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the trouble with contemporaries
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LFL



Joined: 05 May 2007
Posts: 705

PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 5:31 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
Margaret wrote:
I think there are many conflicts that exist in the modern world...race, religion, poverty, war, politics etc. The trick may be in writing about these somewhat hot button issues without pi**ing people off. It's easier to write about conflict when it's history and we know the outcome.


I agree. It's a lot easier (and "romantic") to write about star-crossed lovers (say, a stable hand and the daughter of the house), than a star-crossed match between say, a wealthy blue blood and a black football star. Not only have we modern Americans been conditioned to disdain anything that smacks of class in our own society, but racial tensions, religious tensions and (so relevant today) political tensions can cut way too close to the bone and chip away at the "safe" space created by the romance genre. It's why I feel readers migrated to paranormals and sf/f romance: it's a contemporary world, but modern-day tensions are masked by monsters and fantasy.


I agree with this -- it's one of the reasons I love historicals. But I think there have been some contemporaries to tackle modern-day tensions well -- for example LaVyrle Spencer and Kathleen Gilles Seidel's books have tackled class difference very successfully.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:00 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

xina wrote:
I'm going to start the Charlene Harris books this summer. I've got the first 3. I'll read it if it's a real story and not just a book full of sex, because I can get that in a contemporary or historical erotica/romantica book and not have to read about vampires, shapeshifters or other silly world building. But I realize that is just my opinion and I'm happy for those who enjoy it.


Xina, I think you'll like the Charlaine Harris books, they are excellent! They are not romance though but Sookie does have a love interest or two in the series - vampire and otherwise. They have an occasional sex scene but not like what you'd read in a romance novel and honestly for me it's refreshing. I think I'm one of the very few that are sick of all the detailed sex scenes in the romance genre, sometimes less really is more. IMHO.

Linda
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Margaret



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:29 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

Quote:

Xina, I think you'll like the Charlaine Harris books, they are excellent! They are not romance though but Sookie does have a love interest or two in the series - vampire and otherwise. They have an occasional sex scene but not like what you'd read in a romance novel and honestly for me it's refreshing. I think I'm one of the very few that are sick of all the detailed sex scenes in the romance genre, sometimes less really is more. IMHO.

Linda


I'm a big fan of Harris' Lily Bard series and Grave series.
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Leigh



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Last edited by Leigh on Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, contemporary romances do tackle class issues, though usually it's only in a very superficial and unrealistic way a la "The billionaire boss and his pregnant virgin secretary".

Said that, what bothers me about many contemporaries is that they just don't feel contemporary. The characters are supposedly twenty or thirty-something, but they don't act, talk or dress like any twenty- or thirty-somethings I know. Prefered music is always something timeless like classical, jazz or classic rock/pop, favourite movies are always Casablanca. I know that many authors try to avoid including things which will date the novels (which will happen anyway), but it seems that many contemporaries are set in a sort of timeless contemporary romance land, which has very little to do with the real world.

There are exceptions, e.g. Suzanne Enoch's Sam Jellicoe series which is ripe with things like Star Wars or Godzilla references, i.e. influences that someone in their twenties and thirties would have been exposed to in their childhood. And of course, there's always chick-lit for that ultra-contemporary feel, but since I don't live in New York and my life doesn't revolve around designer clothes and shoes to evoke the common stereotype, many chick lit novels might just as well be set on another planet.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
Said that, what bothers me about many contemporaries is that they just don't feel contemporary. The characters are supposedly twenty or thirty-something, but they don't act, talk or dress like any twenty- or thirty-somethings I know. Prefered music is always something timeless like classical, jazz or classic rock/pop, favourite movies are always Casablanca. I know that many authors try to avoid including things which will date the novels (which will happen anyway), but it seems that many contemporaries are set in a sort of timeless contemporary romance land, which has very little to do with the real world.

