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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I have been broadening my reading horizons, largely due to KB and having an ereader, and that includes dipping my decidedly unmanicured toe into Romance. First I picked up Courtney Milan's Unlocked, and was like, HUH. This is just great storytelling. I can learn from this. So then, naturally, I decided I should read some Nora Roberts, because she's so frighteningly prolific (a novel every 2 months for 30 years? What?), and because apparently she helped to reinvent and revitalize the genre. Also, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

So I picked up Carnal Innocence. And I googled, because I like to spoil things, and I learned who the killer was. (If you haven't read it and don't want to know, I'm not going to tell you, but I am going to narrow the field significantly.) And I was like, well, that's kind of cheesy, but it's already apparent from these first 30 pages that Roberts can really, really write, and I'll only learn more the more I read, and if she can pull that off, then....
WHOA. I get to a part where someone's actually getting killed. Is that...um, how do I put this...a tad homophobic? But like, in a really visceral sort of way, playing into an age old and incredibly damaging libel? (I'm not calling it a blood libel, because that's it's own thing, but it's kind of analogous, except where it wasn't used as a rationalization for genocide, which is an admittedly huge difference...) So, being of my generation, I google. All I find are some oblique references to "controversy" within the RWA (NOT encouraging) and a few other Roberts titles on lists of homophobic books. (Also not encouraging.)

So my question is...is this a thing? Like, did I stumble upon a third rail in Romance? Is vicious homophobia common in Romance novels, and accepted within the genre? I know CI was written in 1990, but that's not so so long ago that they were still burning women at the stake or anything; there were still, like, limits. Am I seriously
p*ssing
people off by asking this question? I hope not, because I gotta tell you, I found this stuff in CI upsetting enough that I just don't want to finish it. Like, it was pretty disgusting. And the idea that this is considered acceptable is also kind of a deal breaker for me. In fact I'll find it really, really, really shocking. (I probably wouldn't be asking this question, except that it was Nora Roberts, the Queen of Romance, so...)

[edited for language - Geoffrey, moderator]
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I should clarify the Nora Roberts, Queen of Romance thing. So normally I wouldn't wonder about generalizations of an entire genre based on one measly example that I haven't even finished reading yet, and where it's possible I'm entirely wrong, if the spoiler I read was wrong - and admittedly that is a whole boat load of qualifications, which also makes me kinda nervous - but the example was so egregious, and came from someone who seems to be a Romance Authority, that I was pretty perturbed. And then there was the googling.

So now I'm going to read further, and sort of hope I wasn't wrong about the spoiler, because of course I don't like making a fool of myself, and also kind of hope I was, because the idea that this is considered acceptable in the most popular genre in the US is really, really upsetting to me. (Modern books with intense homophobia are...they never come with warnings, the way other terrible things sometimes do, and they are freaking horrible.)
 

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I haven't read much mainstream Romance, but there is a strong Gay Romance market out there - of which the majority of readers are women.  In general, I don't think there is a homophobic bent to romance - just possibly in certain areas.  I have read similar comments about Nora Roberts but I haven't read anything by her so I can't comment on it directly. 

We have some well read Romance fans in here.  I'm sure you are about to get a long list of great Romance novels to try.    :D
 

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I've read at least 20-30 of her books over the years, and never noticed any homophobia, but you got me curious.  I googled "Carnal Innocence Nora Roberts" and got lots of hits (about 804000.)  In the first couple of pages I checked a bunch of reviews and saw lots of references to the lifetime movie, but nothing about homophobia.  Most of the reviews said it was a great book, a few said they couldn't get into it.  Now I'm going to read it to see if I agree with your assessment.  My feeling about Nora Roberts books is that after reading 4 or 5 in a row you need to switch to a different genre for a while as they all start to blend together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I skipped to the end and skimmed. The spoiler was both right and wrong.So I think the libel I referenced is still in effect: there's a long history of painting lesbians or anything associated with lesbians or lesbian sex as deviant, crazy, evil, crazy, what's another word for crazy?, miserable, destructive, insane!, did I say deviant already? Anyway. The graphic description of how the female killer sexually assaults her victims - whatever half baked psychological justification is given at the end (and it is kinda half baked) - calls upon this entire history very effectively, even if the killer doesnt identify as a lesbian. I think these graphic descriptions would probably trigger alarm bells on their own, but read in the context of history...not good.

It is possible that Roberts tried to provide a counterbalance to this by creating a gay or bisexual character somewhere in there that I haven't gotten to yet that isn't, you know, insane, deviant, and evil, but no one's mentioned it. Even so, that wouldn't really change anything.

