Friday, February 20, 2015

Aloha to the Library of Congress - What Is Love? Romance in the Digital Age (Part 1)

File:LoC Barse Romance.jpg
Barse's Romance in the Library of Congress
Public Domain (link)

On Wednesday, February 11, I rode the Metro into Washington, DC for a special one day conference at the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress - What is Love?  Romance in the Digital Age (link):

"This two-day gathering will unite authors, scholars and fans to explore the changing dynamics of the genre, its relevance in popular culture and how digital technology is shaping the future of romance fiction," said John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book.

"Our conference will include business and social interests and influences, romance literature scholarship and public engagement with people who love the genre," he said.

The conference kicked off with Panel 1 - What Belongs in the Romance Canon:

Pam Regis, Professor of Englis, McDonald College and President, International Assocation for the Study of Popular Romance

Len Barot/Radclyffe, President/Author, Bold Strokes books

Beverly Jenkins, Author, Avon Books

Nicole Peeler, Associatoin Professor of English, Seton Hall University

Eric Selinger, Professor of English, DePaul University

Susan Ostrov Weisser, Professor of English, Adelphi University

I borrowed a pen from the lovely lady next to me - a fan of Beverly Jenkins - so I could take notes.  I uncapped the pen just in time to hear Beverlydiscuss that African American romance has been absent from romance canon.  She added that it took Terry McMillan's WAITING TO EXHALE to hit the best seller for the publishing industry to realize black women actually read books (Beverly was very funny in her delivery).


The panel referred to E.D.E.N. Southworth's THE HIDDEN HAND as one of the first books written by a woman for women. From Goodreads (link),

E.D.E.N. Southworth was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the nineteenth century and her Capitola Black, or Black Cap - a cross-dressing, adventure-seeking girl-woman - was so well-loved that the book was serialized three times between 1859 and 1888 and was dramatized in forty different versions. When we first meet sharp and witty Capitola she is living among beggars and street urchins, and dressed as a boy because a boy can get work and be safe, whereas a girl is left to starve for want of "proper" employment. Unknown to her, Capitola has a very rich elderly guardian who finds her at a providential moment and takes her back to his palatial mansion where she finds herself "decomposing above ground for want of having my blood stirred." But not to fear. There are bandits, true-loves, evil men, long-lost mothers, and sweet women friends in Capitola's future - not to mention thunder storms, kidnap attempts, and duels. The pace is fast, the action wonderfully unbelievable. This is escape literature at its nineteenth-century best, with a woman at its center who makes you feel strong, daring, and reckless.


The panel agreed that canon is not like the Highlander - there cannot only be one.  

Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches tweeted her musings from the conference and storied them at this link.   She took better notes via her tweets than my chicken scratch on the program.

Let's chat about canon.  From,

a fundamental principle or general rule

a standard; criterion

any officially recognized set of sacred books

Many "academics" refer to Loretta Chase's LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and Jennifer Crusie's BET ME as must haves in romance canon.  What would be in your canon?   Mine would include the first romance book I read ... Cathy Maxwell's THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT.  It has a Highlander!

One randomly selected commenter wins a book choice from my convention stash.  Comments are open through Saturday, February 28, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, March 1.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City



  1. Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas!

  2. My choice would be Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas.

  3. The book that got me into romance - it was a romance suspense type - Sandra Brown - Exclusive.


  4. For me it was The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E Woodiwiss.

  5. It's a toss up between "Forever Amber" by Kathleen Winsor, and "Jamaica Inn" by Daphne Du Maurier.

  6. I think we could go add a classic like P&P. And, I do love Sarah MacLean's A Rogue By Any Other Name in the first The Rules of Scoundrels series.

  7. I can't remember the first romance that got me hooked!

  8. I honestly don't remember the books that got me hooked. There are so many classics out there.

  9. As much as I love Highlanders, I have to go with Kathleen Woodiwiss - The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove etc. She really got me into romance.

  10. The first romance that got me hooked was Once in Paris by Diana Palmer.

  11. I'll nominate Nora Roberts books - especially her Bride Quartet.

  12. I want to read HIDDEN HAND. This old style story is just the thing for an enjoyable read. You don't have to think too hard or take it seriously, just enjoy. That type of book is good every so often.
    I have several older Cathy Maxwell books, but not THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT. I will have to find it.
    I would have all of Julie Garwood historical books. Her THE PRIZE was the first romance I read and it is still one of my favorites.
    Thanks for an interesting post.