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HSG
28th July 2010, 11:35
<br>Despite our love of the written word in all of its forms, we must confess to a near-complete ignorance of the modern "romance novel" genre.

We have always found the word "romance" peculiarly applied in this context, because the term properly refers to something very different. In true literature, "romance" refers to a genre that originated in the Middle Ages, the works of which are often relayed in verse form (though prose was not uncommon). Works of medieval romance are peopled by knights errant on noble quests, and feature an abundance of fantastic/supernatural elements. <i>Le Roman de la Rose,</I> which we <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=372" target="_blank">discussed</a> as part of our Medieval Beauty series, is a standout example of the romance form, as is Malory's <i>Le Morte d'Arthur,</I> as well as the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes. Although these works do include themes of courtly love, their amorous episodes are relatively chaste, thus sharply distinguishing them from today's racy "romance" fiction.

Our particular frustration with the contemporary use of the term "romance" derives from the fact that these days, when people hear the word "Romanticism" (referring to the 19th-century cultural movement), they wrongly associate it with the amorous conventions of the contemporary romance novel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, works of the Romantic movement tend to exemplify the aesthetic of the Sublime, which we have <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/archive08.htm#sublime" target="_blank">described</a> on numerous occasions as the antithesis of the Beautiful. (<a href="http://angerburg.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-german-romanticism.html" target="_blank">This</a> text offers a good characterization of what "Romanticism" actually means.)

Thus, in our <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/" target="_blank">interview</a> with Kelsey Olson, when we enthused that this latter-day goddess is a "Romantic," we meant that in the literary-cultural sense, owing to her propensity for nostalgia, her reverence for the past, her appreciation of beauty, and so forth, and not because of any amatory inclinations on her part.

The only bona fide "romance novel" that we have ever read is a story penned by Anne Rice (better known for her vampire fiction) titled <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002RAR16M/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">Belinda</a>,</I> which we encountered in the course of a youthful Rice-reading fad. Despite the novel's highly sympathetic protagonists, we found it hard going, due to the overly racy descriptions of the couple's dalliances. Since this characteristic is apparently common to "romance novels," we were left with no desire to ever revisit the genre.

Ultimately, one should always keep this grim fact in mind: life is short. Better to spend one's time enjoying true literature rather than reading pulp fiction. Or to put it another way, given a choice between experiencing Medieval Romances or romance novels, the former is the better option from any perspective. Those who yearn for passion and desire shouldn't settle for second-rate refuse, but should partake of the truly <i>classic</i> love stories, such as <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451523032/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">The Sorrows of Young Werther</a></I> or <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553211404/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">Jane Eyre</a>.</i><p><center>* * *</center><p>Now, having said all that, young Canadian goddess Christina Schmidt has just garnered what is surely one of the most fascinating and unique credits that any plus-size model has ever earned. Christina appears on the <strong>cover</strong> of a newly published Harlequin Romance novel (Harlequin being the worldwide leader in romance fiction) titled <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778327884/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">Little Town, Great Big Life</a>.</i><p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01b.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Moreover, the cover is a breathtakingly beautiful image, one of the most gorgeous of Christina's career, and an utterly ideal picture of a young plus-size beauty. The cover shows Miss Schmidt in a pretty, sleeveless coral dress, with her voluptuous tresses tumbling down her back. Her complexion is fair, her expression winsome, her hand gesture delicate and graceful. The setting is ideal as the introduction to a romance novel--an amusement park with a merry-go-round, the very fountainhead of young love, an environment that is much beloved by pretty ingénues who possess delightfully girlish inclinations. The cover's colours make up a delicious pastel palette, a delectable assortment of ice-cream hues, from the strawberry dress to the banana-yellow horses to the blueberry background. The image epitomizes one's dream of a youthful tryst--a fun, playful environment where a girl can indulge freely in cotton candy and other desserts while her suitor worships and adores her, gallantly attempting to spoil her and win her heart.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>But how size-positive is this cover, really? It may not be as purely celebratory as one might have wished (inasmuch as the model's waist appears to have been digitally narrowed), yet this is emphatically not the image of a waif. The cover still acknowledges, in a tasteful yet alluring manner, the model's generous reverse-view curves. She is presented as being as close to authentically plus-size as a mainstream book cover is ever likely to permit. Bravo to Harlequin for realizing that retaining some of the model's curves renders her more desirable to potential readers than if she had been wholly digitally diminished.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/book01c.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Ironically, given the reputation that "romance novels" have for being racy, this picture has a charmingly innocent, storybook quality to it, a very gentle sensuality. What a pity that the contents of the book itself (as its <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778327884/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">descriptions</a> indicate) bear no relation whatsoever to this cover image, neither in theme, nor setting, nor in the age or appearance of the heroine. The picture promises a much more appealing story than plot of the novel that it covers. Indeed, we expect that many customers will purchase the book simply to possess this gorgeous cover image, and instead of reading the text, will end up dreaming of taking Christina to an amusement park for a date, buying her ice cream, and spending the day admiring her princess-like beauty.<p><center>* * *</center><p>Bravo to Harlequin for enlisting the services of a plus-size model--and such a gorgeous one at that--to appear on one of its covers. The novel will undoubtedly outsell any other title in the publisher's catalogue, due exclusively to Christina's beauty.

And kudos to Miss Schmidt for appearing in a gentle, girlish image that plays up her soft femininity. Such idyllic, dreamy pictures are ideal for plus-size models. Just imagine an editorial-style photoshoot on a similar theme, featuring a Judgment of Paris favourite by a merry-go-round, lazily enjoying a summer afternoon, living the life of ease and pleasure to which she is entitled, the whole world in love with her beauty.

- <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778327884/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">Click here for product page</a>

Emily
29th July 2010, 01:30
Christina looks absolutely stunning on that cover.

The idea of associating a full-figured model with an amusement park brought to mind a thread that appeared on the forum a couple of years ago, discussing the art of Reginald Marsh, who often painted plus-size beauties. The original post featured a number of Marsh's artworks, and the response included a painting showing a gorgeous, curvy goddess riding one of the horses on a merry-go-round.

http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=1266

I love the fun, youthful mood of Christina's cover, and while Harlequin's digital diminishment is regrettable, she still looks gorgeous in profile. And yes, I'd love to read a novel or see a rom-com movie in which an amusement-park date was one of the central set-pieces, and the heroine was a beautiful plus-size girl like Christina or Kelsey.