Current location: Cambridge, UK
The Windflower is one of those mythical romance novels that many speak of, that more often than not appears in top 100 listings and it has been granted DIK (Desert Island Keeper) status by a lot of people. I had been looking for it for months now but the book is out of print and living in the UK makes it nearly impossible to find a used copy. Then I found out that Ciara had found it! I begged her to send it to me once she was done with the book and she did. We then had this idea to pass around the book to other bloggers and start a discussion about the genre, the merits (or not) of old school romance novels, and to see if The Windflower stands the test of time.
Ciara kicked off the Tour early today with a post about the idea, the rules and the list of participants. The Book Smugglers is the first official stop on the Windflower World Tour and I am supposed to review the book now.
Except, I find myself in a bit of a predicament. Because I lost all sense of objectivity, I lost my temper and nearly lost my mind whilst reading the book and ended up at the other side of the spectrum – a side I suspect will be lonely and unpopular for I absolutely abhorred The Windflower! Does that sound harsh? I suppose it does, but in all honesty, this is how I feel. But before I give you my reasons, a little bit of a background.
I started to read romance novels one year ago. Before that, I kept away solely because I, like many non-romance readers out there, thought the genre was populated with bodice rippers and some of the tiles and covers out there did not help changing my perception. Until a trusted friend spoke highly of the new authors and new storylines and convinced me on trying it and I never looked back.
I found out that I like reading romance because I love to read about two people falling in love with each other and going through the motions of that relationship, in any shape or form towards a satisfactory happy ending. I love reading romance because it’s heart warming, entertaining and because most of these books speak directly to my highly emotional soul.
I have read close to 200 titles in the last year and even if that doesn’t make me a specialist, I believe it gives me some scope to be able to assess the differences between old school historical romance (as written for example, by Judith McNaught and Kathleen Woodiwiss ) or what I call, new romance (Julia Quinn, Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas) and to say which one I prefer and why: the latter, because the power balance between the protagonists are resonant with my modern sensibilities.I explain: in old school romance (for example, Whitney My Love, The Flame and The Flower and The Windflower), as far as I can tell and very generally speaking, the basics are: a much too young, innocent, virginal heroine that charms everybody but who cannot stand her own in front of the alpha hero, who is the only one who thinks her innocence is acting and that she is actually, the greatest whore of the world and/or a conniving bitch and who likes to use his punishing kisses as a weapon of mass destruction, or seduction or whatever. There are quite a few scenes with forced seduction and some of them result in rape (in the Flame and The Flower, “hero” rapes heroine 3 times, whilst she begs and cries for him to stop – but because he believes her to be a prostitute, it’s alright. Seriously). The so called hero then proceeds with more acts of cruelty, fuelled with sarcasm, rage. Some very serious physical and emotional abuse ensue until through a deus ex machina, he finds out the truth (because the heroine can hardly express herself through her tears or her fear, or her god only knows why, admiration for the hero) and then miraculously he realizes all that he has done was out of love and grovels his way back to the heroine, who forgives all. The end.
Sometimes I wonder if I am not being too anachronistic when I state my preference for new romance novels and my dislike of old school romance because of the reasons above. I mean, wouldn’t the reality of 19th century be exactly like that? Older men marrying younger, innocent ladies and having all the power in the relationship? Wouldn’t that reflect the sensibilities of the time? Maybe. But then I remember that some 19th century writers like Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, wrote wonderful love stories where the heroines stood their ground in front of the hero, in any capacity. One can say Heathcliff was cruel, but so was Cathy. In fact she was the catalyst of all cruelty in the book. Jane Austen hasn’t written a single scene of cruelty or forced seduction in any of her books – and if she could do that, if she, a woman who was most probably attuned with the sensibilities of her own time, could do it, then I dare say that it’s possible that at least some of the men of her time did not go around being alpha and terrorising innocent girls. So the fact that old school romance novels are what they are, is solely because of the way writers choose to tell their stories. They are not by any means, trapped by History in what they can or can not do. New romance novelists seem to appreciate that fact and the conflict in their books are much more realistic (social status, inner turmoil, sense of inadequacy coming from past behaviour, etc) and satisfactory – at least, for me.
This is a rather long introduction for the matter at hand which is to talk about the Windflower.
I was so happy when I got the book! Finally I was going to read this classic. But right from the very first pages, I was disappointed. It was so freaking boring. And full of paragraph after paragraph of endless descriptions of things I couldn’t care less. Ok. Granted, that can just be me and my tastes – it doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad. I carried on. Things got worse.
I am not going to mention the amount of stupid, contrived plotlines used to further the story ; I am not going to mention the ridiculousness of having an entire pirate ship crew falling head over heels in love with the heroine because she was oh so poor and innocent; or the fact that at least 2 of these pirates are dum dum dum, Peers of the Reign (rolling my eyes here – again); Because in all honesty even if all of the above require a huge amount of suspension of belief – I am always and forever prepared and willing to do just that. But it has to be worth it. It has to be because the characters are so amazing and the writing is so good, I don’t care about anything else other than the emotional kick.
