26 May, 2020

#RTWrites :: 5 Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction Novels That Shaped My Writing - @RT_writes

Hi, I’m Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal.

I write contemporary romantic women’s fiction. What is this mouthful of a genre you ask? I’m so glad you did!

CRWF is basically all the novels written by woman that aren’t strictly genre-specific. Like romance or chick lit or thriller or horror. And they encompass each of these genres and sub-genres. So, in a venn diagram CRWF would also be the big circle and the subset intersection!

Yeah, it’s a really non-specific but really cool space for women writers to be in, mostly because otherwise we’d have to call ourselves fiction writers and we know where THAT venn diagram begins and ends, amirite?

What is Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction 

As with all heroines in a novel, I too have struggled with an identity crisis – what do I write? Pure play romance. Yeah. Chick lit. Yes. Action thrillers. Hell, yeah. What about when I mix two of these genres? Or three? Or when sometimes the romance is as much in focus as the suspense?

Or when I explore themes of political identity as I did in Guardian Knight, my latest release.
They aren’t exactly exalted literary fiction but they do not belong to a single specific genre – aka romance or thriller.

Enter Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction – Which can be loosely defined as those stories or novels where a strong female protagonist finds herself and her happily ever after while kicking ass at work. This work bit can be construed to whatever fits the story idea – housewife, homemaker, baker, lawyer, reporter, etc.

And because it is romantic women’s fiction, there is a hero(ine) and a sexual component to the character arc.

Now that you guys understand CRWF 101, I’d love to share a list of five amazing novels by five amazing women writers that shaped my thinking, writing, and career…long before I knew it was called Contemporary Romantic Women’s Fiction. These are all books from the 2000s, when I was growing up ergo…the word ‘shaped.’

Welcome To Temptation by Jennifer Crusie 

Jennifer Crusie’s heroines are smart, sharp, acerbic. They take zero shit from men and are almost always angry about where they are in life when the story begins.

Welcome to Temptation’s Sophie Dempsey is no different. She is independent but deeply family-oriented and her sexual emancipation at the hands of the picture perfect Phin Tucker is one of the most sex-positive arcs I’ve ever read in my life.

Welcome to Temptation is the reason I was able to write More Than You Want – which features a smart, sharp, acerbic Rachel Strand who is independent but has to depend on the picture perfect Jake Cavanaugh to help her…by marrying her!

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner 

Jennifer Weiner writes flawed women. They are strong, they are funny and they begin as slightly neurotic and insecure in their own ways before becoming comfortable in their own skin – accepting themselves for who they are. And nowhere is this more clear than with the two sisters – Rose and Maggie – who have nothing in common except for shoe size.

How Weiner deftly creates a romance between sisters, the men in their lives but mostly within themselves forms the bulk of the plot. And it illustrated to me, clearly, the need to always always include each of these arcs when I tell a story. Something I’ve tried to do in every single book I write, but especially in The Royals of Stellangard Series.

The Perfect 10 by Louise Kean 

The Perfect 10 is the first book about a *large* woman that I’ve ever read. Scratch that. The Perfect 10 is the first book where writer Louise Kean tackles ALL the issues that come with being overweight and fat and a million other adjectives. And she does this with a deftness that never fails to make me cry.

Sunshine Sunny meets hardened Cagney because they share a neighborhood. Sunny’s a newly-fit adult toys entrepreneur and Cagney’s a detective. They are as different as tofu and paneer. And they are antagonists from the first moment when they meet – much like Sunny’s relationship with food and her friends and even, her own sexuality.

Throw in a gay video store owner and this book taught me SO MUCH about inclusivity, acceptance, neurosis and just sheer good writing. It did not hurt that I imagined Clive Owen as Cagney James throughout the book!

The Perfect 10 was a huge, unconscious influence when I drafted The Worst Daughter Ever’s LJ Raghavan.

Trust Me by Jayne Ann Krentz

Jayne Ann Krentz’s writing is superfluous and smooth. Her heroines are a little whacky, as the best ones are and they juxtapose the out-of-placeness the heroine feels from her opposite family. This makes for some amazing internal and external conflict and creates organic growth arcs.

In Trust Me, Jayne creates one of my favorite heroes ever – Sam Taggart. A hot-as-Hades geek who falls somewhere on the autism spectrum and has been dumped by a woman at the altar, AGAIN. Enter Desdemona with her whacked out theatrical family where she is the only sane one. It is a classic gender-flipped Pygmalion with two adorable munchkins to boot and a romantic suspense angle for a futuristic software!

But what struck most to me in Trust Me and what I carried over as I wrote my own Geeks of Caltech series – is the sheer otherness that brings this unlikely couple close together. Their otherness complements each other which makes it easier for them to accept it within themselves. How cool is that?

The Villa and Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts (and everything else)

I am a writer because I read Nora when I was a kid. This is undisputed, documented fact. But there are two books – Hidden Riches and The Villa – that I keep going back to, again and again, over the years which remind me why she teaches me so much.

Hidden Riches is my favorite ever because it features Jed Skimmerhorn (my FAVORITE HERO NAME EVER!) – a brooding ex-cop with hot green eyes and a body to die for. He also has the entire Nancy Drew collection in his library which just about sealed the deal for me. But, Jed’s special because of how he deals with Dora, the straight arrow heroine in a family of theater thespians!
Dora’s a businesswoman and very practical but becomes romantic (in that she softens and becomes vulnerable) around Jed, the more she gets to know him. But I love their relationship mostly because neither of them tries to change the other, instead they change for the other.

They face their demons (specially Jed) individually and repair relationships to find their way to each other, not because it is the end goal but because it is the right thing for them to do. To heal and grow.
In The Villa, Tyler and Sophie are squabbling wine-grower execs who have to learn to get along with each other in order to keep the multi-million dollar family wine business going. But, The Villa is such a wonderful story about inter-generational relationships, acceptance, inclusion and the ruthlessness required to run a large business empire.

Both of these books, especially, have taught me the value of writing whole characters with realized ambitions and careers who learn to make space for their partner, softening their edges for the other person. Which is what I try to do in every book I write, always.

And every single one of Nora’s books have taught me the value of writing a happy ever after. Because, what’s life without a happy ever after.

Stay safe and indoors, peeps.
Writer Gal