We hope you are all having a lovely time baking holiday treats and choosing gifts for the your friends and family. Hopefully there is also some time left for reading (although we know from experience this is not always the case in December). With everything being a bit busier than usual, we have decided to open this month’s Special Titles Listings late enough to extend until after the holidays. We’re hoping that if not straight away, you will find a moment to nominate some titles in the more quiet days.
When we looked at the lists this time, we realised with some astonishment that almost all of them have been opened and revised since we took up this task a bit more than two years ago. This means we will be able reopen some of the more popular lists quite soon. In the meantime, here are four more lists that have been neglected so far: All in the Family, Guardian/Ward Romances, Twins, and Plus-Sized Heroines.
The All in the Family list contains romances between relatives both by blood and by marriage. Quite a few of these books can be tricky in the eyes of the readers: In some cultures, for examples, marriages between first cousins is a taboo, whereas in others it isn’t. This means that as a reader from Central Europe I am just fine with Georgette Heyer’s Grand Sophy marrying her cousin Charles – especially since they never knew each other while growing up – but I know there are readers with different cultural backgrounds who find this difficult to swallow. In a similar vein, some readers find marriages problematic where one partner has been the lover/husband/wife of their new romantic interest in the past. On the other hand, the list also contains titles in which someone falls for a sibling’s best friend, for a step-sibling or an in-law. Reading how the dynamics of family play out in such romances can be great fun, and often they provide a more fully-fleshed cast of secondary characters than many romances do. If you nominate a title for this category, can you very kindly tell us how the characters are related (i.e. foster siblings or sibling’s best friend)?
Guardian/Ward romances can be difficult for modern sensibilities as well. Often they contain a relationship between a younger woman and a much older man. The obvious inequality of power can be further complicated by the rather problematic move from parental/filial emotions to sexual desire. This said, in a skilled hand they can work wonderfully well. As an example, take Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck, where the hero is astonished to find himself guardian to a girl not much younger than himself, and is torn between his desires and the duties he needs to fulfil. In this list we also include romances with protagonists who take on a guardian-like role, like Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, so there does not have to be a strictly legal guardian/ward relationship.
Now Twins are fun (mostly). They can be found in any number of books where the twins in question play on the fact that nobody can tell them apart, and use this to get their own way. In a more serious vein, a twin may be asked to take on a sibling’s role as part of a criminal investigation – in the worst case, their twin is dead. Other books seriously explore the issues that may stem from being only part of a whole, and the development necessary to emancipate even from this close relationship.
The Plus-Sized Heroines list contains both characters who are curvy and who are unusually tall, so very kindly indicate this when you nominate a title! These heroines often feel inadequate or awkward due to their height and/or size, or in the case of being perfectly happy with themselves, they instead have to deal with rude remarks and preconceived notions from the people around them. They may further feel insecure when it comes to finding a romantic partner, because they do not fulfill the general ideal of female beauty.
We are looking very much forward to your nominations! In the meantime, take our heartfelt thanks for all the wonderful books you have contributed to these lists in 2014. We very much appreciate your input, and hope for more great suggestions in 2015!
– Rike Horstmann, LinnieGayl Kimmel, and Cindy Smith