Issue #68 (March 1, 1999)

Words:
In the most recent journal installment of Beverly's Book Basket, Beverly talked about Entertainment Weekly's recent reviews of The Romance Reader and All About Romance. She mentioned feeling as though she had to clean up her house because outsiders were coming to visit. She didn't much like the feeling.

During the month in which I knew AAR was going to be reviewed by EW, I was in a constant state of anxiety, not helped at all by my daughter's asking, "What if they give you an F, mommy?" You can ask my family or simply check my medicine cabinet - I'm sure I went through several bottles of Pepto in January. My concern was not, as Beverly stated, "the respectability of romance," but the acceptability of the site and its subject matter. Measured against the Internet as a whole, in terms of content, entertainment value, and attractiveness, how did AAR fare to a generalist? And perhaps most importantly, would we do well enough to attract romance readers who hadn't visited us before?

I care, quite frankly, quite little any more about proving the respectability of romance novels. They should be accepted and respected for what they are - wonderful entertainment with the power to engage our imaginations. No one should feel as though they have to elevate the genre to "outsiders" because it's fine as it is. I had precisely the opposite reaction as Beverly. To use her language, having a huge mainstream publication give AAR a great grade proved to me that we don't have to clean up or redecorate our house for anyone; it's fine as it is.

This is a big leap for me personally - I used to feel the need to talk about plot-lines that dealt with major issues such as spousal and/or child abuse, drug and/or alcohol addiction, and so forth when trying to convince others that romance novels were worthwhile. I used to need to talk about how this author had a Ph.D. in chemistry or a law degree when trying to convince others that romance authors weren't bimbos. Thank goodness this need has finally passed!

I realized the need had passed last weekend at a party my husband and I attended. I got into a conversation with a lawyer my husband works with, a man who reads extensively, and we got to talking about what I do. When he asked the type of site I run, for the first time I unabashedly revealed that it was about romance novels. He was immediately interested and we spent roughly an hour talking about it. As you might imagine, I was thrilled to be talking about this to someone who didn't pooh-pooh romance novels, although he's never read one and likely never will. Frankly, it was just thrilling to talk to someone who loves to read, and read widely. I'm not used to talking with someone who reads more than just what's at an airport kiosk or the top of the bestseller list.

On the way to that party, I had asked my husband which authors of those he reads regularly write the best words? He was dumbfounded. Which authors, I asked, write the best characters? Again, he had no answer; other than to say he reads for the story and doesn't pay attention to anything other than whether the story holds his interest. The reason I asked him these questions is that the night before, I'd read Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker. While not as wonderful as Jitterbug Perfume, it was still a good read. What I'd most noticed about it were the words. Tom Robbins writes wonderful words - he conveys what he wants to convey in a most engaging manner.

After I'd read Still Life, I thought about writing a review of it, but decided that describing the plot wouldn't do justice to the book because I didn't know how to talk about the words. I still don't, other than to say that I was fully engaged in this very odd book because the words drew me in. They drew me into the characters and plot very enthusiastically, even when what the author was describing or had characters doing at the time was gross or violent or downright weird. See, talking about a princess in exile from the nation of Furstenberg-Barcalonas who has a yen for Ralph Nader, who goes to Hawaii for an environmental conference and meets Bernard, an outlaw bomber, and discovers the powers and connections between redheads, the pyramids, a pack of Camels, and Thomas Jefferson doesn't begin to do it justice.

The theme of the book is how to make love stay. Yes - Still Life is basically a romance. A convoluted one to be sure, but a romance nonetheless, and as romantic a one as any you're likely to come across. Just romantic in perhaps a different way. For instance, bodily fluids are not my favorite things to read about in a love scene, but this book's love scenes were quite funky. In one such scene, our lovers discover they are both redheads. Bernard pulls out one of his pubic hairs to prove to Princess Leigh-Cheri that he is a redhead (he has to dye the hair on his head because he's on the lam for being an outlaw bomber). Warning: If you are offended by explicit sexuality, you might want to scroll past this snippet.

