Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alaska Romance Novel Project Innagural Edition

I have a shameful secret. I enjoy romance novels. Especially those taking place in Alaska. They are the Lady Steven Seagal of literature: overly serious, predictable, and unintentionally hilarious. I have a small, incomplete collection of thin volumes bursting with purple prose. Rather than hide my little habit Ima share it with you, internet.

I disagree with most of these books. The relationships are typically lopsided. The sexism is like, whoa, and getting knocked up is the ultimate goal. What really bothers me, however, is when the author gets little facts wrong. Like calling the trees in some fictional community on the Yukon River "Pine Trees." Yes, there are plot holes that you could drive a Bearing Sea Crabber through but it's the biological inaccuracy that drives me insane. So--any and all Romance Writers who want to include Alaska as a character--get it the eff right. There is a person Who Cares.

So. I'll start off with my little grading system that I will use to describe my key to romance novels. There are 3 types of the, um, intimacy in these books I will describe them as follows:

  • Graphic--There are anatomical terms described. Fluids are discussed. It happens more than once.
  • Swirlers--Physical contact is discussed in incredibly vague terms. Someone sees fireworks in a cloud of ecstasy.
  • Graphic Swirlers--No anatomical terms are described, but they are given hilarious euphemistic terms. *cough velvet sword cough*
There ya go. Now you know what kept my field partner and I in fits while staggering though miles of Tongass woods.

Without further ado, I want to present you with the book that started this whole bad-taste chapter in my otherwise highly tasteful life: Untamed Desire by Beth Brookes.

This #53 from a series called "Second Chance at Love" where women who have failed at relationships find an even better love later in life. (Later is early 30's.) There is a lot to make fun of this book from 1982, firmly entrenched in the Graphic Swirler category. The protagonist, Storm Reynolds, isn't really one of them.

Storm is a pilot. A good one. For all of the stupidity I've read in romance novels, it's still pretty great that this book from 1982 has a badass lead. (I stay away from early 80's books, unless they have Alaska in them, because of the awful rape/sexism/and general ickiness.) Aaaanyway, Storm arrives at Bradford Outfitters in Anchorage, AK to begin her new career as a bush pilot. She is fleeing some baggage, looking for her Second Chance At Love. Her new boss, Jim Talbot, is an asshole.

I don't mean in the "Ooohhhh he just needs understanding," as described in the book. He is a grade-A asshole and immediately makes Storm feel like garbage because he has baggage. (He is in need of a Second Chance At Love.) He is super-attracted to Storm but tells her that women shouldn't be pilots because his dead wife died being a pilot while pregnant with their child (spoiler). Therefore women Jim is attracted to shouldn't be pilots because piloting in bush Alaska is dangerous and Jim can't handle loosing another woman. Okay? Yes. Perfect sense.

Well, this outfitter specializes in moving chartered hunters/fishermen to remote areas for recreational killing purposes. They fly people from Seattle to Anchorage then out to little camps scattered around interior Alaska. Storm has to deal with the exact breed of entitled, visiting hunter that swarms the Greatland. A client can't keep his hands off her, she is an exceptionally hot redhead, and she smashes his hand with a clipboard. Awesome. Jim is upset that someone touched his "Untamed Storm Goddess." (A name he gives her when she fights with him about her fitness as a pilot.) I have no problem with the interactions between personalities here, but chartering from Seattle to Anchorage? Bullshit. Alaska Air was around there and they would have just taken a commercial flight to Anchorage.

Storm and Jim spend lots of time in various cockpits, bantering as people destined to be together obviously do. Storm gets mad and fights back like a woman with spine. Although it's a spine clothed in the worst 80's rayon shirts with attached bow tie. Jim admires her pluck and her willingness to put her head down, work, and not complain "like a woman would." Oh, but he riles her up with his holding her job above her head. She gets so riled that he can't help himself and grabs her about the shoulders and kisses away her anger with bruising, punishing kisses (urk).

Finally, the facade that Jim has constructed comes a-tumbling down when they have to medivac a kid. Arriving at Storms apartment during a rainstorm, he huddles on her couch and confesses his not-at-all predictable baggage about his dead wife who died. That levy broken, nothing can keep Storm and Jim apart except that this happens on page 94 of 183. More little hitches to this giddy up are in store for out lovers. Namely, Storm has to tell her ex husband to take a flying leap and realize She Matters and is Good Wife Material.

Because a woman is not complete until she can make some guy happy.

Oh, and they crash in a plane somewhere because of sabotage or something. But not before Storm enjoys a fine glass of Rose Wine on Jim's Polar Bear Rug of serious romancin' in front of a predictable fire. Nuthin' like pink wine on a dead animal that sez, "Woot! Sexy Alaska Time." After they crash, because of the sabotage not bad piloting, while waiting for rescue, Storm reveals she is teh preggers. Their tears of joy mingle as they embrace in a downed Aztec. (Plane, not ancient central-mexican culture.) Storm promises to stop flying when she's 6 months along to, "Keep [Jim] from worrying himself silly."

Isn't that nice? I know my tone is mocking but this book has a special place in my heart as the first Alaskan Romance I ever read.

I'm taking suggestions. I have a stack but if you have anything awesome in the Alaska-romance world, let me know.


  1. Oh man, that reminds me, I need to get started on "Love in XtraTufs." My ticket out of the FS for sure.

  2. Oh, you should totally write that. I think one about seasonals is in order too. Maybe we can have a collection of novellas?

  3. I speak as someone who is a) British + b) has never been nearer Alaska than Toronto, but o this post made me CRY laughing - absolutely genius. I loved a Silhouette romance back in the day + still cite Kathleen E Woodiwiss as one of my guilty pleasures but I am dying to hear further Northern Love reviews. Thank you.

  4. Curly! Hello and thank you for reading. I have a book of regency-era romance novels where kittens are the major plot points. I can only imagine what you British folks get up to.

    Your comment made my day, thank you.

  5. Believe me, you really don't want to know. More of the same bilge, actually. And, um, if you love the Regency era romance please tell me you have come across Georgette Heyer? Not even as louche as 'Swirler'. Her heroes are strong! Manly! Without exception misunderstood + wear their breeches a shade too snug-fitting. Absolute joy.

  6. I will be looking for Georgette, curly. (though since you're British I assume Fi is probably your name.) I love snug breeches! Especially if they get snugger around the heroine. Awesome.

  7. God bless the google-- your post is funny. I stumbled across it looking for a book the single girl in her 40s wouldn't vomit over... still haven't found one - but I love your taxonomy of romance novels.