My favourite romance of all time, well, like everyone else, it’s probably Pride and Prejudice. But my favourite romance which is just mine is Beau Ideal, one of PC Wren’s Beau Geste trilogy. A nice young American boy discovers that Isobel, the English girl he secretly loves, has married her childhood friend John Geste who has run off to join his brothers in the French Foreign Legion, and he must go and bring John back. I seem to remember that to secure John’s release he agrees to marry an Arab dancing girl – as in the dramatic picture above – only to be saved at the last moment when it turns out that his father and the girl’s father … But no spoilers!
These are some of the PC Wrens I collected and loved in the 1960s. PC Wren suited and no doubted moulded my view of the world, that idea of doing the right thing. Not that that was enough to protect Fancy from my raging 17 year old hormones, but that’s another story. I tried. And have always had a romantic and no doubt idealized idea of women, probably due to the misfortune of having no sisters.
Since Fancy, I have had girlfriends and wives and girlfriends. In fact there was always someone I could call my girlfriend as far back as primary school – you’re unlucky I couldn’t dig up a photo of me and Helen Sporn as minature debs in 1960. It often strikes me reading Romance Fiction that young lovers never seem to have any of those almost relationships that precede the just right one, or maybe that’s just me. After the failure of my marriage to the Bosomy Beauty a decade or so ago I tried online dating with RSVP. And don’t say what about Milly! It was her idea, to stop me hanging around. I met some nice women, one raving lunatic, and the Shy One with whom I and Milly and her sisters are still friends. But she was ready for marriage, as is every woman on RSVP, and I was not, I just wanted someone I could go out to dinner with.
Melanie/Grab the Lapels asked me recently to explain my attraction to the romance novels of Georgette Heyer. My father as a young husband bought Georgette Heyers for my mother and as soon as I was old enough I read them all. Years later Gee, my daughter having read them all too – and baggsed them in mum’s will – began a collection of her own so that we all three of us now have comprehensive collections.
Georgette Heyer’s romances are all slightly ridiculous, girls of good fortune running away with childhood (boy) friends, rescued from lifelong shame by handsome rich single gentlemen who inevitably marry them. I realise I haven’t given a single reason, but I love them. And yes I enjoy Regency Romances and Chick Lit. But not Bodice Rippers. Novels, written mostly by women, in which the premise is that if the guy treats them rough the gals will fall down in love, don’t turn me on at all. I like the boy and the girl in any novel I read to have a happy ending, and get anxious if the boy comes over all jealous and starts to spoil things – looking at you Maurice Guest!
In the truck this last trip I listened to the end of Jane Eyre, about which I will write a separate post, some general fiction of the American thriller variety, and to Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748) by John Cleland. Talk about happy endings!
In each of the three C18th novels I’ve read over the past few months – Moll Flanders, Tom Jones and now Fanny Hill – the woman’s point of view has been put so strongly that I wonder to what extent the stated (male) authors had female assistance. Fanny Hill, said to be the first long prose work of pornography, is an astonishingly erotic work with graphically described sex in every chapter (read this to Nick, Melanie!).
I went through a stage where I read, and even wrote a little, erotic fiction – Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell. James Joyce and DH Lawrence are Literature rather than Erotic Lit but before Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover contained the most explicit passage I had read and the ending of Ulysses the most erotic.
Fanny Hill probably tops them. Fanny, an innocent 14 year old comes up from the country when her parents die. She ends up in a brothel where, while the madam waits for a customer who will pay handsomely to deflower her, she is put under the care of and shares a bed with Phoebe who very quickly initiates her into the joys of woman on woman sex
her lascivious touches had lighted up a new fire that wantoned through all my veins, but fixed with violence in that center appointed them by nature, where the first strange hands were now busied in feeling, squeezing …
Phoebe teaches her about the birds and the bees by showing her a hiding place where she can watch the madam taking her pleasure with a young customer, and another hiding place where she and Phoebe watch a young couple until they are forced to retire to satisfy their raging desires with each other. Before she can be sold, Fanny meets a young man of her own, Charles, and escapes with him to be his mistress. They spend a few happy months before Charles is tricked by his father into boarding a ship leaving immediately on a two year voyage to the South Seas, and Fanny is on her own again.
She finds other situations involving lots of sex, graphically described. I thought at one point she was pregnant but then nothing more was said. Eventually Charles returns, Fanny is now 18 and for some reason I forget, wealthy, and the two live happily ever after. So even Fanny Hill contains Romance.
PK Dick (M, USA), The Penultimate Truth (1964) – SF
Linda Howard (F, USA), Cry No More (2003) – Crime
Linda Howard (F, USA), Kiss Me While I Sleep (2004) – Crime
Linda Howard (F, USA), Cover of Night (2006) – Crime
Shane Gericke (M, USA), The Fury (2014) – Crime
Ray Hogan (M, USA), Soldier in Buckskin (1996) – Biog. Kit Carson
Lisa Jackson (F, USA), Innocent by Association (2011) – Crime
Haruki Murakami (M, Jap), 1Q84 – Lit.Fic.
Robert Dugoni (M, USA), My Sister’s Grave (2014) – Crime
Charlotte Bronte (F, Eng), Jane Eyre (1847) – Lit.Fic.
John Cleland (M, Eng), Fanny Hill (1748)
Patrick White, The Cockatoos
Majorie Barnard, Miles Franklin
Flannery O’Connor, Complete Stories