It’s now late spring of 1995 and I’ve picked up another issue of Romantic Times. Inside is this preview description of what sounded like possibly the wackiest romance I’ve ever heard of. The real kicker was that it was a futuristic – being marketed for its sexiness.
Got my attention.
Now, we have to put this in context because futuristic romances, AKA what the publishers at that time were attempting to pass off as some type of watered down blending of science fiction and romance, were not known for their, ah, sexiness. Heck, they were barely known for their romances and that was a large part of why they’ve never been all that popular with romance readers. First impressions, you know.
We won’t even go into what the science fiction in them consisted of back then. Although to be fair, some of them weren’t that bad. They weren’t that great but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Basically, they were simply weird attempts at the early blendings of two extremely different genres that don’t necessarily like each other, if you get my drift. For some odd reason, mystery, suspense, adventure, heck even horror and to some extent fantasy have always had this symbiotic relationship with romance. It’s the emotional by-plays that work together and play off each other.
Science fiction, though? Not so much. It has some major issues to work out with romance. But they’re getting there. Finally. I think.
Back to that book that came out in July of 1995, here’s how I described it in a column for Beverly’s Book Basket on AAR three years later in 1998:
That Indefinable and Indescribable Dessert – Knight of a Trillion Stars by Dara Joy – futuristic romance, Love Spell, 1995
There is absolutely no way I could pack a picnic basket of fun favorites without this book. But how to justify its existence? It doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. First of all, it’s labeled futuristic, but the heroine, Deanna Jones, starts in the present day and ends up in another dimension with the hunky alien hero, Lorgin. The title itself gives away that there is somewhat the mood of a historical, but that’s about it. Alternate reality comes closer in most respects, but the other dimension isn’t where its true appeal lies. Finally, out of desperation, I realized there are some stories that simply can’t be forced into any one place on the menu. They are simply, dare I say it, junk food, pure and simple. Or a dessert. But a special dessert. You know, those creations that Grandma or Great Aunt Matilda only make once a year for special holidays because they are too expensive and rich to fix the rest of the time. They’re normally full of chocolate or cheese or coconut or cream. (How come all the good stuff starts with C?) And sugar, pure unadulterated sugar. (Well, that blows that theory.) The kind of desserts that are so very sinfully rich that some people actually think they’re too something to tolerate but others can’t get enough of them.
If that last doesn’t describe Knight of a Trillion Stars and the general reaction to it and just about everything else Joy has written, I really don’t know what does. I’ll be honest; even I’m not completely sure why I love this book. I’m not all that crazy about the hero or the heroine, but I love to read and reread the story. Maybe KOATS needs no other explanation for its existence than calling it dessert. Would I want a steady diet of it? No, not by any means, but there are times . . . say, like on a picnic . . . when, oh, wow, what a special treat it is.
Too something to tolerate. Yep, all that just about sums Joy’s books up. The thing is I never, even from the start, took her books seriously. I didn’t think I was supposed to. I saw them as pure fun. The out-of this world names. The sci-fi convention. The over the top prose. All of it was so bad it was good fun. Then again, maybe I’d also just recently been exposed to fan fiction and got the joke.
But, in making things fun, she showed that other books in that sub-genre could lighten up, too. Didn’t mean all of them had to. It just meant it was possible to do so and still find an audience with romance readers. Lots of readers. Because oddly enough, romance readers like a mix of light and dark books. Imagine that.
Plus, there was the sensuality level in her books that couldn’t be ignored, even if one tried. Notice I didn’t just say sex there, because we’re not talking about sex or even simply love scenes here. This was about a whole other level of sensuality, not simply how graphic the sex was or how many love scenes there were. With Dara Joy, romances entered the era of the never-ending love scenes. It was no longer about how many scenes were in the books but where did they begin and end?
Or if they ever did.
And it only gets more difficult to tell with each new author.