Links: Book Blogger Con, Being Wrong, Chick Lit Dies Again

Links of interest:

Ana of Things Mean A Lot on Being Wrong:

What occasionally does worry me are all the other things that inevitably come up in the process of talking about books. A book review is seldom only about the book in question – it’s also a piece of writing that requires the reader to engage with and position him or herself before a number of themes and ideas. In the process of doing this, I have often betrayed my ignorance, said thoughtless or insensitive things, been hasty or unfair, and so on and so forth. The existence of this blog means that anyone can access an old post of mine and think that it’s an accurate and up-to-date reflection of my thinking – which is a scary thing.


Liz at Something More on Reading (About) Bodies: Links on the Body, Feminism, Romance. Liz reflects a bit on the Awl article (Maria Bustillos’ Romance Novels: The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing) that was making the rounds last week. Don’t miss the comments.


This is Your Brain in Love, via Open Culture. A short video from Stanford documenting people, aged 10 to 75, thinking about their loved ones while spending a few minutes in an fMRI machine.


The Decline of Chick Lit from the U-T San Diego. Many anecdotes like this one:

San Diego author Whitney Lyles, who wrote five chick-lit titles, says she doesn’t think the genre is dead, but “it has a serious hangover.” In 2003, her first book, “Always the Bridesmaid,” had three editors vying for publishing rights. Today’s market is quite different. Her publisher declined her last chick-lit proposal, so she has moved on to writing young adult novels.

Interesting responses, including this one from Karla Brady:

Chick lit is not dead. It’s called romantic comedy. It’s called funny women’s fiction. It’s called contemporary romance. It just isn’t called chick lit anymore–except by those of us who still see no shame in the term. And it still sells…and I know this because my debut novel The Bum Magnet–which I originally self published and S&S picked it up and published it last year–would certainly be characterized as chick lit if it were published ten years ago. It’s sold as a contemporary romance–even though it’s more about the character’s personal journey to find her own personal truth than romance.

For more on Chick Lit, see The Guardian’s The Only Thing Wrong with Chick Lit is the Name (warning: this is an article that may set you off).


The Wonderful and Terrible Habit of Buying New Books, at PW. All of you who are slightly guilty about your TBR pile, read it for this line:

A library of mostly unread books is far more inspiring than a library of books already read.


I’ve never read crime fiction writer Jo Nesbo, but I enjoyed this interview in The Millions:

RB: Besides gruesome deaths, what would define and distinguish Scandinavian crime literature? As opposed to American?

JN: Hopefully, Scandinavian crime has — the quality is good. You do have bad Scandinavian crime lit — but I think what separates it from not only American, but the rest of Europe also, is there is a tradition stemming from the ’70s that it was OK to write crime literature. It was prestigious. Sjöwall and Wahlöö sort of moved the crime novel from the kiosks into the bookstores, meaning that young talented writers would use the crime novel as vehicles for their storytelling talents. And so you have had good crime novelists, good writers, who would, from time to time, write so-called serious literature and almost all the well-known, established serious writers in Scandinavia have at one time written a crime novel. It’s sort of a thing that you do. You must have a go at genre.


This article made me nervous about Pinterest and copyright infringement:

A year ago, I thought pins fell under Fair Use, but now…I don’t know. Where’s the FAQ section for this? The Etiquette page says nothing about asking permission to post. (Though it does say original sources are “always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search” – Really? )

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the rights, license, consent or release for 98% of what I’ve pinned, thinking that what I was doing was OK. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, only I don’t know if I am and could use some clarification.

Pinterest tells us to pin with abandon but clearly states that they are not responsible if images that shouldn’t be there are. They simply provide the hypothetical push pins.

I actually deleted my Pinterest account, but mostly because it was just hanging there doing nothing.


Some interesting writing about romance by male writers who don’t write romance:

Romance as the Emotional B-Plot in Speculative Fiction, via @merrianow:

In realistic literary fiction, love is often the central pillar of the story. Conflict is internally generated by the characters, and with its emotional highs and lows, love is an effective source of both conflict and pathos. In speculative fiction, however, we have much wider options for generating conflict: the fate of the universe can and often does hang in the balance. And with tremendous adventure, danger, and excitement it’s tempting to quote Short-round and say “No time for Love, Doctor Jones!” but as Indy shows us: there is always time for love, even if it’s just a side plot.

