Links: Blue, Barbies, & More

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.Welcome back to Wednesday Links! I’m currently in Austin, Texas for the next week. State government aside and everything that comes with it, I really love this place and briefly considered moving here. That may still be on the table and I believe this is my fourth time visiting.

Oddly, a lot of my friends throughout life have ended up here – childhood neighbors, high school friends, grad school BFFs, and I’m reuniting with a cousin I haven’t seen in close to 20 years.

And, of course, I love the food. I’m also of the opinion that locally, La Barbecue is better barbecue than Franklin’s and you don’t have to get up at 8am to join the line to get in. As you all know, I usually have very strong food opinions.

Autostraddle is ranking cereal mascots by lesbianism. The top three doesn’t surprise me, though the list definitely highlighted how the cereal mascot industry is devoid of women characters.

Beverly Jenkins linked to a Book Riot piece on the lack of older main characters and romance and the Twitter comments came through with a few recommendations.

Speaking of Texas (and it being spooky season), Texas Monthly has a recounting of some unsettling moments from some of the state’s many haunted hotels.

First off, thank you to the handful of you who sent this link my way! There’s currently a Barbie exhibit on British women’s clothing and one Twitter user had some thoughts on the outfits.

Lastly, I’m pretty sure I’ve shared Device Orchestra before, but its latest cover might be my favorite both in production value and style.

Don’t forget to share what cool or interesting things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

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  1. Todd says:

    For older protagonists … are we counting vampires? they’re pretty reliably over 50 … often over 500.

  2. Penny says:

    I mean, but vampire bodies don’t age. The obsession with vampires is in part an obsession with having an indestructible body, young forever…

    Like, I get the joke but seriously, that’s not the question. It’s addressing an aspect of the genre, an appeal to explore another dimension of experience.

  3. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Iver the last few years, I have noticed a very incremental bump-up in average ages of the MCs in CR (unless, of course, the book is New Adult). I see heroines in their early-thirties, heroes in the mid-thirties quite frequently now. Im currently in the middle of an m/m duet (the second book has yet to be published) with MCs of 38 & 40. Completely from an anecdotal point of view, it seems that m/m often has older protagonists than m/f—we just don’t seem to want heroines over the age of 40! The last romance I read with a post-menopausal heroine was Claire Kingsley’s GAINING MILES. It was nice, but you really have to read the previous four books (featuring her adult children) to get the full arc of her journey.

  4. Musette says:

    Being of A Certain Age myself I’m all for older MCs in romance but it would be great if it had at least some nod towards reality. I’ve read several this past year where the older woman (and it’s always the woman, alas) either has the body of a 20yr old (looking at you, Donna McDonald) or, at the other end of the spectrum, a 60 yr old woman is being described as if she is 85 or 90 yrs old (that one, courtesy of Helena Hunting).

    Is it too much to wish for a story with a somewhat realistic older woman? Even my first OW/YM, Donna McDonald’s ‘Dating a Cougar’ has the female MC be a 50yr old lingerie model.

    I dunno… it just feels like there’s some real discomfort with the notion of an Older Woman engaging in romance – especially sexual romance (and the concerns abound when it’s OW/YM, which I never see in OM/YW. Nobody worries about HIS libido or wrinkles, etc)

    okay – rant over. And suggestions for better books would be appreciated. xo

  5. Tam says:

    I remember being impressed by Jennifer Crusie’s books in the early 2000s because they had some older heroines (in their FORTIES) and heroines who either didn’t have kids or didn’t want them. Ground-breaking stuff! It’s nice that her stuff isn’t such an outlier now.

  6. TamB. says:

    There is a genre PWF (paranormal women’s fiction) created by a group of authors who wanted to write older heroines. Most are at least 40. It’s the antithesis of the books where a teen is a chosen one. Most have a romantic element.

  7. Musette says:

    @Tam – thanks! I like Crusie’s work but haven’t read any in awhile.

    @TamB – I just read a PWF series (necromancer with a ghoul and some talking cats) – the H/h are both more mature (she has a grown son) – I like the premise and she is portrayed as a normal, middle-aged necromancer. Refreshing.

    fwiw, I am not expecting TOO much realism – just don’t make it absurd. No 67 yr old woman, no matter how fit she is, has the body of a 20yr old. Life has a way of changing your physiology, y’know? It would be nice to see some erotic (or reg) romance where an older, fit woman is just that – and that’s just fine with the MCHero. And herself! sigh

  8. squee_me says:

    I recently read Beautifully Unexpected by Lily Morton. The MCs are 48 and 52, and I really enjoyed it. It’s nice to read about people falling in love who aren’t experiencing a bunch of “firsts” or still figuring out what they want from life.

