Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Castle, Hawaii Five-O and What's Clean Romance to You?

Hawaii Five-O had a lot of banter last night with Steve and Danny that was nice. I'd been missing that. And Apollo Anton Ohno as a guest star, so yeah, that was awesome. He does do "bad guy" quite well. (I voted for him on Dancing With the Stars. I miss Julianne Hough. But I digress.) And even though the case itself wasn't that stellar, the scenery was gorgeous. Yes, Hawaii, I want to come and visit you personally, but at least I can live somewhat vicariously every Monday night.

To tell you the truth, I watched Castle before H50 last night for the first time in ages. The storyline was so good from last week I had high hopes for the conclusion this week, both plot-wise and relationship-wise. Unfortunately, it was the same old bait and switch on the relationship front. (The plot wasn't half-bad, though, since you know how much I love the spy stuff). Last week left us hanging, with Castle and Beckett about to drown in the Hudson. This week, we see Beckett who looks like she's drowning, Castle is desperately trying to come to her aid and he does so at the last minute. But instead of even a hug after this near death experience, once again we get a brother/sisterly sort of "thanks" and then a shoulder bump at the end of the eppy after they almost die a couple more times.

At this point I don't think the writers know how to write romance because they've certainly lost me with what they're trying to do---besides frustrate viewers. Castle and Beckett absolutely had the tension, the looks, the flirting in the first three seasons and that was a large part of what drew me into the characters. Castle was must-see TV for me. But then they had Castle declare his love at the end of last season and then they've pretty much acted like best friends/brother & sister types ever since. It's too bad, really. I hope it gets better.

But that got me thinking about romance last night. Romantic suspense is my favorite genre, but lately I've been reading a lot of historical romance. I belong to a "Clean Romance" group on Goodreads for those of us who like romance without explicit intimacy. There was a book recommended on the site as a clean romance, With His Lady's Assistance by Cheryl Bolen, and since it was regency I decided to buy it. It started out with a British spy, Captain Jack Dryden, being called back from the Peninsula to help find the assassin who was targeting the Prince Regent. Of course, the spy couldn't function among the ton without someone to smooth the way, so the Prince Regent suggests a woman who has all the connections, but is sort of unattractive and thus unmarried. (Sounds like something right up my alley, right? Spy stuff, I love you.)

Daphne Chalmers is smart and educated, but she also has to wear spectacles and doesn't care about fashion. She makes others feel at ease, and is discreet about indiscretions among those of her class. She finds Captain Dryden extremely attractive and is happy to play his faux-fiancee until they find out who is plotting to kill the Prince Regent. Of course, she's actually got really pretty eyes behind the spectacles (but no one really sees them except Captain Jack) and is almost beautiful when she tries to dress up and actually does something with her hair. But that's a given in these romances is it not?

There are some funny moments as they try to keep up their facade to be engaged and uncover the nefarious assassin. The author writes the main characters well. I did guess who was behind the plot quite early on, but there was a little twist at the end that surprised me. But all's well that ends well, if you know what I mean.

The thing that I wanted to discuss today was what you think of "clean romance" or as this book is billed on Goodreads as a "sweet romance." For me, clean or sweet implies that there isn't any sexual relations or anything that implies it. So, With His Lady's Assistance could technically be categorized as clean, since the main characters remain chaste throughout, however, there is quite a bit of discussion about adultery and certain acts that are committed in an opera box no less, which is apparently okay because it's just what rich people do. There is some discussion of what happens during sexual intimacy, and a conversation between our hero and heroine about certain parts of the anatomy and what happens when you are physically intimate. (And those things could have totally been left out and weren't integral to the story. As is usually the case.) But because of the inclusion of these things, for me, I can't say this book is "clean" romance and wouldn't recommend it as such. But where do you draw the line? And do you tell the others in your clean romance group your thoughts on whether you consider this book "clean" or not?

I know this is a matter of taste, but I'm interested to know, what do you consider clean romance? And do you read or like clean romances?

Also, here is the back copy of With His Lady's Assistance:

To help him mingle in the highest echelons of English society to investigate threats on the Prince Regent's life, super spy Captain Jack Dryden must feign an engagement to the exceedingly plain spinster, Lady Daphne Chalmers. Together they embark on an investigation which brings them into grave peril – and makes the captain reevaluate the skinny maiden who has a most amorous effect upon him


Rebecca Belliston said...

I'm with you. It's not just what the main characters do that should be clean, but what is talked about, hinted to, etc. Books are so imaginative anyway, it takes very little hinting for the clean to get dirtied. The whole point of clean romance groups is so that people like us can find books that don't have that junk. Maybe you should say something. Just a thought. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I don't watch Castle or Hawaii Five-O. But, I think I need to change this up as I see that Castle and Hawaii both have a decent following of folks that tout the greatness of these series. Hawaii is beautiful. I would love to spend some time there.

Melanie Goldmund said...

I don't really like romance anyway, so I hardly read it. I guess my definition of "clean" is close to what yours is -- no explicit sex. I might be a bit more lenient when it comes to discussions inside the book, though. Maybe. Actually, I don't know because I just skip over all those parts to get back to the interesting stuff. (I almost wrote "action" until I remembered that it could be interpreted in two different ways.)

