Ravenous Wednesday with Special Guests Karla and Jeanine!

After a month long hiatus, RR Wednesday is back! And to help us celebrate our return we have not one but two special guests, Karla and Jeanine from one of my favorite review blogs ever: Get Your Bodices Ripped Here,
Dedicated to those maligned romances of the 70s and 80s that are now decomposing in your mom’s garage.
I discovered this wonderful blog via Google Alert. Google Alert has brought me many interesting links (the ones for my mystery MURDER FOR HIRE are especially varied, not to mention gruesome). When my humorous romance RIPPING THE BODICE was published by Ravenous Romance, I set up a Google Alert and one day, Get your Bodices Ripped Here popped up on it, with a little excerpt from one Karla’s reviews. I don’t remember which book she was reviewing at the time, but I did recognize the name as one I’d read in my teen years when I spent many hours reading about alpha heroes and … well… literal ripped bodices. I clicked through to the blog, read the entire review, which had me laughing out loud, and fell in love with the site. I’ve read the archived reviews, as well as many of the Harlequin reviews on their sister blog Harley Hell.

Not only did the reviews just crack me up, but I share the same fondness for the bodice rippers of yore and have also experienced the same disdain from modern romance writers/readers when mentioning them. Hell, using the term ‘bodice ripper’ in the thread of a romancelandia review site caused several readers to descend on me like blood-thirsty harpies, claws extended to rend flesh and tell me why I was politically incorrect and basically a bad, bad woman. Feh, says I. So when I found GYBRH, I was delighted. And I am equally delighted to introduce you all to Karla and Jeanine, their senses of humor and their wonderful blogs!

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KARLA:

“Shocking!” “Horrible!“ “Disgusting!“ “Oh my God, MY EYES!“

No, that’s not the reaction to the latest trash reality star du jour but rather an all too-common response by those in the current romance scene to the romances of the past. It’s a prevalent mindset, and you’ll find it all over the internet in forums, very popular romance blogs, and book-centric community websites.


Well, there came a point where I’d had enough of it. These were the books I devoured in high school! There was such romance and adventure and, yes, rape. But there was sweeping action and derring-do and history, as well as evil and hardship to overcome for that HEA! So seeing the entire generation get dumped on – usually because of selective quotes held up for ridicule – got my dander up. The Bodice Ripper was a victim of Groupthink.

I hadn’t read a romance in nearly 15 years and hadn’t given the genre much thought for a good long while, but my fond recollections of the old bodice rippers had me itching to get back into them. Were they as bad as so many insisted? Was the current crop of romance (say, mid-1990s onward) eons better than those neanderthal artifacts from the 70s and 80s that were allegedly wretched, horrible, offensive, better-left-unpublished, and eye-rapeingly awful?

It was food for thought. Memory being what it is, I thought back and tried to remember just why I gave up on the romances around the time I got out of college. Lack of reading time wasn’t an issue – I read more post-graduation than I had in years.

And then it hit me.

The lack of bite and flair in the heroes and plots. The obsession with Jane Freakin’ Austen so that I couldn’t pick up a romance without it being about the bloody ton and rakes who weren’t rakes. The intrusion of late 20th century values and expectations in stories that spanned Ancient Rome to late-Victorian London. It was bland, it was pandering, and I got bored. So out the genre went and I moved on to others.

Until I kept coming across the whining and high-pitched outrage/derision of the old bodice rippers I recall loving so well. It has brought me back to where I first obsessed whole-heartedly over a genre and it has been a grand reunion so far. Misery loves (and eventually finds) company, and it was a pleasant surprise to find romance readers of similiar tastes. The group at Goodreads was set up as a haven for fans of yesteryear’s romances, and I (along with Jeanine at GR) set up our own blog, to archive reviews and ponder the aspects of the genre. A familiar comment at the GR group by new members is that they are tired of being judged elsewhere for liking the old un-PC romances, judged by readers who deride the bodice rippers but often don’t bother to actually read one.

Are there turkeys in the massive, approximately twenty-year output? Oh, plenty! My Favorites list is missing a few classic authors of the genre like Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose dense, adjective-heavy prose is a chore. But there’s more infinite variety and quality in the ol’ BRs than they are given credit for. Reading one can sometimes require a strong stomach and a willingness to suspend disbelief, two traits that I would think the massive fanbases of paranormals and erotica have in spades! As I’ve discovered, the charges made against the old bodice rippers are more overdramatic hysteria than substance and an abject failure to read the books in the historical context of the then-nascent feminist movement.

If you’ve heard a lot about these early romances and wondered at the negativity, it would make for a fine New Year’s experiment to pick one up and give it a whirl. If not one by classic trailblazers like Woodiwiss, Valerie Sherwood, Rosemary Rogers, or Bertrice Small, then one from the crop of writers that rode on their coattails like Sylvie Sommerfield, Connie Mason, Rebecca Brandewyne, or Shirlee Busbee. There’s plenty to choose from in the span from 1973 through 1990, the heyday of the bodice ripper, and discovering a gem lost in the out-of-print black hole is immensely satisfying.