There are exceptions, e.g. Suzanne Enoch's Sam Jellicoe series which is ripe with things like Star Wars or Godzilla references, i.e. influences that someone in their twenties and thirties would have been exposed to in their childhood. And of course, there's always chick-lit for that ultra-contemporary feel, but since I don't live in New York and my life doesn't revolve around designer clothes and shoes to evoke the common stereotype, many chick lit novels might just as well be set on another planet.


Oh I know! The 20somethings who populate contemporary romances seem way too put together and assured in areas I and my friends are still neurotic and uncertain in, and have way too many hangups in areas we tend not to even be aware of (ahem--sex!). Not to say 20somethings are big messes (I find Keira Knightley very poised for a 22 yr old), but contemporary romance heroines read as though they exist in some sort of bubble, or at the very least, like the authors and their contemporaries just placed in the bodies of 20somethings+standard contemporary romance expectations.

But on the flip side, being way too "2008" can read as though the author is trying too hard (Enoch loves Star Wars, btw, so that's why Sam is so well versed in its lore)--and arg! Chick lit is much more than cosmopolitans and Manolo Blahniks! Those stereotypes came from SATC and the bandwagon chick-lit writers; the best chick-lit authors write genuine, warm and truly funny novels that feel contemporary, but not too name-droppy.

But lol, another reason why I prefer reading urban fantasy: those authors tend to get the female protagonist "right" regarding their age--perhaps because they don't have the pressure to remain current, as their paranormal world is obviously created?
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Diana



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

Sandlynn wrote:
willaful wrote:
Is it harder for authors to find a workable conflict in contemporaries? In historicals, there's so much scope for problems that keep the h&h apart - class issues, money, honor, family responsibilities, evil villains, being related by marriage, etc. Is commitment phobia really the only plausible issue we have in the modern world?


I understand what you're saying but I think these same issues, that you highlight above, can work in a contemporary. They certainly still pop up on the 24 news networks, reality shows, talk shows, gossip sheets, and watercooler conversations, so, although there might be shades of differences, I've got to believe they still affect modern life.


I don't see Rachel Gibson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips as the problem, both of whom have intelligently dealt with *modern problems* in realistic ways. I really don't want to get into mentioning names, but I definitely see that there are waaaay too many contemporary authors writing dippy books "dealing" with real issues with all the depth of a sidewalk puddle. But I think it's fair to say that there are just as many historical authors churning out shallow, formulaic books.

There are bad contemps and bad historicals as well. But Gibson and SEP aren't guilty IMO.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

Xina, I think you'll like the Charlaine Harris books, they are excellent! They are not romance though but Sookie does have a love interest or two in the series - vampire and otherwise. They have an occasional sex scene but not like what you'd read in a romance novel and honestly for me it's refreshing. I think I'm one of the very few that are sick of all the detailed sex scenes in the romance genre, sometimes less really is more. IMHO.

Linda[/quote]


Yes, me too LInda, unless the scene is written really well, a few years ago I would never skim over a scene, but I do it all the time now. I don't require sex in my reading, but a little romance is nice, and I guess I've always been chasing romance in my reading even before I started in the romance genre. I'm looking forward to starting this series and see if it's something I'd like to pursue.
Margaret...which is the first book in the Lily Bard series. I tried to find it, but figured I could just ask you. Laughing thanks!
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 1:56 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

Margaret wrote:

I'm a big fan of Harris' Lily Bard series and Grave series.


I've been reading the Grave series but the last one was so dark and depressing (all that child torture) that I don't know if I can continue on. I think I'll wait on some reader reviews before purchaisng the next one and see (hopefully) if it's not so dark in tone.

linda
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
Oh I know! The 20somethings who populate contemporary romances seem way too put together and assured in areas I and my friends are still neurotic and uncertain in, and have way too many hangups in areas we tend not to even be aware of (ahem--sex!). Not to say 20somethings are big messes (I find Keira Knightley very poised for a 22 yr old), but contemporary romance heroines read as though they exist in some sort of bubble, or at the very least, like the authors and their contemporaries just placed in the bodies of 20somethings+standard contemporary romance expectations.

