The Categorical Post on Category Romances…Except Not Really

As Sarah noted yesterday, the fine folks at Romancenovel.tv posted a video of the two of us talking about romance novels. (WHY do I look and sound like a chipmunk whenever I’m recorded? It’s enough to drive a girl to drink. And I’m allergic to alcohol, which means I end up chugging chocolate milk, which really doesn’t do much for my romantic image. GODDAMMIT.) (Also, in case this wasn’t clear: the people at Romancenovel.tv did a great job. I’m just the least telegenic person ever, with the exception of Carrot Top.) Anyway, if you ever wondered how high-pitched and squeaky I can get when I become excited talking about something, this is an opportunity.

So I meant to write this long, thoughtful post about the evolution of the category romance and the differences in style between American and British/Australian category releases to go with the video, and I was outlining it when I realized, no, what I REALLY wanted to do was post a Top 10 Things I Learned from Category Romances and a very silly comparison table. Screw erudition! Capsule summaries are full of win and awesome!

Top Ten Things I Learned from Reading Category Romances As a Girl
(In other words: Most of these cover old-school category romances.)

10. It’s entirely possible to be somebody’s mistress while remaining a virgin.
9. Billionaires who regularly date actresses and supermodels will find your mousiness and awkwardness refreshingly real and promptly fall in love with you.
8. “No” means “Kiss me more punishingly.” Remember: punishing kisses are a sign he’s actually in love with you.
7. Child support? Who needs child support? Real women raise their babies alone! And conceal their existence from their fathers!
6. Australia sure has a lot of Greeks and Italians.
5. And so does England.
4. Sheikhs are never devout Muslims.
3. A traumatic sexual past can be fixed by fucking your boss.
2. It’s entirely possible to be the mother to a secret baby while never having had sex, even if your name isn’t Mary and you’re not a native of Nazareth.
1. OH MY GOD ORAL SEX IS REALLLLLLLLLLL. (Again: Thank you, Anne Stuart. You changed my life.)

Key Differences between Category Romances in the American Mode vs. Category Romances in the British/Australian Mode

English/Australian Category Romances American Category Romances
Fetishizes swarthy men, but only if they’re rich (Italians, Greeks, sheikhs) and stripped of most of their cultural trappings, with the exception of their accents and their machismo. Fetishizes redneck men, but only if they’re rich (cowboys with their own ranches, NASCAR) and stripped of most of their class trappings, with the exception of their accents and their machismo.
The meek shall inherit the earth–and by “meek,” I mean “secretaries,” and by “inherit,” I mean “marry,” and by “the earth,” I mean “their billionaire boss.” The meek shall inherit the earth–and by “meek,” I mean “incredibly spunky owners of independent businesses,” and by “inherit,” I mean “marry,” and by “the earth,” I mean “the forceful captains of enterprise who are trying to buy out their companies.”
We love our virgin boardroom mistresses. We love our virgin amnesiac cowboy brides.
We <3 doctors! We <3 military men!
Dude, where’s Canada in all this? I know, right? When was the last time you read a category romance with Canadian protagonists?

Have your own Top 10 list to contribute, or more differences to note? Let us know in the comments.

Categorized:

Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Helen M says:

    Candy, I totally less than three you for this.

  2. 2
    Ciaralira says:

    That’s hilarious. I have never read a category romance, but now that you have opened my eyes I plan to rush out and buy a stack.

  3. 3
    ttthomas says:

    OK, that was hysterical. It was the first time I’ve watched a video of you two. I’m still not at all sure, though, that I actually know what the definition of “category romance” is. Is there more than one category? That’s probably a dumb question to the old timers, but there you have it.

    One comment about the video: SB Sarah has a great broadcast voice, and SB Candy, it wasn’t the chipmunk squeals that bothered me, it’s that the camera only showed half of your face much of the time, and watching your facial experessions is half the fun. Still, I laughed out loud at what I heard.

  4. 4
    asrai says:

    http://www.canadianromanceauthors.com/Set_in_Canada.php
    I wish the Candian Romance Authors site (above I’m to lazy to write code) would get their asses in gear and fix their “set in Canada” list page. They had dozens listed at some point, but then they revamped the page and it’s “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”. :(

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    I have a great broadcast voice? Wow – thanks. I always figure I sound like I nurse a perpetual sinus infection.

    Also, I am laughing unto tears again at Candy’s lists. Holy crap. Especially the part about curing a sexually traumatic past by humperating the boss.

  6. 6

    I have nothing to contribute except that it made me laugh out loud.  Oh, and number three which made me cackle in such a bizarre fashion that it scared the dog.

    That is all.

