Nine Essential Elements of Romance Fiction – Catherine LaRoche

NINE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ROMANCE FICTION

Catherine LaRoche

Catherine LaRoche1

I spend a lot of time thinking about romance fiction.  My mom reads the books, and I picked up the love of the genre from her when I was a teenager.  She always had a tottering pile of novels beside her bed that I’d rummage through for something to borrow.  Now I write historical romances and, in my day job, I’m a college professor of gender studies and cultural studies.  For the past several years, I’ve included romance fiction in my teaching while I’ve been writing an academic book entitled Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture (forthcoming in mid-2015 from Indiana University Press).

My students choose romances from a big box that I bring into class and write responses on them.  We do cut-up exercises with the novels to create alternative storylines.  We write a collaborative online romance with scenes ranging from suspense to spicy erotica.  I’ve set up a romance lending library in my office; my eight-year old son decorated a poster for borrowers to write down comments about the novels they check out.  As I draft my academic book, I workshop chapters with the students in order to get feedback.

I’d like to invite similar feedback from readers here, on some of the book’s conclusions.  I propose that romance novels have nine essential elements.  (I’m playing off Dr. Pamela Regis’s work in her wonderful 2003 text A Natural History of the Romance Novel.)  What do you make of my list so far?  Do you agree or disagree?  Am I missing anything?  All comments welcome!

The nine central claims made by the romance narrative:

  1. It is hard to be alone. We are social animals. Most people need and want love, of some kind. Amid all the possibilities for love as philia (friendship) and agape (spiritual or selfless love), the culture often holds up eros or romantic partner love as an apex of all that love can be and do.
  2. It is a man’s world. Women generally have less power, fewer choices, and suffer from vulnerability and double standards. They often get stuck looking after men or being overlooked by men.
  3. Romance is a religion of love. Romance entails belief in the power of love as a positive orienting force. Love functions as religion, as that which has ultimate meaning in people’s lives.
  4. Romance involves risk. Love doesn’t always work out. Desire can be a source of personal knowledge and power but also of deception and danger. Romance fiction is the safe, imaginative play space to explore the meaning and shape of this landscape.
  5. Romance requires hard work. Baring the true self, making oneself vulnerable to another is hard. Giving up individuality for coupledom requires sacrifice.
  6. Romance facilitates healing. Partner love leads to maturity. Love heals all wounds. Love conquers all.
  7. Romance leads to great sex, especially for women. Women in romance novels are always sexually satisfied. Romance reading can connect women to their sexuality in positive way.
  8. Romance makes you happy. The problematic version of this claim is that you need to be in a romantic relationship for full happiness. Here, romance fiction can be oppressive if it mandates coupledom for everyone.
  9. Romance levels the playing field for women. The heroine always wins. By the end, she is happy, secure, well loved, sexually satisfied, and set up for a fulfilling life. The romance story is a woman-centred fantasy about how to make this man’s world work for her.

Further information about Catherine can be found here: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Catherine-LaRoche/407531852

and here: http://popularromanceproject.org/professors-writing-romance/

Thank you so much for the great blog, Catherine, and we look forward to reading your results.

 

Beer, Jane Jackson and a cracking good read

Today the Romaniacs are welcoming Jane Jackson to tell us about her latest novel Crosscurrents. There’s beer too! Do help yourselves, but the big tankard is mine. Cheese straw, anyone?   janejackson

 

Book Blurb: Santo Innis  is developing a revolutionary new engine to counter the lethal effects of high-pressure steam. His backer is Richard Vaughan, heir to Frederick Tregarron, owner of Gillyvean estate. Following the tragic deaths of his wife and baby son, Richard immersed himself in work.

But his world is turned upside down by the unexpected arrival at Gillyvean of Melanie Tregarron, a talented artist and Frederick’s illegitimate youngest daughter. Desperate to prove the viability of his invention, Santo persuades Richard to let him fit one at Gillyvean’s brewhouse. But when Bronnen Jewell – worried about her mother’s suffering at her father’s hands – arrives to brew the harvest beer she’s horrified, fearing loss of the income on which she depends. As the lives of these four become entwined, a shocking revelation shatters Bronnen’s world; desperate for money Santo makes a choice that costs him everything; Melanie fears she will never be free of her past; and Richard has to face his deepest fear.

