A collection of random things.
I Suggest You Read
Robin’s post on “Why We Read” (I’m catching up from vacation) and litlove’s on “Reading Slumps” (especially the final paragraph). Just because sometimes, I need to be reminded of all that’s good about reading.
I’ve really been enjoying the book discussions here and the chance to consider books in more depth, even when the intensity of those discussions sometimes caught me off guard.
I can’t see myself setting up a “book club” with a monthly selection. I’m not that organized, and it’s hard to choose books that will draw enough people to get a discussion going. But I’ll definitely keep doing them when a book seems to be catching a lot of people’s interest, as we did for Back to the Good Fortune Diner (planned) or The Story Guy (spontaneous). I’ve enjoyed the Gaffney discussions, but so many longer-time romance readers have had their say on classics like that that they get less discussion than newer books.
I don’t want to give up writing spoiler-free review/reflection posts that are accessible to people who haven’t read the book yet, but I’m pondering making comments on those spoiler zones where we can discuss books in more detail.
Any suggestions about what you’d like to see in this regard–what books, what kind of posts, whatever–are welcome.
Romances Featuring Faith (Non-Inspirational)
When I read Gaffney’s To Love and to Cherish I commented that it was the first romance I’d read that explored the characters’ faith in a meaningful way, a way I recognized. (Miss Bates has made some great points about the whole series as a kind of “inspirational” romance). On Twitter people mentioned other such books, and of course I lost track of the titles. Suggestions are appreciated. I think they were all historical, but if you can think of contemporaries, I’d love those too. Faiths other than Christian, even better (I think I have a Jewish romance somewhere in my TBR).
Several years ago my husband and I went through a spy TV phase: it started with MI-5/Spooks (we ran out of steam well before the Richard Armitage Seasons); from that we found The Sandbaggers (excellent) and Callan, featuring Edward Woodward (somewhat overwrought). During the same period, we enjoyed political thrillers like State of Play (the BBC mini-series) and The State Within (mmm, Jason Isaacs and Ben Daniels . . . sorry, where was I? Also Sharon Gless as Secretary of State). Anyway, I was thinking of all that, as well as my long-ago reading of early Le Carré and enjoyment of John Buchan, as I read Helen MacInnes (I’m on my second, Pray for a Brave Heart, now).
The great thing about most of these, especially The Sandbaggers, is that they rely on tense psychological drama rather than a lot of action and special effects for their punch. That was a strength in the first MacInnes book I read, too.
I tend to like my spies in the past (I’d rather read non-fiction about the “war on terror”), but for the most part I’ve found Regency Romance Spies too silly–I did enjoy a couple of Joanna Bourne novels.
Is there fiction in this vein (with romantic elements or not) that I should be checking out? I’d take recommendations for viewing, too, since we haven’t found a show we both want to commit to recently–partly because I seem to be off TV.
By this I really mean the romance version, which seems to encompass “guys with brainy jobs,” as in the AAR Special Title List “Nerds, Geeks, and Absent-Minded Professors.” Or maybe I just mean heroes who really are different from the off-the-shelf template. Here’s the vague train of thought that prompted this: I feel like with most of the nerd/smart guy/”beta” hero romances I try, once the couple gets romantic–in the sex, yes, but also in a lot of the romantic interactions between them–the hero reverts to Standard Alpha Sex God. The qualities that made him “different” are really superficial, like he’s a glasses-wearing scientist, maybe a bit shy at first. Clark Kent becomes Superman.
This risks sounding like “nerds should all be socially awkward, bad in bed, and endowed with squishy abs.” And obviously that’s its own problematic stereotype. Here are some books I liked that prompted this line of thinking: The Dangerous Viscount, by Miranda Neville, in which the bookish, painfully shy virgin hero transforms himself into a fake rake halfway through. And is, of course, good at sex right off the bat because he read a book. Or Delphine Dryden’s Theory of Attraction. I did think that Dryden successfully depicted a hero on the autism spectrum, and that clearly affected his interactions with the heroine. But then, he’s a Dom. And yes, that’s explained effectively too. At the same time, it means that the sex, while well drawn, is pretty much par for the erotic romance course (to me).
I didn’t feel, reading these books, that the hero’s difference really altered basic romance templates, especially around depictions of sexuality, and that disappointed me. Is there such a book? I don’t even know exactly what I’m asking for. But I want it. I think in part it is the opposition of the sexes that a lot of romance seems to set up, the way so many heroes conceive of women as an exotic, incomprehensible Other. Yes, gender matters, but when I look at the men (and women) in my own life, gender is often the least meaningful way to understand the differences and similarities between us. And many of them seem to think of women as just, you know, people. Like them. But in m/f romance gender difference so often seems front and center, as if it were the thing that draws us to a romantic partner, the kind of complementarity that makes another attractive. (Still not sure I’m making sense).
Of course, with my giant TBR, I shouldn’t be asking for suggestions of any kind, except for “Go away and read!“