Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: This was no Tea-Sippin Miss

Mia writes:

A while back you said you never forget your 1st romance novel.
I’m embarassed to admit that I have forgotten, but I do know that it
probably was one of those novels of the month found in Good Housekeeping,my
mom loved ‘em. I’ve been thinking of those stories I loved to read, and
one just sticks out, and I’d like to try to find it.

I don’t have much information except for 1 scene that is burned into my memory. It’s a
historical and the heroine’s name is Amy. She married an older guy, and I
got the impression that he was more into her than she was into him. Anyway,
she’s just had her 3rd or 4th kid and the husband starts sleeping in the
guest room w/no explanation. She thinks he’s having an affair, so one night
she tells him she’s going to her mom’s house, but of course she comes back
for some reason or another.

She goes into their bedroom and finds her nemisis naked w/a nightgown in her hand. Amy is furious and grabs the
tramp’s suitcase and nightgown, flings open the balcony doors and throws
the clothes onto the tree branches outside. Then she sets her sights on the
tramp and hussles her out onto the balcony and throws the tramps shoes at
her and hits her on the rear. hee hee Amy locks her out there and throws the
keys out the window, meanwhile the tramp is screaming, it’s starting to
rain, and Amy’s husband finally comes in to find out what’s going on.
Before he can say anything, Amy knees him in the groin and goes home to

I know it ends with a reconciliation, and the reason the husband
slept in another room was because the doctor told him that it would be
dangerous for Amy to have another baby so soon after the last one, and hubby
just can’t keep to himself when she’s around. That’s it. I hope someone
can’t point me in the right direction. I know Amy stuck w/me for so long
cause she was no tea-sippin’ miss!

This sounds like a hot, rainy night of crazee – and it might not be a romance. Anyone remember this book?


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  1. 1
    Angela James says:

    I don’t know this book, so this comment will be completely and utterly off topic, but as I don’t want anyone to feel bad, I’d like to state for the record that I have NO idea what my first romance was and couldn’t even begin to guess. But, in my defense, I started reading romance in the 4th grade.

  2. 2
    Vicki says:

    I started reading romance (and mystery and adventure) when I was seven and had already read my way through the kids’ section in the library. I kind of vaguely remember the “dangerous for you to get pregnant again” trope but that was so long ago that the name of the book totally is gone.  BTW, has the introduction of contraception changed that sort of thing?

  3. 3
    AgTigress says:

    BTW, has the introduction of contraception changed that sort of thing?

    Contraception has actually been around for millennia.  The problem in recent centuries, right up to the mid-20th century, was that (a) in many societies, contraception was frowned upon as ‘unnatural’, or was associated mainly with prostitutes rather than respectable women, (b)  it could be very difficult for people to get access to whatever devices were available, and (c) no method of contraception was wholly reliable, though the introduction of rubber condoms in the early 19thC helped a lot.
    The major change did not come till after the Second World War, with the introduction of the contraceptive pill, which is very reliable, in the later 1950s.  The change in social attitudes and morals in the 1960s also made contraceptives much more widely and easily available.  Even when I was in my 20s (in the 1960s) there were still plenty of doctors who would refuse to prescribe contraceptives, either the traditional diaphragm, which had to be precisely fitted, or the newfangled oral contraceptive, to an unmarried woman.
    I don’t know what period the story in question here was set in, but if it was pre-Victorian, the only possibilities would have been various home-made plugs and tampons for female use (e.g. wool soaked in vinegar or lemon-juice — and this sort of thing was usually known only to ladies of easy virtue!), and the fragile tie-on sheep-gut condoms, obtainable only in the sleazier areas of cities, for the male.

  4. 4
    Beki says:

    AgTigress, wow.  Thanks for all that info, tidily packaged into a wallop right there.  That’s helpful, actually, and kind of jump-started my creative process today.  I’ll stop explaining there and just say, thanks for that.

    This sounds like something I may have read part of from Mom’s shelf, but I can’t recall the title, the hero’s name, the hussy’s name, or much else.  Throwing the clothes into the trees made me laugh, though, I remember that.

  5. 5
    meganb says:

    Contraception has actually been around for millennia.

    I remember my Ancient History prof telling me that the area that is now modern-day Libya once was famous for growing a plant that was a very effective contraceptive.  I.e., it made a woman spontaneously abort.  Apparently it was so much in demand in the Roman Empire that it was hunted out of existence.  The bastards.

