Kentucky Derby and/or Hannukah: The Rule of One

by | June 4, 2015 |

What does the Kentucky Derby have to do with Hannukah? Read on.

Sarah Wendell, creator of gave a talk at Duke University in March at the Unsuitable Series, led by Laura Florand and Katherine DuBois. Laura and Katie are both published romance writers and both teach at Duke, where I also teach. The title of Sarah’s talk was “Female Sexuality and Female Sexualization in Popular Fiction.” During her discussion she reminded me of the Rule of One.

Sarah’s presentation was tons of fun. She’s smart, energetic, insightful, and funny. She spoke a little about her site, which she started over 10 years ago.

Mostly she discussed how depictions of female sexuality in romances have changed over the years. She noted that Victorian novelists punished their heroine’s sexual curiosity with disease, injury, and even death. Modern romance novelists, by way of contrast, validate women’s sexuality and curiosity.

Furthermore, portrayals of sexual assault in modern romance novels can operate powerfully on victims of assault when the narrative goes on to show that heroines can have good lives and good sex after rape.

Here’s a cool idea Sarah threw out in comparing heroes in subgenres: the billionaire corresponds to the vampire, while the rock star corresponds to the werewolf. The billionaire sucks all the blood out of the monetary environment, the rock star howls his rage.

Here’s another idea, which was almost throwaway in the context of her presentation: if you, the author, find a gap in what’s being offered, fill it!

As Sarah writes at her website, “I have a rule that if I complain about something twice, I either have to do something about it, or shut up already. And as you’ve probably noticed, every year, I get irritated with the lack of holiday romances that are about a holiday other than Christmas. I wanted to read more Hanukkah romances. So, I wrote one.”

It’s called Lighting the Flames.

I sometimes call this the Rule of One. If one person wants a Hanukkah story (in this case, Sarah), it’s likely others do, too. What’s the story that you, the author, want to read? Well, write that.

Of course, you already do. I bring up Sarah’s comment only to get you thinking about what gaps in your reading preferences you might not have brought to full awareness.

I have to admit: I do enjoy reading Christmas romances around Christmas. This year I will now put Lighting the Flames on my list. Clever title, too.

When I wrote DeMarco’s Café (affiliate), a contemporary novella set in New York City, I was not initially thinking of gap filling. But it still counts as an example of the Rule of One.

The hero, Bo, is from a horse farm in Kentucky. The heroine, Dayna, is a typical New Yorker in that she has a hazy idea of American geography. She knows Bo’s from Kentucky, but she doesn’t make the association of his farm with horses. The foregrounded plot line involves the financial difficulties Dayna is about to encounter. The background plot line is organized around the Kentucky Derby.

There aren’t a lot of Kentucky Derby romances. Here’s what I found:

  • Bluegrass Bountiful by Lozi Hart, which has a secret baby story line along with a scandalous Derby plot;
  • Run for the Roses by Elizabeth Nobel, which features a gay romance and confronts the issue of domestic abuse in both gay and straight relationships;
  • On Dangerous Ground by Alison Blake, which combines a secret baby story line with a domestic abuse story line.

I think the convergence of plot lines and themes in these three books is entirely coincidental. DeMarco’s Café has none of them. It’s rather the story of tightly controlled Dayna taking a chance and “Easy Come Easy Go” Bo growing up.

The Kentucky Derby was run at Churchill Downs on Saturday May 2, 2015. The track is 1 ¼ miles long. The run for the roses is sometimes called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” You now also have a few choices for Derby romance reads.

See also: All My Romance Blogs

Note: I am not putting the Kentucky Derby on a par with Hanukkah. To name but one difference, the Derby is a social and economic occasion 141 years old this year, while Hanukkah is a religious celebration more than 2200 years old. Their major similarity in the present context is that few romances use either of these two very different events as themes or plot points.

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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