October 8th, 2006

studious

Trashy

One of my co-workers is an avid reader of romance novels. She particularly likes "vampire romance", which has expanded into its own subgenre of romance novels.

When I was a teen, I read romance novels with much the same voracity as sf or fantasy. Almost all the romances I read were imprints: Harlequin and Silhouette were the biggest, but there were a number of other imprints that I'd read now and again. These were very dependable books, following a simple formula: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They do Stupid Things which create obstacles to their love. Eventually, they stop doing the Stupid Things, get married, and live happily ever after. The End.

Imprint books are churned out at a tremendous speed. In a given line, say "Silhouette Desire", Silhouette would publish four books per week. The bookstore would stock copies of those four books for seven days, then at the end of the week they'd rip the covers off of whatever was left, send those back, and throw out the books to make room for the new ones. Some imprints get a later overseas run, but effectively any given book is available for one week and then gone forever. The houses don't do reprints and they don't make best sellers. They put out a product, not literature, aimed at delivering to a particular taste, over and over and over again with slight variations.

I hadn't read a romance novel of this sort for fifteen+ years. But I had a certain curiosity about the "fantasy romance" novel, a subgenre that didn't really exist when I was reading them. Yes, there are plenty of fantasy novels with a romantic subplot, but romance novels with a fantasy subplot were quite rare. The thing that distinguishes a romance from other genres is that everything revolves around the protagonists' feelings for each other. It's All About how she feels about him, and he feels about her, and what they do for/to each other, and how that makes them feel, etc., ad nauseum.

So I was talking to my co-worker about the genre, and she offered to lend me a couple of books in the "Dark Hunter" series. (I just found the website. It's awful. ZOMG. If that doesn't warn you to stay away from these books nothing could). They're by Sherrilyn Kenyon (I don't know if she's one person or a pseudonym used by multiple authors) and apparently sell quite well. There are dozens of them, in the same modern-fantasy setting. The "Dark Hunter" series has a vampire-esque theme; the others appear to exploit different themes.

The next day, my co-worker left the first two "Dark Hunter" novels on my desk, helpfully labelled "1" and "2" in black marker on the top. In the best romance novel tradition, there's no indication of series order from the books themselves.

I read the first one.

Yesterday, I spent most of a walking through the mall with Lut going on, and on, about the book. Both good and bad. The truth is, I found reading it enormously entertaining; sometimes in the way the author meant to entertain, and as often not. I've been wanting to organize my thoughts on the subject for a few days, so I'm going to set them down here.
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