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Guest blogger: Melanie Milburne

20 March 2016

Melanie MilburneStory 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!

Best wishes,
Melanie Milburne

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 EnemyEngaged 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.

You can find Melanie here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Author page

  1. Lynette williams permalink
    21 March 2016 9:35 am

    I have enjoyed reading the other books I the series & other books you have written—-LynW

  2. 21 March 2016 5:20 am

    Wonderful writeup and the books sounds just so good would love to read in print as disabled but in the usa wasn’t sure if this is open for us but i hope.

    • 27 March 2016 9:12 am

      Hi Peggy,
      This is open to all regions so fingers crossed for you! Lovely of you to comment.

  3. 20 March 2016 8:18 pm

    You’ve raised some very interesting points which do show how romance writing changes as society changes. It’s true that there is an element of fantasy but readers also want to connect with the characters. You’ve dealt with some serious issues in your books and I’ve enjoyed them all so you are handling them well. I think if the characters motivations are solid and the right message is in the story you are handling these issues well. Of course series romance gives you a limited word count which prevents too much explanation. I look forward to reading many more of your books.

    • 27 March 2016 9:14 am

      Thank you, Tracey, for your lovely comments. I think romance, and fiction in general, can provide great metaphors for life. That is the power of storytelling-it can change how we think about things.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  4. Malvina permalink
    20 March 2016 7:11 pm

    I love the way romance changes with the times, and in fact is more feminist now than ever. Thanks for the post, Melanie!

    • 27 March 2016 9:15 am

      Hi Malvina,
      It has certainly changed in the years I’ve been reading it, but it even more so now.
      Lovely as always to hear from you!

  5. Franca Poli permalink
    20 March 2016 6:46 pm

    I read your article Melanie, I really enjoyed it.
    Thank you.

    • 27 March 2016 9:16 am

      Hi Franca,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s always lovely to hear from you!

  6. 20 March 2016 4:46 pm

    Hi Melanie

    Great post and I loved this story as I do all of yours

    have Fun

    • 27 March 2016 9:16 am

      Hi Helen,
      And I love your reviews of my stories! He he
      Thanks for posting. xx

  7. 20 March 2016 3:43 pm

    Loved reading your article Melanie!

  8. Jan VanEngen permalink
    20 March 2016 10:56 am

    I hear what you’re saying. It is a thin line between what is acceptable before and now. Especially between the sexes. Before a woman could slap a man across the face in outrage or been insulted now a big no-no I gather. I miss the old slap now and then lol so got over that by him grabbing her hand before it happens and the indication is still there. What do they say about revenge? That it is a dish best served cold. You’re a story teller and never change that. Love that. Like Carol Mortimer. I love the way you have your heroines storm up to doors and rip into the heroes. Another forced back into a relationship to save her brother. Usually they blame the heroine for some slight and it wasn’t them or seen for something they are not. Another thing you have to be conscious of is safe sex. Whatever you have sold over 64 books and going strong so what ever you doing, you’re doing it well. 😉 Keep them coming. Jan. xxx

    • 27 March 2016 9:20 am

      Hi Jan, thanks for your comments. I’ve had a few heroines slap heroes in the past but I wouldn’t do it now. And you bring up a good point about the safe sex.

  9. 20 March 2016 10:13 am

    Excellent. Glad I stopped by and hope to see you around!!

  10. 20 March 2016 9:25 am

    So true Melanie! Thanks for the insights.

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