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Trashy Girl Fantasy


I admit it. I love to read romance fantasy books. It’s a genre that has spawned a million embarrassing paperback covers lately (because of Laurel Hamilton I think), but there are some real fun ones that I can’t get enough of. I’m hooked on Maria Snyder’s “Poison Study” series, and I’m recently an addict of Michelle Sagara’s “Cast” series, which occasionally doesn’t make sense, but has one of the yummiest man characters I’ve read about since Jean-Claude wasn’t emasculated around book 5 of “Anita Blake.” I think I’ll die if the two characters don’t end up getting it on 🙂 I think Jaqueline Carey transcends this classification, but the romance between her two main characters is my favorite in any fantasy. I worship her first Kushiel’s series. Anne Bishop, Kelly Armstrong…if you have any other guilty pleasures series please post them, I’m always looking for more!

The point is, I notice a decided trend in a lot of these books with the female/male romances: Hot, powerful (immortal/magical) man, and girl who unknowingly has powers and hates said man, slowly grows into her supernatural powers and closer to him. And there’s also always a standby “good” guy for her to fill out a love triangle. In some books the good guy gets the girl and the “bad” one gets rejected. I hate those endings 🙂 If anyone reads the Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels, you’ll understand why I hate every page where Sookie’s not making out with the evil yet oh-so-bad Erik. Laying it out like this, it sounds like every Harlequin romance where a nanny gets the estate owner at the end of the book. Why is this such a powerful cliche in throwaway literature and why does it work so well in the fantasy genre?

From most the comments here I think there are mostly guys reading this on a regular basis. So I’m assuming you avoid these books like the plague 🙂 I’d love to read a book where a young, naive, “chosen” GUY fantasy character has the same kind of romance arc with a sexy, powerful older woman. But I can’t think of anything like that off the top of my head. Clue me in, if you know any, I’m all eyes! Does anyone think this surge in merging romance and fantasy is hurting the fantasy genre? Or will there always be the Steven Eriksons cutting off heads to balance it out?

  • Frigid

    “I’d love to read a book where a young, naive, “chosen” GUY fantasy character has the same kind of romance arc with a sexy, powerful older woman.”

    I think Kushiel’s is heading down a similar path with Imriel, have not read Kushiel’s Justice yet so I would not know specifically.

    In retrospect however I think your suggestion may just be a profound breakthrough in the romance fantasy genre.

  • Great! I’ll write it! 😀

  • Frigid

    Not if I get to it first /cackles

  • Courtney

    The title of this blog totally had me thinking it was gonna be about Lindsey Lohan or someone of that ilk :p

  • NOOO there can never be two fantasy books with similar themes, that would be CRAAAAZY!!!!!

  • Fantasy / Sci Fi has been merging for a while. I think it was the first terminator movie that really started it because, shockingly, with a love interest lots of women bought movie tickets unexpectedly. Love stories have been the heart of most fairy tales. Knight in shining armor tales would be kind of lame without a damsel in distress.

    When I was first doing the publication route here in Virginia Beach, I ended up joining up with the only authors group in town which was a group of romance writers. I had thought I was witty and I discovered I was totally outgunned. My only shining moment was teaching a lecture class on what was real life combat as opposed to fiction, which was tons of fun because I even managed to get an eighty year old lady happily shouting in the discussion phase.

    On that note, I’ll pass some info if you want to shoot me a PM. There are some authors you might not have discovered yet.

    Now as for books and shows that meet your requirements, to varying degrees:

    The books: I’ll start by pointing you to a fellow writer named Judy McCoy with her latest “Almost A Goddess” and her other works at, Ann Rice’s Taltos trilogy “The Witching Hour, Lasher, Taltos”, and as a personal favorite, though weak on the fantasy end you should try anything by Jennifer Cruise I actually had a coworker get me to read her book “Tell Me Lies” with the following 2 sentences that started it, “One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace bikini underpants. They weren’t hers.”


    The shows (linked if still being produced): Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which you were apart of) the Xander / Anya storyline, Fox’s series “Bones” , the entire story Arc of Number Six in Sci Fi’s Battlestar Galactica , Angel’s relationship with his sire from the series “Angel”, Inara’s relationship with Mal in the series “Firefly” and the movie “Serenity”, early leads on the new series Bionic Woman This is almost all either Joss Whedon material or the team efforts of Ron Moore / David Eick, keep an eye out for anything done by any of the three. Joshephen entertainment getting strong points for being the only exception with Bones.

    Hopefully, that’s a nice trashy girl fantasy start. =)

  • Frigid

    Let the insanity ensue !! I challenge you to an epic duel, the winner getting to write the most fanstamagorifical romance/fantasy novel with said theme.

  • David

    They make guy fantasy books but they usually involve guns and explosions and throwaway women where the guy humps as many as possible. They are weird.

    I actually do not read fantasy books, sci-fi is pretty much the only book fiction I may touch. Coupland and Ellis are my favorite modern authors though.

  • Alex

    I just hated the romance and lovescenes in the Dragonlance novels between Goldmoon and Caramon…ow wait..I correct myself, I read them with some kind of weird sexual interest but like to say I hate em.

  • Ben

    I think you make an interesting observation about mostly guys posting comments on The Flog. I’m definitely a “regular guy.” I watch football, enjoy a good action movie and don’t read romance novels (fantasy or otherwise). And in my opinion, there is no market for the “chosen guy” novel you’re describing. If you think about it, guys have had literary escapes with those types of iconic male characters forever and not just in novels— From Superman, Batman and Spiderman to Sherlock Holmes & Jules Verne to Jack Bauer, James Bond, MacGyver, etc. And this type of character has dominated most mediums for a really long time. One needs to look no further than The Bible to get a taste of the ultimate male “chosen one.”

    In general, there just aren’t that many strong female characters. This is one of the reasons why Joss Whedon gets so much attention. Strong female characters are still a fresh idea to most “regular guys.” There’s always been a shortage of strong female heroes. I think that may account for the disproportionate amount of male Flog blog contributors. (Like it or not Felicia, to many fanboys, you are and will always be a slayer!)

    Did you know that Wonder Woman’s first job in the Justice Society 60+ years ago was to be their secretary? Today, she can rip a tank in half with her bare hands but back then, not so much. How many other iconic strong women characters can you name?

    And to add to the obstacles for men to read those types of books, how many guys could walk into a Borders and buy a paperback bearing some of the cover art Felicia has been posting lately? I couldn’t do it but consider the fact that I’m the guy that couldn’t purchase a toilet plunger from a cute checkout girl at Bed Bath & Beyond. Too embarrassed…I ended up buying a matching set with a soap dish, hand towels and it happened to include a plunger. (Otherwise, the cashier might actually know that I shit in a toilet!)

    That said, if you write the book Felicia, I’ll be sure to pick up a copy.

  • Chris

    What you are suggesting would be an interesting take on the current stance of fantasy writing. It sort of ties in with what Ben says, that over time women have been seen as weaker compared to the male figure and this has been reflected in literacy, even in fantasy novels. Well, it seems that way here in Britain anyway.

    Maybe as society is progressing and women are seen as equals a lot more of the time, we will soon see a gender reversal in writing of this kind, who knows.

    But yes, if you were to write a book id defenitly get it, as Zaboo says, it may be a lot of money but would be totally worth it 😀 (maybe you’d spraypaint mine blue for me 😉 )

  • I’d actually say that romance has always been a part of fantasy. However, it’s most often been in the form of the woman being a bowling trophy that guys fight over.

    I think the merger of styles has been a reflection that doing anything strictly as a horror, comedy, drama, fantasy, or any other type makes a weaker story than a combination of elements. Comedy being a part of many of the better horror films and girlie films.

    I think that we’re starting to see more of the strong female characters. In television today: Number Six of BSG, Temperance Brennan of Bones, Jamie Sommers of the Bionic woman, etc… Sci Fi and fantasy have been sort of merged for a while, and as the audience has become more feminine to many of these, I think romance will continue to play a larger role.

    If you haven’t been watching BSG on Sci Fi, you should check it out. It has the best omnipotent, immortal bad girl (Number Six) meets and seduces mortal bad boy (Baltar) storyline in years…

  • Wow, there are some really great comments on here about gender and media!
    I think you are all right about the non-viability of Hero boy becoming a man and ending up with a strong older woman. Maybe there’s something totally primal about women’s base fantasy of being “taken care of” and in turn, men’s base fantasy of growing strong and winning the favor of beautiful girl. I mean, the fantasy genre is really based in wish fulfillment and escapism, right?

