--Wild and Wicked In ScotlandSo, who’s right? Do the titles ‘tell the entire story’ or are they uninformative?
--Two Weeks With A Stranger
--Sinful Between the Sheets
--Too Great a Temptation
--The Sinful Nights of a Nobleman
--The Wicked Games of a Gentleman
And so on...
Whatever happened to those one word titles: "Scandal", "Desire", and what not? Now, the titles tell the entire story! (my emphasis)
Some (but not all) titles do indicate something about the setting (e.g. Scotland), protagonists (e.g. a stranger, nobleman or a gentleman) or the plot (temptation, two weeks), and a couple of them seem to me to indicate that the books are historical romances. Whether they’re truly ‘informative’ in the sense that they tell us a lot more than that, however, is another matter. And I don't know why there needs to be so much use of terms which originally had a spiritual meaning (sin, wicked etc). It’s a pet peeve of mine, no doubt due to studying a bit of theology and plenty of medieval texts where ‘temptation’, ‘wicked’ and ‘sinful’ were words which were not designed to entice, but to cause fear in the reader: I haven’t caught up with the idea that these words now sound enticing and delicious. It reminds me of the diabolical spin-doctors alluded to in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, who work steadily at changing the meaning of words. Screwtape, a senior Devil, is writing to his nephew, a junior Tempter:
Puritanism – and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life. (1945: 55)But I digress. So, back to romance titles. Looking at the pile of 10 Mills & Boon/Harlequin romances I chose at random recently from the library, it seems to me that their titles are informative, though they may be ‘offensive’ or misleading to some. Here’s the list. I hope it’s not too boring, but without giving examples, I really don’t think I can show how informative the titles are.
Contracted: Corporate Wife, by Jessica Hart (2005). Tender Romance
This suggests to me that this will be an office romance, involving businesspeople, and indeed, the heroine is the hero’s PA.
The Marriage Adventure by Hannah Bernard (2005). Tender Romance.
I’ve already blogged about this one, and at the heart of it is the struggle for control of the heroine’s family’s adventure holiday business.
The Five-Year Baby Secret by Liz Fielding (2006). Tender Romance.
This one’s really obvious. It’s about a secret baby, and the baby is now a 5-year old.
The Bridal Chase, by Darcy Maguire (2005). Tender Romance.
There is a fair amount of chasing, with the heroine at times chasing the hero, and then she’s in retreat and he’s chasing her.
A Most Suitable Wife, by Jessica Steele (2005). Tender Romance.
The hero begins by believing that the heroine is completely unsuitable, only to realise that he was completely wrong and she’s perfect for him in every way.
Baby of Shame, by Julia James (2005). Modern Romance (this is the equivalent of the Harlequin Presents line).
I think the difference in title between this and The Five-Year Baby Secret is an indication of the difference between the two lines. In the Modern Romance/Presents line, there’s a lot more dramatic conflict, and that’s reflected in the title. It is, of course, another secret baby story, and the heroine is an unmarried mother.
The Mancini Marriage Bargain by Trish Morey (2005). Modern Romance
The use of the name, Mancini, indicates there’s an Italian hero. The words ‘marriage bargain’ suggest a marriage that is not a love-match.
Blackmailed into Marriage by Lucy Monroe (2005). Modern Romance
Another marriage which is entered into for reasons other than love. In this case the heroine’s family give her no option but to marry.
Mistress to a Rich Man by Kathryn Ross (2005). Modern Romance
I discussed this title in a previous blog entry. It’s not about a mistress, but the heroine has sex with the hero before either of them realise that they’re in love, and he’s rich.
Exposed: The Sheik’s Mistress by Sharon Kendrick (2005). Modern Romance
Another not-really-a-mistress, but a relationship which, it appears, is not likely to lead to marriage, and the hero is a sheik. The ‘exposed’ part of the title refers to the fact that the affair becomes public knowledge thanks to reports in the media.
As mentioned before, authors usually don’t have control over the covers their books are given, and often they don’t even have the final say on the title. Betina Krahn and Candace Schuler, for example, have recently mentioned their least favourite covers, each of which included a title that wasn’t the one they'd originally thought of. How the editors and art departments make these decisions is a subject about which I know absolutely nothing, but I’m sure it must be because they think certain titles will be more appealing to the target audience. And I wonder if a large part of the appeal of titles like the ones mentioned by Ro, and those of the Harlequins I listed, is that they help the reader make a selection quickly.
So, to conclude, I think the titles usually indicate at least one of the following: the profession/status of the hero and/or heroine; the setting; the type of relationship (e.g. arranged marriage, a ‘mistress’ i.e. sexual relationship not entered into with any expectation of it leading to marriage); an important element of the plot (e.g. secret baby). All of this is information which the connoisseur reader of romances will understand and use when making a quick selection at the shops or the library.
Anyone got any favourite, or least favourite titles? Do they describe the book well? Do they entice you to read the book? And do they make it easy for someone browsing the shelves to tell that what's inside is a romance?
Lewis, C. S., 1945. The Screwtape Letters (London: Geoffrey Bles, The Centenary Press).