Saturday, February 7, 2009


Five years ago when Chic Lit first came on the scene, critics and booksellers had trouble defining the difference between this new genre of literature and the traditional kind of women’s romance. Then some cynical wit offered an explanation. Chic Lit was “. . . going to the mall and buying a new dress.”

While I like romance writers like Barbara Delinsky and the more recent books by Nora Roberts, most romance novels leave me cold. The writers seem to try too hard to put the woman in the driver’s seat, while men are delegated to playing the role of effeminate bystanders who kick couches and stamp their feet in helpless rage.

I am always searching for new writers and was pleased when a friend offered me a book she had recently purchased. “This is by Sophie Kinsella and it is called Remember Me,” she said, holding it up where I could see the large sunflower on the cover. I started backing away. “It’s Chic Lit,” she said trying to pass the book to me. At that moment, I realized how a drug pusher must feel when someone tries to pass a paper bag to them while they are standing in front of a security camera. I would have walked away, but she gave me that look that Cate used to give me when she dared me to jump out of the barn loft. The book passed quickly from her hand to the inside pocket of my coat.

When I got home, I sat down to read -- not in my favorite reading chair -- but on the couch where I could stuff the book behind one of the overstuffed cushions if it became necessary. I was soon to discover that the story started out well, and it only took a few minutes to find myself inside the head Lexi and her friends. The plot was sensible and the story had emotion and flow – all of those good things you find in mainstream fiction. Chic Lit has definitely come a long way from Sex and the City or Bridget Jones Diary. The main difference between Chic Lit and other types of fiction is the fact that the characters are young, stylish and hip, without having to play the role of victim. This genre of literature has definitely come of age. Authors like Sophie Kinsella have a distinct, universal voice that speaks to anyone who likes good literature. I have a feeling that we will hear from Kinsella again and again and again . . .


M. L. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post--I'll try some Chick Lit again. (I'm here from a post of Crimescenewriter where I often see your remarks)

Theresa de Valence

Lise said...

Thank you for the plug for this genre of women's fiction and romance, Joe. Chick lit - though many romance authors will tell you it is suffering under a current cloud of "no more chick lit" in the publishing world, in fact it, like other genres of romance, is growing and evolving. Including hen lit, mom lit, lady lit (Lad lit had a brief fling but seems to have slunk off) and everything from paranormal (urban fantasy lit?) to mystery is going strong. Sophie Kinsella and her Shopaholic series is one of the leaders of the pack in question.

But I'd love to hear you have found (or had thrust upon you) some other examples of the broad romance genre, Joe, because there are many, many books that do not fit the description of those that you've encountered in the past. In fact, as a reader of romance since its early days in the late 1970's I've seen such a drastic change and now while there are a lot of kick-ass heroines out there (whether in a Regency ballroom or a Manhattan street), they are usually paired up with an equally kick-ass hero. In the meantime, thank you for the respectful discussion on a subject that all too often brings out the usual terms - "bodice ripper", "trashy books", etc. It is much appreciated by this fan of all fiction genres, from the gritty crime novels to the steamy historicals.

mfross said...

I thought that I had read somewhere that women buy the most books. If I could get away with writing it, I would.

But, I am friends with a number of 'chick lit' authors. I buy their books to support them and find myself enjoying them. With this, I have discovered a new appreciation for those who write it.

(another crimescenewriter person).