That’s because when it is shunted into a story’s side plot, the romance can then buttress the story’s entire emotional journey.

And What Do Jane Austen and Contemporary Romance Have in Common? (Via @meganf) (this one may well annoy):

Likewise, contemporary romance — particularly some of its more seamy sides — have become cliches for the entire genre.

Which is why Historical Romance seems like a far distant relative to its contemporary counterparts.

So while I totally agree with Jody that romances are a valid and important form of literature, the Pride and Prejudices of the world are as far removed from dime-store romances as The Haunting of Hill House is from Hostel.

Erotica has done to Romance what Splatter has done to Horror… made it difficult for a writer to avoid being stereotyped.

As you can see, there are problems.


I was going to link to a lame NYT story about airplane fiction, because this is a book blog, but, you know what? I’d rather share an absolutely incredible, mindblowing story of a kidney transplant chain:

What made the domino chain of 60 operations possible was the willingness of a Good Samaritan, Mr. Ruzzamenti, to give the initial kidney, expecting nothing in return. Its momentum was then fueled by a mix of selflessness and self-interest among donors who gave a kidney to a stranger after learning they could not donate to a loved one because of incompatible blood types or antibodies. Their loved ones, in turn, were offered compatible kidneys as part of the exchange.

Chain 124, as it was labeled by the nonprofit National Kidney Registry, required lockstep coordination over four months among 17 hospitals in 11 states. It was born of innovations in computer matching, surgical technique and organ shipping, as well as the determination of a Long Island businessman named Garet Hil, who was inspired by his own daughter’s illness to supercharge the notion of “paying it forward.”


And in case you’re curious, this is exactly how I feel about the NYT piece:

Apparently they are because there are already 50 glowing comments.


BEA Bloggers Con update:

Jennifer Weiner will be the keynote speaker at this year’s BEA Bloggers Conference. I have no objections to having an author keynote an event for book bloggers, as long as that author is supportive of book bloggers, but which I mostly mean, doesn’t go after negative reviewers. Weiner’s willingness to get into public scrapes (Franzenfreude, #Fridayreads) will likely translate into an exciting talk.

My sources tell me that select book bloggers (BEA Online Focus Group) have been invited to an online chat this Friday afternoon with the BEA organizers to offer feedback on the event. I’m glad BEA is seeking input from bloggers about a blogger event.


A terrific article on audiobooks at n+1:

The possibility of reading while also doing something else produces one of the stranger phenomenological characteristics of audio book reading: you can have a whole set of unrelated and real (if only partially attended) experiences while simultaneously experiencing a book. You live in two worlds at once.


What we do genuinely disdain is a third thing—that third category of art and culture that the critic Dwight Macdonald described as the middlebrow. Middlebrow art, for Macdonald, came between kitsch (which Macdonald called “lowbrow”) and avant-garde (which he called “highbrow”); it is art that tries too hard and ends up being too easy. It tries to make everyone cultured. It does not discriminate. It is vulgar because it reaches beyond its station. It’s for people who want to read the complete works of Balzac even though they also have to cook dinner.

This, I think, is our real problem with audio books…


This is the last week before our two week spring break, and it’s a busy one. As per usual, my children are on break while we are not. Grrrrr. So there’s the nanny scramble. For years, my department has enjoyed having the teaching abilities of a very special adjunct, who was just named our university system’s chancellor, so we are trying to get those vital courses covered for next year, and thinking about what his absence may mean long term for our program. I’m grading, grading, grading, as is typical mid-semester. And, horrors!, the ethics committee has been “discovered” by the quality committee at the hospital, which means I am working on a report. One of many, I am guessing.

In good news, my older son was chosen for the state’s Olympic Development team, and we will be heading to New Jersey in June for that.

I’ve been struggling to read fiction lately, but I’m still hoping to write some reviews this week on books I’ve read in the last month.

Happy week!