"Can you match that?" he challenged.
Okay, buster. Okay okay okay okay okay okay.
Beneath the table, beneath a map of Hawaii with extraneous atolls, she submarined a hand into the depths of her skirt and slid it along the flat of her thigh. It winnowed into her panties. She yanked. Ouch! Damn it! She yanked again. And presto, there it was, curly and stiff, and as red as a thread from a socialist banner.
"What do you think of that?" she asked brightly. Then she noticed that from the tip of the hair, there hung, like a tadpole's balloon, a tiny telltale bead of fishy moisture. O sweet Jesus, no! She released her grip on the crumpled toilet paper. It fluttered to the deck like a stricken dove. Her face heated as crimson as the hair, and then some. She could have died.
"What do I think of that?" The Woodpecker's voice was very, very gentle. "I think it could make the world a better place.". . . .

Slurp and slobber, smack and excess water. Leigh-Cheri and Bernard kissed deliriously. They were speaking in tongues. Like an animal at a salt lick, he cleaned up the last of her tears. He even kissed a pearl of her snot away. . . .

As time passed, the air in the cabin was composed of two parts oxygen, one part nitrogen, and three parts slish vapor, French mist, and Cupid fumes. Their funk billowed over them like a sail. It carried them across the crest of spasm and spasm. The aroma of her c_nt knocked the hatches back. The scent of his semen swamped the bilges.
"Ooh," she marveled. "Don't we smell pretty?"
"Good enough to eat," he answered. He thought about what he had said. It gave him ideas.

Many of the words and concepts in that abridged snippet were pretty icky - eating someone else's buggers, comparing pubic hair - and yet I didn't cringe, close the book, and throw it across the room. Admittedly this wasn't my favorite love scene ever, but it conveyed the quirks of the story and its characters in a manner that had me turning the page to see what would come next. (If you're interested in reading this book, here's a link to Amazon.com for ordering purposes.)

Maybe I'm just weird myself, but I love it when authors can make me fall in love with their words, and through those words, characters and stories which perhaps otherwise I wouldn't enjoy. I'm sure that explains why I can read and actually enjoy Anne Rice's horrific descriptions of a vampire pulling a heart out of a body and literally sucking it dry. Neil Gaiman's (whom I recently interviewed and plan to write about very soon) Neverwhere has a very strange storyline that captured me because the words had a very visual component to them, something he strove for after the television series based on the Neverwhere idea didn't convey that as he had hoped. Kathryn Lynn Davis' writing - Too Deep for Tears (will someone write a Desert Isle Keeper Review of this?) and All We Hold Dear are written with very lyrical and sumptuous prose.

Davis' words literally sing to me, something I can say about no other author. Where romances are concerned, I think perhaps it's more difficult because words used to convey emotion can easily slip into the flowery, the purple, and become silly. In thinking about my favorite romances, it's hard to remember which captured my imagination through the words - which romances had either a lyrical quality in the writing or conveyed their images the most visually.

One thing I notice immediately is that both the Robbins' book and the Neil Gaiman book are filled with humor - while at times dark, especially the latter, these are not angst-ridden books. And yet, both the KLD books and the romances listed below from my favorites list are very much two-hanky reads in which the words were wonderful:

Another book to capture me with its words is not an all-time favorite, but deserves mention nonetheless - Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Ann Verge. This is a road romance at its finest. The words in this book transported me to the wilds of 17th century Canada.

Words indeed are powerful - anyone who has ever fought with a family member knows this, although such words are usually accompanied by psychological baggage. Words in books are also powerful; for the same reason or for some other reason(s)? Getting to the crux of this is difficult and perhaps I'm not explaining myself as well as I should. While I love words and am fairly competent at stringing them together, I can't make music out of them, so forgive my clumsiness.