I dunno. I'm grossed out. You know that saying about pornography, from Justice Whatshisface? You know it when you see it? Yeah.

scl said:
I've read at least 20-30 of her books over the years, and never noticed any homophobia, but you got me curious. I googled "Carnal Innocence Nora Roberts" and got lots of hits (about 804000.) In the first couple of pages I checked a bunch of reviews and saw lots of references to the lifetime movie, but nothing about homophobia. Most of the reviews said it was a great book, a few said they couldn't get into it. Now I'm going to read it to see if I agree with your assessment. My feeling about Nora Roberts books is that after reading 4 or 5 in a row you need to switch to a different genre for a while as they all start to blend together.
 

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Shouldn't your thread be more about discussion one specific book you read, or should I say, skimmed and had issues with? I guess I don't get what any of this has to do with the Romance genre at large. That is like picking a thriller book and finding something offensive and then transferring that onto the whole genre.

I am a HUGE romance reader. I read 100's and 100's a year so I know a little of what I speak. I don't read Nora Roberts anymore, I don't like her books. I do like JD Robb and the In death series, which of course is also Nora Roberts, or so they tell me  ;D.

Roberts writes a lot of romantic suspense with brutality and murders, especially the stand alones.  I am not too big on that in my Romance novels.

So I don't really know what to say here as I haven't read that particular book so I can't speak to it and I still don't know what that has to do with the Romance genre.  ???

Reading on reviews of this book on sites including romance sites, I can't find anything about homophobia.

Maybe someone that read the book all the way through, not skimmed maybe can make a comment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You sound annoyed. I acknowledged that it's generally not cool to make generalizations based on one experience (in pretty much any realm of life, actually!), which is why I was asking a question based on that one example that, again, seems really egregious to me, and doesn't come from just ANY romance writer, it comes from the writer who, as I understand it, is widely acknowledged to be a dominant force in the genre. In other words, it's not a typical example.
Another reason I ask is because I don't really see the point in reading through this entire book if it's just going to be incredibly upsetting the whole way through. I've had to live through pretty awful examples of homophobia in my life, I dont want to read about it in this particular book, or in any other books in the genre. I just dont need to go back there. In many, MANY other threads, other commenters have said they appreciate warnings or heads up about graphic violence, or explicit sex scenes, or whatever, and people seem fine with that. My trigger is virulent homophobia. (Ruined Heinlen for me, too.) It is not unreasonable to ask if this is generally accepted in a genre, or at least tolerated, if it appears to be considered acceptable coming from the dominant writer in the genre, who is generally credited with recreating the genre itself. Anyway, I'd like to know before I blindly wade in any further. (Romance wouldn't be the first genre with this issue, or related issues, or, I imagine, the last. There's a whole lot of SF/F, from a particular time period, that is pretty awful about women.

Atunah said:
Shouldn't your thread be more about discussion one specific book you read, or should I say, skimmed and had issues with? I guess I don't get what any of this has to do with the Romance genre at large. That is like picking a thriller book and finding something offensive and then transferring that onto the whole genre.

I am a HUGE romance reader. I read 100's and 100's a year so I know a little of what I speak. I don't read Nora Roberts anymore, I don't like her books. I do like JD Robb and the In death series, which of course is also Nora Roberts, or so they tell me ;D.

Roberts writes a lot of romantic suspense with brutality and murders, especially the stand alones. I am not too big on that in my Romance novels.

So I don't really know what to say here as I haven't read that particular book so I can't speak to it and I still don't know what that has to do with the Romance genre. ???

Reading on reviews of this book on sites including romance sites, I can't find anything about homophobia.

Maybe someone that read the book all the way through, not skimmed maybe can make a comment.
 

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I agree with Atunah, you're judging the whole genre off one or two books??? I think you need to target those books, not the genre. Homophobia is not a running theme through all romance books...or all romantic suspense books.

And I'm not a reading fan of Nora Roberts, I don't care for her style of writing, but I respect the heck out of her. I think she'd done more for romance than any other writer and I have read some of her books and none of them have been homophobic.
 

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Annoyed? Why would I be annoyed.  :D Seems that you have some issues with this book, based on not actually reading the book but skimming it.

Again, you lost me. I am not really sure what it is you want to hear. I have not found anything on the sites I looked about this specific book that says anything like you think is going on. I also don't consider Nora Roberts the end all or the Queen of romance. *shrugs.

I guess I am just befuddled at the reason for your post. Are you trying to get a conversation going about perceived homophobia in literature in general? Then why put it all on Romance. Just talk about specific books where you came across it and open a discussion.

???



