The other day, an author pal of mine shared a comment that she’d received on a review about her romance book being a “bodice ripper.”
Seriously, folks. It’s 2016.
I’m done with these comments. Honestly, can’t people think of another way to describe romance novels?
First of all, I have read this friend’s work and although she writes historical romance, in no way, shape or form could her books be considered the same as the traditional interpretation of a bodice ripper.
What exactly is a bodice ripper? It’s an old-fashioned, pejorative term for romance. Early plots often featured heroines who were “gently coerced” into sex. In other words, the sex becomes consensual after a time, the heroine falls for her swashbuckling hero who looks like Fabio, and they go off and make lots of babies.
Honestly, very few people write this stuff any more and most of us modern romance authors see the term as an insult. If anyone tells me I write bodice rippers, I will immediately inform them that any sex between the hero/heroine in my novels is completely consensual and that my heroines are more than capable of picking their own husbands, thank you very much.
Romance has come a long way, folks. I’m not panning early romance. It paved the way for the rest of us and God knows society has changed. Although I grew up reading books that might have been described as bodice rippers, I certainly don’t write the same way and neither do my author friends, not even the historical authors. Romance is not about oppression. Romance is not about rape. Romance is not about misogyny. Romance is not about wilting heroines who can’t think for themselves and who need big, strong men to help them cut their meat.
I am willing to wager that most “critics” who use this term have never actually read a romance novel in its entirety. It must be very easy to judge a genre based on some racy covers but a world of research and hard work resides inside those covers. Romance authors do not write these stories for a cheap thrill. We write them to celebrate love and the communion of loving souls. We write because we want hope and we want to share it with everyone we know. We write romance because its makes us happy and in case those critics have never asked, it makes a whole lot of readers happy too. Romance is one of the most popular genres of fiction. There’s a reason for that. It makes us feel good.
Do romance novels feature lots of sex? It depends. Some do, some don’t. But if they do, you can bet your bodice any self-respecting romance author will only use sex as a way of cementing the relationship between the main characters. It is not the be all and end all. Sex is not the story. It is simply a part of the journey, no matter how many times it occurs.
And you know what? Sex is healthy, my friends. I hope everyone is having lots of it. It’s a part of life so why on earth would it not be part of our fictional narrative? I’m pretty sure more sex occurs in the Bible than in any of my romances.
The next time someone accuses you of reading bodice rippers, tell them you read romance and that you are proud to do so.