The Marriage Crunch Revisited

From Mary Jo:

In 1986, Newsweek magazine wrote a cover story called “The Marriage Crunch” which famously said that a white, educated single woman of 40 had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married.  That remark didn’t seem quite as tasteless before 9/11, but it was outrageous enough to be picked up and widely quoted.  (I once read a women’s fiction novel based on the idea of four single women offended by the idea who pledged to go out and find themselves husbands in the next year.  Their results were mixed.)

You have to give Newsweek credit—in their June 5th issue, they revisited the story and cheerfully admitted they’d been wrong.  They tracked the fourteen single women referenced in the original story and located eleven.  Eight of the eleven had eventually married, several had children, and interestingly, none of them had divorced.  The three women who hadn’t married were living full, rewarding lives.

The original prediction about the dreadful odds against educated women marrying if they waited too long (at age 40, the figure was pegged at 2.6%) was flawed because the times, they were a’changing.  Being a demographer is like forecasting weather—working with statistics describing the past can be useful, but they don’t always predict the future. 

In the ‘80s, women were expanding their skills and goals.  They were delaying marriage because they had wanted more education and had wider options.  There was less of a panicky need to go to college to get a “Mrs. Degree,” and more freedom to make choices.  Nonetheless, most of the women in the earlier article did get married and most people do yearn to find the right mate.   

I found all of this quite intriguing since romance and marriage are my business.  Society has changed a lot in the last twenty years, and those changes are reflected in popular fiction.  Since we Wenches write popular fiction—who would want to write UNpopular fiction?—one way or another, we’re affected by what’s happening out there even though we write historical novels.

In contemporary romances, the secretary heroine of twenty years ago may have morphed into a CEO or a hot shot consultant today.  There are whole categories for kickass heroines a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The romance world has become a whole lot more diverse. 

In historical romances, the changes are more subtle, but today’s heroine is more likely to be a woman with a well developed mind rather than a teenager with little to commend her beyond a nubile body and her stunning beauty. 

My heroines have always been fairly independent, though in ways consistent with the historical record.  There have always been women who have had to support themselves, like my Welsh schoolteacher. (Thunder and Roses)  There have even been British women who have been warlords in the Middle East, like the heroine of my book Silk and Secrets.  (Check out Lady Hester Stanhope if you’d like to know more about such a woman in real life.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Hester_Stanhope

Writing paranormal romances adds a whole new dimension to strong heroines.  In my two alternative history series, magic is a great equalizer.  In my Guardian world (A Kiss of Fate, Stolen Magic, and the book I’m working on now), women have magical power that can equal or surpass that of male Guardians.  In the Regency world of the Stone Saints (The Marriage Spell, my new book), aristocratic men are actively discouraged from having anything to do with magic.  Which means they have a lot to learn from the women in their lives.  <g> 

Not that I want to create domineering heroines: my ideal in both real life and my books is an egalitarian relationship.  I don’t mean that both parties must split all responsibilities down the middle: there is a reason why most households have had a division of labor through the centuries.  But there should be mutual respect.  A willingness to listen to each other’s views and make compromises.  A desire to go more than halfway to keep the relationship happy and healthy. 

Maintaining a relationship of equals is harder than when one person is in charge all the time.  There are times when one partner is running low on strength and the other has to pick up the slack.  Times when both partners have deeply felt and incompatible needs.  Such circumstances aren’t always easy to work through, bBut the rewards can be great.  It’s nice not to have to carry all the responsibility, all of the time.  Or not to be told what to do all the time.  I rather like taking turns. <g>

The egalitarian relationship has become much more popular in recent years, but there have always been couples who have achieved it.  John and Abigail Adams were role models right at the beginning of the republic.  Marie and Pierre Curie shared their lives, their laboratories, and their scientific fame.  I’m sure you can think of other couples through the ages who shared the good and the bad in an egalitarian way.  (And they didn’t have to be famous—my maternal grandparents had a good partnership from what I know of them.)

To bring this back to writing, a powerful romance shows how these two characters fit together–what each sees in the other.  How they enrich each other’s lives.  What is special in their relationship.  In my current release, the heroine, Abigail, isn’t attracted to the hero because he’s the best looking man around—she points out to him that most of his friends are better-looking. <g>  But he seems funny and good-natured, and that rings her chimes.  For his part, he likes that she’s down to earth and practical and intelligent, not a terrifyingly perfect London socialite.  Even though she’s a wizard (ugh! hiss!), he can’t resist her kindness and sensuality. 

If I had to define the essence of a good romance, I’d say that a writer needs to show what these two particular people love about each other.  Plus, the characters should deserve each other—no pairing a great person with a cranky twit.  Make them fit well together. 

Yep—that’s all there is to it: the secret of writing romance, revealed here today! 

Mary Jo, sure a few other secrets will be revealed in the comments. <G>

54 thoughts on “The Marriage Crunch Revisited”

  1. tal sez
    I have a board game called THE JANE AUSTEN MARRIAGE GAME (it’s packaged in a bandbox!) in which the goal is to collect four gold rings (for Education, Breeding, Wealth, and Beauty, IIRC–it’s packed away with those 175 cartons of books), and to round the board with them till you end up at the altar.
    It’s occurred to me to invent a “cutthroat” version (as in “cutthroat cribbage”) which more accurately reflects the times, in which Beauty would be worth twice as much as Breeding; Wealth, four times as much; and you’d lose points for Education. Remember Dr. Johnson’s famous remark: “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.”
    There have always been remarkable women in history who have done as much as, or more than, men; but they are very seldom happily married. Consider Lady Hester Stanhope, mentioned above, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. (One is tempted to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I’ll refrain. :->)
    In most eras of history, women’s sphere has been the things that men don’t take seriously: domestic tasks, childcare, gathering, reading and writing. Once it becomes taken seriously, it becomes men’s work: Emeril, Dr. Spock, Ewell Gibbons, Harold Bloom. Very few men, in that era, could handle being married to a strong woman. The exceptions might be a Crusader who needed a wife who could run things at home while he was away, or a politician who needed a good hostess (“a grey mare in his stable”). I’m afraid the kind of marriages you are talking about are pretty much historical fiction, though we can hope that they may be contemporary fact.
    When you come over, we can play the board game when we get tired of playing with my Jane Austen Action Figure.
    I am a hospitable Mole: Drop by the burrow any afternoon for tea and weevils.

