Guest blogger: Melanie Milburne
Story tropes and social change
For some time now, I have been reflecting on some of the story tropes we romance authors use in our novels and how they could be interpreted by readers. It was a topic raised at the last ARRA conference in Canberra on a panel I was involved in.
The question posed to my fellow panellists and I was: Does writing romance novels clash with your views as a feminist?
I answered that for me at times it does, as some story tropes can be troublesome in terms of how they could be interpreted. Take the revenge or blackmail plot for instance. Typically, the hero insists or forces a woman back into a relationship with him for some supposed misdemeanour or past slight. I have used both of these story tropes myself several times. But I’m increasingly troubled by the notion of portraying a hero who is unable to move on from a past relationship without exacting revenge, even if the ‘revenge’ (i.e. being back in a relationship with the hero) is something the heroine consciously or subconsciously desires.
In the past few years the secret baby trope has subtly changed to fall more in line with what modern readers expect. No longer is it considered appropriate for a heroine not to at least try and inform the hero of her accidental pregnancy.
Now, I can hear some of you say: But it’s just a fantasy. It’s escapist literature. Everyone knows it’s not likely to happen in real life that a handsome billionaire will get you pregnant, force you into a marriage of convenience and then fall in love with you.
True. Remember what happened to Elizabeth Hurley.
But I’m concerned about what we as romance authors are saying about the dynamic between men and women, especially as we are becoming more aware of issues like domestic violence. I often have a hero physically restrain a heroine by a hand on her arm or wrist. Is that still acceptable? Or what about an unintentional bruise on a heroine’s arm from a too strong a grip or a split lip from a passionate kiss? I am guilty of those too, as indeed are many of my writing colleagues.
And then there is the issue of consent. You only have to read a few years back in romance literature to read sex scenes that we would now consider rape scenes. Attitudes and tolerances change and we as writers need to be aware of those changes.
However, we want to entertain our readers and allow them to escape into feel-good fiction without guilt. I don’t have all the answers. Far from it. I enjoy reading and writing romance as much as always, but now it is even more difficult to write!
Melanie is giving away a signed copy of Engaged to Her Ravensdale Enemy. Just leave a comment below to go in the draw. Giveaway will close on 3 April 2016. (This giveaway is now closed. The winner was Kaye.)
Engaged to Her Ravensdale Enemy
In bed with her nemesis…
When Jasmine Connolly’s third engagement is broken off, she decides to make her man jealous by enlisting the help of her enemy, playboy Jake Ravensdale! Jasmine may never have forgiven him for his rejection years ago, but the heartless lothario is the perfect candidate for her plan.
As tensions build, the line between love and hate increasingly blurs, teetering on the brink of explosion! Jasmine might be wearing Jake’s ring, but she can’t let go of the hurt he once caused her. Because if she does, what’s to stop her from falling prey to the Ravensdale playboy’s charms…?
Melanie Milburne read her first Harlequin at age seventeen in between studying for her final exams. After completing a Masters Degree in Education she decided to write a novel in between settling down to do a PhD. She became so hooked on writing romance the PhD was shelved and her career as a romance writer was born. Melanie is an ambassador for the Australian Childhood Foundation and is a keen dog lover and trainer and enjoys long walks in the Tasmanian bush.