Jennifer's Journal


Friday, July 06, 2007

Marriage and Romance

Someone sent a clipping to me recently.  It was titled "Is there harm in women reading romance novels?" 
The gist of the argument was that some "women can become dangerously unbalanced by these books' entrancing but distorted messages."  That they contain unattainable romantic ideals "which really do promote dissatisfaction with their relationships."
First, let's be clear.  Romance novels are adventure novels for women.  All adventure novels feature a protagonist who endures trials and tribulations, learning and growing/changing on the way to achieving something they desire, which is usually defined as a "worthwhile goal".  The difference is that in a romance the protagonist is female and her goal isn't to save the ranch, the town or the world--though these elements can be present--but rather to form a relationship which will endure and help perpetuate the human species.  In men's adventure, there is usually a female character who gives him moral support and/or great sex.  Romance novels have a similar aspect.  Both types of novels are escapist fare.  These are fantasies, people!
I've never understood why people assume that your average, intelligent female reader can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality.  Does anyone actually think that a man watching a James Bond movie is so out of touch with reality that he will expect his wife to look and act like Pussy Galore?  He may have a wistful moment about it, but he knows the difference.  His wife may read about a dashing highwayman who carries off the heroine and teaches her a thing or two about love and intimacy, but that doesn't mean she wants the same experience.  It might be exciting to think about, but the reality would be scary and downright uncomfortable.
What we have here is a classic chicken and egg situation.  Which comes first, reading romance novels and becoming disappointed in marriage, or becoming disappointed in marriage and reading romance novels in hope of finding the missing emotional excitement?  Think of it like this: Which comes first, John Q. Public reading about dangerous adventures in the South Seas and becoming disappointed with his boring job and home life, or John becoming disappointed with the sameness of everything and picking up a book to find the exciting adventure he craves?  What I wonder is how many marriages have been saved because the wife was able to satisfy her longings for adventure and romance by delving into a book.
And here's another question for you:  If 64 million women read at least one romance novel last year, as established by statistics from Romance Writers of America, what is missing from their relationships that these books are so seductive?  We have, I think, lost the concept of the great-love-affair-that-will-last-for-all-time.  Romance has become trivialized by over commercialization; men avoid romantic gestures because it makes them appear influenced by advertising instead of acting on their own deep sense of commitment.  Sex has lost its mystery and power, being reduced to little more than an itch that can be scratched far too casually by anyone, anywhere, any time.  The idea behind the great romances of literature and opera, that someone might actually sacrifice everything for love, even die for it, has become almost laughable.
Romance novels celebrate love and romance and the emotions engendered by them.  They put these things in their correct perspective as the magic ingredients without which the human species might well cease to exist.  They contain no car chases, no blood and guts, no fiery explosions that threaten the world; they are about woman who save themselves and those they love and experience honest feelings that are honestly expressed.  For women who are tired of male oriented movies, male oriented sports, male oriented news events, it's like stepping into a softer, saner world.  Who wouldn't want to escape into it, at least for as long as it takes to catch our breaths and face reality again?  

See what's free at
Thursday, July 05, 2007

July Newsletter

The following newsletter was posted to my reader list.  To receive my newsletter by email each month, click on the "Contest" button on my home page, and then on the "Join this Group!" button found there.
Hi to everyone:
The year is half over.  Depressing thought isn't it?  The Christmas in July sales have already started.  Hate when they do that!  My year is back on track, however.  I shipped the latest book (GALLANT MATCH,
book 5 of the Masters at Arms series, publication date: February 2009) to my editor on July 3, only a month and three days late after a series of delays caused by family medical problems.  Then I went out to dinner to celebrate.  Yes!  The only thing better than starting a new book is finishing one.
The reason most writers love finishing a book is because the next one has usually taken shape in their minds by that point, and they can't wait to get to it.  So it is with me.  The proposal for book 6, TRIUMPH IN ARMS, due July 1, and was shipped at the same time as GALLANT MATCH.  The swordsman hero for this one is Christien Lennoir, a man of French-Natchez Indian heritage. My manuscript deadline is June 1, 2008, and the book will be published (all things being equal) in February 2010.  I'll be working on character and chapter charts for it over the next couple of weeks – but will probably start Chapter 1 before I'm done.
It occurs to me that you may not know what I mean by "the proposal."  Once a writer becomes established, he/she is normally offered multi-book contracts since publishers like to keep a good thing going.  Though a synopsis with a title is usually submitted for the first book during contract negotiations, others in the contract are listed only as Untitled Work #2, Untitled Work #3, etc.  When it's time to begin work on the second book, you write a synopsis for the story you have in mind, anything between five to twenty pages, and send it to your editor.  This synopsis, officially known as The Proposal, is then used to create the cover and blurb (back cover description) for the book.  The Masters at Arms contract was for six books rather than the usual three, an act of faith from my publisher that is much appreciated.  I had written book #1, CHALLENGE TO HONOR, before the contract was signed, and submitted one-paragraph descriptions of the other five books I had in mind for the series.  Book 6, TRIUMPH IN ARMS, will be the last in the contract then.  Next year about this time, I'll be deciding what to do for future books.  Will you be surprised if I tell you I have six or seven ideas to choose from?
A recent article in Romantic Times Magazine suggests that historical romance novels are making a come-back after nearly a decade of lagging behind contemporary and paranormal romances in sales.  What
do you think?  Are you feeling more like reading historicals these days?  I ask because one of the possibilities for the future will be more sword master books using a couple of characters introduced in
the stories.  But then there's a mystery series tumbling around in the back of my mind, also more books in the contemporary Louisiana Gentleman series and a futuristic story.  What's a writer to do?  I
think I need a clone!
Ever taken a trip by rail?  I've traveled by train in Europe, but never in North America.  Now I'm about to remedy that.  My husband and I, for our anniversary, are planning to take Amtrak from Louisiana to the Pacific Northwest, and then make the long Trans-Canada trip from Vancouver, BC to Montreal on their special train.  Should be an adventure.  I can't wait!
The winner of this month's autographed book is:  If this is your email address, please send a message with your name and a snail mail address to, and your book will be shipped ASAP.
Hope your July 4th holiday was grand and the rest of your summer is even better!
Warmest wishes,

See what's free at