As I’ve been working on Book 2 (hit the 45,000 mark the other day! Yay!), I’ve been feeding my brain with the gorgeous prose and great characters of other genres. Most recently, though, I’ve been reading romance.
Romance is one of the most popular genres, easily topping best-seller lists and notoriously lucrative. The genre is also beleaguered with critics. We’ve all heard of, or maybe even participated in, bashing some romances. We may say that it’s unfeminist. Or that the covers are ridiculous (WHY IS EVERYONE NECKING?!). Or that it’s not even a “good” story. To be fair, not all stories are great. But that doesn’t mean we should categorically dismiss an entire genre.
By it’s nature, Romance books have happy endings. Why is that such a bad thing?
Happy endings don’t preclude great writing, strong characters and prose that elicits a visceral reaction in the reader. Maybe the visceral reaction is your heart pounding to a particularly steamy scene. Maybe it’s a smile forming on your face because you’re just…happy. Happy that the characters you connected with, or perhaps are a little in love with, are HAPPY.
So, knowing that, why did I feel so awkward when I went to the Romance section of Barnes & Nobles?
Why did I feel like someone was judging me on my reading tastes and my classification as a human (ranging from Cool Cyborg Who Only Reads Kafka and Weeps Tears of Coffee and Absinthe to That Basic Girl Who Likes PSLs And Wouldn’t Know A Good Book If It Danced Naked Wearing Dobby’s Tea Cozy) was somehow in question?
Then I realized that I was asking the wrong question:
WHY DID I CARE WHAT ANYONE THOUGHT?
Why would I even invite the company or judgments of someone who didn’t even care to get to know me, and saw my reading tastes as an affront to literature rather than an admiration for the power of storytelling and universal themes. The truth is: sometimes I *do* weep tears of coffee and absinthe (…slight lie). Sometimes I really like PSLs at Starbucks, and I’ll fight through all the catastrophic damage wrecked to my name in my attempt to get it!
So. The next day when I walked into B&N (I go way too often), I headed straight for the Romance shelves. I did not stop to collect $200. I did not snatch a collection of short stories from someone with a morose-sounding last name to hold in my arms like some kind of cover-up while I scanned the shelves. I just picked up books, scanned summaries, checked Goodreads, and selected one with the hope of falling in love. (Spoiler: I did. And book beau’s name is Viscount Anthony Bridgerton. Thanks, Julia Quinn.)
I am a proud Romance fan, and I’ve got nothing to hide.
There’s some great articles in defense of the romance genre that I highly recommend you check out, if you’re interested! It will also provide snappy retorts to anyone who dares raise a condescending brow to any of your books. I’ve always imagined a fun scenario where a literary snob scoffs at one of my paperback romances and says: “What trite and light reading!” Soon after, I wallop said literary snob with the book and say: “HA! IS IT STILL LIGHT?!”
But I digress.
Articles for your perusal: