Preconceived Notions: Can you let them go?

Posted March 27, 2008 by Holly in Discussions | 9 Comments

Holly: A few weeks ago, Rosie posted something about being an Ageist. Basically? That she’s extremely discriminate when it comes to the ages of the characters in the novels she reads. I admit, I’m guilty of this as well. My preferred ages for heroines range from 18 – 25 for historicals and 23-32 for contemporaries. The thing is, I’m soon to be 30 myself. You’d think I wouldn’t have an issue reading about women 5 years older than me. But I do.

Of course, there are exceptions. A few years ago, Rowena and I discovered Jennifer Crusie. We read Fast Women together. I remember it perfectly. We agreed to try some new authors and we’d heard of JC. We were on the phone with each other and we were at the book store (in separate towns) and she said, “I’m gong to get this book. You need to as well.” and I said, “Ok, it looks cute” so we bought it. We started reading it that night and we called/emailed each other to gush over how good it was in the beginning and how much we adored the beginning. “We did good this time!”

But a short time later our tune changed. Ween called me, dismayed. “Dude, did you know these women are old?” Yeah, I’d just realized that. So then what? The story was ruined? I couldn’t read it anymore?

Nope, I continued on and loved it. Absolutely adored it.

I realized something today about myself that Holly helped me realize.

I’m NOT an Ageist.

Because when I think about Fast Women, and when I read it all those many years ago, I don’t remember the book because of how old Nell was or how old Gabe was. I remember loving the budding relationship between Nell and Gabe. I loved getting to know them as people. Characters of a book. And I loved Nell’s son. He was a cutie patootie and thought he’d be perfect for Gabe’s daughter. There were so many things that I loved about Fast Women and remembering their age just didn’t matter to me.

It makes me wonder though because I have pre conceived notions about a lot of other book things. Like, covers. If the cover is hideous, odds are, I won’t pick up the book and I’ll never know if the story within the book is the best thing since sliced bread because there are so many other books with prettier covers that I’ll read before it. It’s sad really, and something that I’m not entirely proud of but it is what it is. Holly isn’t a cover snob and she’s read some really attrocious looking books and thought they were the bomb and I still haven’t read it….

…so I guess I got some work to do, huh?


Holly: But you avoid picking up books when the hero/heroine are older, don’t you? Just like we were dismayed when we first realized the hero/heroine of FW were older. I know I’ve put some books back on the shelf at the bookstore after reading they were in the late 30’s or 40’s or 50’s. Because those just don’t appeal to me. Am I missing out on some amazing books because of it? Probably. But that doesn’t stop me from putting them back.

I have issues with other things, too. Like cheating. I read a book recently, Once Smitten, Twice Shy by Lori Wilde. The hero of that book was engaged to someone else while falling back in love with his ex-wife. When I first realized he was still in love with one woman while engaged to another, it bothered me. But I was able to move past it and I really enjoyed the book. But I know there are other books I’ve put down because they dealt with some of my hot button issues and I just couldn’t be arsed to read them. Is it possible, like Fast Women and Once Smitten, Twice Shy, that they were wonderful stories I truly would have enjoyed? Yup, but that didn’t stop me from putting them back on the shelf and walking away.

Hmm, well maybe I used to be like that but I’m not like that anymore. I know I used to shy away from Christian fiction but I don’t think I will anymore. I used to think that it would be too cheesy and too full of everything I’m not looking for in my romance but then I read Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury which is basically a Christian romance and I really enjoyed it. More than I’ve enjoyed anything in quite a long time. My sister read the book and we loved it! It’s not something that I would have ever read before on my own because, HELLO! There’s no love scenes in these books and you know how we all are about those love scenes, the steamier the better! But I realized that Christian fiction is just as good as regular women’s fiction, it’s different but no less enjoyable than a Jennifer Crusie or a Lisa Kleypas book would be.

Just really, really good stuff.

And Holly, I think it’s very likely that we’re missing out on great things because of our snobbyness. So our question to you guys is this, have you guys had any preconceived notions about books and ended up being really wrong about them or spot on? Share your thoughts and stories with us, we’d love to hear them.

Holly: I know we’re missing out on some great books because we’re letting our prejudices color what we read. And I’ve had experience in reading things I didn’t think I’d like that I ended up loving.

What do you think, darling readers? Can we move on? Can we pick up a book with a cheater hero, or a heroine who’s 50, or with a Christian theme? Can you?

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9 responses to “Preconceived Notions: Can you let them go?

  1. I am in complete agreement on the age thing and that it didn’t affect my loving Fast Women. 🙂 I don’t know why it bothers me if the characters are older, but it really does. This idea is what stops me from reading many of the Harlequin Next books. I think I saw one a while ago where the heroine was older and that was it for me. I don’t even look at them at the store anymore. I should probably work on this…

  2. I know Harlequin has a Christian theme category line that may just do the job. They also had their Next line and their Everlasting Love line that has their heroes and heroines past 40 yrs and older remember their younger days in love with a past love or their husband or wife.

    Cheater hero? Didn’t Catherine Coulter do a few of those or Beatrice Small. I don’t like those cheating, skanky men.

