So as those of you who pay attention to my “reading life” posts know, I review books. I have for years now. I run a website, Rated Reads, that exists to help readers know about the potential offensive content of books they might like to read. I think it goes almost without saying that I tend to prefer and appreciate books that don’t have lots of offensive material, be it vulgar language or sexual situations or even violence. I just clap my hands with joy when I find a book that’s just great in every way AND doesn’t have offensive content. Yay!
There are all kinds of genres and sub-genres out there: sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal fantasy, historical fiction, memoir, biography, young adult, romance, self-help, science, business … the list goes on forever. But certain types of genres sell particularly well overall, and some get extra attention during “fads.” Ever since Twilight, vampire love stories are very of-the-moment. And now it’s Fifty Shades of Grey. No vampires, but the protagonist is still super-hot and super-rich, just like the Twilight hero. In the case of this uber-popular new series, the love story isn’t necessarily about forbidden or supernatural love, but it’s about kinky sex, explicitly detailed in the book.
Um, no thanks.
So while those books are flying off the shelves and, most of all, being furtively downloaded onto e-readers, where no one else can tell what the purchaser is reading, I still say, Publishers and authors, please give me some great clean romance. Men often wonder why in the world so many of us women swoon over the Regency-era books, where the happy couple don’t even necessarily get a single kiss. I’ll tell you why: because the fun of romance is in the chase, in the slow buildup of longing looks and quiet exchanges of meaningful glances and words. It’s amazing to have a man treat us with respect and chivalry. I just don’t want to read about some gallant hero spanking a bound woman. Gah.
She asked me a month ago what books I recommended that would fit the parameters. I pored over all the reviews I’ve written over the past four or five years and posted on Rated Reads and, sadly enough, came up with an extremely short list. This is what I wrote to her:
- Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful romance about an older English gentleman and a widowed Pakistani woman. I rated it mild for some language.
- I really enjoyed all of Carrie Bebris’s books continuing the story of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. They’re mysteries, but they’re love stories as well in Austen mode. I like that she does a good job with them and feels true to the originals.
- I loved Erin McMahon’s I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, a sweet YA book that I rated moderate for teens but mild for adults. Nice bonus: main character is saving sex for marriage, and she sticks to it.
- I did enjoy Edenbrooke, the first in a new set of books that will be published by Deseret Book called “Proper Romances.”
- Flipped is a very charming middle-grade book about two eighth-graders. Very cute.
- Of course, I liked Austenland, but I’m sure other people know about that one by Shannon Hale.
What’s striking is that three of them are either Regency/Austen-type books or are patterned after them. Two are written by authors who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though they aren’t the Christian genre, their authors are going to decidedly keep their writing fairly clean because of their religious beliefs. So, sure, it might be easy enough to find a decent enough clean romance because it’s either a classic or patterned after a classic or because it’s in the Christian genre, but finding just any other romantic books out there in general fiction that aren’t some type of genre that demands or expects clean content is a tricky task.
So, yeah, authors and publishers. The dirty stuff apparently does sell. But so does the clean stuff. If you’re going to hop on a bandwagon, can you please hop on the latter one? ‘Cause I’m not riding the dirty wagon or patronizing it in any way. Thanks.
I'm a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.