I need help finding a specific type of book.
March 8, 2014 5:32 PM   Subscribe

When I was a kid, there seemed to be a million of a certain type of romance novel on the market. They would be less "romantic" and more "dramatic" and "sordid", the type of books that would have, say, a pale pink cover with a picture of a tiger lily and a string of pearls, with titles like "deception" written in swooshy letters.

I want to find these kinds of books now, but it's challenging because amazon doesn't pull up great search results for "swooshy letters", and just searching the romance titles is exhausting and unfruitful.

More description: these would be contemporary novels, around 600 pages or more, and not particularly romantic but more soap-opera like. The copy would have said stuff like "a scintillating drama of deciet, seduction, glamour and riches- and women who will stop at nothing to have it all", and the story would typically have at least three characters you'd be following through their awful shenanigans.

What is the genre here? Some titles? Authors? Thanks!
posted by windykites to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Scruples, by Judith Krantz?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:39 PM on March 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sidney Sheldon books. Oof. Also, I imagine Jackie Collins fits the bill, although I've never read any of them.

Finally, there's always Lace, by Shirley Conran, featuring the immortal line, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?"

Are you looking for those '80s books, or are you looking for current books that fit this genre?
posted by Madamina at 5:42 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

the seminal work may have been jacqueline susann's "valley of the dolls", which one critic opined "was typed on a cash register". see also harold robbins.
posted by bruce at 5:52 PM on March 8, 2014

Oooh! One of my first adult jobs was working at a bookstore that sold these types of books.

Bertrice Small comes to mind. Okay, that's historical but still a good read.

Catherine Cookson, too many to list.

Nora Roberts and all of her pseudonyms.

Danielle Steele.

Harold Robbins.

Jackie Collins.

Sophie Kinsella

Maeve Binchy

I have more, but yes, is it 80s' stuff or what?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:56 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm looking for 80's ones and modern ones!
posted by windykites at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2014

You may want to ask the Smart Bitches about this.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:21 PM on March 8, 2014

It's funny, I know the genre you mean but I don't know the name. I just think of them as part of the same genre as Dallas (the TV show).

I think the best way to find a genre that was popular at least ten years ago is on the used book market. If your area has library book sales, those can be a sweet spot. (Or not. Some library book sales either toss this stuff, or don't get it donated in the first place. If you don't find them at the first sale, try a few others.) Also, some thrift stores (Savers is good for these in my area).

I second Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele, and Judith Krantz for the original versions.

For more recent books that might scratch the same itch, Marian Keyes or Madeline Wickham (I find Sophie Kinsella, her alter ego, is much fluffier/funnier).

If you like Gothic influences, add Barbara Michaels.

I think a lot of these books evolved into chick lit (Sarah Mlynowski, Jennifer Crusie), Issue Lit (Jodie Picoult), straight romance (Susan Elizabeth Phillips), or Oprah Lit (books with moody photographs for covers and Readers Guides).
posted by pie ninja at 6:23 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Penny Vincenzi also writes great books in this vein, though the covers are more mysterious ladies in fancy hats. Melodrama would be one word I'd use to describe them. They're often family sagas.

This article describes them as 'blockbusters', treating that as a genre rather than a description of sales.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:30 PM on March 8, 2014

Sidney Sheldon
Jeanne Sommers

Sommers doesn't go in for contemporary shenanigans, but look at the cover for Rose of Passion, Rose of Love and tell me that's not what you're looking for.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:36 PM on March 8, 2014

OH MAN, definitely Judith McNaught (or as one of my friends calls her, Judith McNaughty). I remember stealing Perfect and Paradise from my mom and I think they definitely fit this mold.
posted by leesh at 6:54 PM on March 8, 2014

I've always known the books you describe as Harlequin Romance Novels.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:05 PM on March 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

A good place to find these books is in a Goodwill/Salvation Army/St. Vincent de Paul shop. So many shiny pink covers and swooshy letters!
posted by lovecrafty at 7:30 PM on March 8, 2014

Olivia Goldsmith is my favorite author for this kind of thing.
posted by entropyiswinning at 9:07 PM on March 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Generational sagas?
posted by mazienh at 9:23 PM on March 8, 2014

Seconding Jackie Collins, Olivia Goldsmith, and Judith Krantz. Adding in Susan Johnson.

