Check out Sweet Savage Flame’s inaugural podcast, where we discuss the iconic bodice-ripper romance genre.
Welcome to the Sweet Savage Flame Inaugural Podcast
We are excited to announce that we have started podcasting on Spotify, and our show is also available on other platforms. In the first episode of Sweet Savage Flame’s podcast, we delve into the iconic bodice-ripper romance genre.
Podcast: Sweet Savage Flame Inaugural Podcast
Of Bodices Ripped
“Bodice ripper” is used as a pejorative term by people unfamiliar with the romance genre. Readers and romance authors who try to distance themselves from those older “problematic” books hate the phrase.
I stand in defense of the bodice ripper—the true bodice ripper, which is not simply an old-school historical romance. It was the bodice ripper sub-genre that heralded the new era of romance. Bodice rippers (aka bodice busters, the sensual historical, the sweet-savage romance) were a new creation never seen before.
These romances depicted pages of sexual scenes—between unmarried couples! And they ended happily ever after (more or less).
Up until Avon released The Flame and the Flower, romances were limited to:
- Romantic Comics
- Barbara Cartland’s vast stable of saccharine Georgette Heyer’s stories
- Light, humorous Regencies
- Mild Mills & Boons/ Harlequins
- Medical romances
- Closed-door historical romantic fiction
If a female reader wanted a little bit more raciness, there was the grandmother of the bodice ripper, Edith Hull’s The Sheik and its sequels. Or lurid pulp fiction released by prolific paperback distributors. There were also authors like Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann, and Jackie Collins who had come on the scene in the 1960s.
Mainstream romance and raciness didn’t mix. They were always “sweet,” ending in kisses of fade-to-black love scenes.
Then, in 1972, came the (now-reviled) bodice ripper, which was a vaunted expression of women’s liberation.
Thanks to Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, and the women (and men) who followed in their footsteps, romances took on a larger scope. The heroines went through the fires of hell and back to get their love.
And yes, the books could be violent, including issues like forced seduction or even rape. Sometimes, the heroine had multiple lovers. In other stories, the hero would be her one and only lover.
I Love the Bodice Ripper
Personally, I’m all about the bodice ripper.
Too many modern romances don’t do it for me. I have little interest in reading about the Dukes, Marquesses, and the rest of the exalted gentry who inhabit most contemporary historical romance.
There are scoundrels who aren’t really scoundrels at all. Book titles allude to unnecessary guides to seduction–unnecessary since half of the heroines have no sense of propriety.
Many willingly take on the hero as a lover yet refuse to get married because he doesn’t love her.
So interested in becoming a critique of manners or society a la Jane Austen–just with more explicit sex scenes–many books forget to be, first and foremost, fun.
I’m a fan of the old-school, schlocky, purple-prosed-written historical romances & vintage Harlequins Presents, and I’m proud of it. Like good B-movies, they never pretended to be more than what they were.
Maligned as chauvinistic junk (and admittedly, some were, but so what?), many were historically accurate adventurous epics. They had plots that (sans sex) would make Zane Grey or even Sir Walter Scott proud.
Thanks to romance authors like Roberta Gellis or Deana James, and many others, I know more about medieval politics, the American Old West, nautical terms, archaic social mores, and wars (Napoleonic, American, and English Civil, the Crimean, and the American and French Revolutions) than I ever learned in school.
Of course, I got my information from other sources, but the older romances were often quite historically authentic in facts and mindsets.
Old-School Romance Novels
From what I’ve seen on romance forums and blogs is that among a substantial number of readers, there’s a yearning for a return to the best of “retro.”
Although not necessarily bringing back the raped-by-every-man-the-heroine-meets plot lines nor the absolute requirement of a pure, virginal heroine who stays faithful while the hero sleeps around.
There’s a desire for more variety:
- Different characters for heroes who have more depth than just being the required alpha rake (which has become a watered-down trope)
- A heroine who grows from the first page to the last
- A variety of locations and historical settings besides Georgian, Regency & Victorian Great Britain
- Fewer wallpaper historicals
- More adherence to cultural norms than inserting modern mindsets
- More than just sex to a love story
Good writing doesn’t hurt, too. Although, readers seem very forgiving if you give them an engaging story.
The story is paramount; it is for me, anyway. That’s one of the reasons why I love older romances so much; they knew how to keep a reader turning the pages to the very end.
Let’s Talk Romance
What do you think about this topic? Are old-school historicals and bodice rippers relics of a bygone era fascinating to look at as one would museum artifacts but of no worth to today’s readers?
Do you wish more romances would be like they were in the 1970s, 1980s, or even the 1990s, or are you satisfied with how the historical romance genre has transformed into what it is today?
Please drop a comment, and let’s talk about romance novels!
My Official Website: http://www.jacquelinediazromance.com
My romance blog: sweetsavageflame.com
You can email me at [email protected]