On July 1, 2018, I will release my latest romance, Becoming Magic. In a very real way, this is an apt title for a turning point in my own writing. In it I address some pretty difficult issues facing the world at large as well as writers of romance today.
I’ve written before about how today’s empowered women have influenced my writing. Once upon a time romance was filled with shrinking, helpless “heroines” dominated by dark, brooding, melancholy “heroes”. Women were overpowered by the sexual demands of men in those romances. Rape fantasies were played out in the pages by manly men—remember the “macho man” from the eighties?—men who took what they wanted without asking.
Is it any wonder men of former generations thought we liked to be wolf whistled at, called “darlin” and sweetheart, and that it was okay to cop a feel if we left an opening?
But it seems women are finally willing to speak up and say they don’t like that. We prefer to be asked appropriately before touching begins. In today’s world, the dukes and tycoons of those old romances would find themselves on the wrong end of a sexual harassment lawsuit. So how do romances change?
It’s a good question. Romances, at their heart, are fantasies. In the post-50 Shades world of romance, authors have begun to push those fantasies to the limit. Rape fantasies are more blatant and much more graphic in many romances. Is there really any need to stop pushing those limits, though?
The simple answer is yes. Fantasies are only fantasies until they touch on reality, and psychologists are already concerned about the effect mainstream media’s acceptance of borderline practices like S&M will have on developing teenage minds and their sex lives. I believe that the problem has existed all along and goes much deeper. I believe romance authors must address sexual harassment and face the #metoo movement head on.
We have a place in this. We can write a new kind of romance, shape the fantasies of the future. We can write first and foremost about love. Sex is a part of love, a way of expressing love and, in some romances, an essential part of character development. It is not, however, an end without means, and romance writers can and should, at least for our own characters, define what those means are.
I hope you’ll read Becoming Magic. And I hope I’ve succeeded, at least partly, in starting to write my own new and more mindful kind of romance.