Olivia Dade | Librarian Heroines: AKA Contemporary Romance’s Bluestockings and Governesses
December 9, 2015
I love librarians. No doubt about it.
I worked at a public library for five years, after all, which implies a certain
amount of affection. Or masochism, I suppose. And my debut novella—Broken
Resolutions—is a contemporary romance set in a small, rural Maryland
library during a risqué New Year’s Eve singles’ event. Almost the entire book
takes place within that one building. My couple meets there, falls in love
there, and consummates their budding relationship there. (You may be surprised
by what they use as their mattress. No, I’m not going to tell you.)
Still not convinced of my deep and abiding adoration for librarians? No problem.
My final piece of evidence: Broken Resolutions is only the first in an
entire series of books featuring librarian heroines, so I will
basically be drowning in nerdy library references for years. Years.
You might think I’d get sick of the whole subject, but that’s not the case thus
far. If you have recommendations for other contemporary romances featuring
librarians—including your own, if you’re a writer—please let me know. Like
scratches on the Game of Thrones Blu-ray you checked out from the library, I’ll
be all over it.
But I also enjoy reading historical romances. And while a few—such as Tessa
Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do—feature heroines involved in library work,
most don’t. So I got to thinking about what the historical equivalent of my
librarian heroines would be.
In our popular imagination, librarians hold a special place. They’re
intelligent, but also prim and buttoned-up. The older ones stare over the top of
their bifocals at you, while the younger ones wear unflattering cardigans—and
all of them will shush you if you make too much noise.
That image doesn’t much reflect reality these days, but it hasn’t disappeared.
Probably because it still serves a purpose: It preserves the fantasy of the
(invariably young, invariably female) librarian unpursing her lips, loosening
her bun, and stripping off her baggy clothing to reveal her true beauty. Men and
women can still imagine how they might melt the ice queen and despoil her
disapproving innocence. And without that original librarian stereotype, such
fantasies would cease to exist.
So I tried to determine which historical romance heroines have that same type of
reputation and foster those same sorts of fantasies. Which ones are seen as
intelligent and straitlaced to a fault, their outer reserve and plain appearance
hiding untold depths of passion?
Honestly, I didn’t need much time to answer that question. All I had to do was
look at my poor bookshelves, which sag under the weight of so many historical
romances featuring bluestockings, governesses, and schoolmarms.
Like modern-day librarians, all those types of historical heroines are
intelligent, well-educated, and popularly considered either too waspish or too
dull. But when their gowns and sensible caps come off, rakes and other eligible
bachelors might as well arrange immediate transportation to the nearest altar,
Scottish smithy, or courthouse.
If bookish historical heroines sound enticing to you too, here’s a woefully
incomplete list of authors and books you might want to peruse at some point.
The Sweet (And Spinsterly) Sixteen:
- Courtney Milan (Talk Sweetly To Me)
- Sarah MacLean (One Good Earl Deserves a Lover)
- Sherry Thomas (Not Quite a Husband)
- Christina Dodd (the Governess Brides series)
- Vanessa Riley (Unmasked Heart)
- Ellie Macdonald (The Governess Club series)
- Susan Carroll (The Wooing of Miss Masters)
- Amara Royce (Never Too Late)
- Piper Huguley (A Sweet Way to Freedom, contained in The
Brightest Day anthology)
- Jade Lee (Miss Woodley’s Kissing Experiment)
- Joan Overfield (A Spirited Bluestocking)
- Beverly Jenkins (Night Song)
- Lisa Kleypas (Married by Morning)
- Kate Noble (The Game and the Governess)
- Grace Burrowes (Ethan: Lord of Scandals)
- Erica Ridley (Dark Surrender)
There are hundreds or even thousands more I could have listed. Many traditional
Regency romances published in the 1980s and 1990s, for example, featured
governess, lady’s companion, or bluestocking heroines. But my sixteen choices
provide a good starting place and a variety of different writing voices for
those who may not have read much historical romance to this point.
So if you like my books and their librarian heroines—and I certainly hope you
will—you might want to start meeting their historical sisters too. Nerdy women
throughout time are waiting for you!**
**They’re reading as they wait, by the way. Because that’s what bookish heroines
do in every era. Me included, and probably you too.
