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Tag Archives: Old Skool Romance

Overall, I enjoyed this recent article in the Atlantic: Beyond Bodice Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism.  But is this really news?

The article quotes Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels: “Bodice-rippers are typically set in the past, and the hero is a great deal older, more brutal, and more rapetastic than the heroine.”

I never did read any books like this when they were coming out in the 70s and early 80s, but I’ve read some recent reviews of such. Here’s one that had my eyes rolling back in my head.  Feel free to indulge your morbid curiosity if you wish: Purity’s Passion by Janette Seymour, a Review by Redheaded Girl.


As a child, I read my mother’s Regency romance novels. I only started reading longer, sexier historical romances when I followed authors like Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley and Loretta Chase as they moved to writing longer books. Except for being set in the past, there’s no resemblance between their historical romances and the description above. The romances I like have heroes and heroines who worked through their conflicts emerging as equals, despite a historical backdrop where gender roles were more rigidly defined.


So maybe I missed something but it seems to me that the romance genre has been moving away from the abusive hero/submissive heroine setup for decades and it isn’t a “new generation” of writers who are inventing this.

I’m woefully ill-read—life has done that to me—so I haven’t read most of the books mentioned. Did I miss another shift? The article implies that the new feminist romances subvert the stereotype. Does this mean heroines can now be as selfish and abusive as the heroes used to be? Actually, I doubt it, knowing some of these authors.

So help me out.  Is something really changing in the genre or is it a continuation of the shift to strong heroines and more equal relationships that began decades ago? And did you ever read of those Bad Old Bodice Rippers? If so, what did you think?


The Shameless Self-Promotion Portion of This Post

I have put out another of my backlist titles. Stolen Love is my second book, published by Harper-Collins in 1991. It’s not quite old-skool but almost. I’m not the same writer as I was in 1991 but I’ve put the book out pretty much exactly as it was published — because today I would write a totally different book and any editing would inevitably be a total re-write and then STILL no one would be able to read the original unless they got their hands on a paper copy.

I made one change because I realized later my editor was right, my hero would call his valet by his last name only. So I removed all the Mr.’s for that character. That’s it.

Nicholas Villines is the heir assumptive to a viscount. His father left him in dire straits, but he’s managed to recover the family fortunes and re-enter society.  His childhood friend Elizabeth is now in London, hoping to make a modest marriage, as she is a woman of very modest means. Not so her beautiful (and rich) cousin Amelia. Every agrees that Nicolas and Amelia would be a perfect match. As Elizabeth and Nicholas rekindle their friendship, society can talk of little but The Mayfair Thief, a mysterious and cunning person who has made off with a fortune in jewels and other valuable items. Just who is this mysterious thief, and has Elizabeth really guessed his identity?

Nicholas agrees that Amelia would be the perfect wife for him, but he can’t stop thinking about Elizabeth and the beautiful woman she’s become. Will he accept his feelings for her before it’s too late or will she marry his best friend?

Secrets Revealed

Stolen Love was written before the World Wide Web and when the Internet was mostly accessed via text based commands (gopher, anyone?). In those days, authors couldn’t do anything like the promotion we can do today.

I wasn’t able to tell anyone things like this:

  • The hero, Nicholas, was named after my sister’s dog.
  • The hero’s last name (Villines) came from an article I read about a General Contractor who had an embezzling employee.
  • I lived in Berkeley at the time, in an apartment that, unbeknownst to me, had absolutely ideal conditions for growing orchids. I had several Phalenopsis and a Cattleya that bloomed six months of the year. I believed I was an orchid genius and made my hero one, too. Because, like, what’s so hard about growing orchids? Then I moved to San Francisco and my orchids died or never bloomed again.
  • I set the book in 1844 because I thought the fashions then were killer. I HATED Regency gowns. The cover was pure Regency. There was no cover consult.
  • When on submission, the book was pitched as hardcover and even I, pretty much a total newbie, knew that book wouldn’t sell hardcover and I was brave enough to tell my agent that. It sold to a St. Martin’s Press editor who promptly left to go to Harper-Collins, which was starting a NY based Romance line that, eventually, morphed into Avon. She took my MS with her.
  • I didn’t know I was a pantser. I just wrote the dang story by reading what came before and seeing an interesting theme and going with it. (Oh hey! In this chapter, the hero’s best friend is in love with Elizabeth! Let’s go with that. . . )
  • My printer was a near top-of-the-line daisy-wheel printer and it took 9 hours to print out the entire MS.
  • At one time, I laid out all the chapters in piles on the floor and rearranged them. I used scissors and tape to move scenes
  • I did all my research in the UC Berkeley libraries or at any number of extremely fine used book stores in the area. During that period I acquired some great reference books.
  • I learned that about this time (1844-ish) there was an orchid craze. The Amazon and other fragile habitats were scoured for orchids to the point of destruction and/or extinction of the flowers. They believed all orchids required the same hot-house conditions — which was untrue as we now know –so there were some orchid species that never bloomed in captivity. Orchid collections were valuable and stealing of collections and plants was a threat.
  • In 1991, there was no such thing as email for regular people, but I had a fancy answering-machine. With a tape.
  • I was worried the sex came too late in the book so I tried to sex it up in other ways.

If you want to read a sample or just buy the book:

ISBN: 978-0-9833826-4-5

A Racy Offer

If you happen to read Stolen Love (or any of my backlist titles) and post an honest review on Amazon or B&N, I will send you the eBook of two erotic short stories I wrote. I have a pretty cover for it. One story is historical, the other contemporary and both, technically, involve demons. You have to be over 18 and not easily offended. 

Just post your review (You are not required to have liked the book) and send me the URL to it and let me know what format you’d like. I will then send you the stories in just about any digital format.

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