ClitLit – Women, Romance Fiction and Patriarchal Discourse

July 25, 2010

WTFemininity: Reading ‘The CEO’s Expectant Secretary’

Filed under: funnies — Jodi @ 12:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Like any genre, there are good romance novels and then there are really, really bad ones. We’re not even talking about the themes and gender roles and all the other stuff I crap on about all the time. In any genre, you get bits that just make you say… ‘WTF? Did someone actually think about they were writing here?’

Early on in Leanne Banks’s ‘The CEO’s Expectant Secretary’ I had one of those WTF moments – a moment so WTF-y I had to share it.

‘The contrast of the cream ceramic tile against her cherry coloured toenails emphasised her femininity.’

– Banks, L., 2010, The CEO’s Expectant Secretary [Harlequin Mills & Boon] p.14

I just cannot make head or tail of this sentence. I do not get it at all. Does femininity have a colour code? WTF? Can anyone decode this?

ETA: A little further in now, and here’s another bit I just don’t get:

‘Elle felt an amazing connection with Brock ripple through her. How amazing that their child would be born in the same month as Brock’s father.’

– ibid., p.49

Um… not that amazing, honey. Not necessarily bad romance (though there is this whole forced marriage plot going on that I would have a lot to say about if I wasn’t so busy WTFing) but definitely bad writing – or at least writing that has gone whoosh as it travelled over my head.

ETA again: I might as well be liveblogging this book. There is just so much I do not get, so much to WTF about.

‘She felt both strong and delicate against him.’

-ibid., p.58

…how? huh?

ETA again: ‘”But I like shopping in outlets. It’s like hunting is for men. Bagging the one with the biggest rack in one shot.”‘

– ibid., p. 73

I do not get this book.

ETA again: ‘”Trust me, I have no oedipal urges.”‘

ibid., p.129

Thanks for clarifying, hero-boy.

ETA again: Okay, this I just thought was awesome.

‘”By the price I paid, I knew Mummy wasn’t slumming,” Brock murmured.’

– ibid., p.161

I love it. Brock the multisquillionaire business tycoon who is cold and ruthless in the office and a dynamo rocket in the bedroom (and who also has ‘laser blue eyes’) calls his mother ‘Mummy’. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

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1 Comment »

  1. ‘The contrast of the cream ceramic tile against her cherry coloured toenails emphasised her femininity.’

    […] I just cannot make head or tail of this sentence. I do not get it at all. Does femininity have a colour code? WTF? Can anyone decode this?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but quite a few of these quotes seem to me to be shorthand versions of statements I’ve seen made at greater length in other romances, so I’ll try doing some decoding, with my tongue only slightly in my cheek.

    As far as I can tell, light pink is always “feminine” whereas a dark brown is rarely or never worn by a “feminine” heroine (unless the fabric is furry, in which case the fluffiness of it may allow it to seem “feminine” or unless the heroine is African-American. Not that I’ve read that many AA romances, but I’ve read enough to notice that the clothing and decor choices AA heroines make do often seem to differ from those made by White heroines.)

    These are cherry coloured toenails. If they’d been scarlet that might have been an indication that she was An Evil Other Woman or, in more recent novels, that she was making a statement about her sexuality not being repressed. “Cherry,” though, is more gentle. It’s a more fun, flirty sort of colour (I assume – I suspect that in real life “cherry” and “scarlet” might actually be so similar I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, but perhaps this is an indication that I lack “femininity”). In addition, painting one’s toe-nails is apparently a very feminine thing to do. Less “feminine” women would fail to paint their toe-nails (and also fail to shave their legs).

    The presence and colour of the toe-nail paint thus indicate the heroine’s femininity (i.e. conformity to female gender norms), and the pallor of the tiles draws attention to those flirty, feminine toe-nails.

    ‘Elle felt an amazing connection with Brock ripple through her. How amazing that their child would be born in the same month as Brock’s father.’

    Maybe she believes in star signs and that’s why the month is so significant? I have the impression that belief in star signs is considered “feminine” (because men are supposed to be more rational/scientific in their thinking).

    ‘She felt both strong and delicate against him.’

    -ibid., p.58

    …how? huh?

    She feels strong in her feminine (i.e. sexual) power over him, but also “delicate” as she’s pressed against his large, hard and powerfully muscular body?

    ‘”But I like shopping in outlets. It’s like hunting is for men. Bagging the one with the biggest rack in one shot.”‘

    Um, could the author be using “rack” to refer to the size of a stag’s antlers? I have no idea. I have noticed, though, there’s a fair amount of evolutionary psychology underpinning some romances. So perhaps what the author is trying to say here is that shopping is essentially “feminine” because it’s the modern equivalent of prehistoric women going on a trip to gather berries. Shopping is thus the equivalent of the prehistoric male activity of hunting.

    Comment by Laura Vivanco — July 25, 2010 @ 4:30 pm | Reply


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