Issue #80 (October 1, 1999)

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Back in the Saddle, Again:
Whenever I take a short sabbatical from this column, it's at first accompanied by a sigh of relief and then, as the deadline for a new column nears, the fear of being unable to bring you a thoughtful new column comes crashing down. There's so much going on that it's hard to know where to begin, but I guess I'll start by sharing the news with those of you who have not yet heard, that Harlequin Historicals author Suzanne Barclay passed away last month. Those of us who enjoyed her English and Scottish medievals will miss her, and those of us who had met her and knew her devilish good humor and inner strength feel a great loss.

And, for those who read in the SF/fantasy genre, you might or might not have heard of the recent death of Marion Zimmer Bradley. I first read this author in college in a women in literature course (I was in my most radical feminist phase at the time) and was thrilled to discover a world in which women were so strong! I don't read SF/fantasy any more, but those of you who do should feel free, when it's time to post to the LN&V Message Board, to post some terrific SF/fantasy titles featuring strong women and/or strong romantic sub-plots.

During the summer, we ran a give-away contest for several weeks; five lucky readers won autographed copies of Patricia Gaffney's The Saving Graces. After awarding books based on entries in our 1999 Purple Prose Parody Contest, voting in the Romance Readers' Top 10 Funny Romances poll, naming our list of less-explicit/non-explicit romances (One Foot on the Floor), writing a review for our Desert Isle Keeper Reviews section, we awarded the fifth and final copy to the fifth reader to submit a topic for discussion in my column.

All of the topics submitted were very worthy of discussion. In each instance, I asked the reader to expand on her ideas; some readers did while others did not. In this issue of my column, we'll be taking up for discussion some of the topics submitted, and in those instances where the reader riffed on her topic, those rifs will be presented as well. And, it goes without saying (of course), that in some cases I'll be adding my own two cents.

The Male Brain

When I suggested a topic for Laurie’s column, I thought it would be good to focus on the Male Brain. Some novels, especially Nora Roberts’ excellent Chesapeake Bay trilogy had many readers commenting on the insight the books gave them into the workings of the male brain. Laurie asked me, "Could I convince her (and you, the readers) that “real men” exist in novels, and are there heroes who beg for suspension of disbelief?"

The answer is - Yes, and Definitely Yes.

Let’s take Definitely Yes first:
Alas, it is one of the charming Quinn brothers who tops the category of too good to be true. I agreed with Laurie’s assessment (in her review) that Philip Quinn from Inner Harbor is much too perfect for someone who was a gang member, thief, etc. by the age of thirteen. He is the rare hero who does not permit the revelation of The Big Secret to come between him and Sybill, the heroine. It is Philip who pursues, who breaks down Sybill’s walls and forces her to accept her feelings.

The Annoyingly-Too-Good-To-Be-True hero also makes an appearance in the person of Sir Colin of Ravenshaw from Teresa Medeiros' Touch of Enchantment. The point is made, to a fault, how honorable Colin is. He spent considerable time near prostitutes but not actually with them, comes home to devastation after fighting for the greater good, etc. but to me, he seemed to act honorably when it suited him. He bases his decision to kill the woman he’s been lusting after on one instance, when a little girl asks her if she is a witch and Tabitha smiles and says “Yes, I am.” Colin sighs and decides Tabitha should die because she said she is a witch. He conveniently forgets how much he has wanted her all along, has his little scene of praying for strength while she watches and is awed by the strength of his honor. Of course, once she’s tied up and waiting for the flames, he changes his mind because he wants to bed her.

Webb Calderon, in Suzanne Forster’s incendiary Innocence is the Perfect-Hero-Who-Knows-Best. Never mind the heroine, Mary Frances Murphy, is a former novitiate who was kicked out of the convent because she wants to experience sex. Never mind she has made it clear she wants him. No. Webb decides Mary Frances must be tied to the bed and have Zin Quai (don’t ask) applied to various body parts for her to surrender her innocence properly, because he knows best. He explains to her why this is for her benefit, because he knows best. Soon after, as she lies drowsily in the afterglow of his lovemaking, he injects her with a drug that will make her seem dead. But he does not tell her this because . . . all together now, he knows best. Of course, poor Mary Frances, who knows he’s into many naughty things, thinks he’s just murdered her.