So I am going to talk exclusively about the relationship between the hero and heroine of the book and why it just didn’t work for me.
So basically, The Windflower rehashes all of those basic details of old school romance. The heroine, Merry, is a 17-18 young virgin (who has no idea of what sex is, how it is done, etc) who is kidnapped by pirates and taken to the Black Joke, a ship captained by the dreaded pirate Rand Morgan. Morgan’s half-brother Devon, our hero, is a Duke-Pirate who believes Merry is the lover of his old enemy and because of that he behaves like a boar for about ¾ of the novel, being cruel, sarcastic, threatening her with bodily harm and using his punishing kisses to try get to the truth of who she is (the sister of an American idealist in the throes of an American-British war and who is keeping her identity a secret in order to protect him). Merry can hardly defend herself, because she cries and trembles all the time.Everybody on the ship falls in love with her but she obviously, falls in love with the hero. I failed miserably to see what was so attractive about him especially because of all those parts where he either ignores her, threatens her, calls her a slut or more specifically when he is dragging her for two days through Britain, with her wrists bound (and bleeding) refusing her sleep or proper food. And that is, believe it or not, near the end of the book.
When he finally learns the truth that she was covering for her brother to protect him which meant she was not his enemy’s lover, Devon simply says (brace yourselves):
“That’s rich. Do you understand what I might have done to you if I’d been a shade more convinced you were Granville’s light-skirt?”
This was when I nearly lost my mind, had an attack of hysterics, laughing manically and wondering if I was going insane because this was part of the romantic resolution of the book.
What? So the fact that he thought she was not a virgin, or that she was other man’s lover is sufficient excuse to abuse, terrify, force himself on her? How does that make this man a hero? Because it all comes down to this, doesn’t it? That we, romance readers must, above all things, believe that the hero is well, a hero. If not for us, at least for the heroine.
And this is when I discovered something about me as a reader . I always thought of myself as a hero kind of girl. That I would always relate to the hero and that the development of the heroine was not as important. I was wrong – Merry showed that to me.
Because I can’t stomach the heroines in the old romance novels I have read and because more and more I appreciate how a strong, fleshed out heroine is as important as the hero. Merry, as many other TSTL heroines of old school romance behave like victims for most of the time, at least that’s how I seen them. Always and forever at the beck and call of the so called heroes, who are the ones that hold all the power in the relationship and the ones that we, the heroine, everybody and their dogs must wait to make up their minds about what they truly feel. I need some backbone, some spine. Something more. Something like shooting the hero when he is a jerk (like Jess Trent in Lord of Scoundrels).
To some, a good amount of grovelling in the end of these books is enough to redeem the heroes but to me, no amount of grovel is enough to absolve them of their past misbehaviour. I can not, will not condone downright cruelty and forced seduction that leads to rape. Note: the Windflower has no rape, in case you were wondering. And this is the most positive thing I can say about the hero: at least he didn’t get to rape her – not that he didn’t try mind you – the motivation, the frame of mind, the rage was all there. But things and people kept interrupting them. And this is my whole point: I do not want to finish a romance novel thinking “well, at least he didn’t rape her”.
I like alpha males as much as the next girl, but I prefer my alphas to be like Nalini Singh’s alphas – they would rip their own limbs out before laying a finger on their heroines.
In the end I hurled The Windflower across the room furiously. Depressed that I wasted six precious hours of my reading life but still somewhat content that I got this out of the way sooner rather than later. And I made a promise to myself that I will stay away from old school romance from now on. It is obviously, not for me.
And this is what I have to say on the subject of The Windflower and Old School Romance – It seems my thoughts are all over the place and I feel a sudden urge to go into hiding after writing this post as I wonder: am I messing with a beehive?
I can’t wait to see what the other bloggers who are going to read the book think about The Windflower, about old school romance, about romance in general. What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Am I the solitary voice of dissent?
In any case, the Windflower is therefore, a nay from me.
Next Stop: Jenb – The Ginger Kid’s Den of Iniquity
KatiebabsSeptember 10, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Ana, you are one brave woman to give a thumbs down! LOL
Love you for it.
TheaSeptember 10, 2008 at 2:08 pm
Ana, great review!!! And the pictures! I miss Cambridge.
Big props for the thumbs down review of this “classic”.
JenBSeptember 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm
Oy. Now I’m worried! *biting my nails*
My preferences and gripes are very inconsistent and pretty much all over the place when it comes to books, so there’s really no telling which direction this one will go for me.
I’m anxious, but now also very curious to see how it goes. We shall see! 🙂
BTW, kudos to you for going against the flow and not declaring your undying love for this book just because it’s a so-called “classic”. I love your honesty!
AnaSeptember 10, 2008 at 2:27 pm
Thanks girls! It was and it wasn’t difficult to write this- it was VERY clear to me that I hadn’t liked so in that sense it was easy. But I was and am very worried about hurting people’s feelings.
MaryKateSeptember 10, 2008 at 3:04 pm
Whoa. My head is reeling! Ana, you are brave, my friend.
