Cleavage and codpieces: A naughty book report

If you don’t think you’ll be getting any nookie this Valentine’s Day, perhaps you should consider reading about *other* people getting some. And there’s no need to be embarrassed — romance novels are making a comeback.

In 2009, both USA Today and the New York Times mentioned the rising rates of readership and sales in the genre of Romance Fiction.

Chalk it up to the economic crises and the fact that losing yourself in a good, sexy book is way better than worrying about retirement. Or, perhaps this is a result of a shift in societal norms. Perhaps now, more than ever, women can outwardly express not only femininity and intelligence but confidence and sexuality as well.

Harlequin Enterprises Limited, one of the world’s largest romance novel publishers in the world, has been in the business of romance for 60 years.

“Since its inception, Harlequin has sold approximately 5.8 billion books,” stated the website.

And that’s just one publisher – there are countless others these days publishing hundreds of new writers.

Of course traditional romance writers like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel have been around writing best-selling romance novels since the early 1980s. But there is a new front. Writers Eloisa James (aka Mary Bly) and Julia Quinn, both ivy league educated, are cranking out best-selling titles like The Viscount Who Loved Me and Desperate Duchesses.

“…sometimes the bad news can be overwhelming. And you wonder how many smiles, hugs, and blooming flowers it’s going to take to make it all better. And that, I think, is the real reason I write (and read) romance novels. Because at the end of the day (or at least at the end of the book), everyone is happy,” stated Quinn on her website.

In response to this resurgence of romance fiction, here are just four of the erotic gems out there for the taking.

Dirty Sexy Knitting
By Christie Ridgway
Total Pages: 299
Pages til nookie begins: 80

Dirty Sexy Knitting is the last book in a three-part series which includes How to Knit a Wild Bikini and Unravel Me. Who wouldn’t  want to be caught reading these titles in public places?  If you’re into naughty knitting, why not shout it from the rooftops? The main character, Cassandra Riley, owns a knitting shop (surprise, surprise) in Malibu, California cleverly called “Malibu & Ewe.” Cassandra has the terrible misfortune of falling in love with a man who is all wrong for her, Gabe Kincaid. He is broken, a mere shell of a man, coping with the loss of his wife and daughter who died in a tragic accident. He is so overcome with depression that, despite his wealth, he can only drink copious amounts of alcohol and rely on Cassandra to clean up his messes. Even if that means Cassandra, or Froot Loop as he so lovingly refers to her,  responding to late-night calls to retrieve ol’ Gabe off some barroom floor. The plot lines include a famous plastic surgeon/sperm donor father and yes, even murderous rage. If you like virginal thirty-year-old women who love cats, dysfunctional men and knitting, then this book is for you.

“She licked her lips, trembling as he continued to look at her. It was like there was a beast under her skin, a hot, sexy, demanding beast that didn’t remember Gabe had been kicked out of her life. Touch me, damn you, it wanted to shout at him.”

By Kelley Armstrong
Total Pages: 436
Pages til nookie begins: 103

Bitten is more than just a love story with heaving chests, flowing locks and urgent caressing. It’s a turgid tale of a female werewolf — rather, the only female werewolf known in existence… at least in the Toronto and upstate New York area. This she-wolf is called Elena Michaels and she has spent years desperately seeking a normal ‘human’ life. She has a boyfriend, Philip, and a they live happily together in Toronto. Well, as happily as one can live when fighting back constant urges to shift into a giant dog and chase down prey. One day, she is contacted by her old pack – a bunch of werewolf men from her complex past – and things really get interesting. Elena is no push-over, or so she keeps saying, but ends up doing pretty much whatever is required to restore peace in a chaotic werewolf-y world. If you enjoy a kick-ass female character and often far-fetched (pun intended) story plots – including violence and some gore – then check this book out. Armstrong goes into much detail describing the ‘turning’ from wolf to human – including ‘dinner breath.’

“He kissed me. I could feel the heat from his body, so familiar I could drown in it. The rich scent of him wafted through my brain, as intoxicating as peyote smoke. I felt myself succumbing to the smell…”

One Reckless Summer
By Toni Blake
Total Pages: 370
Pages til nookie begins: 19

By far the fastest moving, One Reckless Summer gets straight to the point. As the title might imply, the pages of this book tell the story of one woman’s reckless abandon during a transitional time in her otherwise wholesome life. Jenny Tolliver found out her husband, Terrence is cheating on her with a 21 year-old student teacher. What a  bastard! She gave up her her dreams of working for NASA to marry him when they were just kids. How could he have the nerve to say she is the “twenty-first century June Cleaver” and “he desires a bad girl”? The only thing left for Jenny to do: pack up her telescope and go back to Destiny, Ohio. As the Police Chief’s daughter, Jenny was always well-behaved, but now she is 31 and ready to take some chances – especially with Mick Brody. Mick is dangerous and Jenny is more than willing to take a ride in his rowboat.

“This was not about kissing – this was about need, and hunger, and darkness. This was hard sex, in the woods. This was Mick Brody.”

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels
By Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan
Total Pages: 284
No nookie (womp, womp, womp)

Beyond Heaving Bosoms gives the reader an incredibly witty introduction into the Romance genre. Wendell and Tan break down every aspect of the genre including: the history and future of romance fiction, different sub-genres, the romance heroine and hero, typical plot devices and of course, sex. The presence of rape in early romance novels is even discussed in great detail – which touches on many historical accuracies (women as property) of non-consensual sex. Every chapter of this book is smart, to put it simply, and will likely elicit deep thoughts. Even if you hate romance novels, read this book.

“No, no, don’t hide your romance novel. You don’t have to wrap it in a quilted cover or slide it in between the pages of The New Yorker. We know you’re smart. We also know you like romance novels…There are plenty of articles and books that dismiss the genre, and some excellent academic examinations that subject the genre to a long over-due analysis. Us? We’re here to throw a party for the genre…”

Really, in the end, we are all searching for the same thing: a happy ending.  Many have and will continue to argue that reading romance novels is a slap in the face of feminism. It is equally arguable that today’s novels highlight strong women who have the power to overcome life’s tribulations without the help of a man unless she so chooses. The truth about Romance Fiction is that in many ways, the books written within the genre act as a sort of window into our social history – challenging, or at times reinforcing, ideas of love, sex and gender. What’s important is the fact that reading great books, whatever the genre, can provide a bit of escapism in our sometimes uninteresting lives. Romance Fiction does this, and it does it well. And what’s wrong with a little hanky-panky between the covers? (book covers, that is.)

  • error

    Report an error

Marge Weimer

Marge Weimer had the distinct honor of being’s first intern. She is a good sport, and we thoroughly enjoy her.

There are 10 reader comments. Read them.