Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on May 29, 1976 · Page 34
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Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona · Page 34

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 29, 1976
Page 34
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Love Lives! By Al Martinez L.A. Times News Service Citizen Photo by Thomas Bingham His mouth fastened on hers, warm and demanding, and she tried to struggle free of him. But her strength was puny against the hard barrier of his arms... --From "Temporary Wife," by Roberta Leigh · From Oakland to Schenectady and from Osceola to El Paso, American women have discovered a dramatic new literary concept, it's called boy meets girl. This is not your hip, dope- smoking, counterculture boy who, having met his liberated chick, climbs into bed with her on their first date. Oh, no. This is Luke and Emily, who meet, flirt, part, overcome insurmountable problems, fall in love and kiss. She doesn't even tremble with strange desire until the last page. They are the archetypal lovers in a genre of paperback fiction that is the newest -and in some ways the oldest -- form of escape in a realism-weary world. And their books are selling in the millions. Harlequin Enterprises, which publishes only romantic fiction, sold 63 million books last year, for example. In the event the impact of that figure escapes you, Harlequin is pleased to point out, it means the sale of two books every second. Over at Bantam, one author -- 77-year-old Barbara Cartland -- has 11 million copies of her books in print and turns them out at the rate of one a month. An Avon paperback, Rosemary Rogers' "Dark Fires," sold more than 2 million copies in three months. Romantic fiction ranks among the top JO items sold at supermarkets, and an executive of a national bookstore chain says literary love is keeping them in business. Who buys the books? Ninety-eight per cent of the purchasers are women, according to one market survey. Both young and old. Teen-agers line up with dowagers, and working girls with housewives, to snap up the hundreds of new titles that hit the paperback racks each month, many of them written by unknowns. Nothing quite like it has happened since "Gone With the Wind," to which some of the paperbacks are compared. Standing in line also are those offering reasons why women, supposedly freed of old restrictions and inhibitions, are turning to supermarket soap opera for escape. An editor at Dell Books calls it the Cinderella Complex: "Everyone wants to live happily ever after." A Los Angeles psychologist suggests that it may be a backlash against women's lib or violence on television or both. Another contends that women are simply tired of reading stark essays on their right to multiple orgasms and are seeking gentler prose. The editor of Playgirl magazine, a land of field manual for the "new woman," read a romantic novel recently and loved it. "It was," sighed Marin Scott.Milam, "likfi watching an old Doris Day movie." Whatever the reason for its revival, the boom in romantic fiction has sent publishers scrambling in search of new authors and new titles. "They write the books," a Simon and Schuster executive said happily, "and I write the checks." And while the kind of innocent romance turned out by Harlequin seemed to precipitate the boom, not all of the love paperbacks on the market are quite as tepid as Roberta Leigh's "Temporary Wife." . The Avon "hot ones" are doing very well, also. All the novels generally fall into three categories: Gothic, Victorian and contemporary. One book distributor describes them this way: "A Gothic book jacket has a house, a Victorian has a horse and a contemporary romance has an apple-cheeked, smiling couple deeply in love." The authors of contemporary ^romance break it down what they want. It's an honest way to make money." Her books have old 7 million copies and have made her wealthy. "It's amazing how grown women collect them," she said. "They're like kids collecting comic books. I knew one woman who had 300.1 like to think of them as the silent majority." Leigh considers the return to romantic fiction as a rebuff to the women's liberation movement -- which she considers "more Fascist than fascism." "What is more shrill," she asked rhetorically, "than a militant female?" The success of romance in fiction, Leigh believes, heralds a general return to a romantic era in the world. "People are tired of believing in nothing," she insisted. "All it's gotten them is mental institutions and a tranquilizer habit. My books do not encourage aggressions or violence." He bent to pull her closer, but she beat her fists against his chest. 