Words Will Never Hurt Me?

By Laura Vivanco on

Stephanie Burley, writing about popular romance fiction, asked her readers

to make a theoretical leap of faith based on two premises. The first is that the language of whiteness and blackness, light and dark, constructs the way readers imagine the fictional bodies populating these texts. The second is that this representational spectrum is indeed connected to our everday experience of actual bodies and the racial schemas that condition our understandings of those bodies. This color imagery invokes traditional racial taxonomies and their ideological investments in the erotic possibilities of light and dark skin. (326)

If that sounds fanciful, perhaps the reader would like to consider Lakoff and Johnson's research, in which they argue that although

metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. [...] We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. [...] Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. (Lakoff and Johnson 3)

So, I was doubly perturbed to learn about "Dark Romance":

Forced seductions popped up fairly often in the historical romance novels published in the 1980s, wherein a lecherous duke or stable boy driven mad with wild lust would overpower a heroine and ignore her (ambivalent) protestations. Unadulterated rape fantasy, all but absent from romance paperbacks through the ‘90s, eventually came back to life through discreet self-publishing and has continued to gain momentum through online sales.

Currently, the taboo genre is thriving online under the banner of Dark Romance, which takes the rape fantasy even further by removing consent and kink. Books like Prisoner and Consequences are straightforward depictions of men taking women hostage and raping them; eventually falling in love with them, and then living happily ever after with their former victim. (Vargas-Cooper)

First of all, I'm finding it difficult to see how this really fits the definition of a romance novel in anything other than a technical sense. It seems to me much more like erotica with a tacked on happy ending. After all, the RWA definition of romance involves:

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

That's not:

A Central Rape Story which centres around one individual forcing themselves sexually on another, who struggles to escape. The writer can include as many violations as he/she wants as long as the rape is ultimately legitimated by the victim's emotional capitulation.

An Emotionally Implausible Ending (unless you factor in Stockholm Syndrome): In a romance, the rapist who risks their victim's mental and physical wellbeing is rewarded with unconditional love.

And yes, perhaps the combination of the two was common in large numbers of romance novels in the past but I wouldn't have liked to read about it in the days of the "bodice-ripper" and I don't want to read about it now.

To get back to where I started, though, I'm also troubled that this is being called "Dark Romance" because I can't help thinking that in the past an association between darkness and rape led to the creation of

the figure of the "black beast rapist." In response to the mere rumor of such an outrage against a white woman, white men formed lynch mobs. They killed hundreds of Black men during the 1890s. (Martin 141)

The association, and the killing continued:

Make any list of anti-black terrorism in the United States, and you’ll also have a list of attacks justified by the specter of black rape. The Tulsa race riot of 1921—when white Oklahomans burned and bombed a prosperous black section of the city—began after a black teenager was accused of attacking, and perhaps raping, a white girl in an elevator. The Rosewood massacre of 1923, in Florida, was also sparked by an accusation of rape. And most famously, 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered after allegedly making sexual advances on a local white woman. (Bouie)

And on 17 June 2015

A white supremacist gunman told his black victims "you rape our women and you’re taking over our country" as he massacred nine people inside a historic African-American church in the southern city of Charleston. (Sanchez and Foster)

Words matter. They shape how people think, often in a subconscious way. Instead of falling back on euphemistic language which has the consequence of reinforcing damaging associations between darkness, violence and rape, why not just call a romance with a central rape story a "rape romance"? And while we're on the topic, can someone come up with alternatives to "dark secrets" "blackhearted", accident "blackspots", "black marks" and the phrase which suggests it's a good thing to be "not as black as one is painted"?


Bouie, Jamelle. "The Deadly History of 'They're Raping Our Women'." Slate. 18 June 2015.

Burley, Stephanie. “Shadows & Silhouettes: The Racial Politics of Category Romance”. Paradoxa 5.13–14 (2000): 324–43.

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. 1980. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003.

Martin, Joel W. “‘My Grandmother Was a Cherokee Princess’: Representations of Indians in Southern History”. Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture. Ed. S. Elizabeth Bird. Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1998. 129–47.

Romance Writers of America. "About The Romance Genre."

Sanchez, Raf and Peter Foster. "'You rape our women and are taking over our country,' Charleston church gunman told black victims." The Telegraph. 18 June 2015.

Vargas-Cooper, Natasha. "My Hot, Consensual Introduction to the Rape Fantasy Romance Novel." Jezebel. 19 May 2015.

Romance and the Politics of Health Care

By Laura Vivanco on

According to Joseph McAleer,

After the Second World War, the NHS [National Health Service] inspired a new kind of popular novel that was [...] supportive and sympathetic to the emerging health care system. [...] the new 'Doctor-Nurse' novels first published by Mills & Boon in the 1950s [...] reinforced a positive view of the NHS among middle- and working-class readers. [...] the almost fanatical endorsement of the medical profession is striking. The message sent, and met with approval by adoring readers, was this: nurses are heroic and selfless; doctors are larger than life; the delivery system works; and hospitals are places of romance as well as healing. The NHS could not have asked for a better endorsement. (174)

By contrast, here's a short passage from a US-set romance from 1994, whose hero is a recreational therapist:

"Private insurance companies aren't willing to spend money entertaining people, as they call it." Matt's lips curled derisively. "They'll cover physical therapy costs, but most baulk at recreational therapy."

"I find that hard to believe."

"It's true, though. If medical insurance companies subsidized places like mine, there'd be hundreds of them across the country. Unfortunately, there aren't, and only the well-off can afford the few that do exist. I try to take on as many needy cases as I can, but that's not a huge lot," he admitted. "I have to pay my therapists' salaries and feed the animals, and I can't do that without charging."

"What a shame!"

