October 27, 2015

In The Headlines: Redefining the Genre with "Maggie's Song"?

I think every author would love to hear their work described as "redefining the genre". Last week, Lee Bailey's Electronic Urban Report published an article on Marcia Ware's book, Maggie's Song, claiming exactly that.

According to this article, Maggie's Song relates the tale of a curvy, "plus-size" African American woman, working hard to become a country music star and navigating the waters of an industry telling her she must be skinnier, sexier, and more conforming to societal standards of beauty, in order to succeed. Along the way she meets a man with whom she falls head-over-heels in love, but the man she adores turns out to be only interested in her for her success.

I have to say, based on the synopsis presented in this article, I have mixed feelings about this story. First off, I'm excited for a romance title with an African-American lead, and excited to see a plus-size woman taking not just a romantic part, but a motivated career story-line against an industry well-known for it's aggressive pursuit of unrealistic body standards.

However, I can't say the synopsis or romantic plot involving Richard, the opportunistic love interest, seems all that original. Is this really redefining the genre?

One quote in the article claims the story "cuts to the heart of women's insecurities". Perhaps this is the keystone idea to the book becoming a genre-smashing juggernaut?  Personally, I think a lot of romance features plot points of women (sometimes needlessly) struggling with insecurity. The idea of a romance centering on a woman's struggle with her own self-esteem (directly as a result of a man in her life) is even a bit insulting, to my mind, perhaps because it's so prevalent, even in story-lines which don't seem intended to focus on it. Romance, I think, is far more "genre-redefining" when it doesn't highlight a female feeling bad about herself in relation to how a man views her. 

Have you read Maggie's Song? What do you think about the article's claim that it "redefines" the romance genre? What sort of elements do you believe are truly necessary to redefine romance?


  1. Redefine romance? Hardly. Romance isn't about character specifics like race or sex, or any struggles they may have in life...it is about faithful love and that ridiculous HEA. Change those, sell it as romance, THEN you are redefining the genre. It is nice to see some diversity finally...but I still won't be reading, because knowing it will be a happily ever after defeats the whole purpose.

    1. I'm a huge opponent of the HEA requirement and restrictions on story elements like infidelity. It makes erotic romance so... watered down. I get a lot of criticism because the main character in Goblin Fires "sleeps around a lot" before she ends up with her love match. So frustrating, because if it was a male character we'd just call him Casanova and move on.

    2. Unless you write gay romance - then they are even more rabid about not 'sleeping around' :( I do like a good love story, as long as it isn't defined as a romance because I like not knowing where the relationship will go...and I enjoy angst, which isn't terribly common for HEA. It is tricky, I tell people I write love stories, not romance - sex, but not erotica - because the genre restrictions don't fit with any stories I want to tell.


What do you think?