Jane Austen's Persuasion: Random observations, current controversy, two questions and two finale scenes

This is a motley post about Persuasion, with mostly observations from other people. I make a couple of observations and ask two questions. At the end, I include the final scenes from the 1995 and 2007 adaptations, which make for an interesting contrast in interpretation.

1. In 2008, Sarah Frantz, an Austen scholar, reported on giving a paper on romance with several other romance scholars at the Jane Austen Society of North America. Among Sarah’s comments:

…for Janeites to disavow the romance label is, I think, at best disingenuous and at worst, willfully rewriting literary history.

This article, for instance, makes me crazy.

Of the new “chick-lit” style covers of Austen, Thompson argues: Of Persuasion: “Pure Mills & Boon, in fact; and sublimely inappropriate to the tone of this sad, shadowy novel.” Did she read the same novel I did? Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel because she takes a sad, autumnal tone and turns it into the most stunningly compelling expression of the power and optimism of romance you could ever hope to read: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” Indeed.

2. I enjoyed reading Nandrea, Lorri G. “DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION IN AUSTEN’S PERSUASION.” Studies in the Novel 39, no. 1 (Spring2007 2007): 48-64. Some quotes:

At the very beginning, Austen defies such a narrative structure by repeatedly assuring us that everything is already over. The “history and rise of the ancient and respectable [Elliot] family” has been told already and has reached its “finale”; the “very awkward history” of Elizabeth’s courtship has ended, as has Wentworth’s courtship of Anne: “this little history of sorrowful interest had reached its close”. No situation seems open to progress, complication, or development. Moreover, though most of the characters are in motion by the end of the fifth chapter, none seem to be moving toward anything.

Indeed, the plot of the novel will be composed of a complex series of repetitions.

Throughout this novel, Austen probes the relationship between foreseeable futures and unforeseeable events. The act of persuasion itself bears a special relationship to the future tense, often relying on the seductive articulation of a projected scenario.

Ultimately, the novel makes it possible to picture social hegemony itself as a continuously renegotiated product of persuasion, the result that obtains when many individuals are persuaded to share a particular point of view.

And yet the text also tells us that there is no such thing as too late. A sense of the ways in which present and future are underdetermined by the past works to preserve the chance of the future–especially its chance to differ from whatever has already happened–together with the revolutionary potential of every single “now.”

3. A controversy has arisen in recent weeks over Austen’s writing. From BBC News:

The elegant writing style of novelist Jane Austen may have been the work of her editor, an academic has claimed. Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University reached her conclusion while studying 1,100 original handwritten pages of Austen’s unpublished writings.

From Jane Austen Today, a good summary post of the recent brouhaha.

Sutherland is not new to controversy. In 2009 she accused another scholar of stealing her ideas:

Oxford academic and Austen authority Professor Kathryn Sutherland is claiming that a new book by award-winning biographer Claire Harman has copied her own radical ideas about the novelist, pulled together over 10 years of research and published by her in 2005.

“I have never accused anyone of using my material before,” said Sutherland this weekend, “but it feels a bit like identity theft. Claire has been very canny and she writes very well, but I am finding that I cannot write about my own research because people tell me it is too similar to the key arguments in Claire’s book.”

I liked what Jonathan Jones had to say at the Guardian books blog:

Jane Austen’s style is not a bit of polishing on the surface of her novels, it goes deep into their structure, which is why they are so satisfying. Elegant moral thought is embedded in the design of her characters, their comic voices, the ironies of her plots. At their most achieved, the effect is not just witty but profound. But they are not always perfectly achieved and that is significant. You can see evolution, improvement in her work and, some say, decline as well. It makes no sense to attribute her brilliance to the hand of a (male) editor when we can so clearly see her learning on the job, see her style grow. It is organic, it is not in fact a “style” but a voice. Jane Austen’s voice is special and it is unique.

It’s interesting to contrast Sutherland’s claims with the touching biographical notice of the author in Persuasion‘s preface her brother Henry:

The style of her familiar correspondence was in all respects the same as that of her novels. Every thing came finished from her pen; for on all subjects she had ideas as clear as her expressions were well chosen. It is not hazarding too much to say that she never dispatched a note or letter unworthy of publication.

