ClitLit – Women, Romance Fiction and Patriarchal Discourse

July 25, 2010

WTFemininity: Reading ‘The CEO’s Expectant Secretary’

Filed under: funnies — Jodi @ 12:40 pm
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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.


January 5, 2010

Oh Karen Templeton No! #4 … … …whaddidyousay, sugar?

Oh no you DIDN’T, Karen Templeton. You did not emphasise how much Karleen loves her autonomy and is not miserable and likes being single and doesn’t want to be codependent to have her BFF come out with this absolute bullshit:

”” All Karleen’s ever wanted is to be won over, by a man more stubborn than she is.”‘

– Templeton, K., 2007, Pride and Pregnancy [Harlequin Mills & Boon] p. 196

Nothing else. Just a pigheaded man.


…and it gets worse. Troy pays rent on an apartment for Karleen’s drunken aunt – without telling her, obviously, because she’s one of them stoopid wimminz who can’t take care of themselves. And Karleen thinks:

“And where Troy got off playing God. The creep. And why his doing so was making her heart go pitty-pat in a way it had never done before.” (pp.225-6)

Because all she needed was a man to fix her problems for her. Them stoopid wimminz!

No, Karen Templeton. NO.

Oh Karen Templeton No! #3 – Them Stoopid Wimminz!

Still not finished on this book! This time, we’re tackling parochialism and the ‘them stoopid wimminz!’ mentality. Again, Pride and Pregnancy is not the worst book I’ve ever read in this area. But it’s the one I’m reading while I’m in a ranty mood, and so…

…the next time I read a parochial hero – especially one who, up till now, has been a Good Guy ™ – I am throwing the book at the wall.

The scene: Karleen has just discovered that her session of afternoon delight with hero Troy has left her knocked up. He wants to marry her ‘for practicality’ (so she can go on his health insurance, even though she has her own), she tells him to get stuffed. I still don’t like Karleen and her clothes (sidenote: in their sex scene, Templeton describes Karleen’s underwear as ‘pale pink embroidered silk high-cuts’ – OH KAREN TEMPLETON NO!), but I like that she’s determined to be independent. There was a scene earlier I thought was good where Karleen’s BFF was all alike, ‘when did you fall off the man wagon? OMG u hav no man sooo sad!!!1!’ and Karleen, quite rightly, verbally bitchslaps her with something along the lines of, ‘I don’t no man!’

But I digress. So Karleen is determined to be independent. Troy, who has hitherto been reasonably decent, agrees with uncharacteristic sourness. And then comes this parochial exchange with Blake, his business partner:

‘”Meaning, at least I’m in the position to take care of both Karleen and this baby. But she’s not having any of it.”

“As in, marriage?”

“Well, yes. Except she’s insisting we didn’t know each other well enough or have enough in common to make a marriage work.”

“Not that she has a valid point or anything.”

“Especially since she’s been married three times already.”


“Yeah. …Karleen’s got a real thing about trying to stand on her own two feet.”

“There’s a lot of that going around these days,” Blake said dryly, referring, Troy supposed, to his own wife, Cass, who – despite being broke and, as it happened, also pregnant – had given Blake a similar song-and-dance before finally agreeing to remarry him last year.’

– Templeton, K., 2007, Pride and Pregnancy [Harlequin Mills & Boons] p.111

This is by no means the worst scene of its kind in romance fiction. But still, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t rewrite it like this:

TROY: So Karleen should totally give up this crap autonomy thing she’s harping on about and just marry me. Y’know, so I could be a Real Man and paternalistically take care of them.

BLAKE: Yeah, them wimminz are real stoopid sometimes… don’t know what’s good for ’em!

Say it with me – OH KAREN TEMPLETON NO!

ETA: Two pages later, Blake manages to say what I was saying. So Karen Templeton knows exactly what her subtext is. But that don’t mean it ain’t parochial…

‘”But here’s a newsflash, buddy – women don’t much like being given ultimatums. And they especially don’t like feeling like somebody’s threatening their autonomy. Doesn’t matter what the motive is, or that you’re only doing whatever it is ‘for their own good’.” (p.113)

Or you could read it this way:

BLAKE: Them stoopid irrational wimminz! They don’t understand what’s good for ’em, even if you try to tell ’em. Too busy being all damn autonomous to let us take ’em under our patriarchal wing and take care of ’em!