    Reply
  2. tal sez
    I have a board game called THE JANE AUSTEN MARRIAGE GAME (it’s packaged in a bandbox!) in which the goal is to collect four gold rings (for Education, Breeding, Wealth, and Beauty, IIRC–it’s packed away with those 175 cartons of books), and to round the board with them till you end up at the altar.
    It’s occurred to me to invent a “cutthroat” version (as in “cutthroat cribbage”) which more accurately reflects the times, in which Beauty would be worth twice as much as Breeding; Wealth, four times as much; and you’d lose points for Education. Remember Dr. Johnson’s famous remark: “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.”
    There have always been remarkable women in history who have done as much as, or more than, men; but they are very seldom happily married. Consider Lady Hester Stanhope, mentioned above, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. (One is tempted to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I’ll refrain. :->)
    In most eras of history, women’s sphere has been the things that men don’t take seriously: domestic tasks, childcare, gathering, reading and writing. Once it becomes taken seriously, it becomes men’s work: Emeril, Dr. Spock, Ewell Gibbons, Harold Bloom. Very few men, in that era, could handle being married to a strong woman. The exceptions might be a Crusader who needed a wife who could run things at home while he was away, or a politician who needed a good hostess (“a grey mare in his stable”). I’m afraid the kind of marriages you are talking about are pretty much historical fiction, though we can hope that they may be contemporary fact.
    When you come over, we can play the board game when we get tired of playing with my Jane Austen Action Figure.
    I am a hospitable Mole: Drop by the burrow any afternoon for tea and weevils.

    Reply
  3. tal sez
    I have a board game called THE JANE AUSTEN MARRIAGE GAME (it’s packaged in a bandbox!) in which the goal is to collect four gold rings (for Education, Breeding, Wealth, and Beauty, IIRC–it’s packed away with those 175 cartons of books), and to round the board with them till you end up at the altar.
    It’s occurred to me to invent a “cutthroat” version (as in “cutthroat cribbage”) which more accurately reflects the times, in which Beauty would be worth twice as much as Breeding; Wealth, four times as much; and you’d lose points for Education. Remember Dr. Johnson’s famous remark: “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.”
    There have always been remarkable women in history who have done as much as, or more than, men; but they are very seldom happily married. Consider Lady Hester Stanhope, mentioned above, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. (One is tempted to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I’ll refrain. :->)
    In most eras of history, women’s sphere has been the things that men don’t take seriously: domestic tasks, childcare, gathering, reading and writing. Once it becomes taken seriously, it becomes men’s work: Emeril, Dr. Spock, Ewell Gibbons, Harold Bloom. Very few men, in that era, could handle being married to a strong woman. The exceptions might be a Crusader who needed a wife who could run things at home while he was away, or a politician who needed a good hostess (“a grey mare in his stable”). I’m afraid the kind of marriages you are talking about are pretty much historical fiction, though we can hope that they may be contemporary fact.
    When you come over, we can play the board game when we get tired of playing with my Jane Austen Action Figure.
    I am a hospitable Mole: Drop by the burrow any afternoon for tea and weevils.

    Reply
  4. I think the concept of “equality” is very different from past historical eras. It is misleading to try and make sense of social structures while using a 21st century mentality. The right to vote, run for office, etc. was long controlled not only by gender but by birth, property and wealth. It wasn’t just women who were considered inferior but men of lower social stations.
    Sure, women couldn’t vote, but neither could most men. In the 18th century, women had a huge influence in politics (at least in England & America) and helped to promote and sink the careers of politicians. I do think a big step backwards occured in the Regency era. I remember reading in Amanda Foreman’s bood about the Duchess of Devonshire how disappointed Georgiana was when she returned from exile to find the spere of women’s influence seriously curtailed in the world of politics. This would have been in the early days of the Regency.
    Anyway, I think it makes for a fascinating challenge for the historical writer to create a relationship between two people when there are so many other factors involved.

    Reply
  5. I think the concept of “equality” is very different from past historical eras. It is misleading to try and make sense of social structures while using a 21st century mentality. The right to vote, run for office, etc. was long controlled not only by gender but by birth, property and wealth. It wasn’t just women who were considered inferior but men of lower social stations.
    Sure, women couldn’t vote, but neither could most men. In the 18th century, women had a huge influence in politics (at least in England & America) and helped to promote and sink the careers of politicians. I do think a big step backwards occured in the Regency era. I remember reading in Amanda Foreman’s bood about the Duchess of Devonshire how disappointed Georgiana was when she returned from exile to find the spere of women’s influence seriously curtailed in the world of politics. This would have been in the early days of the Regency.
    Anyway, I think it makes for a fascinating challenge for the historical writer to create a relationship between two people when there are so many other factors involved.

    Reply
  6. I think the concept of “equality” is very different from past historical eras. It is misleading to try and make sense of social structures while using a 21st century mentality. The right to vote, run for office, etc. was long controlled not only by gender but by birth, property and wealth. It wasn’t just women who were considered inferior but men of lower social stations.
    Sure, women couldn’t vote, but neither could most men. In the 18th century, women had a huge influence in politics (at least in England & America) and helped to promote and sink the careers of politicians. I do think a big step backwards occured in the Regency era. I remember reading in Amanda Foreman’s bood about the Duchess of Devonshire how disappointed Georgiana was when she returned from exile to find the spere of women’s influence seriously curtailed in the world of politics. This would have been in the early days of the Regency.
    Anyway, I think it makes for a fascinating challenge for the historical writer to create a relationship between two people when there are so many other factors involved.

