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Fluid vs Furry Species

By Laura Vivanco on Tuesday, 26 September, 2017

 

monsters and aliens offer important insight into how different animals become enlisted in the work of legitimizing particular human genders, sexualities, and races through animal imagination. In other words, monsters and aliens are imaginary beings, but their textual bodies are composed of specific animalsbears, lizards, birds, crabs, squid, etc.that are deployed for the purposes of different fantasies of gender, sexuality, race, and species. In particular, vertebrate- and especially mammal-based monsters make it easier to confirm heterosexual, racialized fantasies about bestial dominant masculinities and fragile white femininities, whereas invertebrate-based creatures open up a whole different realm of embodied animal relations, fantasies, and desires. (Van Engen)

The article from which this quote is taken is about erotica, but I think some of its insights could also be applied to some kinds of romance.

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Dagmar Van Engen. "How to Fuck a Kraken: Cephalopod Sexualities and Nonbinary Genders in EBook Erotica." Humanimalia 9.1 (2017).

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The picture comes from the Illustrated Police News of 17 October 1896. It depicts the "alarming experience of fair bathers who are attacked by an octopus." I found it at Wikimedia Commons but more details can be found here.

Fantasies of Dangerous Masculinity

By Laura Vivanco on Sunday, 24 September, 2017

In Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women a number of romance authors attempted to explain the appeal of the popular romance novel. One of them, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, wrote that she "loved" the "historical romances [...] sometimes labeled 'bodice rippers,' not without a certain justification since many of them contained narrow-eyed heroes who [...] committed some rather violent sex acts on the heroines" (53) and, she added,

I can only shake my head in bewilderment when I hear the romance novel criticized for depicting women as being submissive to domineering men. Are the critics reading the same books I am? What is the ultimate fate of the most arrogant, domineering, ruthless macho hero any romance writer can create? He is tamed.

By the end of the book, the heroine has brought him under her control in a way women can seldom control men in the real world. [...] He is the mightiest of the mighty, the strongest of the strong. But, because he has been tamed by our heroine, because she exerts such a powerful emotional stranglehold over him, his almost superhuman physical strength is now hers to command. (57-58)

Phillips is quite explicit here in acknowledging that these relationships should not be models for relating to men "in the real world": "This fictional 'tough guy' hero is the sort of man I would never permit in my real life" (56). He is, then, a fantasy, and as Ashwin, the eponymous hero of Kit Rocha's Ashwin observes, "a fantasy was different than a plan. A fantasy meant disregarding inconvenient realities and embracing improbabilities."

AshwinAshwin himself is an updated, twenty-first-century version of the heroes who so thrilled Susan Elizabeth Phillips. He is a super-soldier, supposedly genetically engineered to be emotionless, but since popular romance has moved on from the days of the bodice-ripper he does not behave sexually like the heroes of those novels. However, he recalls that in a previous relationship the woman had wanted him to cater

to her fantasies. Sinking his hands into her hair to play the conquering beast had been a simple enough role, even for him. But he’d always puzzled over the apparent contradiction—why a woman with so little power would dream of having him take away even those scraps.

Now he understood. [...]  The fantasy was about this overwhelming madness inside him. About being desired by the monster so completely that you owned him. So he’d fight for you, kill for you. Protect you.

The novel, Ashwin, is also a fantasy, of a similar type: Ashwin's obsession with the heroine, Kora, does not lead him to abuse her sexually, but nonetheless, by the end of the novel, as in the explicitly sexual fantasy he described earlier, though this time only wrapped in one layer of fantasy (that of the novel) rather than being a (sexual) fantasy within a (novelistic) fantasy, "Ashwin would always be a bit of a monster. But he was her monster, utterly loyal, completely devoted."

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Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. "The Romance and the Empowerment of Women." Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Ed. Jayne Ann Krentz. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1992. 53-59.

Rocha, Kit. Ashwin. Self-published. 2017.

Aliens: Not Just Showing Earth Girls a Good Time

By Laura Vivanco on Tuesday, 12 September, 2017

Someone mentioned an alien romance on Twitter, and I was curious. The title included a pun, the review mentioned a beta hero, and so I decided that this sounded like a fun book to try. Several hours later, having read both The E.T. Guy and its sequel, The New Guy, it was obvious that they're not just about how clueless scaly guys from outer space, with alien mating practices and sexual organs, adapt to human culture while working in IT and the Enquiries department of a branch of government.  As is so often the case with popular culture, the escapism is inextricably linked to the political, and the author, V.C. Lancaster, has written a post which saved me the trouble of speculating about whether or not this was intentional:

The E.T. Guy was semi-politically motivated given the situation in Syria when I wrote it. Since then, Trump has been elected, and he actually did try to effectively close America’s borders, and the situation in Syria and around the world has not particularly gotten better. In Syria, it’s hard to quantify ‘bad’ and ‘worse’, so I won’t say it’s got worse. I can’t pretend that I am anything but pro-immigration, nor do I want to, but I hope that I would write these books anyway because I like the story.

I had a moment a few months ago when I thought “How can I continue? How can I write about refugees when the real world is like this?” and my answer was, go bigger. Say it. Say what you see. Make it political. Try to do good. Try to change minds, convince hearts. I know it’s just a mid-range Kindle romance about aliens, selling for a few quid, but if I can make just a couple of people more compassionate, then it’s worth it. And will I mind if Trump’s army boycott the book? Not really. I’ll miss the money, but I’m not going to collaborate with them. Good riddance.

But at its heart, [the second book, The New Guy] it’s still the same story I thought of last year, before any of this happened. It’s still going to be about Ro and Maggie. This book is going to be full of stuff I would consider a hard sell for a Kindle romance about aliens anyway. The only thing I don’t mind revealing now is that I want to give Ro hot pink highlights on his scales and eyes. He’s not going to be much of a rough-tough alpha, though he is going to have his moments. This book is going to touch on issues of masculinity as well as politics. Maybe I’m overreaching, but it’s my book and I’m going to write it the way I want, so there.

I don't usually mind including spoilers in my posts, since I write analysis rather than reviews, but in this case, since the book was published so recently, I don't want to say anything about how the second book "touch[es] on issues of masculinity." Also, this is an ongoing series, so I'm not sure how the issues around immigration will play out. One anti-immigrant-alien politician has already made an appearance.

I don't think elaan, a commenter at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, is alone in "wondering how recent politics wld/if show up in subsequent romance novels": if you're interested in how contemporary politics are influencing the romances authors create, this series joins the Rogue Desire anthology in answering that question. Anyone come across any other romances which are clearly exploring the issues raised by contemporary politics?

Women's Work: Gender, Respect and Cultural Capital

By Laura Vivanco on Thursday, 7 September, 2017

Analysis of reviews of books by women confirms that women authors, and genres associated with women, continue to receive less prestigious coverage in the media. Lori St-Martin

analyzed the book/arts sections of six newspapers of record in three languages and five countries: Le monde des livres (Paris, France), The New York Times Book Review (New York, USA), Le Devoir (Montréal, Canada), The Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada), Babelia, in El País (Madrid, Spain, and Ñ, in Clarín (Buenos Aires, Argentina). The data covers a 12-week period, from the week of August 20, 2015 to the week of November 8, 2015. (35)

Some of these publications came close to giving equal coverage to women authors:

The English-language papers were the closest to parity, with 41.2% of books by women for The New York Times and 43% for The Globe & Mail. The Spanish-language papers had by far the lowest figures: 21% for Clarín and 24% for El País, with Le Monde (28.6%) and Le Devoir (34%) falling in between. (36)

However, the picture worsens when one considers the nature of these reviews:

Every newspaper has its own way of granting cultural prestige. Certain writers are marked as more important, usually by giving them prime space or extra space [...] perhaps the most important measure of all is the length of articles; giving an author a long article or more than one article sends a powerful message about his importance. I use the word "his" advisedly, since 9 out of 10 authors featured in this way (87.5%) were men. (38)