Oh Karen Templeton No! #2 – Slut-Shamin’

Now, it might be a bit unfair to pick specifically on Karen Templeton for this one, because she’s definitely not the worst offender here. She’s created a rare thing – a heroine with three ex-husbands who isn’t exactly ashamed of it. This is unusual, and kudos to you, Ms Templeton, for going there.

But as I’m determined to make this book my bunny after taking an instant dislike to the heroine, her wardrobe and all of her intricately described furniture, I’m going to go there.

“…to point out to her aunt that if she spent less time time in a horizontal position… in the company of men of dubious character…” (p.35)

“…not to mention an appalling number of ‘gap guys’ in between…” (p.47)

– Templeton, K., 2007, Pride and Pregnancy [Harlequin Mills & Books]

No, Karen Templeton. You do not get to create a sexually liberated heroine and still participate in patriarchal dialogue of  female sexual interrogation and oppression. If you had a whole bunch of gap guys between your husband, good for you. If your aunt wants to sleep with men of dubious character, it ain’t your business, sister.

Here we see clearly the contradiction present in so much romance fiction – female sexuality is at once celebrated and interrogated. And, Karen Templeton, I think you could have done better, so all I have to say is:


Oh Karen Templeton No! #1 – Just Bein’ A Man

I am aware I am pretty much liveblogging this book, but I’m only on p. 27 and there is already so much awful. Not only have we had more gratuitous clothing description (and furniture description – just as your heroine is not your Barbie, her world is not your dollhouse!) we’ve come across this delightful reinforcement of gender roles:

‘Bemusement danced in her eyes. “If you stare at my chest any harder, my bra’s gonna catch fire.”

“I – I’m sorry, I don’t usually…” He blew out a breath, his face hotter than the pizza. “I didn’t mean…” She laughed. Troy sighed again. “Okay, so maybe I did. But I’m not a letch, I swear.”

“Oh, don’t go gettin’ your boxers in a bunch. You’re just bein’ a man, is all. No harm, no foul. It’s kinda cute, actually.”‘

– Templeton, K., 2007, Pride and Pregnancy [Harlequin Mills & Boon] p.27

Heroine calling hero on his asshatery? EXCELLENT.

Heroine writing off hero’s asshatery as ‘just bein’ a man – and it’s kinda cute’? OH KAREN TEMPLETON NO!

That is going to be my new catch cry whenever this book makes me feel like beating my head against my desk.

December 22, 2009

The Wonderful World of Category Titles

Filed under: funnies — Jodi @ 5:45 am
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Seriously, I don’t know if there is anything in the world quite as amusing as the titles of category romance. If there is one thing in the world that makes people think romance is worthless trash, I reckon those titles are up there as a contender. (They’re in close competition with the covers. Fabio is hard to beat).

My personal favourite from today:

Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy.

How can you not laugh at a title like that? Talk about removing the mystery…

December 20, 2009

Even Blonde Ones

Filed under: funnies — Jodi @ 5:18 am
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I’ve just started reading one of Mills & Boons’ December releases – Getting Physical, by Jade Lee. I’ll write some more on this later, because it definitely plays into that idea of the individual and sexuality that I was talking about before, and also because it’s supposed to be about a Tantric master and, having majored in Asian religion at university, I’m pretty sure the author has no clue what she’s talking about, but I had to share this quote. It’s too full of WTF not to.

“He’d known beautiful women before, even blonde ones.”

– Lee, J., 2009, Getting Physical [Mills & Boon] p. 44

Because it’s unheard of for blonde women to be beautiful. Completely and utterly farcical.

December 19, 2009

My Favourite Ever Line From A Romance Novel

Filed under: funnies — Jodi @ 1:12 pm
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There are always a few good ones, especially in Harlequin novels, but this one has to be my favourite of all time:

“His male antenna arced fire.”

– Goodnight, L., 2004, Rich Man, Poor Bride [Silhouette]

Simple, but it gets me every time I read it. Like a punch in the gut.

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