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A Natural History of the Romance Novel

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812215229
ISBN-10: 0812215222
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Finally, a true and insightful history of the romance novel. This book establishes the historical legitimacy of an important literary genre."—Jayne Ann Krentz



"Regis sets out to analyse the formal features and literary history of this much-maligned genre. . . . A thorough, sensible, and partisan book, arguing for romantic fiction as a genre that celebrates freedom of choice."—Times Literary Supplement



"Useful to those interested in the form and integrity of romance fiction, this volume joins such noteworthy examinations of the romance as Tania Modleski's Loving with a Vengeance and Janice Radway's Reading the Romance."—Choice

About the Author

Pamela Regis is Professor of English at McDaniel College and the author of Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crevecoeur, and the Influence of Natural History, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. She is the receipient of the 2007 Melinda Helfer Fairy Godmother Award.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (April 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812215222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812215229
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book about romance novels, what they are, what they are not, and how they can be traced from Richardson and Austin clear through to the 20th century. A serious study and jumping off point for anyone wanting to do scholarly research.
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Format: Paperback
If an indignant member of the 'If you have any criticisms of romantic novels or their defenders, then it must be because you have never read any/don't understand the genre' school wishes to post an angry comment on my objections to the arguments advanced in Pamela Regis' book, then please don't. I have read many romantic novels and even sometimes, write them.

Three stars, because I don’t believe in giving low star ratings because I disagree agree with a writer’s arguments. I don't normally write such scathing reviews, but this book's soft treatment of rapist heroes really dismayed me and I thought the author did the genre no favours by putting forward illoigical arguments.

With this book, though, I was really tempted to give a low star rating, if only because the author falls over backwards to justify the heroine of ‘Pamela’ in her idiotic choice of marrying her one time would be rapist Mr B. In this, she makes the following astounding statement: - ‘The story can be called oppressive, I think, only if one believes that marriage is an institution so flawed that it cannot be good for a woman.’

Excuse me! What sort of an argument is this? (Steam bursts from my ears…) I can't dispute that Professor Regis does think that, but it's a ridiculous assertion. The story can be called oppressive because it romanticizes the relationship between a would be rapist and his victim in the most distasteful way. The story can be called oppressive, because the heroine is wholly oppressed by Mr B both before he puts the relationship on a nominally respectable basis, and afterwards, when he controls her every behaviour.

Not only that, but Regis has unfortunately neglected her research.
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Format: Hardcover
A landmark. Professor Regis has finished the job Jane Tompkins began with _Sensational Designs_ and Janice Radway continued in _Reading the Romance_. Couldn't be an easier read, balanced but sympathetic, and interesting even if you haven't read the book she's discussing. Not the last word by any means, but there'll be no getting the genie back into the bottle now.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pamela Regis' book, A Natural History of the Romance Novel, is a remarkable example of circular reasoning in literary analysis. She sets up a very specific definition of the concept "romance novel" -- namely "a work of prose fiction that tells the story of the courtship and betrothal of one or more heroines."

In Chapter 4, The Definition Expanded, she then narrows this definition by defining eight aspects which she perceives as necessary to the form: Society Defined, The Meeting, The Barrier, The Attraction, The Declaration, Point of Ritual Death, The Recognition, and The Betrothal.

It should be noted that in this context, she presumes that the "betrothal" will occur between the hero and heroine, thus eliminating from the "romance novel" category an immensely popular work such as Anthony Hope's 1895 The Prisoner of Zenda, which followed the trope of love between hero and heroine sacrificed to the more imperative needs of honor and duty.

Given these tight limits on what the author is willing to consider to be a "romance novel," she focuses on tracing the form from Joseph Richardson's 18th century epistolary blockbuster, Pamela, through Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and other selected 19th century authors, picking up Georgette Heyer in the first half of the 20th century, and continuing through Janet Dailey, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts.

From the perspective of the historian rather than the literary critic, the major deficiency of the book lies in its lack of attention to authors who, in their own time, were blockbuster bestsellers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a long-time fan of this genre, I expected more from this book. However, it was too academic, spent too long on only a few authors and didn't add anything to my understanding. The author spent quite a bit of time reviewing plot details and I admit that I enjoyed her analysis of Nora Roberts and Jayne Krentz books that I had read, but there was too much detail and repetition.

There must be better books out there....and I'd love to read any suggestions.
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