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Archive for March, 2013

It has been a way-more-than-usually exhausting week, so I’ll make this short and choppy.

The Duchess War kicked A Gentleman Undone‘s butt in the second round of DABWAHA this morning, so I’m out of the tournament. Courtney Milan, because she is a total class act, has decided to mark her double victory over me by telling her readers how awesome my books are and giving some away. So if you’re here without having read my books, and you have some interest in reading them, now’s your chance. A million thanks to Courtney for being such a gracious opponent, and may she go far in the tournament.

As you may recall, I’d promised to write some dirty Duchess War fanfic if I won. I’m thinking I might write it anyway, just because the idea has now captured my imagination. I’ll keep you all posted.

Thank you, everyone who voted for one of my books and/or said supportive things on social media. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, this was one of those occasions when it really was a huge honor just to be nominated.

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The first round of DABWAHA voting is over, with mixed results for Team Cecilia Grant. A Lady Awakened was beaten decisively by Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War (sorry, everyone who’d picked it in their bracket! I tried to warn you!). A Gentleman Undone squeaked by Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses, earning it a second-round matchup with… wait for it… Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War!

Something, clearly, needs to be done about The Duchess War. And it happens I have something in mind.

You’ve all read The Duchess War, right? Well, between you and me, you know what there was too much of in The Duchess War? Plot. Also, nuance. And themes. And accurate historical detail about things like hygiene committees and how a handbill got printed in the year 1863.

And you know what there was not nearly enough of? The hero and heroine getting their mutual freak on in the City of Lights!

So, to lure a few undecided voters my way, and also to gratify the little hearts of all those good people who believe romance writers to be nothing but a bunch of smut peddlers, I hereby pledge to write and post an original piece of smutty Duchess War fan fiction if A Gentleman Undone emerges triumphant from the second round (voting runs March 23 from 0:00 AM to noon, Central Time).

I’m thinking of starting it something like this…

 

“Minnie, look down.”

Against her cheek he murmured those words, his breath trifling with a stray strand of her hair, his rough timbre prompting such a shiver as made her glad of the wall at her back.

Minnie looked down, into the space he’d opened up between them when he’d drawn half a step away to fumble with his trouser fastenings.

Oh my.

 

 

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So I’m a feminist. Which I’m happy to say is a fact hardly worth remarking on in the romance community. (Probably one of the biggest misconceptions about the genre is that its readers and writers, overwhelmingly, are retrogressive types who wish we could all go back to the days when “men were men” and women dwelt idly on pedestals. Not so.)

I’m remarking on the fact anyway, though, because writer/blogger Jessica Luther recently interviewed a handful of us for an article she did for the Atlantic website on feminism and the romance novel. It forced me to be a little more precise about some things that are generally ambiguous for me, and also to recognize the areas where ambiguity feels like the truest statement of my position.

Only a little of what I hashed out in my emails with Jessica actually fit into the final article, though, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-hash some of it here. And probably the kernel of it all can be stated as:

I’m a feminist who writes romance. That doesn’t necessarily mean I write feminist romance.

In fact…at the risk of being booted from the romance community…I don’t know whether I believe there’s such a thing as feminist romance. Definitely I don’t believe the genre is inherently feminist. I think we need to observe a more rigorous definition of feminism than “written and read mostly by women,” which is an argument one occasionally hears in support of the genre as feminist.

Also, there are a lot of what I would call nonfeminist or even anti-feminist tropes and storylines in the genre, historically as well as today. I don’t think you can make a feminist case for the persistent emphasis on wealthy or otherwise super-powerful men (dukes, billionaires, alpha werewolves, Navy SEALs) as the only ones worth marrying, for example. (Which doesn’t mean those aren’t valid storylines; only that they’re not feminist ones, by my measure.)

So I’m not comfortable saying romance as a whole is feminist, but does that mean no single romance novel is?

Again, I don’t know. There are definitely romances behind which you can perceive a feminist sensibility. Courtney Milan’s books spring to mind. And as part of the interview, Jessica asked if there were romances I’d recommend to feminists who’d never read one, and I had no trouble coming up with a list. (It starts with Bettie Sharpe’s Ember, by the way.)

But “romance that might appeal to feminists” and “romance that actually is feminist” aren’t quite the same thing.

A big part of the issue for me is that our genre doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists alongside the wedding industry, traditional “women’s magazines,” and countless other forces that pelt a woman with the message that her most important work in life is to attract and retain a man. And in this context, I just don’t know if a genre that privileges the romantic relationship above other aspects of a person’s life – as the romance novel, by genre constraint, necessarily does – can ever really be seen as a feminist document.

