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Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  125 ratings  ·  39 reviews
What can a cultural history of the heartthrob teach us about women, desire, and social change? From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 9th 2017 by Oxford University Press (first published March 2017)
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Average rating 3.38  · 
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Always Pouting
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book exploring women's desire and the representation it can take on in media, particularly in western media in the twentieth century. An interesting read that addresses a lot of different ideas from what is the driving force behind rape fantasies to the skirting around interracial relationships in many movies and books in the twentieth century. The focus is more on the 1900's and on celebrities with maybe the exception of Lord Byron. It's a good general read but I think the author tried to ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a great little novel about heartthrobs throughout history, and what this tells us about women and society at the time. I had a lot of fun reading this even though it got a little repetitive at times. Overall quirky and enjoyable read that can easily be read in one sitting.

Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: Borrow

Check out more of my reviews here

Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Roman Clodia
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
A very quick and readable book but one which is all about the survey rather than detail, description and story-telling rather than analysis. There's undoubtedly a huge amount of material made available here but it's what I think of as an 'enabling' book: it would allow a more analytical scholar to do something more interesting with the material.

Dyhouse asks pertinent questions about female desire and the inversion of the male gaze: but her work is unframed (she doesn't mention Mulvey, for
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2017
Heartthrobs is actually really good overview of all the different hero types in romance books over a time. There was a time when the readers hearts started to beat quicker when they read about gentle/dangerous poet type hero, or heroic solders or dangerous desert sons. Those where followed by doctors, celebrities and rich fellows. Modern day has brought vampires, damaged millionaires, whom young girls hope to save. All these preferences have been influenced by the things that have been happening ...more
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Heartthrobs is anecdotal rather than analytical, most of the time providing the curious reader with summaries of romance plots from past decades, giving an account of the more recent generations of female readers and writers in particular. The evolution of women's fantasies was entertaining to read about, but lacked an in-depth dissection of the psychology behind it; concepts like that of "non-threatening boys", for instance, are barely broached, if mentioned at all. The same applies to the more ...more
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Masculinity has always interested me and the description of this book really appealed. I'm so glad I read it; I absolutely loved it! Given Carol Dyhouse's reputation as an academic, I was nervous it would be heavy going but she writes accessibly and engagingly. The insights into what women have found appealing were both interesting and useful: she shows how much culture has changed in even twenty years. This was the first book I've read of Dyhouse and I look forward to reading more.
Bethany Frost
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
There were some really interesting parts to this book, but far too often I felt like Dyhouse danced around drawing conclusions and it made for quite frustrating reading. I think it would have benefitted from being longer so she could have added more depth to the barrage of cultural references that started to get irritating a third of the way through. That said, I guess it makes it a good starting point for the analysis of desire, and that may well have been Dyhouse's intention.

I'm just very
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
It's a fun easy read but I don't think it quite delivers on the premise. I would have liked to have seen the evolution of how 'heartthrobs' are perceived but it tends to jump from era to era with a particular focus on the early 20th Century. Some more modern examples would have been interesting.
A bit of a cursory overview on popular culture and popular romance trends, both in novels and in film. Really all this did was reawaken my semi-dormant appreciation for romance novels of all types. And now I’m plotting a wonderful romance binge.

So. There is that.

Speaking to the book in general, it's pretty good. Doesn't get in-depth enough for me. As someone who's hugely into old hollywood film AND dabbles into romance novels, I just wanted two separate books that covered those subject far more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this copy for free from a publishing giveaway, so here is my attempted non-biased opinion.

I was really excited by the topic and focus of this book, as I am a thirsty lady keen on gender politics and hyper-analyzing everything. The fact that it takes a tone of clapback to the male gaze and male criticism of female sexuality really just puts the cherry on top, for me. When I unexpectedly received the book in the mail, I was even more excited by its dimensions--it's a small trim size,
Caught Between Pages
A solid 3/5

For a book ostensibly about the history of femal desire, Heartthrobs has a decided focus on the desires of early to mid 20th century British and American women. I expected this going into the book, so I do t hold that against it. However, considering the comparatively narrow scope, I would have liked to see some more thematic focus, at least on a chapter by chapter basis.

The chapters of the first half of the book presented basically the same information several times over, which I
My adoration of this book is purely personal so I first have to say it's not for everyone: this is written in this loose, unwieldy way and genuinely feels like a stream of consciousness spilling all over the place.

However, any book that talks about Georgette Heyer this much is going to be a fun read for me. I have structural criticisms, or just a screaming demand for SOME structure here: chapters are sorted somewhat by male romantic archetypes but they aren't well organizing. The chapter on
Susan McGrath
May 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I received an advance copy of this book from the Publisher (Oxford University Press) in exchange for an honest review.