'You're out of your Books Authors even further into what they call the Rhett Butler Syndrome. In a scene from "Gone With the Wind," Butler cajrried Scarlett O'Hara up the stairs and into a bedroom and closed the door. One suspected, but never quite knew, what went on inside. In Harlequin novels, only that much eroticism is allowed. "Our romances," a publishing executive said, "are clean, wholesome fiction with no overt sex or violence, and always with an upbeat, happy ending." At Avon, however, there are no such restrictions. "You not only .walk up the stairs with Rhett and Scarlett in my books," one author said cheerfully, "but you also join them in the bedroom and sometimes participate." Roberta Leigh is one of those who will give you a peek, and perhaps a touch, but very little more. She doesn't believe that eroticism belongs in romantic fiction. "I keep sexual play to a m i n i m u m , " she s a i d , "though a gentle hand might reach out occasionally to a discreetly clothed bosom." '/ love you so much,' he said. 'Without you I'm nothing.' His hands cupped her breasts. Til phone the office in the morning and tell them I'll be away for a week ....' Leigh -- who also writes under the names Rachel Lindsay, Roumelia Lane and Rozella Lake -- has been writing romantic fiction for 20 years and has churned out 41 books, dictating as., many as 10,000 words in an afternoon. She occasionally turns out a novel in 10 days. "What I'm doing," she said good-naturedly, "is very significant, {'m giving the people mind,' she cried, and tried to pull free of him. 'Let me go!' "Women are turning more to romance," Leigh added, "because they're frightened by a real world run by men, and run badly. Everything seems out of control. Their only hope is in a fictional world where real emotions count.". Rosemary Rogers, who lives in Carmel, Calif., and writes for Avon, agrees in principle with Leigh on why women are buying their books -- but beyond that they part company. The novels written by Miss Rogers, a divorcee in her 30s, are among the Avon "hot ones," although one critic regards them as turgid rewrites of "Forever Amber." Her three.books have been phenomenally successful, beginning with "Sweet Savage Love," which she sent unsolicited to Avon. That and "Wildest Heart" have each sold close to 2 million copies and "Dark Fires" is heading for 3 million -- plus. That she has a devoted following is made clear by the fact that "Fires" went to press five times before the advertising campaign had even begun. Readers snap up anything the queen of Avon's love fleet writes, the more torrid the better. She doesn't disappoint them. Publishers Weekly, for instance, describes the "ravishingly beautiful" heroine of "Dark Fires," and the travail she endures, this way: "Overpowered by her lover- turned-husband and repeatedly raped by bandits and sex- starved soldiers, she bounces back each time as fresh and beautiful and feisty as ever. Obviously, for a large share of the female population, equal rights and liberation are one thing, fantasies quite another." "It seems clear to me," she said, "that women, are trying to escape humdrum reality. Every woman wants a happy ending." Most of her readers, she speculates, are .crazy about the hero in her books and want to feel they can capture the handsome, elegant, devil- may-care man themselves. With a sense of humiliation and anger, she remembered the way Steve Morgan had kissed her, ignoring her struggles until she had been incapable of resistance. Was that how men really kissed, like an invasion?Men are all animals... Harlequin books, Rogers feels, are all too much alike: "The timid girl is swept off her feet by a handsome man and they kiss at the end. They've got to-open the bedroom door a little. "All the Harlequin hero ever does is kiss the girl, and not very well at that. 'He drew away from her trembling.; If a man ever drew away from me trembling, I'd die." Ginny turned her lips up to Carl's again, closing her eyes against the abject, hungry look on his face. Carl's mouth attacked hers again, his kisses wet and searching, and she shuddered uncontrollably ... Avon receives between 40 and 50 letters every day for Rosemary Rogers or Kathleen Woodiwiss, whose "The Flame and the Flower" started the love boom for them in . 1971. "I have never been so moved emotionally by an author," the women write from Ohio and Pennsylvania and California and Michigan. "I actually was trembling with excitement and dread as to what would happen when Ginny and Steve faced each other . . .." "The feelings and emotions of your characters brought me alive for the first time since lost my beloved husband three years ago . . . . " "I literally drink every page to quench my thirst. Every woman at one time or another has wanted to live a life such as your heroines . . . . " "What women seem to be looking "for," said Playgirl editor Milam, "is something of the tenderness we may have lost in our growth. There is no romance anymore. Whatever became of goodbyes- forever?" Los Angeles-based'Playgirl, with a healthy circulation, is one of the leading exponents of what the liberated woman ought to be reading these days. A female version of Playboy, its pages abound with nude males and woman-oriented erotica in prose and picture. Yet Milam feels that women may be tiring of their newly found freedoms. "The emergence of female sexuality is a great burden for women as far as enjoyment is concerned," she said. The one-nighter syndrome can get tiring. Perhaps we are crawling back for relief. ..." The one romantic novel she PAGE 6 TUCSON DAILY CITIZEN SATURDAY, MAY 29, 1976

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