Friday, July 04, 2014

New PhD Thesis: Roles, Representations of Age, and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine

Sandra Barletta (who writes romance as Sandra Antonelli) recently completed her PhD and the thesis is now available free online. In it she issues a "call to arms to other authors, besides me, to speak out, to rally and write romance novels about older heroines" (62).

In one chapter she states that
romance publishing is profit-focused and wary of undertaking anything that challenges its revenue. The chapter reveals through interviews conducted with various romance publishing editors [...] that there is an inherent conservatism at work in the industry that makes it less willing to take risks with publications valorising older women in the role of romance heroine. These editors consider Women’s Fiction as the ‘proper’ home for female protagonists of a certain age. While publishing profits play a large role in limiting the role and story for older women, there is also an industry resistance to the idea of a sexually active older women [sic] who is beyond childbearing age. (53)
For the author who wants to take risks in presenting older women as worthy participants in the romance paradigm, there are considerable obstacles to negotiate in a largely risk-averse industry. (57)
Sandra would, however, appear to have negotiated them successfully as
during the course of my research, I had two romance novels accepted for publication by Harlequin Escape. In no way does this suggest this outcome was not a long and frustrating enterprise. In the four years it took me to be offered a publishing contract, vast changes occurred within the publishing industry. The demise of brick and mortar book stores, the ongoing rise of Amazon, and the explosion of e-books, are all indications of a shift away from traditional models of publishing, and an accompanying shift in thinking among readers, authors and publishers. (57)
Her A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only were published in 2013 as e-books by Escape Publishing (an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia).

Barletta, Sandra A. Cougars, Grannies, Evil Stepmothers, and Menopausal Hot Flashers: Roles, Representations of Age, and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine. PhD thesis in Creative Writing and Literary Studies, Queensland University of Technology, 2014.


  1. Sylvia Ketrie05 July, 2014 18:55

    I write romances set in the Roman Empire circa 2nd century. There is still the ideology that historical romances are 1) Medieval 2) Regency 3) That's it.

  2. Did you leave your comment unfinished? I know you've got a 43-year-old heroine in your Tempted by Infamy.

  3. Sylvia Ketrie06 July, 2014 17:43

    LOL! That's true. I am definitely not following the "rules". I'd like to think the rules are changing tho ...

  4. Out of my 9 published heroines, I have three in their 40s (46, 44, 40), three in their 30s (36, 32, barely 30), and three in their 20s (28, 24, 23). The 46yo and 44yo have adult children.