This special issue of Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, devoted to essays written about selected contemporary American romance fiction writers, is intended to provide instructors with bio-bibliographical information about several novelists, highlighting primary themes and motifs, with some analysis of the author’s contribution to the genre. Each entry provides a comprehensive list of the author’s fiction works that can be further explored in the classroom. This issue may also be of interest to researchers, librarians and readers who wish to learn more about a particular novelist.Unfortunately the articles are liberally sprinkled with editing errors (Sarah Frantz's surname was misspelled, for example).
There's lots of food for thought and discussion, though. For example, Milton writes that
contemporary romance can be traced back to the 1980’s when historical romance was still popular, but a variety of sociological trends created a socio-psychological shift and romance writers responded to these changes by creating more assertive heroines who played an increasingly significant role in shaping their own destiny.There seems to be an implication in there that historical romance is no longer popular, which seems a rather odd idea to me. In addition, although I'm aware that significant changes took place in the genre in the 1980s, I wonder why Milton didn't decide to trace the modern romance genre back rather further than that. I don't think any history of the genre would be complete without some mention of Mills & Boon (now part of Harlequin), which came into existence in 1908 and published contemporary romances long before the 1980s. One might also wish to mention Mary Stewart, who
is considered by many to be the mother of the modern romantic suspense novel. She was among the first to integrate mystery and love story, seamlessly blending the two elements in such a way that each strengthens the other. Pamela Regis writes, "Stewart's influence extends to every writer of romantic suspense, for Stewart understood and perfected this hybrid of romance and mystery and used it as a structure for books so beautifully written that they have endured to become part of the canon of the twentieth-century romance novel." Popular authors continue to list her books among their favorites and cite her as influential to their own work. And even thirty years after publication, her books continue to be reprinted again and again. (MaryStewartNovels.com)The essays in this volume of Teaching American Literature, which are all in pdf format, are as follows:
- Gillian Mason's "Rosemary Rogers: The Positive Power of Romance and Sexual Fantasy."
- Suzanne Milton's "Danielle Steel: Bringing Family Issues to Light." Milton writes that "Danielle Steel is one of the most widely-read romance fiction writers of this century. [...] Sixty-five of her writings fall into the category of romance fiction." Although I haven't read any of Danielle Steel's novels, I got the distinct impression from this essay that, unlike romances, which focus on a central couple, Steel's novels tend to be more akin to sagas since they cover a long span of the heroine's life, or even tell the story of more than one generation of a family.
- Sarah S. G. Franz's [sic] "Suzanne Brockmann: The Military and the Romance." Sarah's a persuasive advocate for Brockmann, but at first I wondered if this claim went a little too far: "Suzanne Brockmann, New York Times best-selling and RITA-award-winning author, pioneered and popularized military romances." Heyer's An Infamous Army, for example, is a military romance and her The Spanish Bride is historical fiction/military romance. I suppose, though, that one can have many pioneers and there certainly seems to be a consensus that, in the words of AAR's Blythe Barnhill, Brockmann's Tall, Dark, and Dangerous mini-series started the Navy SEALS trend."
- Wendy Wagner's "Jennifer Crusie: Romance as Academic Question." I'd be really, really interested to know what evidence (other than the subject matter of the novel) Wagner has for this:
One of the subplots of Trust Me On This involves Crusie's subtle mockery of academic life. [...] Trust Me On This reflects Crusie's disenchantment with academic life; at around this time, Crusie put her dissertation writing on hold in order to complete the MFA program at Ohio State. (4-5)Wagner goes on to add that
In an essay she wrote for Paradoxa in 1997, Crusie argues that romance fiction is not fantasy but instead is centered on women's reality [...] This essay has a fitting placement at the end of her academic career and basically asserts her divergence from academic feminism and the academic literary canon. (5)Yet, as Wagner notes (7-8) Crusie edited a collection of essays and short stories (published in 2005) about Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which I'd tend to think of as forming part of "the academic literary canon." And what of Crusie's "This Is Not Your Mother's Cinderella: The Romance Novel As Feminist Fairy Tale," an essay published in Romantic Conventions, a 1999 collection of essays published by Bowling Green State University Popular Press and written by academics about the romance genre? I'd also have to conclude that when Wagner wrote this she hadn't read the blog post Crusie wrote in July 2007 in which Crusie revealed that
Last week, out of the blue, I had the inexplicable urge to finish my PhD. It’s been hanging fire for over ten years, but suddenly the need was there. And because I am impulsive, I e-mailed good people at OSU and said, “Can I come back and finish?” and by the end of the day, I had half of my committee and a welcome back from the head of the English Department.
- Fahamisha Patricia Brown's "Beverly Jenkins: African American History and the Romance Novel." Although this is the shortest of all the essays, it goes a long way towards explaining why Jenkins is "the first African American writer since Frank Yerby (1916-1991) to establish a reputation as an author of American historical romance, Beverly Jenkins today stands alone" (3).
- Patricia Kennedy Bostian's "Amanda Scott: Bringing History to Life." Bostian states that "the successful heroine of the Regency is one whose values are firmly planted in the 20th century, while the setting is meticulously 18th century" (1). I suspect some readers of this blog might disagree with that.
- Leslie Haynesworth's "Janet Evanovich: Comedy and Romance."
I found Louis Rhead's poster for the Morning Journal at Wikimedia Commons.