma and Pa down at the farm have dial up these days.

And then there are those books that feature parents of the hero or heroine who are in their 40s or 50s but seem to bear more resemblance to Grandma and Grandpa Walton then any 40 or 50 year-olds I know.

And the ethnic stereotypes.  Italian mothers (in their 40s or 50s, BTW) who haven’t graduated beyond the “my daughter is nothing without marriage” thing and seem to spend all their spare time making pasta.  Irish mothers who say “faith and begora” as if they’d just arrived from Ireland when, in most cases, we’re looking at least at second generation Americans.

What I’m talking about here are clichés based on 1950s TV sitcoms.

And I really mean that.  Leave It To Beaver stereotypes persist.  And, while I haven’t yet come across a book with a malt shop scene, I am convinced it is only a matter of time until I do.

Contemporary romance has been gaining in popularity over the past year or so and it’s a development I’m happy to see.  Still, there is just no way to tell if a book is going to feature a 50 year-old Grandma Walton as the mother of the heroine or a real woman who acts like…well, a real woman of today.  Because, while I’ve had it up to here with the 1950s clichés, I’m always looking for new contemporary authors to try.

So, back to the reason for my rant.  I think we need a code word to identify “contemporary” romances that aren’t.  Contemporary that is.  Any ideas?

– Sandy AAR

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