Monday 18 March 2019

Seasoned Romance: The Way It Really Is.

By Sandra Antonelli

Maybe you haven’t noticed. People over the age of 40 fall in love. Middle age and beyond does not, despite what you see (or don’t see) portrayed in film and fiction, spell the end to love or sex, or the need for love or sex or fun or adventure. That’s why some of us are writing what we like to call ‘Seasoned Romance’.

Culture creates content, and content creates culture. The books you read, the movies you watch, the advertising you see everywhere matters, it shapes our identities, colours our view of the world. As studies indicate, from childhood we are susceptible to the influence of entertainment’s content, and through the content we consume we have developed inaccurate views about age and ageing that persist throughout our lives. Without noticing, we have become comfortable with a society that subtly stigmatises ageing, treats it as a disease to be fought, and derides human beings—particularly women—for getting older.

In fact, we accept the roles older women are assigned to—you know, granny, harpy, cougar, cat lady, menopausal loon—as accurate, often without realising because, as Naomi MacDougall Jones says about Hollywood’s ageist and sexist presentations, “That’s just the way it is.” I’ll go further to say that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got. Age is often overlooked as an issue of diversity, but in the discussion about diversity and inclusion, ageism and sexism matter. And it’s time to change what ‘we’ve always got’ with Seasoned Romance.

What’s Seasoned Romance? Easy. A central love story where couples (m/m, f/f, m/f) of ‘a certain age’ are front and centre, and by front and centre I mean as lead characters in a story that comes with all the hallmarks you love and expect in a romance, novel, right down to sexy times and the all-important Happily Ever After. I write Seasoned Romance with an emphasis on the portrayal of women over 40 as romance heroines, and I always have, long before Seasoned Romance had a name. In fact, my latest release At Your Service and upcoming release Forever in Your Service feature a middle-aged female butler and the slightly younger spy who loves her.

If you said ‘ewww’ to the idea of a 50-year-old woman falling in love and getting it on with a 46-year-old ‘silver fox’ spy hero, then have another look at how you think about yourself as you get older. If you’re a woman, do you honestly think that, once you hit 40, you’re all washed up in life, that your better days are behind you, that love and sex dry up because peri-menopause, menopause or incontinence or whatever anti-wrinkle product you’ve been told you need to reclaim youth because youth was so fantastic, and getting older is dead?

Again, the images you see, the books you read shape our identity and older people, and older women are not tokens, comic foils, secondary characters, or stereotypes. Men have had the advantage of being silver foxes, but now, women of a certain age are finally being positioned as protagonists who challenge ageism, rather than as a stereotype or joke. A female audience is beginning to see themselves as intelligent, interesting, confident, powerful, sensual, sexual, whole human beings who just happen to be older.

Isn’t this what we want in our lives, in our romance, to see ourselves represented? Seasoned Romance is going to be huge. If you’re looking to read (or write) Seasoned Romance check out our Facebook group for books & authors! Here's the link:
Seasoned Romance Facebook Group

How you feel about romance fiction with older characters as the leads?

I love to love coffee.

I love to laugh and I laugh a lot—usually at the most inappropriate times.

I love to learn and this is evident by how I wound up with a BA, MA and PhD, the former focused on the overlooked audience of romance readers wanting romance featuring older leads, and the latter on the portrayal of older women as romance heroines.

Teaser: Forever in Your Service: A heartbroken butler. A dead spy. A randy little dog. Can true love survive a game of cowboys & charlatans?

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  1. HI Sandra! I couldn't agree more that it's about time women of 'a certain age' were featured as heroines in romance novels. People like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep prove that woman of any age can be beautiful and intelligent and certainly worthy of being the stars of their own story.

  2. Hi Sandra. I think that media is slowly giving older females more front line roles but it's taking it's time and without writers like you they never would have had the advancement they have so far. TV shows like Grace and Frankie are a good example of older women discovering they are still worthy heroines who deserve love.

  3. Hi Cassandra

    You know I've been shouting about this for years. I'm SO excited Hollywood has begun to notice the power of the 'silver' dollar, and the vibrancy of women over 40, and the audience that has been waiting and waiting to see older women in as lead characters like in the series Killing Eve and the upcoming romance film Gloria Bell with Julianne Moore.

    Publishing, romance in particular, is sticking to the sexist and ageist notion that romance is a younger woman's tale, meaning they are lag behind in picking up on the viability of older women as romantic leads, and, as a result, they are missing out on the money-making potential Hollywood has cottoned onto. Love happens at any age!

  4. The richness and insight older characters bring to a story is finally getting noticed. I didn't get published until I was close to 60 and many of my stories feature more mature, yet sexy, aware, characters. Traditional publishers need to take notice.

  5. Great article Sandra. You convey wonderful and very strong points. And, turning 53 tomorrow I can definitely attest to the facts that romance and the need for romance doesn’t die with age!!

    1. Happy Birthday, Alyssa!
      I'm 18 days older than you!

  6. Oh my stars, WHERE'S THE APPLAUSE BUTTON?! Thankyou Sandra, for forging the path with Seasoned Romance! I LOVE them! I'm (cough) maybe old enough on the other side of, ahem, let's call it 50, to attest to swooning at the thought of romance and falling in love. We might be older but we're not dead yet. Bring on those romances!Long may they live! Not sure I love the name 'seasoned' romance - sounds like we're seasoning the lamb roast, but hey, whatever works. Keep writing and I'll keep reading. Just pre-ordered Forever In Your Service, I've read the other two. Thankyou.

    1. Thank you, Miranda, or being proof that there IS an audience for this subgenre!!
      Thank you also for reading my books.

      For years we've tried to find a good name. Seasoned Romance is the only one that's had any traction, so we're sticking to it!

  7. Hi Sandra. Great post, thank you. 60 is the new 40, people say. So that gives those of us who have reached the 'seasoned' years permission to stay young at heart and continue to fully embrace life. That Hollywood and the romance novel publishers acknowledge that now is super news!

  8. Thanks Enisa!

    I started writing Seasoned romance when i was in my 30s. I saw the untapped market and knew what women 40+ were really like, despite how you rarely saw them portrayed as anything but stereotypes. I admit seeing change has taken longer than I hoped, but it IS changing. At last!

  9. LOVE this post! The last five romantic comedies I published are seasoned romances and I am living a seasoned romance myself (I met the love of my life when I was 46 and married her when I was 48). It's true that it's never too late for love. Yay! Thanks again.

  10. Hi Sandra, I love the idea of romance novels featuring older heroes and heroines. I thoroughly enjoyed reading "At Your Service" and look forward to reading more of your novels.

  11. Linda Phillips Ward19 March 2019 at 02:49

    Such a wonderful post! I am so excited to be a part of the Seasoned Romance group and sub-genre.


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