‘Women are having different fantasies’: romantic fiction in the age of Trump

Women's_March_on_Washington_(32593123745) 21 January 2017 Trump Feminism


‘Women are having different fantasies’: romantic fiction in the age of Trump

This article was published in The Guardian on International Women’s Day last week, and even though it rehashed some things from recent articles (1 2) on the quickly evolving romance genre, it is definitely worth a read.

I like this part:

Rich heroes are big: a quick google throws up all sorts of novels about Greek tycoons and Italian billionaires. “It’s the fantasy that you’ll walk into a room and some guy will literally treat you like a princess … It was a clear trope – and then we elected a maybe-billionaire to president. And the way he treats women made that trope suddenly incredibly problematic.”

However, this part…?? The bolded bit is ridiculous; we’ve ALWAYS known it was a problematic series. (But: bonkbuster!)

EL James’s hugely successful bonkbuster Fifty Shades of Grey came out only six years ago, but its questionable gender politics have begun to niggle at some; the recent film adaptation of the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, was criticised for being out of step with current sentiment.


Must monsters always be male?

Cinderella Disney.

“No” evil women in fiction!

The Guardian recently ran what I consider to be a misguided article:

Must monsters always be male? Huge gender bias revealed in children’s books

Perhaps Donna Ferguson, the article’s author, has missed the fact the “evil stepmother” is a trope, but there’s no “evil stepfather”. Or that “evil, jealous sisters” feature in everything from ancient literature to children’s fairy tales.

How about all those young adult and new adult books where the mothers are all evil drunkards, the villains are always villainesses in the form of jealous blonde “popular girls”, and the most common heroine trope is the one who’s “not like other girls” and therefore has no female friends?

When I think of monsters, I think of Stalin and Hitler and Putin and Trump. I think of doctors who spend twenty years freely molesting hundreds of young gymnasts. I think of a man filling a hotel room with guns and mowing down a crowd in the space of minutes. Of all the gender biases in books, how can needing more female monsters possibly be the one that matters?

Adding more evil women to fiction, when what we need is to stop demonising women, is a step in the wrong – not the right – direction.

While the other points in the article – about the lack of female characters in starring roles, and the lack of female characters who speak – are important to address, I would say fiction is already misogynistic enough.


Who Gets A Happily Ever After In 2018?


Who Gets A Happily Ever After In 2018?

There was an excellent – and very lengthy – article about the romance genre over at BuzzFeed yesterday. It’s very US-centric, and focuses on the state of women’s rights and immigrants’ rights in Trump’s America, but it is still an interesting read for everyone. After all, the behaviour of the White House and the rise of the so-called alt-right have effects on all of us.

The article includes interviews with a number of bestselling romance authors.

What became of the “Royal Fad”?

CrownPrincessMaryWeddingDressFront2 HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Mary Donaldson Wedding.

At the beginning of this year we were told books about royalty were THE NEXT BIG THING in romance and women’s fiction. Apparently inspired by the slew of television shows about royals, from Victoria to The Crown to whatever it is Elizabeth Hurley is starring in at the moment, hot princes were going to be the new vampires or kinky billionaires.

Did it happen? Did I miss it? Because I don’t really think it took off.

Some months ago Carina Press put out a specific call for modern, Kardashian-style royal-themed submissions. I also saw it mentioned as the new fad on major romance blogs like (the late) Heroes and Heartbreakers.

However, apart from a little trickle of royal-themed books, I’m just not seeing – or feeling – it.

While I love a well-written royal-themed story, it was never something that interested me generally. I think of the nightmare of Princess Diana’s marriage – literally being stalked to death. I think of the obligations to breed for the sake of the nation, and the creepy way people treat Kate Middleton’s pregnancies – ugh.

I think of inbred royals, such as the mad, *married* Crown Prince of Austria who took a teenage girl as his mistress, took her off to a hunting lodge, MURDERED HER, and then killed himself. Or the Russians with their haemophilia.

In short, I don’t see “sexy” when I think of royalty! Look at all those dorky Windsors! I’m really not looking forward to the day we’ll have King Charles on all our banknotes and coins…

Maybe the royal thing HAS taken off and it has just passed me by, but I’m looking at upcoming books on review and publisher sites literally every day, and I’m not seeing them.

Or maybe the people “in the know” in the publishing world really don’t know how to predict fads.

One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot

One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot

Imagine the perfect Christmas Kiss…

His strong arms around her waist, her hands on his face, the snow slowly starts to fall…

It’s enough to make Isla Winters cringe! While her sister can’t get enough of this – increasingly common – sight on the streets of London, Isla’s too busy trying to stop Hannah’s wheelchair from slipping on the ice, and making sure she’s not too late to her dream job at Breekers International.

But everything changes with the arrival of Chase Bryan, fresh from the New York office. He’s eager to learn everything about Isla’s beloved Notting Hill, but as the nights get colder, will cosying up to him come at a price?

One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot

This is a fun book, so well-written, and very English in style (that means that it is more general fiction than romance as published in America – there’s a lot going on that doesn’t involve hero and heroine being together). Very current with its cultural references, it feels like Christmas in 2017 – just with a lot more snow than you could reasonably expect to see in London (I’ve lived through multiple London Christmases).

The characters were well-developed, all very much their own people. Secondary characters like Isla’s younger sister were interesting and fun to have on the page. (But wouldn’t it be nice to occasionally have a teenage girl character who isn’t a negative stereotype?).

I liked the very real culture clashes between the English and American characters. I think it was done perfectly, especially in relation to the business hero and heroine work for. Chase’s “American corporate” approach totally baffles the Londoners.

This is a very “of the moment” story, with characters speaking and acting like real people in 2017, and heaps of mentions of current pop culture things. I liked the natural way everyone had of speaking. It felt real.

This is also a very Christmassy-feeling book without being cheesy. Yes, the winter wonderland feel is not London as it really is (snow is a rare novelty, not a daily occurrence, and it rarely settles), but it gives you the feel of London of the movies.

I had a little issue – it bugged me because it was a geographical thing I am familiar with:

Like the heroine of the book, I used to get on the Central Line train at Notting Hill Gate (I lived on the street closest to the station’s entrance), and travelled east to work. I had to go seven stops to work and seven home, and it was a journey long enough that I wouldn’t have made it more than once a day under pain of death.

In this book, the heroine, the hero, his daughters – everyone – they travel some FIFTEEN stops across *two* train lines multiple times a day, like it’s nothing. They zoom back and forth between the office in Canary Wharf (far east of London) and Notting Hill (west London) like it isn’t a journey of many kilometres, just to hang out in Notting Hill in their break.

That’s both impossible AND insane!

One big, glaring thing: all the American characters speak like born and bred Londoners. I was sat there. I was stood here. That’s a Britain-only way of speaking. And juddering! Again – no.

The cover of One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill tells you everything you need to know about the book. It’s a pretty perfect read for this time of year.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Summer Reads

As well as being “put up the Christmas tree” day, tomorrow is also the start of summer here. A few reads for the season:

Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1) by Lisa Kleypas

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

Willow Springs (Destiny Series #5) by Toni Blake

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters #4) by Anne Gracie

The Summer Bride (Chance Sisters book 4) by Anne Gracie

A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr


Whisper Falls (Destiny Series #3) by Toni Blake

Whisper Falls by Toni Blake

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr