Recession Love; or, Bad Times Good for Romances

In a flurry of pink prose, headlines across the virtual Web are proclaiming the primacy of love: despite the sinking economy, people are still ponying up a few bucks to read the latest in love in lust:

Along with chocolate and Big Macs, romance novels are showing a brisk level of sales. Here’s a fact that makes my pulse pound: Every four seconds, someone buys a Harlequin (and well they should, as I copyedit for Harlequin, so purchasing a bodice-ripper helps me, too!). Check out a witty capsulation of the trend from the LA Times here.

In honor of recession romances, I offer the following cover and priceless back copy of a Popular Library Western from 1932. Unlike the menacing gunslingers from the 1940s and 1950s, this is the kindler, gentler version of the West, when the word frontier meant good sex, not just a bullet in the back. Perhaps I can take this as a sign that America, too, is able to approach the world differently. That although the U. S. “wears the killer brand” it also can find love on a global level (only without the “throb of guns,” although that is clearly a euphemism for sexual organs).


The Deputy at Snow Mountain, by Edison Marshall

illustrator unknown

Popular Library, 1932


The Deputy at Snow Mountain, by Edison Marshall (back cover)

This just in–Western lust isn’t only for women anymore!

The movies made Westerns into testosterone-fests. But popular Western novels, on the other hand, are seeped in estrogen. Go into any K-Mart, and you’ll see the fringe-jacket-and-bodice-rippers right alongside the lean-handsome-and-mean-tortured-loner stories. The first are in shades of pink, the second in browns and blues–they might as well put signs for Ladies and Gents on them. But I would argue that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And what’s good for the flock is good for the economy. Buy a romance today, buckos! Keep the economy, and my budget, from tanking.

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