4. “Austen’s triumph was to make everything connect” in “the kaleidoscope of her mind” (129) From Harris, Jocelyn. Jane Austen’s Art of Memory. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

5. Not about Persuasion, but this synopsis gave me a huge giggle:

JANE BITES BACK (Ballantine. 2009. ISBN 9780345513656. pap. $14), Michael Thomas Ford sends up both Austenmania and the vampire craze. Turned into a vampire in the 19th century, Jane today owns a small bookshop in upstate New York. She watches other people capitalize on her name while she attempts unsuccessfully to sell her unpublished manuscript. Complications include her fellow vampire Lord Byron and confrontations with Bronte fanatics.

–from Jerrit, Jessica. “No Persuasion Necessary: Jane Austen’s Eternal Appeal.” Library Journal 135, no. 15 (September 15, 2010): 107.)

6. My favorite negative review of Persuasion from

I don’t know what all of you are talking about. I found this book to be boring, bourgeois and completely unsympathetic. I can not imagine anyone relating to any of these characters, unless you are extremely rich and live in 19th century England. It was, however, well written.

7. I was struck again in reading Persuasion what remarkable insight Jane Austen had, and more than that, the ability to express it. That’s my true joy in reading Jane Austen. For example, when describing Anne’s father, she writes,

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.

I think another writer would have ended her observation with “character”. But by adding “and of situation” Austen captures the way some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple.

Or when Anne is thinking about the Musgroves, and how happily married they are:

Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance, but still, saved as we all are, by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments…”

To me, the phrase “saved as we all are by some comfortable feeling of superiority…” elevates this into a very astute observation.

The early scene when Anne stays home with her injured nephew is one of my favorites, because of the way Austen captures the way people lie outlandishly to themselves for their own selfish ends. Anne’s sister convinces herself that she doesn’t need to stay home, that Anne should do it, because:

…I am of no use at home, am I? and it only harasses me. You, who have not a mother’s feelings, are a great deal the properest person.

See, being a mom makes you a poor choice to nurse your child … because you feel too much. That’s the ticket!

8. Everything about Chapter 23 is magic. I especially loved:

Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove any thing.

And of course, at that very moment, a man is writing something, that she allows to prove something very important.

9. A question: What do you make of Lady Russell?

10. And another one: Why did Captain Harville Wentworth say he had found Anne so altered?

11. There are many film adaptations of Persuasion. I watched the 1995 one with Ciarán Hinds, which I liked a lot. Here are two video clips of Anne and Captain Wentworth meeting after she reads his letter, the first from the 1995 version, and second from the 2007:

Although I think the 2007 Captain is better looking, I prefer Hinds in the role. how about you? Have a favorite (or least favorite) Persuasion adaptation?

Monday Morning Stepback: Jane Austen Fight Club, Metaphors, and Chocolate on My Tongue

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

Links of Interest:

I rarely embed videos, but Jane Austen’s Fight Club is too funny to make you click over (via Jezebel):

Via @shannonstacey, SluhPile Hell has the top 25 worst children’s books ever. The winner is this gem:

@MJsRetweet: Daddy Has an Itch. Mommy Smells Like Fish: A Child’s Rhyming Guide to STD’s

Amazon announced last week that its ebooks sales outpaced its hardcover sales. This article at CNET helped me decipher Amazon’s claim. Of special interest in the CNET piece was this comment:

Certain genres are doing very well on the Kindle. Romance novels, for instance. These titles are typically very big in paperback not hardcover. According to Wikipedia, in 2004, romance novels made up 54 percent of all paperbacks sold.

Levi Asher is wondering why philosophy gets no respect in Living in a Dark Age. After seeing The Twilight Saga: Eclipse today, in which Edward and Bella’s class valedictorian exhorted her peers to “major in philosophy cause there’s no way to make a career out of that!” I am wondering, too.

On the bright side, Feminism is not finished according to the Guardian. The article discusses F-Worders Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune’s Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement.

From the LA Times’ Jacket Copy, The Library of America Launches a Blog

Called Reader’s Almanac, it focuses on joining the current online discussions that touch on the works and authors in the publisher’s catalog, such as William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

From The Constant Conversation, “I couldn’t handle all the judging”, about a woman who actually uses newsprint to cover hardbacks of which she is ashamed to be seen reading, such as …  Charlaine Harris!

