The Challenge is Accepted!

If you recall my Open Letter, I have challenged DocTurtle of the Random Romance Title Generator to a readerly challenge. He has accepted!In order to rebut his idea that all category romances are low-grade and throwaway, I shall be sending him a category romance.

DocTurtle, it seems, is a turtle of very large brain, and a professor of mathematics, so in my efforts to select a book that might best represent the category romance subgenre and catch his interest, I’ve been searching through that thread for a book that might fit. His preferred list of fiction is vast and very toothsome: quoth DocTurtle, “I’m pretty big on some of the (pre-)Victorians (Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray), a lot of early twentieth-century novelists (Woolf, Steinbeck, Galsworthy), magical realism (Garcia Marquez, Hesse, Grass, Bulgakov), and a good deal of Jewish literature (Malamud, Levin, Potok, but especially I.B. Singer).”

Based on this new information, you might have a category romance that may possibly fit his reading preferences. I’ve also listed the three recommendations from the prior thread in the poll below, based on your ideas and DocTurtle’s reading list. If you do have an alternate suggestion, please make sure to list it in the comments. I hope we can find a title that will happily introduce him to the best of category romance!

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  1. 1
    Courtney says:

    Does “category romance” encompass the Harlequin Mills & Boon historicals?  Because I’m betting that based on his preferences that might be more up his alley.

  2. 2
    The Other Laura H. says:

    Uh… Austen, Trollope, and Marquez are not romance novelists how? Sorry, Doc Turtle, you are already a fan of the genre; that you seem to have run up against Sturgeon’s Revelation when exploring the stuff actually labelled as “romance” is unfortunate, but I have a feeling you are going to have a great deal of fun correcting your misapprehension.

    Hm. Or perhaps I’m not sorry at all…

  3. 3
    natasha says:

    I think Courtney is right, he might prefer historical rather than contemporary.

    I would suggest one of Mary Balogh’s books A Precious Jewel would be a good one.

  4. 4
    Faellie says:

    Does “category romance” encompass the Harlequin Mills & Boon historicals?  Because I’m betting that based on his preferences that might be more up his alley.

    That sounds like a good idea to me.  My recommendation would be Paula Marshall “Hester Waring’s Marriage”.  The background is the establishment of the British settlement in Sydney, Australia in the early 1800s, with a definite Dickensian flavour of a transported criminal (think Great Expectations) building a business empire while rescuing the well-born heroine (Austen would have approved of her actions) from destitution through employment as a schoolteacher, marriage and love.  Available from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Hester-Warings-Marriage-Paula-Marshall/dp/0373304560/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1220097601&sr=8-17

    The author was a university librarian, and the background seems well-researched.  The love-story is sweet and hopeful.  There are several spin-offs, most not as good but one (An Improper Duenna), like this one, you wil not be prising even out of my cold dead hands.

    Don’t know any of your specific titles or authors, so couldn’t choose among them.

  5. 5
    Faellie says:

    Apologies for double posting, but I’ve just noticed “The Strongbadian Paper Company Sales Representative’s Wily Marquess”.

    Perhaps you could point out to DocTurtle that “Marquis” or “Marquess” is in fact the male of the species (female being Marchioness or Marquesa).  Does this make it a role-reversal book with the Sales Rep a female, or is it m/m?  Either way, categories would have moved on from my young days….

  6. 6
    Joyce Odell says:

    My first vote was for Sex Straight Up, a terrific contemporary.

    But as I’ve read these comments, a historical may be more in keeping with his interests. Therefore, I would like to suggest Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly. That book is a Harlequin Historical and would fit the category romance criteria.

    On the other hand I felt the challenge was to require him to read something that he would assume was a “trashy” book only for him to realize that underneath is a real gem. If that is the case, Sex Straight Up would fit that bill. God, what a horrendous title! I was actually embarrassed to by the darn thing. But it was definitely worth the embarrassment.

  7. 7
    GloriaSue says:

    What about Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon? Historical, romance, AND magical realism, all in one.

    I was thinking the same thing about Thackeray and Austen—yep, those are romances.

  8. 8
    theo says:

    Perhaps a Kathleen Woodiwiss? Wolf and the Dove? Or one of her other excellent stories?

  9. 9
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    How about Georgette Heyer’s The Spanish Bride?  Romance AND real history.

  10. 10
    Gail says:

    I agree that Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly is a good one, but it’s getting harder to find. For stuff that’s readily available I would point out Jennifer Crusie’s books. Manhunting or Getting Rid of Bradley are both favorites of mine.
    I would also ask if the man has read any Heyer.

  11. 11

    Anything by Heyer. How about An Infamous Army? Not to generalize but, boys like war, right?

  12. 12
    Tina M. says:

    I would recommend any of Geogette Heyer’s romance novels.  They are smart and witty books with enough historical accuracy that even he might appreciate the her works (especially These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub).