Heartthrobs by Carol Dyhouse is a nonfiction analysis of women and desire. It focuses mostly on what women are drawn to in books, television, movies, and music performers and what that reveals about what women really want in men and relationships.

I am super in love with the idea of this book, but had a hard time getting into it. The issue was not necessarily with the book itself.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fun and impressively deep romp through the male "heartthrobs" of various forms of pop culture since the 19th century, focusing on how they changed with time (and how they didn't) and what that may mean about female desires and sexuality. It's an extensively well-researched book. I may have preferred it arranged chronically instead of by topic, as I felt this led the author to repeating the same facts in every chapter (such as the publication date & impact of The Feminine ...more
While the title seems to promise a wider, even world-wide, examination of women and desire, this book focuses primarily on English women from the late eighteenth-century to the present day. In a relatively brief text (half the book is notes and select bibliography), Dyhouse manages to cover a surprising range of material (from idolization of Byron and Lord Nelson to today's mania for One Direction and the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon), organizing her points in a fresh and interesting way. A ...more
This book was very concerned with romance novels from the mid-1800s to 1940 and then films that existed until about 1950. Everything else after that was completely glossed over or ignored completely. It's sectioned by "types" of romantic heroes, but the description of the "why" these were popular stereotypes were basically the same. I wish the author had translated these types to modern day, especially regarding pre-built boybands that were made by middle aged men to specifically have "types" ...more
Sarah Wagner
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher.*

This book manages to be both academic and enjoyable to read. Analyzing the different real and fiction figures that have captured the female imagination primarily over the past two centuries, this history displays the shifting trends and continuity of women's desire. Film, romance novels, and musicans make up the primary figures explored and the author is able to draw lines between Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy and Fifty Shades of Grey, making for
Sanjana Rajagopal
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I started this book last summer and only got around to finishing it now. I have to say, this book has a gorgeous cover that’s immediately eye-catching. Now, that aside, I think this was a fun read, but remember liking the first half of the book much more. Maybe that’s because I split how I read the book and picked up the remaining half months later. In any case, this would have been a lot more interesting had it not read like a list of every romance trope ever in each chapter.
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book and sociological study of women and the big and small screen. As someone who falls in love with a character every other week I found it fascinating. Great writing and research into the subject.
Women like to be in love, maybe sometimes it's easier to never have the problem of having to deal with someone loving you back.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway.

It was really interesting and easy to read. Women's studies is right up my alley so I expected to like this. And I did.
The multiple examples from various sources and pictures make the whole study enjoyable to read and it allows you to discover loads of other books and films to explore.
Megan Nigh
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting academic look at how desire and attractiveness have been protrayed in literature and pop culture through the last century. Focuses on heterosexual women. Little bit repetitive at the end, but still quite interesting. Discusses how masculinity has changed definitions over the years in terms of dress and behavior. Touches on Mr. Darcy up through Edward Cullen and Christian Grey.
Susan Liston
This is a breezy little book about the history of what my mother called "wowies". No earthshattering insights here, not that I would necessarily notice if there were, but entertaining to read for the most part. And it mentions Flint McCullough! Good show, Carol.
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
In this book Carol Dyhouse uses examples in book, films etc of the past 150 years to try and explain female desire.
Kathrin Shawcross
Nov 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book is all over the place. Really wouldn't reccomend it.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
More of a 3.5.
Victoria Frow
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very good. Very interesting to see a woman's perspective on how women read, watched and generally consumed an ideal of desire down the centuries.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
will fill in later.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really liked the premise of "Heartthrobs" but the analysis conducted by Ms Dyhouse just fell flat for me.

The book didn't really offer any new insights for me and I think that some of the points the authors makes about rape fantasies are somewhat problematic and I strongly disagree with her on more than one point.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017
It was a delicious romp through romantic icons and pulled together low and high-brow references brilliantly. For me, it didn't have much theoretical basis (e.g. Talked about gender as a performance without mentioning Judith Butler, the male gaze without Laura Mulvey) and I'd have liked more literary analysis. That said it was entertaining to read, had me laughing out loud and introduced me to a wide range of other references to follow up.
This was a very interesting read which provided me with almost all the background I needed. I'm just a bit disappointed it left most of my questions unanswered... I would've loved some in-depth analysis of why the things described were like that. But overall, it was really gripping and easy to read. A great book to get things started on how women see men!
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Carol Dyhouse is a social historian. Her research has focused on gender, education and the pattern of women's lives in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. Her books include Girls Growing Up in late Victorian and Edwardian England (1981); Feminism and the Family in England, 1890-1939, (1989); No Distinction of Sex? Women in British Universities (1995); and Students: A Gendered History (2006). ...more