At HuffPo, Sonya Chung on Art Before Life: Questioning the Parenthood Question.

…it would seem that, “Will motherhood make me happy?” is a highly flawed, question to start with. “Will it enrich my life?” or “Will it enlarge my soul?” might be closer; and yet, ironically, the more accurate the question, the more abstract and less answerable. “Am I capable of being a good mother?” seems crucial, although one inevitably gets lost in the labyrinth of “capable” and “good,” unpacked and debated ad nauseum along with the others.

“Will I regret it if I don’t?” strikes me as the most fraught and least productive of all the questions. Regret for not doing something is inevitably a muddled emotion, since all you have on the other side of inaction are romantic notions of what could have been, as opposed to an actual appraisal of specific loss. And this question is often driven, I think, by negative impulses: a nagging sense of self-distrust (am I deluding myself with hedonism, clinging to autonomy?) and /or the habit of chronic discontentment (will I be tormented if I don’t have what everyone else has?).

Again from the Guardian, this time the Books Blog, The Novel is Centuries Older than We Have Been Told.

YA author Hannah Moskowitz on Boys and YA. This is a hot topic: 146 comments and counting.

Stop writing this boy you’ve imagined in your head and write a real boy. Make him gross or sweet or angry or well-adjusted or affectionate or uncomfortable or confused or ambitious or overwhelmed or smitten or anxious or depressed or desperate or happy. Write a boy the same way everyone has been telling everyone, forever, to write a girl; free of gender stereotypes, three-dimensional, and relatable.

From Nathan Bransford, Top Ten Myths About our EBook Future

Lorraine Ali wrote Behind the Veil for the NYT Fashion page. Then we had Martha Nussbaum’s NYT article in the Stone on the subject of Muslim women and veils. And now we have a response by Racialicious here.

I realize I don’t have many romance links this week. But here are a few:

Erotic romance author Victoria Janssen has a thoughtful post on Eroticism in Gaffney’s To Have and To Hold:

Therefore, I looked at Sebastian’s erotic journey. At first, he can sense the barriers between him and Rachel. The only way he can allow himself to think of removing those barriers is with sex; he’s a dissipated rake; seduction is what he does. He cannot change his character except through sex. He thus makes her into an erotic object, and seeks to break her down to his level. “Her passivity irked him.” “He felt pity for her, and curiosity, and an undeniably lurid sense of anticipation.” “She was in his power, a virtual slave. The situation was unquestionably provocative, but it ought to have been more so, more stimulating. He hadn’t really gotten to her yet. She simply didn’t care enough.” “Because of her reserve, touching her seemed a daring encroachment, almost like the breaking of a taboo. But wasn’t that what made her irresistible?” “…that master-servant simulation had piquant sexual overtones he found stimulating.”

Blogger and newly published f/f erotic romance author Katiebabs/ KT Grant is wondering Why Can’t GLBT and Straight Romances Go Hand in Hand? Great comments.

Jean at AAR is wondering Where Are all the Foreign Romances?

From Jackie, a late report on her wild and crazy doings at RomCon 2010.


U Chicago philosopher Ted Cohen gave a talk Saturday in Camden, at a conference in which I also participated, about jokes and metaphors. We got a lot of jokes, of course (“Why don’t Episcopalians have orgies? Too many thank you notes to write.”). During the Q and A, Cohen said there are two ways in which the world would be unbearable: one would be “if we had so little in common that we never laughed at the same jokes. The other would be if we had so much in common we always laughed at the same jokes.”

Cohen said some things about metaphor in particular that I wanted to relate.

He said that the literal use of language proceeds according to the rules, but the use of metaphor is about exercising a kind of freedom from rules (and “Freedom From Rules” was indeed the title of his talk). He acknowledges that there are constraints on metaphors, but they are not decisive. He mentioned Eliot’s Wasteland, and Donne’s words, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.  Eliot and Donne were not literally talking about a wasteland or a continent. To read it this way would be to see only literal falsehoods.