  13. 13
    Trish says:

    Flowers From The Storm –  Laura Kinsale
    This is the blurb from Goodreads

    Would you like to convert someone who says romances aren’t “real” novels? This book is the one that will do it! Flowers from the Storm is one of the best books in the genre. Christian Langland, Duke of Jerveaux is the ultimate hero. A brilliant mathematician and a complete rake, Christian is a man of contradictions. When a stroke leaves him permanently unable to speak, his family believes him to be mad and relegates him to a sanitarium. Fortunately, Maddy, a righteous Quaker and do- gooder, recognizes that Christian is not insane—he just can’t talk! Maddy may not be the most likable heroine you’ll encounter, but she has depth and character, and is probably one of the few people you could imagine who would have the patience and understanding to accept and live with Christian’s intense anger and frustration. This is a book that defines the word “keeper.”

  14. 14
    nystacey says:

    If we weren’t talking category, my immediate without reservations thought, would be to recommend Liz Carlyle’s fabulous ‘Never Decieve a Duke’, sure to appeal to someone who likes both Austen and Singer.  (from someone who’s read them both…)

    But we are talking category, so recommending something might take me a while.  I’ll be back :)

  15. 15

    Given his preference for authors who include a fair bit of social observation, I’d recommend Polly Forrester’s Changing Fortunes (post-WW1, raises issues of social class and sexual mores) or Sheila Bishop’s Fair Game (Regency, deals with the sexual double-standard). They’re both Harlequin Mills & Boons, but unfortunately I don’t think they’d be very readily/cheaply available in the US, and the same would probably be true of many of the other HM&B;historicals I can think of. They can be found on Amazon.com, but they’re rather expensive. Faellie’s Paula Marshall recommendation’s a good one.

    Moving away from the historicals, I’d also second Gail’s Crusie recommendation but I’d go for Charlie All Night, because it’s more political (moral dilemma, political corruption, sexual politics), as is Strange Bedpersons.

  16. 16
    Marski says:

    Does Tolstoy’s Karenina count?  I mean this is after all a math prof, things could get ugly for you – so build in the revenge!

  17. 17
    nystacey says:

    After thinking about it, because we’re talking category, I’m going to stick with my original recommendation of ‘Sex Straight Up.’  Yes, it’s contemporary, yes it’s very real world based, but because it’s both, it’s chock fill of observation of contemporary social mores and structures. 

    And also, I agree with what Joyce said about the nature of the challenge:)

  18. 18
    AQ says:

    His For the Taking by Julie Cohen or another SB official reviewed book

    Why? Because I think that if the SBs are going to throw down the gauntlet they, not their readership, should do so with a category romance that one of them has personally have given a high grade. (Sorry, readership. I love the examples given and plan to seek some of them out!)

    The Smart Bitches (SB Sarah) gave this book a B+ and snarked the hell out of the difference between the US and UK cover/titles. I think it’s a perfect example of the originating throw down statement.

    Pulling out Heyer, Gabaldon or even an older Crusie doesn’t seem like a fair choice because the objective is to challenge the assumption/statement that the category romance isn’t a low-grade throw bodice ripper, not the romance genre in general or even what is a romance.

    I also think that the story needs to be fairly recent (less than a year old) and readily available if others would like to play along (according to Amazon they have the paperback and the Kindle version in stock).

    No matter what I think that this is a very interesting thrown down. I look forward to a non-category romance reader’s take on whatever story is chosen.

  19. 19
    Walt says:

    Hmm… I opened up two browser windows: One was http://random.org
    and the other the total booklist for Blaze,
    http://blazeauthors.com/bookstotal.php

    and then put in the total number of Blaze numbers, currently 428, which goes through October 2008 and then hit Generate several times in a random fashion, generating just one number for a truly random Blaze selection:

    Blaze number 75, by Rhonda Nelson
    Just Toying Around
    Feb 2003 (prolly hard to find)
    ISBN-13: 9780373790791
    ISBN-10: 0373790791

    Happy reading!

    Disclaimer: I maintain the BlazeAuthors.com database/website.

    /  I purposefully chose a few of the Regency books to read when first “confronted” with the mountain of books my wife stashed in our garage after we first married some 11 years ago.  While the Regency plots weren’t thrilling, I did get a good sense of how character conflict is used to move the story along (because the conflict is usually so stark in Regencies).

  20. 20

    I think that if the SBs are going to throw down the gauntlet they, not their readership, should do so with a category romance that one of them has personally have given a high grade. […] Pulling out Heyer, Gabaldon or even an older Crusie doesn’t seem like a fair choice because the objective is to challenge the assumption/statement that the category romance isn’t a low-grade throw bodice ripper, not the romance genre in general or even what is a romance.

    I’d agree with you about Heyer and Gabaldon not being category romances, which makes them irrelevant to this particular challenge. However, the older Crusie romances are Harlequin romances, so they’re entirely relevant. Moreover, they’ve been reviewed by the SBs, and got extremely high grades. Candy gave both Strange Bedpersons and Charlie All Night A-. Sarah once quoted part of Charlie All Night and described it as a “moment of insightful brilliance.”

  21. 21
    Ocy says:

    Remind him that Austen wrote romance and send him something by Joanna Bourne.  Her beautiful language and intricate plotting is definite proof that romance authors have brains, too.