That's interesting, because unless I misunderstood, you (and to some extent Cora) are saying that contemporary romance characters are unrealistic because they're not like the twentysomethings that make up your social group. A while back there was a discussion about anachronistic behavior in historicals, specifically among heroines, and the possiblity that readers find behavior they can relate to more realistic than period-appropriate behavior. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that with contemporary romance novels, we may have even more specific expectations from the h/h because we're living in the same time and believe that our contemporaries would approach love, life, relationships, careers and sex in a similar way to us, and it rings false when they don't. But how do we decide what is true to real life? There's too much variety, I think, even within a single society and culture, to label only certain things as realistic. Now, I won't try to argue that there aren't a lot of things in contemporary romances that seem off to me, but I don't expect contemporary characters to necessarily act and think like the people I know (and not just because I'm not American Very Happy ). I think we need to make a distinction between what's unrealistic and what we find personally not relatable .

Just for the record - I'm in the same age group as most characters in contermporaries, as are most of my friends.
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NoirFemme



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yulie wrote:
But how do we decide what is true to real life? There's too much variety, I think, even within a single society and culture, to label only certain things as realistic. Now, I won't try to argue that there aren't a lot of things in contemporary romances that seem off to me, but I don't expect contemporary characters to necessarily act and think like the people I know (and not just because I'm not American Very Happy ). I think we need to make a distinction between what's unrealistic and what we find personally not relatable .



The characters in a contemporary romance seem to reflect the tropes and expectations of the romance genre than actual contemporary people. The emotional responses of these characters do not feel authentic to people of their background--and being American has nothing to do with it, because I feel a greater emotional response to the Irish heroines of Marian Keyes' novels (and they can be married, divorced, in their 40s, mothers, etc--things completely opposite of my own existence) than so-called contemporary American characters.

There is a reason the best YA authors are the best--they are able to capture the mind of a teenager regardless of their own age, or how long they've been writing. I just don't find that very often in the contemporary romance.
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Margaret



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:52 pm    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

Quote:
Margaret...which is the first book in the Lily Bard series. I tried to find it, but figured I could just ask you. Laughing thanks!


xina, the 1st is Shakespeare's Landlord...followed by Champion, Christmas, Trollop and Counselor. Her love interest doesn't show until book 2 (I think).

Linda in sw va, the Grave series is dark, but I love the relationship between Harper and Tolliver...and book 3 was very satistying with their relationship.
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Margaret



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote]NoirFemme...But lol, another reason why I prefer reading urban fantasy: those authors tend to get the female protagonist "right" regarding their age--quote]

I agree with this.

A few of my favourites are:
-Sunshine by Robin Mckinley
-the heroines in the SHOMI series
-Savi from Demon Moon by Meljean Brook

Not in the UF genre but an author that also wrote great 'young' people was Lisa G. Brown. She's no longer writing but she had a wonderful way capturing young love and experience.
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Linda in sw va



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The characters in a contemporary romance seem to reflect the tropes and expectations of the romance genre than actual contemporary people.


I have noticed this before, I think that's one of the reasons contemps stopped working for me so early on. Though, I tried Romantic Suspense and that held my interest for a while because there were more interesting reasons for conflict, I especially enjoyed it when the author had the H&H working together against the 'bad guy' rather than just fighting between each other for the entire book.

Linda
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Sandra Schwab



Joined: 28 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:01 am    Post subject: Re: the trouble with contemporaries Reply with quote

xina wrote:
As for me, I am not opposed to reading paranormal. Just yesterday I bought Sandra Schwab's new book, Bewitched. I was killing time in the bookstore, and I came upon her book. I've loved her writing and her cover was, well, eye-catching.


Xina, I hope you'll enjoy Bewitched! I do love the cover they've given me for that book: I've always wished for a cover with a painting from the 19th century (three or four years ago Pre-Raphaelite paintings used to be all the rage for books covers in Germany) and - voilą - there it is: the background is a painting by Grimshaw turned bluish. :)

Best,
Sandy
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