Now that I think of it, having words sing to me with their beauty is different than having words paint a scene, although it takes a great deal of skill to accomplish either task. The jazz pianist David Benoit has a CD that is my favorite - Freedom at Midnight. One of the cuts on this CD is the piano instrumental Kei's Song. Without a doubt, it is the most lyrical instrumental piece I've ever heard, and, no, it's not filled with violins or harps. Long before I knew the name or that he wrote it for his wife, I knew this was a love song.

Catherine Archer, whose Velvet Bond is my most favorite medieval romance, wrote Velvet Touch, which I reviewed at The Romance Reader. While not destined to become an all-time favorite for me, the book had an odd influence on me as I read it. I felt as though I were wrapped in a velvety cocoon while I read it. That had never happened before while reading a book, and sadly, has not happened again. It was a wonderful feeling.

The words in Elizabeth Lowell's Too Hot to Handle affected me strangely as well. This type of book generally does not appeal to me - the hero is too mean to the heroine and the prose is incredibly purple - and yet my entire body and mind was like a tuning fork at the exact pitch of the book. I cried, my body grew hot, I cried some more, my body grew hotter, until I needed a cold shower to snap myself out of it.

I'd like to have you talk with me about words. Which books have captured you through the prose itself - not the stories or the characters directly, but through the words? Were they of a lyrical quality or highly visual quality? Is there room on this list for lighter fare?

More on Words - Anatomy of the Anatomy:
Back in November, we began a discussion of various words to describe male and female body parts. I started the discussion about the word "penis" and the term "to come," and readers and authors continued the discussion, expanding upon it and naming words and phrases they'd seen used to describe the, ah, male member and the act of completion. Of course, my own twisted mind wants to know who came up with "orgasm" or "coming" to describe said orgasm altogether? We know that Thomas Crapper invented the flushable toilet. Where did orgasm come from (she wrote with a perfectly straight face)?

Readers are never shy about stating their preferences in this arena, so let's continue that discussion now:

Dee wrote that she prefers realism to euphemism. "I don't want to be in the middle of reading a steamy love scene and find out that the heroine has decided to 'cup the masculine sacs' of the hero. I burst out laughing. I don't mind the 'p' word since, basically, that is what it is. I have the 'manroot' issue as well (images of carrots and beets - yuck!) Sex is an okay word but it seems kind of impersonal in the context, as though the body part is behaving independently of the character (course, in some cases it is). Personally speaking, C_ck needs to be used when the pov is from the hero. That is what most men call it - especially in contemporaries. I have yet to find a word for the female anatomy that doesn't, if I concentrate too long, make me giggle. And as far as the act of completion goes, that is tricky business. How does one actually verbalize such a unique experience? Climax is a place in Saskatchewan - people should "come." The word can be very sensual if used properly. Granted this is all coming from a reader who likes more spice than nice in her romances, but even the racy ones can be destroyed if the adjectives get too ridiculous."

Mark, our resident humor expert, calls our culture Dionysian Puritanism, which sounds about right to me. He commented on Amanda Quick's use of imagery and language based on the characters themselves in her love scenes. He wrote, "In Dangerous, there was the lock/key and fire/ice language. In Desire, it was flowers and scents. In Deception the language was of the sea and exploration. The character theme distracts from or adds to the basic bodily language."

Although I've enjoyed many an earlier Amanda Quick love scene, the one in Mystique referring to "the entrance to her secret citadel" seemed altogether silly to me. On the other hand, in Jayne Castle's Zinnia (Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle are both pseudonyms for Jayne Ann Krentz), I didn't care for the reference to proud nipples or to the use of clitoris. Proud nipples seem silly; clitoris seems clinical.

An anonymous reader prefers "penis" for nonsexual situations; when in the midst of a love scene, "manhood" and "his sex" works better for her. In the right context, she wrote, "I kind of like "c_ck. Susan Johnson uses it well. It's a word best used by hardened characters (you know what I mean - those men and women who have had a lot of sex without love)."

