I have been reading a lot of romance novels lately, as part of my quest to find books about relationships which I really really love. And I have been successful! In fact, I have found so many romance novels I love that should my career collapse in a teeny pile of dust, I have a romance novel I want to write and I have my new author name all picked out.
I fear I would be impeded in my new career by the fact I am woefully terrible at writing the Scenes of Sexy Times, but this does not alter the fact that while I was reading my way through innumerable books with much-corseted ladies and bare-chested gentlemen on them (my friends, who are used to borrowing my new books, are horrified and displeased, but I say unto them, there is a proverb about books, yea, and the judging of them by their covers), I noticed a trend. Eloisa James and Sherry Thomas (Sherry Thomas can write like cream pouring from a jug into a glorious sunrise! By which I mean her prose is really - smooth and also very shiny and - look, I didn't say I could write like a glorious cream sunrise) were the first examples I noticed.
I call it New Wave Historical Romance. By which I mean that some of the more recent historical romances I've picked up have a tendency to feature some really lovely writing, and excellent side characters, but most importantly really awesome heroines.
I truly hate the Blank Page Heroine. She is in a lot of books - I don't mean to pick on romance, because sadly I have seen her in every genre, including my own - and sometimes she seems to be there as a match for the hero who won't bother him with things like 'hobbies' and 'opinions.' Sometimes she is carefully featureless (still missing those pesky hobbies and opinions) so that, apparently, the reader can identify with her and slot their own personalities onto a blank page. As I don't identify with blank pages, I find the whole business disturbing. But I have found that given an awesome heroine, romances can really work for me.
As for example!
Bound by your Touch by Meredith Duran
BLUESTOCKING: And now to give a speech to the archaeological society. What a fine day this is, to be sure! Finally some appreciation for the scholarly lady.
RAKE: Daddy, I have your artefact! Look, look, I came all this way to rub it in your face-
BLUESTOCKING: Hem hem.
RAKE: -lots of people here, wonder what that's about, anyway, the important thing is that I HATE MY DADDY and-
BLUESTOCKING: Please sit your rake ass and your daddy issues THE HELL DOWN.
RAKE: ... Wut?
BLUESTOCKING: Also your artefact is an obvious fake.
RAKE: Dude, dude, fellow rakes in my club, has it ever occurred to you that older ladies who know a ton are really really super hot?
FELLOW RAKES: Um. No.
RAKE: Well, I gotta go read up on archaeology. No, no time for brandy today!
FELLOW RAKES: ... Is he feeling okay?
Written on your Skin by Meredith Duran
SPY: Blugh - blugh - I believe I was poisoned - Oh God, and here's this fluffy little airhead come to bother me again.
MINA: Hi! I saw you got drugged so you would die so I re-drugged you a ton! LOL! Quickly, better escape out the window, I calculate you only have about twenty minutes of lucidity left in you!
SPY TURNED NOBLEMAN: After I became a nobleman I very quickly stopped being a spy, because it is no fun at all. Also, I have PTSD. Now to fulfill my last debt and help this occasionally-surprising bimbo find her mamma.
MINA: LOL, this adventure reminds me of the time I blackmailed a monk!
MINA: LOL never mind! I am so blond and pretty! Flutter flutter eyelashes and hair-
NOBLESPY: Oh right.
MINA: Fluttery eyelashes and hair served me well when coaxing the businessmen of America to fund my extremely profitable perfume business.
NOBLESPY: Say what?
MINA: I mean, LOL!
NOBLESPY: Seriously, are you fluttering your hair and wearing scandalous dresses to hide the fact you are an evil genius?
MINA: LOL! ... Maybe.
Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
LUCY: Hello Jeremy here I am at your door!
JEREMY: What are you doing here, Lucy?
LUCY: BRINGING THE MACK!
JEREMY: As a gentleman in times of yore at a respectable household inhabited only my best friend and his little sister, I was not expecting the mack.
LUCY: Okay, did the mack work? Because I'm practising for another dude, so any tips are welcome, over here.
JEREMY: Lucy please! I may swoon.
LUCY: Oooooh, so the mack worked really well?
LUCY: Okay, so I am super dolled up in order to defeat my blonde, beautiful, probably dumb shallow and mean rival!
EVERYONE: Lucy, evening attire is not appropriate for the breakfast table. We can see your bosom. Also you are eating like a horse.
LUCY: Gotta have fuel for the smackdown with my hated rival! Pass the kippers.
BEAUTIFUL BLONDE RIVAL: Shall we get drunk and gossip about boys?
LUCY: Oh crap.
JEREMY: You know Lucy many people consider me a dark, dangerous and mysterious rake... I'm just saying is all.
LUCY: Ahahahaha, I have known you since I was ten! You are so soft-hearted you miss shooting partridges on purpose! Ahahahaha, A RAKE.
JEREMY: IT'S BEEN SAID.
LUCY: Ahahaha. You're going to have to give me a minute here.
Of course I have not just been reading romance novels. I've also been reading things like Black British Culture & Society, an excellent book but hard to summarise amusingly, and my true love YA fantasy. Which also has several examples of awesome heroines!
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
AI LING: My father seems to have disappeared. Well, time to go questing for him through the Asian-inspired fantasy landscape.
CHEN YONG: Are you sure that's wise?
AI LING: You are right! I should also bring a packed lunch.
CHEN YONG: My attractive brother and I will accompany you on your quest. Please, do feel free to avert your eyes from the unseemly spectacle of us practising our combat skills. Shirtless.
AI LING: Oh, that's fine. You didn't happen to bring any sort of snacks to nibble on while I watch?
CHEN YONG: While you watch what?
AI LING: Uh - nature? I'm very keen on... sketching. Yeah, that's it. Sketching.
CHEN YONG: You must be overcome with maidenly horror at the monster made from a mass of decomposing corpses we just faced!
AI LING: Aren't Chinese monsters the absolute best? Take that, European mythology!
CHEN YONG: Huh?
AI LING: Yes, I think I am in shock. I hear noodles are good for that? Mmm. Noodles.
Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
CASS: Since my sister died and my best friend betrayed me, I've decided to embrace cynicism as a way of life. And never talk to anyone alive ever again.
SCHOOL: What, nobody?
CASS: Since I can talk to ghosts, this actually puts less of a crimp in my social life than you might think.
GHOSTS: By the way, we know lots of scandalous secrets about the people in your school!
CASS: Ah excellent. My reign of terror begins. Man, I hate people. Especially my best friend, and her idiot boyfriend, and their idiot friend Tim who puts on all those dramatic airs about the tragic loss of his mother. We all have tragic losses, buddy.
TIM: I really am sad though...
CASS: That's no excuse to be so emo.
TIM: Will you talk to my mom for me?
CASS: You have to promise to man up if I do.
CASS: Huh. Contact with living people is actually warming my cold heart. Just a little bit. Well, Tim will hate me once I tear down his friends anyway.
TIM: You're awesome. Your powers are awesome and your attitude inspires me and um your hair is also very shiny.
CASS: I could wish Tim liked me for more than my paranormal abilities.
TIM: ... Would you go to prom with me?
CASS: No chance of that, though!
GHOSTS: Um, Cass. You may be taking that cynicism thing a bit far.
So those are some books I have enjoyed in the last six months - are there any books you guys would like to nominate to get the Sarah Treatment, or is that a fate too terrible to comtemplate? And what are your thoughts on heroines, Blank Page Heroines or otherwise?