05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Way We Were.... Romance has Changed!

 By: Marcia King-Gamble

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 In the background are Locks of Love ...lovers names are engraved and the keys thrown into the ocean!

As a writer of contemporary romance, I’m amazed at just how far we’ve come. I grew up for the most part on St. Vincent; a  small British island, that back then, few people even heard of. We had two book stores on the island, so if you were a reader you read whatever was on those shelves.

At age six, I read Mills and Boon novels and hid them under my mattress. I was an early reader, thanks to my school teacher mom. She would later tell everyone she didn’t even know I was able to read. She’d take me with her to classes and apparently I was catching on. But back to the subject matter at hand.

Contemporary romance at that time consisted of a boy meet girl scenario, some kind of conflict ,(usually a third person vying for the hero’s attention,) and the only hint of  lust were a few chaste kisses. These kisses increased the woman’s heartbeat and made the guy’s manhood throb.

Flash forward several years, and here I am writing the stories that I grew up with, except, oh, my, how much these stories have changed.  Now there is sex! And not implied either.

My first publishing opportunity came with the launching of the multi-cultural market.  Prior to that, few people who looked like me were even on the covers. With the nineties things changed. Kensington Publishing launched their Arabesque and Encanto lines and held their breaths. Other publishing houses quickly followed suit when they realized there was money to be made and the market couldn’t get enough.  They were shortsighted in that, they only marketed these books to the  African American and Latino community, not realizing that a good book is a good book, whether the faces on the cover are yellow, white or black. 

Back then Erotic or Erotica novels were something you did not read in public, or if you did, the book jacket was covered. I remember when books like Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were considered scandalous and only a 'harlot' read them in private or public.  Now today’s heat level would make even an exotic dancer blush. 

Today’s readers want it hot, hot. Readers for the most part want their sex, raw and explicit, although there has to be some romance driving that sex.  Readers want to read about both parties enjoying sex not women being taken, as had often been portrayed in the romances of the sixties, seventies and even eighties. Readers want to explore and maybe learn about something other than the missionary position.    Look at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Contemporary romance also has hero and heroine meeting in unusual ways, just like people meet today….online... in coffee bars and in Internet cafes.  Heroines also have a multitude of careers. Gone are the days when the heroine was usually a nurse or nanny. Today she is the CEO and the hero might just be working for her. In Come Fall, one of my less known books, the heroine is accused by a subordinate of sexual harassment. How’s that for a flip?

Long gone are the romance novels that are completely vanilla, although the Inspirational Market, which is hugely popular, and very faith based, prefers sex not to happen without benefit of marriage.  But boy still meets girl and conflict happens. 

Romance today can take place on an alternate universe and love can happen between vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. There are elements of suspense in romances and gruesome mysteries to be solved.  But the one thing that has not changed is that a satisfying ending must happen, and true love will prevail.

Contemporary romance has changed for the better.      


Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for a great summary/review of the changes in contemporary romance. While I know Romancing The Genres is celebrating Contemporary Romance this month, I also see those changes in heat levels throughout the overall genre.

I also remember how scandalous Lady Chatterley's Lover and Lolita were in their time. I also remember my parents going to see the movie "Picnic" and having a discussion beforehand about the risk they were taking to be seen going into that movie house. "Picnic" would probably be a PG13 in today's market!

Marcia King-Gamble said...

So true, Judith. So true.

Linda Lovely said...

I agree. I always judge the Daphne contest and the romantic suspense novels are certainly not vanilla!

Maggie Lynch said...

I love all the alternatives in romance now! And I applaud the different heat levels that allow people to read romances that meet their desire to see the sexual tension played out at the level they want. Now people have choices ranging from sweet/closed door portrayals of sex to erotica. That freedom speaks to women finally being able to perceive themselves as sexual beings without fear of that being "bad."

I also love that the romance genre now includes all genres as a possible subplot to the romance. We have romances with mysteries, with suspense, with a variety of paranormal elements, with SF and Fantasy elements, and romance that leans toward literary fiction. And I think that is appropriate because romance happens everywhere. It is an integral part of life.