  9. Susan says:

    @squee_me: I’m older than those MCs and am definitely still figuring out what I want from life. If there was some kind of goal post for that, I missed it. 😐

  10. squee_me says:

    @Susan I’m of a similar vintage and feel the same! I think the MCs in that book were too, but it’s a different “what should I do with my life” viewpoint than you get from the typical 28yro MC. I mean, in some HR the heroines are half my age! I appreciated reading about MCs that had *lived through* some things. It was definitely more relatable. Also I think older MCs sometimes can actually be less sure of themselves than younger ones, who think they’ve got it all figured out. I would definitely like more books with older MCs, and something different than just newly single and trying to figure out how to date again or whatever. I think that’s been done a lot. This book by contrast had two people who, for a variety of reasons, had remained single until later in life. They fell in love much like a younger couple would but they had a lot more life experience that they brought to the relationship. I liked reading a story with older MCs where the story didn’t have a lot of plot points directly involving the fact that they were older.

  11. Musette says:

    @squee_me and @susan

    Everything you both said! The older I get, the less I think I know. And it’s a very liberating feeling, because the world seems, once again, to be full of possibilities, with my Beginner’s Mind open again.

    And yes – it would be nice if that particular plot point (older MC; or OW/YM – my particular catnip since I’m currently in that situation) didn’t bludgeon the reader over the head every nanosecond. That’s when a writer’s skill really comes into play – or not.

  12. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Musette, @Susan, and @squee_me: It’s weird, but even though I’m in my mid-sixties, when I’m reading I don’t factor my actual age into the equation. If I’m reading a book with MCs in their late-thirties/early-forties, I’ll think, “Hmmm, these are relatively old compared to most romance novel MCs”—even though I’m still referring to characters who are close to a quarter-century younger than me! I’m not sure how old I see myself in my “reading brain,” but I certainly “see” mature characters as “older,” even though they’re almost always waaaay younger than me. Even the heroine in the Claire Kingsley book I referenced in my comment above was, iirc, in her fifties—so an “older” heroine, but still younger than I am.

  13. Qualisign says:

    Great thread. My internal rant this week has been about the way people write about parents/relatives of MCs. There seem to be only a few ways that “OLDER” people exist in romance: Senior judgy-mcjudge (M or F as there appear to be no non-binary folk over the age of 30), the “Elder-fail” frail in mind and or body purely due to age, “Cookies and tea” the hyper-sweet or externally crochety, internally gooey, earth mother, or the evil “Power-mad Grand-X” (mo, fa, aunt, uncle, etc.) who is typically single.

    The same is true for TV advertisements (which I passively view when my news-junkie husband turns on the dratted thing). I look at the characterizations of these “older folk” (esp women) and think, “I’m probably a decade older than that very uninteresting and definitely sidelined person and I can’t imagine being that old EVER. Based on the TV representations, the only [appropriate and] fulfilling role for “older” women is as doting grandmother.

    As another of those in my (later) 60s, I agree with the commenters here: I am far LESS certain of many things than when I was young, but I am definitely far more thoughtful and discerning now. My question is: can young authors write authentic and interesting elders?

  14. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Qualisign: I think the reverse question is also true: can older writers make their younger characters authentic? There’s a writer (who shall remain nameless) who seems to make a point of having her N/A characters (late-teens-to-early-twenties) gush about how much they love the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, etc., as if they’ve never listened to any music released since 1975! Ok, it’s likely that young people have HEARD of these groups and, possibly, if they grew up with Baby Boomer parents as my kids did, will know a lot of their songs, but having a 24-year-old choosing to listen to nothing but “Hotel California” or “Whole Lotta Love” seems highly unlikely.

  15. Qualisign says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb. Own voices is a thing for a reason! You’re absolutely correct.

    Oh. I missed a final old person portrayal: The Dirty Old Thing (M or F), or “sex after 40 (maybe up to 50) is just plain nasty.” Even vampires get hit with this one despite perfectly formed bodies.

  16. Musette says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb – I don’t think I factor my own age into a read, either – unless the writer drags me out of the story via some weird age-related flub (I was fine with the Hunting story until I realized she’d turned the 65yr old woman into a candidate for a nursing home (In fact, I think she was selling her house and moving into a nursing home – for no other reason than she was 65. I wonder what Hunting’s mother thought of that setup?). McDonald’s OW/YM books tend to yank me out of the story, too, because the age gap is always Drama for the woman. Other than that, I have no problem reading romance between MCs of any age. I’m the Prime Minister of Kleypastan and I don’t think I’ve read a Kleypas where the MCs are older than…. 25? 30? Then again, I’m reading her historicals, so they’d better be young, since their life expectancy isn’t that great as it is! 😉

  17. HeatherS says:

    I found this wonderful catalog/book called “The Romance Novel in English: A Survey in Rare Books, 1769-1999”. Print copies are available from the publisher for $75, but you can read the whole thing in PDF format here. It’s wonderful and treats the romance genre as one worthy of a rare books evaluation (which generally isn’t done). Touching on older books, newer ones, the emergence of category romance, modern romance, teen romance (including Sunfire!), and sections on Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson, and also LGBTQ+ romance. Really a fun, fast read. I’m seriously considering purchasing a copy.

    Go to The Romance Novel in English.

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