Reader Nora had this to say: "There is definitely a hierarchy of male reproductive organ euphemisms in romance. It is ok for men to say whatever about their parts, especially when they are around other guys and being all manly. Whores get to use an extensive vocabulary, too. But God forbid that our litle heroine should say anything other than breathless metaphors. Personally, I prefer penis to some of the other things that I've read and for once I would like a heroine who has at least some clue about male anatomy."

The author Kat Mallory doesn't mind the word "c_ck," especially if a male character describing himself uses the term. She added, "This is something one of the characters in my books does. After all, when a man refers to himself, he usually tells it like it is. Right? However, I agree with Laurie that it does take the "romance' out of a lovemaking scene to use such a vivid description. Especially by a female character."

As far as the phrase "to come" goes (again written with a perfect straight face), here's what some of you had to say:

Queasy can't stand the term "to come" at all. "It is so distasteful," she writes, "that even in a clinical setting I can only bring myself to whisper it. It causes such an unpleasant mental image that I can't read it without wincing, blushing or vomiting. A dignified couple should by all means 'climax'. It is rude and coarse to do otherwise."

While some readers find coming too vulgar, others find it that way only when spelled as "cum." I'd have to agree; "coming" is fine but "cuming" is vulgar. As for dignity in romance? I couldn't disagree more. Sex is not dignified; it is wonderfully wet, squishy, and altogether funky. To picture a man and a woman making dignified love seems rather sad to me and connotes sexual intercourse solely for the purposes of procreation.

Carol, sometimes Desert Isle Keeper Reviewer, sometimes cover columnist, has her own take on the topic. She wrote:

Words are just words. Maybe they bother me less because I read a lot of mainstream fiction and hardboiled crime novels before I read the romance genre. I actually prefer the real words or words that everyone uses as the slang equivalent to some of the dreadful euphemisms used in romance writing. What upsets me a lot more is to read a vivid description, perhaps of a battle, and be able to tolerate all the gore. My tolerance is higher in reading gore than it is in watching it on film. I've hit the point where I can only watch war movies on video, if at all. As to sex words though, I'm open, but the author better be good at using them (not everyone is; some authors couldn't write a sex scene if their last dollar depended on it!). But if you can write it well, go for it and use the words you need to use!"

As you can see, there's little agreement on the subject. While we might be able to develop a list of words that most of us believe are too purple, too flowery, too silly, we likely cannot develop a list of words most of us believe are "just right."

The 1999 AAR Reader Awards:
Probably twice as many readers voted in the 1999 AAR Reader Awards this year as voted in the 1998 AAR Reader Awards. For over a month I provided an on-line list of the highest vote getters, many of which eventually lost out in the end. As usual, only some of the books I'd voted for won or received honorable mention. And, also as usual, some of the biggest winners were books I haven't yet read and likely never will.

Cecelia had a similar experience to my own, although perhaps more extreme. Not one of the authors who won or received honorable mention was one for whom she had voted. She wrote, "It's not that I didn't read almost all of the 'winners' but I just didn't figure they were as good as most voted. Am I the only one to experience this? Am I so completely out of the romance mainstream?"

I don't think Cecelia is out of the mainstream at all, although who am I to say? My candidates only garnered two wins and two honorable mentions! Although, I tend to know that my tastes are somewhat different, which suits me just fine. If we all had the same likes and dislikes, how boring things would be!

What struck me about some of the comments readers made, however, was in their surprise that lead authors did so well. Yes, we all read mid-list authors, and some of them are moving up so that I envision they will become lead authors soon, but it is not surprising that many best-selling authors did so well. All of us read mid-list books, but so many different ones, while most of us tend to read the latest by Nora Roberts or Susan Elizabeth Phillips, to name two.