"It certainly is. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but we have no comprehensive national health plan. It's a crime that people have to pay so dearly for medical treatment. To make matters worse, the more medical problems you have, the less likely you'll find an insurance company willing to underwrite you. [...] I'm involved with a group that's been lobbying Congress for a national health care system. So far there's been a lot of talk about legislation, but not much else." (Duquette, 29-30)

I haven't yet seen any comparison between medical romances from the US, UK, Australia, etc but I think one could be very interesting given how different their medical systems are. The descriptions of some of US author Adeline McElfresh's medical romances, for example, are intriguing: in Doctor for Blue Hollow (1971)

The rundown clinic at Blue Hollow was a far cry from big, modern Bayley Memorial Hospital where Ann Tyler once worked. But for the lovely young surgeon, this tiny Kentucky mining town seemed a perfect refuge from the memory of a handsome doctor who betrayed her love.

Waiting for Ann was the challenge of protecting the health of the miners and their families, even though this meant battling the owners over safety in the mines.

It sounds as though the novel deals with inequalities in healthcare provision and also with the ways in which the interests of big business can conflict with the health needs of their workers and their communities. Another of her novels, New Nurse at Dorn Memorial, features a heroine, Celeste Weller, who

had never walked away from a challenge, and her new career at Dorm Memorial Hospital would prove to be the greatest challenge yet. Not only was she the first nurse to break the racial barrier at conservative Dorn, but through the bigotry of one of its influential patients, she was transferred from the Surgery Department, her first love. From there she was thrust into the hectic schedule of double shifts in Emergency and the clinic purposely designed to force her to resign.

Celeste knew a bigger city might give her a better opportunity for acceptance on her own merit, but she was determined that her small hometown would have to make room for her. And she had allies on the staff. But more than that, Celeste was the best nurse Dorn had ever had.

As far as I can recall, the medical staff in the UK-set romances I've met have been pretty much exclusively white, which doesn't seem very accurate given that

Once the NHS was up and running in 1948, demand for health service labour increased rapidly, not only for basic care but also for new techniques and technologies such as radiology and blood labs. At a time of overall labour shortages in the British economy, health service workers from abroad were vital, with recruits from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent especially prominent. [...]

The overall scale of recruitment from abroad is striking. By 1960, between 30 and 40 per cent of all junior doctors in the NHS were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. “The Health Service would have collapsed” said eminent doctor Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, if it had not been for this “enormous influx”. [...]

Around 30 per cent of doctors and 40 per cent of nurses in today’s NHS were born outside the UK. Those proportions may yet rise as an ageing population limits the potential supply of British-born staff while adding to increased demand for health care. (Bowlby)

I do know that Anne Fraser's The Playboy Doctor's Surprise Proposal features a hero whose "parents are from India originally"; it's set in Australia.


Bowlby, Chris, 2011. 'How Immigration Saved a British Institution', History Extra, 28 July 2011.

Duquette, Anne Marie, 1994. The Dinosaur Lady (Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin).

Fraser, Anne, 2010. The Playboy Doctor's Surprise Proposal (Richmond, Surrey: Mills & Boon).

McAleer, Joseph, 2011. ‘Love, Romance, and the National Health Service’, Classes, Cultures, & Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin, ed. Clare V. J. Griffiths, James J. Nott, & William Whyte (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 173-191.

Harlequin Mills & Boon's First Black Romance?

By Laura Vivanco on

The first category romance to feature Black protagonists appeared in

1980, [when] journalist Elsie B. Washington, writing under the pseudonym of Rosalind Welles, published Entwined Destinies. Believed to be the first-known romance featuring African-American characters written by an African-American author, Entwined Destinies was published under the Dell Candlelight imprint with editor Vivian Stephens. (Gwendolyn Osborne, qtd in Vivanco)

All the same, I was quite intrigued to learn of a category romance with Black protagonists published the following year. In romance author Anne Weale's review of Juliet Flesch's book about Australian romance novels Weale writes that

In Chapter One, the author refers to an anecdote told in The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon. The then head of copy-editing at Mills & Boon was surprised when the editorial director, Alan Boon, said a certain book was the first M & B to have a black hero and heroine. Because their skin colour was not mentioned, she had not realised they were black.

Juliet Flesch writes : 'Sadly, the title of the book is not cited and we do not know whether it was published. It is significant, however, that the racial aspect was evidently not seen by Alan Boon as a bar to publication'.

I can solve this small mystery. Taking its title Blue Days at Sea from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, the book was first published in 1981. I remember because I wrote it. But the couple on the jacket were a cop-out, neither black nor white. A number of readers twigged that the hero and heroine were black and wrote to me about this innovation, none of them disapprovingly.

Here's the UK cover:

It may have been a "cop-out," but it was better than the cover Harlequin gave it:

Blue Days 2

It would be interesting to know if Harlequin realised that the hero and heroine were supposed to be Black. It certainly wasn't apparent from the text of the book itself because according to jay Dixon,

Pat Cowley, head of copyediting at Mills & Boon until the early 1980s [...] went back to the text for confirmation. She discovered that, although both protagonists came from Barbados, skin colour as such was never mentioned. (53)

Harlequin were certainly aware of the skin colour of the hero and heroine of Sandra Kitt's Adam and Eva, which they published in 1984. It was their first romance featuring Black protagonists and written by an African-American author:

Adam and Eva

[Kitt's first published romance, mentioned in this "Time Line of Milestones in African-American Romance" seems to have had White protagonists, though I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong about that.]


Dixon, jay. The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s. London: UCL P, 1999.

Vivanco, Laura. "African-American Romances: A Short History." Teach Me Tonight. 1 Nov. 2006.

Weale, Anne. "Review: From Australia with Love: A History of Modern Australian Popular Romance Novels by Juliet Flesch." Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network). October 2004.

Savage Success Scrutinised

By Laura Vivanco on

It seems to me that the heyday of the Native American historical romance is past. I may well be wrong, though, given that I'm in the UK and am therefore dependent on US review sites and the vagaries of Amazon.com's categorisation system for my information about this. In the 1990s, however, this area of romance was flourishing and attracting academic attention.

