Romantic Guppies

I have a mental image of many eyes rolling when my subject is dogs, and here I am — about to do worse and ramble on about aquariums and fish. Trust me, though, it’s going to lead to romance novels.

Some years ago I discovered that even someone who is a lousy gardener — me — can be halfway competent when it comes to planted aquariums. I read an article about how to set one up, followed the advice, and got hooked in a minor way. Right now I have three small planted aquariums in the house. There’s a picture of one of my tanks here (#96). I still have that little bowfront tank, although it’s been redone several times since then.

It’s the fish that stock the tanks that I recently realized relate to romance novels. You see, after I set up my first aquarium there was the question of what to put in it. Small tanks need small fish, and guppies should be candidates, right? Not for me. Do you know that if you get guppies, the advice is to get 3 to 5 females for each male? That’s so the males don’t harass the females to death. If you look at a tank of guppies, swordtails, or other like fish in a store, you likely will see the males chasing the females with their “rod-like gonopodiums” (that’s a quote from one of my fish books) arched forward, ready for action.

So how does all this relate to romance novels? I blew my book budget out of the water in January and turned to library books. The Denver Library is quite forward-thinking about ebooks and not only has a lot in the system, but unlike my local library, has many that are instantly available and don’t require a hold. So that’s where I turned. And of course I’ve been a lot less selective than if I were buying books: read the description, think it sounds sort of okay, download, give it a try, delete if it’s not up to snuff, try another, repeat.

Some of what I tried was pretty decent, but after I hit a few in a row that annoyed me and that I zapped pretty quickly, I started trying to analyze what it was that annoyed me. The fact is that while the rape romance of old may be out of style, there are still a lot of books whose heroes are guppies. Instead of rod-like gonopodiums, they have rock-like throbbing manhoods or sometimes these days hard as rock correctly named organs, but they’re guppies. These heroes walk around and lay around (they have to sleep but they sleep in the same state) doing pretty much nothing but harassing females or if stymied from direct action, thinking about it or talking about it. When all this lust settles on one female, it’s love, and the guy is a hero.

I’ve always avoided romances that have no story to speak of, where the H and h just pant over each other for 300 pages, consumed by passion and kept apart until page 200 by something so minor it’s impossible to believe. Books with guppy guys can have story lines, though. It’s just that in guppy books the hero lives his life with his rod-like manhood throbbing and since he’s a dominant alpha type, nothing else matters. He’s entitled to harass the heroine into giving him what he wants, since minor inconveniences to her, like getting pregnant when unmarried in the Nineteenth Century, fade in comparison to the throbbing.

One of these books got zapped when the hero comforted the heroine with sex when her baby had been kidnapped. Yoohoo, any of you out there think you’d find that comforting under those circumstances? Am I missing out here? No one could make me feel sexy when I’m worried about one of the dogs much less a kid. I’m not sure if the guppy guy is just a more politically correct version of the old romance rapist, but after coming across several of these guys in a row, I think I dislike them just as passionately.

Tidbit: It’s favorite book of the year time at All About Romance, and one of the reviewers there (Lea) mentioned Dancing on Coals as a 2011 favorite. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I saw the thread there about a review of Dancing and got busy and sent AAR what they require in order to review. I must confess since I never sent them anything for  Sing and that review just appeared like magic, it never occurred to me to send them anything for Dancing. Oops.



18 Responses to Romantic Guppies

  1. mesadallas says:

    Hi, Ellen. So even male fish have a one track mind. LMAO!

    I commented on the thread at AAR. This should clear up anyone’s confusion about the spice level of Coals.

    Congratulations on Coals gaining the notice of AAR as one of their picks for Best of the Year! Two years in a row! Fabulous!

  2. Love to Read says:

    Hi Ellen,

    Just read your blog about Guppy Men. Considering I just spent this week rereading Eyes, Sing, and Coals yet again, I have to completely agree with you. The reason I love your novels like I do is because the lead couples actually do fall in love. My reviews on Amazon actually site this. Eyes is my favorite romance and I’ve been reading them since middle school. You still bring the spice but is a way that is real and special not just special effects.

  3. Thanks, mesadallas, for your comment at AAR. One person before you addressed the question but not as completely as you did, I think.

    The reviews mentioning “clean” happened because some of the people at Goodreads liked the book so much that friends who usually only read closed door romances gave Dancing a try in spite of knowing it wasn’t closed door. And at least the ones who reviewed later did like the book although of course they didn’t like the sex scenes. In fact one lady posted a comment saying she liked the story so much that after reading it in digital form she ordered the paperback so she could white out the sex scenes and reread it without what bothered her! I’m all for readers who buy two copies. 🙂

    When AAR reviewed Sing My Name last year, it was a surprise to me – I hadn’t sent them a copy or asked for a review. So I’m glad for the thread that made me realize I should be sending them a request. I got in gear last night and did that for Dancing and got a nice reply saying a review is already in the works. In the future I’ll send them what they need as soon as the book is done.


  4. Love to Read – Thanks for saying that. I have wondered how a reader would feel after reading all 3 one after another. I do that with favorite authors’ books and know it does make one more aware of the author’s idiosyncrasies. Favorite phrases, general ways of expressing certain things, etc. I’m glad you can read them all like that without telling me – enough with ____ already! Then again if you were thinking that but just too polite to say so, tell me. Maybe I can diversify. ~Ellen

  5. Jenny Dickens says:

    Dancing on Coals has just been placed in my best top 2 books of its genre–and I read a lot. I’m new to you…and loving your style. Thanks for this lovely romance, the end of which I didn’t see coming.

