Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Meditation on Recent Series Romance Novel Titles

Today I took the opportunity to inspect the Romantic Times Book Review nominees for the best books of 2009. I thought "hey, I'll take a look at this list, and see how many of these I actually ordered. They're supposed to be the best of the best, right?" Somehow I got from that noble goal to where I am now. First of all [disclaimer], we don't order a lot of series romance.1 There's such a tremendous volume of paper published every month by Harlequin, Silhouette, and so forth that our modest paperback budget can't possibly keep up. However, Best Series Romance Novels 2009 caught my attention for another reason: titling. Often absurd titling. Out of the 83 titles listed on the page, I discerned some interesting themes, which I will attempt to enumerate here:

Children/Babies/Family: 10 ["by surprise": 2]
I was guessing that The Mistake She Made and Next Comes Love might have something to do with pregnancy, but a check of Harlequin SuperRomance proved me wrong. Just as well. I also think that the whole "by surprise" thing (i.e., The Doctor's Surprise Family) is very odd.
Tycoon/Millionaire/Billionaire/Playboy, etc.: 10
Men with money is always a popular theme. We had a discussion on Twitter2 the other day about how these wealthy people are all, inevitably, male. Even the Merriam-Webster definition of "tycoon" agrees. I did gather, though, that Greek men are remarkably wealthy (The Greek Millionaire's Secret Child and Powerful Greek, Unworldly Wife).
Christmas: 5
Always a crowd pleaser. Extra bonus: Always Valentine's Day and A Cold Creek Holiday
Cowboy/Cowgirl/Maverick: 5
Has there been any long-lasting McCain/Palin impact? Only time will tell.

There were a smattering of titles involving military men and/or rangers (4), and not as many as I expected dealing with weddings (4). There were three books having to do with a boss romance (again, presumably the boss is male), my favorite of which was The Boss's Inexperienced Secretary.

By favorite, I mean ironic favorite, because my main complaint with this list--a list that is presumably a compilation of the best that a certain genre has to offer during a particular year--is that the titles are terrible. I mean, The Boss's Inexperienced Secretary? That sounds like something I would have come up with in my course on Titling When You Only Know Bare Details About Plot. Also, the implications are kind of creepy. For a lot of the titles, it sounds as if the publisher or author (I'm not sure where to place the blame) took the stereotype of the male character and the stereotype of the female character and stuck them together. These are the kinds of titles that I hate the most, Powerful Greek, Unworldly Wife and The French Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress being outstanding examples. Looking ahead at the Harlequin Presents upcoming releases, this trend will (sadly) be continuing into the new year: Prince of Mont├ęz, Pregnant Mistress and Untamed Italian Blackmailed Innocent, anyone? And no, there was no comma in that last title. Why bother?

So, without more ado, here is my list of five favorite best/worst titles from the list:

5. The Frenchman's Plain-Jane Project. It just doesn't flow, people.
4. Memo: The Billionaire's Proposal. Experimenting with formatting, I like that!
3. Seduced into a Paper Marriage. I am imagining a paper house, paper car, paper bed . . .
2. More than a Man. I hesitate to ask in what way.
1. Anna Meets Her Match. Now this one I would actually read.

That was an exhausting review. I'm just going to take the edge off a little by reading my prized copy of The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl--once I figure out why it didn't make the "Best-Of" cut.

1I would like to say at this point that I am an unapologetic reader of romance novels, and that Harlequin has my name and address and sometimes sends me free stuff, some of which is even cool (note the title of the top left cover). Now those are some gripping titles. It's a pleasant habit I formed long ago, at the feet (or on the shelves) of my mother, and I quite enjoy it.

2Thanks again to @Tuphlos, for always posting the BEST book covers on Twitter. And thanks to @MrsFridayNext, for teaching me how to do HTML footnotes.

ETA: Go here for the sequel to this post.

Update: Apparently Canadian researchers are also tackling this important subject (thanks @jpetroroy).


Amanda said...

You'd think a doctor of all people wouldn't be surprised by a baby.

Also, I read a review of the Sheikh book. It sounds like it has all the so awful it's good features that make me like romance novels the way I like B horror movies.

Helgagrace said...

It's looking more and more like there is another post to be made out of the Historical Novel list. Stay tuned. :)

Betsy said...

/The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl/ -- I need this. I am 'collecting' (with every intent to read, someday when I have time) later versions of what EM Hull so terribly started in 1919 with /The Sheik/. Maybe there's an article in it... I already have a couple from the 1970s that the library secretary gave me from her garage-sale hauls and had already read (and gave me chapter-by-chapter details after lunch break every day, indicating that one of them is EXACTLY the same story as /The Sheik/).

Cassandra Mortmain said...

I don't know how I missed this back in December (stupid holidays) but I am glad you re-posted it on FB today. And what makes you think that the innocent being blackmailed isn't *also* untamed and Italian?

I mean, she must have done something people can blackmail her for, right?

Helgagrace said...

Updated to add link about Canadian researchers & their scholarly paper entitled: “The Texas Billionaire’s Pregnant Bride,” recently published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology.