Help A Bitch Out

A Very Special Help a Bitch Out: Build Dr. Frantz’s Syllabus!

Dr. Sarah Frantz, Professor of Awesome, has forwarded me a very cool request: help her build her syllabus!

I will be teaching a course at NC State’s Continuing Eduction program called Encore! (exclamation point necessary, of course).  I teach for six weeks for 1 1/2 hours a week.  The students are mainly female, all at least over 50 years old, probably up to about 85.  Last year I taught Austen and was apparently a huge hit.  They’re begging me to teach again this year and I said I’d do it if I could do romance novels and they said, ‘Fine, please, anything,” so that didn’t work as a way out.

So, I need four or five romance novels that I can teach to older Southern women of a certain age. [SB Sarah says, “That would be: not really our age.”]  I figure a Georgette Heyer, if I can find one in print that I like, and an SEP, probably It Had to Be You, as it’s my personal favorite.  I’ll probably have a week with some RWA-NC members coming to visit (hopefully), including Virginia Kantra.  Then what?  I’ve got an older historical (Heyer) and a contemporary romantic comedy (SEP).  Maybe a suspense (Kantra?)?  An erotica (bwahahahahaha—yeah, I don’t think so)?  An asshole hero?  An inspirational?  Any suggestions?

Just thought the bitchery might be able to help me with my syllabus.

So! We need romance recommendations for a continuing education syllabus geared for women of a certain age. Bring it!

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  1. 1
    papertiger says:

    Hmm… Anything by Laura Kinsale? When I think of “literary romance” she’s the first person to pop into mind. Also, if they liked Austen, how about including a Julia Quinn book?

    And I’ll be bad and suggest something by Susan Johnson – hey, she’s got alla them footnotes in those books! That’s gotta be good for learnin’! (tee-hee)

  2. 2

    While it’s not technically a romance, how about Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold?  I think the mature hero and heroine will especially appeal to this group.  The theme of personal needs vs. responsibility resonate with readers of a certain age.

    If you can find them in print, Carla Kelly’s books also offer emotionally mature heroes and heroines that I find refreshing.

    And if you’re looking for a good pirate read, you can’t go wrong with the award winning Captain Sinister’s Lady.  The hero in that novel has graying hair and creaky knees, and would like to settle down with a nice lady.  Problem is, most nice ladies don’t think pirates make good husband material, so complications ensue.

    Good luck!  Sounds like it’s going to be a fun class.

  3. 3

    It might help to know the point of the class – just an examination of romances? The English lit class I never had but really really wanted?

    You should include at least one Nora Roberts book since she’s practically the queen of the genre. She has so so many good ones that it’s hard to choose. One of my fav suspense ones is “Carolina Moon”.

    I recently read “Welcome to Temptation” by Jennifer Crusie. Really really good. Has some racy elements without being erotica.

    Have fun!

    Spam word : easy16 bwahahahahah!

  4. 4
    shaunee says:

    Something vampire maybe.  The whole thing about the mystique of the vampire and what it symbolizes, i.e. permission for women to be “taken” without all the vamp/virgin baggage.  I saw a really interesting documentary about that, including a fascinating analysis of old horror flics (talkies and non talkies).  As for what book(s) to teach, I say teach Sunshine by Robin McKinley.  Great writing, turns that whole vampire mystique thing completely on its ear, yet manages to retain it at the same time.  McKinley’s vampire is actually unappealing unlike so many vampire heroes.  His skin is grey (the heroine describes it as the color of mushrooms left screwed up in a bag in the back of the fridge) and in the world McKinley has created he and his race are feared and reviled the way one might revile a sociopathic murderous pedophile.  Yet McKinley manages to make him incredibly compelling.  So much so that I had to stop myself from flipping ahead to scenes that featured him.  Good stuff.

    Also the sex (though not the sexuality) is at a minimum for those readers of a certain age.  One of my favs.

  5. 5
    asdfg says:

    We in that age group really don’t need to be protected/pandered to. We’re adults. Really. We’re no different from females younger than we are. Wait. Yes we are. We’ve got lots of experience, and most probably don’t go for the helpless female plots.

    Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, Bujold’s A Civil Campaign, The Sharing Knife, Jennifer Cruise’s Welcome to Temptation, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness, Karleen Koen’s Through a Glass Darkly, Dark Angels, Judith Ivory’s The Proposition, Bliss, Beast.

  6. 6
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Something by Curtiss Ann Matlock might do the trick.

  7. 7
    Randi says:

    I was thinking Sunshine as well, though the protaganist is young-ish, and may not be what sarah F is looking for.

    You could go with Outlander, or or OR Katherine Neville. Oh, how I doth love Katherine Neville. Maybe The Eight or The Magic Circle.