According to Peter van Lent, the

image of the Native American male as sexy has grown out of earlier archetypes [...]. In past centuries, the vision of violent sexuality was pretty standard treatment of Native men in popular genres such as the Indian captivity narratives. Today, however, Native American men are most often portrayed as sexual in "good" ways. Two familiar labels come to mind: those of "Noble Savage" and "Fearless Warrior."(211)

He noted that

In current popular culture popular culture the exoticism of the Native male is always carefully controlled. For example, most of the heroes of the Indian romance novels are of mixed blood - "half breeds" [...]. This convention provides a safety net against several sexual pitfalls. First, it checks the exotic image from being too alien and keeps it well within the bounds of "tall, dark and handsome." Second, it also avoids any squeamishness about miscegenation on the part of the reader. Since the hero is half-white, the romantic-sexual bond is not truly interracial and, once again, the "half breed's" appearance can be quite comfortably Caucasian. (216-17)

If "half-breed" heroes were indeed much more common (and I don't know about this first-hand because, as mentioned, I'm in the UK and this isn't a sub-genre that's been particularly common here), it would suggest that authors and readers had reasons for preferring them to heroes who were wholly Native American. I'm not sure I'd agree with van Lent that the bond between a half-White hero and a wholly-White heroine is "not truly interracial" but I suppose such a pairing would narrow the supposed cultural and racial difference between the protagonists. Certainly it would seem to allow authors to pick and mix the elements they find most attractive in both cultures/races: in Colleen Faulkner's Forever His (1993) "Harrison DeNay [...] is part Shawnee" (Wardrop 68) and

Faulkner makes it clear that Harrison does not represent the typical Shawnee. [...] Instead, Harrison represents the best of two worlds as evidenced in the scene in which he casts off his buckskins to impersonate a British officer: "In his coat and breeches with his hair pulled back in a queue he appeared nothing of the savage she had found in that Indian village. The question was which did she prefer?" (144). The answer is that she gets both: a sophisticated man of taste and intellect in the European tradition who is, unlike the European man, unconcerned about property and able to cry over the welfare of his son, more "introspective and expressive in his feeling" (144). (Wardrop 69)

S. Elizabeth Bird states that even when the hero of one of these romances

is full-blood, he is often seen as more rational and realistic than other men of his tribe, who have a tendency to raid, pillage, and fight among themselves when not listening to his wise advice. He is frequently seen as the voice of progress who realizes change is coming. In other words, the American Indian hero is a wonderful fantasy figure for the White reader. He is just wild enough to be exciting, but still civilized enough to be acceptable. (70)

A major advantage of Native American cultures, as depicted in these novels, is that they offer White heroines "increased freedom and choice and an equal partnership with her husband" (Wardrop 71). That the association with freedom is a key element of the appeal of the Native American hero is suggested in an essay by Cassie Edwards in which she stated that

I try not to write about the Indians during the times they were confined on reservations. This gives me less freedom of plot because while the Indians lived the sedentary reservation life, they had generally lost their pride because they were no longer able to fight for their rights. If I write about an Indian hero who is not confined to the reservation, he is allowed to perform courageously - he is free. (457)

By being selective in various ways, romance authors could therefore craft romances featuring Native American (or half Native American heroes) in which

the Native American male [...] offers as symbolic capital a utopian society in which women are valued for their social contributions; where they are sexually assertive members of a group distinctive for cooperation and solidarity; where women and men are helpmates within a (fictionalized) fairly androgynous division of labor. (McCafferty 51)

In addition,

In the choice of Native American (rather than African-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Filipino, or Japanese American) lover, a tension concerning romantic love’s vulnerability to economic instability is avoided. The myth runs that the Native American man lived comfortably off the land, never enslaved by master or lunchbucket. The bounty of the earth, plus his hunting prowess, enabled him and his dependents to live a satisfactory if rough pastoral for thousands of years. In short, the Native lover is a good provider. (McCafferty 51)


Bird, S. Elizabeth. “Gendered Construction of the American Indian in Popular Media.” Journal of Communication 49.3 (1999): 61-83.

Edwards, Cassie. "Indian Romance." How to Write a Romance and Get It Published. Ed. Kathryn Falk. New York: Signet, 1990. 455-58.

McCafferty, Kate. "Palimpsest of Desire: The Re-Emergence of the American Captivity Narrative as Pulp Romance." Journal of Popular Culture 27.4 (1994): 43-56.

van Lent, Peter. “‘Her Beautiful Savage’: The Current Sexual Image of the Native American Male." Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture. Ed. S. Elizabeth Bird. Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1996. 211-227.

Wardrop, Stephanie. 'Last of the Red Hot Mohicans: Miscegenation in the Popular American Romance', MELUS 22. 2 (1997): 61-74.

Three Steps to Inclusion

By Laura Vivanco on


Maybe I'm simplifying things but it seems to me that there are three stages in the depiction of a minority group in fiction:

  • In the first stage, the group is marginalised, villanised, or even both. I'm thinking in particular of the use of racial minorities as villains, the evil sexualised "other woman," and the gay villain (with extra points if he's a sadist or a masochist).
  • In the second stage, there are somewhat sympathetic portrayals of main characters from a minority group but these are nonetheless still stereotypes and/or use the difference as a way to ramp up the angst in the story. With regards to disability, for example, Martha Stoddard Holmes has observed that "The connection between emotion and impairment has become a kind of cultural shorthand: to indicate or produce emotional excess, add disability" (3).
  • In the third stage, portrayals are nuanced, people from minority groups are treated as individuals, and their differences are not used to generate shock, pity, angst or a sense of the exotic.

Here are some of the rules from 1960, when Anne Britton and Marion Collin wrote their guide to writing romantic fiction. With regards to disability, race and sexuality, things seemed to be mostly stuck in stage 1, with a few examples of stage 2 allowed only if the author was particularly talented:


divorce [...] offends a large number of readers and means that the magazine runs the risk of being banned in Eire, [...] it is only one or two of the top circulation magazines which occasionally run powerful stories about the children of divorced parents and the effect a broken marriage has on them.