The language used to describe books is also very significant in terms of granting or withholding prestige. For example, St-Martin

looked at all the brief headers that introduced the in-depth articles in [French literary magazine] Lire. [...] The only positive words used to describe women's books in headers in the entire issue were the following: "fast-paced", "enjoyable", "whimsically multiplies characters and situations". Books by men, however, were deemed "masterly", "magnificent", "fascinating" [...], "powerful", "superb", "brilliant", and even "necessary, indispensable, revolutionary". This is a partial list. Just by leafing through this magazine, one gets the message, subliminally, that books by women do not deserve high praise, that books that are epic in scope ("an American odyssey", "a masterly ode to life") and touched by greatness are invariably by men. There is no need to proclaim that women's books are none of these things; the entire magazine screams it. It is no coincidence that these attributes - power, mastery, greatness, size and scope - are stereotypically considered to be male, and even phallic. (40)

The unstated criteria by which brilliance, significance and value are assessed all favour particular kinds of authors and works:

what is neglected? Books by or about women and "minorities", including sexual and gender minorities; feminist, lesbian or "radical" books of any kind; "commercial fiction" defined in such a way as to exclude certain categories identified with women (romance novels) while including others deemed more "universal" (crime fiction, thrillers). The big, the major, the important, are concepts still associated with males. (42)

This is, in other words, the literary equivalent of what we see elsewhere in the labour market: even if women are present in larger numbers, the types of work associated with women continue to be considered (often literally) worth less, while types of work linked to traits associated with masculinity are given higher value. The Fawcett Society recently reported that

80% of those working in the low paid care and leisure sector are women, while only 10% of those in the better paid skilled trades are women. [...] Men make up the majority of those in the highest paid and most senior roles – for example, there are just seven female Chief Executives in the FTSE 100.

As

sociologists such as Judy Wajcman (1998) have highlighted [...] the increased entry of women into the labour market has not been associated with feminising or 'softening' the workings of capitalism, even when women workers make it to high-level management positions. For Stephen Whitehead (2002), even though women have been moving more into paid work, the capitalist system retains values that are associated with dominant discourses of masculinity. Masculine values still pervade organisational cultures, locating femininity - and those who are feminine - as 'other' and marginal to much paid work. (Strangleman and Warren 137)

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Fawcett Society. "Close the Gender Pay Gap." Accessed on 7 September 2017. <https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/close-gender-pay-gap>.

Saint-Martin, Lori. "Counting Women to Make Women Count: From Manspreading to Cultural Parity." Du genre dans la critique d'art/Gender in art criticism. Ed. Marie Buscatto, Mary Leontsini & Delphine Naudier. Paris: E'ditions des archives contemporaines, 2017: 33-46.

Strangleman, Tim and Tracey Warren. Work and Society: Sociological Approaches, Themes and Methods. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2008.

The Rules of Sex (as explained to a mermaid)

By Laura Vivanco on Sunday, 27 August, 2017

 

Romance novels don't all agree on the rules, and the rules change over time.

Often, the rules in any particular novel are left implicit in the text and can be deduced from the characters' comments and actions.

Occasionally, however, the rules are discussed openly, as in Nora Roberts' Bay of Sighs (2016), and such scenes draw attention to the fact that the rules (like all the other aspects of romance which can be classified as political, or as "social issues") are present in romances all the time.

In Roberts' novel the rules have to be discussed explicitly because one of the characters, Annika, is a mermaid, and therefore comes from a very different culture. She needs to have human social behaviour explained to her because she is in love with Sawyer, a human, and wants to have a romantic relationship with him. She knows the rules which bind mermaids:

"[...] I'm not permitted to kiss a land person the first time. He must want me, show me. He must choose."

"Why is that?"

"Our females have the power to lure men - humans. To seduce so the choice isn't a choice for them. Long ago, and not so long ago, some of my kind lured men, sailors and explorers."

"Sirens."

"Yes. The song of the siren is beautiful and powerful, but it can be dangerous to the human she calls." (93)

However, she doesn't know all the rules governing human behaviour. After Sawyer has kissed her she wants to know why he doesn't

"[...] ask for sex. I don't know if I'm allowed to ask for sex. I don't know the rules of this."

