If romance novel conventions were venereal diseases…

In my old review for Response, I mentioned that retrograde amnesia plots are the tertiary syphilis of romance novels, and I realized that this comparison was more apt than I thought. Retrograde amnesia plots, especially those involving trauma so severe that the heroine can’t remember anything previous to the accident, including her own name, are painful, undignified, a signal that there’s little that can be done to make the book better (though occasionally drastic measures can save it from painful, miserable death), and it can drive readers crazy. Then I started thinking, well, hell, a lot of the plot lines and genre conventions of romance novels can be similarly compared to STDs.

So, without further ado, we proudly present to you: If Romance Novel Conventions Were Veneral Diseases. How many STDs does YOUR book feature?

Secret babies: Secondary syphilis. It’s terribly unsexy, difficult to recover from, and common sense and a little bit of prevention could’ve headed it off at the pass.

Virgin widows and horny, take-charge women in contemporaries who are still virgins: Herpes Type 2 (HSV-2). One of the most common STDs in Romancelandia. Not curable, but not usually fatal; mostly, it’s unsightly and annoying. Despite its prevalence, is still avoidable if one takes basic precautions.

Feisty heroines who set your teeth on edge and the asshole heroes who (allegedly) lurrrrve them: Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Again, one of the most common STDs in Romancelandia. They can be easily overlooked—that is, until they make the plot break out all over with warts. Can sometimes be cancerous to the whole book if it is infected with a particularly malevolent strain of hero and/or heroine.

Heroes with massive Mommy issues: Gonorrhea. Like gonorrhea, this plot device is eminently treatable, and many, many romance authors, flush with the giddiness of writing their first books, contract this plot device in a bout of frenzied, wanton writing. Can cause quite a bit of discomfort, but that’s youthful indiscretion for you. However, if left unchecked and in combination with other unsound hero behaviors (for example, being a complete cockhead to the heroine for no apparent reason other than the fact that she has ovaries and so did mommy dearest), it can make it easier to contract more fatal diseases, like the Big Misunderstanding.

Flavors of the Month (e.g., sheikhs in the 80s, Navy SEALs in the late 90s and early 00s, brooding vampires and werewolves now): Chlamydia. Like chlamydia, it’s the silent epidemic. You go for months, sometimes years, happily reading these books, feeling nary a twinge. Then suddenly, you look up at your bookshelf, and you realize you haven’t read a book in months that wasn’t part of some plaguey Regency Brotherhood with homoerotic overtones, or you couldn’t remember the last time you cracked open a romance novel in which both protagonists were a) fully alive, and b) fully human. AND IT BURRRRRRNS, OH IT BURRRRRRNS. Worst of all, you were unknowingly infecting your friends with it, too. “Hey, check out this awesome series involving werewolf brothers” you told them, innocently handing off some paperback DOOM. You could weep at your carelessness, but what’s done is done. All you can do is move on, warier and grateful that it didn’t get so bad that you contracted the equivalent of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: the dreaded Fangirlitis.

Categorized:

Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Shannon says:

    Secondary syphilis.

    Twice.

    Can I get a cream for that?  I bet I could get my editor to cough up the cash for it.

  2. 2
    AnneD says:

    Herpes. Damn I better get me some antibiotics.

  3. 3
    Carrie Lofty says:

    My friend, a non-romance reader, helpfully advises that I make one of my characters a syphilitic. Who knew I was helping her dream come true?

  4. 4
    Laura Hamby says:

    Snert. Snicker…

    HOWLING with laughter.

    Wondering what STD would apply to those novels where the heroine is the widow/bereaved girlfriend of the hero’s brother. AIDS?

  5. 5
    Molly says:

    . . . do I have a less severe strain if I’m a fan of werewolf romances that are brood-free?

  6. 6
    bam says:

    I love you, Candy. You are so… beautiful…. to meeeeeeeeeeee!

  7. 7

    Nice to see that as you start your third year of bitchery you’re as crazy as ever.

  8. 8
    Lia says:

    It isn’t often that LOL is a realistic description.

    Happy anniversary, and may you have many more—free of ‘venereal’ diseases.

    You folks have read Elizabeth Peters’ “Jacqueline Kirby” series, haven’t you… particularly “Die For Love?”  I think you’d enjoy it.

  9. 9
    DS says:

    Darn, here I thought you were going to talk about large meetings of romance fans and writers in second rate hotels.

  10. 10
    Helen M says:

    Okay, I’m still coughing from choking on my tea, but damn Candy, flavour of the month romances = chlamydia is one of the funniest things I have ever read. Great way to kick off a third year of Bitchery.

  11. 11
    Candy says:

    Can I get a cream for that?

    Alas, no. But there are plenty of readers who enjoy secondary syphilis out there.

    Herpes. Damn I better get me some antibiotics.

    Antibiotics won’t do squat, I’m afraid, unless you have such a bad case that secondary bacterial infection has set in. (In which case, what the hell kind of virgin widow/inexplicable virgin did you create in the first place?)

