When my husband and I moved into our current home, our landlord left behind several of his late wife's books, which were mostly romance novels. I love romance novels, but am too cheap/lazy to go out of my way to acquire them, so I was pretty excited about this unexpected bounty. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the roughly 50 year age gap between us, the books aren't exactly what I'd pick out for myself. A lot of the titles seem to fall in that weird gray area between old school romance, where the heroes "seduced" (aka raped) the heroines in order to convince them who they should marry, and modern day romance where rape is extremely frowned upon. Still, I find that transition fascinating and so I'm enjoying reading these books for historical, if not entertainment, purposes, and I thought it might be fun to share what I found.
Since we just celebrated Christmas, I thought it would be appropriate to share Silhouette Christmas Stories 1990, a collection of contemporary (at least for 1990) tales by Ann Major, Rita Rainville, Lindsay McKenna, and Kathleen Creighton. The gray area between New School and Old School romance is really on display here. In all but one of the stories the decision to pursue someone romantically is made by the hero only. Both characters acknowledge an attraction, but we spend significant time watching the hero develop that attraction into an actual desire to have a relationship with the heroine. On the other hand, we spend very little time hearing the heroine's motivation for pursuing a relationship with the hero. The hero does the vast majority of the acting and the heroine's role is essentially to accept those actions. Even further frustrating me is that all three of these stories star single mothers and I hate stories where women are passive characters exponentially more when there are children to witness their mother's spinelessness.
However, Lindsay McKenna's story, "Always and Forever" was a little different. She tells the story of two people in the Air Force who meet when the heroine marries the hero's best friend. However, it's the middle of the Vietnam War, and shortly after the wedding, the heroine's husband is reported missing in action, and the hero steps in to comfort his best friend's wife. Over the years they keep up a really touching, open, and honest correspondence, becoming truly close friends. When it is eventually discovered that the heroine's husband was killed and the hero and heroine are free to admit the true depth of their feelings for each other, it's actually the heroine who makes the grand gesture to express her romantic interest in the hero, because he's too worried about dishonoring his dead friend's memory to be anything more than chaste with the woman he's wanted from the moment he met her. The rest of the stories in this series felt really dated, but aside from several mundane details, this one still feels relevant and relatable.