Even when easy to trust, some heroes are in a whole other level - Tyberius Augustus Evans, from Dara Joy's High Energy, for example. The man is everything good, to the extreme. He is sexy as hell, funny, decides he wants the reticent heroine, Zanita, the second he meets her, will do anything to protect her, is filthy rich, has fantastic hair I would kill for, and is a complete genius. While Dara Joy makes Tyber lovable to the reader, where he could have been annoying or overbearing in other hands, he is (literally) too nurturing, too sure of his feelings for the heroine when he has barely met her. It has always struck me as odd that her sole contemporary has a hero that is a complete fantasy, while in the futuristic Matrix of Destiny series, there is a character who has not had his own book yet, but is filled with angst and torment, the archetype of the strong, silent one.

And then there is Lorgin Ta’al Krue, from Joy's Knight of a Trillion Stars (part of that futuristic series), who is pure fantasy through and through and the reader is glad of it. In Lorgin’s case, we never know exactly why he loves Deanna. He says she is his destiny, but that never quite explains it. It is not clear why he falls in love with her other than that it was fate. He states things he loves about her - her hair, etc. - but it still sounds like he is tailoring these comments to what fate chose for him. Had it been someone else, I felt Lorgin would have found things to like in her, too. This seems to be a trend in Dara Joy books. In Rejar - which boasts one of the most irritating heroines ever - I also felt that if Rejar had landed in someone else’s carriage, he would have fallen for her as well, except that in this book, Miss Lilac Devere made you wish he had.

While it might be mildly amusing to have to follow another society’s wildly different rules (for a little while) and play their little You Shall Play by my Rules, Little One idiosyncrasy, this sort of overbearing behavior (hopefully) has no place in real life. And I don’t even mean the physical expressions of this manner of thinking, as exemplified by Challen and Falon from Johanna Lindsey’s Warrior’s Woman and Keeper of the Heart (is it a wonder their names rhyme?). Much has been made of the fact that some women sometimes have fantasies where they play the submissive role. So when I have one, I go grab one of these books and by the time I finish it, I am glad I exist in this reality.

Yes, Real Men Exist in Romance Novels:
When I began thinking of heroes who are too good to be true, one that initially made my list began to edge closer and closer to middle ground. Since he is one of my all-time favorites, I thought I’d give him a longer look (no difficult task, mind you). Roarke, from J.D. Robb’s In Death series, is a megazillionaire who has only to touch things to turn them into gold, is a whiz at computers, is a dashing dresser, and has great taste in just about everything. But then I realized, when it comes to his emotions, he is more normal than he seems on the surface. He has enjoyed the company of many women, but when he meets the one for him, it boggles his mind. He is angry at the power Eve Dallas has over him - cannot believe he, of all people, has fallen for a cop, and is torn between letting Eve go and losing his sanity.

At one pivotal point he even tells her to leave because he can’t stand her treating him like another suspect, (Glory in Death) and when she turns and does just that, he slams his fist on the door-lock mechanism because he is ready to fall on his knees and beg her to stay. What’s the difference between Roarke and Philip Quinn? I am not sure. It has something to do with the fact that Roarke is still ruthless, he will still do whatever is needed, and if Eve gets mad at him for that, so be it, he’ll deal with that as well. He has no qualms about contradicting her or doing exactly what he knows will make her furious if it is what he feels he must do. Roarke, for all the superficial gloss, has not changed that much from the boy in Ireland who had to do nasty things to survive. As Eve herself tells him often, “I don’t want to know what you do.” Because she knows as well. And Roarke does have the considerable advantage of having a continuing story, I will admit.