    Yes, this is sadly off-topic.  Sorry, but I rarely get to show off that degree.

  6. 6
    AgTigress says:

    Beki, this is a subject that interests me, both because I have published in the past on ancient (Graeco-Roman) sexuality, and because I belong to the generation that saw the huge changes in sexual mores of the decades following the Second World War, so I have first-hand knowledge of that revolution. 
    There are some details of older (1960s-70s) romance novels that seem weird and even horrifying to younger readers because they don’t understand those changes, above all the widespread non-use of condoms at that period.  There were good reasons for that.  The ‘traditional’ sexually-transmitted diseases, like gonorrhoeoa, were no longer a major threat because they had become fairly rare, and were in any case treatable, AIDS had not yet emerged, and the pill provided effective contraception.  The 1970s couple who did not use a condom, whether in real life or in a book, were NOT being irresponsible in the context of their own time.

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    a very effective contraceptive.  I.e., it made a woman spontaneously abort.

    I would actually draw a distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient, but certainly both were available in Cklassical antiquity.
    Also, infanticide was not necessarily a crime under Roman law:  a baby was not regarded as a person until it had been formally accepted into the family by the paterfamilias.  Exposing unwanted babies was quite a common practice, and such infants were very frequently sought out by childless couples and adopted.
    But we are indeed getting a bit off-topic here!
    I have no idea about the book that was the original question!

  8. 8
    Alpha Lyra says:

    I’ve read that about Rome, too, and it’s quite astonishing. I read a letter from a Roman man to his wife, congratulating her on her pregnancy and saying that if she gave birth to a boy, keep it. If a girl, expose it. Roman patriarchs had total authority over their families and could kill their children at will with no legal repercussions.

  9. 9
    AgTigress says:

    Roman patriarchs had total authority over their families and could kill their children at will with no legal repercussions.

    Only during that newborn phase before the baby had been named, formally accepted into the family, and therefore acknowledged.  After that, the child was regarded as a proper human person, and different laws and moral rules applied.  This was also why miscarried and stillborn babies could be buried within a private property rather than in a designated cemetery.  Their status was different, as not-yet-humans.

    As I mentioned, exposure did not mean certain death.  The baby would probably be more likely to survive than to die—though she might be brought up as a slave.  Even that was not always as bad as it sounds now.  If you were a family who already had several daughters but no sons, and were not rich, the birth of another girl could be a lot more than a mild disappointment:  there were economic repercussions for both present and future (sons could earn money as they got older:  daughters could not, on the whole, and also required dowries when they married).  Boy babies were also given up for adoption (whether through exposure or a more direct method) if the number of children was simply too large to be fed.  If there simply wasn’t enough money to feed all the children, what did you do?  This problem existed, and exists, in many societies up to and including contemporary ones.

    However, infant and childhood mortality were also extremely high in antiquity, and this took care of sheer numbers in most cases.  The inhabitants of the Roman Empire had the same instinctive feelings for their children as we have.  Many were loving and devoted parents, though some were cruel and abusive—just like today.  But pagan attitudes towards individual human lives, the laws that reflected those attitudes, and also the general conditions of society, were very different from ours. One should not judge them without knowing a lot about their world.

    ;-)  :-)

  10. 10
    Tina C. says:

    I thought for sure that this was a Catherine Coulter, but since I traded away all my Coulters, along with about 100 other books, several months ago, I couldn’t check.  However, I just went through Coulter’s entire bibliography and not one of the heroine’s is named Amy, unless that’s The Duchess’s real name in The Windham Legacy (the synopsis only called her that).

  11. 11
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    Tina—I’m not sure what it is, but it’ not the Wyndham Legacy.  I just looked it up on Byron and the Dutchess’ name was Josephine Cochran. He was Marcus Wyndham.


  12. 12
    Danielle says:

    So if it’s all a misunderstanding, how on earth does the author arrange for the nemesis wind up naked in Amy’s bedroom?

    Also, I have to say that I haaaaate the “I love you, but I can’t have sex with you because you’ll get pregnant and die! But I won’t tell you that; I’ll just make you think I hate you. It’s a noble and awesome plan” plot. Why not talk to her about it? Why not have oral sex instead? Just, argh.

  13. 13
    jay says:

    Also, I have to say that I haaaaate the “I love you, but I can’t have sex with you because you’ll get pregnant and die! But I won’t tell you that; I’ll just make you think I hate you. It’s a noble and awesome plan” plot. Why not talk to her about it? Why not have oral sex instead? Just, argh.