All that’s required is an open mind and a love for the outrageous and unexpected. It also doesn’t hurt if you don’t mind getting figuratively grabbed and shook once in a while!

JEANINE

For me the path of Bodice Ripper love came in a meandering way – I’ve always loved to read and I think I was the only kid in 4th grade that was reading Stephen King’s IT. My first love was horror novels and I read pretty much everything from Stephen King, Clive Barker and one of my obscure cheee ball favorites – Ruby Jean Jensen. From there I dabbled in mysteries and some sci-fi but then by accident stumbled upon old Gothics. I would say for about ten years I became the biggest Gothic romance nerd ever and at one point had over 1000 vintage paperbacks in my collection. Then, like every flighty Gemini, I spontaneously decided to change – sold off all my Gothics and decided that I would try some regular old historical romances.

I had no idea what I was looking for or what I wanted. I remembered reading a sordid romance when I was 15 that was given to me by a friend who said “You have GOT to read this!” I had fond memories of a girl getting separated from her traveling party, being extremely sick and feverish and winding up in a brothel. There, one of the customers mistakes her for one of the ladies and has his way with her in great OTT graphic prose.

So when I started on my quest to RomanceLand this is what I wanted. I wanted alpha males, forced seduction, mistaken identities and wonderful soap opera plots. I started commenting on the boards on Paperbackswap and soon found myself pretty much ridiculed and run off. How could I want something like that? How could I enjoy something like that? Well, from years of reading fanfic, “THAT” seemed pretty tame in comparison. Soon I was getting quite ticked off because the same people that would spit upon ye poor Bodice Ripper would proclaim the greatness of some really bad erotica.

Hiding upon the fringes I soon learned that any book they hated – I would love. And I began to compile a list of titles. The pinnacle of the list – the book that seemed to be the most hated was the notorious Stormfire. I had to have a copy of it and I finally succeeded by stalking Ebay for weeks. I devoured the book – and loved every bit of its sick and twisted romance. This is still the only book in the past ten years or so that made me cry! For those of you who are in the “know” – the damn horse jumping scene. Wow, so very powerful.

After I was done with it, I wanted to share the book but knew that its much loved condition made it “ineligible” for posting on PBS so instead I looked over the people who were wishlisting it. That is how I stumbled upon Karla. I asked her if she would like the book and our friendship started. Then being two crazy Geminis (or are we now Tauruses?) we immediately started to feed off of each other. Sending each other duplicates, comparing notes and just gleefully celebrating a genre that most people mocked.

From there she led me to the joys of Goodreads from the boredom of librarything and then the great Bodice Rippers Readers Anonymous group was started – we had finally found a place to fit in, a place where our tastes would not be judged and where we could proclaim the awesomeness that is a Bodice Ripper. During this whole time, Karla wrote wonderful reviews for every book she read that even non-romance readers enjoyed. And I kept poking her – start a blog – do it! – the world needs a place where jaded readers can stumble upon your great reviews and also find book/author/cover artist info for these often forgotten treasures. Finally she caved and let me come along for the fun and mayhem and we have never looked back.

Hopefully more romance readers that are guiltily hiding those books with the Fabio covers will find us and realize that they are not alone.

Ravenous Wednesday with Special Guest Kit Marlowe!

So today we have another special guest … one I’ve not yet met. She is a friend of our own Kate Laity and C. Margery Kempe, which means she’s bound to be trouble on the hoof. In the best possible way, of course!

Ahem… 🙂

I don’t know what Kit’s post will be about as this is a case of me begging for someone to write something for today’s RR Wednesday. Yes, someone lost track of the time, day of the week, home address, you name it… So luckily for me Kate and Margery said they’d do the equivalent of a literary press gang and get Kit to be our guest.

I do know Kit is a writer of historical fiction with humor. How do I know? It says so on her website here. Being Kate and Margery’s friend, I’m betting she enjoys a tasty alcoholic libation now and again. I will be very disappointed if all she wants is a pot of tea. I won’t know this until a bit later – I’ve been told Kit will be sending me a post later this evening, which means this intro might serve as a placeholder to let everyone know we are indeed having Ravenous Wednesday today, but SOMEone (BAD Inara/Dana) didn’t get her act together this week…

Ooh, and the placeholder can now give way to the actual post, so please welcome Kit Marlowe to Un:Bound!!

Cant, Argot and Jargon

Kit Marlowe



I love language!



I know, I know: all writers do, but I love the superfluity of language that supplies slang. I think in part it’s like knowing a secret handshake or being part of an exclusive club. I specialize in rather obscure languages: for my graduate work I studied Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, Old Irish, Old High German, Middle High German, Modern German, Modern Swedish, Modern Icelandic and Latin (whew!).



