Thursday, May 28, 2015

It takes all shades

So, I think I've documented how much I hated the Book Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not written a blog post about all the reasons why (misogynistic, poorly written/edited, bad character development, horrible dialogue, kind of racist) but I know I've probably bored people IRL going on and on about my dislike. I just don't understand why, of all the tons of erotic romance novels out there, THIS is the one that became a sensation. 

Here's the thing: I have read a lot of trashy romances in my life. Like A LOT. It all started back in junior high when I discovered that the mother of one of my best friends had quite a large stash of Harlequin romances (I would usually wake up HOURS before anyone else, and needed something to pass the time.) So during my alone time at sleepovers before everyone else woke up, I expanded my vocabulary (who knew "rake" had a definition other than an object to collect leaves?) and developed an appreciation for quick reads that provide some fantasy fulfillment. 

Over the years, I have kept up the habit. For the couple of years I spent commuting 3+ hours a day on a train, I went through tons of these books, both from the library and purchased. They were perfect - a nice distraction from my ho-hum day, and I could finish many of them during one or two commutes. I'm pretty sure that Nora Roberts was able to at least buy a couple of throw pillows with the income generated from book sales to me. 

Anyway, given how much really entertaining, well written and original novels are out there in the romance genre, I continue to be surprised/disappointed that the one that sparked so much interest, sales, and now a movie franchise was one as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey. I've read many think pieces basically tying it's success to the widespread proliferation of e-readers, so me being me, a few weeks ago I decided to go down the rabbit hole of the erotic romance section of Amazon, and boy oh boy, did I hit a jackpot. (Not THE jackpot, but A jackpot - from a broke casino on the penny slots, as you'll soon see.) 

There are sub-genres of romance novels for everyone. There is literally a whole sub-genre of books about women who hook up/fall in love with their step-brothers. Multiple authors who write about young women who cannot resist their studly stepbrothers - but it's OK, because they didn't grow up together. Also, most of the time the parents who got married and put the heroines in the awkward position of having family dinners with the incredibly good looking rake they lust after end up getting divorced anyway. (I hope you can read the sarcasm dripping from those last two sentences.) In my opinion, these books are just as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey, but I guess the family connection thing makes them more icky than just bad BDSM, so instead of an internationally marketed major studio release, these movies are cleaned up and probably made into Lifetime channel originals. 

But really, the most fun I had going down the Amazon romance novel rabbit hole involved shifter romances. Yeap - shifter romances - and there are sub-sub-genres of those. Hundreds of books (if not thousands - I didn't go dive all the way to the bottom) involving humans who shift into animals. Bears, wolves, cougars, lions, dragons - oh my! The one thing they have in common is that these various shifters are all looking for their life-long mate - and they're usually all about diversity - bear shifters will hook up with non-shifting humans, or people who shift into other animals, and they come in all kinds of hues. Inevitably, the guys are super studs who are in incredibly toned and muscled and tall, and the ladies are all curvy. But my favorite thing about the shifter genre is that writers are not consistent about how to deal with the clothing situation when shifting. Some have the clothes magically appear/disappear, but others deal with the Hulk transformation effect by having the studs strip off their clothes before they shift in order not to ruin them. And in my favorite, the guy was a loner who lived in the forest, and he carried a change of clothes in a backpack with him at all times for when he needed to shift. And by that I mean, when he was in bear form, HE CARRIED A BACKPACK WITH HIS CLOTHES for when he shifted back to human. The idea of a bear carrying a backpack just cracked me up - I could not stop thinking of Yogi, which totally ruined the romance aspect for me.

That said, any number of these supernatural slightly ridiculous romance novels was more entertaining and better written than Fifty Shades of Grey. And the show True Blood was on the air for years, so there is obviously a market for these supernatural shifter tales on screen. Yet none of them have become a worldwide phenomenon. I wish I knew why. I would love to see one of these lesser known works become a worldwide hit. Mostly because I want to see a bear with a backpack on screen. :)

I knew I had read too many shifter romances when I saw this on the Metro and thought it was a pic of a guy with his soulmate

Anyway, I have managed to slowly climb out of the deep wormhole I fell into. I have left the world of billionaires with secrets who sweep ladies off their feet behind. I swear I've actually read some books of substance too. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay was fantastic - powerful and difficult to read at times, but one that sticks with you. And I am currently loving and laughing along to the hysterical You Deserve A Drink by one of my favorite funny ladies Mamrie Hart. Highly recommend both - although you might need to mix a couple of the cocktails in Mamrie's book in order to get through Roxane's - it's a doozy.

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