  7. 7
    Kinley says:

    Being from Canada, I love the idea of Romance novels set in the Great White North…but only if the authors of said novels have any clue at all about Canadian geography. I was reading this really lame romance novel the other day that my Nana sent to me—she uses all her old copies of romance novels as packing material in her Christmas parcels—how cool is that? And in this novel, the dubiously monikered Yukon Love Song by Veronica Blake, the Yukon and Alaska were interchangeable. What the fuck, right? I mean, as a Canadian, I am wildly bitter that Alaska is not part of our landmass (it is SO disruptive to our continental continuity to make Alaska American—I mean, c’mon!)so having Miss Blake make it interchangeable with the giant mass of ice we actually do own hurt my Canadian pride a little—I mean, what was she implying, exactly, that the Yukon was basically Alaska and therefore more American than Canadian? I don’t know. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the book, though my husband followed me arround the house the other day, reading the love scenes aloud to be, and basically making me laugh so hard I almost threw up a little.

    But I digress. What I wanted to say was…well, I don’t really remember. I do however want to know know if anyone has read any Canadian set romance novels that were actually geographically accurate, and convincingly Canadian. Perhaps fellow Canadian Smart Bitches out there will be able to help me out, because they might understand my plight for something that actually speaks a little to actual Canadian experience, perhaps,dare I say it, written by ACTUAL Canadians….but then, all those novels set in England are rarely written by actual English people, so why should I expect anything different for my own country? Because it is so fricken big, it could fit, like, a gajillion Englands into it? I don’t know.

    Anyway, as a writer myself, and a Canadian, I feel it is my civic duty to write an awesome, searingly sexy historical romance novel set in Canada—hell, set in my own town. Why not? After all, I live in the town (Mission, BC)that is the site of the first Canadian train robbery. That’s exciting, right? And sexy. There could be a lot of euphemism about , and steam engines in there, like “she stroked his sleek steam engine of love, which was ready at any moment to pull into her station”, and the like. (I’m kidding, of course—I would never write a line like that for reals :-)

    And also, thinking about a HaBO entry regarding Jewish protagonists, I was also thinking that as a Jewish Canadian, I could kill two birds with one proverbial (and very sexy) stone, and write my next novel about Jewish Canadian protagonists in Mission, British Columbia. I could through the train robbery in there for good measure. This could be HOT.

    What do you bitches think?

  8. 8
    Angelina says:

    LOL! You know I thought I was the only one who thought there were an awful lot of Greeks in Australia. I love category romances and have probably read at least 15 that have Greeks living in Australia.

    I can only remember ever reading one with a Canadian hero but they were all in England.

    I seem to remember Alexandra Sellers wrote a whole series of category romances where the sheikhs were rather devout in their faith. Other than that, yup.

    So true it’s painful and yet I can’t stop reading them.

  9. 9
    Kinley says:

    okay, I realize there was a very strange line in my post that made no sense—my keyboard is being a douchebag today, and made me create some very weird text in there.

    “There could be a lot of euphemism about , and steam engines in there, like” SHOULD have read “There could be a lot of euphemisms about steam engines in there”

    Maybe no big deal, but I feel a lot better clearing that up. Thanks.

  10. 10
    snarkhunter says:

    It’s entirely possible to be somebody’s mistress while remaining a virgin.

    WHY am I not somebody’s mistress right now? I could use a fabulous wardrobe, nights out on the town,etc. And if I can do that without the sex?

    Oh…wait. Am I mixing up “mistress” with “kept woman”? I thought mistresses in these books were like mistresses in the 19th century. Am I wrong?

    Billionaires who regularly date actresses and supermodels will find your mousiness and awkwardness refreshingly real and promptly fall in love with you.

    Oh, billionaires! I’m right here! Check out my long, boring brown hair! Look, I’m below average height! I can’t walk across a room without tripping over a chair! WHERE IS MY BILLIONAIRE? I am so ready to be his virgin mistress.

  11. 11
    Harlequin says:

    Kinley – you are magnificent.

  12. 12
    Kinley's says:

    Okay, I a totally monopolizing my talking time—but this is the very first time I have ever contributed to a thread on this site, so bear with me.

    Candy’s hilarious rant regarding the discovery that oral sex is REAL reminded me of being a kid, and sneaking my aunt’s category romances from beneath her bed when she wasn’t home. She had literally a hundred of the damn things stashed under her bed—or that was where she threw them when she was done with them, I don’t know. All I know is, there was a veritable treasure trove of Harlequins under there, and I would stick my arm under there, and grab as many as my ten-year-old hands could grapple, and then I would run to the bathroom and hide, flipping through to find all the juicy bits, my heart hammering in my chest. I think I got my entire (dubious, it must be said…)sexual education from reading those things before my mum even knew I knew what sex was, ha ha. And like Candy, I too discovered that oral sex was REAL from those books.

