While bad economic times mean layoffs and cutbacks for many, for others it offers a creative wellspring of plot lines for a variety of media from television to literature. Court’s part of the segment lasts a mere eight seconds, yet romance publishing is shown in a positive light, as an industry providing much needed escapism.
Watch the segment and see what you think. Correspondent Chris Jansing reminds us that in the Great Depression, fiction about people who met with strife during the era became immensely popular.
Conversely, the 1930s was also the decade of the glamorous movie musical, of Ginger Rogers swirling around in exquisite gowns that in today’s dollars would likely equal the annual salary of some unfortunate soul manning the fry station at Burger King. Americans wanted to be misdirected away from bread lines toward romantic stories about women enjoying life in big houses complete with servants, sleek Art Deco furniture, and a wardrobe of hats to die for.
Curiously enough, in several of the most enduring movies of the 1930s, the women were rich while the romantic leads weren’t always as well off. Think Kathryn Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. Granted, Hepburn ends up marrying her well-to-do neighbor played by Cary Grant, but I doubt viewers questioned Stewart’s virility or maleness in his role of an underpaid writer who literally sweeps the heroine off her feet.
During her NBC report, Jansing also directed the spotlight toward the new “recession TV” series Hung on HBO, about a middle-aged man who loses everything to the downturn and opts to use his best asset to survive as a gigolo.
Which brings up the question, would romance readers, not simply accept, but propel a story with a similar dynamic to the top of the lists? Can romance readers be comfortable with a man who isn’t rolling in dough, but who is still incredibly yummy and masculine?
A poverty-stricken heroine is no stretch, but a hero living in a pup tent is a dicey choice. Though it worked for Gigi Levangie Grazer in The Starter Wife, personally I found myself more attracted to the author’s hilarious and secretly tragic descriptions of life in L.A. than the hero of her novel, Sam Knight. Sam may be sweet and tortured, but he feels like a bit of wimp to me, too much Heathcliffiness without the deranged strength.
Sometimes a girl just wants to forget the fact that she’s driving around in a ghastly old minivan with two missing hub caps, a cracked windshield, and a passenger’s side window that won’t roll down any more because bird poop shorted out the motor. Sometimes you just want to fantasize about things you probably won’t ever have. That includes a dangerous alpha hero with a lot of money.
Then again, dreams of something much more attainable, a man who understands what it’s like to struggle financially because he’s been there himself, can be incredibly romantic and funny and sexy.
Here’s the question I’d like to ask, will romance successfully pull something exciting and daring out of the present economic situation? Would readers buy it, as in a lot of copies of it? My thought is that this might be the perfect opportunity for eBook romance writers, those who, by definition, can get stories to market faster and who have publishers more open to taking calculated risks.