  6. Hi Jenny – Thanks for stopping by and for letting me know you liked Dancing on Coals so much. Needless to say, even though the happily ever after ending of a romance is expected, surprising the reader about the path the H/h take to get there is a goal and a challenge. ~Ellen

  7. Jenny Dickens says:

    Genre or not, because this one had such tension and dark moments, I was fully prepared for something much less “happily, etc.” Therefore, great job.

  8. DallasE says:

    Ellen, the review of Dancing on Coals is up at AAR.

    Still waiting for the next romance…….LOL

  9. mesadallas says:

    Just read the review of Dancing on AAR.Not sure how I felt about it.

    On the one hand I felt it deserved a higher rating than a B+ and didn’t think it was that well-written of a review. I would have liked to have had a little more insite on her the reviwer felt personally about the book and I think the review fell a little short of this.

    On the other hand AAR doesn’t make a habit of reviewing books by indies and the fact that they have reviewed two of your books is cause for congratulations.

    Good job, Ellen!

  10. Well, needless to say, I was hoping for another A and Desert Isle Keeper rating like Sing My Name got, but I think a B+ is darn good, and being greedy probably doesn’t pay. 🙂 I also have one of those vague, niggly memories of something somewhere that gave me the impression Pat read the book sometime ago, and if that’s right, doing a review of something read many books ago must be a challenge. And, yes, I understand the compliment involved in AAR reviewing my books at all and am very appreciative. ~Ellen

  11. DallasE says:

    I have to say “ditto” to what mesadallas wrote. I hesitated to say anything before anyone else had read the review; didn’t want to influence any other opinions. Although “Dancing On Coals” isn’t my favorite of your books, I thought it deserved a higher rating.

  12. Hi DallasE – I’m glad you feel that way, but we all know that those of you who read this blog are fans, people firmly in the core audience for my books. Any time I know a reviewer is going to be reading one of the books, I get nervous knowing that there are also those people my stories or my writing don’t resonate with or who really dislike the books for another reason. All the romances except Dancing on Coals have 1-star reviews on Amazon, and it’s just a matter of time until Dancing joins its brethren. It has several non-fans on Goodreads. ~Ellen

  13. DallasE says:

    Now one of the commenters on AAR is complaining about the covers! Sheesh, the lengths some people will go to.

  14. Sabrina Shultz says:

    Hi Ellen,

    I had to giggle a little at your references to the “throbbing manhoods”…it always makes me smile when I read some of the creative and not-so-creative ways that authors describe the male anatomy. I completely agree with you on the way that lust is so quickly transformed into “love” in so many romance novels. It always feels rushed and shallow…most of the time we don’t even know the “hero” yet. And somehow because he has strong cheekbones and chiseled abs we allow him into our beds. You’re right that it seems that throughout the entire books, it’s just a race to see how quickly they can get into bed together (over and over again). Half the time, the limited conversations they have seem to be arguing and yet they STILL end up in bed again! There’s no everyday life – no time for love or heck, even friendship! His engorged member seems to always get in the way! 😉

    One of the wonderful things about Eyes, Sing or Dancing is that we got to have our cake and eat it too! Not only were all the heroes handsome – they were also noble, honest, of strong character, and loved our heroines to hell and back. All three were nicely-paced with rich characters, engaging dialogue, and realistic love/sex scenes. With Eyes – I loved reading about the kitchen table scene..but I loved reading about them working the horses together as well. It’s the everyday stuff – like haying the fields or canning peaches- that made it real and actually gave them time to fall in love. Theirs wasn’t a race to the finish – it was a slow-building, burning love. And it was amazing to read (and reread). I felt the same about Sing and Dancing – there was so much meat to their stories! And I loved every second – there was no rushing through to get to “the good part” because, honestly, it was all good stuff.

    To get back to your point – I’m over the hero wandering through 300+ pages with a 24-hour erection! And I’m looking forward to your next love story!

  15. Now, now, we all know tastes vary. And I will say that I sympathize with that one commenter who doesn’t like my covers big time in that in discussing covers sometime ago I realized that generally speaking, covers don’t lure me in. However, covers can put me off. (And nothing makes me put someone on my never buy list faster than a cover that uses a cute dog or cat to lure people in when there’s no cat or dog in the story or one that appears for about a paragraph.) Titles and descriptions are far more important to me, and while I may be wrong, I’ve always thought part of the original appeal that got Eyes off the ground was the title. ~Ellen

  16. Hi Sabrina and welcome. Thanks for the head-swelling feedback. I hope you and all the readers here do enjoy the next romance as much as the others. I almost have the story fixed in my head so by the time I finish the mystery, it ought to be ready to write. ~Ellen

  17. Jane says:

    Reading this a little late, but wanted to let you know how much I love your guppy analogy. I am so sick and tired of the insta lust in romance novels that I got a real giggle out of your post.

    BTW, loved Dancing on Coals and each of your other books. I even picked up Rottweiler Rescue and now I find I’m hooked on your dog stories, too, even though I’m mostly a romance reader. It helps that we used to live in CO and showed dogs, so I can identify with a lot of the places and situations you mention in RR! I’m looking forward to all of your future books!

  18. Hi Jane and welcome. I’m glad you liked the books. Readers here are mostly romance fans, but I do have some crossover readers and it’s nice to hear from them. Especially since I’m beating my head against another mystery right now, it’s nice to have a compliment on Rottweiler Rescue. I’ve come to the conclusion mysteries may be even harder than sex scenes, although they don’t require loosening inhibitions with a couple of beers. ~Ellen

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