Illegitimate children are out of the question. There are probably only two or three publications in England which will touch this subject, and their policy is usually one of shock tactics at any price. (16-17)


Deformity is [...] unpopular. Many of the smaller publications ban it completely [...]. Of course, there have been some very moving stories about blind girls, and girls with a slight limp who fear that love is not for them, but this kind of plot is not easy to put over sincerely. It can so easily become mawkish. If it has to be written, at least leave the reader with the hope that the girl may eventually recover, and remember that only one or two markets will even consider the story. But never a heroine with one leg. No one will buy that story. (16)


There is [...] a colour bar in women's magazines. To make a mixed marriage the central situation in a story is to invite a definite rejection at the present time. (17)

Things have moved on quite a lot since then, of course. In romance novels divorced protagonists  are fairly common and secret illegitimate babies seem to be a positive draw for some readers. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of books stuck on steps one or two.


Britton, Anne and Marion Collin. The New Writers' Guide: Romantic Fiction. London: Boardman, 1960.

Stoddard Holmes, Martha. Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture. Ann

Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2004.


The image of a three-step style on a level crossing (complete with a warning of danger and an admonition to Stop, Look and Listen) was taken by David Anstiss, who made it available under a Creative Commons licence. I've cropped it slightly; the original is available here.

Black Gay Romance

By Laura Vivanco on

In “What’s Love But a Second Hand Emotion?”: Man-on-Man Passion in the Contemporary Black Gay Romance Novel," Marlon B. Ross states that

The black gay romance novel emerges in the mid-1980s both as a riffing response to the kind of pop heteronorm performed by mass mediated hip hop, as well as to the consolidated white gay rights agenda, the rising homonorm that aims to exclude black man-on-man desire while claiming that its own articulation of same-sexuality is categorical, universal, and biologically ordained. (676)

He focuses on Larry Duplechan's Eight Days a Week (1985), James Earl Hardy's B-Boy Blues (1994) and E. Lynn Harris's Invisible Life (1994).

Ross is critical of "hegemonic, homonormal modes of identification that fix gender-dissident desire in order to legitimate it on par with heterosexual love" (674) and while the novels he's chosen are definitely about romantic relationships, I'm not sure they're strictly speaking "romance novels" as defined by the Romance Writers of America, who stipulate that there should be:

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Larry Duplechan's novel was

aimed at the new gay white culture forming in the ghettoes of the urban North. The story of an aspiring twenty-two-year-old black gay singer who falls in love with a blond bisexual ex-football player, Duplechan’s first novel, like his succeeding ones, might be called integrationist fantasies, like the post-Civil Rights narratives of good noble blacks, usually men, single-handedly integrating white institutions. (678)

There is apparently no happy ending for the central couple because, "despite their fierce attraction to each other, their relationship fails" (Nelson 633).

Hardy and Harris's books are both the first installment in series. I have the impression that Hardy's comes closest to the pattern expected of "romances" because

Hardy clings to one signal attribute of homonormative romance, the rule that true love can be manifested only in the heteronormalizing coupling convention, as Ann duCille labels this trend in African American women’s fiction. In addition to ruffneck Pooquie’s eventual self-acceptance as a man-loving man who can take it up the ass with the best of sissy-punks, many of Littlebit’s and Pooquie’s love trials revolve around sexual fidelity not only to each other but more crucially to the ideal of monandrous commitment. (Ross 680)

The relationship begun in B-Boy Blues evidently has its ups and downs since the sixth book, A House is not a Home (2005) begins "ten years since Mitchell and Raheim became lovers, and four since they broke up" (Kirkus). It would seem to conclude with a "happy for now": "They give their relationship a second chance, but not until the last few pages of the book. Whether it'll work or not, who knows" (Grey853).

I haven't been able to find out exactly what happens to the protagonist of Harris's Invisible Life but his relationships are turbulent and over the course of the series he shares the stage with other couples.

Regardless of whether or not one thinks of these three novels as "romance" or "romantic fiction" they're an important part of the history of black and gay romance novels.


Nelson, Emmanuel S. "Duplechan, Larry." The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature: D-H. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005. 632-34.

Romance Writers of America. "About the Romance Genre."

Ross, Marlon B. " 'What’s Love But a Second Hand Emotion?': Man-on-Man Passion in the Contemporary Black Gay Romance Novel." Callaloo 36.3 (2013): 669-687.

Heyer's Here

By Laura Vivanco on

My article about Georgette Heyer is out now in the latest issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. It's called "Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch of Regency Romance" and it addresses a variety of issues, including Heyer's attention to historical detail, her didacticism, and her attitudes on matters relating to race and class.

I've identified a number of primary sources Heyer seems to have used in her research, including an engraving of the Dropping Well which is mentioned in The Nonesuch and the guidebook Corisande Stinchcombe's been reading in Lady of Quality. I also think I've pinned down the precise year in which The Nonesuch is set (it's the first of the two possibilities given in the "Heyer Novel Chronology").

I conclude that:

As with the Nonesuch’s gift of a “dissected map [...] all made of little pieces which fit into each other, to make a map of Europe” (190), “The impression given of ‘history’ in these novels can be summed up as an imaginative creation, a selective version of the past” (Hughes 139). The nineteenth-century dissected map, “born in the same workshops as its more formal sibling, the imperial map” (Norcia 5), offered children “narratives of power and authority which are incumbent in the business of building both nation and empire” (2). Such maps were not simply neutral depictions of the world: they were “often strategically colored or marked to catalog the resources and opportunities for imperial inscription; titles reflect the moving horizon of imperial ambitions” (10). Heyer’s historical romances are also shaped by ideologies which ensure that, despite the historical accuracy of many of their details, they will not be universally accepted as “quite unexceptionable.” Mrs Chartley cautioned Miss Trent that

Sir Waldo belongs to a certain set which is considered to be the very height of fashion. In fact, he is its leader […]. You must know, perhaps better than I do, that the manners and too often the conduct of those who are vulgarly called Top-of-the-Trees are not governed by quite the same principles which are the rule in more modest circles. (207)

Heyer is the Nonesuch of Regency romance: like Sir Waldo she led her “set,” conforming to such high standards of historical accuracy that she too can be considered a “paragon” (20). Nonetheless, neither Heyer nor Sir Waldo embodied “perfection” (20) and the manners and conduct endorsed by Heyer’s novels are not governed by quite the same principles as those which are the rule in many more modern circles. (11-12)

You can read the article on the JPRS website or download the pdf.


