Friday, May 9, 2014

How Romance Is Like Lacrosse

How Romance Is Like Lacrosse

Bear with me. I know these two things seem totally unrelated, but based on my personal history, they're actually quite similar.

I coached girl's lacrosse for fifteen years. It was my favorite sport in high school, I started the club team in college, and then after I graduated I coached. When I started playing we had wooden sticks, no headgear, no sidelines, and set offense and defense. It was an elegant, skilled, exciting game.

I coached "old-school." I taught the girls that "cradling" (a motion where you cradle the stick back and forth to keep the ball secure) was the most important skill.

And then something happened. The sport started to change. The wooden sticks were replaced with plastic. Then, they instituted sidelines, and offsides on the field, the positions disappeared as the game turned into a fast-break for the whole team and zone defense replaced man-to-man. It got more physical, like the boy's game, and the girls were required to wear headgear. Cradling sort of disappeared, as it turned, more or less, into the boy's sport.

Fast, physical, structured.

So, what happened? I stopped coaching. This was NOT my lacrosse anymore. It was new, it was like men's lacrosse, and it wasn't fun for me anymore. I was sad, but I figured it was time to move on.

About fifteen years ago I started reading romance. My son was one, we had just adopted him from the Philippines, and I was an exhausted new mom. I needed some light-hearted entertainment that would make me feel good. I discovered romance novels! Happy endings! Real heroes! Lusty sex! Romance!


I devoured Julie Garwood historicals, Amanda Quick, vintage Julia Quinn. I fell in love with the Carpathian world of Christine Feehan with the super romantic notion of one mate for eternity. The stories were fresh and new, the writing was excellent. I didn't love contemporary romance--too much like real life. I stuck with mostly historical and paranormal, which had that added element of creativity or historical detail which transported me to another world.

I loved it.

And then something happened.

It started to change.

Contemporary romance and erotica began to take over the market. Real heroes--men who had integrity, loyalty, protective qualities--were replaced with abusive motorcycle guys who passed their girlfriends around to their buds.

The old-fashioned romance was replaced with BDSM, orgies, and cheating.

As paranormals/historicals fell from popularity, books catering to a younger crowd--YA and NA--surged. And books with violent behavior toward women became commonplace.

The excellent writing became something special, not the norm, as typos/grammatical errors, and generally piss poor writing started to crop up frequently.

Instead of fresh, new, creative ideas, copycat books sprouted up like weeds. 50 Shades is popular? Great, let's crank out 100 books with the same cover and concept.

Here I am, 15 years later, wondering what the hell happened to my romance novels.

I'm sad. But the truth is the best books I've read recently are mysteries, horror, humor, literary fiction.

I spend a lot of time doing re-reads. My Julie Garwood books are falling apart.

If this is the "new" world of romance: copycat books, degrading behavior, sloppy writing, and a distinct lack of romance, then maybe it's time to cut my losses. Just like I did with lacrosse.

The game has changed, and I'm not sure I want to hang out here anymore.

There are still some wonderful authors and books coming out, but they are lost in a sea of mediocrity and flat-out porn.

And I wonder if the whole concept of "romance" the way I see it is so hopelessly old-fashioned that it no longer exists.

That sort of breaks my heart.

I hope the romance genre circles back and a renaissance occurs. I'm not sure if that's going to happen or not.

In the meantime, I have my old copies of Julie Garwood and Amanda Quick, and I'll keep taping the pages back in.

Old-school and proud,