As for the other Quinn brothers, they are closer to reality. Cameron Quinn is the quintessential male lost in female territory, the thrillseeker who has never stopped seeking, who gets into situations almost without thinking. He has the pursuer role taken from him, and while he enjoys Miz Spinelli and their relationship, he cannot quite brush away the little nagging feeling that he’s much too at home in her arms. Yes, he also takes over as homemaker and caring for Seth, but his mind is, for much of the first half of the novel, elsewhere. Happy bachelor he, Cameron wants things to be settled so he can go back and play with his toys again. Anna Spinelli, however, makes him reconsider.

Ethan Quinn has taken the opposite route and, well into his story, Rising Tides, has chosen not to act on the love he feels for the heroine. Perhaps the least engrossing of all the Quinns because of this passivity, he is, nonetheless, very real and human in how he considers the potential damage he might pass on to his children, or to his family. This fear and its consequences, while making for my least favorite installment in the trilogy, are indeed real, and his triumph over them heart-warming to see.

In Anne Avery’s A Dance on the Edge (from the Lovescape anthology), we see the reactions of a man dealing with a sudden, major change in life. Architect Jack Martin has had an accident and is now in a wheelchair. He tells the heroine (via the e-mail that constitutes most of this charming story) but takes it out on her when he falls off the chair during a visit to the construction site that she suggested. The misplaced anger and subsequent begging for forgiveness are both consequences of Jack’s pain, his declaration of love and desire for the heroine, and then, the mortification that she will think him a pervert completely natural in a man who opens his heart and then fears he has driven his beloved away. My only complaint about Ms. Avery’s fine story is that it was not longer.

Dane Hollister in Linda Howard’s Dream Man is a hero that does not measure the consequences of his actions. While he has admitted to the heroine that his interest in her is based both in romance and in duty,, he uses her to solve the case and is genuinely shocked when her reaction is far beyond what he had expected. Marlie calls him a “one-man SWAT team” and that he is. Dane goes full steam ahead, moving in with Marlie and making himself comfortable in her house, while at the same time, not acknowledging, even to himself, that what he feels is actually love, not until Marlie rolls her eyes to the heavens and asks him point blank, anyway.

So do real men exist in romance novels?

I will grant that while heroes are not supposed to be real to a fault, there are, among the wide spectrum of characters found in romance novels, men who genuinely have the qualities and faults that real men have. For every Anatole St. Leger ((The Bride Finder), who embodies the word ‘gothic’ in his manner and character so much that I felt he was there simply to offer contrast to the heroine’s sunnier mood, there is an Alex Moore (Anyone but You) who is so bewildered by his feelings for former-trophy-wife Nina that he completely misses what she really wants out of life. And for every Sebastian Dain (Lord of Scoundrels) brainwashed from birth into thinking he is the most repulsive being in existence, there is a Colin Kinross (The Heiress Bride) who repeatedly rapes his screaming bride with her brothers nearby and then abandons her with his horrible family - all right, this very last bit might not be all that foreign to those of you who have in-laws. But we know Sebastian, we know his pain, the source, the damage and the results, whereas I never felt I was anywhere near Colin to understand anything he did or if he remotely cared for his wife.

More on Real Men:
Although I've recently read three books involving men too good to be true, when Mary Claire first wrote me about this topic, I had a different thought altogether. I don't know about you, but I used to watch a couple of soap operas. I quit, however, after watching Dmitri on All My Children speak to Erica in such a romanticized manner that I turned the TV off and said to myself, "No man really talks like that!"

One of the reasons I so loved Cam and Ethan and Phillip in Seaswept was because of their dirty socks and belching. They seemed like such guys, even though my husband and his three brothers, truth be told, probably have more in common with Niles and Frasier from TV's Frasier. Before my husband reads this and screams at me, neither is really true. My point is that my personal experience with men did not match up to the brothers Quinn, but it did match up to my fantasy of what guys are really like.

When I read Inner Harbor, however, and was presented with Phillip, who is part dirty socks and part Frasier in his fastidiousness, my problem was not with this part of his personality. My problem was with his being too far in touch with his feminine, nurturing side to be real. As I wrote in my review, "Phillip was a tad too perfect, especially given his past. I've had this same complaint with a few of Roberts' other heroes - they can be too intuitive, too nurturing, too good to be believable.