    Reply
  7. I am not going to say anything intelligent here (as if that should could as any great surprise) about egalitarian relationships.
    I am surprised to learn that Newsweek revisited *that* article. I remember it. I wasn’t married then, still in college. My aunt was in her 40’s and recently divorced and found the article’s assertion far more than tasteless. She hasn’t remarried but is living a completely fulfilling life.

    Reply
  8. I am not going to say anything intelligent here (as if that should could as any great surprise) about egalitarian relationships.
    I am surprised to learn that Newsweek revisited *that* article. I remember it. I wasn’t married then, still in college. My aunt was in her 40’s and recently divorced and found the article’s assertion far more than tasteless. She hasn’t remarried but is living a completely fulfilling life.

    Reply
  9. I am not going to say anything intelligent here (as if that should could as any great surprise) about egalitarian relationships.
    I am surprised to learn that Newsweek revisited *that* article. I remember it. I wasn’t married then, still in college. My aunt was in her 40’s and recently divorced and found the article’s assertion far more than tasteless. She hasn’t remarried but is living a completely fulfilling life.

    Reply
  10. I suppose I will chime in here. Although, I’m probably more in the “less than intelligent” camp with Cathy.
    I’ve been married for twenty years. Started very, very young by today’s standards. Certainly by Newsweek’s standards. I was blessed with a wonderful man that has supported every nitwit thing I’ve tried and done. I’ve started and ran two businesses. Both at a profit. Closed one, sold the other. Been a freelance journalist, a home schooling mom, worked as a youth group director, riding camp instructor and now I’m a writer and member of Corporate America.
    20+ years climbing the same Corporate ladder, my husband left after attaining the Exec. VP title of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility. Now, he’s a stay at home dad. Has been for three years. He enjoys home schooling our daughter, cooking dinner, grocery shopping and running a small mortgage company on the side. I “go to work” now. Every morning he puts a triple shot latté in my hand and kisses me out the door.
    Is this an egalitarian relationship? Not the kind that fires the plot line of any book. History can be pretty boring when it’s viewed as the present.
    So, what does any of this have to with marriage, compatibility and history. Despite what history would like me to think, I don’t believe a woman needs a man to succeed. And a man doesn’t need a woman in order to do the same. But when one man and one woman work together, their success can be… might be… greater than the sum of their parts. (read efforts, my dear romantic friends) To judge any human being (current or historical) on any status that he or she is thrust into or has attained is to judge a book by its cover. Because it’s not what we do/attain (climb ladders, forecast predictions) that counts, it’s what we become and thus leave behind (children that value others, books that tell stories about the same) that matters. For it is in our daily present that we write future’s history. The legacy our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will call history.
    Forget the status. Write history. A history you can be proud to call your own.
    Oh, btw, if you haven’t read The Marriage Spell… do. It is absolutely fantastic. IMHO, it is like nothing else MJ has written. Don’t miss it.
    Nina
    P.S. I applaud you, MJ. You’ve got brass to bring up such a controversial, close to the vest, topic. Kudos to you!. 🙂

    Reply
  11. I suppose I will chime in here. Although, I’m probably more in the “less than intelligent” camp with Cathy.
    I’ve been married for twenty years. Started very, very young by today’s standards. Certainly by Newsweek’s standards. I was blessed with a wonderful man that has supported every nitwit thing I’ve tried and done. I’ve started and ran two businesses. Both at a profit. Closed one, sold the other. Been a freelance journalist, a home schooling mom, worked as a youth group director, riding camp instructor and now I’m a writer and member of Corporate America.
    20+ years climbing the same Corporate ladder, my husband left after attaining the Exec. VP title of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility. Now, he’s a stay at home dad. Has been for three years. He enjoys home schooling our daughter, cooking dinner, grocery shopping and running a small mortgage company on the side. I “go to work” now. Every morning he puts a triple shot latté in my hand and kisses me out the door.
    Is this an egalitarian relationship? Not the kind that fires the plot line of any book. History can be pretty boring when it’s viewed as the present.
    So, what does any of this have to with marriage, compatibility and history. Despite what history would like me to think, I don’t believe a woman needs a man to succeed. And a man doesn’t need a woman in order to do the same. But when one man and one woman work together, their success can be… might be… greater than the sum of their parts. (read efforts, my dear romantic friends) To judge any human being (current or historical) on any status that he or she is thrust into or has attained is to judge a book by its cover. Because it’s not what we do/attain (climb ladders, forecast predictions) that counts, it’s what we become and thus leave behind (children that value others, books that tell stories about the same) that matters. For it is in our daily present that we write future’s history. The legacy our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will call history.
    Forget the status. Write history. A history you can be proud to call your own.
    Oh, btw, if you haven’t read The Marriage Spell… do. It is absolutely fantastic. IMHO, it is like nothing else MJ has written. Don’t miss it.
    Nina
    P.S. I applaud you, MJ. You’ve got brass to bring up such a controversial, close to the vest, topic. Kudos to you!. 🙂

    Reply
  12. I suppose I will chime in here. Although, I’m probably more in the “less than intelligent” camp with Cathy.
    I’ve been married for twenty years. Started very, very young by today’s standards. Certainly by Newsweek’s standards. I was blessed with a wonderful man that has supported every nitwit thing I’ve tried and done. I’ve started and ran two businesses. Both at a profit. Closed one, sold the other. Been a freelance journalist, a home schooling mom, worked as a youth group director, riding camp instructor and now I’m a writer and member of Corporate America.
    20+ years climbing the same Corporate ladder, my husband left after attaining the Exec. VP title of a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility. Now, he’s a stay at home dad. Has been for three years. He enjoys home schooling our daughter, cooking dinner, grocery shopping and running a small mortgage company on the side. I “go to work” now. Every morning he puts a triple shot latté in my hand and kisses me out the door.
    Is this an egalitarian relationship? Not the kind that fires the plot line of any book. History can be pretty boring when it’s viewed as the present.
    So, what does any of this have to with marriage, compatibility and history. Despite what history would like me to think, I don’t believe a woman needs a man to succeed. And a man doesn’t need a woman in order to do the same. But when one man and one woman work together, their success can be… might be… greater than the sum of their parts. (read efforts, my dear romantic friends) To judge any human being (current or historical) on any status that he or she is thrust into or has attained is to judge a book by its cover. Because it’s not what we do/attain (climb ladders, forecast predictions) that counts, it’s what we become and thus leave behind (children that value others, books that tell stories about the same) that matters. For it is in our daily present that we write future’s history. The legacy our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will call history.
    Forget the status. Write history. A history you can be proud to call your own.
    Oh, btw, if you haven’t read The Marriage Spell… do. It is absolutely fantastic. IMHO, it is like nothing else MJ has written. Don’t miss it.
    Nina
    P.S. I applaud you, MJ. You’ve got brass to bring up such a controversial, close to the vest, topic. Kudos to you!. 🙂

    Reply
  13. Mary Jo, I was already reading books by several of the Wenches in the 80s, and all the heroines I remember from those books were more than “teenager[s] with little to commend [them] beyond a nubile body and [their] stunning beauty.”

    Reply
  14. Mary Jo, I was already reading books by several of the Wenches in the 80s, and all the heroines I remember from those books were more than “teenager[s] with little to commend [them] beyond a nubile body and [their] stunning beauty.”

    Reply
  15. Mary Jo, I was already reading books by several of the Wenches in the 80s, and all the heroines I remember from those books were more than “teenager[s] with little to commend [them] beyond a nubile body and [their] stunning beauty.”

    Reply
  16. From Mary Jo:
    I’m enjoying all these thoughtful comments! Tal, I like your idea of the cutthroat marriage game. 🙂 These days, education no longer puts women at a disadvantage. Instead, they may choose a younger mate like men have been doing forever. (I also have a Jane Austen Action Figure–I practically rolled on the floor laughing when I opened the box it came in. 🙂 )
    Cathy, I think it made sense for Newsweek to revisit “that” article simply because so many of the assumptions proved to be wrong, and society has evolved in such interesting ways since then. It sounds as if your aunt has done just fine.
    Nina, it’s characteristic of me that I didn’t think of this as a controversial topic–merely an interesting one to discuss. And so far, the discussions have indeed been interesting. It sounds as if you and your dh have evolved your own form of egalitarian marriage. Well done! And thanks for the kind words on the book.
    Wylene, you’re right that none of the Wenches wrote that kind of twit heroine, and I suspect that’s one reason why we have mutual respect and compatibility. Even in the earliest days, there were writers who created admirable heroines. But the first two historical romances I picked up in the Bad Old Days were so appalling that I finished neither (and in those days I finished EVERYTHING), and I wouldn’t pick up another. If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  17. From Mary Jo:
    I’m enjoying all these thoughtful comments! Tal, I like your idea of the cutthroat marriage game. 🙂 These days, education no longer puts women at a disadvantage. Instead, they may choose a younger mate like men have been doing forever. (I also have a Jane Austen Action Figure–I practically rolled on the floor laughing when I opened the box it came in. 🙂 )
    Cathy, I think it made sense for Newsweek to revisit “that” article simply because so many of the assumptions proved to be wrong, and society has evolved in such interesting ways since then. It sounds as if your aunt has done just fine.
    Nina, it’s characteristic of me that I didn’t think of this as a controversial topic–merely an interesting one to discuss. And so far, the discussions have indeed been interesting. It sounds as if you and your dh have evolved your own form of egalitarian marriage. Well done! And thanks for the kind words on the book.
    Wylene, you’re right that none of the Wenches wrote that kind of twit heroine, and I suspect that’s one reason why we have mutual respect and compatibility. Even in the earliest days, there were writers who created admirable heroines. But the first two historical romances I picked up in the Bad Old Days were so appalling that I finished neither (and in those days I finished EVERYTHING), and I wouldn’t pick up another. If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  18. From Mary Jo:
    I’m enjoying all these thoughtful comments! Tal, I like your idea of the cutthroat marriage game. 🙂 These days, education no longer puts women at a disadvantage. Instead, they may choose a younger mate like men have been doing forever. (I also have a Jane Austen Action Figure–I practically rolled on the floor laughing when I opened the box it came in. 🙂 )
    Cathy, I think it made sense for Newsweek to revisit “that” article simply because so many of the assumptions proved to be wrong, and society has evolved in such interesting ways since then. It sounds as if your aunt has done just fine.
    Nina, it’s characteristic of me that I didn’t think of this as a controversial topic–merely an interesting one to discuss. And so far, the discussions have indeed been interesting. It sounds as if you and your dh have evolved your own form of egalitarian marriage. Well done! And thanks for the kind words on the book.
    Wylene, you’re right that none of the Wenches wrote that kind of twit heroine, and I suspect that’s one reason why we have mutual respect and compatibility. Even in the earliest days, there were writers who created admirable heroines. But the first two historical romances I picked up in the Bad Old Days were so appalling that I finished neither (and in those days I finished EVERYTHING), and I wouldn’t pick up another. If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  19. From Pat Rice:
    I can’t imagine human nature has changed immensely over the last few thousand years. Society may have, but I know there have always been strong and weak women and men. There have been people who wanted to be taken care of and people who prefer to do the caretaking. We think in romance terms of white knights on their steeds riding out to save their castles, but I’ll betcha top dollar that there were just as many lazy, conniving knights as there were good ones, ones who preferred to stab a man in the back, steal his rich wife, and let her run the place so long as he had enough to drink. And if the woman was strong enough to do all that, she was strong enough to dump the oaf in the nearest river and run the place the way she wanted. Perhaps in those times it wasn’t socially acceptable or easy to arrange an egalitarian marriage, but don’t ever tell me that there weren’t ANY strong women and that they didn’t deliberately go looking for their equals!
    The wenches write books about strong women because that’s where the stories are. What kind of romance would we have if the heroines were all pushovers? Borrrinnggg.