Too, I have thoughts I can’t articulate to my satisfaction concerning the genre’s preoccupation with themes of repair and resolution. People heal, in romance. Estranged families reconcile. The wrongly outcast are restored to their proper place in society. Injustice is righted and whatever was out of balance is brought back into balance. At the end of the book, we know everything’s going to be basically okay and we don’t need to worry about those people anymore. I haven’t put my finger on why this doesn’t feel feminist to me (maybe I think feminism entails a bleaker outlook? maybe I want to see order assailed, and broken down, rather than restored? I’m not sure.) but the fact is it doesn’t.

On the other hand.

I think it’s true that the personal is political. And that part of the work of feminism involves asserting the worth and dignity of those things that have historically been discounted and trivialized as belonging to the women’s sphere.

Despite the fact that most all of us on the planet, men as well as women, sooner or later fall in love and generally hope to find someone to go through life with, the whole “falling in love” thing has somehow come to be seen as women’s business. With a lot of opportunities for shame attached, whether because a woman is a Bridezilla, or keeps falling for guys who are Just Not That Into Her, or is so pathetic and naive as to read stories about other people falling in love, complete with happy endings. I think we need to question our cultural belittlement of romantic love, and I think it might be feminist to do so.

Ultimately it’s a question on which I’m unresolved. For me that’s a good thing – from a creative standpoint, I’d rather start with questions than answers. If I had it all figured out, I don’t think the genre would be nearly as interesting or dynamic to me.

But that’s me. Feminism means different things to different people (as was brought home by the recent epic Last Name Debate), and I’m curious to hear other people’s opinions. Does the genre, or individual books within it, meet your definition of feminism? Why or why not? And is anyone else out there in the Undecided camp with me?

 

 

 

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The DABWAHA first-round matchups are set, and to put it bluntly, I’m facing a world of hurt.

A Lady Awakened vs. The Duchess War

A Lady Awakened is up against Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War, and Courtney is an established DABWAHA powerhouse. She’s like Gonzaga basketball: it doesn’t matter where she’s seeded; she is going to be a factor.

A Gentleman Undone vs. A Notorious Countess Confesses

A Gentleman Undone faces Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses…which was voted Best Romance of 2012 in All About Romance’s reader poll. Not just Best Historical, but Best Romance, period.

So, yeah, I’m facing a good chance of an ignominious early double exit.

But it’s an intriguing and fairly elegant set of matchups! Lady and Duchess both happen to feature some cringeworthy bad sex, and yesterday on Twitter Courtney challenged me to a Bad-Sex-Off. I don’t even know what that is, but I said sure. Because, bad sex? I’m there!

Gentleman and Countess both feature fallen-women heroines who wind up with deeply decent men, which also sets up an interesting duel.

And a whole separate level of intrigue is the fact that my two books are adjacent to each other in the bracket. That means if I win one of my two matchups, I’ll be facing either Duchess or Countess in two consecutive rounds. And if by some crazy chance I should happen to win both, I’d be squaring off against myself in round two. Which would mean some epic, split-personality, Gollum-style trash talking!

So fill out a bracket and vote when the voting starts. Although I couldn’t make this happen in my own bracket, I would love to see Ruthie Knox’s About Last Night meet up with Julie James’s About That Night. Wouldn’t that be an excellent opportunity for chaos?

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First things first: behold the beautiful cover for the German edition of A Lady Awakened!

German cover for A Lady Awakened

Lady and Gentleman have both sold to a few other countries, but so far those publishers have basically used the US cover, maybe cropped a little with the title in a different style. The German cover is the first one that’s wholly new. I think it’s gorgeous. I don’t expect ever again to be so lucky with book covers as I’ve been with my first book.

Also this week, most of the 2013 DABWAHA field was announced, and Lady and Gentleman both made it in!

Author-GameOn-Nominee2013 Author-GameOn-Nominee2013

You all know what DABWAHA is, right? No? It’s a March Madness-style bracket game, only ten times as awesome as other March Madness bracket games because it’s about ROMANCE NOVELS. The letters stand for Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors, and it’s put on jointly by Hellagood Blogs Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author. You can fill out a bracket and win wonderful prizes – learn all about it here.

Also, even before bracket-filling-out, you can get your favorite overlooked book into the field! There are eight slots in each of eight categories (Historical, Contemporary, Young Adult/New Adult, etc.), but only seven in each category have so far been filled. (Yes, I am hogging up 25% of the available Historical slots. I’m sorry. Also thrilled.) On this form you can nominate the eighth book for each category.

That’s my news, mostly, for now. The most recent book I loved was Crazy Thing Called Love, by Molly O’Keefe, and right before that, My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin. Has anyone read anything outstanding lately?

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