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'Bosoms' Unleashes Passion For Romance Novels

Outside NPR's office, it was a quiet spring day, but inside, a savage tempest swirled. The devilish book — so tempting, so shiny and brightly colored — lay invitingly on host Rebecca Roberts' pristine desk. But alas, it was forbidden. She told herself she had to resist its charms, but to no avail. She was helpless against it. The book leapt into her quivering hands like a rutting stag! It claimed her mind in a punishing embrace! Yes, dear readers, this gently reared young public radio host had just discovered Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.

Candy Tan and Sarah Wendell blog about all things lurid, turgid and heaving. Their new book takes a loving — and yes, sometimes catty — look at the world of romance writing. What's that, you say? You'd never pick up a romance novel? Think again, says Wendell, you probably already have. Ever read Pride and Prejudice? It's one of the best there is, she says. "If you've read it, you've read a romance novel."

Wendell and Tan use their literary criticism chops with abandon, throwing around ideas like "heteronormativity" and the "Jungian shadow archetype" to prove there's more to romance than sex and escapism. But if that's what you're looking for, Wendell says, you shouldn't be ashamed.

"For the price of a romance novel," she says, you get "something that's going to end in contentment and security, and that's in short supply right now."

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