[...] He jumped on that concept. "There are rules. Lots of complicated rules." (146)

Annika's other companions then attempt to explain the rules to her, and some of them have more complicated versions than others:

"Complicated." Riley snorted. "I say simple. My top three? Both parties willing, available, and clean." [...]

"Riley." Sasha rolled her eyes. "Different rules for different people. Or not rules so much as ... sensibillities, and it's not always easy to explain."

Riley ticked off on her fingers. "Willing, available, clean."

"An important foundation," Sasha agreed. (147)

Riley then asks a bit more about the rules for merpeople:

"Are there gay merpeople?" [...] Can you mate with someone of the same sex?"

"Of course - differently because of the body, and there will be no young created, but you want who you want, yes? Love who you love?

"Cheers to that." [...]

"Is one of your rules you cannot?"

"We're eliminating that rule. Slower in some places, but we're working on it."

Annika huffed out a breath, frowned at her drink. "Are all the rules stupid?"

"Maybe some are, and the rules depend." (154)

Since there can be serious consequences for those who break the rules, and since some rules can be deeply harmful to certain individuals, it's important to make sure that the rules are not "stupid." However, those imbedded within a particular set of rules can't always see which of them are "stupid" and which aren't. Romance novels can raise questions about the rules, and the communities of romance readers are a place where discussions about the rules can and do take place.

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Roberts, Nora. Bay of Sighs. London: Piatkus, 2016.

 

The image is of John Reinhard Weguelin's Mermaid (1906). It's in the public domain and I found it at Wikimedia Commons.

Romance Novels and Attitudes towards Coal and Oil

By Laura Vivanco on Sunday, 20 August, 2017

The stories that we tell reflect our culture and, whether consciously or not, encode our opinions, thoughts and beliefs. (Grubert and Algee-Hewitt 1)

Emily Grubert and Mark Algee-Hewitt's short article "Villainous or valiant? Depictions of oil and coal in American fiction and nonfiction narratives"

draws on a corpus of 60 narratives, both fictional and nonfictional, published between 2002 and 2016 by US authors. We [...] posit that American narratives often depict oil as new and exciting, with associated dangers seen as tragic but thrilling. Appalachian coal, by contrast, is portrayed nostalgically, depicted as a nearly familial presence that has betrayed its communities and no longer represents security and prosperity.

I was very happy to see that they mentioned having included romances in that corpus of texts. After all, romance novels make up a very significant proprortion of all popular fiction published.

My memories of reading about oil and coal in romances are a bit vague, but I'd agree with them about coal being associated with communities in financial difficulties. I also remember reading some romances in which oil exploration/exploitation is considered risky but potentially very lucrative.

I've tried to pick out the romances in their corpus and I think they're as follows, though it's possible I've missed a few:

  • Avrile, Parker (2016) - Oil - The Runaway Millions: A Male/male Contemporary Romance Novel
  • Camp, Deborah (2012) - Oil - Vein of Gold
  • Lyn, Tommie (2013) - OIl - The Sands of Santa Rosa
  • Thomas, Marin (2008) - Coal - A Coal Miner's Wife

That may not seem like very many, but there were only 30 works of fiction analysed in total. In the article, specific mention is made of two of them:

Parker Avrile opens The Runaway Millions with the dramatic bankruptcy of an extremely wealthy man as a drop in oil price forces him into default:

‘How can you pop up out of nowhere and take everything just because the price of oil dipped below fifty dollars a barrel for a few days? We all know it's going back up.’...

‘We’re stealing nothing. You gambled, and you lost.’