By my calculations, lead authors won nine categories and nine others were won by varying levels of mid-list authors. It may be in how you determine which author is a mid-list author - I put Dara Joy in the mid-list range. Perhaps you don't. She's certainly a big author for her publisher, but is hardly in the Nora Roberts, SEP, Julie Garwood, Diana Gabaldon range. In the negative categories, more lead authors won dubious distinctions than did mid-list authors; likely proving that authors eventually do run out of steam.

Much of the discussion of the various winning characters, books, and authors, centered around Nora Roberts' Sea Swept, J. D. Robb's Holiday In Death, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Dream a Little Dream. About Sea Swept, one reader was astounded that it beat out Dream a Little Dream as Favorite Romance of 1998. This anonymous reader wrote, "The fact that Sea Swept won over Dream A Little Dream really grates on my nerves. Nora Roberts is a good storyteller and she hardly disappoints, Susan Elizabeth Phillips rules!!!! If I had the loads of moolah, I would definitely have sent copies of Dream to every reader that voted for Sea Swept and asked them how could have voted for it after reading such a marvelous creation."

AAR Reviewer/Editor Blythe is one of many readers who preferred Rising Tides to Sea Swept. She would not have voted for Dream, however, which is not her favorite romance by SEP by a mile. Blythe is still wondering why Danelle Harmon's The Beloved One didn't make it through the finals. Paulina also preferred Rising Tides to Sea Swept, and voted for Ethan and Grace as Favorite Couple of 1998. About Dream a Little Dream, she wrote, "it didn't cut it for me, not after reading such great SEP's like Heaven, Texas and It Had To Be You.

There was an entire discussion about Dream a Little Dream, partly at my instigation, on the message board for this column. I was frankly surprised at how well the book fared because I remembered hearing quite a few grumbles about it after it came out. It was too dark, the secondary romance was better than the primary romance, the hero too harsh and unforgiving, the heroine too unbelievable and depressing in how she denied herself to take care of her child. Which is why, when I read the heading Did any other SEP fans hate DALD? on our reviews message board, I pounced.

It all started with a posting from Laura Jane. . . .

"I loved Susan Elizabeth Phillips books on the Chicago Stars It Had to Be You, Heaven Texas, and Nobody's Baby But Mine. I also loved Kiss an Angel. However I was turned off by Dream a Little Dream. I hated everything about that book. . . Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an author that when I pick up her books I thought I knew what to expect, unique unforgettable characters, humor, a setting that you feel you could step into and feel right at home, humor, not your standard plots but instead those with a twist, humor, a feel good laugh out loud ending that makes you say yes yes (or more more!). . . What a disappointment Dream was. The potential for a great book was there, a great family and a setting like Salvation, North Carolina from Nobody's Baby But Mine, but Susan not only missed the bulls eye she missed the whole target. This book did not come close to what I expected from her."

Some readers who have read and enjoyed SEP before couldn't make the transition and accept the darkness of Dream. Other readers, who'd noticed the darkness in her previous books, found themselves loving it. Others, for whom Dream was their first SEP, found themselves enjoying it. For some readers it is the best book she's written. For others, it is the worst. Here's a smattering of the comments about the book to engender more controversy than any other in the voting:

Blythe: "I too was disappointed with Dream. I found the heroine's abject poverty hard to believe under the circumstances, although I liked her. I thought Gabe was a jerk. My main problem was that I thought the book should have been about Ethan and Kristy. I thought they were much more interesting as a couple."

Robin: "I just finished Dream and it was my second SEP, Lady Be Good was my first. I liked the book very much, and would recommend it, though I thought it had some major flaws. The darkness of the book didn't bother me (perhaps because I didn't have as many expectations as a more experienced SEP reader). What did bother me was unethical behavior on the part of the hero and heroine who never are made to recognize that they have done wrong."

