Not your mother’s romance

My latest guilty pleasure is tweets by @eruditeromances.

If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s the bio:

A beacon in the dark. Like Georgette Heyer, but relevant. Probably a parody.

I like that they poke fun at me, because I see myself in some of the tweets. It’s good to laugh at myself sometimes, like when I’m taking myself too seriously. It’s good to remember why I got into this: to tell my stories, to have a good time. Not to write a How To on being a Healthy Human ™. I know this, but somehow, sometimes I forget.

But @eruditeromances is a guilty pleasure because sometimes when I laugh, it’s not at myself. And because the more I read it, the more I hear that voice coming from various sources.

Mostly from other authors, who mock the books I love. But it’s okay, because they’re only doing it to helpfully point out the flaws in what I read and think and am so that I can be better.

I can do without that kind of help in my life.

Whether it comes from a man on or a woman who also writes romance. I woke up this morning to a tumblr post telling me it was wrong to use words like devour and claim in a romance, because that’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

There should be “body appreciation”, nothing more.

The thing about claiming and devouring is that they’re primal, something our intelligent higher-thought mind knows isn’t accurate but our deeper, animal self still feels. Especially during such an intense, riotous period of time as falling in love. So the question becomes, do I want to portray a relationship at a higher plane, free of those darker, inappropriate impulses? Not really. I want to kick over the rock and look underneath, exposing every need, every desire to possess, every *unhealthy* counterpoint in a relationship.

Words are important. Nuances matter. As writers, we are responsible for choosing them carefully. For some writers that means leaving out words like claim and devour AND THAT’S OKAY. I read their books too…at least, until they say that’s the only way to write. I think I do a greater disservice to scrub the human experience clean of any possible offenses before sharing it. Will it hold up better to scrutiny? Maybe. But it can’t be more honest. And for me, there would be no point in writing. I can do without the kind of help that tells me to lie to make someone else, a stranger, feel more comfortable. I’ve gotten that kind of help my whole life.

Plus, claiming is sexy.

Devouring is sexy.

So is eating out and going down. I’m not going to change that to ‘licking politely’ and ‘going level’ just to satisfy someone else’s standard for a healthy relationship. This is the language that men and women I’ve known use, the language my character would use, and the book is in his and her voice after all.

My characters aren’t healthy people in that context. They are banished to the Island of Misfits where they devour and get devoured, where staking a claim is the only way they know how to want. They also hurt and get hurt, they fight and they bleed, they fuck up and they get fucked. There are millions of stories to tell, millions of characters to write, and these are mine.

The romance genre has gotten knocked for being stupid and trite and OMG SO GIRLY for freaking ever, from both men and women. From people who’ve never read a single romance novel to those who write them. It’s not new. And it’s not actually a help.

I’ve never found it to be very accurate either. The books I’ve read have been smart, meaningful, and edgy as fuck. That’s how I see the romance genre.

About Amber Lin

Amber Lin writes sexy romance about messed up people, because everyone deserves a happy ending. Find her books or sign up for the newsletter at her website
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