    Reply
  20. From Pat Rice:
    I can’t imagine human nature has changed immensely over the last few thousand years. Society may have, but I know there have always been strong and weak women and men. There have been people who wanted to be taken care of and people who prefer to do the caretaking. We think in romance terms of white knights on their steeds riding out to save their castles, but I’ll betcha top dollar that there were just as many lazy, conniving knights as there were good ones, ones who preferred to stab a man in the back, steal his rich wife, and let her run the place so long as he had enough to drink. And if the woman was strong enough to do all that, she was strong enough to dump the oaf in the nearest river and run the place the way she wanted. Perhaps in those times it wasn’t socially acceptable or easy to arrange an egalitarian marriage, but don’t ever tell me that there weren’t ANY strong women and that they didn’t deliberately go looking for their equals!
    The wenches write books about strong women because that’s where the stories are. What kind of romance would we have if the heroines were all pushovers? Borrrinnggg.

    Reply
  21. From Pat Rice:
    I can’t imagine human nature has changed immensely over the last few thousand years. Society may have, but I know there have always been strong and weak women and men. There have been people who wanted to be taken care of and people who prefer to do the caretaking. We think in romance terms of white knights on their steeds riding out to save their castles, but I’ll betcha top dollar that there were just as many lazy, conniving knights as there were good ones, ones who preferred to stab a man in the back, steal his rich wife, and let her run the place so long as he had enough to drink. And if the woman was strong enough to do all that, she was strong enough to dump the oaf in the nearest river and run the place the way she wanted. Perhaps in those times it wasn’t socially acceptable or easy to arrange an egalitarian marriage, but don’t ever tell me that there weren’t ANY strong women and that they didn’t deliberately go looking for their equals!
    The wenches write books about strong women because that’s where the stories are. What kind of romance would we have if the heroines were all pushovers? Borrrinnggg.

    Reply
  22. “If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!”
    Ditto for me. I got scarred at 16 by some Viking raid rape “romance” and didn’t pick up another one (except for the Diving GH) until more then 10 years later. And I wouldn’t have picked that one up except I was trapped in the world’s most Podunk airport and the book kiosk had exactly 3 books: A sci-fi book I’d already read, a Stephen King novel I had no desire to read, and MISCHIEF by Amanda Quick. I bite the bullet and bought MISCHIEF and became an instant addict. After I’d read all of AQ I had to find others . . . which led me to my all my current MUST READS, and eventually to writing my own. All cause of a horrible layover. LOL!

    Reply
  23. “If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!”
    Ditto for me. I got scarred at 16 by some Viking raid rape “romance” and didn’t pick up another one (except for the Diving GH) until more then 10 years later. And I wouldn’t have picked that one up except I was trapped in the world’s most Podunk airport and the book kiosk had exactly 3 books: A sci-fi book I’d already read, a Stephen King novel I had no desire to read, and MISCHIEF by Amanda Quick. I bite the bullet and bought MISCHIEF and became an instant addict. After I’d read all of AQ I had to find others . . . which led me to my all my current MUST READS, and eventually to writing my own. All cause of a horrible layover. LOL!

    Reply
  24. “If not for Georgette Heyer, I never would have snuck in the back door of romance. So my thanks to the Divine Georgette!”
    Ditto for me. I got scarred at 16 by some Viking raid rape “romance” and didn’t pick up another one (except for the Diving GH) until more then 10 years later. And I wouldn’t have picked that one up except I was trapped in the world’s most Podunk airport and the book kiosk had exactly 3 books: A sci-fi book I’d already read, a Stephen King novel I had no desire to read, and MISCHIEF by Amanda Quick. I bite the bullet and bought MISCHIEF and became an instant addict. After I’d read all of AQ I had to find others . . . which led me to my all my current MUST READS, and eventually to writing my own. All cause of a horrible layover. LOL!

    Reply
  25. Good post, Mary Jo! And good comments too.
    I agree with a lot of what’s been said, but I do get a little testy when it appears the measure of a woman’s value to herself, her family and society is the extent to which she’s “broken free” of historical shackles and taken her place in the paid professions. Some women, like my sister-in-law, are talented, intelligent, educated stay-at-home moms who are doing precisely what they want to do. Tal mentioned that when men take on jobs traditionally belonging to women (like cooking), the jobs suddenly gain legitimacy. It appears to me, as a corollary, that only when women take on traditional male tasks, or approach traditional female tasks as a professional and get paid for them, do the women get full respect. I’ve seen a lot of women – in novels, in newspapers, on television, in person – sneer at other women who’ve made the choice to find their fulfillment in traditional female roles. The underlying attitude seems to be that those women have sold out the sisterhood in some way, or are somehow oppressed or unenlightened. In truth, it seems to me, the blessing of our society is that women can choose to take the corporate track, can choose to be a carpenter or a railroad engineer, can choose to be a mommy who rears children and keeps house, or can choose to mix it all up.
    I do like to see the strong, independent women in today’s romances, since I’m one myself. I just don’t like it when they mow the man down. I can’t respect the man then, and don’t see how the heroine can either. Fortunately for me, the Word Wenches strike just the right balance, and have for a long time. Thank you!