Nancy Beth: Dream was a good book, definitely a powerful one for me, one I won't forget. However, Lady Be Good is really more my speed. I think it's inaccurate to put It Had to Be You in the same category as Lady Be Good. I just reread IHTBY today, and it has some, not pitch black, but dark moments. It didn't make me laugh out loud like Lady Be Good did. (The scene where he goes through her shopping bags from the convenience store, a classic!) Really, Lady is the funniest SEP so far. I think."

Carol: "Artists and writers get tired of doing the same old thing. That's probably why SEP wrote Dream. She probably felt like writing a darker story. This is not my favorite SEP. My favorites are Heaven, Texas, Honey Moon, and Nobody's Baby But Mine. The only two books I've had problems with are her Fancy Pants and Lady Be Good. Don't be devastated when your favorite writer tries something different. Her talent will probably wither up and die if she doesn't follow her own muse."

Sarah: "I admit to being a real fan of SEP. I have all of her contemporaries. However, the first book of hers that I read was Nobody's Baby But Mine, and while I liked it, it's not exactly my favorite. Then I got Dream which I liked much better. I guess I was just into the whole 'dark' mood of it. I could see why the characters reacted the way they did. My favorite SEP is Honey Moon - and it has plenty of dark moments."

The Venkarel: "Dream is really my favorite SEP. I enjoy her other books, but this style is more my speed. I think it's because of the characters, who are not flashy jock heroes (or Russian princes). Gabe is my favorite hero and I could see why he was behaving the way he did. (And the trouble with Edward was not all Gabe's fault.) I think he has a lot more sense than his brothers combined. And he didn't doubt Rachel for a moment. Rachel, after I got over her being the Widow Snopes, was admirable. She was willing to work hard and didn't let pride get in the way of caring for Edward. I thought Ethan was a jerk, and that opinion never changed. It's a shame that Kristy had to pine for him. He's not worth it, IMO. Cal is Cal, and Jane's there to keep him in line. . . Dream is definitely a different style - darker than the usual SEP - and that's why it's not as popular with SEP fans."

While most of the discussion about our awards for 1998-published romances centered around Dream a Little Dream, readers also wanted to talk about Eve and Roarke, the couple who, for the third year in a row, won as favorite couple of the year. J.D. Robb's In Death series has captured the attention of romantic suspense readers for several years now, and has kept the love alive and growing for Eve and Roarke.

Perhaps Nicole put it best when she commented:

"I was with the majority on this one. Eve Dallas and Roarke are quite simply awesome together. However, it should be noted that they have an unfair advantage - Nora Roberts writes them! Seriously, by being in a series they get to show a developing relationship. If the voting were based solely on any one of the books, I doubt they would be such favorites. But we get to see their relationship change and watch them try to accommodate each other without losing themselves, a fascinating dynamic that we rarely get to enjoy. If anyone knows of another series, other than Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum romance-crime series, I would love to hear about it. Now I'm going to go harass the Barnes and Noble clerk some more about notifying me the moment Conspiracy in Death is released."

Nicole, I don't know if you like paranormal romance, but I understand Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series is stellar. Although, then again, maybe not. . . .

According to The Venkarel, who has read both series, "Eve & Roarke would come out tops for me no matter what. First of all, I like them both, and second of all, they have a romance together, a relationship that is constantly evolving through the books. I don't see the romance developing in the Anita Blake series. Considering I waited six books for Anita to pick a guy and consummate the relationship...and then realize that she doesn't trust nor does she exactly like the guy, I'm a bit disenchanted with the whole romance angle in the Anita Blake series. (And so I keep saying, don't read Anita Blake for the romance.)"

Aside from all the discussion about these particular books, I did hear echoes of my own earlier comments about 1998-published books in general. Long-time AAR visitor Karen, who wrote an article some time ago for us on her love of Regency Romance, indicated that most of the books she read in 1998 were published in earlier years. She was surprised at our winners because, "there isn't one winner on the list that isn't mostly a 'light' book. Perhaps that's why I didn't find much to thrill me this year, I'm missing the angst of my favorites Kinsale, Putney, etc. I'm saving my last Carla Kelly, and hoping that Mary Balogh doesn't stray too far."