As much as I love my own husband, as good of a person he truly is, he isn't intuitive in the same way a woman is, and nurturing doesn't come second nature to him. The point Nora Roberts makes when she creates this type of hero is that his background has been so wonderful that he is extra-special. For Phillip Quinn and Caine MacGregor (of the MacGregor series), their upbringings have made them into uber-mensches. While I love these books, I don't completely buy that because my own husband had an equally wonderful upbringing, and while he is definitely a mensch, he is not an uber-mensch.

Speaking of which, I've recently read Nora Roberts' Jewels of the Sun, and while the book won't be released until November, I've posted my review because I'm talking about the book here and now. Make no mistake about it - I loved this book and gave it Desert Isle Keeper Status. And while Aidan Gallagher doesn't exactly fit the uber-mensch mold, he is somewhat too good to be true. I'm in the midst of interviewing Nora about the book, part of a new trilogy, and about Aidan right now, and I've asked her about her heroes, so stay tuned.

Two other two books I've recently read featuring heroes too good to be true are Baby Love by Catherine Anderson, which I didn't particularly care for, and A Kiss to Dream On by Nessa Hart, which I did like (look for my review as we near the book's release date in December). By contrast, Tyber Evans, a hero whom Mary Claire found tgtbt, is my favorite romance hero. Why didn't I find him to be tgtbt? I think the answer lies in the type of book he stars in, as opposed to the type of book Anderson and Hart's heroes starred in.

Rafe Hendrick, the hero from Baby Love, is a different sort of tgtbt hero than is Hart's Jackson Puller. But, they are similar in that they are tortured souls who become uber-mensches for their heroines. Tyber Evans, on the other hand, stars in a completely different type of story - a screwball comedy - and has a happy and sunny background. He's rich, brilliant, gorgeous, and eccentric. He doesn't know from angst; for him to be nurturing seems as reasonable to me as his sleeping in a clamshell, which he does.

I'll be interested in hearing from you on the tgtbt phenomenon when it comes time to post to the LN&V Message Board. But let's consider this as well: Dmitri from All My Children spouting romance-speak is not an insight into a "real" man. Let's not kid ourselves about romance heroes, however. When an author presents the hero's point of view in addition to the heroine's, she is presenting a fantasy of what a man is thinking, a woman's fantasy of what a man is thinking, for the benefit of women (mostly) readers. How close is that to "real" life?

Other Questions to Consider:

Many other readers also participated in this summer's Gaffney Give-Away. While they didn't follow up like Mary Claire did with lengthy pieces, their topics deserve discussion. Let's lay their topics out now.

Speaking of Nurturing. . .
"Don't we have any heroines not so kind, nice and selflessness? Do they have to be so nice and selflessness like heroines from Julie Garwoods' book? I mean they are so unearthly. So giving and kind. I don't think I've ever met someone that selflessness and kind. Or is it just me? And another thing. I remember a discussion about the rake heroes (whom we've called the Duke of Slut). Don't we have any rake-like heroines? I mean some heroes sleep around and get drunk. Why can't heroines?" -- Jules Cho

Previous Lives:
"I was re-reading Nora Roberts' Divine Evil last night, and I was oddly struck by a scene in which the hero Cam Rafferty is being felt up by Sarah Hewitt, the town hooker. The two had been lovers during their teen years, and Cam had once thought himself in love with her. What is the extent to which a protagonist can be wrong: in his perceptions of people, his sex life before meeting the heroine, and his reactions to stimuli even after meeting the love of his life? After all, Sarah arouses Cam, although he manfully declares that he stopped thinking with his d_ck dick ten years ago. This is fairly common in Roberts' work.

