In previous years I’ve made Best-of lists related to my romance reading: best titles; best covers; best heroes, heroines, and supporting characters, etc. This year I’m focusing instead on some memorable reading about romance; that is, some of the best posts and discussions from the marvelously fertile and fermentive world of romance blogging.
Here, in chronological order, are ten 2012 blog posts that stayed with me.
1. Erotica writer Remittance Girl considers the preponderance of bad sex in literary fiction
This studied avoidance of leaving their readers with even a moment of arousal… tells me that, although they feel perfectly free to engender sadness, frustration, disgust, etc. in their readers, they feel that sexual arousal is somehow beyond the pale… This valuing of all reader-responses over arousal screams of a truly unnatural social engagement with the concept of eroticism.
I’m still sorting out a lot of my own thoughts about writing sex, and I found this post, as well as its follow-up, to be thought-provoking and challenging in all the right ways.
RG also had a terrific post later in the year about book covers, specifically the limiting literalism of romance and erotica covers. I’m still thinking about that one too.
2. Meljean Brook stages the author meltdown to end all author meltdowns
Checked Twitter. Saw an author mention they are not enjoying a recently released book. Didn’t mention the title, but I just know she is talking about my book, because I haven’t seen her mention it on her Twitter stream before this. WHY DON’T YOU GROW A PAIR AND JUST SAY IT, YOU JEALOUS COW?
I don’t even remember which real-life author meltdown inspired this parody, but I’m grateful to whatever real-life author that was. The link above goes to the first of five posts. If you can make it all the way through #4 (“LORD COCKMONSTER IS NOT AN ASSHOLE AND IT SAYS SO RIGHT ON PAGE 374!!!!! “) without spitting a beverage on your keyboard, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.
3. At Dear Author, reviewer Lazaraspaste brings the hammer down on Fifty Shades of Grey
James has Christian constantly praising Ana’s intelligence and bravery and cleverness, but everything Ana does renders these compliments into ironic, nay sarcastic statements. Every time something sexual is mentioned Ana blushes or flushes or gasps. Any time Christian tries to have an adult conversation with her about BDSM, she bites her lip and peeks out from under her hair like Princess Diana used to do at the paparazzi.
2012 was a banner year for passionate, articulate negative reviews. This one, on one of Romancelandia’s highest-profile sites, taking on the highest-profile book of the year, was a particular standout. At a time when the mainstream media seemed keen to attribute Fifty Shades’ popularity to the undiscriminating tastes of the romance-loving reader, it was good to see an opinion like this, stated with authority and conviction.
Because the romance-reading community is not a monolith. We read critically, and we disagree with each other about what makes a good romance. If the Fifty Shades phenomenon proved anything, it surely proved that.
4. Jennifer Armintrout recaps the Fifty Shades books, chapter by chapter
Chapter 23 recap. You’ve been waiting for the infamous tampon scene, and now here it is. Here it fucking is.
Hilarious, profane, and fueled by three or four different kinds of outrage. Forty-nine chapters in, I find the series every bit as compelling as when she started back in April.
Interlude – With two vehemently anti-Fifty posts in my top ten, I felt like I should give time to the opposition. I didn’t encounter any especially memorable pro-Fifty posts this year, but I did find this very persuasive defense of the Twilight books, and I think a lot of its points could be made for the Fifty books too.
5. At the Ballroom Blog, Miranda Neville helps Lady B. make a coat of arms
Perhaps I can help. I have some rudimentary skill in Photoshopping, which is what we call watercolor painting these days.
I’m a sucker for Neville’s voice, and for her deft way with historical detail. Both in her books and in her Ballroom Blog posts, she always manages to teach me things I didn’t know, in the most entertaining fashion.
…the child arrived without so much as a Kleenex, nevermind the mandatory car seat so I couldn’t go anywhere with her. We stared at one another for awhile, she no happier than I but both of us raised to be polite in all situations.