 

 

crosscurrents

 

Excerpt:

Bronnen stood up. Instantly Santo was on his feet. She touched his arm lightly.

‘I have to skim the beer. The first head has a lot of bits in it and resin from the hops.’

He followed her to the fermentation vessel and watched her work. ‘You do that every three or four hours?’

She nodded. ‘Then what?’ ‘When the beer is cool enough I’ll rack it off.’ Setting down the skimmer she picked up the lantern, led him to an open doorway at the rear of the brewhouse and held it high so he could see casks lying on their sides on top of a timber framework with a gutter running down the middle. ‘When it’s piped into the barrels it carries on working and I collect the yeast to use in the next brew.’

 

Returning the lantern to the wooden staging by the mash tub she swallowed a sudden yawn and glanced away, hoping he hadn’t noticed. But he had.

‘I should go. This ’ave been a long day for you.’ She didn’t want him to leave, but couldn’t ask him to stay. He had his own work. She wiped her palms down her apron.

‘I’m glad you stopped by.’

Taking her hand he raised it to his lips. In the soft light his gaze met hers, held it. ‘Bronnen,’ he murmured and drew her closer. She knew if she resisted he would release her. But she didn’t, couldn’t. As he bent his head she raised her face to his.

His mouth touched hers and her breath stopped. His kiss was gentle, light as a butterfly. It lingered. Her lips softened, parted under his, and she tasted his sweet warmth. She rested her hands on his chest, not to push him away but to steady herself. His heart beat against her palm, hard and fast like her own. Drawing her head back she took a shaky breath. His hands slid from her shoulders to her hips as he rested his forehead against hers.

‘I never – I didn’t expect this, you.’ ‘Nor me.’

 

Tilting her chin, he gazed at her as if he was dying of thirst and she was cool water. ‘Bronnen, I – please?’ ‘Yes,’ she whispered. His mouth covered hers in a kiss that deepened from tender to passionate. As her head swam she gave herself up to the delicious sensation of his mouth on hers and the tidal wave of yearning it unleashed. Her arms slipped around his neck as his enfolded her, drawing her close. When, too soon, he lifted his mouth from hers they were both breathless.

She swayed, disoriented. ‘God, Bron, I’m –’

She pressed her fingers against his lips, shutting off the words. ‘Don’t,’ her voice was unsteady, her heart still pounding. ‘Don’t say you’re sorry. You aren’t, are you?’

‘No! Never! But I shouldn’t have – I didn’t expect –’

‘Me neither.’ Her laugh was shaky. ‘We already said this once.’ Holding her hand between his he pressed his lips to her palm. ‘I’ll go.’ His voice was rough, abrupt. ‘I don’t want to. But –’

‘I know,’ she said softly and stepped away from him. ‘I will see you again.’

His gaze was stormy and the fierceness of his expression betrayed an inner upheaval that matched her own. ‘Soon?’

Looking up at him, awed by what had happened, she reached out and lightly touched his cheek with her fingertips. ‘Yes. Soon.’

 

Now for some background information:

 

The brewhouse on a country estate was usually situated in a courtyard some distance from the main house. This ensured the family wasn’t disturbed by the heady smells and noise of necessary night time work. Two storeys high, it had a slatted lantern in the roof.

These slats could be opened or closed to control the temperature. Just below the lantern a tank or cistern held water pumped up from the well in the yard and gravity-fed down to the copper mounted on a platform 10-12 feet above ground level. Copper sizes varied from 40 gallons in a farmhouse to upwards of 85 gallons in a large country house.

A domestic copper used for laundry was a simple U-shape.  But the bottom of a brewing copper was like a rounded W, the best shape to achieve a rolling boil of the wort, and to ensure the copper could be completely emptied via a tap. Experienced brewers – on farms and in country houses these were often women (known as ‘brewsters’) whose skills were passed down from mother to daughter  – knew that a wood fire was far quicker than coal to bring a copper full of water to the boil.

