Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Has modern life changed women's fantasies, and therefore... romance novels?

Stolen by Lucy Christopher is a Stockholm Syndrome romance and a valentine to the Australian outback.

 
Okay, perhaps it's not heartwarming. But Gemma does come to love her captor. Here's a synopsis: Gemma, a 16 year old Brit, is drugged and kidnapped from a Thai airport. Her self-absorbed business traveler parents aren't aware that she's been taken until it's too late. Ty, Gemma's captor, takes her to a rustic home he's built in the Australian outback for her. Ty has been planning this for a long time. He has been obsessed with Gemma since she was ten years old. But once Ty has Gemma to himself, he never lays a hand on her. Ty takes for granted that Gemma will eventually fall in love with him, and he waits for it to happen. Ty's revelations about Gemma's family and friends, and strange beauty of the outback, begin to win Gemma over. The story is told as a letter to Ty, written by Gemma after her ordeal with him has ended.

But let's talk about fantasies and wish fulfillment...


Lucy Christopher knows how to keep a reader on her toes. The dramatic tension is almost unbearable; I read the first 20 pages, then skimmed ahead to make sure nothing horrible or violent happened to Gemma. I didn't want to read that kind of book. Rest assured, this is not a story about rape. And while holding another person captive is wrong, I have to admit: I didn't like Gemma, so I didn't care much about what happened to her. There. I said it. I should probably stop reading YA fiction, because teenage characters rarely interest me.

Gemma is a flat character who exists simply to be kidnapped. She doesn't do anything, or like or care about anything, and that makes it hard for me to care about her. Ty is twisted, but he has passion and motivation. When he first meets Gemma, six years before the kidnapping, he is homeless. He works very hard to get his life together so he can build a home for the two of them. It's not right, but at least he undergoes a change. It makes him a more interesting character. I found myself being won over by Ty and the gorgeous, desolate, colorful place to which he'd brought Gemma. The landscape sounded so beautiful. As I read, I said to my boyfriend, "Let's go to Australia!" That didn't seem like the healthiest response to this story. And it made me wonder...

Has modern life has changed the nature of romance novels? I don't read a lot of romance novels, but I know they're about wish fulfillment.  Once upon a time, when most women stayed in the home and sex was more taboo, romance novels allowed women to vicariously enjoy sex without feeling guilty because he made me do it. But now sex is everywhere in pop culture, and women go to work every day. Have romance novels changed to fulfill a new wish to leave our responsibilities behind, without feeling any guilt, because he made me do it?

As I said before, I'm not very familiar with the genre, and maybe I'm wrong. But this idea interests me.

Do you read a lot of romance novels? Have you sensed this trend also?

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