"As a kind of corollary, why are about 99% of protagonists' previous relationships so bad? I find this even more unrealistic than the number of female virgins, and lack of male ones. I actually do know more people who are waiting for marriage than people who have never had a decent, fulfilling relationship that ended for reasons that were neither party's fault. I think one of the reasons a lot of people loved Dream a Little Dream was the lovely marriage between the hero and his first wife. And SEP's Honey Moon and Hot Shot depict heroines who have good relationships with their first husbands (well, at least at first in Hot Shot's case). They had orgasms and affection and all that good stuff. I think having had a little experience with good relationships is fairly fundamental to knowing that the current one is the one. This may be especially true with sex, because otherwise it's "Wow, sex is good. I'm gonna have to hold on to this guy!" -- Nicole Guynes

Hate is a Four-Letter Word

Hate.

There’s nothing I detest more in a romance book than that four-letter word, especially when it’s spoken by the hero or the heroine. It’s usually followed by overwhelming lust, some some tonsil-rattling kissing (often in a show of masculine dominance on the man’s part), tons of strenuous, sweaty sex, secret pregnancies and/or the occasional bout of amnesia. Rapes by the ever-gallant hero are also not uncommon in books that feature that passionate declaration; however, right at the moment when “I hate you” seems extremely appropriate, the heroine is mysteriously silent. No doubt she’s overwhelmed by the hero’s virility.

The first few romances I read featured all of the shining examples of bodice-ripper cliches listed above, complete with bad writing and high melodrama. When I discovered well-written pieces of melodrama with only a little bit of bodice ripping (i.e. Judith McNaught), I was hooked, but I was still vaguely dissatisfied. Why, I wondered, did the hero and heroine fall in love if they fought so much? How can the heroine forgive the hero for being such a complete and utter bastard? And how can they even profess to love each other when they obviously don’t trust or respect one another? They don’t even like each other, for crying out loud!

That’s when I discovered what I call the “buddy” romance, which usually features a man and a woman who are friends before they become lovers. The buddy romance plot is one of my favorites, and I love it in all its variations. In my five years of dedicated romance reading, I’ve encountered three main types of buddy romance:

The Childhood Buddy Romance:
Childhood playmates grow up and suddenly (or not so suddenly) realize that the love of their life is the person they have always known. It sometimes results in some pretty hilarious reactions of dismay and when the hero or the heroine discover themselves checking the other party’s (ahem) assets. My favorite romance in this category is Tonight or Never by Dara Joy. Chloe has been in love with John for as long as she could remember, and she’s tired of having him see her as a little sister. So she cooks up a plan in which matrimony, seduction and a very large porcelain pitcher feature prominently. Unfortunately, the book is riddled with glaring errors and some truly astounding logical impossibilities, but Chloe and John are such a delightful childhood-buddy pair, I decided I could overlook pretty much anything. It has a permanent place on my keeper shelf.

The No Love at First Sight Romance:
A man and a woman meet, and although there is no immediate conflagration of lust and attraction, they like each other and begin to build a relationship based on trust and respect and, eventually, love. Patricia Gaffney has written one of the best romances in this category: To Love & to Cherish. In this novel, Anne and Christie meet at less-than-ideal moments, and are going through too much stress to feel the spontaneously combustible attraction that happens in so many romances. But the love affair is even more intense because it builds up gradually, and because it has such a solid foundation. I love sparring couples as much as the next person, as long as the sparring doesn’t cross the line, but it’s so refreshing to find a couple who don’t fight over every little thing, and who don’t assume nasty things about each other.

Jennifer Crusie’s Manhunting is another wonderful example of this kind of romance, only it has more comedy instead of angst. Kate goes to a holiday resort to look for the tall, distinguished, successful man of he dreams. Instead, she finds a steady stream of tall, distinguished, successful jerks. Of course, there’s Jake, who’s part-owner of the resort, and he is tall-but he doesn’t have an aggressive or distinguished bone in his body. Definitely buddy material, but not what Kate’s looking for in a life partner-or so she thinks. The best parts of the book, apart from Kate’s disastrous (and deadly) dates, are the “non-dates” Kate and Jake have, like going out to the lake and trying not to catch any fish. Again, I think the relationship is more intense because they held off the attraction for so long.

