10 Years of Bitchery: October Retrospective

I’m a few days past the 31st, but there’s still time for another trip down Bitchery Memory Lane to check out some of the most popular reviews, posts, and comment threads in the past ten years of Smart Bitches. As we approach our 10th anniversary in January 2015, I hope you enjoy having a look through the lens of wayback as much as I do.

Many thanks to Morgan Doremus from Miss Media for digging through the archives and coming up with all this fun stuff.

In April, we looked at the most popular reviews for contemporary romance – which were many of those with low grades – D-, F+ or F.

In May, we looked at the most popular historical reviews, all of which were given very high grades.

In June, we looked at more of your favorite reviews, some with high grades, some not, but all with a lot of chortles built in.

In July, we featured an assortment of Wait, What? Book reviews, videos, and more.

In September, we examined some of the most popular pieces of cover snark and cover art contests.

This month, we have a mix of entries that generated a lot of discussion, and entries that generated a lot of snort-laughter. Ready?

TwilightWhat is it about Edward? 

I read Twilight and had a Lot of Thoughts. Then, someone leaked the initial chapters of Midnight Sun, the Twilight story told from Edward’s point of view, and I read that and had Even More Thoughts. This entry was the result, wherein I attempted to figure out why Edward was a compelling hero for so many readers:

While there seems to be some divide between the folks who love them some Jacob, I remain fascinated with the people who are over the moon about Edward, particularly as he’s portrayed in Twilight.

The more I think about it, and look back on Edward’s appearances and interactions with Bella in Twilight, the more he reminds me of the same old-same old Alpha romance hero —specifically, the old-school Alpha hero recast in glittery YA paleness. The same Alpha hero characteristics that so many readers find either tiresome or downright terrific are present in Edward, and serve to make him addictive and alluring….

What set me on the Edward-as-Alpha road to much pondering were the interactions in Twilight after Edward has decided to cease ignoring Bella. Every time he shows up after he’s decided to talk to Bella, he rescues her, and immediately following sweeps in and manages every detail of her life. Moreover, that first occasion of rescue is telling; it comes at a moment of great vulnerability for Bella.

She’s alone at home on a snowy day, convinced she’s going to fall down on the icy sidewalks or wreck her truck on the roads. But she realizes after she gets to school that her father had put chains on her tires early in the morning, before he left and before she woke up, purely to keep her safe. As Belly realizes that her father was quietly watching out for her, an experience she has little familiarity with, in swoops Edward-  literally – to save her by bending flying vans to his will. It’s a subtle moment of underscoring: Bella literally travels from her father’s care to Edward’s care in that moment. From then on, Edward saves her over and over again, sweeping in and managing every detail for her. 

Oddly enough, the alpha-old-skool punishing-kisses obsessive-possessive hero is all over the place in some genres within romance. To quote the brilliant publishing prognosticator Bruce Springsteen, “Everything dies, that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” And he wasn’t just talking about vampires, either!

 dude on a horse jumping into the water with a woman falling off the side of the horse. I think that's what is going on. Could also be levitation of all three by mysterious forces.

Ten Things I Hate About Sex (Scenes) 

Another of the most popular discussions hereabouts was Elyse’s rant about the things she hates in romance novel sex scenes:

When I first started reading romance the sex scenes were the sort of vague, purple-prose laden encounters that involved a lot of shattering into a million tiny pieces, flying apart into the sun, or the shimmering of colors behind closed eyelids. Basically it sounded a lot like a stroke and/or an acid trip. And the orgasms were always simultaneous….

Now there are as many different types of sex scenes as there are romance novels. Variety is a good thing, usually. But for every delicious Victoria Dahl or Maisey Yates bearded cowboy love-scene, there’s also a sex scene out there that is either improbable, anatomically impossible or horrifically painful to think about. Below are the Big Ten things I hate in sex scenes. Brace yourself. And, obviously, this review contains strong language and adult situations and all that shit.

After that discussion generated a ton of comments and links from all over the place, Elyse followed up with Ten Things She Loves About Sex Scenes.

Virginity Cliches in Romance

I have complained before about the mislocation of the hymen in romance (not the dislocation – that’s a different rant) but one day, I reached my limit with bizarre and very strange virginity scenes in a book, ranted on Twitter, and then, it happened: everyone was hilarious:

After reading a scene in which the heroine was a surprise virgin (Surprise! Virgin!) I tweeted about how tired I was of the Surprise Virgin afterglow conversations.

Picture it. The hero figures out the heroine is a virgin because he encounters some resistance (which, don’t even get me started) and she flinches and of course he Is Very Alarmed and tries to stop but she tells him not to so it’s ok for him to get on with it.

Then after they’ve crested and reached peaks of joy and done the dance as old as time, he says something about how if he’d known she was a virgin, he’d have done it all differently, been more gentle or something.

First, why would you not bring your A game the first time you sleep with a woman you have major lust pants for? If you groin is on fire and it’s not because of Gold Bond, why would you not do your very best scrumpin? What is this “I’d have been more gentle and sensitive” crap?

CherriesA Description of Nipples

This was a contest, but it was so popular for so long, it remains one of the most-frequently-visited pages in the site. Once upon a time, there were too many cliched descriptions of nipples.

I did a lot of vacation reading last week, and one thing that jumped out at me (not literally but if it had been it would have been awesome) is the relentless pursuit of cliches when describing nipples.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here: there’s a sexy scene, and the characters undress. The sex scene – which is, it seems to me, more often from the male point of view than the female – includes a catalog description of the heroine’s body.

And the winning entries were fantastic.

Unrelated note: you know how there are different words for plural collections of animals, such as a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, a business of ferrets, or a wake of vultures? I think the plural grouping of nipples is “A Description of Nipples.” No, no, that’s not right. It’s “A Fruitbasket of Nipples!”

We’ll be back at the end of November with additional Cover Snark Retrospectives as we get closer to the 10th Anniversary of the site. Thank you for being here, and thank you for being part of the Bitchery.

Are any of these entries familiar? Did they bring you to SBTB for the first time [no pun intended]? 

Comments are Closed

  1. cleo says:

    Hah, I remember all of these, except Edward. The comment thread on the surprise virgin was especially fun.

  2. denise says:

    I missed the Edward story–unless I chose to not read it. Just haven’t delved into the Twilight series.

  3. Darlynne says:

    First, why would you not bring your A game the first time you sleep with a woman you have major lust pants for? Yes! Why wouldn’t you indeed? And the idea that someone not equipped with a speculum could know about my intact vs. sundered hymen at that precise moment when I didn’t even know? I call bull$hit.

    Ah, the nipple contest. I remember it well. Man, I love this place.

  4. Celia Marsh says:

    Dear god, the male nipples thing has made me crazy since creative writing in college. (For the life of me, I don’t remember *WHY* someone was talking about flat male nipples but I suspect it was a very deep sort of man writing as seen here: http://the-toast.net/2013/11/04/male-novelist-jokes/ ) not to mention that ‘his man nipples’ suggests that possibly he’s got a set of female ones somewhere…

    Also, speaking of man nipples, the cover of A Companion to Wolves has nipples that totally follow you around the room:

  5. DamnAnts says:

    This is a great post as I’m fairly new to reading this genre of books and to this site.

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