Friday, January 13, 2012

Nonfiction "Trend" Echoes Common Romance Trope

When scanning the web for something to blog about today, I saw the headline "Readers fascinated by Navy SEAL books" on USA Today's Books section.

I'll admit to rolling my eyes.

This is old news
, I thought to myself. Why is this being mentioned now?

I clicked through to find out, only to see that the piece was featuring a nonfiction book entitled American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

Upon seeing this, I went through five emotional stages in very quick succession:

1. Intrigued.
2. Bewildered.
3. Straight-up Shocked.
4. Slightly offended.
5. Sad.

Why did I go through this process, you ask?

Well, because Navy SEALs have been popular in the romance genre, particularly the subgenre of romantic suspense, for years and years and YEARS.

Yet, USA Today says of American Sniper:
It's another example of our continuing fascination with U.S. Navy SEALs since their takedown of Osama bin Laden last spring. From 1999 to 2009, the author, decorated U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, recorded the most career sniper kills in U.S. military history. SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin, published last May, two weeks after bin Laden's death, rose to No. 15 on the list. SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden by Chuck Pfarrer, published in November, hit No. 32.

It's baffling to me that this is seen as a new trend. Romance writers have been exploring the culture and personalities of these same SEALs for ages--Suzanne Brockmann, Sandra Hill, Cindy Gerard, Lora Leigh , and so many others. First truly appearing in the mid-1990s (with Brockmann's Prince Joe), SEALs are such a common theme in romance that it's even considered a trope in the genre.

So, why is it not until the Navy SEAL popularity shifts to nonfiction that the theme gets any real recognition? Yes, I'm grumbling right now.

It was nice to find, however, another recent article, this on by the Washington Post, that shines the limelight on these innovative romance authors as the first to really delve into the SEALs trend. While it too, discusses the real-life impetus for the recent surge in popularity (Osama Bin Laden's capture and death), it does give the romance genre due credit:

Navy SEAL romance novels have proven to be reliable sellers in the romance suspense category, and several have made the New York Times bestseller list, including “Dark Viking” by Sandra Hill, which features a SEAL who travels in time to the land of the vikings, one of seven viking Navy SEAL books she’s written.


The woman credited with launching the Navy SEAL mini-genre is Brockmann, who decided to feature Navy SEALs in romance novels after reading a magazine story about “Hell Week,” the toughest part of the Basic Underwater Demolition training program that aspiring SEALs are put through. Less than a third typically make the final cut.


Romance authors “are writing about the human experience for readers today, so whatever setting — the 1600s, another world inhabited by vampires who are hotter than hot — readers still want something that makes sense to them,” said Amy Pierpont, executive director of Grand Central Publishing’s Forever romance imprint.

That desire for realism extends to the female characters, who, unlike heroines in decades past, are not easily swept off their feet. For instance, Natalie Benoit, the heroine in White’s new book, considers SEAL Zach MacBride with wariness: “It wasn’t right for any man to be so dangerous and so sexy at the same time. Her adrenal glands and her ovaries were locked in a shouting match now, the former insisting she needed to run away fast, the latter wishing he’d kiss her again.”

Benoit, like all of White’s heroines, is a journalist who isn’t afraid to venture into dangerous places. And that’s par for the course these days, writers and editors said.

“You definitely get some reader backlash if a heroine is too mild-mannered or too apt to acquiesce to a man’s needs,” Pierpont said.

Pierpont and others believe therein lies another aspect of the SEALs’ appeal: As the female characters have become more high-powered, mirroring the rising education and achievement levels of romance novel readers, the male love interests have had to step it up a notch. A Navy captain might have been dashing enough 20 years ago. But in today’s world, where women are secretaries of state, CEOs, single parents and soldiers, a guy’s got to have more to offer than a pretty uniform. And what man can offer more than a SEAL, the product of the military’s toughest training regime?

“They have all of these abilities that the average guy doesn’t even have,” White said. “They appeal to the side of women who want to know there are really strong men in the world who aren’t afraid to take responsibility. SEALs are not not going to pay their child support. They are not couch potatoes who don’t care. They are active in making the world better.”

In the romance world, the competency of SEALs knows no bounds. “They are trained from Day 1 to notice the tiniest detail,” Melton said. “A man who can pick up on the smallest little nuance is bound to be able to please a woman, if you catch my drift.”

Read the entire article HERE

1 comment:

  1. SEAL Team Six made headlines recently when they killed the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan. Everyone wanted to know more about this elite team of the miltary's best men, and luckily former team member Howard E. Wasdin, along with Stephen Templin, had written SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper.