Elizabeth Bennet Syndrome

So I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately – what a surprise! And something struck me. Not for the first time, but for some reason I felt the need to define it, and respond to it. I call it: The Elizabeth Bennet Syndrome.

Here’s what it is (and you’ll surely recognize this plot point right away): that typical – almost expected – part of a romance novel, when the two main characters are just getting to know each other. And instead of hitting it off, they actually start out disliking the other. Sometimes mere annoyance or discomfort due to unfulfilled sexual tension, but often full-on “I can’t stand you” confrontations. Yes, just like Lizzie Bennet and her hate/love relationship with the inimitable Mr. Darcy, of Pride & Prejudice fame.

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The smoldering eyes, the sexual tension, the money… Of course, it takes several dramatic hours before the actually smile at one another!  (And before you speak, there IS no other version than the BBC one. Don’t mention that recent movie they made – not a candle to it!)

When Jane Austen does this, it works beautifully because (as we learn throughout the course of the story), Lizzie and Darcy really are a great match for each other, but this only comes about through communication, gradual understanding, and seeing Darcy in a clingy white shirt after a hot&sexy swim in his (huge, rich) mansion’s pond. However, honestly, even when reading the original Pride & Prejudice, Darcy & Elizabeth’s relationship is not my favorite. No, I’m a fan of Bingley and Jane.

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So good together!

In stark contrast to her sister, Jane Bennet falls for Mr. Bingley, the all-around nice guy. (Not as rich as his friend, incidentally, but sufficiently well off for a practical Regency gal). Jane and Bingley are instantly attracted to one another, not merely physically, but also because they have similar, complimentary personalities and worldviews. Basically, they are a perfect match.

So why do we swoon for the Darcy’s of the world, and not the Bingley’s? Why do so many romance novels have characters who dislike each other in the beginning, and then fall in love? Why not fall for the nice guy first?

Part of it, I think, is the idea that the more “tension” you have in your relationship, the more passionate it is. Darcy and Lizzie argue, which leads us to envision bedroom delights of the tie-up-throw-down variety. (You know, the fun kind!) Whereas happy, easygoing Jane & Bingley don’t demonstrate that outward confrontation. Sex is a game and a battle; who’s on top, who’s setting the rhythm; who climaxes first; who yells and who thrashes. It’s all about control and submission, just like an argument, really.

The problem I have is how this translates to expectations, in literature and in the real world. As authors, we are taught that stories must have conflict. So when writing romance, naturally it is tempting to pit the protagonists against one another, only to bring them together in a blaze of exploding hormones later on. I get it; tension is hot, it gets the pulse going, it keeps you turning the pages, wondering how they will end up together. The less they like one another in the beginning, the more dramatic their eventual relationship seems on the page.

But life is not really like that. From personal experience, I can tell you that usually, the guy you don’t like at first is actually a guy you will not like, ever. Probably, he’s a jerk. Maybe controlling, maybe just has personal issues, or someone you don’t click with for whatever reason. That does not make the sex better. (The opposite is often true, in fact; those guys can be selfish in bed, and I don’t care how much erotic tension there is between you, if he’s crap in the sack, he’s not worth your time!) On the other side of the coin, couples who just seem to get along and be cool together can have awesome, passionate, kinky sex lives. True relationships are built on respect and communication. So is great sex. (We don’t read about it, but I bet sweet Mr. Bingley has some unexpected tricks up his perfectly tailored sleeves… lucky Jane!)

We need to see more of that represented in literature and film. Not only because it’s true – and I like to seek truth in fiction – but also because it’s way more interesting than retelling Elizabeth Bennet’s story. That’s been done over and over again. And seriously folks, Jane Austen already did it best.

Work It! (a writer’s guide to the writing process)

As you know, I’m a member of the wonderful writer’s group ASPA: the Alliance of Self Published Authors. We have a brand new website and blog, and I’ll be posting there on a regular basis. Come on over and check it out! This week, I’m plugging the writing process. Lest we forget, it takes WORK to finish a story!

Self-published Indie Network

Hello my fellow indie authors! As you have no doubt learned by now, writing a book is hard. It takes hours of intense mental concentration, not to mention higher risk of carpal tunnel from all that fast typing, and eye strain from staring at words until you go cross-eyed. Yes, finishing a book is not easy – as we well know from all those skeletons (formerly known as “a great idea I’m going to write a book about!”) currently cluttering up our files. And the hardest thing about it is that, even if you DO complete your masterpiece, the work has only just begun.

However, there is a clear way to find sanity, and produce stronger stories too. It’s way back to basics here with The Writing Process. In short, the writing process is a series of steps that guide you through the process of producing a piece of…

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First Sexy Books – remembering your literary first time

If you don’t already follow SexScribbler on WordPress, you should! Not only is she an amazing writer, she also reveals these bits and pieces that remind me we are never alone. Not now, in our over-connected world, and not ever. Who doesn’t remember the first time they discovered sex in a book? I certainly do… it’s one of those memories that will stay with me forever.

Mine was a surprise. I was a huge horse girl – one of those who preferred horses to boys all through puberty (and with good reason, considering the quality of the boys at the time… men, like wine, are better aged). Anyway, I volunteered at the school library, and as it was a K-12 school there were books at all levels. As I was reshelving some high schooler’s novel, I came across the evocatively-titled The Valley of Horses, by Jean M. Auel. Of course I grabbed it, and therein discovered not only a fabulously feminist version of prehistory, but also enough smoldering sex scenes to blow my little thirteen-year-old mind. Needless to say, I eagerly read through the rest of the series, and the rest is history.

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My first experiences of sex were in the pages of books. I was an avid reader growing up and one day it dawned on me that not only could I find adventure and romance in books but there was sex too! …

Source: First Sexy Books

Going Without : a guide to ditching your bra

Well, I had a great vacation – and so did my books, from the looks of it! I’m just thrilled that so many new readers had a chance to grab some of my work for free. (And hey, if you like it when it’s free, remember it’s just as good when it costs 99 cents! 😉 ) Anyhow, the summer is winding down, and it’s time to get serious. Back to work; back to buying the books you want to read. So the seasons turn.

But not everything has to get all  buttoned-up and serious yet. And I am here to make the hearty recommendation that you consider ditching your bra more often this summer.

Yes, I know, I wrote all about how to find and appreciate a perfect bra, but here’s the deal: it feels even better to go without. Now, I just spent over  a month in France, eating way too much, drinking even more, and spending time with family. Pretty excellent. And most of the time, I did my damndest to spend the whole day without my bra. Oh, the beautiful freedom! While I’m not about to go burning all my brassieres in the backyard – they’re way too pretty for that; plus I’ve got to go to work – it did get me to thinking about why we wear bras at all. It all comes down to culture and clothes.

A recent French scientific study, as seen here in this 2013 article, actually suggests that bras do nothing to help breasts keep their shape and “perkiness.” In fact, the study claims that bras actually make breasts saggier. Now, I am pretty sure this is bogus, because all the women in the study were young and French. Having spent the summer there, surrounded by elegant slim women with pretty, perky little points, I hardly think this is fair. Probably  they weren’t breastfeeding either. Also, women around the world who do not have access to bras – I’m thinking of my years in West Africa, again – certainly develop what we would consider to be “saggy boobs.” (Why that even matters is another argument because, really, it doesn’t.)

Which leads me to believe that we really only wear bras because society expects it. Well, screw what society expects! Your body, your choices. And being braless is amazing, whether out on the street or comfy at home. Do it; love it; and feel superior to all those who, in their sad brainwashed state of mind, are shocked. But how to go about it and still feel great about how you look?

Now those lucky ladies with little breasts can pretty much go braless whenever they want. I shall be eternally jealous of them: their backless dresses, their daring V-necks, their just-barely-a-handful! (Yes, I envy them regularly.) If that’s you, congratulations. You can go without a bra in anything from t-shirt to evening gown, and look just as fabulous as if you were strapped into the most luxurious lingerie around. So enjoy it! Don’t even buy a bra, or if you do, only for purposes of seduction…

Women like me (by which I mean, those endowed with about a basketball-player’s handful) probably won’t love the way they look without a bra in many types of clothes. I know, because I don’t. (For example, I will always wear a bra to work because otherwise my breasts just don’t fit right into a tailored blouse.) However, I still prefer being without a bra in many situations. It makes me feel both comfortable and sensual. (In fact, I am happily braless right now!) What I discovered is that it’s all about the clothes you choose. Here are some that almost always work:

(please note: while I include the buy link in the image of each of these dresses due to professional honesty, I can make no guarantee of the exact model I show here! They’re just great examples. 🙂 )

 

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It worked for Jane Austen, it can work for you!

Empire waist. With a band that fits right beneath the bust, empire waist dressed and shirts are perfect without a bra! Especially ones that fit tight across the chest, and offer some support. One of my favorite sundresses is like this, and it is delightful to just throw it on and go.

 

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Pretty & flowy.

Peasant blouse or tunic. By this I mean something that is loose and draped over the chest, usually caught at the waist or hips by a belt or sash. The flowy, drapey design looks fantastic without a bra. And nothing is more comfortable!

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    Fitted bodice all the way around.

 

 

 

Fitted bodice. This is kind of obvious, since dresses and shirts of this kind are designed to support the breasts without a bra. But still, they count!

 

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    Remember – the cut of a halter top REALLY matters!

    Halter neck. I hesitated to put this one on at first, because it really depends on the cut of the shirt. This can be totally great, or a disaster, depending on how the halter works. But if you look around, you can find some beautiful, flattering clothes of this style.

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    When it’s braless + V neck, the deeper the better!

    Deep V neck. Oooh, this is a fun one, and also daring! If the tip of the V ends up right between your breasts, you can wear it really low… and that’s hot. No crazy cleavage, since you’re braless, remember; but the natural movement of your breasts is sexier anyway.

 

Are you tempted? I do hope so! Make the most of these last days of summer by enjoying life without a bra! Ah, sweet freedom… also, my husband likes it. 😉