Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stephanie Laurens

Well, we are really shifting gears here. Stephanie Laurens is not a Prime Minister. She's a writer of romance novels. I want to say she writes trashy romance novels, but I don't mean to be insulting by that.

I think of that part in The Fisher King where Amanda Plummer says her company publishes trashy romance novels, and Robin Williams tells her there's nothing trashy about romance.

If trashy romance novel is insulting, is there an appropriate synonym?

I just looked up trashy on an online dictionary, and it is very derogative. Resembling or containing trash; cheap or worthless. In very poor taste or of very poor quality

I don't think these types of books are worthless. Nor do I think they're necessarily of poor taste and quality. So maybe I don't like the term trashy to describe them.

Then what term would work?

Maybe I should just label them romance novels, and leave it at that.

I read one of Stephanie Lauren's books. It's called A Rake's Vow. It's the second book in The Bar Cynster series. I thought the book was okay. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. If I remember correctly, I was feeling a bit cynical about romance at the time of reading it. And maybe I was feeling a bit cynical about the whole romance book formula. To me, that's where a man and woman are antagonistic towards each other. They have no interest in falling in love. Then they fall in love. It digs into the female fantasy of wanting to tame a man.

I do like romance. And I read books that have romance. But maybe I like stuff that follows less of a formula.

I'm trying to think of the last really romantic book I've read. It might have been the Twilight Series. Although maybe I'm forgetting something. Oh wait. I can just look at my list on Shelfari.....

Pillars of the Earth. There we go. That had romance in it. I see some chick-lit stuff I read recently. Sadly, I can't remember if they were romantic or not. The Charlaine Harris books have some romantic bits.

I should really stop rambling here, and start talking about Stephanie Laurens.

Lord Wiki has a short entry on her. He doesn't provide her birthdate, but he does provide her place of birth. She was born in Sri Lanka. Her family moved to Melbourne when she was five. There's not much here about her childhood. Lord Wiki skips ahead to her adult years. She obtained a degree in biochemistry. That's quite a jump...biochemistry to romance novels.

Laurens got married. She and her husband moved to England. They did scientific research, while enjoying the historical architecture that surrounded them. Later they returned to Australia, and did cancer research.

Lord Wiki says that one day Laurens realized she did not have any more of her favorite romance novels to read. She decided to go ahead and write her own. It was something she had considered before. She got down to work, and it turned out to be a success. She got it published, wrote some more; and once she was doing well enough, she retired from her research job.

Lord Wiki says her novel can be classified as Regency romances. Or at least they're set in the Regency time period. That would be the early 19th century. Lord Wiki says Regency romances follow a certain formula. I can't remember Lauren's book enough to know if it follows the formula. It probably does. One of the aspects is depictions of social events...such as balls and fancy dinners. I remember the book did have that.

Here's the Stephanie Laurens Website.

It has a biography page. Laurens tells her own story. I think one of the significant highlights of her life was taking a long journey to get to London with her husband. She describes where they went, and it's really amazing. They started off in Nepal. I guess they flew there...obviously. Although they could have taken a ship, I suppose. Anyway, then they traveled to London. They passed through India, Afghanistan, Iran, and many countries of Europe. I really envy people who manage to take that time to travel. I wonder how long it took them.

Laurens says she became a fan of romance novels when she was thirteen. The book that got her hooked was These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.

When Laurens was living in Europe, she bought a bunch of Regency romance novels...ones that could not be found in Australia. Well, once they were back in Australia, she ended up reading them all. She couldn't find any in the bookstores. She decided to write her own. Well, I guess that answers my question of whether or not she writes Regency romances. That first book she wrote was called Tangled Reins. It's about a woman having to choose between being a spinster or hooking up with the handsome stranger that kissed her.

A part of me was tempted to assume that Laurens never liked science in the first place. Maybe she got into it because of parental pressure; or despite her lack of interest, she had talent in it. But she may have loved it initially. I've had hobbies that I used to love that no longer bring me joy. I used to be a huge movie fan. Now I rarely watch full movies. I totally stopped writing screenplays. I used to get great joy out of writing novels. I no longer do that. People just change sometimes. Although my initial assumption could be right as well. Maybe Laurens never did like science that much. Who knows......

This page of Lauren's site links to articles and interviews. I shall read some.

Here's an interview on a writing website. It says she became known in America in 1997, but had been popular elsewhere before that. I wonder if her books had been popular in Australia. The website describes the Bar Cynster series. The Cynster men are intelligent, hardheaded, arrogant alpha males, who like to be in control. But when they meet the right woman, they usually find -- to their intense horror -- that love has made them willing to compromise and to make a lasting commitment.

Yeah. Personally, I don't find that type of story to be very appealing. Or maybe I do. I don't know. Do I? There's elements of it in the Sookie Stackhouse books I love. One of the vampires that Sookie romances with is a bit of the bad boy. But the books don't have her taming him, falling in love, and then living happily ever after. Sookie has a multitude of suitors.

In the interview, Laurens is asked if she had anyone who inspired or encouraged her. She says she had an uncle who was a storyteller, and suggests she got the storytelling gene from him.

Laurens says, As a scientist, you do learn that there are some things that can't be logically explained. A soul is one. Creativity -- what drives this -- is another. She's the type of scientist that I can stand that isn't arrogant enough to believe that nothing exists or matters if it hasn't been proven in a laboratory.

I like how she answers the question of whether storytelling/fiction writing is something that's learned or something you're born with. She believes it's both. You're born with the talent, but then it needs to be developed. I totally agree with that, and I think it can be applied to most things. We are all born with natural talents. But if we're not encouraged, and we don't use them...then they're likely to shrivel up and die.