    I just want to add for good measure that my sexual education has not REMAINED dubious.

    Does anyone else have a story to share about dicovering sex through reading forbidden literature? And I use the term “literature” very VERY loosely.

  13. 13

    “actually geographically accurate, and convincingly Canadian. Perhaps fellow Canadian Smart Bitches out there will be able to help me out, because they might understand my plight for something that actually speaks a little to actual Canadian experience, perhaps,dare I say it, written by ACTUAL Canadians”

    AMEN! Please someone get on that without references to ‘Ice’ hockey or the word “eh”. Poutine, kilometers and loonies are ok. Although I read a horror (partially read) novel where the hero was using loonies in the 70’s. WTF? At least get the facts straight.

  14. 14
    snarkhunter says:

    My literary sexual education began with (God help me) Flowers in the Attic. Incestuous rape ahoy!

    Combine that with Sweet Valley High (all men are either eunuchs or wanna-be rapists), Little Women, and my charming self-censoring habits, and…yeah. Oral sex? I don’t think I learned about that until college. Didn’t read about it until I got over my anti-smut hangup and started reading smutty fan fiction.

    OMG I have so many issues. I hate myself. :)

  15. 15
    AmyJ says:

    Romance wiki has a list of some books set in Canada here: http://www.romancewiki.com/Category:Canada

    The list isn’t exactly extensive, but it’s a start.

    There’s also a list of some Canadian authors: http://www.romancewiki.com/Category:Canadian_Authors

    Just off the top of my head, two Canuck authors who have written books set in Canada are Michelle Rowen and Kate Bridges.

  16. 16
    Robinjn says:

    I was 12, reading The Flame and the Flower on the couch in the living room while everybody else watched TV in the den.

    I swear to God that until I read that book I had no idea there was such a thing as THRUSTING. From the illustrated books my Mom had given me (the closest she ever came to actually explaining anything was pushing them into my hands with a blush) I thought that people just sort of laid there for awhile, then it was done and hey, presto, you had a baby!

    Boy I wish I could find copies of those books today. All that 50s prudishness in a sex book? It was like “Dick and Jane Do It”

  17. 17
    Arhylda says:

    “And I’m allergic to alcohol, which means I end up chugging chocolate milk, which really doesn’t do much for my romantic image. GODDAMMIT.)”

    Of course, if you were lounging in your carefully romantically decorated bedroom, wearing a feather boa, it would certainly help that romantic image (at least according to the Washington Post, right??!!). :-)

  18. 18
    Rinda says:

    Sardonically.  That word is used a lot in Harlequin Presents. 

    I recently picked some up because of a contest Harlequin is having and I’ve been reading them. 

    He smiled sardonically.  His smile was sardonic.  What’s up with this word?

    Oh, and man, I thought it sucked being allergic to almost all painkillers.  But allergic to alcohol???  That’s simply not fair. 

    But you’ll stay tiny…

  19. 19
    Kinley's says:

    “I swear to God that until I read that book I had no idea there was such a thing as THRUSTING. From the illustrated books my Mom had given me […] I thought that people just sort of laid there for awhile, then it was done and hey, presto, you had a baby!”

    Oh My GOD, I know exactly where you are coming from! I had no IDEA about THRUSTING, either! I mean, I knew vaguely what went where, but it was a long time before I knew more about the propulsion mechanics of sex. There were so many lewd jokes the bad boys at school told me that just went RIGHT over my head—and then, when I figured out the thrusting bit, I started laughing my ass off, like—“Oh! NOW I get it! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

    Only, I don’t think I really got what sex looked like, you know what I mean, until I started watching late night foreign movies on TV after my mum had gone to bed—I would sneak out into the livingroom, and turn the TV with no sound—shich was no problem, because these were FRENCH movies, and they had the miraculous invention known as the SUBTITLE. Thoug, of course, being a “Canauck”, I of COURSE speak fluent French ;-) So I only needed the subtitles for the subterfuge aspect.

    I am going to let you you all in on a leeetle secret (or, un petit secret, as we say in Canada) we Anglo-Canadians only speak enough French so that when we pick up a can of soup, or a box of hairdye, or a shampoo bottle, and we accidently look at the French side first, we don’t necessarily need to turn it around to read the English. I mean, if we are THAT LAZY, and can’t be bothered to read the ingredients to Lipton’s Cupa Soup, we fall back on what little French we have actually absorbe over the years, and we secretly congratulate ourselves that all those years of secretly reading novels underneath our desks in French class, while keeping an ear halk-cocked so we wouldn’t get caught, were NOT IN VAIN!

    Rincez et Repetez si Necessaire, Bitches! 

    Wow, I really went off there. Sorry, guys! This is just so much bloody FUN!