Vivanco, Laura. "Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch of Regency Romance." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 3.2 (2013).

Politics and Magazine Romance Stories

By Laura Vivanco on

In my last post I quoted Porter and Hall's statement that "Work is beginning to appear on the fiction in women's magazines and the sexual messages it conveyed" (267). They refer to "Part Three: Realistic Fantasies: The World of the Story Papers" of Billie Melman's Woman and the Popular Imagination, Joseph McAleer's Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain 1914-1950 and an article by Bridget Fowler. As the latter was the most readily accessible of the three, I promptly went and found myself a copy.

Fowler argues that "1930s popular stories can be seen [...] as legitimating the social order and thus indirectly providing social control" (95) though she cautions that the attitudes expressed in these stories may be only

partially shared by the readership. [...] It is very likely that the practical action of the readers emerges also from other cultural values - such as those of dissent and militancy - which are totally absent from the story universe, while the adherence to some story values may well be more at the level of the ideal or fantasy than concrete reality. (96)

One plot type she discusses which is, I think, rather less common nowadays, requires the

device [...] in which 'cryptoproletarian' characters are used. The heroine, in love with a doctor, may emerge ultimately to be not truly working-class but a foundling in some slum and brought up by working-class parents; a hero may be cut off by his father and family and forced to live a working-class mode of existence or an unexpected inheritance may alter the total dependence of the lower class heroine on the upper class hero. Thus, in social origin the hero and heroine may ultimately turn out to be alike although the bulk of the story has concerned the proving of their fitness to marry each other. It is tempting to align these stories with the earlier fairy story in which once the princess had brought herself to kiss the beast or marry the frog, he became a prince. The analogy makes the class insult even more apparent. (107)

The romances analysed by Kim Gallon were written at roughly the same time, and also appeared in magazines or newspapers but their context, and therefore their politics, are rather different. She recently posted at the Popular Romance Project about the romances to be found

in the pages of early 20th-century black magazines and newspapers. Mostly known for strident protests against racial discrimination, the black press in the 1920s and 1930s also published romance fiction, which offered African Americans an opportunity to escape into worlds filled with the heady ups and heartbreaking downs of romantic love. Scholars of the African American literary tradition and of popular romance have paid virtually no attention to romance found in the black press. On the romance side, the late 20th century has often been characterized as the starting point of black romance stories, with earlier short or serial stories, simply forgotten. [...]

Despite the seeming absence of political and racialized content in “The Dark Knight” and similar stories, black popular romance, as Conseula Francis has argued, is inherently political. Its existence automatically counters the insidious and negative stereotypes of criminality and hypersexuality historically ascribed to African Americans. In “The Dark Knight,” we see Rod and Lyla restrain themselves from engaging in a pre-marital sexual encounter, preserving, through their actions, the sanctity of marital sex and the domestic ideal. Just as significantly, “The Dark Knight” challenged the common idea that African Americans lacked the capacity for romantic love, a love that has been and continues to be integrally linked with a white, bourgeois value system.

William Gleason's article on story papers, published in 2011, does not explore the politics of their romance stories but he too suggests that romances published in magazines deserve further critical attention, not least because in his opinion

The mass marketing of modern romance fiction in North America began not with the emergence of Harlequin Books in the 1950s but during the dime novel and story paper boom of the 1860s and 1870s.


Fowler, Bridget. "'True to Me Always': An Analysis of Women's Magazine Fiction." British Journal of Sociology 30.1 (1979): 91-119.

Gallon, Kim. "Romance in Black Papers." The Popular Romance Project. 10 January 2013.

Gleason, William. "Belles, Beaux, and Paratexts: American Story Papers and the Project of Romance." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 2.1 (2011).

Porter, Roy & Lesley Hall. The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995.

Passing: Identifying Dragons

By Laura Vivanco on

Like Aliette de Bodard, I have recently finished reading Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, a fantasy novel with romantic elements. Unlike her, I enjoyed it. Now that could be because, unlike her, I did not read it

mainly because it was recommended to me as a great portrayal of a mixed-race protagonist: its eponymous heroine is half-dragon, half-human in a world where a fragile peace reigns between the two species. Seraphina is the Music Mistress at the court of the human queen of Goredd, where she passes as human in order to avoid the deep-seated prejudice and fear engendered by dragons (who are able to take human form but are betrayed by their silver blood and their odd smell).

It’s an intriguing setup; but in the end, I’m sad to report I was somewhat disappointed by Seraphina and its portrayal of race relationships.

I wonder, though, if another reason I enjoyed it is that I'm a medievalist at heart despite my move into popular romance scholarship and the religious beliefs and race relations in Goredd seemed to me to resemble those I came across while studying medieval Castile.

For those who haven't read the novel, here's a quick summary taken from Janine's review at Dear Author: this

debut YA fantasy [...] set in a world based [on] Renaissance Europe, is both a coming of age story and a tale of a clash between two species. Sixteen year old Seraphina Dombegh, the heroine of the novel, is the child of a human father and a dragon mother. The secret of her maternity is one she must hide at all costs.

In this world, dragons are a logical, emotionless species, but they can take human shape and while doing so, experience human emotions – something they guard against vigilantly. A truce exists between the two species but there is also a lot of tension and bigotry. Most dragons in Goredd, Seraphina’s country, are required to wear a bell on their shoulder, although scholarly dragons are exempt.

From Seraphina’s narration, we learn that her father Claude had no idea his wife Linn was a dragon until Linn died giving birth to Seraphina. At first glance Seraphina appeared to be a normal human baby, and it was not until she was eleven that she discovered that she is not what she appears to be.

I'd have identified it as a fantasy version of the late Middle Ages, but that's probably because in the Castilian context the fifteenth century is considered medieval. Random House describe the novel as being set in "an alternative-medieval world" and, although I'm no expert on this, the buildings on the cover look Gothic or Tudor to me.

