A Spoon Full of Fragging: or, Video Games and Romance Novels Did Not Ruin Me

A few years ago, if you had asked me, I would have never admitted to reading romance novels to just anyone. It was a kind of special knowledge I kept to myself for the most part, though it wouldn't have been very hard to figure out. I used to look for the clues in other people that I knew were written upon my own person: That person who knows just a little too much or a little too well the geography or importance of geography of Victorian London...Anyone who is not British who can tell you exactly what "White's" is or why Gretna Green is so very importantly situated...Someone who reads their book with the cover buried in their lap despite the distance of the book to the actual eyes.

A classical portrayal of a Romance Novel reader...see the demon librarian on the bottom left? What about the one crouched on her headboard? It's true...we all read naked. It enhances the devil-worship when you're reading about women starting their own businesses.

We're all a bunch of closeted and cloistered folk. I speak in generalities, but it is, as Ms. Austen put it, universally acknowledged by most of us.

There are, of course, a few more socially acceptable romance authors that people can admit to reading--the kind of author you'd find in target. Diana Gabaldon, Nora Roberts, and, of course, Stephanie Meyer (though she sure gets her share of flack) are a few. These you can get away with reading in public because they're the sort of Dan Browns and Tom Clancys of their genre. Gabaldon of course writes giant tomes of books with serious looking covers and lots of history, so she generally gets a pass for the "respectability" of her work.

So what changed?

Well, for starters, I met my best friend in Grad school and we read the clues I was talking about. We began to think and question...how could two highly educated women love reading the same kinds of books that the majority of the rest of the world dismissed as dangerous and trashy?

A very smart and important woman in my life told me when I most needed to hear it (during the romance reading guilt-ridden teenage years) that there is nothing wrong with reading romance novels as long as you read them smartly. It took me years to understand what she was saying. She wasn't really saying "Don't read these books unless you know it's all a sham and a lie!" She was saying read these books the way you'd read any other--with an eye for their humanity and artistry.

A common misconception among those who don't read romance novels is that they are fully of smutty tripe with no real value at all. In reality, the complete opposite is true. Romance novel writers fill their pages with intelligent research on everything from european history to politics to farming methods and plant biology. Many romance novel writers are educated women with a vast array of degrees to include Masters degrees in Literature, Philosophy, Public Administration, History, and Health Care. These women have to be educated because their readers are. Romance novel readers are infamous for calling authors on their inaccuracies or anachronisms. They will write in by the droves to argue about emotional consistency of characters and the plausibility of questionable plot devices. Simply, a romance novel must speak to its readers by being an educated product that offers something more than sex and some pretty truisms.

Sure, there are a lot of those novels, too. But you'll find they are cheap, plentiful, and easily discarded in the donation piles to Goodwill. You'll also find that a romance novel reader will make fun of those books just as much as a non-romance novel reader. She'll sometimes read them, too, but that's because a romance novel reader is voracious for more to read and the writers often can't keep up with the demand.

About the same time I was guilt-ridden for reading romance novels as a teen, a wave of the anti-video game movement was happening post-Columbine. People were scared about how to protect their children, themselves, and their friends. Who should be blamed? A lot of people blamed video games. They blamed the violence of the video games and the availability. The questionable morality of violent games caused a great movement against them. Here's the problem: at the same time I was reading Johanna Lindsey novels, I and lot of other well-adjusted kids were playing Halo and fragging our gaming partners for fun (or at least I was, giggling the angrier my cousin became when I blew her up in the jeep because I was bored with driving around). Did these video games make me dangerous and violent? Not really. I have to leave the room if Wife Swap comes on because their fighting bothers me too much.

So the question circles back to this: do romance novels ruin girls? I have to say no, they don't. They are, of course, potentially dangerous, but so is a bathtub if you're not careful (no seriously, I almost killed myself slipping in a tub one time--very traumatic). The truth is, if anything, a romance novel in the hands of an educated, not shamed reader can be the opposite of dangerous. By large, readers of romance novels are more likely to identify with heroines who respect themselves. They will look for partners who will do the same, recognizing their own value and the value of intimacy. They are more likely to do well in school (do you have any idea how many SAT words are in most romance novels) and to go to college because they want to and not because they think they should. In general, studies have shown that reading ANYTHING improves a child's facility with language and critical thinking. I have to tell you, the people I knew who read in high school versus the people who didn't...well, let's just say the ones who read are sitting pretty at the moment (or as pretty as they can).

Mary Poppins explains the birds and the bees:
"Why no, my dear...Jimmy doesn't love you. He's just saying that so that he can do five-second push-ups. Here dear...read this Judith McNaught."

Think of it this way--Mary Poppins said "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." How do you want to talk to your kids about their emerging sexuality, respecting their bodies and minds, and the importance of sexual intimacy over sexual exploration? Might I suggest a Lynsay Sands or perhaps a Julie Garwood?

