From the roots in bodice rippers like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Flame and the Flower to the softer, sweeter writings of LaVyrle Spencer, to Harlequin’s dominance in publishing, to Fabio-mania, to the industry today, the article highlights the major points of the romance genre’s history. The two constants in this ever-changing field are the requirement for a happy, satisfactory ending for the protagonists and the ubiquitous nature of people who read and write romance. I think Beverly Jenkins did an excellent job summing it all up:
“There’s so many different women writing romance. You’ve got marine scientists, you’ve got biologists, you’ve got physicists. You’ve got waitresses. You’ve got stay-at-home moms. So, you know, everybody writes romance, and everybody reads romance, and all of that together generates billions of dollars a year. We’re the people that keep the lights on in publishing.”... Read more “The Washington Post Reports: How the Romance Genre Found Its Happily Ever After”
“Bodice ripper” can be used as a pejorative term by those not too familiar with the romance genre or those readers & authors of romance who try to distance themselves from those older “problematic” books. In defense of the bodice ripper–the true bodice ripper, not just historical romance–it was that genre that heralded the new era of romance, creating something never seen before.
Up until Avon released The Flame and the Flower, romances were limited to books like Barbara Cartland’s vast stable of saccharine stories, Georgette Heyer’s light regencies, mild Mills and boons/Harlequins, medical romances, Gothics, and 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 Sheikh and its sequels, lurid pulp-fiction books released by prolific paperback distributors, or authors like Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann, and Jackie Collins who had come on the scene in the 1960s.
Mainstream romance and raciness just 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 at the time 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 larger scope, as heroines went through the fires of hell and back to get her love, and yes, the books could be violent, including issues like forced seduction or even rape.... Read more “Discussing Bodice Rippers and Historical Romance #1”