  20. 20
    2paw says:

    Yes, we do have an awful lot of Italians and Greeks in Australia. ‘Folk lore’ has it that Melbourne is the second largest Greek city in the world!!
    Even here in the very Anglo Celtic Apple Isle, I went to (Catholic) school with hordes of Greek, Italian and various Baltic State girls.
    Odds on, the Italian and Greek men are your best bet for Gazillionaires too!!!
    Oh apart from James Packer, and he’s no Category hero!!!!!

  21. 21
    Kinley says:

    Oh God, I think I need to go back to bed. I can’t even spell my own name right. I posted my last entry under “Kinley’s”

    Kinley’s WHAT, one wonders? Kinley’s half a brain?

    And sooooo many typos. I just get over excited, talking to intelligent gals like you.

  22. 22
    Kinley says:

    Oh My God, I keep TRYING to write my requisite ten pages today, but I keep reloading this site to see what everyone has been saying in the five minutes since I studiously closed my browser to begin the day’s work. I am so close to the end of my novel, and yet, Smart Bitches beckon me with their acerbic wit like sirens on the shoals!

    Damn you, Ladies! Damn you to HELL!

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    Smart Bitches beckon me with their acerbic
    wit like sirens on the shoals!

    Damn you, Ladies! Damn you to HELL!

    Holy shit. That needs to go on a t-shirt. Candy, I think it’s about time we got serious about opening a store.

  24. 24
    Ann says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, for making my Friday.  And by “thank you”, I mean, for making me laugh so hard I had to explain myself to my coworkers….

  25. 25
    alia says:

    Valley of the Horses. (Though I spent a very interesting Saturday morning reading bits of The Whole Earth Catalog at a tender age. They did a lot of book excerpts. Some of the books were foreign, and used socks as sexual aides. *blink*)

    Very educational, those foreign books.

  26. 26
    Robinjn says:

    Oh My GOD, I know exactly where you are coming from! I had no IDEA about THRUSTING, either! I mean, I knew vaguely what went where, but it was a long time before I knew more about the propulsion mechanics of sex.

    Okay, here’s how dumb I was. Now remember this was the early 1970s and I think Mom had bought “the books” sometime in the mid 1960s. And I swear, we never, ever caught our parents doing anything so I had no freaking clue. And Lord knows if I didn’t get it from the books I wasn’t getting any info from anybody.

    Are you ready for it? I had this mental vision (fantasy actually) that the woman got pregnant *then* the guy “fertilized” the baby. Had all these wild sexy mental scenarios of that whole scene. It’s amazing that I didn’t end up with 16 kids with that kind of imagery going on. Thank the Lord for Romance novels. Of course Heather got pregnant by Brandon right away, but at least she wasn’t pregnant *first*!

    Submit word: didn’t66. No, didn’t 69 either.

  27. 27
    jessica says:

    Now where can I sign up to be some billionare’s misstress, without the sex? Or a billionare cowboy not particular. Used to read the serials but don’t anymore, may go back to them based on all your reviews.

  28. 28
    Kinley says:

    “Holy shit. That needs to go on a t-shirt.”

    I hereby bequeath unto you, Sarah, and you, Candy, the copyright to those lines. If it every goes on a t-shirt, I want a free one ;-p

    I just got finished this whole big reply to your “Frozen Chosen” comment, Sarah—but then my frigging computer ATE it, and now I will have to do a dramatic reenactment of the comment. Shit. I thought it was pretty funny, too. I’ll see if I can regurgitate it accurately, and post it later.

  29. 29
    SusanA says:

    Well coming from a conservative Greek family (in Greece, no billionaires) I never got the Greek billionaire thing at all as they certainly didn’t seem to behave at all like the Greeks I knew.

    I did however plow my way through hundreds of category romances and picked up my entire sex education that way. Thrusting? Oral Sex?? Anatomy???

    There seemed no other place to get it because we certainly had no access to those pathetic textbooks and no parent would tell a Greek daughter what to do.

    I guess that’s why the billionaires went for their English / Australian secretaries (not Canadians though;))

  30. 30
    NellyF says:

    Where are all Billionaire ex-CEO current Cowboys hanging out? I already know a bunch of those mouse-brown haired, short and feisty love interest type people being one of them myself.

    Anyways what I really wanted to post: I have read a couple of Canadian category romances. I have a secret addiction to Harlequin Superromances (the bigger thicker ones). One that comes to mind is about twins from Vancouver. One was wild and rebelious, the other a goody goody. The rebelious one dies on a mountain and the sister feels it even though she hasn’t had contact with her in a long time. So anyways, she goes and looks for her and of course ends up falling in love with the guy who absolutely hated her sister. It was not so bad…

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