Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Die For Love

Oh the fun you'll have with Jacqueline Kirby. I just concluded her third adventure in Die for Love with continued love in my heart [snicker]. In Die for Love Jacqueline damn near spontaneously decides she’s tired of the Nebraska scene and jets off to New York to attend an annual Historical Romance Writers of the World convention. She’s bored, so it only seems reasonable she packs up and leaves. Nonetheless, the convention holds a strange bunch, besides the many adoring romance readers fawning over the panels filled with prodigious romance writers. No, see the fans are only half of what makes this convention crazy.  There’s the squatty and militant super agent–and corner-holder of the romance market–Hattie. Her prize possession is a top-selling romance writer named Valerie Valentine; and Valerie may be knock-dead gorgeous, but she’s also docile and icy. Next to her is her ever more energetic and forceful business partner (of sorts) named Max. Twirl around to the left and you have an old friend of Jacqueline’s named Jean. Jean is in academia, but disguises herself to save the face of her credentials. She doesn't want to risk losing tenure because of the criticism involved with writing romance novels–one criticism in particularly focused on rape. Then there’s Victor, one of few male romance writers. He cajoles with another writer named Sue.  Sue's just starting out in the game, and inadvertently becomes Jacqueline's hotel roomie. A few others litter the plot, but you get the point: everybody has a story as well as a motive to the upcoming killings.

Oh, but wait! There are those who are trying to expose and defame the romance field and its authors. One being a big, brass columnist named Dubretta; the other, Betsy, is an activist against the masculinist lean found in the romance genre.

Then there’s the hyper-fanatic willing to do anything for Valerie Valentine, including assault and robbery. She’s a rich kid with a tempered addiction to pills. Her name is Laurie.

Jealousy, pride, lust, long secrets, and greed are only a few methods of categorizing this large cast and their motives regarding one another.

Nevertheless, out of the many individuals named, two of them don't make it out of the convention alive. Jacqueline immediately employs her investigative hat (as well as her bottom-less, oversize handbag) to solve the crime. And, in between doing so, writes a romance book herself.

Somewhere toward the middle I found Die for Love a labor to get through.  It all was worth it just for Jacqueline, who was still present and oneself a lot more than in the past two books. I’m not sure where the tedium came through, though. The mystery aspect left me questioning, but a few general guesses had me close to home. Even so, the real exhibit in Die for Love is Elizabeth Peters’ view of the romance genre–or a view funneled through her protagonist.  

There's an outer dialogue bubbling out of Die for Love.  You may catch it through the eccentric cast (which isn't so unusual when you review the theme and cast of the past two books), or the desperate romance-reading fanatics.  This next passage is probably a sum up of the conversation.  Once I read it I immediately jumped to whether or not this is still present in the romance genre of today–as opposed to the 80s when this book was published.  Then I thought about a few authors–particularly those in the urban fantasy genre–and I realized that it is still present.

"By the time the forum ended, her [Jacqueline] brain was teeming with ideas and what an uneasy feeling that Betsy and the Woofasses might be right after all.  Several editors had warned that their heroines must be "liberated," independent women, proud of their own sensuality.  So far, so good; Jacquline had no quarrel with that.  But the same editors had warned against promiscuity.  Was it more liberated to be overpowered against one's will than to seek amorous adventures (the phrase had been used by one of the more old-fashioned editors) for the sheer fun of it?  The word 'love' kept cropping up.  The heroines were all monogamous, in intent if not in actuality, and the happy ending consisted of capturing the hero and making him monogamous too.  the books were anti-feminist, and anti-female, not only because of their prurient interest in rape but because they voiced the tired old moral view (invented and enthusiastically supported by most men) that a woman's only legitimate goal in life was to devote all her time, energy, and sexual abilities to one man.  So far as Jacqueline could see, the only difference between the new romances and the old love stories was that 'love' had replaced marriage as a prerequisite for sex."

I really had to think on that.  I don't read romance, but it did stir some thoughts as to why I don't.  And really it boils down to how I dislike women characters even mildly submissive and considerate to the man's point first.  From a personal angle, I look at love and relationships as companionships first.  Or a team.  So what do you think the passage?  Is it true?

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