    Reply
  26. Good post, Mary Jo! And good comments too.
    I agree with a lot of what’s been said, but I do get a little testy when it appears the measure of a woman’s value to herself, her family and society is the extent to which she’s “broken free” of historical shackles and taken her place in the paid professions. Some women, like my sister-in-law, are talented, intelligent, educated stay-at-home moms who are doing precisely what they want to do. Tal mentioned that when men take on jobs traditionally belonging to women (like cooking), the jobs suddenly gain legitimacy. It appears to me, as a corollary, that only when women take on traditional male tasks, or approach traditional female tasks as a professional and get paid for them, do the women get full respect. I’ve seen a lot of women – in novels, in newspapers, on television, in person – sneer at other women who’ve made the choice to find their fulfillment in traditional female roles. The underlying attitude seems to be that those women have sold out the sisterhood in some way, or are somehow oppressed or unenlightened. In truth, it seems to me, the blessing of our society is that women can choose to take the corporate track, can choose to be a carpenter or a railroad engineer, can choose to be a mommy who rears children and keeps house, or can choose to mix it all up.
    I do like to see the strong, independent women in today’s romances, since I’m one myself. I just don’t like it when they mow the man down. I can’t respect the man then, and don’t see how the heroine can either. Fortunately for me, the Word Wenches strike just the right balance, and have for a long time. Thank you!

    Reply
  27. Good post, Mary Jo! And good comments too.
    I agree with a lot of what’s been said, but I do get a little testy when it appears the measure of a woman’s value to herself, her family and society is the extent to which she’s “broken free” of historical shackles and taken her place in the paid professions. Some women, like my sister-in-law, are talented, intelligent, educated stay-at-home moms who are doing precisely what they want to do. Tal mentioned that when men take on jobs traditionally belonging to women (like cooking), the jobs suddenly gain legitimacy. It appears to me, as a corollary, that only when women take on traditional male tasks, or approach traditional female tasks as a professional and get paid for them, do the women get full respect. I’ve seen a lot of women – in novels, in newspapers, on television, in person – sneer at other women who’ve made the choice to find their fulfillment in traditional female roles. The underlying attitude seems to be that those women have sold out the sisterhood in some way, or are somehow oppressed or unenlightened. In truth, it seems to me, the blessing of our society is that women can choose to take the corporate track, can choose to be a carpenter or a railroad engineer, can choose to be a mommy who rears children and keeps house, or can choose to mix it all up.
    I do like to see the strong, independent women in today’s romances, since I’m one myself. I just don’t like it when they mow the man down. I can’t respect the man then, and don’t see how the heroine can either. Fortunately for me, the Word Wenches strike just the right balance, and have for a long time. Thank you!

    Reply
  28. I won’t make any intelligent comments either — not qualified. And I won’t make any comments about successful marriages — also not qualified (and probably not because I was a great person married to a cranky twit).
    I just wanted to second (or third or fourth — I’ve lost count) the comments about “The Marriage Spell”. I thought it was a wonderful read and great fun. Absolutely not your regular Regency, which is why it’s such great fun.

    Reply
  29. I won’t make any intelligent comments either — not qualified. And I won’t make any comments about successful marriages — also not qualified (and probably not because I was a great person married to a cranky twit).
    I just wanted to second (or third or fourth — I’ve lost count) the comments about “The Marriage Spell”. I thought it was a wonderful read and great fun. Absolutely not your regular Regency, which is why it’s such great fun.

    Reply
  30. I won’t make any intelligent comments either — not qualified. And I won’t make any comments about successful marriages — also not qualified (and probably not because I was a great person married to a cranky twit).
    I just wanted to second (or third or fourth — I’ve lost count) the comments about “The Marriage Spell”. I thought it was a wonderful read and great fun. Absolutely not your regular Regency, which is why it’s such great fun.

    Reply
  31. I agree with Pat 100%.
    I also think people could have been much wiser then than they are today. After all, they didn’t have news commentators to form their opinions for them. They thought more than read, which might be a good thing.
    I cannot write romance’s idea of an alpha male for my heroine’s, though I’ve tried. Julie Garwood used to write these alpha males that I liked to read about but in reality, if I encountered one, we’d have words. We’d have more than words. The only thing passionate about the encounter would the be vitriolic eloquence spewing from my mouth. Such men bring out the worst in me (true confessions).
    I don’t like a weak man either. My Mr. Darcy (dh, or whatever we’re calling the husband units these days) is the perfect gamma. He is smart. Did I mention he’s smart?
    Wish I could write one of those bruisers, but I have not been able to. My heroines are plucky, so I imagine they’d have the same reaction to such a male as I do.

    Reply
  32. I agree with Pat 100%.
    I also think people could have been much wiser then than they are today. After all, they didn’t have news commentators to form their opinions for them. They thought more than read, which might be a good thing.
    I cannot write romance’s idea of an alpha male for my heroine’s, though I’ve tried. Julie Garwood used to write these alpha males that I liked to read about but in reality, if I encountered one, we’d have words. We’d have more than words. The only thing passionate about the encounter would the be vitriolic eloquence spewing from my mouth. Such men bring out the worst in me (true confessions).
    I don’t like a weak man either. My Mr. Darcy (dh, or whatever we’re calling the husband units these days) is the perfect gamma. He is smart. Did I mention he’s smart?
    Wish I could write one of those bruisers, but I have not been able to. My heroines are plucky, so I imagine they’d have the same reaction to such a male as I do.