  22. 22

    Props to DocTurtle for accepting the challenge!  I originally recommended a “sweeter” title, but Sex, Straight Up seems like a perfect choice.  I would love to hear his thoughts on this book!

    I haven’t read it yet, so I think I’ll go order it along with a couple of other category romances I’ve been meaning to pick up.  I do love a challenge!  *rubbing hands together*

  23. 23
    LiJuun says:

    I’d like to second Gabaldon’s Outlander.  It’s probably not quite “trashy” enough, but it’ll certainly change his opinion of romance novels.  I was going to suggest The Star King, by Susan Grant (not a historical, but I think he’d enjoy it).  It comes complete with the lame-o cover, but is packed with a great story.  But I think I’ll just stick with seconding the Gabaldon suggestion.

  24. 24
    Jessica G says:

    I voted for Kathleen O’Reilly above.  I’m about to pass that book along to a friend.  It has one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a long time.  My current favorite category author is Sarah Mayberry, but for a man, maybe that new Blaze historical (assuming men would like a little sex in their romance) Bound to Please.  No NASCAR, please.

  25. 25
    AQ says:

    Sorry, Laura, my intention in including Crusie in the that list was because her books aren’t recent category releases. They’re great examples but in my mind they aren’t representative of the challenge because the way they’re covered, packaged and titled (sorry not sure if these examples are some of Crusie retitled books or not) don’t say category romance to me and I’m a romance reader so how would they appear to the non-romance reader or the non-category romance reader.

    I think that the title chosen should SCREAM ‘here I am the low-grade throwaway bodice ripper’ as originally stated in the open letter. The cover, the title, the blurb everything should reinforce the stereotype and it should be a recent Original release. An example of exactly what is available via the category line on the bookshelves today.

    Opinions can certainly differ. But that’s why I thought Crusie should be excluded although I did not clearly articulate that.

  26. 26
    AgTigress says:

    Crusie’s Charlie All Night would probably be a good choice, and it was first published as a Harlequin Temptation (1996).  So was Manhunting (1993).  Many of Jayne Ann Krentz’s novels from that period would be good too, with their humour, wit and intelligence, though she was always at her best with the slightly larger canvas of a non-category book, e.g. Perfect Partners (1992), even when she was still writing categories.
    Please, not Diana Gabaldon:  I know that those who like her, like her a lot, but believe me, she is not everyone’s cup of tea, so the choice could backfire really badly.  I waded through about half of that book and had to stop, lest my head explode with the sheer unrelenting tedium of it. 
    :-)

  27. 27
    AQ says:

    PS. And here’s my final reason for offering His For the Taking up as ‘the’ book to choose.

    SB category tag for this review:

    1001 Ways to Eat Crow: SB Sarah Reads Category Romance

  28. 28
    rebyj says:

    any of Jennifer Archer’s books from the ” next ” series..
    “off her rocker”  is one of my all time faves.

    also, The Boss And Miss Baxter by wendy warren from 2006
    it’s funny and a tear jerker.

    I like Nora Roberts Sillouhette editions but they’re mostly older ones from the 80s and the majority are part of a series not really stand alones.

  29. 29

    They’re great examples but in my mind they aren’t representative of the challenge because the way they’re covered, packaged and titled (sorry not sure if these examples are some of Crusie retitled books or not) don’t say category romance to me

    Right, and it’s exactly because the cover and title “don’t say category romance to me” that they’d be so effective in challenging DocTurtle’s ideas about the titles and covers of category romances. It’s fairly clear that when DocTurtle wrote “The only things cheesier than these books’ cover art are their titles” he was thinking primarily of novels in the Harlequin Presents line (I’d assume that from the fact that titles like those he provides, namely “The Greek Millionaire’s Revenge,” “The Italian Count’s Bride,” are most often found in the HP line). But Harlequin has a large number of lines, and there are quite a lot of romances which don’t have titles like those.

    I think it would be good to challenge DocTurtle’s ideas about the homogeneity of the covers, titles and the contents of the novels.

    And no, the Crusie category romances haven’t been retitled, though they did get different covers.

  30. 30
    Kestrel says:

    I am excited about this challenge, and will be waiting with baited breath for the results, regardless of what title is chosen!

    As much as I love Diana Gabaldon, I would not recommend Outlander for this challenge, because I don’t see it as ‘category’ romance.

    However, I just want to put my two cents in here because I saw Kathleen Woodiwiss name come up. Back when I was a jaded young woman who thought “romance” was beneath my lofty, high-minded self, I picked up “A Rose in Winter” one weekend at my grandmother’s when there was nothing else to do. I fell in love with romance then and there, and went on to read everything else Woodiwiss had ever done. Her more recent stuff is not as good as the old stuff, so I second going old-school, including an old-school “bodice ripper” cover. I would even go so far as to say I will donate one of my snarkable covers of “The Wolf and the Dove”, “Ashes in the Wind”, or “Shanna” to the cause, if DocTurtle promises to return them.

    (Let me just note that I would have named my youngest son ‘Aislinn’ had he been a girl!)

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