Welcome to the Nickel Nasties series! In celebration of my first scathing Amazon review for A Ranger's Tale (1 in 58 ain't bad), I've decided to devote February to the stories that garner so much stereotype and ridicule, but still comprise one of the world's best-selling genres: ROMANCE! I hope you'll enjoy this series. Please leave comments for the wonderful contributors. And...don't forget to check out their books!
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Captive Passions – I still recall the title. Elegant red lettering graced the book’s lurid cover, featuring a heroine with heaving cleavage and a hero with sculpted pecs. I discovered the book while babysitting. The kids were in bed. TV was boring. My homework was done. I was far too young to be reading a book like that, which is exactly why I chose it.
The story opened on a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, time period late 1600s to early 1700s, carrying two passengers - sisters, virginal Spanish beauties. Saintly Maria, the elder, was betrothed, sight unseen, to a Dutch shipping magnate. Saucy Sirena was the dowry’s door prize.
And then: PIRATES! They abused and murdered pious Maria. But fate intervened for the sinful Sirena, some sort of a rescue or, perhaps, a storm. Regardless, she arrived on the island, traumatized and believing her sister’s fiancée to be the villain behind the pirates’ attack.
Delivered to the Dutchman’s house, Sirena pretended to be the promised bride and wed Rhys, the blond, handsome, lusty, domineering businessman, even as she plotted revenge. She created a secret double life, as Sirena, demure wife, and the Sea Siren, a sword-wielding Pirate Captainess, hell-bent on ruining her husband. Retribution was complicated by the lust that seized her in Rhys’ presence. Sex ensued, far more graphic than I should have been reading at that age. I loved it!
There was a scheming blowsy blonde slut and an oily, sexy Spaniard, for color and plot complications. Lust turned to love. Misunderstandings cleared up. The true villain and villainess were exposed and destroyed - by a wonderfully Freudian volcanic eruption that sent them to a fiery doom, leaving our lovers alive, together, grateful - and mostly naked.
I was hooked. I indulged my guilty pleasure on the sly. My best friend’s mom was a Harlequin junkie, making it easy to obtain books on the down-low. But over time, I developed a snobby attitude about the genre. Romances were clichéd, the women poor role models, the endings unrealistic. Who lived happily ever after, after all?
But a few years back, the stars realigned. I started writing. I got an e-reader. I had a mid-life crisis, consisting of an obsession with a certain sparkly vampire series.
Many writers I met - creative, talented individuals - wrote romance. The E-reader meant no naughty covers to out me to the literary snobs. The sparkly vampires? I plead the fifth. Let’s just say, I soon purchased an adult romance novel, then another, and another…you get the picture.
I discovered modern heroines were, well, modern. Sea Sirens, taking charge of their destinies. A heroine lived happily ever after, not because a man(or men), made her future perfect and easy, but because she made a choice to claim the future she wanted, and roll with what life threw at her.
So don’t hate the Nickel Nasties. Pick one up. Let it inspire you. Let it captivate you. And don’t forget your sword.
Cristina Rehn lives in the Schoharie Valley in upstate New York with her husband, who in true romance novel fashion, is her brother's best friend. Their daughter, two stalker cats, and Cristina's' mom, round out the household and keep it lively.
In addition to her full-time job and full-time family, she's working on polishing up her National Novel Writing Month 2012 Novel, a paranormal romance, in hopes of turning it into something readable. Her hobbies are writing and reading, and eking out as much solitude and silence as she can to do both. You can check out her writing and random musings at her oft-neglected blog, http://cristinarehn.blogspot.com/