    Why not be in her ass, savin’ her life?

  14. 14
    Tina C. says:

    Danielle said:

    Also, I have to say that I haaaaate the “I love you, but I can’t have sex with you because you’ll get pregnant and die! But I won’t tell you that; I’ll just make you think I hate you. It’s a noble and awesome plan” plot.  Why not talk to her about it? Why not have oral sex instead? Just, argh.

    I agree, though I have to say that I hate Big Misunderstanding plots, period.  I can deal with a few small ones, as long as they don’t dangle too long, but I get very annoyed if they drag on.  (I think it’s the exasperated “been there, done that, and realized that if you can’t discuss the most basic things—like, “I’m afraid you might die if we have sex”—then this person is NOT for you” 43-year-old in me.)

    Oh, and I thought exactly what jay said when I read what you wrote! :)

  15. 15
    AgTigress says:

    Why not be in her ass, savin’ her life?

    I have been waiting for that unforgettable phrase to crop up, but even so, it still made me laugh out loud!

    Seriously, there’s a very simple reason.  At the times and places when contraception was really difficult and was often regarded with disgust and moral disapprobation, both oral and anal sex were thought to be MUCH WORSE.  Unspeakably terrible, in fact.  Indeed, in many times and places, buggery has been illegal, even between husband and wife.  There is a tendency to associate the traditional references to buggery/sodomy with homosexual practices, with the weight of disapproval that same-sex relationships carried, but it was considered totally unacceptable in heterosexual relations, too. 

    A man could force his wife to have conventional intercourse —  rape her, in fact — and he was simply exercising his rights as a husband, but if the two of them agreed to have anal sex, they were technically both sinners and criminals by the moral and legal standards of the time.

    So if we are talking about an 18th/19th century setting, a husband who refrained from sleeping with his wife because of pregnancy fears would hardly be likely to suggest to her alternatives that he (and she) would have considered to represent the depths of depravity. 

    Still shouldn’t have stopped him explaining why he was abstaining, of course!  But then, so many plots depend on the central characters failing to talk plainly to one another.

  16. 16

    @jay—Oh, I knew someone was going to say that!  Thank you.

  17. 17
    JamiSings says:


    Why not be in her ass, savin’ her life?

    Because some women won’t do anal even if it’s the only sex available. Sorry, but for some of us unless it’s for medical reasons, that hole is EXIT ONLY. Like it or lump it.

    @Danielle – Some people just can’t talk about “it.” I hate novels where they don’t communicate but it is realistic. Some people just can’t talk their things out.

  18. 18
    AgTigress says:

    Some people just can’t talk their things out.

    It is true that some people can’t talk directly about sex, and this was a very common problem in the past;  many women, especially, did not even know the words to use.  However, in the particular circumstances of this book (which nobody has yet identified!), one might have thought an explanation possible without using any blunt words at all.  Like, ‘the doctor says you should not have another baby, so perhaps it would be best if I move into another bedroom…’.

    …some women won’t do anal even if it’s the only sex available.

    Glad you said that, JamiSings.  If I had said it, someone would probably have castigated me for being old, British, boring, intolerant — something of the sort (I plead guilty to the first two charges, of course).  Anal sex has always struck me as both painful and insanitary, but if people like it, that’s up to them, as long as they do it in private and don’t scare the horses.

    Incidentally, the traditional definition of buggery in English law included zoophilia (bestiality).  I don’t quite follow the reasoning:  perhaps simply inserting an organ into something not designed by nature to receive it?

  19. 19

    I’m afraid I don’t know the title of this book either, but I do appreciate the interesting deviation to the history of contraception. ~ ;)
    Everyone seems to be in agreement that the “simple misunderstanding” plot is hair-ripping annoying, but at the risk of being an outlier, the formula obviously worked at one time to get so many women hooked on romance. JMO.

    (progress93 Romance has come a long way, baby!)

  20. 20
    JamiSings says:

    @AgT – LOL Well, there’s at least one 33 year old American woman whom agrees with you!

    And before anyone says I’m a prude – far as I’m concerned as long as you’re not doing it with children, animals, or the dead, it’s all good, but I ain’t doing anal! In fact, I’ve often thought of getting the words “EXIT ONLY” tattooed above my butt.

  21. 21
    JamiSings says:

    Oh, on the subject of “birth control” – isn’t tea made of Queen Anne’s Lace seeds suppose to cause miscarriages?