I was actually kind of interested in the story line that you described, especially when I saw that the heroine was not interested in fashion and was considered somewhat unattractive. Then I read that of course she had pretty eyes behind her spectacles and was beautiful when she dressed up, and my interest just died right then. Why couldn't she just remain at the same level of attractiveness no matter how she was dressed, and why couldn't Captain Dryden get to love her anyway after discovering some of her deeper qualities? But I guess that's just a pet peeve of mine, that females in these romance novels has to be beautiful to get male attention, and if you're not, you don't.

It's really quite rare that I read romances, though on occasion the blurb will interest me and I'll pick one up at the library. In general, though, it's not the romance part that interests me, it's whatever else the protagonists are doing that just happens to lead them together.

Jon Spell said...

Of course, you have to remember the conversation Sophie had with Kate where she said she wished they'd never slept together. Had to have weighed on her. The writers have to be careful to avoid the Moonlighting effect. Still, in my opinion, they got the romantic leads together on Chuck and made it work.

And what about the thing with Castle's father? I can't remember what else they've ever said about him.

But, oh, man, that opening scene with the submerged car was INTENSE! Holy cow! I think Castle should start carrying a gun and not tell Kate about it.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, it was TOTALLY intense. I loved the beginning and I think that's what got my hopes so high. It was like the freezer scene from last season. *sigh* I loved that episode. But not to follow up with anything after nearly dying seems so unbelievable to me. I have often wondered about Castle carrying a gun, considering the number of near death experiences he's had. Do the writers think that would lessen him somehow? I don't know. It would be an interesting twist to him "protecting" Kate, wouldn't it?

I'm a little leery about them bringing Castle's dad into it because we already have issues with Kate's mom and such. And it seems like an over-reach. I guess we'll see.

I think this show is so original they could totally get the characters together, yet still have them hiding it at first and draw that out, then being out in the open and trying to work together, there are so many delicious directions, but this season just seems to be so off to me somehow. I'm not sure what it is, but I don't like it. :( I hope the writers figure it out soon because the supposed subtext is falling flat. For me at least. Did you watch Hawaii Five-O yet?

Rebecca I took your advice and said something. I guess we'll see how it goes over. *bites nails*

Michael you should totally check it out and come back and tell us what you think.

Melanie, that's exactly what I'm looking for---is my definition just squeaky clean? How are other people's compared to it? So thank you for that. Just so you know, I really did enjoy the plot, I thought it was more original than others that I've read. She really was a sort of ugly duckling, but Jack saw through all that when no one else seemed to. You might like it. I'm with you, though, overall I like the suspense part with a little romance thrown in as a secondary thing. Maybe that's why I write it, too. ;)

Gina said...

I have a pretty unique stance on the "clean romance" thing, I think, especially in the LDS community.

I feel like it's "clean" if I don't read explicit actions and the sex all takes place off-screen (a la Twilight). I know that pretty much every person on the planet will have sex at some point in their lives, and I see no reason to pretend otherwise. I just don't need to read the details. I am fine with a fade-to-black treatment.

That being said, I get more uncomfortable when the sex is not in line with my personal standards. Teen sex, especially, doesn't sit well with me. Extra-marital affairs or homosexual relationships involving the protagonists aren't something I'm interested in reading.

Jon Spell said...

>>Did you watch Hawaii Five-O yet?

Not yet, H50 must "Neal" before White Collar. ;)

Probably tonight - I think it'll win out over Royal Pains and SVU. We are just about disgusted with SVU this season, and not just because we lost Stabler. The writers seem to revel in graphic depictions. Personally, I love the new girl from Chase, but it doesn't make up for the crap. I think by now we watch it out of long-running loyalty. (And maybe a little because of Harry Connick, Jr.)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Gina, I prefer to fade to black as well. And I agree with personal standards in my reading material as well. It just adds to my reading enjoyment when I'm true to myself.

Jon, I watched SVU for a long time, but even last season was getting a little too graphic for me and I finally stopped watching. With Stabler gone I knew I'd made the right decision. Benson and Stabler were the mainstays of that show for sure. And the ratings from this season speak to that I think. Harry Connick Jr. joined the cast? That surprises me a lot. Is he any good? Is he a lawyer or a cop? Just curious. :)

Jon Spell said...

Harry hasn't joined the cast, he's a special guest star with a multi-episode arc. He's some sort of DA and he's become Benson's love interest. He's not like, a great actor, but he does have a certain charm.

Watched H50 last night. Agree, Apollo was a nice touch. My wife points out, "They'd have to be careful about showing him from the waist down. He must have MASSIVE leg muscles!"

One of the car scenes with the bros was nice. "I'll be happier when we stop talking about this."

The image/thought I can't get out of my head after watching this: how terrifying would it be to be attacked with a stick with shark's teeth around it?

But yeah, I'd love to visit Hawaii. Parts of it are so gorgeous and parts just seem almost alien. (but still breath-taking)