 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
NO. I am very explicitly NOT doing that. Im asking if this is something I'm likely to run into with some frequency, given that it seems casually present in at least one book written by an authority in the genre. That does not mean I think it is likely to be a genre-wide theme. Accepted or tolerated or frequent are not the same as thematic.
It might just be one book, it might just be one author who has a lot of power,* it might be more. It might just be books published more than 20 years ago. That is why I am asking. It happens to be something that affects me really deeply, and after looking around a little and finding some discouraging commentary, I'd like to know if I can expect more of the same if I keep exploring the genre.**

Responses so far indicate that the respondents are of the opinion that no, I would not. I'm not judging the genre one way or the other, nor am I judging readers of the genre. I was asking for help and information from people who are knowledgable, because it's a genre I haven't read deeply in (I didn't have the same exposure to it growing up as I did to others), and I was doing it in good faith. I asked specifically about Romance because that's the genre I'm currently exploring, and because I already know to look out for stuff in other genres. And also, honestly, because I was shocked. I have a different set of expectations for books written after...well, actually, I guess 1990 might be the cut off. The US has changed a lot since then. But I guess I also apply those different set of standards to authors who are still writing. Finally, Romance is the only genre that is actually defined by romantic relationships. You'd expect issues surrounding romantic relationships, like homosexuality and homophobia, to come up more frequently in Romance than in any other genre.

*Apparently there was one really powerful editor of SF stuff in the 60s who really shaped a lot of the SF that was written then in this way. I gotta try to remember details.
**Seriously, it affects me.
 

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I think you should read at least a few more romance books before you come to any conclusions about the genre as a whole and whether you like it or not.

Romance has changed a whole lot over the years. What was acceptable in the 70's (bodice ripping heroes and heroines who fell in love with them) wasn't later. Romance became very PC in the 90's. In the 2000's the subgenre's hit: paranormal, gay, steampunk, sci-fi, inspirational, etc.

I'm not aware of any homophobic trend in romance. I don't read Nora Roberts. When I tried her, the stories and characters don't work for me, partly, perhaps, because I'm not much into romantic suspense. As a writer I admire her tremendously.

It may be that you should move on to another author. Since you liked Courtney Milan (who writes historical), why not go for some more of that? Her critique partner, Tessa Dare, has been prolific and written many highly regarded books. There's Sherry Thomas, who won the Rita (the Oscar of romance) last night for HIS AT NIGHT. You could try Marsha Canham who is republishing her backlist on the Kindle for very reasonable prices and who posts here on the boards. You could try Barbara Samuel who is also pubbing her backlist for reasonable.

The thing about romance is that it's HUGE. If you keep reading you will find a great variety style and themes and quality too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Gina Black said:
I think you should read at least a few more romance books before you come to any conclusions about the genre as a whole and whether you like it or not.
I don't know if we cross posted, but I thought I addressed this above. If I didn't...well, I don't know how else to put it. I was not coming to conclusions, I was asking valid questions, for my own well being.

Thank you sincerely for the suggestions quoted below (I hope I kept the formatting...). I'm going to try them out.

Romance has changed a whole lot over the years. What was acceptable in the 70's (bodice ripping heroes and heroines who fell in love with them) wasn't later. Romance became very PC in the 90's. In the 2000's the subgenre's hit: paranormal, gay, steampunk, sci-fi, inspirational, etc.

I'm not aware of any homophobic trend in romance. I don't read Nora Roberts. When I tried her, the stories and characters don't work for me, partly, perhaps, because I'm not much into romantic suspense. As a writer I admire her tremendously.

It may be that you should move on to another author. Since you liked Courtney Milan (who writes historical), why not go for some more of that? Her critique partner, Tessa Dare, has been prolific and written many highly regarded books. There's Sherry Thomas, who won the Rita (the Oscar of romance) last night for HIS AT NIGHT. You could try Marsha Canham who is republishing her backlist on the Kindle for very reasonable prices and who posts here on the boards. You could try Barbara Samuel who is also pubbing her backlist for reasonable.

The thing about romance is that it's HUGE. If you keep reading you will find a great variety style and themes and quality too.
 

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I second Gina's statement. Romance, especially the more modern stuff, is extremely varied with scenarios to suit just about any taste. It all depends on your preferences. Myself, I love paranormal romance with larger than life heroes  ;D
 

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I was wondering about this attack on Nora Roberts book Carnal Innocence so I decided to read it to see it there was any validity to the charge. As I said previously I've read a lot of her books and don't recall ever coming across what I would consider homophobia. A couple of pages in things started to seem familiar and I realized that I had already read it.