Whether alternative-medieval or alternative-Renaissance, the dating of the setting is, I think, rather important to the novel's depiction of the way the two species relate to one another. Aliette de Bodard has stated that

I guess that, insofar as you buy the setting, Seraphina and the other half-dragons are an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be mixed-race in a world where race divisions are sharp and bitter, and half-dragons are viewed as abominations. What I take issue with is the whole setup: as a metaphor for race relationships (and, even if this wasn’t deliberate, the metaphor sort of naturally bubbles up when the book tackles subjects like interspecies breeding, interspecies prejudice and other related stuff), this is freaking old-fashioned. It might have been the case in my grandparents’ generation (and even then, did we genuinely have two races at each other’s throat in such a non-subtle way?); but it’s certainly never been my experience. In a similar way, prejudice here is outright ugly and blatant: people throw “abomination” very quickly at half-dragons (and at dragons), and Seraphina herself is very much aware of this–even doubting at times that she has a right to exist.

Firstly, in my grandparents' time we did indeed have "two races at each other's throat in such a non-subtle way": they lived through the Second World War, a time when the supposed differences between "Aryans" and Jews were elaborated in considerable detail. Secondly, if Seraphina is set in an alternative-medieval world then of course it may seem "freaking old-fashioned" but

In medieval parlance, the term ‘monster’ was [...] applied specifically to non-Christians, all of whom shared a common monstrous flaw: the failure to embrace the true Christian faith. So even though they possessed an extremely well-developed set of monotheistic beliefs which provided the infrastructure for Christianity itself, the Jews were viewed as idol-worshipping, demonic pagans, principally owing to the Christian conviction that they were responsible for the death of Christ.

The thirteenth-century Salvin Hours contains typically monstrous portrayals of Jews in a representation of Christ before Caiaphas, the high priest. The Jews are instantly recognisable from their grotesque physiognomy, featuring dark skin, hooked noses, and evil grimaces. (Strickland)

There was also a belief that "Jews had a characteristic strong body odor, the foetor Iudaicus. [...] Another such folkloristic feature of the Jewish body was a pair of horns" (Patai & Patai 13). It is perhaps not a coincidence that Hartman's dragons can be identified by their odor.

The belief that Jews were physically different has persisted into modern times. Richard Jeffrey Newman, for example, recounts that,

In eleventh grade, my class went on a trip to somewhere that included a tour of a ship of historical importance. (I don’t remember which one.) We were standing on the deck, when a group of much younger kids, probably in elementary school, came on board. One of the girls asked one of the adults accompanying them why the boys in my group were wearing those “funny hats.” The adult explained that they were called yarmulkes and it meant we were Jewish. “Oh,” the kid said, a tone of wonder completely bereft of irony creeping into her voice. “Then where are their horns?”

If Jews were really readily identifiable by their physical appearance, however, it would presumably not have been deemed necessary to impose particular types of clothing which would act as visible markers of difference. As Hartman herself related in an essay written in 2001, in the Middle Ages it was frequently the case that

Local laws required Jews, "Saracens," and sometimes even Christian deviants to wear distinctive clothing, or markers on their clothing, so they could be readily identified. Again, the details varied from community to community. For Jews, the markers most often consisted of a round patch, usually yellow, about the size of a human palm, to be displayed prominently upon the front of the garment. They could sometimes get out of wearing it -- for a fee, of course. Muslims were marked with a yellow crescent. In fact, visible religious identification may have begun in Islamic countries as a means of identifying those who were exempt from heeding the call to prayer. In Christian Europe, however, lawmakers were more interested in segregation, in preventing intermarriage, and in increasing the revenues brought in by tolls and taxes levied exclusively on non-Christians.

The obligation to wear markers such as these was, of course, revived by the Nazis and, albeit in a much more benign form, concerns about Jews' ability to "pass" continue to be expressed. In 2008 "The Girl Detective" posted at Feministe that:

I’ve written before on how angry I was when fellow progressives began to inform me that while some Jews consider themselves white, it’s only because they’ve assimilated into white culture. They never explained what white-looking Jews actually are, if not white, but the message was always clear: if we Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews think we’re white, well, it’s just because we wanted some of that tasty privilege so badly that we suppressed our real identity to get it. [...]

Here’s what’s really toxic about the idea that an Ashkenazi like me isn’t what she says she is: it paints us as infiltrators or spies, sneaking into white society so that we can get our hands on what doesn’t belong to us. From a white point of view, this turns us into something threatening, a presence that has to be identified and dealt with. (I still remember the anecdote a Jewish boyfriend’s mother told me: when they moved, their new neighbor felt it necessary to warn them that the family down the block was Jewish. “Well, we’ll fit right in,” my boyfriend’s mother responded. The neighbor didn’t speak to them again.)

Aliette de Bodard points out that "Some of us (white/SE Asians mixed-race people, for instance) simply never have this option, and we live our entire lives with what we are writ clearly on our faces and bodies. This is, of course, true. But many Jews have had this "option" and, in the past, were set apart by methods akin to the bells worn by Hartman's dragons when they are in human form. What de Bodard's comments demonstrate, I think, is that there is no one experience of being "mixed race" but, by the same token, de Bodard's experience does not invalidate the experiences of those who, like Seraphina, are able to conceal their "otherness." In addition, the historical sources on which Hartman is drawing suggest to me that, if "Seraphina is [...] oddly obsessed with 'passing'" this is not, as de Bodard suspects, simply because "it’s a US book and this has always been a huge issue in the US."


de Bodard, Aliette. "Seraphina, full-blood prejudice and pervasive racial passing." 14 February 2013.

Hartman, Rachel. "Sometimes a Codpiece is Just a Codpiece: The Meanings of Medieval Clothes." Strange Horizons. 22 October 2001.

Janine. "REVIEW: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman." Dear Author. 16 January 2013.

Newman, Richard Jeffrey. "What We Talk About (And Don't Talk About) When We Talk About (And Don't Talk About) antisemitism and Israel - 1." Alas A Blog. 19 January 2009.