Rather, it takes something more to make a metaphor. It takes a kind of genius. No one can prove what a metaphor is about. Rather, there is a hope that there is something we can share. The author takes a chance on this. We are joined in our humanity. We share the world, or we are estranged.

In a really nice article at Novel Matters, The Care and Feeding of Metaphors, author Latayne Scoot quotes Aristotle:

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance.


I had a really nice time in Camden. After the conference, I attended a cocktail party and spent some time talking to people about — among other things — where to eat in Rockland (one town south, where I was headed later that evening). One woman recommended a few places to eat. Her name was Nancy Jenkins. I figured out the next morning that she was NY Times and Food and Wine and Mediterranean cuisine cookbooks writer Nancy Jenkins.  But that’s the coast of Maine in the summer for you.

My husband drove down and we attended a concert by the Wood Brothers Saturday night. I had spent eight hours that day talking with other philosophers about “what is the good” (the conference theme). I believe we can profitably use the tools of philosophy to think about that question, and I was happy to get the chance to do it.

But the Wood Brothers’ song, Chocolate on My Tongue (lyrics here), offers a much simpler meditation, equally valuable. Enjoy.

Wishing safe travels, professional advancement, lots of fun, and literary fulfillment to everyone attending RWA this week!

Dancing in Romance Novels

Jessica’s note: While reading Meredith Duran’s Written on Your Skin recently, I was struck by how lovely and important a brief bit of dancing in the country was to the couple’s developing relationship. I thought right away about another book, Julie Ann Long’s To Love a Thief, in which the hero teaches the heroine how to dance as part of a general education in how to be a lady, and gets schooled himself. I thought it might be nice to do a post on dancing in romance, and to ask readers to share their favorite dance scenes.  Janet offered to take the lead. Thanks, Janet!

Doing without Dancing

By Janet Webb, aka @JanetNorCal

It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue to any body or mind;—but when a beginning is made—when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt—it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.
—Jane Austen, Emma

Dancing, in historicals that are accurate (mostly) for the Regency era, can be a time out of time. When else could a man and a woman speak together without the presence of a chaperone or a group of friends? I am speaking in particular about the waltz, although other dances certainly allowed for conversation as well. And more than conversation: sometimes the repartee and just the sensation of closeness seem like a first sexual encounter. Intensely moving and sometimes setting the tone for a relationship.

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Darcy is invited by his friend Mr. Bingley to dance with Elizabeth Bennett. He declines and his reasons, rather snobbish and patronizing, are overheard by Elizabeth. Her pride is hurt and she is prejudiced against him. They do eventually dance though, and different feelings and emotions are felt by them both. This is the essence of a meaningful “minuet” LoL: feelings change, sometimes, through physical proximity.


Of course, “Our” notion of dancing in historical romances almost entirely focuses on the waltz and the truth is, dancing was more like Scottish country dancing today — dances done in groups. This is why, for example, in Georgette Heyers’s Friday’s Child, there is a scene at Almacks when George, Lord Wortham tries, yet again, to convince Isabella Milbourne of his undying love for her, but  is constantly interrupted by the movements of the country dance — and their increasingly heated and uncomfortable interchange amused everyone watching. Dancing was not a deux, or at least not often, in Regency times.

Or consider Sylvester by Georgette Heyer: Sylvester arranges for Phoebe to come to London after he rescues her from a carriage accident. She is on the road in the first place because she is running away from a marriage proposal from him, a duke! He is quite insulted when he learns she would rather become a writer, living with her former governess, than marry him (not that he wants to marry her!). He’s a duke and very prideful and he’s both intrigued and insulted by her behaviour. Wait, there’s more. Phoebe wrote an extremely clever roman a clef based on her horrific London season the year before: Sylvester is the erstwhile villain. It is published soon after she returns to London and although it is fiction, it is hauntingly accurate. Sylvester is furious. As one might expect, the rumours of authorship start to fly and Sylvester insists that Phoebe waltz with him: ostensibly to quell the rumours but he rips into her and she flees the dance floor. One doesn’t have to be a scholar of Freud to understand the sub-text: both of them have feelings for each other that are by no means entirely negative.

