Books Read in 2016: ‘Beyond Heaving Bosoms’ by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan #amreading
Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels
by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Summary from Goodreads:
We do it in the dark. Under the sheets. With a penlight. We wear sunglasses and a baseball hat at the bookstore. We have a “special place” where we store them. Let’s face it: Not many folks are willing to publicly admit they love romance novels. Meanwhile, romance continues to be the bestselling fiction genre. Ever. So what’s with all the shame?
Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan — the creators of the wildly popular blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books — have no shame! They look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of romance novels and tackle the hard issues and questions:
— The heroine’s irresistible Magic Hoo Hoo and the hero’s untamable Wang of Mighty Lovin’
— Sexual trends. Simultaneous orgasms. Hymens. And is anal really the new oral?
— Romance novel cover requirements: man titty, camel toe, flowers, long hair, animals, and the O-face
— Are romance novels really candy-coated porn or vehicles by which we understand our sexual and gender politics?
With insider advice for writing romances, fun games to discover your inner Viking warrior, and interviews with famous romance authors, Beyond Heaving Bosoms shows that while some romance novels are silly — maybe even tawdry — they can also be intelligent, savvy, feminist, and fabulous, just like their readers!
Even though I didn’t actually finish reading this, I’m still giving it a three-star rating because it does have good information in it. I just got tired of reading stuff about the genre that I already know (I had to read several books full of critical essays by academics and authors who are experts in the romance genre in grad school, and then write a thesis of my own about it)—and I got tired of the overuse of foul language.
Now, I can curse with the best (worst) of them when the mood strikes (or when something else strikes and causes pain). But I feel like the authors of this book undermined their purpose—and their authority on the subject—by being too flippant and by lacing the prose with unnecessarily “shocking” language. I understand that being conversational and flippant, while also celebrating the romance genre and its readers, is what the Smart Bitches made their name doing on their blog. But there’s quite a difference in reading one blog post a day and trying to read a few hundred pages of it. Plus, I think they’ve toned this down a bit on the blog—I don’t recall reading anything on the SBTB blog since I started reading it a couple of years ago that matches the level of cursing I found in this book.
But if the language doesn’t bother you, and you haven’t read a ton of other critical tomes exploring the subject of the romance genre, then you might want to check this out.
If you are interested in reading more serious/academic critical writings on the Romance genre, here are some suggestions:
- Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women – Edited by Jayne Ann Krentz (this one was published in 1992, so it gives more of a “historical” perspective on the genre, right around the time that it really started changing into what we have today)
- A Natural History of the Romance Novel by Pamela Regis (published in 2007)
- Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology by Jayashree Kamble (pubished in 2014)
- New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays – edited by Sarah S.G. Frantz and Eric Murphy Selinger (published in 2012)
- Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained by Maya Rodale (published in 2011)
- For Love and Money: The Literary Art of the Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance by Laura Vivanco (published in 2011)
- Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture by Catherine M. Roach (published March 29, 2016)
- Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction (Genre Fiction Monographs) by Laura Vivanco (published in 2016)
View all my reviews on Goodreads
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