Romance Novels: Drivel or Delightful?

Romance Novel CoverEvery so often, the news media picks up (and picks on) the romance genre and whole lot of mud is thrown up in the air.  A recent op-ed piece in the LA Times gets all down and nasty on the genre, even though it’s one of the few areas of the economy that’s doing well.  Case in point: “It’s so easy to poke fun at contemporary romance novels that there’s really no sport in it.”  ::headdesk::  At least the author of the op-ed piece attempts to reconcile why romance novels are so successful, but she barely scratches the surface.

The New York Times also published a piece that was surprising for its lack of condescension. Citing examples as far ranging as JR Ward’s 125,000 copy print run for Lover, Avenged to the upswing in romance novels published for e-books, the NYT piece touches on something the LA Times piece misses: the loyalty of romance readers.

As a long time romance reader, I wanted to stand up and cheer at Super Librarian’s recent post.  To tell someone you read (and enjoy!) romance novels is to invite scorn and the immediate prejudice that your IQ is significantly lower than first thought.  I applauded my computer screen when SL wrote:

Whenever I give one of my reader’s advisory talks on the romance genre to librarians I always tell them one thing.

“If you do not take anything else away from this presentation, at the very least remember this. Do not sneer. Do not condescend. Do not talk down to romance readers. The sad truth is that they expect it. They expect people to treat them like morons. So when someone doesn’t? When someone listens to them, and values their reading opinions? They remember. And you’ll have an enthusiastic library patron for life. If you do condescend? Expect them to never darken your doorstep again, and they’ll tell everyone they know how much you suck. You will be losing a huge potential market for your library. Remember this, and remember it well.”

Thank goodness for the internet!  No longer a closet romance reader, I have found a home for expressing my appreciation for the romance novel.  Websites like Super Librarian, Dear Author, All About Romance and especially Smart Bitches, Trashy Books have provided a smart, safe space for romance readers to explore and share why they love the genre.  And it’s not all girlish squeeing — there’s a healthy dose of reality as romance readers are exceptionally picky and if something’s not working for them in a book, they’ll let everyone and the author know.

Do you read romance?  What are your favorite books/authors?

Is there another genre that you read that doesn’t get the respect it deserves?


3 responses to “Romance Novels: Drivel or Delightful?

  1. Madison Stuart

    I feel slightly guilty about it, but I was pointed towards the romance author Julia Quinn by a friend, and got addicted. Said friend is known for getting other people addicted to romance novels, and then making it worse by lending from her rather vast collection…

    I rather suspect that the next time I’m home, I’ll be raiding my mother’s collection of romance novels. They’re… fluff. You don’t go in expecting anything but fluff, so when they are fun and witty, you’re excited.

    And truth be told, there are a lot of books that are only a genre label away from being “romance” novels themselves. They just somehow manage to get themselves labeled as mainstream fiction or fantasy or something else entirely, when in essence, they are romance novels.

    Genre labels are rather silly anyway…

    • They are rather silly: both helpful and harmful when making reader recommendations. I struggle with sci-fi and mystery titles and have to be tricked into reading them. But on the other side of that coin, I have gotten a fair number of people to read romance using Julia Quinn or my new favorite, The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran. It would hook even the most reluctant romance reader, which in my mind puts it in the same category of Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels.

      And honey, don’t feel guilty — celebrate!! Reading and loving romance novels is awesome. No need for guilt or shame.

  2. Pingback: How to Lie With Statistics | Perusals & Peregrinations

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