Enough with comments about “bodice rippers,” please.

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.

 

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17 thoughts on “Enough with comments about “bodice rippers,” please.

  1. Yes at a youngr age the books I read were BRs. I think there are still some books because I have read them where the sex was not entirely consenual LOL Either way I love a good romance

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    • Good is the key, isn’t it? Dubious consent seems to be making a comeback, which sort of worries me. I hope it’s just a passing thing. Thanks for commenting, Fran!

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  2. Reblogged this on DragonflyLady's Writey Ramblings and commented:
    “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.”

    I used to read a lot of Mills & Boon and I still have a couple of favourite authors but last time I picked up a random one, it had a decidedly non-consensual flavour and I had to put it down.

    I also put down a novel by a current best selling author because I couldn’t stomach the constant “he knows what’s good for me even when I don’t know myself”…

    Romance should make you feel good, and happy, and give you tingles, not shivers of unease.

    Yay for romance!

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  3. I love how you worded this! You explained why romance is my favorite books to read. It takes a lot of talent and hard work to write a good novel and only a very few are so well written that you fall in love with both the hero and heroine. The sex is NOT rape or forced or unconcentual. It is sweet and sometimes bumbling like real sex is and most of all realistic. It is part of the whole story. I’ve never had a corset ripped off of me and wouldn’t want to. That is why I never felt the urge to read Fifty shades of Grey. I prefer my historical romances. Thank you for answering this from an author’s point of view.

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    • Thanks so much for reading, Margaret Ann! If anything, I always try to aspire to the realistic, even in my paranormal romances. It has to feel real and is truly about making the reader fall in love, as you say, with the hero and with the heroine.

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  4. The other pejorative that makes steam come out my ears faster than an espresso machine is “mommy porn.” Use of either gets someone verbally flayed.

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