Dangerous Men And Adventurous Women: Romance Writers On The Appeal Of Romance, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz
This book is the example of authors seeking to legitimize their work and in the process making it more deeply but also more openly problematic. My own familiarity with genre fiction, including romance fiction, is fairly well known and probably somewhat amusing to many people . This book takes square aim at those who believe that there is nothing substantial or notable about romance fiction despite its popularity, and in proving that there is, it merely proves that there is something deeply dark and unpleasant in women’s fiction. I’m not sure that was the intent that was in mind–this book is written in short chapters and sort of assumes that it is written to fellow women who are either already in on the matter or would do well to be, and few men are likely to be reading this book or giving it the sort of critical reading that I have. Those men who do read this book are likely not to find it to be all that enjoyable as a read, as this book is pretty openly and relentlessly written from a female perspective in ways that are contradictory and generally repellent.
About twenty essays fill this book of less than two-hundred pages, and given the amount of biographical information included about each essayist, one can imagine that these essays are fairly small and for the most part relatively undemanding on readers. That is not to say that the essays are not revealing, though, as they discuss issues from the androgyny of the reader, who is asked to identify with both the male and female character of the romance plot, the mythic importance of the romance novel that takes advantage of the sacred feminine and common dualistic views of nature that go back to heathen religions, and the subversion of masculine power by showing female sexuality to be a greater power. Even the common trope of virginity is used to look at the power of female agency in choosing a worthy male lover. I cannot promise that a reader will like this book–I found much to dislike–but there is no question that the writers of these essays take romance literature very seriously and are intent on showing its involvement with the sacred feminine and with the larger body of mythic and religious writing.
Ultimately, it was the attempt of many of these authors to crown their romance writing with glory by appealing to heathen religious thought and practices that ultimately bothered me the most about this book. Romance in general is a genre where women triumph over men by showing them that developing intimacy is ultimately better than the dark visions that many men (and women) are drawn to as a result of life in a fallen world. Yet I am extremely hostile to the praise of vestal virgins and heathen myths that populate the master plots of the romance genre. Many of these writers have read too much in the way of Joseph Campbell and others of his ilk and do not understand that a massive part of romance literature deals with Christian romance and includes readers (and likely authors) who are quite hostile to the viewpoint expressed here. The fact that the writers rather openly consider their writing to be palliative and escapist and have no particular desire to make the world less intolerable for those people who would be drawn to escapist literature is somewhat disappointing as well. This is not a bad book–to be sure, it is a worthwhile book one should read to get a feel for the deeper roots and worldview of romance literature, but that does not mean that this book wins over its readers in the way its authors might have wished.
 See, for example: