First, before I forget, today’s review is of Peggy Knickerbocker’s delightful Olive Oil from Tree to Table.
Second, it’s time for the weekly Booking through Thursday meme, which I’ve actually missed for the last few weeks. Today’s meme is:
How about a chance to play editor-in-chief? Fill in the blanks:
__________ would have been a much better book if ______________________.
Now, I do a lot of book reviewing, so there are dozens of places I could go with this. But since I reviewed a cookbook today, I’ll let that dictate my choice—particularly because that’ll give me the opportunity to turn this into a rather funny story.
“The Fearless Chef would have been a much better book if the recipes had been kitchen-tested.”
To quote from that review:
I have a great love of Bananas Foster, so we decided to make the Jamaican Rum-Baked Bananas, which are described as “a tropical answer to Bananas Foster.” They include a bit of curry, and instead of flaming the alcohol you simply bake the dish in the oven, which sounded easier.
When we mixed things together I found myself triple-checking (literally) the amount of alcohol to go in; 1 cup of dark rum sounded like an awful lot. In fact, I even just checked it again because I still find it hard to believe the recipe called for that much. But hey, we were testing the cookbook, so I figured we should use the recipe as written.
We put everything together and into the oven. We basted it halfway through as stated. Then, at the end, I watched out for the cats and my husband opened up the oven to see if dessert was done.
I heard a whooshing sound and the slam of the oven door. Then I smelled burnt hair. I whipped around, and when my husband turned to face me all I could say was, “umm, you should look in a mirror.” His eyebrows had been trimmed, his eyelashes (despite his glasses) were a rather interesting ragged length, and the front row of his hair above his forehead was shriveled and now brown instead of black. A gout of flame had apparently shot straight out of the oven when he opened it up.
Nothing like that has ever happened to us before.
Now, on to the topic I was planning for today. Recently I ended up in Penguin‘s database of reviewers. Because of this, I suddenly find myself reviewing a lot more erotic romances and variations on the same than I ever expected.
The other day, someone I know said to me, with a tone of horror, “don’t tell me you’re reviewing romances!” as though this was a terrible thing. It reminded me that once upon a time, that’s how I would have viewed it. Yes, I bought into the stereotype (which, mind you, existed for some time with good reason) that romances were ‘bodice-rippers’—ridiculous stories in which helpless, naive women waited for the strong, domineering man to come along and rescue them. And maybe once upon a time that was largely true, but it isn’t any more.
Out of curiosity I decided to read Alison Kent’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance a couple of years ago. And in reading that book I came to realize that romances have changed a lot, and I decided to give them a try. Since then, I’ve come to a conclusion.
Romances have changed. And really, that shouldn’t be a surprise. The women of recent generations don’t tend to have patience for stupid, helpless heroines, and these women are writing more and more of the erotic romances out there. This means that the people writing these books tend to want the same things we as readers do: strong heroines who are capable of standing on their own two feet, and can match wits with the best of the heroes. Just like books of any other genre, romances can be written well or poorly depending on the skill and talent of the individual writer. Dismissing the genre out of hand is simply silly.
So I’m no longer vaguely embarrassed by the idea of reading & reviewing these books. Instead I’m enjoying opening my eyes to a whole new genre and discovering some wonderful writers, many of whom write in other genres I enjoy as well.