Coal causes death and oil causes loss of a lifestyle. In these and other texts, both resources repeatedly create major conflict. (5)

and

close reading confirms that oil is often associated with gambling, where wins and losses are large, exciting, and ultimately out of an individual's control (see, for example [...] Avrile's The Runaway Millions) (8)

The other novel discussed seems to be an inspirational romantic suspense novel and:

Lyn's The Sands of Santa Rosa [...] sets up the opposition of fossil fuel corporation versus environmental nonprofit, though she inverts a common pattern by deploying a disgruntled environmentalist against an oil company to cause a major spill (ultimately, the spill is disastrous because of steps taken by the oil company, however). (6)

It is also mentioned that

stereotypes about indigenous Americans as possessing a privileged relationship to nature [...] are also relatively common (and visible in this corpus in Lyn's 2013 novel, which includes a part-indigenous protagonist who saves the day with his mystical “Sight”). (7)

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Grubert, Emily and Mark Algee-Hewitt, 2017. "Villainous or valiant? Depictions of oil and coal in American fiction and nonfiction narratives." Energy Research and Social Science. [Abstract]

He's a good dog Godfrey!

By Laura Vivanco on Tuesday, 18 July, 2017

Pop culture collision: my romance reading is (very temporarily) a novelised version of WeRateDogs:

And from Joanna Chambers' A Gathering Storm (2017):

Nick looked down to meet the gaze of the white bulldog sitting at his feet, its unlovely face made uglier by a missing eye.

He smiled at the dog. “Did you think I’d forgotten you?” he asked Snow, bending down to ruffle the silky flaps of the dog’s ears.

“That ugly mutt’s still trailing after you, I see,” Godfrey said disapprovingly. He kept a few hunting dogs, but was not a man to make a pet of an animal and couldn’t understand why Nick would.

“He’s a good dog,” Nick said mildly.

Academics scandalised: romance fiction outperforms "literary fiction"

By Laura Vivanco on Tuesday, 20 June, 2017

I don't have any particular insights into whether or not reading fiction encourages empathy but Charles Duncan, Georgene Bess-Montgomery and Viktor Osinubi believe evidence has been

accumulating for two decades in the form of convergent lines of research anchored respectively in neurobiology and cognitive psychology, which demonstrate how and why reading fiction enhances social intelligence and cognitive empathy by a process which might be called “biomimesis" (245)

One such piece of research sought to discover whether there was a "possible correlation between the literary quality of a fictional text and its potential to enhance social intelligence" (250). However, Duncan et al. thought the research might well be flawed due to the fact that “literary fiction” had been defined

in terms of its power to “defamiliarize” readers, “unsettle their expectations,” and force them to “search for meanings among a spectrum of possible meanings” (Kidd & Coastano, 377). Not only would such a definition, carried to its logical terminus, confine the greatest rewards of reading fiction to an intellectual elite with a taste for the avant-garde, it also would exclude a vast body of fiction of undeniable merit (or even greatness) which nonetheless positions the reader as a “subject” to be entertained as well as intellectually stimulated. (251)

They note that another study

suggests that rather than interrogate the “literary” quality of the text, we might do better to interrogate the quality of the reader’s engagement with the text, which in turn presumes the author’s craft as a storyteller much more than the status of the text as a work of art. (252)

In this study,

Amazingly enough, the highest RME [Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, a test of "social intelligence"]  scores were manifested by readers whose ART [Author Recognition Test] scores suggested a clear preference for Romance fiction—an outcome which would seem almost scandalous, at least until we remind ourselves that Romance novels succeed or fail to the extent that they involve readers in a deeply vicarious experience, utilizing characters with whom a susceptible reader can easily identify.

So, it seems "almost scandalous" to suggest that romance fiction might be more beneficial in some ways than literary fiction and Charles Duncan, Georgene Bess-Montgomery and Viktor Osinubi therefore scrambled to ascribe this to romance readers being "susceptible." Hmm. Why couldn't they just accept that many romance authors are good storytellers who write engaging works of fiction?

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Duncan, Charles, Georgene Bess-Montgomery and Viktor Osinubi, 2017. "Why Martha Nussbaum is Right: The Empirical Case for the Value of Reading and Teaching Fiction." Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 19.2: 242-259.