    Reply
  33. I agree with Pat 100%.
    I also think people could have been much wiser then than they are today. After all, they didn’t have news commentators to form their opinions for them. They thought more than read, which might be a good thing.
    I cannot write romance’s idea of an alpha male for my heroine’s, though I’ve tried. Julie Garwood used to write these alpha males that I liked to read about but in reality, if I encountered one, we’d have words. We’d have more than words. The only thing passionate about the encounter would the be vitriolic eloquence spewing from my mouth. Such men bring out the worst in me (true confessions).
    I don’t like a weak man either. My Mr. Darcy (dh, or whatever we’re calling the husband units these days) is the perfect gamma. He is smart. Did I mention he’s smart?
    Wish I could write one of those bruisers, but I have not been able to. My heroines are plucky, so I imagine they’d have the same reaction to such a male as I do.

    Reply
  34. From Loretta:
    One of my many frustrations with Hollywood’s version of romance is the preoccupation with the nubile, beautiful teenager. As though this isn’t annoying enough, the teenager is so often paired with a man old enough to be her grandfather. I heard that these were called “Gidget & Geezer” movies. Yet I need to remember that only a few generations back–and today in many countries–twenty year and greater age differences were no big deal–as long as the guy was older, that is. I’m thinking, yes, of certain heroes created by the great Georgette and other English authors. I’m looking at the relative ages of couples who’ve immigrated to my little city in the last decade or so. There’s a biological component here, I know–the nubile young woman signals high fertility. But that’s yet another reason to write romances, and make things come out the way we’d like them to.
    And that’s a great way to put it Mary Jo–the two people need to enrich each other’s lives.
    As to Alpha males: I’m thinking this topic might deserve a blog of its own.

    Reply
  35. From Loretta:
    One of my many frustrations with Hollywood’s version of romance is the preoccupation with the nubile, beautiful teenager. As though this isn’t annoying enough, the teenager is so often paired with a man old enough to be her grandfather. I heard that these were called “Gidget & Geezer” movies. Yet I need to remember that only a few generations back–and today in many countries–twenty year and greater age differences were no big deal–as long as the guy was older, that is. I’m thinking, yes, of certain heroes created by the great Georgette and other English authors. I’m looking at the relative ages of couples who’ve immigrated to my little city in the last decade or so. There’s a biological component here, I know–the nubile young woman signals high fertility. But that’s yet another reason to write romances, and make things come out the way we’d like them to.
    And that’s a great way to put it Mary Jo–the two people need to enrich each other’s lives.
    As to Alpha males: I’m thinking this topic might deserve a blog of its own.

    Reply
  36. From Loretta:
    One of my many frustrations with Hollywood’s version of romance is the preoccupation with the nubile, beautiful teenager. As though this isn’t annoying enough, the teenager is so often paired with a man old enough to be her grandfather. I heard that these were called “Gidget & Geezer” movies. Yet I need to remember that only a few generations back–and today in many countries–twenty year and greater age differences were no big deal–as long as the guy was older, that is. I’m thinking, yes, of certain heroes created by the great Georgette and other English authors. I’m looking at the relative ages of couples who’ve immigrated to my little city in the last decade or so. There’s a biological component here, I know–the nubile young woman signals high fertility. But that’s yet another reason to write romances, and make things come out the way we’d like them to.
    And that’s a great way to put it Mary Jo–the two people need to enrich each other’s lives.
    As to Alpha males: I’m thinking this topic might deserve a blog of its own.

    Reply
  37. When I visited my sister in NYC to celebrate my b-day, she handed me that Newsweek and told me to read that story. We’re both single and in our early 30’s and both of us found that article encouraging – whether you want to marry and have children or prefer to stay single. It’s a great article.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  38. When I visited my sister in NYC to celebrate my b-day, she handed me that Newsweek and told me to read that story. We’re both single and in our early 30’s and both of us found that article encouraging – whether you want to marry and have children or prefer to stay single. It’s a great article.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  39. When I visited my sister in NYC to celebrate my b-day, she handed me that Newsweek and told me to read that story. We’re both single and in our early 30’s and both of us found that article encouraging – whether you want to marry and have children or prefer to stay single. It’s a great article.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  40. Interesting topic,with many branches.
    I think if we did the stats, I’d probably be the Wench with the youngest characters over all. I think all but 3 of my heroes are under thirty, and my heroines are nearly all under 25. Though one is over thirty and married a younger man. 🙂 A few of my heroines are teenagers.
    So obviously, I’m on the side of those who say young people can be, and historically have often been, important achievers.
    I like writing about youth, but I realize I came by this honestly because I started the Rogues so long ago. From the age of 29, a 24 year old hero didn’t seem strange, especially as I’ve always been drawn to younger men. And as far as that series goes, I was stuck with that age group. Not that I’m complaining!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  41. Interesting topic,with many branches.
    I think if we did the stats, I’d probably be the Wench with the youngest characters over all. I think all but 3 of my heroes are under thirty, and my heroines are nearly all under 25. Though one is over thirty and married a younger man. 🙂 A few of my heroines are teenagers.
    So obviously, I’m on the side of those who say young people can be, and historically have often been, important achievers.
    I like writing about youth, but I realize I came by this honestly because I started the Rogues so long ago. From the age of 29, a 24 year old hero didn’t seem strange, especially as I’ve always been drawn to younger men. And as far as that series goes, I was stuck with that age group. Not that I’m complaining!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  42. Interesting topic,with many branches.
    I think if we did the stats, I’d probably be the Wench with the youngest characters over all. I think all but 3 of my heroes are under thirty, and my heroines are nearly all under 25. Though one is over thirty and married a younger man. 🙂 A few of my heroines are teenagers.
    So obviously, I’m on the side of those who say young people can be, and historically have often been, important achievers.
    I like writing about youth, but I realize I came by this honestly because I started the Rogues so long ago. From the age of 29, a 24 year old hero didn’t seem strange, especially as I’ve always been drawn to younger men. And as far as that series goes, I was stuck with that age group. Not that I’m complaining!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  43. Jo, even though I’ve always perferred characters with scars and mileage on them, you write so eloquently about younger heroes that you can always convince me of the validity even if it’s not my style. 🙂 Maybe you can blog on the subject of younger characters some time. As I said, you’re wonderfully convincing about the passion and fire of young love. I’d be happy to read your thoughts on the subject again!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  44. Jo, even though I’ve always perferred characters with scars and mileage on them, you write so eloquently about younger heroes that you can always convince me of the validity even if it’s not my style. 🙂 Maybe you can blog on the subject of younger characters some time. As I said, you’re wonderfully convincing about the passion and fire of young love. I’d be happy to read your thoughts on the subject again!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  45. Jo, even though I’ve always perferred characters with scars and mileage on them, you write so eloquently about younger heroes that you can always convince me of the validity even if it’s not my style. 🙂 Maybe you can blog on the subject of younger characters some time. As I said, you’re wonderfully convincing about the passion and fire of young love. I’d be happy to read your thoughts on the subject again!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  46. It seems to me that in many interesting books the characters struggle with how to make the relationship as equal as possible given the constraints of the society they are in. – to be equal in an unequal world. I think we find this interesting because we’re all still doing the same thing–trying to find equality and empowerment in a still unequal society. The characters have to negotiate some unconventionality without throwing away societial norms completely. After all, it is Elizabeth Bennett who is our heroine, not Lydia. Characters often struggle to find the right balance between rebellion and practicality– between what can be changed and what (for now) must be accepted.
    Jo -though your characters may be young, as I remember your books, it isn’t the youth, softness, and innocence of the heroine that draws the hero to her, but other qualities. –
    On another note-There are so many times when after a movie I find myself asking “what is the basis for that relationship?” I can’t figure out what the characters have in common. There was that period in Hollywood when the older guy, younger woman got really annoying- especially as other female characters were non-existant or evil. I hope things continue to be better than that.
    And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?
    Merry