Mean Fat Old Bat is
the reason the internet was invented a shining example of the fact that, in the wild-west democracy of the internet, a great voice can make up for a lack of ostensible “platform.” “I read books and I have thoughts about them” pretty well sums up MFOB’s platform, and it’s all the platform she needs.
She had a bunch of insightful, highly readable reviews – both mean and otherwise – this year, interspersed with the occasional non-review post about Halloween traditions in her corner of Iowa, or an unexpected morning snowed in. The babysitting post was my favorite, though, because it told a sweet story in unsentimental fashion and she managed to sneak a book review in there, too.
…a “customer service” approach is pointless to me. I don’t care if the author is sorry I didn’t like the book or some element of it. That doesn’t change my reading experience. If I think the author can’t use commas to save her life, or I hate the kind of heroine she writes, I’m not going to pick up another of her books just because she’s a “nice person.” (And since I’m confident in my opinions, I’m not changing my review or rating, either. I am going to be pissed off).
I could probably have made a Top Ten comprised entirely of posts from Liz’s Something More: My Extensive Reading blog, so often did the blog’s sensibilities and preoccupations line up with mine this year. I’ll make quick mention of her post on sympathy and George Eliot, and the one about the overdetermined hero, and also her guest post on Anna Cowan’s blog where she talked about reading with an academic sensibility.
The issue of appropriate reader-writer relations was a big one in 2012, and I think Liz’s “I Don’t Want to be your Customer” post spoke for a lot of fed-up readers – many of whom went on to articulate their own frustrations in the epic comment thread.
8. Anna Cowan explains the theory of id-fueled romance writing
It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, and it certainly doesn’t have to be an emotion or moral you would agree with. But something about it is primal and captivating, and there’s no question that the idea of it grabbed the writer and wouldn’t let go until it was written down.
This post did more than any other this year to help me understand the whole “There are all kinds of flaws in the writing, and in real life I’d kick this hero to the curb, but I inhaled this book and immediately downloaded the next one” way of reading.
Anna’s blog, Diary of a(n Accidental) Housewife, was new to me in 2012, and a very happy discovery. I love her forthright interest in issues of gender, and her belief in Romance as a genre where those issues can be explored. Her debut historical romance, featuring a cross-dressing duke, is way up on my list of most anticipated 2013 reads.
9. At Wonkomance, Ruthie Knox muses on escapism in historical romance
It doesn’t make the book a bad book, by any means, or one I’d discourage someone else from reading — it just makes me wonder, you know, what is it? Is it a romance novel if it makes me feel this hopeless, or is it something else?
This started as a review of Carrie Lofty’s His Very Own Girl, and spilled into a discussion – with a fantastic comment thread – of how far into the grittier, sadder, uglier aspects of a historical period a romance can go and still be a satisfying romance.
I’m going to cheat and add a 9a here – Erin Satie used Ruthie’s post as a springboard for an analysis of what exactly we mean when we talk about escapism. It’s one of my own pet preoccupations in the genre, so I’ve been glad to see it getting some attention this year.
10. At Dear Author, Janet revisits the question of whether Romance will ever be a “respectable” genre
Because it’s not just about Romance as a genre. It’s also about (primarily) women writing about the inner lives of other women. It’s about validating books that take as their subject matter the emotional journey to love, even and especially when that love comes in a form that challenges the social status quo (e.g. m/m or f/f Romance).
This is a topic that comes up again and again, and I never get tired of reading about it. Janet’s post also took on RWA’s RITA award, specifically in light of the new judging criteria that gives a higher weight to “romance” than to more objective measures of writing. Good comment thread with lots of strong opinions.
A related Dear Author opinion piece, also by Janet, asked whether we, as readers, have given too much weight to subjective tastes. I go back and forth on this question myself, so I’m always curious to read other people’s thoughts.
That’s my ten, but I’m sure I left off some good ones. Readers, what were some blogging highlights of 2012 for you? And what topics do you expect, or hope, to see getting some coverage in 2013?