 

Beer contains only four ingredients:  water, malt, hops and yeast. It is the quality of these plus the skill of the brewster that decides the superiority of the finished product.

 

Water:   Brewsters on farms and in country houses claimed rainwater was best. If it would lather soap it would make a good brew.

 

Malt.  The best barley – a long-eared variety raised on rich soil – made the best malt which would be known by its light fragrance, mellow taste, full flavour and a thin skin that was sweet and crisp.  The barley grains were steeped in water two or three times over two to three days until they began to germinate then transferred to the perforated wood malting floor and constantly turned to air-dry them. Then they were kilned or roasted to the desired colour and ground by hand in a mill like a coffee grinder. It took skill and judgement to crush the malt to just the right consistency.  Once ground it was best used within seven to ten days. Left any longer it might absorb moisture which would affect the heat of the mash.

 

Hops:  the best were bright green in colour with a sweet slightly oily scent.  For a keeping beer a rule of thumb was a pound of hops for every bushel of malt.  Beer that was drunk soon after brewing – e.g. small beer for harvest workers – needed only half the amount of hops.

 

Yeast:  The best yeast was gathered from a strong brew when it bubbled out of cask bungholes and was collected in channels called stillions.  It was kept in cold water – changed every other day – somewhere cool. Private brewers could, if necessary, buy yeast from commercial brewers. Strong beer needed 2 pints of yeast per 40 gallons.  For small beer: 1½ pints per 40 gallons. Once a brew started it took at least two days with only a few hours’ break between various stages so the brewer needed a comfortable chair. Another necessity for brewhouse and cellar was a solid door with a strong lock and key.

 

Buy links: Ebook:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00L9CIS66/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00L9CIS66&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelthouse-21 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L9CIS66/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00L9CIS66&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelt-20&linkId=SKMOU3OLOI2V4D2Z   Paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/190962439X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=190962439X&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelthouse-21 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/190962439X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=190962439X&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelt-20&linkId=A56RJWDEZCVJEC3Q

 

Author bio: Jane Jackson has been a professional writer for over thirty years, and twice shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Crosscurrents is her twenty-eighth published novel. Happily married to a Cornishman, with children and grandchildren, she has lived in Cornwall most of her life, finding inspiration for her books in the county’s magnificent scenery and fascinating history. She enjoys reading, research, long walks, baking, and visiting Cornish agricultural shows where her husband displays his collection of 28 (and counting) restored vintage rotavators.

 

Website: http://www.janejackson.net Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/JaneJacksonAuthor Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JJacksonAuthor http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/jane-jackson/

A Year On From Signing My Publishing Deal

Next month will mark a full year since I signed a three book publishing deal with Harper Collins’ romance imprint Harper Impulse.

blog picture pen

It’s been an exciting year which has seen two of the titles published, both in digital and paperback format, book number three submitted and, as a group, The Romaniacs have also published a short story anthology. To say it has whizzed by would be an understatement, but I’ve taken a moment to pause and reflect on how the past year has been.

Fast. Busy. Stressful. Exciting. Frustrating. Enjoyable.  And every emotion remotely related to those. That’s how it’s been.

And it’s not just the range of emotions I’ve experienced, I’ve also learned a lot about myself as a writer and the writing process itself. Amongst many things, I’ve learned …

That I will love my edits, despite what I may tweet at the time of being in the  ‘Editing Cave’.

That Book 2 helps to sell Book 1.

That I will happy dance at good reviews.

That I will grow thick skin for the not so nice reviews.

That I will compulsively check Amazon rankings, despite pretending I’m only going to look for a book to read and that I’m not really going to look at mine and compare it with every other book in that genre.

Blog post refresh

Would love to know how the past year has been for everyone else.

Have you had your book published? Have you signed with an agent?  Have you self-published? Have you joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme? Did you renew your NWS membership? Have you written another draft? Written an entirely new book? Decided to write in a completely different style or genre? Or anything else remotely related to writing …

Sue

x

 

 

In Training for Telford

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie's summer house.