-April (Originally Posted on June 16, 2012)

Map Me: Christine Feehan, Or What to Read Next

I know I talk about Feehan a lot, but there's a lot to be said for her (when she leaves the leopards alone...they're like her kryptonite--case in point Dark Symphony and the whole slew of De La Cruz brothers). She's an interesting author and many of her characters are just unforgettable. Jacques will forever be one of my favorites. Yes, I know he's crazy (no, like really crazy...like straight jacket crazy)...but what is the romance genre if it's not women taming and fixing some men? Problematic? Yes. Enjoyable? Of course.

I'm just getting started on Feehan who I am lovingly loyal to, so look for more editorials and reviews on her work coming soon.

In my Map Me guide, you can easily find each family as they are color-coded. The books are numbered both in the chart and on a separate list, so have at it, folks. You can find just the reading order here...

Get the Dark Ones straight in your head (so you can keep reading!) Circa 2012



1. Dark Prince     [Review Coming Soon]

2. Dark Desire     [Review Coming Soon]

3. Dark Gold        [Review Coming Soon]

4. Dark Magic     [Review Coming Soon]

5. Dark Challenge         [Review Coming Soon]

6. Dark Fire            [Review Coming Soon]

7. Dark Dream      [Review Coming Soon]

8. Dark Legend     [Review Coming Soon]

9. Dark Guardian         [Review Coming Soon]

10. Dark Symphony       [Review Coming Soon]

11. Dark Descent          [Review Coming Soon]

12. Dark Melody         [Review Coming Soon]

13. Dark Destiny       [Review Coming Soon]

14. Dark Hunger      [Review Coming Soon]

15. Dark Secret         [Review Coming Soon]

16. Dark Demon         [Review Coming Soon]

17. Dark Celebration           [Review Coming Soon]

18. Dark Possession         [Review Coming Soon]

19. Dark Curse              [Review Coming Soon]

20. Dark Slayer            [Review Coming Soon]

21. Dark Peril            [Review Coming Soon]

22. Dark Predator            [Read Review HERE]

23. Dark Storm            [Review Coming Soon]

24. Dark Lycan            [Review Coming Soon]

25. Dark Wolf            [Review Coming Soon]

26. Dark Blood            [Review Coming Soon]

27. Dark Ghost            [Review Coming Soon]

Christine Feehan's Dark Predator: The Return of the Broken Man

If you're a reader of the series before this (and you should be just for the sake of recognizing the names and history that gets tossed about, though not enough to confuse a new reader), and you miss stories about an incredibly broken man like Jacques (Dark Desire)...well, look no further my friends. Zacarias is the kind of character you never knew you wanted to read about. He is superficially an overbearing, dominant male, but, like all good romance heroes, he is in fact more concerned with the woman he loves and how she feels about him than his own ego or needs. 


Well...after a few impressive explosions of vampire-alpha-male behavior that, let's face it, is incredibly attractive from a distance and with the assurance inherent in Feehan's style that he is not, in fact, a crazy abusive misogynist.

A few words about Marguarita: I saw it coming. Marguarita is a character introduced in the previous book who is ultimately silenced by a vampire attack (literally). She's an incredibly interesting character because of her willingness to passively accept Zacarias while still resisting his more dominant tendencies. This is not a case of a "Stand By Your Man" as much as a "let me heal this poor broken vampire." Feehan's best heroes are the ones that are seemingly broken beyond repair.

However, if you're looking for a massive plot advancement in the larger narrative...not quite yet. Though there does seem to be some promising leads to the next book or two or four. Sorry folks, nothing about Demetri and Skylar in this one. Also, there is no big De La Cruz Brother reunion, but you do get a nice little visit with Dominic and Solange.

Now, on to some real problems. As an educated reader, I think it's easy to make the leap from silenced woman and broken alpha male to a metaphor for the majority of relationships where men and women often find themselves navigating old-fashioned narratives they're not even aware they're following. Zacarias is better than some--not particularly violent or enjoying violence beyond his alpha-crazy moments--, but he is still quite broken. Feehan writes Zacarias as a character who has inherited an unending absence of color and emotions without his lifemate's actual physical presence. Whether or not she recognizes the metaphor (I like to think she does as a a woman who is aware enough to craft a world around the idea of the emotional and physical divide between men and women), she's very much creating a story in this book about the Austenian male/female emotion/logic trope. For Feehan, this manifests as a man who cannot feel without his other half and a woman who cannot speak without his blood and voice--really it amounts to the same thing. The problem here is not the message. Well, it's not entirely the problem.

The problem is that most readers can't, don't, or won't perceive the subtlety of this novel or any of her novels. Where her discussion of endagered species is hard to miss (we get relatively beat over the head with lavish and long descriptions of rainforests and disappearing/rare animals), her exploration of gender roles as narratives we follow from our culture and families is easy to be lost in genre. Still, I for one am glad to see the broken man's return. I like a little crazy with my devotion...from the comfort of my couch that is.

