What's a Nice Girl like You Doing in a Book like This?: Homoerotic Reading and Popular Romance

Publication year

I want to address here the way that female homoerotic desire permeates popular romance. It has long been my sense that homoeroticism is somehow trenched on the margins of the discourse of romance novels, both in its popular and its more scholarly venues. Queer theory, especially Eve Sedgwick's framework of homosocial desire, provides the critical apparatus and the vocabulary I will use to theorize how this genre of popular literature, in all its heterosexist machinations, continually threatens to exceed its foundational narrative trope. (129)

One of the works discussed is Kristin Hannah's The Enchantment, with a virgin hero and

When we identify with Larence, we get the chance to be seduced by the heroine, to feel the power of her erotic gaze.

The final change in popular romance discourse that I want to discuss signals a more radical, and therefore more titillating and perhaps even queerer shift in the genre: the standard romance fantasy of reforming the recalcitrant rake through love is increasingly represented in terms of female-dominant s/m imagery. (145)