Sleeping bag, for bedding in Debbie’s summer house.

In Training for Telford

The Romaniacs are roving big style this weekend. We are off to Telford for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference, leaving our loved ones to defend our castles.

It’s a weekend packed with friends, fun, food, workshops, pitching of manuscripts and wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Some of us are hoping to make it to Romaniac Debbie’s house on Thursday, before booking into the conference centre on Friday. Some of us have already packed. Some of us have already bought the Prosecco.

It is going to be a fantastic weekend and we look forward to seeing lots of romantic novelists, editors, publishers and agents in Telford. And possibly everyone in the Midlands, as we wend our way there and back :-)

Prep for the weekend.

Prep for the weekend.

Here are some crucial items we’ll need for the weekend. Are you ready?

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Tea towels and teaspoons. We usually have to ring Sue and ask her to bring emergency supplies.

Always cake.

Always cake.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn't been fermented.

Music, coffee, and if pushed, fruit that hasn’t been fermented or distilled.

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections ...

Ready to go? Not yet. There are empty sections …

Don't forget the paracetamol.

And don’t forget the paracetamol.

Book Launch – The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

Today we wish bestselling author Lisa Jewell a “Happy Publication Day” in celebration of her latest novel: ‘The Third Wife’ 

LJ

 

In the early hours of an April morning, Maya stumbles into the path of an oncoming bus.

A tragic accident? Or suicide? Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love. She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long, Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.

Because everyone has secrets.

And secrets have consequences.

Some of which can be devastating… 

 

LJ Press

3 July 2014 - Published by Century

The unforgettable new novel from the Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling author

 

Lisa Jewell had always planned to write her first book when she was fifty. In fact, she wrote it when she was twenty-seven and had just been made redundant from her job as a secretary. Inspired by Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, a book about young people just like her who lived in London, she wrote the first three chapters of what was to become her first novel, Ralph’s Party. It went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 1998. Ten bestselling novels later, she lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Lisa writes every day in a local cafe where she can drink coffee, people-watch, and, without access to the internet, actually get some work done.

Get to know Lisa by joining the official facebook page at www.facebook.com/LisaJewellOfficial

or by following her on Twitter @lisajewelluk.

And visit her website at www.lisa-jewell.co.uk

For more information please contact

Najma Finlay Cornerstone Publicity 020 7840 8614 nfinlay@randomhouse.co.uk @najmafinlay

 

Happy Monday to Teresa Morgan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Celia: Good morning, Teresa, and welcome to the Romaniacs’ blog – we’ve just treated ourselves to a squishy new visitors’ sofa so put your feet up and have a freshly-baked scone. Jam? Clotted cream?

Teresa: Oh scones! Nom nom nom. I put the cream on first, then the jam by the way ;-) The proper way.

Celia: I do mine the other way round but I won’t hold that against you. Right, on with the interview; I know you were as proud as Laura James, Sue Fortin and I were to be in the line-up for the Joan Hessayon Award – are there any other awards/prizes that you’d love to be up for?

Teresa: You know, I’ve never really thought about this. I suppose it would be lovely to win some other romance novelist award at some point in my career, but I wouldn’t know which one.

Celia: How long have you been writing and what started you off?

Teresa: I’ve been writing since 2006, so I’m quite new to it really. I started writing fan fiction, and loved it so much I decided to have a go professionally.

Celia: What are your favourite places to write?

Teresa: I write at my PC, which is now at a desk in my cosy little lounge, in my cosy little house.

Celia: What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

Teresa: The Hunger Games. The first one and I’m loving it. I soooo want to watch the film, but I’m the sort of person who needs to read the book first.

Celia: Me too – I couldn’t stop reading the series and then I had withdrawal symptoms for a week. Right – nosy moment coming up. Could you please tell me about a typical day in your life? Or just a random one if you prefer?