    Wow, hard to think of a book with an older HEA. *squinits and thinks really hard* Sarah F, what’s your minimum age for the female HEA?

  8. 8
    Becky Gilliam says:

    Hmm. Older southern ladies? What about Kathleen Kane, Teresa Medeiros, or Lynn Kurland? Kane is one of the few that falls into the heartland inspirational catagory that I can read without gagging so I can see her angels and cowboys going over well. Kurland is nice if you’re looking for *very* romantic, slightly paranormal (the time travel thing), but always PG.

    I’d also second the nomination for Julia Quinn.

    Another thought, though you might not want to waste time on two books by the same author in a short class, is doing very different works by the same author like Nora Roberts/JD Robb or Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick. Or maybe a male author like Tom Townsend (Tammie Lee), Tom Huff (Jennifer Wilde and other pseud.), or Daivd Wind (Monica Barrie and other pseud.)…

    Sounds fun!

  9. 9

    I agree that a course in romance needs a Nora Roberts!  The Chesapeake Bay series is superb. 

    My grandmother loves Catherine Coulter, but who doesn’t?  My fav is Rosehaven, a medieval. 

    Also for suspense, Sandra Brown is very popular.  And Southern.  I recommend Fat Tuesday.

  10. 10
    Heather says:

    While not technically of the romance genre, I would suggest Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons.  I think it’s categorized as women’s literary fiction or southern literature, but it does have a very strong romance story woven into it along with the requisite HEA.  It’s also a very charming story and goes over very big with “women of a certain age”.  Bonus feature to this author is that she’s a North Carolinian and an NC State alum.

  11. 11

    I’ll second (or third?) Welcome to Temptation – a solid Jennifer Crusie read.  One of my all-time favorite romances – an epic novel-type read – is Shadow of the Moon, by M.M. Kaye.  It’s older and long, but I think her storytelling is masterful and it’s all about plot with her.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    Heather! Thank you for reminding me about “Charms for the Easy Life” by Kaye Gibbons! I LOVED that book.

    Oh, man. I was just talking with another Sara last night about the post-good-romance-euphoria when a book is so good you want to lie down and drool for awhile. That book is so marvelous, it’s definitely euphoric-drool worthy.

  13. 13

    Since you’ve already got historical, contemporary comedy and suspense, I think you’ll need a paranormal of some type to round out the reading or a short contemporary series book,or an inspirational—something that shows the more defined subgenres within romance. 

    You could try one of the books from Nora’s Key series or something from Sherrilyn Kenyon (who lives in Tennessee so she might even be able to come to class…don’t know, or something from Lori Handeland. 

    For short contemporaries the options are endless, but I love Judy Duarte and Lois Faye Dyer who write Special Editions and the bombshells, when they were available (those type of stories are now under the Romantic Suspense line.)

    Sounds like a fun class!

  14. 14
    Sarah says:

    I’ve been thinking about a similar kind of class (except for undergrads), but I’m leaning towards a comparison theme – Austen and then Heyer, Jane Eyre and then… something with a broody, overbearing hero who seduces a governess.

  15. 15
    Heather says:

    It’s entirely my pleasure, Sarah.  I have to confess that it’s one my favorites.  Hehe!  And definitely worthy of a good euphoric drool session afterward.  I read that book over and over aloud to the ladies at a couple of assisted living facilities over the course of a couple years.  It’s just so danged charming!!

  16. 16

    How very cool!  Of course, you know I want to come.

    For suspense, I’d go with a Southern-set Linda Howard like Open Season (nice older women characters in that one and an endearingly oldfashioned heroine) or To Die For (with the irritating and wildly funny Blair) or my own Carolina-set Home Before Midnight.

    Is Jeanne Ray too women’s fiction-y?  Because Step Ball Change, set in Raleigh and featuring the family of would-be empty nesters, is a delight.

    I adore McKinley’s Sunshine—one of my favorite books published in the last, well, whenever—but I would categorize it as fantasy, not romance.

    Anything Crusie would be good. Ditto Nora Roberts…Angels Fall?  Or is that too much romantic suspense?

    What about Connie Brockway’s The Bridal Season?  It’s an older title, but warm and witty and wonderfully written.

    Okay, no more fun for me.  Back to work…

    Virginia

  17. 17
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Thanks so much, Bitches!  This is why I sent this HABO into Sarah—for recommendations of stuff I’ve never heard of before.  I’ll look into th Kurland and Gibbons, definitely.  I was thinking I need La Nora involved, too, so I’ll probably chuck the SEP for her instead.

    It’s a six week course that is not a “credit” course, so there’s no papers and no compulsion to read the books I assign.  More an informational course.  I’m hoping that if I pick interesting enough books, they’ll read them anyway.

    Any other ideas about cool stuff to do would be very welcome!

