Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

Title: Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels
Author: Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan
Publisher: Fireside (2009)
Pages: 304
Rating: 4 stars

We’re here to throw a party for the genre—to celebrate its soaring successes as well as its appalling excesses, and to raise a beverage to the continued health and happiness of our favorite reading material. And yes, we’re here to throw a drunken yet solidly comforting arm around your shoulders and say, “Oh, yes! We read them! We love them! Even the awful ones, them, too. And people who think we’re dumb for reading them? Screw ’em! What the hell do they know!”

It’s no big secret that I recently discovered an affinity for romance novels.* I have also recently been asking myself why. Why do I love them so much? Why can I read them faster than any other book? So, I went in search of a book that could help me answer these questions.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms promises to be a guide to romance novels, but it’s not a simply a list of the best romance novels out there. The Smart Bitches basically say: here is the formula for a romance novel and here are the endless ways people can manipulate the formula. And the pleasure we readers get from romance novels is in the journey not the conclusion (because we all know what that will be!). The book is a snarky mix of literary criticism, advice for writers and for readers, and games. Yes, there are a few book suggestions, but the focus is having fun with the genre. I loved this about the book!

Wendell and Tan, creators of the blog SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com, are not above making hilarious fun of their favorite genre. The two women discuss the Magic Wang, Magic Hoo Hoo, unbelievable preservation of virginity, simultaneous orgasms, and other stereotypes of romance in great, irreverent detail. I read the first quarter of this book out loud to my roomie and we were both collapsing with giggles.

Yes, it’s goofy but underneath the Smart Bitches raise some very poignant issues. For example, why is it so “wrong” to love books about romance, but it’s okay to love books about murder and crime (mystery is the second largest selling genre)? Something is seriously wrong with a society that thinks it’s acceptable to read about violence but not about love and sex in a loving relationship (we’re not talking about promiscuity here).

Many people balk at the rabid consumption of romance novels and claim they have never touched the genre. Welp, they’re probably wrong. The Smart Bitches wager that about 5 out of 5 readers have read romance. You might not have known you were doing it. Think about it. Most books—even mystery, thriller, literary fiction (Jane Austen, hello!)—contain some element of romance or love, but the romance genre takes that element and makes it the main attraction.

The best thing about Smart Bitches is that even though they love the genre, they don’t think everything in it is good or worth reading. There are some REALLY bad romance novels out there, but there are also some good ones just like any other genre, and I REALLY trust their opinions.

This book is fantastic if you want a good laugh, and/or a look into the mechanics of romance novel writing and reading. The games in the end like Write Your Own Romance and Discover the Made-Up Regency Term are super fun! I’ve read a couple of romance novels since reading Beyond Heaving Bosoms, and it’s really opened my eyes and made me think more about what I’m reading and why I like it or don’t like it. Of course, I’ve always been a sucker for supplementary literary criticism. It gives your reading so much more depth (says the English major)!

*quickest way to get rid of a guy in a bar: talk about romance novels. He will disappear faster than the flavor in your bubbleyum. Yes, I know this from experience.

About Natalie Ramm

I read a lot, y'all.
This entry was posted in Books I read and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels

  1. Kati says:

    I really liked this post. Bravo. Very interesting and I love that you love romance!! :)

    Like

  2. Pingback: Romance Roundup: games, mistakes, and dark pasts | Paperspines

  3. Pingback: A Night Like This by Julia Quinn | Paperspines

  4. Pingback: 13 Books Every Girl Should Read in Her Twenties | Paperspines

  5. Pingback: A Working Theory of Love – Romance and artificial intelligence | Paperspines

  6. Pingback: Love, In Theory: Ten Stories about Love and Loss | BooksAreTheNewBlack

  7. Pingback: BEA 2013 Recap | BooksAreTheNewBlack

  8. Just Another Guy Searching For The Magic HooHoo says:

    Romance novels = girl porn. Very well-researched and -written examination of this in _A Billion Wicked Thoughts_ which investigates the _Ave. Q_ musical’s contention of “the internet is for porn.” [Which if you haven’t heard the song yet, go to Youtube: it’s hilarious!]

    Anyway, *that’s* why you like them so much. And there’s nothing wrong w/ that!

    Like

  9. Pingback: Romance Roundup: liars, blackmailers, and the one who got away | Books Are The New Black

  10. Pingback: Fashion Friday: Me Before You | Books Are The New Black

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s