Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Politics in Romance Novels and a Review of "Shameless" by New York Times BestSelling Author Jennifer Blake

Romance novels, for me, and for many readers, are a form of escapism.  We read to forget about our own lives and to retreat into a place much unlike the world around us, to read about people and places unfamiliar to us, about different times in history, a setting strange and unfamiliar.  Yet, at the same time, we take comfort in reading about characters who are easy to relate to, characters who, in some way, or perhaps in many ways, remind us of ourselves.  We enjoy the differences had between hero and heroine and we love watching how those differences create tension, tension that often fuels passion and leads to a very gratifying love scene, or three, or four.  To appreciate the differences between characters, we as readers and authors alike recognize that people are the result of a unique set of circumstances and experiences, physical, scientific, emotional and spiritual.  Where we grow up, who we come to know and what we're told throughout our lives plays a role in who we become as individuals.  Political beliefs often play a part in that.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I dislike discussing politics.  Particularly at a time in American history where the slightest mention of politics seems to spur an intense reaction in people, I aim to avoid the topic whenever possible.  Growing up, I had no interest in politics and when my parents had news on the TV I often left the room, and still do.  But as I was reading Shameless by Jennifer Blake, a romance novel published in 1994 in which Ms. Blake uses a political theme to shape her characters, I was reminded of the fact that, to truly understand our characters we must delve into all aspects of who they are, even those that make us uncomfortable.  As writers, we often hear such advice given, and as it's suggested, we might say, "Of course!  I know that!" as we writers know that we must reach a deep, understanding of  everything that has happened in a character's past that made him who he is today.  But, do we really delve as deep as we can?  Or are there certain things we shy away from without even realizing it?

When I was in college, I took a course in play-writing.  Though I'd be writing in some form or another all my life, it was some of the most formal education I'd ever received on the subject and one of the things I found most interesting about the class was that the teacher would have us "act out" our plays aloud, with our peers, the writers choosing who would recite the play's various roles.  Clearly, this practice enabled the writer to see how her play might sound if it was being acted out by real actors.  But what I actually learned from this experience was not to be shy with regard to what I wrote down on paper.  As I was often given roles to recite, and the content of the plays written by my peers was typically controversial and promiscuous, I let go of my embarrassment and learned not to hold back, for the sake of a story.  In turn, I developed somewhat of a political theme myself in my recent release, An Amorous Dance, as a war wages between theater-owner Hannah Rabourn and stage director Evan Masters, both of whom believe themselves to be the justified party in their battle for control of Rabourn Theater.  Jennifer Blake does something similar in Shameless as hero Reid Sayers and heroine Cammie Greenley fight each other for control of a mill, and the development of the land they both love.  I will admit that while Ms. Blake has created a story in which the politics of her characters closely correlates with the American politics we're all familiar with, I crafted a unique set of rules more specific to my story and characters, perhaps, intentionally choosing not to go there, or for my characters to go there either.

Stories like An Amorous Dance can surely be read between the lines.  And while I would encourage fellow authors to be as brave with regard to crafting their stories and characters as they possibly can, it isn't the only way.  As the author, it is your job to determine the most interesting way to tell your story.  As readers, we seek to find the stories that bring us the most entertainment and joy.  Many of us have been reading our whole lives, and we know what we enjoy reading most time and time again. Though, I strongly encourage you to never stop sampling the works of new authors, no matter what set of rules they choose to follow.  In many cases, the authors I love most were introduced to me as a total surprise!





My Review of Shameless by Jennifer Blake: (Contains Spoilers) 



I've greatly enjoyed Jennifer's Blake's stories in the past and will continue to read as many as I can get my hands on in the future.  Shameless gripped me from the initial pages--Blake placed a love scene early on in the story, which both drew me in and introduced the passion between heroine Cammie Greenley and hero Reid Sayers right up front.  I really like when an author can shake-up the traditional romance novel structure and still keep things interesting.  This book moved a bit slow for me, but the intrigue was there--the characters were strong and I was rooting for them all the way!

Jennifer Blake introduces a political angle in this title, which I found very interesting, even reading the story 13 years after it was originally published.  Many of this author's titles are historical, whereas this one is a contemporary, set in Ms. Blake's favorite setting of Louisiana.  Not a lot has changed since this story was written from where I am standing, but I enjoyed taking a little trip back in time with this book which is filled with beautiful prose and detailed descriptions - Jennifer Blake does these better than any author I know!

Though the premise is a bit corny, and the drama overly-intense at times, I greatly enjoyed this story, which centers around something of a triangle as Cammie battles her abusive ex-husband for control of her life while falling in love all over again with the man she grew up beside who never got away from her.  It takes a bit of doing to get there, but the end is very satisfying!        



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2 comments:

  1. I love reading some of the "older" romances, too. Good review, I'll have to check this one out.

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    1. It's an interesting story for sure! Enjoy it!

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