  18. 18
    Kim says:

    I second (third?) the suggestion to include Nora. The Garden trilogy was excellent too (Blue Dahlia, Red Lily, and er, brain blank—the cover was purple). Ghosts, gardening, and strong southern women—I think her students would like them.

    Sorry I’m not more help—I’ve been on a ‘more mystery, less romance’ kick lately.

    This thread reminded me, though—Dr. Frantz mentioned a book? E-book? In the guilty pleasures thread called Gemini by Chris Owens. Any chance anyone knows where to find a copy of said story? Thanks!

  19. 19
    darlynne says:

    Constance Day-O’Flannery writes about the Yellow Brick Road Gang, a book club of friends who start exploring a spiritual/mystical approach to their lives. The women are of a certain age (as am I), and I enjoyed reading about characters with a perspective of years and experience on which to draw. There’s romance, sex and magic, but the friendship between the women is particularly appealing.

    Best Laid Plans
    Twice in a Lifetime
    Old Friends

    Asdfg? Wish I’d said it first. You rock.

  20. 20
    darlynne says:

    Sheesh, that’s O’Day-Flannery. Nothing like the woman of a certain age falling off her skateboard in public.

  21. 21
    Sarah Frantz says:

    Kim, Chris’s stuff can be found at Torquere.  Here’s the page.  “911” is fabulous too.  And “Carbon and Ash” is a fabulous short that is one that defines romance for me.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    Jill says:

    Second , third or fourth Jenny Crusie. Try Bet Me. It’s a fairy tale.
    Your group might like Nora’s Three Fates or (my fav) The Villa.
    For Inspirational – Hannah Alexander. I gave Double Blind to a friend and her husband told me he did not get dinner that night—she was tied up in the mystery. http://hannahalexander.com/pages/home.html

    Jill

  24. 24
    Diane says:

    You totally need to have a Nora book —they’re all great in my opinion although I am partial to the JD Robb “In Death” books.

    “Southern” stories that I’d recommend are:
    “Rockstar” by Rosalyn Hardy Holcomb and “Crossroads Cafe” or “A Gentle Rain” by Deborah Smith (if you can ignore what an ass she apparently is as a person based on her posts on various blogs.)  I got my mother to read them both over Christmas (and she’s of the age as she’s in her early 70’s) and she loved the books.

  25. 25

    I second the Jenny Crusie, but I’d go with Bet Me before Temptation.

    And for Nora, I’d do either The Villa or Birthright.

    Julia Quinn’s The Duke & I would be a good choice too.

    And how about Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank…okay, it’s not technically a romance—but it is. And she’s such an amazing writer.

  26. 26
    Robinjn says:

    For an older audience, you might try LaVerle Spencer, specifically one of my favorite romances ever, “Years,” which takes place in the early 1900s in North Dakota. My mother loved that book and she’s not a romance reader. It’s about a younger girl falling in love with an older man, but also very much about the time and place in which it’s set. I can still cry reading that book though I’ve read it many, many times before.

  27. 27
    C.M. says:

    I agree that The Time Travel’s Wife contains a powerful story between two people (it’s a must-read book really) but it doesn’t fit into the romance genre. 

    *will not say more in an attempt to not reveal anything*

  28. 28
    JesB says:

    My all time favorite Georgette Heyer and the first romance novel I ever read was The Masqueraders.

    http://www.amazon.com/Masqueraders-Harlequin-Single-Title/dp/0373836066/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201623260&sr=8-1

  29. 29
    Robinjn says:

    We in that age group really don’t need to be protected/pandered to. We’re adults. Really. We’re no different from females younger than we are. Wait. Yes we are. We’ve got lots of experience, and most probably don’t go for the helpless female plots.

    Ditto. Don’t pander to your students just because they’re an older age-set! We aren’t all ancient geezers, some of us listen to Gwen Stefani and Kanye West (and Foo Fighters and Matchbox 20…and on and on).

    I do agree that older female readers are less likely to be tolerant of “poor little me” heroines. Or maybe that’s just me. I realized that unlike in the old days when I empathized with those whining little girls who needed their man to help them get through life, these days I just want to smack her silly and tell her to grow the hell up.

    But for Lord’s sake don’t think that your older age set will somehow be horrified or shocked at the sex scenes. They’ve probably got more experience than you do!

    (though I do confess to a bit of bewilderment about the whole BDSM scene, I just don’t find it terribly hawt that a guy has to carry butt plugs and ball gags around to service his wimmen with in order to feel like a real man…)

    submit word: woman44. Close, actually woman47!

  30. 30
    Leslie Hubanks says:

    WOw, tough order especialy for still in print. One thing though, I am a 45 year old church lady and I would PREFER moderate steam. I would suggest a Jayne Ann Krentz I haven’t read the new one yet (just came out today) but she could cover several mini genres with her Arcane novels.

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