LOVE BETWEEN THE LINES
Romance has never had a happy ending for librarian Penny Callahan, who could
write the book on cheating, heartbreaking liars. So she’s made a resolution: no
men for the next twelve months. If she can just get through the library’s New
Year’s Eve singles night, she can return home to her pajamas and a good book.
But when she finds herself checking out a hot hunk with an irresistible smile,
an evening in the stacks becomes a lot more tempting
Jack Williamson never should have trusted his mother. Even though he’s trying to
avoid being recognized, she guilts him into attending a dating
meet-and-greet—where an adorable librarian makes him question his lonely
lifestyle. Is this just a fleeting, flirty scene? Or could love be the next
chapter for them both?
Buy on: Amazon.com
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While I was growing up, my mother kept a stack of books hidden in her
closet. She told me I couldn't read them. So, naturally, whenever she left me
alone for any length of time, I took them out and flipped through them. Those
books raised quite a few questions in my prepubescent brain. Namely: 1) Why were
there so many pirates? 2) Where did all the throbbing come from? 3) What was a
"manhood"? 4) And why did the hero and heroine seem overcome by images of waves
and fireworks every few pages, especially after an episode of mysterious
throbbing in the hero's manhood?
Thirty or so years later, I have a few answers. 1) Because my mom apparently
fancied pirates at that time. Now she hoards romances involving cowboys and
babies. If a book cover features a shirtless man in a Stetson cradling an
infant, her ovaries basically explode and her credit card emerges. I have a
similar reaction to romances involving spinsters, governesses, and librarians.
2) His manhood. Also, her womanhood. 3) It's his "hard length," sometimes
compared in terms of rigidity to iron. I prefer to use other names for it in my
own writing. However, I am not picky when it comes to descriptions of iron-hard
lengths. At least in romances. 4) Because explaining how an orgasm feels can
prove difficult. Or maybe the couples all had sex on New Year's Eve at Cancun.
During those thirty years, I accomplished a few things. I graduated from Wake
Forest University and earned my M.A. in American History from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. I worked at a variety of jobs that required me to bury my
bawdiness and potty mouth under a demure exterior: costumed interpreter at
Colonial Williamsburg, high school teacher, and librarian. But I always, always
read romances. Funny, filthy, sweet--it didn't matter. I loved them all.
Now I'm writing my own romances with the encouragement of my husband and
daughter. I found a kick-ass agent: Jessica Alvarez from Bookends, LLC. I have
my own stack of books in my closet that I'd rather my daughter not read, at
least not for a few years. I can swear whenever I want, except around said
daughter. And I get to spend all day writing about love and iron-hard lengths.
So thank you, Mom, for perving so hard on pirates during my childhood. I owe you.
4 comments posted.
Re: Olivia Dade | Librarian Heroines: AKA Contemporary Romance’s Bluestockings and Governesses
You can't lump all librarians into the same pile. In the area
where I live, the librarians are a little more laid-back, and a
lot nicer. They actually let you talk in the library, so it's
not so stuffy, as it was when we were growing up!! There's one
librarian in particular who is not only very smart when it comes
to knowing her books, but she remembers all of the patrons
account numbers by heart!! She is priceless as far as the work
involved with the everyday work with running the library. I do
volunteer work there, and have seen her working enough around
there. The other librarians that I know work hard, too, and are
smart as well, when it comes to knowing their books, and now they
have to have some knowledge of computers. Most of them are
mystery lovers. My tastes are all over the map, and I'm looking
forward to reading your book. Sorry for the long posting. Have
a wonderful Christmas and New Year!!
(Peggy Roberson 7:47am December 10, 2015)
I completely agree! In another blog post, I echo exactly
what you're saying--most librarians these days are (and
need to be) flexible and friendly toward their patrons.
And many of them read genre fiction like mysteries and
romances, including some of the steamy ones. :-)
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season too, and if
you get my book, I hope you love it!
(Olivia Dade 10:23am December 10, 2015)
Congratulations on your release. I love nerdy heroines. Not only are they
smart and resourceful, but they read. Now we need a few male librarians to
round out the list!!!
(Veronica Forand 11:09pm December 10, 2015)
Thank you, Veronica!
Me too! And yes, male librarians are THE BEST HEROES.
Victoria Dahl wrote a male librarian hero recently, and
my next book (My Reckless Valentine) also has one--
although he's moved into management by the time the book
starts. Happy, nerdy, reading!
(Olivia Dade 2:44am December 13, 2015)
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