I’ve talked about my new-found love of the romance genre before, but here I go again. I’ve been reading a lot, not just of the genre, but about it. I’ve learnt some awesome things, like how romance far outstrips normal commercial fiction in terms of sales. And always has – a first edition Jane Austen had a print run nearly ten times that of a first edition William Wordsworth. Looking back at history also gives us an idea of why the genre is so maligned – Lady Novelist was one of the first respectable professions for women, which gave some women an income and therefore independence. The stories are inevitably about independent women too (the good ones, anyway), women who make choices based on what they want. In a world where the first rumblings of the suffragette movement were starting to be heard, it’s suddenly very clear why some people thought that novels were very dangerous things to be consumed by women. Did you know that Nora Roberts has had 173 New York Times bestselling novels, but the New York Times has only reviewed her twice? This seems kind of insane.
ANYWAY, none of that is actually from the book I’m clutching today.
Beyond Heaving Bosoms: A Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels is the book written by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan, the two writers who head up the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog. It’s about the romance genre – its strengths, its weaknesses, its horrendously ugly covers*. The book is funny and irreverent and excellently filthy. In it, I learnt about the romance hero’s Mighty Wang, and the heroine’s Magic Hoo Hoo. I learnt that no romance writer seems to know where the hymen is. And I discovered the term “man-titty” (think Fabio bare chested romance covers), and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
As a relative newcomer to the genre, the book was delightfully funny and informative. I learnt about the rapeyness of Old School Romance, and how the genre changed in the 70s along with, well, just about everything else for women. Much like the Smart Bitches themselves, the romance genre is now savvy, sassy and empowering.
If you want to learn about the genre in a light, fun but still solidly awesome way, as well as get a whole bunch of romance book recommendations and participate in a Choose Your Own Romance Adventure story that may or may not end up with tentacle sex, then I highly recommend Beyond Heaving Bosoms.
*Oh, and as I have learnt – those covers bear absolutely no resemblance to the plot, story or characters. None at all. They’re usually not even from the same historical period.