Patai, Raphael and Jennifer Patai. 1975. The Myth of the Jewish Race. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1989.

Strickland, Debra Higgs. "Monsters and Christian Enemies." History Today 50.2 (2000).

The Girl Detective. "On Being Jewish and White." Feministe. 7 July 2008.

Persistent Concerns: Disability, Race, Sex

By Laura Vivanco on

Since the concern of commercial media is to exploit as wide an audience as possible, their repertoire of genres in any period tends to be broad and various, covering a wide (though not all-inclusive) range of themes, subjects, and public concerns. Within the structured marketplace of myths, the continuity and persistence of particular genres may be seen as keys to identifying the culture's deepest and most persistent concerns. (Slotkin 8)

Some fictions make their views of these concerns rather more explicit than others. Thomas Dixon Jr.'s The Leopard's Spots (1902) and The Clansman (1904) are extreme examples. In the former

Dixon sought, in part, to correct what he perceived as gross misrepresentations of the South in literary works, primarily in Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which even fifty years after its publication was still widely read. In his fictional portrayal of the beginning of the Klan, Dixon argues the group began as a defensive organization—to protect white womanhood from black male sexual aggression and to protect government from corruption. Dixon seamlessly weaves his racist rhetoric into sentimental love plots, priming readers to feel sympathy for white supremacist leaders.  ("Controversial")

One of these is

Dixon's hero, Gaston [...]. Although Gaston's cause is originally southern, [...] Gaston's revenge produces a movement that finally awakens northerners to the Black menace: "You cannot build in a Democracy a nation inside a nation of two antagonistic races. The future American must be an Anglo-Saxon or a Mulatto." (Slotkin 187)

It seems a particularly gratifying context in which to recall the identity of the current president of the US, and to remember that

Children from racial and ethnic minorities now account for more than half the births in the US, according to estimates of the latest US census data.

Black, Hispanic, Asian and mixed-race births made up 50.4% of new arrivals in the year ending in July 2011.

It puts non-Hispanic white births in the minority for the first time. (BBC)

I'm certain these facts would not please Dixon. What I want to highlight here, though, is the fact that Dixon used "sentimental love plots" to express his beliefs. This is true not just of The Leopard's Spots but also of The Clansman, in which:

The southern male hero is more virile and attractive than his northern counterparts, and the northern heroine (Elsie Stoneman) is wooed from her infatuation with the unnatural doctrines of racial equality (espoused by her father) by her desire to love and be loved by the manly southerner. Elsie's father, the leader of the Radicals, is physically deformed, with "explains" his hatred of the healthy southern male and his desire to cripple and deform the southern race through miscegenation. (Slotkin 188)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Meljean Brook's Riveted is a direct response from the romance genre to Dixon, but in her acknowledgments Brook pays tribute to

Monica Jackson, who fought to turn the world around: You flipped some of us. I truly believe that everyone else will follow, someday. I just wish that you were here to see it.

Monica, who died in May 2012, was outspoken about the racism in romance:

I've written many words on why black racial separation is so prevalent in romance. My favorite theory is that it's the nature of the romance genre. Romance is fantasy-based. Readers are notoriously picky about their settings and having sympathetic characters that they can relate to them. Also, majority romance readers have plenty of romance novels to choose. There's no shortage of books, so why should a reader take the trouble to venture outside their comfort zone and spend money on something that may not appeal? No black romance author gets major buzz in the majority romance community compared with the buzz, awards and recognition white authors receive, so where do they start?

These are a few of the reasons, but figuring out how to address the issue of segregation in romance and thinking about how to go about changing it, is a daunting task. Race is an uncomfortable and taboo subject to discuss on nearly any level by almost anybody, black or white. Desegregating any institution in this country has always been a monumental struggle. (All About Romance)

I think Brook's Riveted can be read as her small contribution to that struggle, and one which she extends so that it also challenges discrimination on the basis of gender, disability and sexual orientation. The novel suggests that it is because of prejudice that "it is not usually what we think of ourselves that makes our lives harder or easier; too often, it is what others think of you" (267).

US cover












Jackie C. Horne has argued that the novel "proves not to be a meditation on gender roles, for Brook takes for granted the equality of the sexes that Gilman and feminists in the 1960s and 70s could only imagine." This is largely true, because the heroine of the novel comes from an all-female society and works as an engineer on an airship captained by a woman. However, the "New World" is rife with sexism: in Manhattan City, for example, "exposing a bare ankle or elbow earned a rebuke and a trip in a paddy wagon back to the port's gates, where her salacious behavior was reported to Captain Vashon and the airship threatened with docking sanctions" (4). There:

without a man's name behind hers, a woman had very little. Even many of the female scientists [...] had to secure the approval of their husbands or fathers before pursuing their chosen field, and were sometimes forced to abandon that pursuit when other demands were made of them. There were exceptions, of course - there were always exceptions - but it was a sobering realization. (276)

One could make the case that, to an even greater extent, Riveted "proves not to be a meditation on race." Certainly Annika, the heroine, is "marked [...] by the darkness of her skin" (13) and although she doesn't know who her biological parents were, it's possible that she is "a descendant of the Africans who'd fled across the ocean to escape the Horde" (55). David, the hero, is half "native" (154):

Many of my father's people were among those who converted when the Europeans first came. My name - Kentewess - identifies me as one. When I was a boy living in the east, reclaiming of the old ways had just begun, so I didn't think of it much. But when we moved to the mountain builders' city [...], many of those around us took great pride in never having converted, never having lost history to Europeans. And when I was with the other boys, I would do everything I could to avoid mentioning my name, and gave them instead the name of an ancestor. I'd ask my father for legends, for tales - not even to truly honor them, but because knowing them make it easier to not feel ... European. (155)