Carnal Innocence is a book with a lot happening. There's a murder mystery, some suspense with a rather insane and violent man out to get revenge for imagined injustices in the past, and a romance between the two main characters. The insane violent man makes a couple of anti homosexual comments, but they are just part of him hating just about everything that moves and nobody considers him to be someone who's opinions should be taken seriously. There are no characters in the book identified as being homosexual.

In conclusion, my opinion is that it's a great book, well written with good character development, involved and believable subplots galore, and the charge of homophobia is completely false.
 

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Hi, Genevieve :)
Firstly - I'm very sorry that you had to go through something that, from what you've said, still causes you mental anguish.

As to the romance genre - I don't think it's a common theme at all. I'm racking my brains and can't come up with a single example, though that doesn't necessarily mean anything - there's a heck of a lot of romance books out there ;) I'll also say that I don't care for Nora Roberts, either. Tried her once, wasn't my cuppa, moved on. Anyway, it's been my experience that most romance authors don't really make a to-do about homosexuality. I do know of one author, Stephanie Bond, who has a gay supporting character who recurs throughout several books. His name is Manny, and he is awesome :)

A couple that feature Manny:

And I just saw the price - $2.59. Can't beat that.


Also for cheap - $2.52

Anyway, hope this helps. Again - I don't think it's a recurring theme in romance. That's not to say you wont' come across the occasional book where it's a sub-plot, or an occasional author with an axe to grind, but by and large you should be okay.
 

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I read a fantasy novel where the MC had sex with a bear. Well, I think she had sex with a bear. I googled around a bit and some people also think she had sex with a bear, and other people think she didn't really because it was an enchanted guy so it was more like sex with a guy in a bear suit. And other people say she didn't really have sex, but it seems to me there was bear sex, I'm not really sure I skimmed that part, but google had lots of hits about it, so I'm pretty sure that's what it was about. But this is really disturbing to me because, you know animals can't consent? Although bears are pretty big, so maybe I'm misinterpreting the whole nonconsensual bestiality thing. But what I really want to know is, whether or not bestiality (or at least raping bears) is a general theme in Fantasy, because I've never really read it, and this book is listed as kind of important and influential, and I really don't want to read a genre that includes lots of bear rape, which I find to be very disturbing.
 

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;) (sorry, hit enter, then wandered off to deal with doggies.)

Point is, you can find examples of anything in any genre. It doesn't necessarily make it a feature of that genre. For instance - Ender's Game is widely accused of being rampantly homophobic. He names the "invading" species "Buggers." But they're not really invaders, humans launch a preemptive strike against them for the good of humanity. OSC has written extensively on the evils of homosexuality and its incompatibility with faith-based living (in particular LDS, of course.) That doesn't make all sci-fi homophobic, although in a genre written mostly by men, and popularized in the 50s and 60s through pulps and trade magazines, you do see a fair bit of it especially in older works, either explicitly or implicitly.

Ditto Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. Book 2 has one gay character,
which she kills off
, and two gay vampire pedophiles (because everyone knows all gays must also be pedophiles, right? ::)) Fortunately Ball ditched that particular storyline for the True Blood series. But this is not representative of all Paranoromal Romance, or of Fantasy, which is rather more likely, at least in modern contributions, to be less gender-biased.
 

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StaceyHH said:
I read a fantasy novel where the MC had sex with a bear. Well, I think she had sex with a bear. I googled around a bit and some people also think she had sex with a bear, and other people think she didn't really because it was an enchanted guy so it was more like sex with a guy in a bear suit. And other people say she didn't really have sex, but it seems to me there was bear sex, I'm not really sure I skimmed that part, but google had lots of hits about it, so I'm pretty sure that's what it was about. But this is really disturbing to me because, you know animals can't consent? Although bears are pretty big, so maybe I'm misinterpreting the whole nonconsensual bestiality thing. But what I really want to know is, whether or not bestiality (or at least raping bears) is a general theme in Fantasy, because I've never really read it, and this book is listed as kind of important and influential, and I really don't want to read a genre that includes lots of bear rape, which I find to be very disturbing.
OMG, this just cracked me up.
Thanks for the laugh. ;D
 

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OMG, I love the Bear Sex! We need more Bear Sex in all novels!

No, Norah Roberts is not homophobic as far as I know, I've never noticed it in her works. No, romancelandia is not homophobic either, often quite the opposite (Alex Beecroft anyone?)

Yes, there are incredible writers in Romance, just like in any other genre (I'm always surprised when people automatically think that romance writers must be really bad... just like any other genre there are some poor ones but some truly great ones as well).
 
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