Time for my annual compulsory Valentine’s Day post. Whether or not you have a thing going that involves giving or receiving flowers and chocolates, who doesn’t like a bit of romance? I don’t read Mills and Boon, myself, but I do admire the skills of those who can write it.
So I will just waffle on for a while about some romances I have read.
Did you know that all those YA vampire romances started with a minor variety of standard romance? Mills and Boon, Harlequin, etc., have types of romances varying from “they share a chaste kiss on the last page” to hot and heavy. At some stage, there was the paranormal romance variety, which became big, especially among teenage girls, who adore their demon lovers.
My personal preference is for rom com. I like the charm of it, and knowing that all will end well. When I was the teacher librarian at a school in Melbourne’s disadvantaged western suburbs, rom com was the top preference of our girls. The rom com books of Lili Wilkinson were always out. (Lili’s fiction has gone all serious lately, so her very sweet and funny Green Valentine is likely to be her last rom com. Pity about that)
YA romance is big, and always has been. The US has had several series, such as the 1980s Sweet Dreams series. Sweet Dreams did have some sub genres, but basically what the stories boiled down to was, a sweet young thing is in love with the captain of the football team, or some other school leader, who couldn’t possibly be interested in her, and has to compete for his love with the popular but mean girl. We all know who ended up with him, unless he turned out to be awful and she decided to go for the best friend who had been kind to her all along. Basically Cinderella, right? There was one I read which was seen from the viewpoint of the “mean girl”, who got sent away for her meanness and had an adventure of her own. But that was in one of the sub genre books. They were all enjoyed by the girls at my school.
Australia had, first Dolly Fiction, then Girlfriend Fiction, the latter published by Allen and Unwin. Personally, I prefer these to the American stories. There was more variety - and the authors of the Dolly books were mostly writers who either were well known or who went on to do very well as children’s or speculative fiction writers. The Girlfriend authors were all well known, some of the top YA or children’s writers in Australia. Not all of them were even women. Award winning author Barry Jonsberg, for example, wrote a Girlfriend novel, using his skills as a secondary teacher to take us inside the head of a teenage girl.
And none of those I read featured a Cinderella girl in love with the captain of the football team, and I read quite a few, as I got them for reviewing. They tended to be quirky romantic comedies. The kids loved them just as much as earlier girls had loved the American books.
The thing is, there are plenty of classics that fall into this category, so no need to sneer at them. Shakespeare wrote rom com. Think about it. He did. Much Ado About Nothing? Taming of The Shrew, whatever we may think of that one in this era. The Comedy Of Errors? Twelfth Night? And more. Jane Austen, anyone? We all know Pride And Prejudice, but there are others. I believe the latest version of Emma is out in the cinemas - Emma, the girl who matchmakes for everyone else, stuffs it up and nearly loses her own chance at love.
There are, of course, genre books which have a romance on the side. Cosy whodunnits usually have a heroine who runs a tea shop, a catering service, a cleaning business, whatever, who has a gorgeous boyfriend who works with her to solve crimes. Corinna Chapman, Kerry Greenwood’s baker heroine, has a boyfriend who is a private investigator, so she is the one who helps him. In between investigations, they go out to dinner and home to bed, or they make dinner at home, watch Buffy or Babylon 5, and go to bed.
Without Daniel, of course, she would just be running her bakery. Some other cosy heroines have a boyfriend who is a police officer. Thing is, you wouldn’t enjoy them so much without the romance on the side.
I’ve recently read a couple of Agatha Raisin novels, by M.C Beaton. Those are pretty much cosies, though the heroine eventually sets up a detective agency. Agatha Raisin is unusual in being middle aged. She left her drunken, good-for-nothing husband and assumed he was dead, till he turned up at her wedding to someone else(and soon became that novel’s murder victim). She has retired early from her successful P.R career and gone to live in the picturesque Costwolds village Carsely. There, she solves a murder in each novel - in one book, she returns from a London to be told that nobody was murdered while she was away.
She is also in love with love. Her main lover is her next door neighbour James Lacey, a military historian who eventually turns to travel writing. However, she also finds herself attracted to men who turn up for a single novel. They usually end up being the murder victims, or, in one case, the murderer. The murder victims invariably turn out to have been thoroughly nasty. Which doesn’t discourage Agatha, who keeps hoping that the next romance will end in a happy marriage.
So, readers, what is your favourite type of romance?