Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Romance V. Porn. The Final Battle!

The Mommy Porn Phenomena leads to Rabbit Catching journalism.  

This is a slightly expanded copy of my comment posted at the newspaper. The difference is due to word count limitations on the SMH site.

This article starts off on the wrong basis by taking this assumption as true.

“Porn is bad because it fosters unreal expectations about what women should look like and how they should behave in bed.”

There are a lot of arguments about why Porn is bad. This is not a legitimate or even widely used one among people who think seriously about the issue. Upon which the whole argument relating it to Romance falls.  Along with the Headline which clearly shows the Editors are Rabbit Catching it trivialises what could have been a meaningful discussion on the place of romance and porn in modern society.  People think that the popularity of BDSM lite romance 50 Shades has blurred the lines. Note the use of it as the illustration for a 'typical' romance novel.  Another anomaly that a good number of reputable authors of romance would take issue with.

I characterised this article as trite and meaningless the first time I read it. Sure it's a nippy little article, presses the right buttons to spark peoples interest and got the twittersphere in a minor buzz. But if porn and romance demeans the roles of those reading it, surely rabbit catching does the same for journalism.  Even the loose interpretation of variant figures makes one wonder how much serious thought went into the article.

This might have started off intending to be a lightweight rather humorous take on the whole 50 Shades as Mommy Porn phenomena, but it signifies a deeper malaise when editors waste the talents of their writers skimming over issues, trivialising real concerns and appearing to criticise the simple pleasures of large sections of the populace.

The only possible excuse for it is that it appears on the Life & Style pages and therefore is probably targeted at women who don't think deeply about anything other than their next manicure or romance novel.

File:Women hunting rabbits with a ferret.jpg

The Pleasure and the Pain

How to Mend a Broken Heart

How To Mend a Broken Heart by Amy Andrews ****

This is one of those wow books when you are amazed at the story but shattered at the same time.  This was such an emotional read for me even though I've never lost a child post-natal. Fletcher and Tessa are such remarkable characters you just ache for them right from the first moment. Each of them have dealt with the loss, the grief and the guilt of losing their only child tragically in different ways.

Fletch looks whole on the surface but inside he has a hole in his heart that not only is the place where their son should be, but also his soulmate Tessa. He has chosen to devote his life to improving the chances of children who drown by researching and trialling methods.

Tessa has withdrawn entirely from feeling, from living, and this was essentially the breaking point of the marriage. They still loved each other but they lost their way in expressing that love, in validating their feelings. By denying her grief and through that, giving her husband no outlet for his, Tessa pushed Fletch into an action that became the final straw.

Now they have to work together to help Fletcher's mother who is sinking into the frightening world of Alzheimer's. Tessa is experienced in nursing such patients since she left paediatric nursing to avoid children and Fletch desperately needs her assistance.

Thrust together, these two have to start dealing with the issues that tore them apart ten years ago. And it is a painful process, not just for the hero and heroine, but for us living through it with them.
I felt battered when I finished the book. Yes, it has a happy ending. But as the author informed me when I asked halfway through when I was panicking, it is a tempered one.  Damaged people do not have euphoric happy endings, not in the real world.

But this book, painful as it is, is a book about hope. It is about healing that can come if we are willing to work towards it, within ourselves and together with those we love.

The writing, and the way the author deals with such a deeply sensitive issue is beautifully done. It isn't an easy book to read but it is a very worthwhile one. Anyone who denigrates the quality and depth of romance novels has never read authors such as Amy Andrews. Thank you Amy for the pleasure and the pain, and the healing tears.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The heartbreaker of Hope's Junction is back...

Jilted by Rachael Johns ****`


 Four and a half stars. So what can I say about this gem of a story. They call it 'chook lit' as the aussi version of Chicklit which reminds me of a very confused German exchange student when I was a child asking what a 'chook' was.  I reckon it's a great little romance and a lovely snapshot of country town living in rural Australia.

This book had it all, the footie on Saturday arvo, the gossipy hairdresser, the CWA crafts and cooking, the local pub.  All very familiar to those of us living or having lived in outback Australia.

The story of Flynn and Ellie is a classic reunion of two young people in love who don't quite know how to cope when things go wrong. Ellie ran, leaving Flynn humiliated and bewildered. On the surface she made a success of her life, becoming a famous soapie star beloved by all Australia, except in her home town of Hope Junction.

Flynn didn't deal so well, making some poor choices in his grief and anger. But all is well now to all appearances, though he is still a bachelor, having taken over the farm after his father's death.

When Ellie's only real family member, Matilda, needs her support after an injury, Ellie knows she has to do the right thing, even if it means facing the townsfolk, and Flynn, after ten years.

When the two former lovers meet, it is obvious that they are kindred spirits though Ellie is determined her stay is temporary and Flynn is equally convinced that Ellie is off limits.

The dangling of another woman in Flynn's life at this point was entirely too stressful for me. I don't cope well with those potentially lethal plot elements and it trickled on quite a way through the book.  If I was Flynn's auntie at that point I would have clipped him under the ear and told him think about what he was doing in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately much as I would love to live in Hope's Junction, I don't and had to chew my fingernails, watching helplessly as disaster seemed only a drink or two away.

Flynn and Ellie really had to work for their happy ending, and there were moments when I really wondered if I was reading a classic HEA romance because there was an element of Nicholas Sparkes, almost inevitably doomed relationship thing, happening now and then. There is probably a reason why I keep my angst reading to categories under 200 pages generally. The dark parts of their mutual and separate history make for some heartbreaking reading.

Now all this being said. In spite of my angst and nail biting and stressed out hand wringing, I loved this book. If I hadn't been totally engaged and loving the characters I wouldn't have cared what they did and whether they got their happily ever after.

Flynn is just gorgeous and Ellie is such a sweetie you want them so much to overcome the tragedies of the past.  They are so real you could just about touch them, with flaws and fears and little quirks that endear rather than irritate.

The setting of Hope Junction is beautifully and lovingly drawn and for those of you who haven't ever been there, presents an accurate if rather rose coloured portrait of a town that could exist anywhere in Rural Australia.

Now I have a special give-away for one person who comments on this blog.

I was fortunate enough to get a second copy of Jilted at the recent RWAus12 conference at the Gold Coast.  I got it signed by Rachael and will ship it anywhere that doesn't cost a fortune.  Luna residents please take note.