Your romance novels are welcome here. Celebrated. Loved. Cuddled, even, if they’re particularly good. Adorned with man titty and paraded up and down the street to acclaim, applause, and perhaps stray dollar bills. We’ll occasionally poke — with savage abandon, even — at the more ludicrous aspects of the genre, but we kvetch because we love.
-Beyond Heaving Bosoms

A big, thrusting Risky welcome today to guest Sarah Wendell, co-author with Candy Tan of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels. As always, your question or comment will enter you into a drawing for a signed copy of the book, so heave your bosom over to the comments section…

Romance is such a huge genre with so many tropes and themes and subgenres. How did you and Candy decide how you’d categorize material?

It was NOT easy. We had IM sessions and email conversations and outlines and other outlines that were outlines of the first outlines, and some random post-it notes that have since been lost and probably contained the secrets to the universe. I’m sure there’s something we missed and I so want to know what people think we ought to have mentioned more — it was probably in early drafts. Early drafts of this book were mammoth. Turgid, even.

Why do you think the Regency is such a popular setting?

I think part of it is what Kalen Hughes called that fantasy patina of the distant past. That far back in the days of yore and everything is soft focus and sepia toned, right? I mean, the 1940’s weren’t in COLOR were they?!

Plus, the Regency, and to the same extent the Victorian era, were both marked by extreme social rules and restrictions operating on top of a rather lustful and actively sexually curious society, and that dichotomy leaves a great deal of room for writers to explore all the classic themes of romance.

What do you find particularly ludicrous about regency-set historicals?

The frequency with which heroines go out wearing a pelisse that is always, always inadequate for the weather. It’s England, for God’s sake. Expect rain, you ninny!

What do you think works in Regencies?

The role of manners, both stated and unstated, and the importance of dialogue to convey the atraction that cannot be expressed through physical contact.

Which writers of historical do you enjoy reading?

Names?! You want me to name NAMES?! Gosh, it depends on the mood, but I’m always up for the subversive portrayals of women from Claudia Dain and Carolyn Jewel. I love the depth of history in Janet Mullany and Kalen Hughes‘ books, and I love, love, love the way Julia Quinn can make me laugh.

I’m going to kick myself for the next 3 days every time I remember someone I forgot to mention.

(Squirming with pleasure.) What’s next? Do you plan a sequel?

Nope. We shot our wad with this one, as I’ve said. It’s not really possible to do a sequel to a guide to the genre. We’ll be doing as much as we can to portray romance as the genre it really is: brilliant fiction written by brilliant women for an equally savvy, sharp audience of smart, smart women.

Thanks, Sarah–OK, everyone, get your sensible pelisse on and comment away. One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Beyond Heaving Bosoms!