    Certainly I can’t see that previous idea flying in wish fulfillment of guy’s literature. The idea of a guy being pursued by by a strong woman only to “give in” to her at the end and be happily ever after seems totally ridiculous. More likely he grows to kick people’s butts really well and wins over the object of his desire who’s been coy/unavailable for a while.

    To go deeper and maybe even MORE primal, is it really realistic in fantasy land that a girl would pursue a guy like that and he WOULDNT sleep with her? Girls are trained at a young age to withhold their sexuality and be the “chooser” in a relationship, which is kinda the basis of the tension in all these romance cliches. Natural order of business, a guy coming of age wouldn’t be resisting as much as fantasy coming of age girls.
    It would be nice to see that turned on it’s head, which we’re seeing more on TV than in these kinds of novels.

    And Ben, I hear you about the toilet plunger. How weird is it to be embarrassed about something that everyone needs in their house?! I used to have crazy public bathroom anxiety but…we’ll skip that story for now 🙂

  • Courtney

    Another thing to note is that this could also be a cultural thing. The relationship between a man and a woman differ from culture to culture. For those that are more accepting of stronger women, I’d be willing to bet that it would also be reflected in their literature and media. Anything with a target audience has to tailor itself to those standards.

    The question is, if something is outside the norm for the mainstream, is it for a specific niche, or is it a sign of a changing society? 10 years ago, Brokeback Mountain probably would not have had the critical/audience acceptance that it did.

    You have someone like Angelina Jolie who breaks many gender stereotypes, yet is regarded as one of the sexiest celebrities. You also have more “metro” guys like Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp being considered sexy for our times. Is this a trend or a sign of changing times?

    Man… I really miss taking sociology/cultural psychology courses. Shame that I’m forgetting it faster and faster as the years go by…

  • Jon

    Having read and enjoyed Laurel Hamilton (mostly the early Anita Blake), Kelley Armstrong (all) and Jacqueline Carey books, I would like to recommend a few in turn:

    Kim Harrison – “Hollows” series – begins with ‘Dead With Walking’ (probably most like Armstrong).

    Rachel Caine – “Weather Warden” series – begins with ‘Ill Wind’

    Julie Kenner – ‘Carpe Demon – Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom’, plays a bit more for laughs given the 2 second description of “Buffy grows up and has a family”

  • Boris

    Let’s first define what strong woman means, because it seems to me that the current model for a strong woman has been created by males and therefore male criteria have been applied to it. Women are strong in Arts and Language, instead they are expected to be strong in Engineering and Math. Women are strong in Mind but we want them to be strong in Muscle and whoop ass.

  • Jon, thanks for the recommends! I’ve always seen Kim Harrison’s and Kelley Armstrong’s stuff on the shelves, but never really picked it up. I think I’ll go on a paperback spree! 🙂 Also that weather warden looks like a cool concept!
    And yes, cultural criteria and relative definition of male/female terms definitely affect perception and create the accepted cliches. I guess fantasy novels are the best place to change those around. I’ve read a lot of “matriarchal” science fiction books that believably do that. Sherri S Tepper does it very well, as does Joan Vinge.

  • As much as I’ve enjoyed Laurell Hamilton, and still can’t wait to digest more of her books (though I still haven’t gotten around to her latest) I do wish she’d work more on the character and story than how-many-guys-can-Anita-get-it-on-with-in-a-short-span-of-time.

    Second on Jennifer Cruise tho, excellent author. Also some really good books by Nora Roberts, honestly some of her romances make better suspense and mysteries… read a really good vampire series by her, The Circle Trilogy…

    Yes, I do borrow my wife’s books from time to time…

  • anne

    CJ Cherryh, the Chanur novels

    I can’t say enough good things about this author, and this fits your description. She dove-tails very nicely with Tepper.

  • I started reading the Kushiel series thanks to your recommendation and loved it! It’s beautifully written and the plot is really captivating. Phedre is such a cool character.

    Also, you recommendation saved from my downward descent into the dark depths of trashy romance novels. After I read Twilight (I was intrigued by the movie teaser), I used Amazon’s “People who liked this book also like this book” feature to find related novels, which led me in a downwards spiral towards the bottom of the romance barrel. I was buying lots of crap romance novels with embarrassing covers plastered with half-naked. Then I read your blog post about Comic-Con and how you met Jacqueline Carey, and that prompted me to pick up Kushiel’s Dart. Thanks for the rec.

    Oh and btw, great job at Comic-Con. The Dr. Horrible panel ended up being my favorite panel. 🙂

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