    Reply
  47. It seems to me that in many interesting books the characters struggle with how to make the relationship as equal as possible given the constraints of the society they are in. – to be equal in an unequal world. I think we find this interesting because we’re all still doing the same thing–trying to find equality and empowerment in a still unequal society. The characters have to negotiate some unconventionality without throwing away societial norms completely. After all, it is Elizabeth Bennett who is our heroine, not Lydia. Characters often struggle to find the right balance between rebellion and practicality– between what can be changed and what (for now) must be accepted.
    Jo -though your characters may be young, as I remember your books, it isn’t the youth, softness, and innocence of the heroine that draws the hero to her, but other qualities. –
    On another note-There are so many times when after a movie I find myself asking “what is the basis for that relationship?” I can’t figure out what the characters have in common. There was that period in Hollywood when the older guy, younger woman got really annoying- especially as other female characters were non-existant or evil. I hope things continue to be better than that.
    And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?
    Merry

    Reply
  48. It seems to me that in many interesting books the characters struggle with how to make the relationship as equal as possible given the constraints of the society they are in. – to be equal in an unequal world. I think we find this interesting because we’re all still doing the same thing–trying to find equality and empowerment in a still unequal society. The characters have to negotiate some unconventionality without throwing away societial norms completely. After all, it is Elizabeth Bennett who is our heroine, not Lydia. Characters often struggle to find the right balance between rebellion and practicality– between what can be changed and what (for now) must be accepted.
    Jo -though your characters may be young, as I remember your books, it isn’t the youth, softness, and innocence of the heroine that draws the hero to her, but other qualities. –
    On another note-There are so many times when after a movie I find myself asking “what is the basis for that relationship?” I can’t figure out what the characters have in common. There was that period in Hollywood when the older guy, younger woman got really annoying- especially as other female characters were non-existant or evil. I hope things continue to be better than that.
    And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?
    Merry

    Reply
  49. >>And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?<< Google. 🙂 I found the Jane Austen action figure very easily, after I knew they existed. I imagine the games are similarly easy. Jane Austen has become an entire cottage industry. And you're right about people trying to negotiate a balanced relationship within their societal norms. It's an endlessly interesting subject. Mary Jo

    Reply
  50. >>And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?<< Google. 🙂 I found the Jane Austen action figure very easily, after I knew they existed. I imagine the games are similarly easy. Jane Austen has become an entire cottage industry. And you're right about people trying to negotiate a balanced relationship within their societal norms. It's an endlessly interesting subject. Mary Jo

    Reply
  51. >>And finally, what are these Jane Austen games and action figures and where do you get them?<< Google. 🙂 I found the Jane Austen action figure very easily, after I knew they existed. I imagine the games are similarly easy. Jane Austen has become an entire cottage industry. And you're right about people trying to negotiate a balanced relationship within their societal norms. It's an endlessly interesting subject. Mary Jo

    Reply
  52. on a personal note- I am one of those women who the newsweek article predicted would never marry (I married at age 41 for the first time) I remember reading a critique of the article shortly after it was published. It was based on the faulty assumption that women only married men who were a few years older than they were. I’m off to look for the newsweek article and the Jane Austen figures.
    Merry

    Reply
  53. on a personal note- I am one of those women who the newsweek article predicted would never marry (I married at age 41 for the first time) I remember reading a critique of the article shortly after it was published. It was based on the faulty assumption that women only married men who were a few years older than they were. I’m off to look for the newsweek article and the Jane Austen figures.
    Merry

    Reply
  54. on a personal note- I am one of those women who the newsweek article predicted would never marry (I married at age 41 for the first time) I remember reading a critique of the article shortly after it was published. It was based on the faulty assumption that women only married men who were a few years older than they were. I’m off to look for the newsweek article and the Jane Austen figures.
    Merry

    Reply

Leave a Comment