The "God I Want This Person Bad But I Can’t Do Anything About It" Romance:
In this romance, a man and a woman meet, sparks fly like crazy, but they decide not to give in to the feelings of attraction-and end up falling in love with the person, not the body. Another Jennifer Crusie novel is a perfect example of this kind of romance: Anyone but You, featuring Fred the manic-depressive beagle. Nina is looking for something cute and perky to cheer her up from her recent divorce, and instead she gets… Fred. However, Fred gets her Alex, the gorgeous downstairs neighbor, and geez, talk about cute. And his perkiness-inducing powers are par none. But he’s also ten years younger than Nina. Not wanting to be a cradle-robber, Nina refrains from doing anything about the attraction, which results in endless months of classic buddy activities like watching movies, jogging, and saving each other from bad dates. But boy, when they finally do the deed… Let’s just say you’d better have a cold glass of water handy - and not to drink, either, if you catch my drift.

Part of the attraction of buddy romances lies in the likability (as a former English major, I reserve the right to make up words as I go along) of the characters involved. I know I’m generalizing, but I think it’s safe to say that most friendship romances feature likable people, with nary a glimpse of a rapist hero or a shrewish heroine. If I like the characters, I root for them to find happiness, and I get dragged deeper into the fictional world they inhabit. I become actively involved. I cheer when they kiss, I groan when something happens to drive them apart. When the HEA ending arrives, I sigh in happiness and close the book secure in the knowledge that these two people are going to be happy together. Passion and lust eventually cool down; friendship is a far steadier and warmer flame.

The character interaction is also stripped of a lot of overwrought elements if the hero and heroine begin their relationship as friends. There are no flaming rows in which the hero and heroine scream and spit at each other. Best of all, because they already know, trust and respect each other, those ever-delightful cuss-out sessions rarely occur (“You bitch!” “You heartless bastard!” Ad nauseam). There’s also the delight of anticipation. You know the hero and heroine are meant for each other, no matter how much they try to deny their attraction and remain strictly platonic. You have a grin plastered on your face as you watch the two of them try to muddle things out, secure in the knowledge that their struggles are an exercise in futility. Love conquers all - even the toughest, the most resolute of buddies.

But there are buddy romances that drive me nuts. The worst buddy romance I ever read was actually a short story by Margot Dalton entitled Lonnie’s Baby in the New Year’s Resolution: Baby anthology. The plot is completely ridiculous: Lonnie has been in love with her best friend and colleague, Jared, for ages. So what does she decide to do about it? She decides to seduce him during an office costume party, get pregnant with his baby, and move out of town. Unfortunately, another woman in the office becomes pregnant in the same night, and Jared thinks it’s his. So does Lonnie enlighten him? No, she decides she’ll have to move out before the wedding so she won’t have to endure the pain of seeing him marry another woman. Come on, folks, say it with me: “AAUUUUGGH!” I don’t understand how she can do something so heinous to her best friend. Friends are supposed to trust each other and communicate, right? Right?!? Or am I talking crazy here?

Sometimes buddy romances don’t work because the sexual tension seems slightly off. A recent example would be Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Pure Temptation for the Harlequin Temptation: Blaze line. Tess is determined to lose her virginity before she moves to New York in the fall, so she enlists her best friend, Mac, to help her in her scheme. Being the brave man that he is, Mac volunteers for the job… Purely for altruistic reasons, of course (yeah, right). Although this book is well written and entertaining, it seems to feature two parts that don’t quite mesh. The first is the buddy romance; the other is the sexy part. Somehow, the sexual attraction didn’t seem convincing to me. Or maybe it was the friendship? I can’t quite put my finger on it; I just felt like I was reading two different books. Of course, the ending features a completely unnecessary Big Misunderstanding, which is a plot device that becomes even more irritating than usual when used in a romance in which the characters have supposedly known each other all their lives.