Racial differences are noted, then, and do have an impact on how the characters are perceived, but what more often seems to set Annika apart are her colourful clothes and her "lack of proper sensibilities" (61). With David what mostly sets him apart are his prosthetics. He has a prosthetic hand "grafted on so that the steel contraption had become a working part of his body" (11), "mechanical legs" (23) and "Pale scars raked the left side of his face, with several wide, ragged stripes running diagonally from forehead to cheek [...] And [...] some sort of optical contraption [...] had been embedded into his temple, which shielded his left eye with a dark, reflective lens" (12). It sets him apart from others and at eighteen he'd "confused loving [...] with being grateful that someone would touch him without disgust" (121-22), only to discover that "she'd loved him for what he couldn't do, not what he could" (122). Years later, David knows that

There would always be the Emilys who kissed him out of pity, the women who flinched away in disgust. There would always be those with good intentions. It made David more grateful for rare men like Dooley, who took him as he was - and for women like Annika, who seemed to. (122)

Another possible response to disability, and the one expressed by the villain of the novel, is to use the disabled as an inspiration:

"Men like him [i.e. David] have had to fight harder than all of us, every day [...] It should be a lesson to the rest of us, to remember how our lives could be much more difficult. We need to be thankful for what we have [...]."

[...] David didn't want to be a hero, or a lesson. Just a goddamn man. People treating him like less or more than one made his life more difficult than losing his legs ever had. (145)

David's mother came from Hannasvick, a secret Islandic village populated only by women but since a

community couldn't continue without children, [...] some women left to lie with men, and returned with a girl - or empty-handed, if the baby had been a boy that they left with his father. Some of the women remained away, choosing to stay with their sons. Others, like Annika's mother, took in a child stolen from Horde territories or the New World. (97)

This, however, is not the reason why Annika believes that the village must remain a secret, even from David:

Annika had seen what would happen to her people if the New World descended on them. She'd seen men hanged for less than what the women had done for years. She would never expose them to the ugliest part of the New World, the part that transformed love into sickness and sin.

Not everyone in the New World believed the same; perhaps David Kentewess wouldn't, either. If she told him about the love shared between her mother and his aunt, about so many of the others who'd made their lives together in her village, maybe he wouldn't show the same disgust. But Annika couldn't know how he would react. (101-102)

It is, however, someone else who states that "Something is wrong in them, Annika, and what you see isn't love. It's just lust" (175). Annika argues with this individual but since Annika herself has never found "a woman who stirred her passion [...] - and she hadn't met any men to do it, either. Until David" (163), in our world she would probably be classified as an "ally" of lesbian, gay and bisexual people rather than as someone who was herself lesbian or bisexual. Annika herself wonders about the extent to which she is committed to being an "ally" for although she believes she would be willing to defend her lesbian or bisexual friends and relatives if their lives were at risk, she is less sure she would risk her own life

"[...] For something [...] I think it's harder to die for something you believe in. To stand up and to say that something else is wrong. I said it to my friend, but would I shout it aboard this ship? I don't know. I'd be too afraid of what would happen to me, because so many think as she does. I hate myself for this."

"When you're surrounded by stupidity, self-preservation isn't a sin."

"Refusing to challenge that stupidity and letting it continue might end up hurting someone you love, later. I'd die to protect them, but not to tell people that I've kissed a woman, too?"

Alarmed, David shook his head. Though he agreed with her in principle, he'd be the first to knock her off the pulpit if she intended to shout it from the deck. If she intended to risk herself, to stand for her people, he'd be there with her - but there had to be better ways of going about it. (180-81)

The question of how to "go about it" is raised again, this time in the context of poverty, and David argues that

"If you broke every stupid rule in the New World simply because it was stupid, you'd never have time for anything else."

"I should choose one or two that matter, then." Though she wore a faint smile, her gaze remained serious. "If I had been caught [giving money to the starving so that they could buy some food], died for it - perhaps someone would realize how stupid it is to die for a few coins. If enough people recognized it, they could make a change. But I didn't risk anything. And when I was stopped by the port officer, I thought, Who would come help me? I wouldn't even risk giving money to the hungry. [...]" (182)

Later in the novel Annika does take a risk to free others, and it does indeed "make a change." Her question, "Who would come help me?" reminds me of pastor Martin Niemöller's statement which exists in various versions: he "may have thought first of the Communists, then the disabled, then Jews, and finally countries conquered by Germany" (Marcuse) but the version which, according to Wikipedia, is most commonly cited in the US, is:

First they came for the socialists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me. (Wikipedia)

Riveted may speak out more loudly on some issues than on others, but it seems to imply that all of us need to speak out against prejudice. Firstly, because it's the right thing to do, but also because all of us may one day face prejudice: as Annika suggests, "I suppose there is always something to make us different. I wonder if anyone at all ever feels at home" (314). As Annika and her mother acknowledge:

"It won't be easy, rabbit."

"No. It will take a long time, I think. But we can start small, here. And never back down." (388)


BBC. "Non-Hispanic US White Births Now the Minority in US." 17 May 2012.

Brook, Meljean. Riveted. London: Penguin, 2012.

"Controversial History: Thomas Dixon and the Klan Trilogy." Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004.

Horne, Jackie C. "Lesbiian Allies, Heterosexual Romance: Meljean Brook's Riveted." Romance Novels for Feminists. 20 Nov. 2012.

Jackson, Monica. "What It's Like." Section of "Racism in Romance?" ed. Laurie Gold. All About Romance. 15 Oct. 2005.

Marcuse, Harold. "Martin Niemöller's famous quotation: 'First they came for the Communists ...' What did Niemoeller himself say? Which groups did he name? In what order?" Webpage created 12 Sept. 2000 and last updated 24 Feb 2012.

Slotkin, Richard. Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America. 1992. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.


The cover image on the left (showing David as well as Annika) is the US version. The one on the right is of the UK cover. Brook has written that:

Cover art matching the contents is always iffy, unfortunately. And I think the girl on the cover [of the US edition] is darker, but the lighting/ice ends up washing her out. I saw some of the original stills from the photo shoot, and she was more obviously not-white, which was pretty awesomely thrilling. So I think the model was good. Then desaturation and lighting was added to make it look like they were on location, and then end result was all-over lighter. The UK cover ends up being closer in that respect.