And don't forget one of the originals - Peyton Place!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:50 PM on March 8, 2014

This genre is called Shopping and Fucking. I'm not kidding.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pat Booth and Jilly Cooper
posted by brujita at 12:06 AM on March 9, 2014

Bonkbuster is the word I've always used for that multi-character, multi-generational, lengthy, sex-and-drama type book. It's a subset of the blockbuster novel.

And yeah, Jilly Cooper for sure, but only the Rutshire Chronicles, not the earlier, shorter books with girls names. Her earlier stuff is pretty standard heroine + wrong guy + right guy stuff. Y'know, Mills and Boon/Harlequin fare, whereas the Rutshire Chronicles need a cast list at the start of every book so you can keep track of who's fucking each other's spouses and taking over each others businesses and who's stabbing who in the back.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:48 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the older ones: Barbara Taylor Bradford, eg the document misleadingly titled A Woman of Substance. From an even earlier era (1944; banned in Boston), Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber.
posted by tavegyl at 3:03 AM on March 9, 2014

Oh this just reminded me of how much I loved sneakily reading my Mum's books when I was young (especially the ones she told me not to because they were too "grown up" - i.e. racy...)

I particularly remember Deceptions by Judith Michael, and seconding Lace by Shirley Conran. Enjoy!
posted by billiebee at 5:12 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Judith Krentz, totally. For something more "historical" but no less swirly lettered, try Amanda Quick.
posted by kariebookish at 5:15 AM on March 9, 2014

I definitely agree with those suggesting Jackie Collins, and would specifically recommend Hollywood Wives, its sequel Hollywood Husbands, and my absolute favorite (although this one is set in the 70s and not 80s) Lovers and Gamblers. All are full of twisted Hollywood drama, romance, memorable characters, excellent plotting, and really witty writing. I think these are her best and will never tire of reading and re-reading those - I love re-visiting my old friends on the page and wonder what they are up to now haha. It is also fun to guess which fictional character is based on which real life celebrity. That said, most of what the author has done in the late 70s and 80s is good. I would not recommend you start with her later novels from the 90s to today. They are okay, but seem like shadows of her glorious 80s works... Plots are more predictable, the wit not as sharp, and the characters rather two-dimensional. Don't laugh, I love Jackie Collins as much as H.P Lovecraft, M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe - extremely different genres and plotting sensibilities, but all have a true gift with words.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:45 AM on March 9, 2014

Jilly Cooper
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:07 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know exactly the type of book you're talking about. Danielle Steel is the canonical from in my head, FWIW.

That said, when I worked in a used bookstore they got stocked in the general romance section. YMMV, but I suspect there's not a sub-genre specific name in the way one might expect.

(Harlequin is something else completely)
posted by PMdixon at 6:58 AM on March 9, 2014

Oh God. My mother wrote one of these (under a pen name, obviously). So, you know, if you want an 80's novel that actually is "a scintillating drama of deceit, seduction, glamour and riches - and women who will stop at nothing to have it all" you can get it used on Amazon for pennies. It was a New York Times best seller and we still have the list framed in the family home, and it actually doesn't suck.

Unless you're 12 and your mother has just written a best selling novel that involves SEX and hundreds of thousands of people have read it and you are just mortified. Then it sucks. But only until you turn 15 and people totally still remember that book and it's suddenly very cool that your mother wrote a book with SEX in it and your friends all think your mother is awesome. Which she is.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:59 AM on March 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Another genre term for these books is Bodice Rippers
posted by munyeca at 7:10 AM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just have to say that this is yet one more reason that metafilter is so awesome - there's always someone to ask your burning question while you're waiting for your seven days to elapse! When I was a teenager, I read a ton of Kathleen Woodwiss and recently started wondering about all that delicious trash I read in those years and could not for the life of me remember her name or any titles except that they were pretty much always "The __ and the __".

This thread has reopened old worlds for me! Thanks to all...and OP -- give The Wolf and the Dove a whirl. It'll leave you fanning yourself and clutching your pearls. Tee hee.
posted by janey47 at 11:57 AM on March 9, 2014

Hey guys, it seems that "melodrama" and "blockbuster" are big key words here. Harlequin and bodice-rippers are not turning out to be what I was looking for- i'm looking for less "torridly sexual" and more "sordidly dramatic". For anyone else in the same search, this goodreads list is pretty helpful. Soapy melodrama
posted by windykites at 4:14 PM on March 16, 2014

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