But even mediocre buddy romances are better than good “I Hate You, But I Want To Get In Your Pants” novels. I recently read Baby, I’m Yours by Susan Andersen, and I finally gave up on it after reading over 200 pages. The hero and heroine just spar and fight all the time. The hero says some truly nasty things and makes some extremely ugly assumptions about the heroine. Oh, sure, he’s a bail enforcer who believes that the heroine is actually her identical twin, a showgirl who’s just jumped bail, but the names he calls her reveal an extremely offensive assumption about dancers: because they exhibit their bodies, they have to be sluts, natch. His complete refusal to give the heroine a chance to prove her identity also irritated me no end, and their constant bickering and fighting really got on my nerves. Their lust for each other added to the sleaziness of the story. When the heroine realizes in a flash that she loves this man, I was ready to throw the book against the wall. How can she? He’s done nothing but manhandle her, call her nasty names and assume the worst about her.

And she’s not much better. She’s got rights, but she never tries to claim them - she just tries to defy him at every turn and slow him down. So much for being the smart twin. The strange thing is, Baby, I’m Yours is a well-written and fairly entertaining caper. I actually like Susan Andersen’s books. I’d give the book a B for plot and writing, but an F for character interaction. If the hero and heroine had shown signs of liking each other, this would’ve been an instant keeper. If only the two of them had been friends instead of just lovers.

But I think the biggest reason why I like buddy romances so much is because the romance portrayed is closer to what I want in a real-life relationship. Think about it: what’s more romantic - a man you can actually to talk to and who actually meets your needs, both physical and spiritual, or a guy who thinks you’re a lying slut and is capable of forcing his sexual attentions on you? Give me a good man over an arrogant pig any day of the week. Nice guys don't finish last in a buddy romance. What can be better than that?

My Two Cents on the Buddy Romance:
I like friendship in romance so much that I started a Friends in Romance list back in 1996. For me, there are three types of friendships I enjoy in romance - friendship between the hero and heroine, platonic friendships, and "bonding" type friendships between the hero and his friends/brothers or the heroine and her friends/sisters.

The first type of friendship is I enjoy reading about is possibly also the hardest to pull off, and that is friendship between the hero and heroine. Whether their friendships began as children or adults, when friendship turns to love, it can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a dull thing for less-talented authors because maintaining sexual tension without internal conflict is not an easy feat.

The second type of friendship that's great to read is the platonic friendship between a man and a woman. Historical romances do not abound with this type of friendship because of the separation of the sexes in days of old, but they do crop up occasionally. Contemporary romances show this type of friendship more often. Regardless of the setting, I enjoy this type of friendship's illustration because it reflects the true-life experience of so many of us. My closest friend in high school was Richard; I called him long-distance from college after I'd lost my virginity.

The third type of friendship is that of camaraderie between groups of men or groups of women. Sometimes they're related; other times they are not. You can get a remarkable understanding of a person by looking at the people he/she surrounds him/herself with. I especially prize those romances featuring such relationships among women because it goes against the norm that women always envy one another.

BTW, if you enjoy friendships in romance as much as I do, you might want to read Julia Quinn's Write Byte from 1997 entitled The Importance of Friendship.

Time to Post to the Message Board:

SF/Fantasy: Many romance readers also enjoy SF/Fantasy, or might if they were given some good titles with strong women and/or strong romantic components. Please share your favorites.

The Male Brain & the Too Good To Be True Hero: Which favorite romances feature "real" men? Which feature men who might be tgtbt but you loved anyway? Which romances were ruined by the tgtbt hero?

The Nurturing Heroine. . . Again? Do you agree with Jules that most romance novels feature "good" girls? Why do we love "bad" boys but not bad girls? Name some bad girls you've loved in romance novels.

Previous Lives: Part of this we've discussed before, most recently in Issue #79, and earlier, when talking about the Get Over It! Hero. I alluded to bad previous life choices in a different way in my review of Marion Keyes' Watermelon. What's your opinion on this topic?

The Buddy Romance/Friendship in Romance Novels: Let's consider Candy's comments and the three types of buddy romances she lays out. Then consider the three types of romances I enjoy where friendships play a prominent role. Feel free to post some of your favorites; we may be able to update our Friendships in Romance list as a result!

Until next time, TTFN, Laurie Likes Books
In conjunction with Mary Claire Hennessey and Candy Tan

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