(Originally Published on bookswithbenefits.com on May 26, 2012)


Dark Predator (Carpathian)
By Christine Feehan
Source: http://www.christinefeehan.com/dark_predat...

Welcome to the New Books With Benefits Press

Welcome to the New BWB Press. If you're familiar with Books With Benefits or Books With Benefits Press, you've come to the right place! We're now one new and improved site!

In the future, here's what you have to look forward to:


Love and Sunshine,


  • Reviews
  • Interviews
  • How-To Guides
  • Workshops
  • Editorials
  • Podcasts
  • Industry News
  • Romance Industry Fun and Craziness (and the occasional Cat-oriented post)

As we go forward, we'd love to hear what you have to say about our new and old posts alike.


Romantic Escapades: The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville

Welcome back to Romantic Escapades! Today I am delighted to give you a review of the first book in Miranda Neville’s The Wild Quartet series. I was lucky enough to receive The Importance of Being Wicked at RWA 2014, and have it signed by none other than Miranda herself! I proceeded to stalk her on Twitter (in the most non-creepy possible), and she is as full of vivacity and good humor as her characters. Let’s dive in!

The rules of society don’t apply to Caro and her coterie of bold men and daring women. But when passions flare, even the strongest will surrender to the law of love…

Thomas, Duke of Castleton, has every intention of wedding a prim and proper heiress. That is, until he sets eyes on the heiress’s cousin, easily the least proper woman he’s ever met. His devotion to family duty is no defense against the red-headed vixen whose greatest asset seems to be a talent for trouble…

Caroline Townsend has no patience for the oh-so-suitable (and boring) men of the ton. So when the handsome but stuffy duke arrives at her doorstep, she decides to put him to the test. But her scandalous exploits awaken a desire in Thomas he never knew he had. Suddenly Caro finds herself falling for this most proper duke…while Thomas discovers there’s a great deal of fun in a little bit of wickedness.

This is the first of a four book series centered around a group of badly behaved late-Georgian art collectors.

Thoughts from a newbie:

I can list so many things about The Importance of Being Wicked that make it a delightful read. It’s well-written, well-researched, filled to the brim with larger than life characters that you’re dying to see more of. But if you’re a sucker for historical romance like me, it’s what sets the book apart from the rest of its genre that makes it memorable. In the case of Importance, it is the two leading characters and their chemistry that really take your breath away.

The story is delightfully character-driven. You are introduced to the characters that will populate the rest of the series by a protagonist who is wildly different from common historical romance heroines. Caro Townsend is quick-witted, sassy,  and undeniably flawed. She elopes with her late husband in a fit of youthful fancy and defiance, and in the following years never really grows out of that rebelliousness. When her husband passes away and leaves her mired in gambling debt, she is forced to fake it ’til she makes it, and many times takes it too far. She’s vivacious, adventurous, reckless, and proud. But despite traits that may be unappealing at first, you’re inevitably drawn to Caro and her unapologetic ferocity. She’s a heroine you can stand behind. You want her to be happy. You get her.

Another aspect of the book that keeps you on your toes is that you get to watch Caro and Thomas develop together, both as individuals and as a unified existence. Caro is a whirlwind to be reckoned with, and Thomas is basically a wall. Instead of canceling each other out, the two characters amplify each other in the most organic ways. They grow and mature just as a couple naturally would, and seeing these subtle changes is what makes the journey fantastic.

If you’re hankerin’ for a solid historical romance that’s full of pleasant surprises, I highly recommend picking up The Importance of Being Wicked!

Interested in picking up The Importance of Being Wicked for yourself, or a fellow romance newbie?

Amazon | B&N

Follow author Miranda Neville

Website | Blog | Twitter

What are Romantic Escapades? After a whirlwind affair with RWA14 in San Antonio, BwB graphic designer and reviewer Janice decided to cannonball into the romance world, blindfolded and totally not dressed for this. She will review a book from her Romance for Newbies Kit (put together by the fantastic April O), which includes authors to satisfy the appetites of all romance beginners, such as Julie Garwood, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, J.R. Ward, Sally MacKenzie, and much more. Janice’s Romantic Escapades will be a crash course into the romance world, and for a girl who previously stuck solely to historical romance, the crash should be explosive indeed…

Author Interview: Bianca D'Arc, "Jacob's Ladder" & "Her Warriors"

We cannot be more excited to have Bianca D'Arc with us today for an exclusive Halloween author interview! Author of more than 60 paranormal books and novellas, Bianca's stories center around menage story lines and are filled with every creature of the night imaginable, ranging "from the steamy to the downright scandalous." If you have a taste for shifters and vampires, you'll be more than satisfied with Bianca's books! Happy Halloween!

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