I have always been a private person. Not really shy, but a bit reserved when it comes to sharing my inner-most thoughts and feelings. Secrets are not meant to be shared – they are meant to be kept. But reading Chick’nmiddle’s recent post inspired me. She, who was brave enough to share her Secret Obsession, has emboldened me to share mine.
What is my secret obsession? Nothing terrible or illegal or earth-shattering; nothing much, really, although it is sometimes embarrassing (especially if I’m caught by the uninitiated). I am a fan – nay, a fanatic – of that über trashy, smutty, and slutty genre of literature known as the bodice ripper.* That’s right, phrases like heaving bosom, turgid member, flowing locks, chiseled abs can be found bound (literally and figuratively) and in abundance on my shelves.
I first became interested in these tales when I was in junior high. I had moved beyond children’s books, but wasn’t quite ready for any of the heavy-duty classics, nor had I yet discovered the wonderful worlds of science fiction. At that time there was a dearth of the now ubiquitous young adult novel. I couldn’t attend Hogwarts, nor could I volunteer as tribute. What was an avid reader (who also happened to be a hopelessly romantic teenager) to do?
Harlequin to the rescue!
By today’s standards, those first romance novels I devoured were rather tame, almost G-rated. As I grew older and the genre progressed, so did the sex-factor. Readers (and I) embraced the steamier telenovela aspects, and soon there was a plethora of sexplicit works from which to choose.
Over the years I have discovered authors I can count on to tell a story I will enjoy. What I like best about these stories (which I call escapist fiction) is that while I’m reading, I’m fully engaged with the characters and the story line. However, when the story ends, so does my involvement. The characters and their crises and love lives just fade away. I am left sated but not entangled.
At the beginning of my long-lived love affair with the bodice ripper, the story was predictable. Older, successful man and a younger woman who usually needed rescuing. Eventually the female role became more interesting. Although the more fiery heroines were usually red-heads (stereotyping much?), at least they were endeavoring to rescue themselves and not pining for a white knight.
Today, the bodice ripper genre is not solely limited to the traditional M/F dynamic. Readers can now find stories with M/M or F/F protagonists. And of course there are the tales that delve in to what once was considered forbidden – ménage and BDSM. I have found myself exploring and enjoying several of the sub-genres available – and discovering new authors and new stories to add to my collection.
I get a lot of flak for my choice of leisure reading materials, but as one who has an unbridled passion for the bodice ripper, I continue to read them despite it all. I think the primary reason I do so is because it does provide an escape. My impression of what is usually categorized as “good literature” is that it is very real-world (and yes, I know this is a very broad and general statement). Due to the nature of my job, I am entangled in the real, the ugly, the sad, the scary, and the lost. I live in and interact with the real world on a daily basis, so I just don’t feel the need to read about anything real when I am relaxing.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of a D/s storyline with a sub who is pissed as hell and not feeling at all submissive – and I really want to learn how it all works out.