Teresa: Every day is different, because I work some days in a post office. On a Wednesday, I work at the school as a dinner lady so that breaks up my day too. Tuesdays and Thursdays are now my free days, where I don’t have to work, so I try to write as much as I can in those, plus fit a run in first thing in the morning after the kids are in school. I am trying very hard to get back into a writing routine … sometimes I feel I am failing miserably.

Celia: Do you enjoy travel, and if so, which places have inspired your writing?

Teresa: I would love to travel. So far, since the boys have been born, I’ve only ventured to Cornwall for holidays, but this does feature in my first novel, Plus One is a Lucky Number.

Celia: What is your next ambition?

Teresa: I have a ten-year plan. Writing is my ambition, and I am sort of achieving it – I have one book published! One day it would be lovely to write full time, and gain a reliable income from it.

Celia: What books influenced you to start (and continue) reading as a child?

Teresa: I remember The Hobbit being read in class, plus I was into The Black Stallion books by Walter Farley (what can I say, I was a typical girl who loved horses), however I didn’t really get into reading until the film The Interview With A Vampire, where I then devoured Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. I’ve been stuck on wanting to read the book before I watch the film ever since.

Celia: Who are your three all time favourite authors?

Teresa: Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris and Sue Moorcroft (but there are others too).

Celia: Have you read any of the other books that were nominated for the Joan Hessayon Award yet?

Teresa: Sadly, I haven’t. But I will. Reading is another thing I’m failing with at the moment, however I’ve got into The Hunger Games, so I’m making time again! Woo hoo!

Thank you for having me over for scones, Celia!

Celia: Come back soon, Teresa; chocolate fudge cake next time, maybe?

 

Plus one is a lucky number

 

About Teresa F Morgan

 

I live in sunny Weston-super-Mare, trying to hold onto my Surrey accent where I was born and bred.

For years I persevered with boring jobs, until my two boys joined my nest. In an attempt to find something to work around them, and to ensure I never endured full time boredom again, I found writing.
I’m at my happiest baking cakes, putting proper home cooked dinners on the table (whether the kids eat them or not), reading a good romance, or sitting at my PC emptying my thoughts onto the screen.

I love writing contemporary romance, stories with a touch of escapism and creating heroes readers will fall in love with. Men who in reality, let’s face it, just don’t exist.

 

 

About Plus One is a Lucky Number

 

The wedding favour…

Sophie’s going to a wedding where the invite is strictly plus one… but with her single girl status not exactly fitting in with the bridesmaid dress code, and the best man being none other than the ex she would rather forget, Sophie needs a favour and she needs it fast!

Luckily for Sophie, her dreamy but distant co-worker Adam Reid owes their mutual friend James big time…and his gorgeousness more than fills the role of the ‘Perfect Boyfriend’!

As they take off to the sunny shores of Cornwall for the wedding weekend, it’s not long before pretence leads to passion and Sophie and Adam must decide; is their relationship real or is it all for show?

 

 

 

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You Googled WHAT? Part 2

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post on the search terms that led people to view The Romaniacs blog. It was interesting to say the least, it’s safe to say not much has changed! Once again I’m ignoring the common ones and sharing the top ten most random search terms.

1) Images of Romantic Handcuffs

Now is it me, or is that an oxymoron?

2) Garage flowers

And I thought the handcuffs were killing the romance.

3) trisha aunty sixboys video full

Erm…

4) email and text from boss end with a kiss

Ah the etiquette of kisses at the end of a text. I’ve told Laura off about lack of kisses before. Sounds like your boss should be told off for the opposite xxx

5) best four letter word

This sounds like a contest no four letter can win.

6) i love my twin daughters

Yeah, me too. Okay, this is in because I’m soppy.

7) i kiss my sister-in-law on the lips

Hmm… by accident? On purpose? Come on man, we need more info in your search term!

8) writers stories of struggle to get published

Oh yes, we’ve all been there, done that. Am yet to get a T-shirt.

9) hot & sexy images of hot sizzling & spicy girls

So you’ve seen our profile pictures. It’s true… we’re smoking!

10) sex.nic

I want to remove the dot. Sexnic. Some recreational fun followed by food. Food. Where did we put the cake?

Your Agony Aunt,

Catherine x