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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January 5, 2010

Your Heroine Is Not Your Barbie – Quick Shots

I’m slogging my way through Pride and Pregnancy and I made it a whole two paragraphs further before I found something that completely rubbed me up the wrong way. I hate, hate, HATE when people insist on describing their character’s clothes in unnecessary detail. I realise this has nothing to do with the Proper Grown Up Academic Study of Romance Novels ™ but it drives me absolutely NUTS.

So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to read the first chapter, and every time the author makes an unnecessary note of some facet of a character’s clothing, I’m going to write it down. Because I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books and THIS TREND MUST STOP.

– gardening gloves, covering press-on nails (p.8)

– beaded slides (p.8)

– eighties retro hair (p.11)

– stretchy pants (p.11)

– “the top rode high” (p.11)

– “the bellybutton sparkled like the North Star” (p.11)

– “a delicate gold chain hugged her ankle” (p.12)

– “assortment of fake gemstone rings” (p.12)

– “tugging a straw coloured hair out of her lipstick” (p.13)

– “her cheeks pinked way beyond the makeup” (p.14)

– “he also didn’t miss the lack of panty lines underneath all that soft, snuggly fabric” (p.15)

– “umbrella sized straw hat” (p.17)

– entire conversation about authenticity of Karleen’s boobs (p.19)

– not exactly clothing, but could be considered an accessory – “trusty Swiss Army knife” (p. 22)

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

Obviously, there are situations when a little description is a good thing. But YOUR CHARACTERS ARE NOT YOUR BARBIES. Clothes are not the window to the soul. I really, really don’t care what they are wearing. Am I alone here? Maybe. But this is why (well, one of the many reasons) I had to stop reading those cracktastic Anita Blake books. Round about Book #8, they started degenerating into sex scenes and descriptions of what people were wearing linked together by something to do with vampires and werewolves and… was there more plot? It was dressed up so much I missed it, obscured by the trappings.

Less is more. This is a lesson I could use in all aspects of my own writing, but when it comes to clothing your characters, this really, really irritates me. If your heroine’s beaded slides are magical and will be used to save the world, tell me all about them! But don’t tell me about her umbrella-sized straw hat, unless it is the nemesis of the beaded slides and turns whoever wears it evil. And if every single article of clothing your characters are wearing are magical and vital to the plot, you know what you need to do?

Write a goddamn better book.

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