Taking romancelandia debates to the Canary Islands

By Laura Vivanco on Saturday, 17 June, 2017

This Wednesday (21 June) I'll be giving a video presentation to a conference in the Canary Islands. My paper takes Meljean Brook's Riveted as a starting point for taking a look at changing attitudes towards "otherness" in popular romance fiction. I've written a little bit about the novel elsewhere on this blog but here's an abstract of what I'll be saying on Wednesday:

Changing Attitudes to Others: Meljean Brook’s Riveted (2012) and its Context

Meljean Brook's Riveted (2012) is dedicated to Monica Jackson, a romance author who drew attention to the marginalisation of African American romance authors and their novels; her successors in this task include K. M. Jackson and Rebekah Weatherspoon. Riveted can be read both as evidence of changing attitudes towards "others" in the early twenty-first-century romance reading and writing community, and as an attempt to encourage readers to think more deeply and sympathetically about those who are marginalised and othered in a variety of ways, including on the basis of their sexuality, disability and ethnicity. Riveted also seems to challenge the gender-based othering which is extremely common in the genre.

Keywords: circunstancia, disability, gender, José Ortega y Gasset, K. M. Jackson, LGBTQ, Meljean Brook, Monica Jackson, othering, race, Rebekah Weatherspoon, romance, Stella Young

While I do discuss some of the ways in which Brook challenges common forms of "othering" which persist in the genre, I've tried to use her book as a springboard to bring together the voices of some of those who've been discussing various forms of "othering" and exclusion. My hope is that my paper will help preserve a flavour of those discussions and help other academics find them if they hadn't been members of the community at the time the discussions took place.

The plan is for the conference proceedings to be published at some point.

Other papers at the conference include:

María del Mar Pérez Gil (ULPGC): “‘Every inch a Spaniard’: Images of Spain in popular romance novels”

Inmaculada Pérez-Casal (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela): “Lisa Kleypas and the ‘outcast’ hero: A diachronic study”

María Jesús Vera Cazorla (ULPGC): “‘And they drive on the wrong side of the road’. An analysis of the Anglo-centric vision of the Canary Islands in three romance novels”

Aline Bazenga (Universidade da Madeira): “Language awareness in four popular romances set in Madeira Island”

María Isabel González Cruz (ULPGC): “English/Spanish codeswitching and borrowing in a sample of romances set in the Canaries”

María del Pilar González de la Rosa (ULPGC): “‘In a flash of perverse temper’: Acknowledging gender and the representation of women in a sample of romance novels set in the Canaries”

Johanna Hoorenman (Utrecht University): “Private treaties: Historical and contemporary Lakota Sioux romances by Kathleen Eagle”

María Henríquez Betancor (ULPGC): “Imagery of lovers in book covers: A gender approach to romantic novels”

Jayashree Kamble (LaGuardia Community College CUNY): “From Xinjiang to the British Isles: Examining escapism and the ‘othering’ of romance heroines in Sherry Thomas’s My Beautiful Enemy

María Ramos-García (South Dakota State University): “Representations of the Other in paranormal romance and urban fantasy”

Broadening the history of the category romance

By Laura Vivanco on Saturday, 27 May, 2017

Hutchison and Hurst & Blackett Paperback RomancesHutchison and Hurst & Blackett Paperback Romances

Although Harlequin and Mills & Boon tend to be the names we think of in relation to short paperback romances, for a long time Mills & Boon specialised in hardbacks, for the library market. Competing with them, in the paperback format, were romances by other publishers:

a number of British firms were following the trail blazed by Allen Lane and Penguin Books in 1935. Pan, Corgi, Panther, Sphere, Cherry Tree, and Fontana paperback imprints, featuring romance, crime, and war stories, appeared after the war. [...] Mills & Boon did negotiate paperback editions of some novels before Harlequin's offer in 1957, but these were limited and infrequent. [...] Corgi Books picked up Mills & Boon's Doctor-Nurse titles for its 2s. 'Corgi Romance' series [...]. (McAleer 116)

It wasn't until 1964 that "Mills & Boon started printing paperback novels in Britain (as opposed to importing a limited number of novels printed in Canada)" (114).

