Monday, July 8, 2013

The Old Contemporary Romance


I recently finished a contemporary romance that was published in 1981, when  I was nine years old (for those of you who don’t want to do the math, I’m 41 now).  The book itself was a first edition and it showed in the yellowing pages, damaged corners, and the price on the cover - $2.50!


The story took place in the early 80s.  No cell phones.  No cable TV or 24-hour news or iPads.  Folks had to pick up a land line or drive to someone’s house if they wanted to talk.

The main plot of the story was for Jenny the Heroine (a very 80s name)  to find a new husband, one who loved her and not her money, and one with whom she was compatible in bed.  So she sampled quite a few men of her acquaintance.  After each encounter, they all told her how much they had always loved her and proposed.  It made me wonder – why did they propose AFTER they made love?  If they had always been in love with her, couldn’t they just admit it and propose without getting naked?

Unlike today’s contemporary woman, Jenny was extremely reactive, letting things happen to her instead of taking charge and doing the things she wanted.  Whether it had to do with business or men, she never, ever, went after what would make her happy.  Her first sexual encounter was “forcible seduction,” and instead of kicking the guy in the balls and calling the police afterward, she graciously agrees to introduce the man to her business partners so they could work together to solve a problem while internally, she seethes with loathing.

Jenny didn’t want any of them nice guys she sampled, though.  She kept returning to the Forcible Seduction guy, going as far as to SWIM IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN TO HIS HOUSE FROM HERS (because they both conveniently lived on the beach) while telling herself it was only for exercise.  At the beginning of every sexual encounter, he would yell at her and later, not-so-forcibly seduced her some more.  He.  Was.  Awful.  AWFUL!  Abusive and controlling and a complete narcissist.  When he found out she was on the pill, he threw them away.  Did she go out and get the pills refilled?  NO!  Because he told her not to.

I.  Don’t.  Get. It.  This was supposed to be romantic?

And guess who Jenny ends up with at the end?  Right.  The Forcible Seduction guy.  Forget the nice guys, right?

I’m so glad today’s contemporary romance woman would not take this shit from anyone.  Sure, maybe at the beginning of the book, our heroine might be timid and lack assurance and let some asshole guy tell her what to do.  But with the HELP of the hero, not in SPITE of him, she’ll find her way to self-confidence and her Happily Ever After.

Have you ever read something in a romance novel that completely ticked you off?

About the author:
Abigail Sharpe writes contemporary stories of love, laughter, and happily ever after, where the hero actually likes the heroine - most of the time.  Her first book, Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy, was released in May by Grand Central and her second, Who Wants to Marry a Doctor, is coming at the end of 2013.  You can keep up with her on Goodreads or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AbigailSharpeBooks or on her website -www.abigailsharpe.com.

22 comments:

  1. Maureen, thanks for letting me vent. :) I was told the book was awful before I read it, and at first it was amusingly bad. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. What if this was some poor girl's introduction to romance? She'd be scarred for life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Geez Abby, that book sounds absolutely wretched! The biggest thing that perturbs me in romance novels (most especially contemporary) is when there's so many assumptions. Example, heroine thinks hero left her for another woman. But instead of just coming out and telling her it never happened, they get into an argument where neither person really knows what the other is angry about and the truth never comes out. It irks me more than anything! Especially when said 'assumptions' are completely irrelevant to the plot. Whew. Thanks for letting me vent too! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe you shouldn't read Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? *laugh* At least the assumptions are relevant, though.

      Delete
  3. You made me snort with glee Abby. I had this picture in my head of the sweet ingenue going to swim the Atlantic. I don't know where this is set, but I live in New England and the water is friggin' COLD. Dear goddess, I like my heroines to have a little tough in them.
    On another ranty note, I like a good sex scene but it ticks me off when they come up too soon and without setup. In a book i read recently, the hero-- a man just back from war and a rancher--rides over his ranch and sees the one woman he never wanted to see again. They say howdy, exchange some unpleasant remarks, and a page and half later they are rolling around in the sage brush. Really? I mean I get sexual tension, attraction, yada yada. But still, really?
    Oooh, that was fun. Thanks for a good rant, Abby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Jenny was the complete opposite of tough. And she never grew out of the doormat personality. The book takes place in Florida, so not as cold as the north coast.

