This month I finally received my copy of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, The Smart Bitches’ Guide To Romance Novels. I figured because it was penned by the Smart Bitches themselves, Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan, it was bound to be laugh-out-loud hilarious. I subscribe to updates from their website, Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, and regularly spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I read the posts. I’ve seen videos and listened to radio interviews of Sarah and Candy speaking about their book, so I was in a state of great anticipation….
And I wasn’t at all disappointed.
I think Nora Roberts, who provided the cover quote, summed it up very aptly indeed:
“Funny, irreverent, insightful, and thorough, this guide zeroes in on the joys and the woes of the romance genre.”
This book is for all us smart, intelligent women who’ve felt the fear — i.e. of being caught out in a public place reading a romance novel — and done it anyway. It’s for every woman who reads romance and is forced to defend her reasons for reading what smirking, supercillious nitwits call “chick porn” or “formulaic rubbish”. It’s an unabashed celebration of the best and the worst about romance and all its genres.
I loved it! I spent an entertaining Sunday morning in bed — don’t panic, it’s not what you’re thinking — reading bits of this book aloud to my husband. And we both screamed with laughter until tears ran down our faces. “Sheesh!” my husband spluttered. “They don’t hold back, do they?”
No, they don’t. And thank all popular gods for that!
Only because I don’t want to risk having my website banned by the ever-militant Mail Marshall, have I wimped out big-time and used one of the milder excerpts to give you a taste of what to expect.
From Chapter Petticoat, A Brief History Of The Modern Romance Novel, page 10:
“Some of the misconceptions about romance novels are, unfortunately, all too understandable. Take, for instance, the reputation that they’re all bodice rippers. Just look at the covers they’ve been inflicted with: a woman with quivering mounds one button away from a wardrobe malfunction being held up by a male specimen whose quivering mounds of man titty are even larger and firmer than hers. The woman looks either orgasmic or nauseated — hard to tell sometimes. The man’s face is usually clenched in masculine determination, as if attempting to hold Montezuma’s revenge at bay with limited success. Unfortunate hand or body placements can give the pained expressions new meaning entirely, making us wonder why so many romance novel heroes are being presented as ad hoc proctologists.”
But aside from the obvious humor, Sarah and Candy ask — and provides answers to — some hard questions. Why is it that if the majority of people will never publicly admit they love romance novels, romance continues to be the bestselling fiction genre? Why are mysteries, thrillers, spy novels etc. deemed acceptable reading for intelligent men and women, but readers of romance are sneered at and often denigrated? Why do the Fabio-style “clinch covers” still persist to this day?
Why do women read romance?
Hmmmm. Perhaps there’s a bit more to it than because we’re simple, dumb creatures who are compete saps for a Happy Ever After.
For me, it was particularly interesting to consider that what was “acceptable” in romance novels of a particular era, tends to accurately reflect society’s general attitudes about sex and the roles of men and women of that era. Romance novels as an accurate social commentary of the times? Whoever woulda thunk it!
Be warned, Beyond Heaving Bosoms is not for the fainthearted. Or for those who will blush at terms such as Magic Hoo Hoo, Wang of Mighty Lovin’, man titty, and the O-face. Not to mention the “f” word, the “c” word, and a few words I’d never even heard of before!
But if you want to be thoroughly entertained as you read up on the “Top Ten Reasons Behind the Creation of a Virgin Widow” or “The Three Most F**ked-Up Things Heroes Have Done and Gotten Away With” or “The Never-Ending Series Featuring Vaguely Homoerotic Spy Rings, Secret Clubs, and Societies Named After Celestial or Diabolical Elements and/or the Copious Progeny of Some Damn Family or Other” then dive right in and get ready to have fun with The Smart Bitches.
Psssst! Did I mention there’s even games?
Maree’s June reading list:
- Beyond Varallan by S.L. Viehl
- Endurance by S.L. Viehl
- Sex and the Single Pearl by Mia Varano
- The Hot-Blooded Husband by Alice Gaines
- Shockball by S.L. Viehl
- Lost and Found by Stephanie Laurens**
- The Third Suitor by Christina Dodd**
- The Matchmaker’s Bargain by Elizabeth Boyle**
- Eternity Row by S.l. Viehl
- How To Lose An Extraterrestrial In Ten Days by Susan Grant
- Fallen Angel by Sophia James
- Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
- Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione
- Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen
- The Naked Gentleman by Sally MacKenzie
- Bonkers by Michelle Holman
- What Price Love? by Stephanie Laurens
- Fire Angel by B.J. McCall
- A Touch of Minx by Suzanne Enoch
- You’re The One That I Haunt by Terri Garey
**From the Hero, Come Back anthology