You might recall that shortly after voting began, I wrote in an earlier column about the seeming dearth of most-hanky reads in 1998-published books. Indeed, when all the votes were tallied, while Dream a Little Dream won the most votes of votes made, for the first year in three, most readers left the Most-Hanky category empty. We'll have to see if this is part of a long-term trend. Feel free to keep me posted.

As for my comments early on in the voting that many of the books I'd read in 1998 were published in earlier years, that too struck a chord with readers. At the start of this column, I mentioned how the Internet has ultimately given me pride over what I read and what I love - romance novels. The Internet has also changed my reading habits; it's changed many of yours as well. Does this sound familiar to you?

"The fact that many of us were reading many books not written in 1998 comes right back, full circle, to the Internet, the web, and LLB herself. We romance readers now have an info source that tells us the best romance books written in every single year. We are able to tie into other review sites, into online bookstores, both new and used, message boards, listservs, auction services. We can not only find out about any book written in any year but we can find the book itself! Contrast this with maybe just 2 years ago when our major resource was Romantic Times magazine, which only reviews new releases. Also compare that to when we solely used stores like Borders or Walden's to find romance books. This meant only new releases and those few books deemed worthy of more than one printing in the romance genre. I can tell you that the big bulk of my romance dollar in '98 went to used books bought online or at UBSs. Why should I read a so-so book written in '98 when I can read a great book written in another year? I bought and read '98 books but I was very picky about what I bought because I had so many other great titles in my TBR built up solely from 'surfing the net'. I predict this is only going to intensify now that romance readers can so easily share info on the great romance reads, both what they are and where to find them!" -- Carol

Ava too can attest to the power of the Internet. She wrote, "I agree about what others have said regarding the Internet. I have read many, many more books by authors I did not know beans about because of this site and other sites like it. The Internet has changed my reading habits!"

Candy as well is in agreement. "I didn't vote this year - I didn't read enough 1998 romances! I discovered shopping at on-line UBSs, and I spent a ton of money buying out-of-print novels written by my favorite authors, like Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase, Laura Kinsale and Anne Stuart. In the case of Chase and Kleypas, I liked the old books much more than the new releases! If I had a reviews page, the dates on the books I read would range from 1984 to 1999, with the most coming in at the mid-90's. And while the authors won't receive the revenue for the used books (which is truly regrettable, because I think some of the authors deserve all the money they get and more), I'm fairly happy with my purchases because for the first time, what I wanted and what I could get wasn't dictated by huge corporations like Barnes and Noble, or Borders."

The Message Board:
It's time to post to the message board again. Please consider the following and comment about any and all the topics discussed in this issue of my column:

Does having a light shone on romance by "outsiders" make you feel the anxiety Beverly experienced or does the good outcome make you feel as though "the house is clean?" Have you ever felt defensive when talking to people about your love of romance novels? Have you had reached the point I finally have, and you no longer feel defensive? Please share!

Words - Am I insane when I talk about words singing to me? Do you love words too? Which books have captured you through the prose itself - not the stories or the characters directly, but through the words. Were they of a lyrical quality or highly visual quality? Is your list filled with darker fare? Is there room on this list for lighter fare? Has a romance ever wrapped you in a blanket? Has your body ever felt like a tuning fork at the exact pitch of a romance?

Words: Anatomy of the Anatomy - Whether you've read a silly sex phrase recently, or read a term or description of a body part or lovemaking that worked for you, please comment. Should lovemaking be dignified or "dirty?"

The 1998 AAR Reader Awards - Feel free to continue to comment about the winners and losers. If you read many of the books but they weren't your favorites, let us know. If you read few of the books because you were busy reading books from other years, let us know. If you are in a position to explain the mid-list and how authors fit on their publishers' lists, let us know.

Until next time, TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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