      Happy I could help you out with the rant. :)

      Delete
  4. Totally agree! I've picked up a few 'romance' novels where the guy is a complete and total jerk and yet the woman loves him. Twit. I much prefer a woman who can stand up for herself!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Darn tootin'! I can understand being attracted to the bad boy, but while the bad boy might be mean and nasty to others, and maybe even to the heroine at the beginning, he mellows out toward her once he falls in love. But this guy? I won't even mention when he talks about how he purposefully tried to get her pregnant!

      Delete
  5. Completely agree Abigail. Controlling assholes don't do it for me. Great post though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jodi. I was so fascinated by how awful this man was that I had to finish the book.

      Delete
  6. Anyone else find it funny that the biggest selling books of last year have a similar heroine/hero set up? Maybe the idea isn't so 80s. ;)

    I wouldn't have been able to read that one, but I was reading Historicals back in the mid to late 80s that were all like that. The men did whatever they pleased, while the women pined for them and fluttered their fans. My memory isn't great, but I don't think ALL the heroes were jerks back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read the biggest selling book of last year. Not for any nefarious reasoning, but my TBR list is huge (no surprise there) and I want to read what I want to read. :)

      I hope the heroines of now at least GROW in the story. Geez, all this one did was go shopping. Seriously. No job, no nothing. Shopping. Plus she wore this one dress and the Forcible Seduction Guy told her she looked like a whore. To her credit, though, she wore it again when she knew he'd be around.

      Okay, must stop talking before I get myself worked up again. Grrrrrr.

      Delete
  7. Recently at the gym where I do treadmills, I picked up an historical from about that period. Before Chapter 1 was over, I just wanted to smack the heroine and tell her to stop whining and grow a backbone. But I guess that was the predominant theme then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I can kinda understand it in historicals, as long as the characters GROW. It was a different way of life then. Come to think of it, one of the first ones I read had the hero spanking the heroine (and not in the good way ;). I remember thinking that was weird.

      I don't know if I'd read that book now. Being stronger does not make you right.

      Delete
  8. The last historical romance I read really irked me. The man kept telling the woman that he "owned" her and that she was "his" woman and that she belonged "to" him. It was stated over and over throughout the book, and I was seething mad. Not "we" belong together. Not "we" were meant for each other. He owned her. And she never stood up for herself. Ugh. Frustrating. Beyond. Belief.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, no. No. No. Alison, do you remember when it was published?

      Delete
  9. Wow, that does sound like an awful book! But early 80s was still in the transition stage for romance. The heroine's were getting better jobs and career opportunities but the heroes were still quite often brutish alphas and the ladies still wound up with them (happily!). I'm glad that's mostly a thing of the past. The most irritating thing I used to see in novels was when the heroine would sleep with someone and then a few weeks later start feeling nauseous and tired and not get her period, and would blame it all on "stress" and then act completely astonished to discover she was pregnant. Danielle Steele did this a lot. I enjoyed reading her books back in the day, but whenever she did that to a character I always got a little annoyed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plus she always had a character named Jessica and there would always be twins. *laugh* I cut my romance teeth on her, but I don't read her much now.

      Maybe the sex was so bad the heroine blocked it out of her mind. *laugh*

      Delete
    2. Yes! Many sets of twins and almost always one of them was named Vanessa. I think one of her real life daughters is named Vanessa. LOL! I've read at least a dozen of her books or more, and still have many of them on my keeper shelf. She had her flaws, but overall she wove a good yarn. :)

      Delete
  10. Hmm. Sounds terrible. So glad times have changed.

    On that note, I finished my first manuscript in 1995 or 96, and when I went back to it to whip it into shape, I had to come up with reasons for my characters to not have cell phones. Amusing, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could you not update it? Or you can make them like Harry Dresden where electronics break whenever he's around.

      Delete
  11. Hi Abigail,
    I think the fluttery heroine needing/wanting rescue really was a theme in the 80s (when I was FAR older than 9, by the way). It was a real transitional time in romance with the old Joanna Lindsay and Kathleen Woodiwiss rape fantasy themes colliding with attempts to make heroines a little stronger. I didn't like the latter at all either. But one author I did love was LaVyrle Spencer. I think she and a few of her contemps started exploring the more independent heroines. Don't get me wrong--there are still some very 80's annoyances in her books, but at least there were plot lines about older women bucking tradition and allowing themselves to fall for younger heroes, and self-sufficient historical women who could keep a family together without a man. The only thing I can say is--picking up any book is a crap shoot and when we find a gem, it's so satisfying and exciting.

    Great post--here's to more and more strong heroines!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! But this heroine didn't need rescuing - except from the HERO! So frustrating. :)

      Delete

Sign up for the JCR newsletter!