But what I really love most are informal vocabularies that define a time or place. In my forthcoming novel, The Mangrove Legacy (coming in November from Tease Publications) I used a lot of Regency era cant even though I often stretched the narrative to a later time period. But the cant from that period was so much fun! I first learned it from the pen of Georgette Heyer, whom I first learned about from the fabulous Stephen Fry, who listed Heyer among his guilty pleasures on his 50th celebration.



The slang from that time is so rich: “foxed” means you’re drunk, as does “disguised” and “tap-hackled”—how quickly slang dates! But some terms can be easily understood even much later, like “swimming in lard” which refers to someone with considerable wealth, and “making a cake of yourself” which describes someone making a fool of themselves.



Often Cant and slang belong to a different—and often lower—class, marking out their standing verbally in any social situation, like rhyming Cockney slang—if you like your Tilburys pulled up as you head up the apple and pears or have done for yonks [I love the word “yonks”]. Like the thieves cant in the 18th and 19th centuries, the secrecy was a necessary part of things to keep from being caught.



Of course you can go to far and I always think of the Monty Python RAF sketch that shows what happens when people try too hard to develop a special patois for a given group and end up being completely incomprehensible. Sometimes, too, it comes back: a lot of the jazz age hipster terms I used in the novella I have coming out next month from Noble Romance, “The Big Splash” have not gone out of fashion.





Here’s an excerpt:





It would have been quite impossible for Constance to account for such a thing, but about forty-five minutes later she slipped into the table next to Mr. Wood at the Lorne Acorn. “Darling, what a day I’ve had!”





“How late you are, Constance,” Mr. Wood drawled, exerting as always as little effort as possible to make conversation, though his dark eyes caressed her form.





“I would have been much later had salvation not appeared this afternoon,” Constance said, perusing the menu with an eager gaze. “You’ll never guess what happened! How many martinis have you had?”





“Only two,” Mr. Wood said, leaning toward Constance to rest his rather large hand upon her thigh.





Constance hid a smile. “Do be a dear and order me one immediately. I think I ought to have some kind of beef for lunch. Meat will bring me back down to earth after my extraordinary good luck. I am quite giddy!”





Mr. Wood nodded to the waiter who whisked himself off to accomplish this task. Her companion’s fingers slipped across the ruffled length of her skirt to hook under its edge and begin drawing the fabric back to expose her stocking.





“Need I remind you that we are under the bright glare of luncheon lights, Mr. Wood?” Constance said severely even as the familiar tingle of desire warmed her thighs.





“I don’t know what you mean, Constance,” Mr. Wood said with a nearly believable tone of innocence.



“Why don’t you order the brisket? I have enjoyed it many times.” Why did nearly every thing he said seemed aimed to raise a blush? Or could it be merely his hand on her leg?





Constance closed her eyes to enjoy the sly touch of his fingertips along the top of her stocking and sighed happily. To think only this morning her life had been in disarray. Now everything had gone back to normal—well, as normal as her days ever got.





“Your drink, miss,” the waiter murmured, setting the delicate stemmed glass before her.





“Very good,” Constance said with a sunny smile, picking up the beverage with her slim fingers. “I shall have the brisket.” With practiced ease, she threw back the martini, which struck her throat with a cool thrill then warmed the path to her stomach. “And another martini,” she added. The waiter smiled, took her glass and backed away in silence.





“You’re lucky they have long tablecloths here,” Constance scolded quietly. Mr. Wood said nothing but leaned in to kiss her cheek sweetly even as his hand slipped deeply between her thighs, his pinkie just tickling the silk of her knickers as he did so. With an effort, Constance maintained her composure.





“Care for a cigarette?” Mr. Wood asked, a wicked smile curling his lips.





“Not at present,” Constance said. “I feel a trifle warm. Ah, here comes my second martini.” She put the cold glass to her lips and tried to ignore the insistent touch of Mr. Wood. “Don’t you even want to hear my news?”





“No, not especially at present,” Mr. Wood said, wiggling his defiant finger in such a delicious manner that Constance no longer wanted to discuss the changes in her household staff, important though they might be.





“Can we have the brisket to take away?” Constance asked the waiter with a sweet air when he arrived with the steaming plate. Within a few moments, the two were headed out onto the busy street where a cab arrived at once as if aware of their urgency. They made it all the way to her parlour before Mr. Wood dropped the neatly boxed lunch, grabbed Constance and pulled her into a kiss that was anything but polite.





“My mother does not approve of you,” Constance whispered fiercely when Mr. Wood extricated his tongue long enough for her to do so.





“Your mother can go hang,” Mr. Wood said unfeelingly as he reached under her skirt to run his hand down the front of her knickers, slipping two fingers under the elastic band and putting an end to any further commentary from Constance apart from a very quick “oh” that sprang from her lips…