Occasionally the dance floor can be the first place where a couple interact with equal footing, like in An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley. Lucien is a marquess, a dangerous and glittery blond. Beth, his fiancée, a former school teacher, is quite terrified of the feelings he evokes in her and the power he holds in the relationship. Their first dance is at their engagement ball and it’s a courtly minuet a deux. Here’s a passage:

They turned to face each other. She watched him carefully. When, as she expected, he performed an elaborately deep full bow, she sank into as deep a court curtsey as her skirt would allow, her eyes correctly on his at all times.  Then she rose slowly with smooth control. She did not place her hand in his outstretched one until the last moment to make it clear to all that she needed no assistance in rising.

This was somewhat of a turning point for them. In a pleasing reflection of that pivotal moment, they dance the same dance at their wedding.

Sometimes a dance allows a gentleman – or more likely a rake – to cut through convention. This happens in A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh. Kit has bet his friends that he can convince the most Ice Princess-like lady of the ton to marry him. Of course, he has not even met her when he agrees on this wager and when he arrives at a ball that Lauren is also attending, he knows he’ll never be able to get past the phalanx of her over-protective family. A friendly matron presents Kit to Lauren as an acceptable partner (remember, there always has to be an introduction if a couple has not previously met) and Lauren agrees to waltz with him. That act of deliberate stepping outside her role on Lauren’s part starts the chain of events moving. And of course Kit speaks to her in an unusually double-entendredrish way.

In Balogh’s Slightly Dangerous, Christine has formed a very poor impression of Wulfric, the duke of Bedwyn. She has been in attendance at a house party with him – and others – for a week or so. At the closing ball she changes her opinion of him. Wulfric asks a homely, overlooked gentlewoman to dance, and Christine is forced to admit to herself that nothing but sheer gentility and grace on Wulfric’s part could have been the impetus. Christine and Wulf also have one of Balogh’s trademark natural surroundings sexual coming-togethers  … because their dance was interrupted when a clumsy oaf landed heavily on Christine’s foot, they continued their waltz outside in the garden and, as they say, one thing led to another.

Concluding with another Balogh, A Christmas Bride, one sees how a dance can restore – or at a minimum, paper-over – a damaged reputation. Pris, the former mistress of Precious Jewel, is now married to Gerald, but their married life is lonely because they removed from the ton because of her former profession. Edgar, the hero of A Christmas Bride, sets a scheme in motion whereby Gerald and Pris join him and his family and an assortment of aristocrats, including the very haughty and reserved Duke of Bridgewater, for the Christmas season. When the duke asks Priscilla to dance with him at the Christmas Day ball the reader knows that from then on, Priscilla and Gerald will be able to rejoin their peers in English society. It is an intensely satisfying moment.

Thank you, Janet!

Like Janet, all of my examples are from historicals. Which makes me wonder: can dancing be significant in a contemporary romance, given we know the couple can just go get naked if they choose? Are couples in paranormal too busy fighting the bad guys to dance?

What do you think are some of the most memorable dance scenes in romance?

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Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

Love is the Best Medicine

Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance Authors

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.


reviews by a speculative fiction romantic

Centre for Medical Humanities

News, updates and insights from the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is the loquacious spinster from Austen's Emma. No doubt she read romances ... here's what she would have thought of them.

Badass Romance

heroes, heroines, and books that demand to be taken seriously

bad necklace: not quite pearls of wisdom

mala, media, maladies, and malapropisms

Thinking in Fragments

but making connections too

Tales from the Reading Room

A Literary Salon Where All Are Welcome


thinking about teaching, learning, home and family

Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Fit and Feminist

Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy.

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

Feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health

Heloise Merlin's Weblog

Virtual people read books, too!

Victoria Janssen

Just another site

Bblog Central

Your source for book blogging.

Insta-Love Book Reviews

Deflowering romance - one book at a time

A Striped Armchair

Bookish thoughts from a woman of endless curiousity

Sonomalass's Blog

Another day in paradise

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Featuring Author Interviews and Commentaries

Something More

my extensive reading

Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

Enjoying crime fiction one book at a time

The Romantic Goldfish

"Cheapest mother fucking goldfish on the planet"


...spruiking storytelling

Joanna Chambers, author

Historical romance




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