Well. I couldn’t disagree more. LOL! But then, I re-read The Windflower at least twice a year and it is not just my favorite romance of all time, it’s my favorite BOOK of all time. I own three copies of it which I guard jealously.
All that being said, I started reading romance in 1982. So I cut my teeth on old school romance. Forced seductions, virginal heroines, domineering men. They all TOTALLY work for me. Yes, un-PC as it might be, they totally work for me. I’m constantly bewildered by people who hate Whitney, My Love. I mean, I get why they don’t like it, but I just — adore the book so much.
Now, why do I love The Windflower? I think it’s some of the most glorious prose in romance. I think that it takes some of the “cliches” of romance and does them extremely well. I love the heroine, I love her growth throughout the book. I think that the use of language and description is fantastic. I think that it is sly and funny at times. I find it to be an extremely emotional book, and one that works on absolutely every level for me. I think that Rand Morgan is one of the most interesting secondaries ever written, as is Cat.
But, I get why you didn’t like it, Ana. In fact, I really respect you for writing the review.
Even if I think you’re totally wrong. 😉
ShannonSeptember 10, 2008 at 3:07 pm
Crap. Now I am worried, too. Your gripes about old school romance are the exact same ones that I have (this caused my insane hatred of Whitney, My Love.) Hmmm, maybe it is good that I am getting a chance to read it through this exchange instead of buying it for a silly high price.
AnaSeptember 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm
Thanks Marykate. I ended up talking about only the negatives but if I were to talk about some of the positives I would have to say that the secondary characters were all very interesting, including as you say,Rand and Cat.
In fact they were so interesting, I wanted Merry to hook up with any of them , anyone expect Devon.
Shannon, I share the insane hatred for WML. I would say the Windflower is a bit better – as I said “at least there is no rape”. ; )
ChristineSeptember 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm
LOLOL Go, Ana!!!
I kept thinking of things I wanted to respond to while reading your review, so I’m going to comment in list form. ;p
1. King’s College in Cambridge? Nice. How the hell is anyone else gonna come anywhere near as cool as that?
2. Thank you for taking the pressure off the rest of us on reporting how we really feel about this book. I mean, can anyone possibly like it less than you? 😉
3. I’m really curious to see how everyone’s impressions on this book balance out. I have a feeling that those of us who are fairly new to reading romance (less than 3 years) aren’t going to like it anywhere near as much as those who have been reading romance for over a decade. I bet it’s more nostalgic to the seasoned romance readers at this point.
4. I hope you didn’t really throw the book. It’s worth at least $30 on ebay. And after this tour, I bet this particular copy would be worth more! LOL
5. LOVE the picture of you giving the book the thumbs down at the end. I’m totally copying you on that! Well… about the pose, I’ll have to see about the thumbs up or thumbs down part. ;p
6. Speaking of the thumbs down… would this book be a Book Smuggler’s Rating of 1? Or are we not going there?
Stacy~September 10, 2008 at 4:57 pm
I’ve been reading romances since I was 11 or 12, in the early 80’s, and a lot (and I do mean a lot) of the books I read had forced seduction/rape in them. Not that I believed, then or now, that it was okay for women to be abused because I don’t, but I think it has made me more tolerant of old school romance than many readers who’ve only been reading romances since the 90’s or latr.
WML is one of my all-time favorite romances, but I read it 20 years ago, and it was a different world then. I always think if I read it today, I would at least like it, but not love it the way I did all those years ago. It’s hard to explain without sounding like I’m condoning violent behavior, but I think it has made a difference in my reading tastes.
So sorry you didn’t enjoy The Windflower. I wish I had my own copy.
Kristie (J)September 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm
I’ll be looking forward to what everyone else has to say about this one too.
My story is a bit different. Like MK, I cut my teeth on the old Rogers, Woodiwiss etc and after an initial almost titilated reaction to them – they were like nothing I’d ever read before, I started hating them, hating them so much I was turned off romance for quite some time (for me anyway). So I can really relate to your introduction.
But I didn’t get that slimy, sleazy feel when I read The Windflower like I did so many of those other ones. When compared to the other books written the same time as The Windflower, it was so much better IMO. I didn’t see Merry so much as TSTL as much as innocent. And Devon – while a jerk for much of the book was EVER so much better than other heroes of his time.
I don’t know if it was because I read Windflower for the first time just a few years ago and not during the time I was reading the other ones or not or because I’ve been reading for years and those were the kinds of characters I’d already read – but it worked A LOT better for me. I loved it.
I don’t think you are being too harsh at all! I think it has a lot to do with the context in which you read it – and other books by comparison and the context in which other readers who have been reading romance a lot longer react to this book.
And *laughing* I think you should stay away from Whitney My Love if you didn’t like The Windflower.
HollySeptember 10, 2008 at 6:10 pm
See, this is how I feel about 95% of the “classic” romances out there. Sorry, but I don’t deal well w/ jerk heroes. Linda Howard’s All That Glitters came to mind while reading this, but he was a contemp hero, so it was worse.
DorisSeptember 10, 2008 at 6:39 pm
I totally agree with you – on all points.
I re-read it recently and had real trouble staying with it.
