Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan

In brief: The funniest and snarkiest guide to romance novels out there, covering everything from why a heroine can’t have plain brown hair to a Choose Your Own Adventure romance novel.

The good: Incredibly funny AND incredibly well researched. Sarah and Candy need to start writing textbooks – people would read them then.

The not-so-good: If you’re not into swearing, you may not like some of the language used.

Why I chose it: Heard Sarah speak at the Romance Writers of Australia conference this year – she is funny, clever and totally freaking awesome.

Year: 2009

Pages: 291

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

My rating: 9 out of 10

I first heard Sarah Wendell speak at the Romance Writers of Australia conference earlier this year and like the rest of the audience, I immediately had a fan girl crush. Not only is she a talented public speaker, she knows a monster load about social media and is wickedly funny. Plus, she does possibly the most believable Australian accent I’ve heard with the right kind of slang and swear words. Her knowledge of Aussie finger signs was enough to make me want to buy this book (also the fact that it’s both in-depth and funny – seriously, this is PhD worthy AND readable).

In case you haven’t heard of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, it’s a website started by Sarah and Candy Tan exploring romance novels. Forget the stereotype that the average romance reader lives alone with multiple cats, bobbly jumpers/sweaters and a bum bag (that’s fanny pack in the US, which means something entirely different down under). You can be smart with a high flying job and still love romance proudly and openly. Candy and Sarah with their team are out to bust that myth.

Need convincing? I suggest you read this book. Don’t need convincing? Still read it, it will make you louder and prouder (plus, where else can you get in-depth discussion of romance cover art through the ages)? The book goes from the wickedly funny to serious, exploring the themes of romance, the heroes and heroines, settings du jour and what’s in the future for romance (scarily enough they got a lot of it right). There’s also a Choose Your Own Adventure romance story, covering the paranormal, historical (including pirates), romantic suspense and contemporary romance genres. This will bring back fond memories to readers of a certain age and yes, you can read it multiple times to find out all of the endings. (That’s what I did because I always initially choose the story that’s the shortest). There’s a board game too based on Big Misunderstandings (you know, the part when the heroine sees the hero with another woman who turns out to be his sister/mother/boss but decides to break it off in a huff).

There’s serious stuff too but the language makes it readable and fascinating. How would you explain the sexual power of the hero using the term Mighty Mighty Thunderstick? Why are there so many swords on the covers of romances? What is the power of the Mighty Hoo Hoo? You may think this is a bit juvenile but the use of euphemisms helps to lighten the tone and keeps you reading to wonder what term will be used instead of penis next! It’s thought provoking – what are the driving forces behind the popularity of romance novels? How have the plots changed? Is an alpha male still the way to booklist success? How can those familiar plot devices (e.g. the secret baby, women dressed as men and vice versa) be kept fresh?

I loved this book for its tone – yes there’s snark but you can tell that the Smart Bitches truly love the romance and care for it. Be warned though – you will end up with a long list of authors and books to try. Best to keep your Kindle/tablet far away!

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4 thoughts on “Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan

Add yours

  1. I need to find out why heroines can’t have plain brown hair! Great review. Sounds like the perfect book for romance lovers.

    I had to look up what fanny pack would mean in Australia. *blush* Oh, my! Learn something new every day. I wish we’d start using “bum bag” in the US. I like that better!

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