I'm also not a believer in the idea that ANYONE can easily learn something and become good at it. One of the examples I can think (and I've written about before) is dreaming. I see books and articles teaching people how to remember their dreams and have lucid dreams. They make it seem that it's a talent anyone can develop. But I don't think it is. I think some people are born with the ability, and some are not. Those without it, might improve their dream substance and recall to a degree by reading books and following their instructions. But I don't think they're going to be able to get that far.

Maybe I'm a pessimistic. I don't know. I see people who can pick up a pencil and draw so easily. I've learned how to draw a few things, but for the most part....I suck at drawing. I have VERY little natural talent. Reading books and taking lessons would get me only so far.

So here's a question for you guys? What are your natural talents? Have you developed them in any way? Do you have any natural talents that you've pretty much ignored? Have you ever tried to improve your ability in something, but could not manage to do so? Are there skills in which you lack natural talent?

Laurens says she believes in love at first sight. I believe in it, but I don't think it has ever happened to me. I did have a strong initial attraction to a vampire on True Blood. That was very unusual for me. But that attraction didn't really develop into any major crush or anything. Yeah. I don't think I've even had a celebrity-crush-at-first-sight.

Here's an article that Laurens has written. It talks about the fact, that in her books, it's always the man who pursues the woman. The man is an alpha male who is used to always getting what he wants. The woman is of a certain type as well. Laurens says: It's the very fact that she doesn't simply fall in with his masterful plans, but digs in her pretty heels and refuses to tamely play by his rules--because she argues, sticks her nose in the air, haughtily dismisses him, and--worst of all--dares to walk away from him--that forces the hero to focus his attention on her sufficiently to let Cupid slip under his guard and mount a sneak attack.

It's the thrill of the chase. But is that real love? What happens when the woman is finally caught? Well, we have a few more chapters, and then we're supposed to imagine Mr. and Mrs. live happily ever after. Would that really happen though? Or would he get bored and seek out someone else?

I have a feeling that people who like these Regency romances would also be the ones who'd likely read and follow the advice of The Rules. This book pretty much tells women to act like a heroine of a Regency romance novel.

One of the rules is to write one email for every four emails he writes to you. Well, if you write him back immediately, he might know you actually care. And why would a man want to date a woman who cares about him?

I've played the mysterious and evasive game before. It wasn't really about wanting to attract people to myself. It was more about losing trust in humanity, and feeling there was no one I could turn to. But I ended up acting like a rules girl.

Oh, and it worked! I was all rule girl on Facebook. I became very popular....probably the most popular I've been since this one year in preschool. I had long chats and email conversations with people where I played the mysterious one, and they poured out their hearts to me. I was quite adored. Now when I started opening up, a few people whole-heartedly accepted the true me. One of them became one of my best friends. Others seemed very unsettled with me being open and honest. I think they much preferred me being the quiet mysterious one.

So acting like a Regency romance heroine is a great way to attract people to you. The question is whether you're attracting the right people. And isn't it better to have someone fall in love with the real you?

I DO think it's a good idea to hold back a little. I don' t think one needs to wait for four emails before responding. I think a one to one correspondence works quite well. It might be a bit scary if you're sending out ten emails for everyone that he sends you. That may repel people. Then again....if a guy sends out four emails without hearing from you, isn't that being a bit too eager on his end? So why is it okay for a man to do that, but not a woman?

It's very sexist if you ask me.

People Magazine says that one of the writers of The Rules got divorced. The news of this came out shortly after the release of her book, The Rules For Marriage Time-tested Secrets of Making Your Marriage Work. Ah! The irony.

If I was going to write a self-help book, it would be titled. Don't Listen to Self-Help Books. It's All Bullshit.

Love, marriage, and romance are complicated real life experiences. They're not a game to be won. There are no reliable rules. What works in one relationship, may not work in another relationship. We could say that if he doesn't call, he's just not that into you. But that's crap. Some people are just very shy. Or maybe he thinks he has no chance in hell with you, so he's not willing to take the risk. Some men need the women to be the pursuer.

I don't know.

I'm sitting here wondering if I'm a romantic. Yeah. In some ways. I think I'm a spiritual romantic. I believe in soulmates and stuff like that. But in other ways, I'm very cynical. When I see brides planning their wedding, I assume they'll likely be divorced in a few years. I think love often doesn't work out, and I don't think following a set of rules is going to increase one's chances.

I guess I like romance. I just don't like the type of stuff that Stephanie Laurens writes. It's just not my thing.

I'm not a Regency romance girl.

I'm a vampire romance girl. Yeah. That's me. Definitely. Vampires, beloved ex-husbands rising from the dead reformed demons, "imaginary" friends, fallen angels, men rescuing their wives from the depths of hell ....that's what I go for.


  1. Have you read that book, "He's Just not that into you?" I didn't read that - but I love the book "It's called Break-up B/c it's broken" (same author). wonderful. I think I peed my pants while I was reading it (post- .. well you know post what)
    anyway. Yeah, it was pathetic how much I could relate to the book (the stories therein).

    My mom loves Regency romance.
    I don't care for the genre myself.

  2. HappyOrganist,

    I didn't read the book, but I saw some of the movie a few weeks ago. I thought it was cute.

    The break up book sounds good. I hadn't heard of it. Did it help you at all, or was it just nice having something to relate to?

  3. It was extraordinarily (really and truly) cathartic. It helped in that way. I cried ('cause I laughed so hard) through the entire book.

  4. I don't like the use of "trashy" either. When I'm referring to that specific brand of romance novels, I like to use the word "torrid".

  5. Rebecca,

    That's a good word! Actually...honestly....I had to look it up. But see, that's great. Now I have a new word to add to my vocabulary : )