Episode 37 – Romance Novels and Erotic Fiction!
Rhymes With Nerdy is pleased to welcome Author Shelley Ann Clark to the podcast to discuss Romance Novels and Erotic Fiction. Shelley’s first novel, Have Mercy, just debuted under Random House’s Loveswept Imprint.
When I was about 14 years old my parents took my brother and I on a fishing trip, where we spent a long weekend in a friend’s cabin in the middle of nowhere. There was TV, but no cable, which meant nothing but fuzzy baseball games and public access church to watch. There were a few board games, which we tired of quickly. My brother soon decided he’d rather be fishing with my parents than stuck inside with his grouchy sister, leaving me to my own devices for entertainment.
What this cabin did have, I soon discovered, was a copy of Frank Slaughter’s The Scarlet Cord: A Novel of the Woman Of Jericho. Yes, folks…my first romance was Biblical in every sense of the word. This book novelizes the story of Rahab, the harlot who helped the Israelite spies in Jericho during the Israelite conquest. And to my teenage brain, it was the sexiest thing I’d ever read.
After that I was hooked. My Aunt Betty, thrilled I’d finally put down Stephen King in favor of more “appropriate” novels, put copies of Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor and The Duchess into my hot little hands. To this day they’re still some of my favorite books of all time, period.
I was drawn to Claire, the main character of The Duchess, because she defied my expectations of what a woman in a Romance Novel should be like. Claire loved to read as much as I did. She was the Edwardian version of a total nerd. She had everything, but all she wanted to was to learn and grow as a person. Wait, I thought. Aren’t these women supposed to be wilting flowers?
Granted, my expectations for this type were very, very high. I thought all women in Romance Novels should be a grown-up version of Laura Chant from The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance, which I have called out several times as being one of the finest Young Adult books ever written.
What I found was that, while the women in these books oftentimes embraced their femininity, they were painted as strong individuals who wanted love and pleasure in equal parts. They wanted it all, and they weren’t afraid to go after it. (Well, sometimes they were, but they always seemed to get over that fear by the end of the book)
I can’t help feel that steeping myself in Romance Novels in my teens and early twenties help me to mold many aspects of my personality from my self esteem to my independent nature.
What I enjoyed so much about Have Mercy is how much I related to Emme, the female lead. I won’t say “main character” because both Emme and Tom are given equal time and equal measure in this book. Neither one is relegated to “main character” and “love interest.”
Emme is driven. Her life isn’t perfect, but she knows how to roll up her sleeves and take care of business. Maybe it’s just me, but that happens to be the #1 thing that draws me to a character. Other examples would be Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, Diana Gabaldon’s Claire Beauchamp or even Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. These women have their wants and their needs, but are driven and practical by nature. Shit has got to get done.
And then there’s Tom…smart, talented, opinionated Tom whose sexiest trait is his respect for Emme. Yeah, he’s insanely attracted to her. Yeah, they both have baggage, but Tom is always ready to step in and support her. Tom doesn’t want to sweep Emme off of her feet and rescue her, because he knows she can rescue herself. His emotional awareness fits beautifully with the strength of Emme’s personality.
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that a Romance Novel can be feminist (and I’m not alone!) and that this book is one of the better examples of feminism in a romance novel. Emme and Tom find themselves fully embracing their own sexuality in a way that neither ever had before, and there’s nothing more empowering than that.
Also, it’s sexy as hell. Now go get it.