Not being a full-time writer myself, I spend as much time as I can reading other writers in my genre not just to enjoy them, but to study them and figure out how things are trending. In contemporary romance, I’ve noticed that increasingly, writers are shortening or even getting rid of ‘the chase’. You know what I mean; that part of the romance arc where the woman resists, protests and runs away from the hero because she is just sooooo overwhelmed by the strength of the feelings he evokes? She wants him, badly. But it’s just too strong a feeling and it scares her. She wants to fall in love, but she resists because he arouses so much more than her emotions, he awakens her libido. And Lord knows, we can’t have that!
Fortunately, we seem to be getting rid of that crap.
Now when I read contemporary romance, I’ve noticed that the chase is a lot shorter. There may be some token resistance but it’s almost never motivated by the woman’s fear of her sexuality, it’s motivated by pride or competitiveness or arrogance, traits that are traditionally male traits in popular fiction. Now, by and large the female leads are now more in charge of and comfortable with their sexuality and tend to be pretty cool about putting an end to the chase on their terms and taking advantage of an opportunity to satisfy their sexual needs, not just provide satisfaction to the man.
Still, the converse is true in the new rash of BDSM romances. In those, the surrender, submission and giving in is dramatic and graphic. The traditional chase in those books is lengthened and the eventual surrender by the female protagonist is more dramatic as a result. That’s interesting in and of itself because it means that women surrendering has become so outside of the mainstream that it’s acceptable only in the context of an overtly dominant-submissive relationship (which has not yet completely achieved full mainstream acceptance).
By now you’ve probably figured out from this blog that I’m overly analytical, and many of you are rolling your eyes and going, “Oh for heaven’s sake, they’re just romance novels.” I disagree. I think novels, like movies and even like television commercials, are the real catalogs of our times, even more so than histories that get written later. So I’m paying close attention and hope you are too. Next time you read a contemporary romance and feel tempted to dismiss it as fluff, I would challenge you to look deeper . . . I think the key to what it all means may lie in the chase.