  3. Someone (I apologize for not remembering who) commented on my ageist post that when people are older we have a different expectation that they have their life together and are settled. That rang a bell for me. Younger people are still in the process of deciding and finding the “right one”. Maybe. I’m not sure that’s all the reason for my ageism.

    I also have a horrible bias against books with ghosts (Lover UnBound anyone?) and fairies or the fae. There are exceptions as I loved LORD OF THE FADING LANDS by CL Wilson. But, mostly, I won’t even try books with those elements.

  4. this is very interesting!
    I have an age problem the other way….I just can’t believe a 18-25 year old woman can be so wise, sexually confident, and mature as they are often portrayed in books. Its a bit more believable in the historicals or medievals because people had such a compressed life then.

    When I read your post and the comments it just smacks me in the head with the fact that I may not be old in my own mind…but I am in the minds of younger people. It is a strange thing. You are always younger in your head than you really are. I still feel about 35 even though I’m looking to turn 48 next month.
    The thing that is interesting about getting older is that you still have insecurities, you still screw up, and you still think you need to grow up a bit more. Oh yeah, and you’re still interested in romance.
    I know, you’re thinking ‘ugh’ but its true 🙂

    As for infidelity…that is a show stopper for me. I have a hard time reading that and managing to finish that book. One exception would be “The First Time” by Joy Fielding. That was a great story (but you must have a box of tissues on hand when you read it).

    Rosie, as for your bias against fae, etc…I just finished Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series and it was great. Try it. There are werewolves, vampires, a few ghosts, AND fae 🙂
    Briggs is such a good writer that it works. Truly.

  5. I can’t either, Kyahgirl. In historicals? Yes. But in a contemp? It’s just too hard to believe. I was a young mother, and I was married young, and I can tell you from experience that I had no idea what I was doing, or what real love was, or even what my life was about. I’m much more likely to believe a heroine who’s 25 or older is mature enough to really understand what she’s doing and where she’s going.

    And I don’t doubt for a second that women who are older (40’s or 50’s) are still changing and growing. I think we do that our entire lives. But like Rosie, I believe their more settled at 40 or 50. There are certainly exceptions, but for the most part the novels I’ve read that centered around older characters were ones where the heroine was just “finding” herself or “finding love” for herself. And I look at my grandmother, and my mother, and I think…seriously? I think that’s my major issue.

  6. It seems as I get older my tastes change. There was a time where I liked my H/H to be on the younger end of the scale. I’d never have read any Christian romances in the past. I thought they would be too preachy and of course there wouldn’t be any hotness to them. The same goes for any young adult books too.

    Now all that’s changed. I’ve found myself reading lots of things that in years past I would have never picked up. The Twilight books are a perfect example. If someone would have told me that I would be loving a series with no sex , I would have said that they were crazy. I’m open to a lot more than I used to be. I also find for the most part I want my H/H to be a little older, I just find it to be more realistic.

  7. As someone in their 50’s (but ack – I don’t look it or feel it) I can testify that life experiences still change us. I know I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago. At the same time and oddly enough, I don’t like romance where the hero/heroine are my age or older (I wonder what that says about me?) But I also don’t really like heroines that are two young anymore either – like in the teens. I can’t help thinking they are younger then my own children. I think that’s part of the reason why Garwood no longer appeals to me and why I’ve slowed down in historicals in general. I was amazed when I realized I’d only read one so far this year. And I think that also might be why YA hold zero appeal for me. I also think that’s why I’m drawn more to RS these days.
    As for the other two you mentioned – a cheater hero – nope!! But a Christian theme, yes I can see me reading a book with that.

  8. azteclady

    I just turned 42 and had to laugh at the ageism bit. Then I started thinking about it, and I realize that there are some scenarios in which I cannot buy older protagonists. For example, I can perfectly well see a heroine in her twenties up to early thirties chucking everything she’s known and starting over–in a different field, country, whatever–with relatively little angst. I cannot see a woman my age or older doing the same unless horrendous amounts of angst are involved, and I’d have a hard time buying a happy ending there.

    Cheating protagonists? eeeekkkk! Death of a child on stage? eeeeekkkk! Anything inspirational? Sorry, I’m firmly biased against religion (for example, I’ve stopped reading Catherine Anderson because the last two had too many religious references for me).

    The one bias I just discovered I have–and it damn near floored me, by the way–is about erotica. I could have sworn I’m not a prude in any guise, and yet, I’m struggling to get past the prevalence of sex (and how IMO it’s treated as near meaningless, like drinking soda or munching chips) in an erotic romance / suspense novel I’m reading.

    The book is by no means badly written–quite the opposite in fact–and the world building is both very interesting and well crafted, but having characters in their mid-twenties having unprotected sex in several different ways during the first four hours of their acquaintance… I find myself pondering *that* instead of following the story.

    So, whoddathunnkit? Apparently I am a prude. ::sad sigh::

  9. I like heroines to be 25-40 or so. I was such a knucklehead at 18-20, I associate that age with being young and silly and making lotsa crazy mistakes.

    I’ve always shied away from Inspies, b/c I expect that aspect of it to be so heavy handed. I’ve read kid’s books marketed as Christian fiction and they were so poorly written and didactic…there are some wonderful kid’s writers who have strong Christian identities though.

    I find I’m more open to trying new things now, but there needs to be good buzz, or author recs.

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