Jessica at her site, Read React Review, recently posted about the campy fun of reading ye olde bodice ripper.
She featured The Raider, by Jude Deveraux. Here is a quote from the book. Keep in mind, it’s taken out of context…He kissed her again. “You have a choice. We make love tonight on the soft cool sand or I rape you tonight on the sharp rocks.”
The Raider was released in 1987. I didn’t read romance back in ’87 – while I know many of you have been reading romance all your lives, I’m a relative new-comer to the genre. My history with romance goes back…maybe 5-6 years. The only actual semi-bodice ripper I’ve read is Sweet Savage Love, by Rosemary Rogers. Anyway, Jessica and I engaged in a bit of a discussion regarding the appeal of bodice rippers. I don’t generally find a story involving a forced seduction appealing, regardless of the quality of the writing – this isn’t a Politically Correct thing with me. Having experienced a sexual assault first hand, I venture to say there’s nothing seductive about force. Jessica, however, made a good point. She reminded me that in previous generations, a woman could not be sexually promiscuous, or even engage in premarital sex and still be considered a good girl. Ah…the slut factor! A bodice ripper gave a woman permission to express her sexuality in a socially acceptable way. In other words, the mind could still say no, it’s wrong, while the body said – Yess, give it to me baby! And that was okay because our heroine could remain virtuous and in the end our hero always did right by her. C’mon ladies and gents, fess up…is this our secret, deeply buried desire? Or was it at one time?
Here’s Jessica’s post: http://www.readreactreview.com/2010/06/16/review-the-raider-by-jude-deveraux-with-matching-figurines/ It’s well worth the read.
I’m including the definition of a bodice-ripper from the U.K. because, well, we all know the U.K. is the setting for most bodice rippers – either there or the American West. “These books owe much in style to the work of English romantic novelists like Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. Nevertheless, the term itself is American. The first reference in print is from The New York Times, December 1980:
“Women too have their pornography: Harlequin romances, novels of ‘sweet savagery,’ – bodice-rippers.”
“It soon caught on and appears numerous times in the US press from that date onward. Here’s an early example, in a story about [then] emerging novelist, Danielle Steel, from the Syracuse Herald Journal, New York, 1983: “I think of romance novels as kind of bodice rippers, Steel says.”
I’ve found a couple of book bloggers who have unique and entertaining takes on the subject. From Alive and Knitting: ” Once upon a time, historical romance as we now know it did not exist as a genre. The only romances were the sweet little contemporary Mills & Boon romances that came out every month. Then, Kathleen Woodiwiss wrote a book called THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER which sold like crazy. We would now call this an historical romance – it was set in England and colonial America, featured a heroine who came into her own over the course of the book and a strong hero, had lots of historical detail (especially social history), lush prose and explicit sex. (Many thought the sex in this book was too explicit – the first intimate act between the hero and heroine is not consensual.) This book sold and sold and sold, effectively launching a genre. There was a lot of trial and error in the subsequent years, as editors and publishers weren’t entirely sure what element of this book (and other books by Woodiwiss) was so resonant for readers, but Woodiwiss always sold well.” See the link below:
Then head over to check out all three posts about Bodice Rippers from No Book Left Behind: “Those of you who know me know that romance novels are my not-so-secret shame; there’s no amount of college-educated veneer that can cover up my craving for far-flung adventures, flowery purple prose, and aesthetically pleasing protagonists who find themselves falling in love in the most improbable ways.
“And, as I have mentioned on my blog before, I am excruciatingly picky about which bodice rippers I get to buy. None of your $4 Harlequin romances for me – give me the $6-$8 paperbacks with the shimmery gauze and flowers on the front cover (which often conveniently hides the potentially embarrassing Regency-era bodice-ripping tableau underneath), or your contemporary romances with cartoon women in fancy heels and silky scarves! Give me something that has the words “New York Times Bestselling Author” on them, and you’ll know I’m a sucker from the get-go.”
I would love to hear your opinions on the subject. Do you find stories involving forced seduction entertaining? No judgment here…be honest. If so, why? If not, why not? Do you like just a taste of coercion, such as the story of a forced marriage where the two parties end up falling in love? I’d love to hear what books you’d recommend.
I’ll let you in on a secret and this is so not politically correct – I love the movie Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. I cannot deny that the movie contains a forced seduction. I love the scene but still I cringe a little when I watch it. Robert Redford plays a good guy who is forced by circumstances to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do. Faye Dunaway is pulled into his world – forcibly, including…well…watch it for yourself!