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Tag Archives: romance novels

Some non-genre readers scoff at us fanat–that is, engaged readers of genre fiction. Romance, for example, they deride as being fluff, female porn, and the ever-loathed term “bodice ripper.”
But I have learned a lot–A LOT– from romance novels. For example:

One Saturday, the spouse and I were listening to NPR, and they had one of their quiz shows (no, I don’t remember the title. If I did, I would have said!). They were playing Dictionary, where someone finds an obscure word and the contestants have to make up definitions, and the real definition is included, and the other side has to vote on which definition is the right one.
The word was “delope.” I knew, of course, that it meant to shoot your pistol into the air during a duel because I . . . drumroll please . . . read historical romances.

I was up on the whole War of the Roses controversy because I devoured Anya Seton‘s Katherine. I also knew the prose Wat Tyler chanted during the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt because of the same book (“When Adam delved and Eva span/Who was then the gentleman?).

I’ve always used the phrase “mutton dressed as lamb” to indicate an older woman wearing garments better suited for a younger one, and now my Swank Husband (and his NY-editorial friends) all use the term too. I routinely ask my husband “Do I look muttony?” before going out.

“Hard-pressed” refers to the forced conscription of men into the navy during wartime.

I know all of Henry VIII’s wives in order: Katherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Katherine (that is from memory, I think I got all the ‘Katherine’s done properly) because of reading historical romance.

).While watching Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World, I leaned over and told my husband Admiral Lord Nelson had lost an arm, too, so Capt. Aubrey’s next revelation to the young injured cabin-boy made me look extra-cool (or geeky. You decide

I know all about how important it was to be seated above the salt at a banquet table. I am a big fan of salt, btw.

I know there’s more, but I think I’ve blathered enough–what facts have you learned from reading romance?

*Well, not everything, but a lot of things.

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And (drumroll)…here they are:

1. A.S. Byatt, The Virgin in the Garden. An earlier book and not so well known as Possession.
2. Ah, so near and yet so far…Daniel Deronda by George Eliot.
3. Well done, Elena, who was almost there, and who will be allowed to sharpen pencils today–Villette, by Charlotte Bronte. That one was my favorite, too. Wow.
4. And the romance excerpt, from Beast by Judith Ivory.


I recently wrote an article on the romance genre for The Editorial Eye, a newsletter for people fascinated by the minutae of words, English usage, and grammar. My point was that just because romances are popular, prolific, and have silly covers, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have no literary merit. Part of the article was this quiz. Can you identify the romance excerpt? And, for extra credit, can you identify any of the writers or books? Answers will be posted in a day or so.

1. She began to go out along the rocks, very fast, holding her arms wide to balance herself, half-running, half-striding. He went after her. Another tall wave bowed, jarred, cracked and whispered at her feet. She turned to him a face he had never seen, blindly smiling, wild, white and wet.
2. Since she was not winning strikingly, the next best thing was to lose strikingly. She controlled her muscles, and showed no trembling of mouth or hands. Each time her stake was swept off she doubled it. Many were now watching her, but the sole observation she was conscious of was [hero’s], who, though she never looked towards him, she was sure had not moved away.
3. He deemed me born under his star; he seemed to have spread over me its beam like a banner. Once—unknown and unloved, I held him harsh and strange; the low stature, the wiry make, the angles, the darkness, the manner, displeased me.
4. Black pearls popped and flew everywhere. They bounced well; they bounced high. They rolled magnificently across the deck in every direction, as well as off the deck and down onto the next—a quick, nacreous spill swallowed up into the wet night, the roll and clatter smothered almost instantly by the hiss of the ocean.

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