  22. 22
    AgTigress says:

    The classic herbal abortifacient is any preparation or infusion of juniper berries (which is why gin was used for this purpose), but I am sure there are many, many others.  There were undoubtedly numerous ways, herbal and ‘surgical’, of procuring abortion, but preventing conception in the first place was a more complex matter.  Mechanical barriers, such as plugs of wool, were often soaked in everyday acids like vinegar, which genuinely are spermicidal. 
    There are some ancient recipes that are more worrying because they involve religious/symbolic elements:  I think one of the ancient Egyptian ones has crocodile dung as an ingredient, but I don’t have the reference to hand at the moment.

  23. 23
    JamiSings says:

    Yeah I’ve heard of the croc poop thing before. (On a reverse note they now think that the lotus flower was used as a type of viagra – and also for people who were going senial as it has the same effects as ginko biloba, but way stronger. Which is why ancient Egyptian porn shows people with lotus flowers in their hair.)

    I also remember a guess speaker in my high school drama class saying that Casanova kept his lovers from getting pregnant by hollowing out a half of a lemon and inserting it over the cervix like a diaphram.

    This was, believe it or not, part of her lecture on costumes for various dramas.

  24. 24
    AgTigress says:

    …Casanova kept his lovers from getting pregnant by hollowing out a half of a lemon and inserting it over the cervix like a diaphram.

    That would work.  Might have been rather uncomfortable, though.  One could often feel the rubber diaphragm, however perfectly it fitted:  inserting it correctly took quite a bit of practice, with all that slippery spermicidal cream on it.  Sorry, TMI, maybe.

    Anyone identified the BOOK in the question yet?

    :-D :-D

  25. 25
    sandra says:

    Anal sex shouldn’t be painful, if you are relaxed, since the sphincter is stretchy.  Consider the diameter of what comes out, compare that to the endowment of the average male, and think about it.  If you’re not too squicked by the entire subject. Reminds me of a rhyme:“T’was even less to the family’s fancy/ When Lord DeVere became a nancy/ And so, the better to protect ‘em/ they had tattooed around his rectum:/ “Lesser folk must travel steerage/ This passage is reserved for peerage”.

  26. 26
    JamiSings says:

    Yeah, still not doing anal, EVER. Don’t even want to read about it. That’s why, even though I want to, I won’t read erotica because of the risk of anal sex scenes. It’s a total turn off.

    I have enough problems with regular sex. Don’t even like that very much.

    Isn’t it amazing out off topic we get? Not one single person has remembered the book. But here we are talking about contraceptives, abortion drinks, and anal sex.

  27. 27
    BethC says:

    I remember reading excerpts from this in Good Housekeeping when I was in high school, but I don’t have a clue as to the title.

    The excerpt included a scene where the heroine, who was a natural comic mimic, did an imitation of her nemesis at a dinner party when her husband was absent.  Only he arrived at the party during the middle of imitation in the company of the nemesis.

  28. 28
    Evie says:

    I’m enjoying this conversation, no matter how off-topic it is :)

    But I’m also keen to read this book (if someone knows what it is!) so that I can see if the author makes the lack of communication work. I know a lot of people hate the big misunderstanding plotline, but in some cases I like it and can see how it could happen. In some cases I don’t even really care whether the explantation is plausible or not (Should I be ashamed to admit that?)! I just love the good old standby about how the hero didn’t want to tell his wife why he was changing bedrooms because he didn’t like admitting that he couldn’t control his raging masculinity around her.

  29. 29
    Tina C. says:

    AgTigress said:

    Anyone identified the BOOK in the question yet?

    Well, I tried, because I feel like I’ve read the scene that she mentioned.  (Did the nemesis scream, “You’re mad!” or something like?)  However, if it’s not Coulter, I’m not sure who it could be.  I don’t read a lot of historical anymore, but that was pretty much all I read back in the day and I was always very author-specific.  Since we eliminated Coulter, I guess it could be Lindsey, Deveraux, or Johanson.  Or one of the one-and-done’s of other authors that I read but didn’t care for, for whatever reason.  Or I didn’t really read it—I just read something similar and I’m now conflating it these many years later.

    In other words, I have no idea. ;)

  30. 30
    Gwynnyd says:

    Is there a time frame for the magazine it was in?

    There’s here:

    It’s an index of the magazine going back to 1996, but I can only find random issues earlier than that.

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