I'm completely sure that:
a) this will be a long post, and
b) I'll call it a Smart Bitches Day post, and
c) I may not have communicated a point at the end of it.
(As us former foxhunters enjoy saying. So much more civilized that BEware, don't you think?)
In case you haven't taken the time to read my archives, let me say one more time that I loathe contemporaries. In fact, I hate them so much that I don't read them. In fact, I'm sure I've read less than ten since 1980, when I started reading Romances. In fact, I'm basically dead set against reading another.
"But Suisan," you say. "If you've never read them and you don't plan on reading more, then how do you know that you hate them?"
"You read Black Ice: you liked that. You read Futurelove: you liked that. You read Morning Glory, which may not be a Contemporary, but it's not set in Victorian England or earlier: you liked that. These were all recommended as GOOD contemporaries. Maybe you need to read more GOOD contemporaries."
"Oh, shut up. I hate you, and now I'm going to go sulk."
****Reads a few passages of Seize the Fire to cheer herself back up****
Ahhhh. That's better.
OK, but WHY is it better?
I'm not completely convinced of the answer, but I think it has to do with diction. Movies from the 1930s and 40s have a certain style, a certain word choice, a tone that sounds right. There's a flair to the language which works within the work, but would be totally bizarre if you tried to use it in real life.
"Hey there! Cabbie! Get me to Grand Central pronto! There a fiver in it for you if you do!"
So that's familiar, and it sounds almost sort of right in a movie or a book, but would you actually SAY that to "a cabbie" today in New York? Same with plays--the dialogue sounds right when you're sitting in the theater, but try it out on the sidewalk, and it sounds stilted or overblown.
When I read romances, I want that arch quality to the language. (Not purple. Please.) It needs to be a little more poetic, a little more formal, more descriptive, more lush, more unlike my everyday thoughts or speech.
At heart, I'm a cynic when it comes to stumbling onto love. The one guy I fell totally for, the one who could make my insides turn over just by moving his hand through sunlight into shadow, the one who told me I was the center of his world, turned out to be dangerous. And I don't think I've ever fully recovered--I may still be searching out the shrubbery in the evening for signs of ambush.
After him I became a terrible date: suspicious and cutting. I was always trying to figure out why the guy who asked me out thought I'd be a suitable target. I was waiting until he opened up, showed me part of his soul, so I could prick it with my sharp little fruit knife. No, really. I was not a nice person.
The one guy who broke through, basically said, "Oh, cut it out." It worked, but it's not terribly, in quotes, Romantic.
When I read romance, I still need some sort of barrier between me and the story so that I can relax enough to fall into the characters. With Historicals, I get caught up in the prose, or the funny turns of phrase in a well-written piece of Regency dialogue, and it's just soothing enough to flow right in. When I read a Contemporary, I'm on guard every moment of the journey. (He says he's rich, but how do you know it's not a con? He says he's never felt this way before, but come on, really? Oh My God. Can you not SEE that he's the owner of restaurant you're working in, you ignorant waitress?) Wrong, wrong, wrong, and my insides get twisted. I'm too busy protecting the heroine from her decisions to let her fall in love. And then when she does, I sincerely want to bitch-slap her. I think the language of Historicals is just enough of a barrier to work, but formal diction could never work in a Contemporary, could it?
Black Ice, a recent Contemporary, worked for me, I think, because the set-up was so over the top. International spy caught in a web of intrigue, trapped in a French mansion, stumbles across an elegant, virginal, heroine who must be protected without the bad guys catching on that he's planning to protect her. Midnight escapes, safehouses, assassination attempts: My advice, girly, is to hang out with big bad Bastien, the hero, until the villain's caught. Go right ahead, my warning antenna tell me that's a good plan, and once the antenna are safely shut down, I can settle back and enjoy the ride.
So if I can't rely on diction in Contemporaries, then maybe Romantic Suspense is the way to go, if I'm going to read more Contemporaries.
Yeah, but I hate 'em. I know I do.