    Wondering what STD would apply to those novels where the heroine is the widow/bereaved girlfriend of the hero’s brother. AIDS?

    Y’know, I tried contemplating which plot convention/hackneyed device deserved to be slapped with the HIV label, then realized that HIV is wayyyy too touchy even for me to make fun of, heartless bitch though I am.

    . . . do I have a less severe strain if I’m a fan of werewolf romances that are brood-free?

    I think the severity is determined by how slavishly you read only a certain sub-genre or how much time and effort you put into stalking an author on her messageboards, squealing over how much you loved Ihmpotenz’s story and when, oh when, is Mhamazboy going to get his own book?

  12. 12
    Suisan says:

    Love. This. Post.

    Bookmarking, taking notes, the whole nine yards.

    Thank you for being as crazy smart and on target as you are.

  13. 13
    Ann Aguirre says:

    First published romance had Herpes. Probably BECAUSE of the virgin widow, RT nominated it for an award. “Gosh,” they said. “We sure don’t see enough of those.”

    Please forgive me. I knew not what I did.

  14. 14
    Shaunee says:

    “. . . do I have a less severe strain if I’m a fan of werewolf romances that are brood-free?”

    “I think the severity is determined by how slavishly you read only a certain sub-genre or how much time and effort you put into stalking an author on her messageboards, squealing over how much you loved Ihmpotenz’s story and when, oh when, is Mhamazboy going to get his own book?”

    So wait, is it only the readers of werewolf/vampire flavor have Chlamydia?  Cuz like phew man, I was worried that if I keep banging (pun totally intended) away on my own werewolf WIP, eventually, I might have to take my ass down to the clinic.

    Are you sure it’s not just a yeast infection?  Damn, I bet I have Chlamydia.

  15. 15
    Candy says:

    So wait, is it only the readers of werewolf/vampire flavor have Chlamydia?

    Nope—like I said, it’s over-indulgence in Flavor of the Month. It just so happens that paranormals happen to be the Big Thing right now. Down the road…I don’t know, inspirational erotic romance?

  16. 16
    kardis says:

    Ihmpotenz…. Candy, you kill me! Also anyone who happened to glance over at me as I sit by myself laughing thinks I’m insane now. Thanks bunches!!

    fire32, from the Chlamydia perhaps?

  17. 17
    Amy E says:

    I thought the next hero was called Scrhotuhm.

  18. 18
    Amy E says:

    And alas!  I was wondering what that smell was, and now I know.  I’m just infested with Chlamydia.  Read vampires, write vampires, play vampires on TV… okay, not that last bit, but if I had a chance? 

    I’ll seek treatment, Bitches.  One must not go through life as an epicenter of contagion.

  19. 19
    Laura Hamby says:

    Wondering what STD would apply to those novels where the heroine is the widow/bereaved girlfriend of the hero’s brother…

    Y’know, I tried contemplating which plot convention/hackneyed device deserved to be slapped with the HIV label, then realized that HIV is wayyyy too touchy even for me to make fun of, heartless bitch though I am.

    Y’all didn’t leave me with many choices to apply to this particular plot device. Nothing makes me throw the book at the wall faster than “recycled heroine-itis”.

    As for making fun of HIV…never. Wasn’t my intent at all.

    I shall now duct-tape my big, tactless mouth shut and endeavor to remember it’s better to stick dark chocolate M & M’s in my mouth rather than my foot.

  20. 20
    Invisigoth says:

    AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! NONONONONONONO!

    Chlamydia.

  21. 21
    Emily says:

    …oh this brings back memories of Sex Ed. class and the various sick and horrible things they showed us.
    Like how a cervix with chlamydia “should” look like a doughnut covered in cream cheese and perhaps a bit of strawberry jam.
    *glances sadly at bagel*

    Oh Breakfast with Bitchery. I should know better.

  22. 22
    closetcrafter says:

    You people slay me.In a good way.

  23. 23
    Jackie says:

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Erhm. I didn’t realize chlamydia was so freaking contagious…

  24. 24
    Molly says:

    Hey, I just like werewolf protagonists in general, regardless of genre.  And while I’ve checked out a few author blogs, I’ve never sent stalker-ish emails.

  25. 25

    Very nice work, but do you have a romance novel convention that’s comparable to hepatitis (A, B, and D—hepatitis C, I think, is the only one that can’t be sexually transmitted), genital warts, cervical cancer, AIDS/HIV, or probably the worst STD of all—unplanned pregnancy?

  26. 26
    The Dean says:

    From The Dean’s Desk:

    The Dean is distressed at the suffering of the dear readers thus afflicted with such easily preventable diseases.  Innoculate yourselves my dears by returning to the classics, much as one would step into the clean clear air after a walk through a smoky bar. Repeat as necessary until relief is achieved.  Contact The Dean if symptoms do not subside.

    The Dean

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