Jerk heroes never work for me.
For those of you who adore this book, my hat’s off to you.
Bridget LockeSeptember 10, 2008 at 6:58 pm
When I first started reading “adult” romance novels, I seemed to prefer the old-fashioned bodice rippers, but I was 12, so there’s a good reason right there.
I’m definitely not a fan anymore. I like historicals like Lisa Kleypas or Julia Quinn where the heroines are strong-minded and don’t take crap from anyone.
That being said, one of my all-time favorite books is Years by LaVyrle Spencer. The heroine is all of 18 when the book first starts out, but A. she grows up fast, B. the hero isn’t a bully (just bull-headed) and C. the story is just beautiful. *sigh*
So, maybe you should try something like that? See if it helps make you feel better. 🙂
ciaraliraSeptember 10, 2008 at 8:34 pm
Ooo! ooo! I’ve been there! Great photos!
Thank you for being brave and going first! We’ll have a great conversation about it, with you on one end of the spectrum and Mary Kate on the other. Personally, I’ve only read romances for the past 2 years. “Classics” romances are completely alien, but I feel like I “should” read them to understand the genre better. How can I analyze current books if I don’t understand how the genre has changed over time as a whole? I’m such a nerd. Anyways, I tried WHITNEY MY LOVE and a few Kinsale novels. The rape and the “big misunderstanding” resulting in the hero being a jerk really rubbed me the wrong way. I like protective heroes – no matter how tortured he is emotionally he would never take it out on the heroine. I want a knight in shining armor, not a beast. I’m looking forward to reading the book (I’m last) to see if this one works for me or not. It seems to have inspired my favorite author – Joanna Bourne.
AnaSeptember 10, 2008 at 10:08 pm
Christine, LOL. I didn’t even think about a rate!!!! OMG, I think the book is beyond that but I guess yes, a 1! I feel bad. And no, I didn’t throw the book across the room – I never do that LOL, it is more a figure of speech. But I did laugh like a maniac and Dear Partner thought I was crazy.
Stacy – I understand what you mean about condoning violent behaviour , it is such a fine line to walk on.
Kristie, too late, already read WML and hated it! LOL.
AnaSeptember 10, 2008 at 10:15 pm
Holly, Doris , I hate jerk heroes too. But I also think there is such a fine line of what is accpetable or not. When a hero is too much of a jerk? I mean, many readers consider St Vincent from Devil in Winter a jerk and hate him. But he is my favorite romance hero! Because well, he is not a jerk to the heroine is he? does that make sense?
AnaSeptember 10, 2008 at 10:17 pm
Bridget Locke, I will make a note of that book and look it up! Thanks for the recommendation!
Ciara, YES a Knight in Shining Armor, I want that too! Although, let’s not dismiss the beasts altogether – sometimes they can be a real surprise. ; )
PetaSeptember 10, 2008 at 11:55 pm
Great article and one that expresses very neatly how I have come to feel about “Old School Romance” too. So many do feature forced seduction/rape that I stopped reading the genre as I found it abhorrent.
There are a few books that I read as a teenager with feisty heroines and heroes who were, for want of a better word, gentlemen and I read those over and over. Reading this article makes me want to go into the attic and dig through my book boxes to see if I can find them for a many-years-on-re-read!
kmontSeptember 11, 2008 at 4:37 am
Holy f**king s**t on a funeral pyre, hon – do we just need to give this book a proper burial and be done with it?
That was just a joke!
Ana, you are indeed brave, but remember, these kinds of reviews are just as important as a primarily positive one.
I am REALLY eager to read the book now though. I haven’t read a true bodice ripper since my ninth grade year in high school when a friend let n=me borrow one. By then they seemed to be going out of style, but I read it and told my friend if that was good, then I was the queen of the world.
I realize that some folks,somewhere, love this book. And I might actually like it, but man – you describe in your review precisely the sort of problems I’ve had with old school romance before. Today, many of the traits the hero displays are hallmarks of an abuser. Son of a – Edward of friggin’ Twilight looks like pointy-toothed ANGEL next to The Windflower’s hero!
What is obvious though, to me, is that this book seems to be what publishers were wanting back then – and some readers or else they’d not have been bought and more published. Why though? Is it really a fantasy of women, to be so a the mercy of such a man? I have always hated that though and it sounds like a copout and a way to dismiss and ridicule romance readers, so I don’t support it. I guess some people just like what they like.
Great way to start off the discussion, Ana!
shartyrantSeptember 11, 2008 at 6:04 am
I’m close to being a newbie to your board on commenting so excuse me if I do this wrong.
I haven’t read said book. To be honest, I probably never will (especially after your review). That being said, I should point out that while I LOVED these type of “old school romances” when I was a teen till my early 20s, I can’t stand them now. They annoy me. The leads I want to die. Horrible, but true.
I noticed as I grew older that a lot of books I enjoyed when I was younger I now re-read with a sense of what was I thinking. The romances come across as either unrealistic or the hero is a jerk who deserves to be smacked. Like you, I need to have a hero be worthy of the title. I am a bit easier on the heroine (brainless heroines are easier to find in this sub-genre). But again, she has to be a bit heroic in the fact she is on the “force of good” at least.
