One major misconception is that all romance readers took the bodice ripper route during the 1970s. I’m one of the ones who didn’t. Other than continuing to read books by Hill, Loring and eventually Glenna Finley, I mostly read mysteries with a light sprinkling of category romances mixed in. In fact, I’m pretty sure from the late 70s all the way through the mid 80s was really my Agatha Christie phase, the period when I collected most of her books in paperback. Oh, I may have occasionally picked up that rare single title historical romance during that era, but I didn’t find them appealing. I mostly didn’t like the plots or the characters. Probably because I was more into shorter mysteries at the time and more apt to look for something like a Harlequin Intrigue, if they even existed back then. Which was part of the problem.
I was also slowly developing an interest in fantasy and science fiction which had no outlet in romance. At all.
But my one other passion was buying up Finley’s books the moment they arrived. I’ve talked about Finley in the past but usually in terms of the way her books featured travelogue type romances and had relatively strong mysteries in them. What I haven’t talked about was the bedroom door aspect of her romances because she was an expert at getting the pair just inside that bedroom, giving the reader a wink and a smile so to speak and then… basically closing the door in the reader’s face by ending the doggone book. And I ended up liking it, which was always so confusing.
But I do remember, and not with a lot of fondness either, reading or attempting to enjoy many romances from that same era that weren’t what I’d call simply lacking in sexual content but stripped of it. Because there is a difference. Remember those movies I was talking about earlier in the Grace Livingston Hill and Emilie Loring posts? The best ones are written so that there are layers for everyone to enjoy but they don’t insult anyone’s intelligence in doing so. It’s the same thing. It’s the difference between pretending nothing is going on when it obviously is or could be, which is only frustrating to read, and writing the story so that some readers never even notice anything could’ve happened in the first place. It’s the difference between the bedroom door being slammed in the reader’s face just before anything could possible happen even though it should’ve already and the same door being gently eased closed with finesse and expertise so that we’re in on the secret and can use our own imaginations if we wish to. It’s all about the proper use of those touches of the hand, glances of the eyes and even the occasional kiss, chaste, passionate or otherwise.
Hill never let one know there was anything to miss. Loring never did either although sometimes on rereads one might wonder if there isn’t another layer there in certain scenes. And then there’s that next level, which is that old bedroom door thing that Finley did so well.
It was torture I tell you and yet I still have the entire collection of her books. That should tell you something. What exactly, I am not sure.
On the plus side, Glenna Finley was the next Emilie Loring she was billed as. She, too, wrote that combination of romance and mystery and if anything, she had even better mysteries, filled with suspense and adventure. And travel. Lots of travel. On the other hand, though, there was another element that entered the picture during this era that’s pretty typical – the career woman heroine working for the hero in some capacity and then falling in love with him.
Well, not that that had never ever happened before in the history of published romances. Don’t get me wrong. It had. But with Finley it was almost in every book. And if she wasn’t working for him, she was working with him. Or his rival in some way. It was simply part of the formula. In a lot of ways, her books fell into the same patterns as medical romances, which if I remember correctly had travelogue elements to them also.
The one question I’m left wondering about is what ever happened to this author of 47 romances because it’s like she just vanished into thin air. I had to link to my own post about her because there just isn’t anything about her out there except places that sell or catalog her books. Weird.