Spoiler: They Make Babies

Ladyparts be good! (Part 1.)

Posted in Romance Review by firstmatejess on May 23, 2010

At a party this past weekend, the man my friend is dating was discussing romance novels with me.  I had admitted — as I have only recently begun admitting in person — that I read the dreaded things.  He expressed the usual surprise (with the usual soupçon of consternation) and asked, “So– are there good romance novels?”

I’ve gotten this question quite a few times before.  I’ve thought of so many answers, ranging from the obtuse to the snide.   In the moment, though, my answers always desert me.  “Oh, sure,” I said, “there’s lots!  There are even English professors who write romance novels.”  My cunning answers deserted me, in other words, and I was left with eager-to-please-itude.  Oh, please like my girly novels, despite their icky girliness!  THEY’RE BETTER THAN THE SUM OF THEIR (LADY)PARTS!

If I’d had any grasp on my brain or my tongue, I would have discussed what makes something good.  As with any genre, whether or not there are good romance novels really does depend on what you mean by ‘good.’  There are romance novels that I would recommend to anyone with an easy heart and a clear conscience, because they feature interesting plots, evocative writing, and funny bits. (Funny bits are very much required, in my thinking.)  Even if we agree on these characteristics, though, there will be debate about whether or not the book actually fulfills the requirements, because someone won’t like it. That’s really the whole phenomenon of popular aesthetics, right there: “I love this shit therefore it is SUBLIME and sublime is GOOD and therefore this shit I love is GOOD.”

More often than not, the romance novels I read are in a murky area of ‘good’ness.  A book might be nicely structured, well-written, funny, well-researched, fascinating, but because the plot is constructed out of High Dramatics, I can’t quite recommend it to your casual man-acquaintance.  Sometimes the book doesn’t have a damn thing to recommend it beyond its High Dramatics, and I hide the cover when I read it on the train.  Yet I find both kinds of books ‘good.’  What these kinds of romance novels have, what makes them good, is indulgence.

These kinds of books exist in every genre.  My Other of Some Significance is currently reading a novel in the fantasy genre that is indulgent to the extreme: the hero is a poor orphan who turns out to be a prodigy in magic.  The prodigy undergoes intense trials, of course, but he emerges victorious with a snappy comeback on his lips.  MOSS is loving this book.  These books might be embarrassing, after all, and you might not recommend them to your friends, but you can churn through them like a box of Ding Dongs.

I’ve read two highly indulgent romances recently.  The first is Anna Campbell’s Untouched, which I took out from the local library, and which I will cover in this post. The second is Georgina Gentry’s Diablo, which will have its own post.  If you continue below the fold, be prepared for spoilers! Millions of spoilers! DUDE THEY TOTALLY HAVE SEX AND MAKE BABIES– oh, sorry, forgot to put in the break.

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