Due to the traits you listed in your review, I very rarely read historical romances anymore. I think there are only a few exceptions like Amanda Quick (which read more as historical romance-suspsense/mystery). The hero is alpha and heroine is usually intelligent. I remember how excited I was to discovered Ravished that I went out and bought all her other previously released books and bought the new ones in hardcover immediately as this was the type of historical romance I preferred.
Does anyone else find that romances they loved when they were younger doesn’t read as well now that your are older? They either come across as weak or what you saw as the best romance love story ever comes across as a weak-willed ninny falling in love with a jerk who might or not be abusive after the story ends?
AnaSeptember 11, 2008 at 6:56 am
Peta, thanks for posting.
Do go look for your old favorites and come back to tell us if you still like them!
Kmont, LOL. I can’t wait to read your review, maybe you will like it, who knows?
“Why though? Is it really a fantasy of women, to be so a the mercy of such a man?”
I HATE that thought too and I wish it isn’t true – but it may well be. To each its own , I guess.
Jill D.September 11, 2008 at 7:39 am
Ana, I too, like you, just recently started reading romance. I have been a voracious reader, but I always looked down on romance until recently. About three years ago I read the book Outlander and knew that passion and relationships were what I wanted to read about.
Since then I have read all kinds of romance books from contemporary to historical. Two of my favorite authors are Lisa Kleypas and Judith McNaught. They couldn’t be more different in terms of their approach to writing, but I love them both the same. What McNaught delivers for me is lots and lots of drama and angst. The ups and downs and the intensity of the relationship is what I love. I guess you could call me a “Drama Queen”. I am still looking forward to reading The Windflower. Who knows, I might be the only one who likes it.
heather (errantdreams)September 11, 2008 at 7:46 am
“I mean, wouldn’t the reality of 19th century be exactly like that?”
Even if you do make this assumption, that doesn’t mean you are required to say, “well, okay, it really was like that, so I guess I can’t dislike the book.” Heck no. If you don’t like it and are furious at the attitudes it represents, then that’s perfectly legitimate! And I expect I’d react the same way.
MaryKateSeptember 11, 2008 at 9:53 am
I would be interested in learning from the long time romance readers if old favorites stand the test of time too!
I hesitate to wade into the fray here, as I’m definitely in the minority. But this is a topic on which I feel like I’m qualified to speak. I’ve been reading romance for almost 25 years now. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts. The original Silhouette pub’d one. Not any of the reprints. I have tremendous affection for the story. Are the outfits outdated? You bet. Is the hero a bit of an ass? You bet. Would Nora write one like him now? Undoubtedly, no. But it worked in 1982.
When I read “old school” romance, I take that into consideration. Sure, you may not love McNaught or Woodiwiss, but at the time they were writing they were mavericks in the genre, you know? They laid the groundwork for what was to come. Give me any current hoyden heroine, and I’ll show you Alexandra Lawrence from McNaught’s Something Wonderful. Hero in disguise? I’ll give you Woodiwiss’s A Rose in Winter. Do the books stand the test of time? Maybe not. But I have tremendous affection for them because they’re what I cut my teeth on.
Just as 15 years from now, there may be readers who vilify Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas novels that are fantastic reading today because it’s no longer what works in the market.
I realize that I’m vastly in the minority. But I DO think that the classics have a place in the pantheon of romance. Are they appropriate now? No, and I think that’s why, for the most part, you’re not seeing books with forced seduction (Claiming the Courtesan notwithstanding) published now.
But I don’t think anyone could talk me out of my love of McNaught, or Garwood, or old school Lindsey or Woodiwiss. There is a place for them in the overall discussion of the evolution of romance, in my opinion.
TracySeptember 11, 2008 at 10:10 am
Wow now I’m really looking forward to reading the book since I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.
I’ve been reading romance for about *mumble30mumble* years or so and I used to read bodice rippers til I was blue in the face when I was really young. They got old very quickly and figured out that the whole forced seduction thing was just not my bag. So, that being said I’ll be very curious to see what I think about TWF.
Thank you for giving us your honest opinion. Great pictures!
little alysSeptember 11, 2008 at 11:52 am
I’m so nervous now! Gad zooks, it sounds a bit more drama than I thought it would be.
Great review (as always^_^). Since I haven’t read it, I’m not going to say much, but I completely agree with your assessment on the heroines. Also add Georgette Hayers to the list of great authors writing about a time period where there are cruelty, but from her well researched romance novels – I see young, spunk filled women and heroes whom don’t act like overly violent senseless bastards. Lisa Kleypas *heart* and Julia Quinn writes well researched romance of that period and I don’t recall ever reading books with that kind of violence.
Luckly, or unluckly, I'm second to last. >_<
little alysSeptember 11, 2008 at 11:57 am
P.S. I do want to add that in some sense I agree with Marykate. If it wasn't for these 'classics,' we may not have such great novels now. Not that I much enjoy forced sexual relationships in my novels, I do believe this genre was one of the first to ever address it.
