The Katharine Papers

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Revelations on Romance

Yesterday I wept at the beauty of a romance.

Admittedly, I’m a weeper.  I see a brilliant sunset, hear a toddler’s laughter, witness an act of kindness, and I become a watering pot.  The spectacular glory of life — whether of the natural world or of human creation — gets to me in my deepest core of joy.  But the weeping I did over that book yesterday made me think about this piece for RARM that I’d been pondering.  This is because it touched upon some ponderings already rolling around in my head.  And it made me understand why, when I can write any kind of fiction or non-fiction, I choose to write romance.
Read Katharine’s Revelations →

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The Rights of Women

In December of 1789, an abolitionist play, The Slavery of the Blacks, or the Lucky Shipwreck by Madame Olympe de Gouges, debuted on stage in the tumult of Revolutionary Paris.  After only three performances, the curtain fell on the play for the last time.  Incendiary in its call for slave emancipation, the play infuriated colonial plantation owners, whose lucrative sugar industry in the West Indies (today’s Caribbean) depended entirely on the labor of slaves.  The play went too far in criticizing their livelihood, and encouraged slaves to rise up violently against their owners, they complained.  Who was a woman to demand change to a system she could not possibly understand?

Who was Olympe de Gouges?

Born Marie Gouze in 1748, she was a playwright, pamphleteer, and outspoken warrior in the battle for the rights of all humans, which raged across the world at this time.  A citizen of the new France, which had thrown off its absolute monarchy to become a constitutional monarchy ruled by a representative governing body, Marie was not born into the aristocracy.  Rumor had it, though, that she was the illegitimate — unrecognized — daughter of a titled nobleman, and some historians attribute her impassioned defense of people without rights to this early rejection in her life.
Read about The Declaration of the Rights of Women →

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Stop Calling Romance Novels “Just” Love Stories—They’re So Much More

Content note: Contains brief discussion of sexual assault as a plot device.

What does it mean when people say romance novels are “just love stories”? Love is not “just” anything. It’s the best thing we’ve got on Earth. Acts done in love balance out the effects of greed and fear.

I think what people really mean when they disparage romance novels is that they’re about romantic love. And in our culture romantic love is almost always associated with women’s fantasies. Women want roses and chocolate; men want sex. That is, of course, baloney. Yet romance fiction carries a stigma, mostly rooted in misconceptions: romance novels are poorly written, they’re “mommy porn,” they reinscribe outdated notions of femininity that objectify women, and they’re unrealistic.

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You’re a Pro! 9 Utterly Irresistible Competence Kinks

Recently, I learned the term “competence kink.” For those of you who are also over thirty, not living in NYC or LA, and often totally unaware of things everybody else seems to know, I shall define it now: a competence kink is a profound attraction to people who are really, really good at something.

My first competence kink ever was not a hot man. (I will get to hot men in a moment.) It was a horse.

I was nine when I fell in love with the Black Stallion. He was exotic and powerful, an Arabian stallion of royal bloodlines. He was indomitably wild: only one boy could ride him, the boy to whom he gave his trust as well as his hero’s heart when shipwrecked on a desert island. He was huge and gorgeous: hands taller than any other racehorse, with a glossy black coat and ungovernable mane and tail. And he won all the time. All the time. To give other horses a chance at even coming close to him, racetrack officials would stuff lead into his saddle to weigh him down, and he’d still win. I adored this horse. He excelled at everything: beauty, strength, speed, friendship, courage, nobility of spirit, love. He was the first hero I ever worshipped.

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We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…Haven’t We?

We in the modern era did not invent the female orgasm.

We didn’t invent sex, either.

I bet you’re thinking, “Duh.” Because, well, duh. But when people learn that I’m a professor of medieval history, they say the darnedest things. And when I tell them I’m also a romance novelist, it’s even crazier.

May I give you examples?

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