Not mentioned by McAleer in the quotes above are Hurst & Blackett and Hutchison, but they too clearly had an interest in this market and, as is evident from the photo above, Hurst & Blackett were clearly labelling their category-length romances as "Romance". I recently bought the paperback romances in that photo from Ebay; they caught my attention because they were paperbacks published in the late 1940s or early 1950s. No publication dates are given in the copies I have, which are not first editions, but according to one library catalogue Sonia Deane's There is a Destiny dates from 1948 and Guy Trent's Strange Destiny from 1949.

I haven't seen much written about early romance paperbacks like these, which reminds me that although we do have some broad histories of popular romances, such as Rachel Anderson's The Purple Heart Throbs (1974) and more specialised histories such as those of Harlequin (e.g. Paul Grescoe's The Merchants of Venus (1996)), there are still a lot of gaps to be filled and, even today, some aspects of the history of the romance-reading community remain ephemeral (such as the digital discussion groups documented in this 2009 post by Jane of Dear Author).

In "Postbellum, Pre-Harlequin: American Romance Publishing in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century" Bill Gleason fills in some of the gaps in our knowledge of much earlier romance publishing and his findings challenge a number of preconceptions which exist about the history of romance fiction. These preconceptions exist, largely, because the history of this type of fiction is so incomplete and works which were hugely popular in the past have fallen into obscurity. Gleason

suggest[s] that many of the elements of American romance publishing we currently take for granted as late-twentieth century innovations, including multiple points of view, proliferating subgenres, and diverse publishing venues, were already distinctive features of the buzzing, blooming, romance market [of the late 19th century]. (57)

According to Gleason, by the 1880s and 1890s there were increasing numbers of "dime novel libraries that catered predominantly, and often specifically, to romance readers" (64) and

"From around the mid-1880s the dime novel libraries became not only more numerous but also more specialized, separating works out not only broadly by genre ... but also narrowly by sub-genre," notes media historian Graham Law. "'Clover', 'Heart', 'Primrose', 'Sweetheart', and 'Violet', were among the epithets used to denote romance libraries aimed at female readers." [...] The writer in whose work the specialized romance series [...] invested most heavily was [...] Charlotte M. Brame [...]. Like other English authors before the passage of the International Copyright Act of 1891, Brame, who wrote "somewhere in the region of 130 novels during her lifetime," had her work routinely pirated in the United States. (65)

Those sound rather like the titles of modern category romance "lines."

A short biography of Brame, along with a bibliography of her works, by Graham Law, Gregory Drozdz and Debby McNally can be found online. Gleason focuses on Wedded and Parted, which

tells the story of 18-year-old Lady Ianthe Carr, whose father, an English Earl, has gambled away their fortune speculating on a mine. To save the family from ruin, Ianthe's father implores her to marry the young man whose father now owns the title to their family estate. Although the young man, Herman Culross, is honest, hard-working and handsome [...] Ianthe treats Herman with contempt. [...] Only when he is gone does Ianthe recognise his true nobility. (66)

If you want to find out what happens next, the whole novel can be found online here. I haven't read it all, but it's category-length and ends with a grovel and an HEA.

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Gleason, William A. 'Postbellum, "Pre-Harlequin: American Romance Publishing in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century," Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom?'' Ed. William A. Gleason and Eric Murphy Selinger (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2016), pp. 57-70.

McAleer, Joseph. Passion's Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

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Edited to add:

Over on Twitter, Elizabeth Lane's shared some covers of more early paperback romances. I wasn't able to find any mention of their authors in Twentieth Century Romance and Gothic Writers (which doesn't have Guy Trent or Sonia Deane either).

Graduate Nurse by Ann RushGraduate Nurse by Ann Rush

Elizabeth notes that this edition was published in 1956 by Avon but there must have been an earlier edition as the cover mentions that it was originally titled Florida Nurse.

Tomorrow is Forever by Gwen BristowTomorrow is Forever by Gwen Bristow

Elizabeth says 'this one is Pocket from 1971, but it says "Thomas Y. Crowell edition published 1943".'