Another thought, if we put it in a more historical timeline, would it be that the issue of sexual assault, especially those between married partners, was just coming out of the woodworks as illegal?
Mind you, even now, in certain areas, groups of people and mentality, the sexual assault of a woman is still considered the woman's fault.
So, you know, we're still slowly moving. Hopefully moving forward.
…and now, I'll stop my rather offtop train of thought. Sorry >_<
RfPSeptember 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm
I have a feeling that those of us who are fairly new to reading romance… aren’t going to like it anywhere near as much as those who have been reading romance for over a decade.
I’ve read romance for over a decade, and I’ve always hated the “old school” stuff. The drippy, cringing heroines are especially hard to take, but really the entire sensibility of these older romances drives me bats. I’m trying a Laura Kinsale “classic” right now and all I can say is, omfg.
It seems to have inspired my favorite author – Joanna Bourne.
Yikes, I wonder if that explains a few things. I really disliked Spymaster’s Lady‘s old-school feel, particularly the heroine.
AnaSeptember 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm
Jill, you might as well be! why not? : )
Heather, I agree with you!Good point.
AnaSeptember 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm
MaryKate, thanks for the input. For the record, I agree that the genre would be nowhere if these writers haven’t paved the way. Heck, I even have to admit to loving A Kingdom of Dreams by JM.
Having said that, I wonder why did it work back then and it doesn’t work anymore? what has changed? women’s perception of relationships? their position in society?
another question – even if these books are the foundation of the genre are they also not the reason why the same genre is relegated to the fringe of literature. I wonder if romance as a genre had started with Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn if it wouldn’t have earned more respect?
and to finalise and I am not picking on you, I swear! LOL. it’s just your comments are so interesting, they beg for debate! : when you talk about hoyden heroines or hero in disguise I am sorry, but I don’t look at JM or KW as the source of inspiration – I look at Shakespeare for example – all the plots and characters descriptions are there, in his work. If I had to pick one author that has done the groundwork for romance it would be Shakespeare.
Oh and I LOVE Julie Garwood.
AnaSeptember 11, 2008 at 2:41 pm
Alys, “Mind you, even now, in certain areas, groups of people and mentality, the sexual assault of a woman is still considered the woman’s fault. ” Isn’t that horrible?
Rfp, thanks for posting. did you think the heroine in Spymaster’s Lady was like old school? Really? I think she was the opposite! LOL.
Bridget LockeSeptember 11, 2008 at 7:54 pm
I've been reading romances since I was 10. I'm now almost 32, so that's 22 years of history. I can say for 99% of the books, rereading them now is definitely cringe-inducing. However, there are some that stand the test of time. Years being one of them.
I think I am one of the few people out in the world who absolutely despises Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. I know a lot of people list that as one of their all-time favorites, but the end made me so mad I DID throw the book across the room. Totally ruined the entire book for me.
If you're looking for a good say what type book, I recommend Son of the Morning by Linda Howard. She's a hit/miss author for me, but this book was amazing. Gave me goose pimples at the end because of what she tweaks.
The sex is hot too, which can't be dismissed.
I find it interesting how some reviews really open people up for continuing on in comments with their thoughts & feelings. We shall see what happens when it's my turn to review on good and bad books. 🙂
Bridget LockeSeptember 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm
Oh and this isn't a romance, but it is one of the best "say what" books I have ever read! I'm still not 100% sure which is reality & which is what actually happened. The book is "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane (who wrote Mystic River to name a few). I definitely recommend it & would love to hear your opinions of it. 🙂
HollySeptember 11, 2008 at 8:00 pm
You aren’t alone..I HATESSSSS AKISA. HATE IT HATE IT. OMG, worst book ever!!
SabrinaSeptember 12, 2008 at 4:04 am
As a lifelong reader of romance who spans the period between old school romance and new romance, I just couldn’t resist commenting. I didn’t like Windflower the first time I read it. There, I said it. I probably wasn’t bothered by the old school elements, since I read it when romance WAS old school, but I thought it was boring and nothing about the relationship between the hero and heroine moved me. It’s been twenty years, but as I recall, I liked Cat better than the hero OR the heroine. I was kind of astonished when it became a classic.
Keep in mind that I still love a few old school romances. Whitney, My Love is still a favorite and so are a couple of wonderful Rebecca Brandewyne books that definitely have old school elements.
Back then, I read old school romances for the relationship because that was mostly all there was that included sex (I also adored Jane Austen, go figure). I didn’t like the long passages of description, and I hated the “mean” heroes, as I saw them. BUT, when romances became kindler, gentler, and better-paced, I was a very happy camper. Still am. Lord of Scoundrels is my favorite romance of all time.
I say all this just to say that even the old school people had varying tastes. Some liked one thing; some another. The wonderful thing about romance is you don’t have to choose a category and stick with it.
If you’d want to read some transition books, you might enjoy Meagan McKinney or Rebecca Brandewyne or certain old Johanna Lindsey (not the oldest ones, because those are DEFINITELY of the rape ’em and they enjoy it variety).
