Saturday, June 06, 2009

Beyond Heaving Bosoms; Wendell & Tan

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan was published by Fireside Books in April 2009. Link to their blog & bbook page in the title above. It’s a little tough to categorize, since I think it’s a hybrid between humor and literary criticism. I found my copy in the lit crit section of my local B&N. The authors run a romance book blog, eponymously named Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I’ve been a loyal lurker on the site for several years now & I was thrilled beyond belief to find this in a brick and mortar bookstore.

The ‘pink aisle’ of your local bookstore, aka the romance section, is, if you believe readers’ gossip, the dregs of literature. There are so many snide, attitude laden smears repeated about romance I couldn’t list them all: they’re all the same, they’re porn for women, since they all end happily they have nothing valid to say, they encourage unhealthy relationship stereotypes, romance is so bad it makes science fiction and fantasy look good, and on and on and on. Loyal readers are known to make or buy book covers to hide their books in so that they won’t get hassled for their choice of reading material.

Yet, these same supposedly mouth breathing soap opera watching uneducated unemployed unfulfilled housewives buy billions of dollars worth of romances every year. We joke that we bankroll the publishing industry year after year after year, and will continue to do so even in the Depression 2.0. We are some of the most loyal, most prolific book buyers out there. If asked many devoted readers say they will cut back on every other budget item- except books. Many of us are also dedicated library patrons.

What does Beyond Heaving Bosoms have to say about romance? A lot, truth be told. Much of it quite blue and quite funny. This isn’t intended to be an academic treatise defending romance, but it is an in depth look at could be called an insider’s body of knowledge. Things that long term readers are familiar with, but which usually confuse and annoy newbies. For example: hero and heroine character types, common plot tropes, romance novel code words (for example, did you know that the word mistress when used in an Harlequin has it’s own definition?), rape, sexual agency, those horrible clinch covers, and finally, theories on the directions in which romance will be moving in the future. The online ‘you must be nice no matter what” aka “if you don’t have anything nice to say..” culture is discussed. Oh- there are also games such as romance mad libs, funniest book related game EVER.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms is a must read for long time romance readers, even if you only want to be able to defend your choice of reading material. For those readers who have wondered why romances have been likened to “book crack” this a great way to familiarize yourself with the neighborhood. Welcome. Come on in. The water’s fine.

Cover image found on Barnes & Noble.


Gwendolyn B. said...

What a fun-looking book! It's going right onto my wish list!

P.S. I've an award for you over at my blog!

Kate Diamond said...

We just did a link round-up on reviews of this book! I linked back to your site in the comments section.

Ms. Bookish said...

I've been thinking about adding this book to my tbr list - your review's clinched it. I think I'll add it to my next order online. I went through an avid Harlequin phase one year when I was a teenager, and hadn't picked any up since, but I recently came across some really good romance blogs and actually ordered some Harlequins from their site the other day! So I think this will be a great companion book.

Bookwormom said...

Gwendolyn B~ Thank you for the lovely award. I'm honored. :) It is a fun book. I really enjoyed it.

Kate Diamond~ Am coming over to check the other links. Thanks for letting me know! :)

Ms. Bookish~ If nothing else, it'll help you figure out if you want to read more romances. :} If you can find them there are some really great romances out there.

Thanks for stopping by ladies, Happy Reading.