Oh, and I totally agree with you about the argument that men were “like that back then.” Some of them were. Some of them weren’t. Plenty of romantic novels from that period have heroes who would be loved in the newest of romances. So I don’t buy that stuff. I think old school romance was 50’s woman shaking off the chains. Or something like that. 🙂
BrieSeptember 12, 2008 at 7:55 am
Great review, Ana! I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
MaryKateSeptember 12, 2008 at 8:56 am
Ana – No problem, I don’t take it personally at all. The beauty of the world is difference in opinions.
No. I don’t think that the reason romance is relegated to the fringes of respectable literature is because of the old school romance. I think it’s because it’s written for women. And it’s about all those squidgy feelings and emotions and god forbid, sex. I think that’s the reason it’s marginalized as “less” than other fiction.
Yes, good point about Shakespeare. Of course, he did it first and in many cases better than anyone else. And if you extrapolate that argument, impacted most romantic fiction (among many other genres) but my point is that without the old school stuff, the newer might not exist in the way it does. My guess is that if you started polling romance authors, many, MANY of them would site Woodiwiss and McNaught and hell, Barbara Cartland as influences. Why? Because of their prose, because of their style of writing. Because many of them are considered founders of the genre.
I think that the reason that old school romance worked back then is that it’s what was out there. It was different from other fiction. I think the reason it doesn’t work now is that women don’t put up with the kind of boorish behavior that happened even in the 80s. Women had different opinions and outlooks then than they do now. For example, I would never put up with a male colleague calling me “Sweetheart” now. NEVER! But women had different roles in the work force even then.
The reason that alot of old school romance works for me now is that I appreciate it for the time it was written in. I don’t think so much “I would NEVER put up with that” because well, I’d never put up with a vampire biting my neck, I’d never put up with some of the alpha heroes who are written today. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love to read about alphas who are tamed by their women. I do. Do I want to tame one myself? Hell no. I think that there’s value in the old school because of its impact on what’s out there now. And well, because I have tremendous affection for those authors and their books. I think that some of them are wonderfully written and plotted. Sure, the heroines and heroes might not be to your taste, and their actions might be unrelatable, but that’s true even today.
I hope I answered everything you said. Not sure if it all made sense because in the course of typing this, I took two phone calls and answered about 15 emails. Work. It gets in the way of all my fun.
liSeptember 12, 2008 at 10:07 am
I don’t think so much “I would NEVER put up with that” because well, I’d never put up with a vampire biting my neck, I’d never put up with some of the alpha heroes who are written today.
LOL – I love that comment, MaryKate!
Late to the party, but I thought that your distinction between old-school and new romance was interesting, Ana. When I fist started reading romance, I pretty much glommed all of McNaught, Garwood, Quick, Lindsey…
Now, when I go through my bookshelves back home, I re-read the Garwoods and Quicks, but not McNaught and Lindsey. I hadn’t really thought about why, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
Oh, and I noticed you said you loved Julie Garwood – I take it you don’t classify her as old-school?
KateSeptember 12, 2008 at 12:03 pm
So I walk away for, what, a day, and come back to 39 comments! Crazy!
Holly and Bridget, what did you not like about A Knight In Shining Armor? Yes, I’m one of those people who love it – and I’m not trying to pick a fight, I’m just curious! I’ve heard so few who dislike it. What about the ending? I don’t recall anything extraordinary except that it was a neat-tied-up-with-a-bow ending, but so many romances are that way that I’ve never batted an eye at that.
Ana: “Alys, ‘Mind you, even now, in certain areas, groups of people and mentality, the sexual assault of a woman is still considered the woman’s fault.’ Isn’t that horrible?” – and it’s still true in so many places. Imagine hearing about a woman who’s the victim of sexual assault or rape, and people saying everything from “she shouldn’t have been wearing that (x,y,z)” to “she shouldn’t have been in that bar/walking at night/at college” whatever. No, THE PERSON/PERSONS SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE WHAT THEY DID. Period. Sorry to yell – it’s a hot button for me, as you can probably tell.
I’ve got a sinking feeling that I’m going to have a pretty hard time with this book, I’ll admit it now. I’ve been reading romances for, heck 15-odd years? I’m 29 and started in middle school (when do we start middle school, anyway?) But I’ve never really read any of the “old school” ones. I remember picking up a Woodiwiss at the library and not reading it for no particular reason except it didn’t interest me. I read a lot of Jude Deverauxs and that may have been it, in the beginning. I’ve never particularly encountered the “old school” forced seductions, crap heroes, and doormat heroines- though I read and reviewed a romance in the last year that had such a doormat for a heroine that it made me angry, and I said so in my review. (Much to the author’s dismay, I fear.)
I do recall reading a Julie Garwood at some point that had not exactly a forced seduction – except it sort of was – wedding night, unwilling but willing bride (you know what I mean), etc. Or maybe it wasn’t Garwood? I don’t remember. I didn’t like it, and I remember thinking, “this is our hero???” I’m currently reading a romance that has so many possession/conquering themes going on that it’s starting to tick me off, even though the heroine’s trying to give as good as she gets. We shall see.
Boy, this got long. Sorry to rant!
(Bridget – I’ve read Mystic River and enjoyed it though not really something I’d go back to – is Shutter Island drastically different? I’ve seen so many conflicting reviews of it!)
Bridget LockeSeptember 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm
First of all, I apologize if it seems like I’ve taken over this thread. Guess it’s speaking to me. LOL!
When I read AKISA for the first time, I was about 14 maybe? Loved it. Then I grew up and it did nothing but make me angry. Here she builds up this major love story between these two people and then *SPOILER* she ends up with his reincarnation? I don’t THINK SO! Argh!
As for strong heroines, I really enjoyed 3 Nights of Sin by…can’t remember the author’s name. Anyway, she could’ve written it like a typical historical where the heroine is basically forced to sleep with the hero to save someone else, but the author tweaked it in a way that was very satisfying for me. The heroine was tough and very much in charge in a lot of ways. Fascinated the hero which is always good.
And Shutter Island is nothing like Mystic River. It’s a single-title that has nothing to do with any of the other books. Excellent mind trip. Can’t recommend it enough. 🙂
Sorry Book Smugglers. I will shut up now! Love ya! 🙂
AnaSeptember 13, 2008 at 2:43 am
Bridget Locke, I will look for Sutter Island- I really liked Mystic River (the movie).
AKISA – I read so many different opinions about it, I decided to look until I found all spoilers about it. I can safely say , if I ever read it, I would be royally pissed off too, so I am not going to.
Sabrina, thanks for your input. I liked Cat so much better too and Lord of Scoundrels is my favorite romance of all time as well. I read some Johanna Lindsey – the first 3 Mallory books and I have to say that although they are not in the bodice ripper category and the heroines are less doormat-y still the heroes were kind of jerks for most of the time.
Brie: thanks! can’t wait to see what you think!
AnaSeptember 13, 2008 at 2:58 am
MaryKate woohoo! you are back! *rolls sleeves* Awesome points!
“No. I don’t think that the reason romance is relegated to the fringes of respectable literature is because of the old school romance. I think it’s because it’s written for women” – I think you may be into something here, I never thought of it like that. Could we perhaps says that it’s a combination of both? That it’s both intended solely for women and at the same time, paradoxically, at least in the beginning, it was hugely misogynistic? That has got to send the wrong signals..no?
“I don’t think so much “I would NEVER put up with that” because well, I’d never put up with a vampire biting my neck, I’d never put up with some of the alpha heroes who are written today.”
I think it goes a little beyond that – it is not a matter of “putting up” with something – at least not the way I see it. It is a matter of being comfortable with the “frame of mind” or motivations of the heroes – yes, the vampire bitting or the current alpha heroes may be a bit too much and as “real” women we would not put up with that , but as readers, it is so much better to read about extra protective alphas and vampires and the such than to read those heroes that had HATE as their motivation. This is the point I want to make and which I don’t think I did in the review –
I have been racking my brain for an explanation and I think the best way to explain the difference between old school and new school is the frame of mind of the characters. The heroes in old school DO feel rage and contempt for the heroine, They DO want to hurt them. Their forced seduction is solely for their own pleasure or for punishing. New school romance, the hero MAY hurt the heroine (rarely physically though) but not because they want to hurt them directly but merely as consequence of a misguided frame of mind, or fear, etc. There is even “forced” seduction , for example, Nalini Singh’s changeling heroes sometimes are a little pushy but it’s ok, it is a lot more palatable because we see that in their minds, it’s all about the fact they can’t be away from these women, and it is all about her pleasure first and foremost.
And this makes all the difference to me. I am not saying that a hero that acts terribly can never be redeemed – but it depends a lot on how it goes and the way the heroine reacts
AnaSeptember 13, 2008 at 3:02 am
Li, should I classify Julie Garwood as old school? I know she has been published for a long time but her stories are so so different from JM and KW – her heroines my be ultra innocent but hey have some spine and the heroes are so amazing! Not jerks, not violent – and there is no Big Mis.
Hey Kate! I hear you on the Rape issue – it really ticks me off too.
Bridget Locke! LOL, do take over, I am loving it – all the debate, it’s great! come back!
MaryKateSeptember 13, 2008 at 7:04 am
Wow! Ana, great points!
Yeah, misogynistic, I think that’s a terrific term for old school romance and definitely for the heroes.
You’ve really got me thinking now.
First, in thinking back about old school romance, the books are ever so much more in the heroine’s head than the heroes. We don’t get his viewpoint very often, and often when we do, it’s thuggish and he’s leaping to some stupid assumption. I’ll totally buy that. That we’re not hearing the kind of emotional inner dialogue that we’re hear from today’s heroes. I think it’s a point really well taken.
Also, in thinking about Julie Garwood, I’m wondering do you think she’s the bridge between “old school” and “new school”? Her heroines are very much like today’s heroines. But her heroes are definitely alpha and not always in the good way.
Ana, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this discussion! I bow down to your intelligence and sense of fun about a debate!
You’re a good woman!