Recently, two best-selling authors have insisted that they don’t write romance novels. In fact, they both acted like romance novels were beneath them. No, they’re writing more important stories about life and death and war and taxes. Well, maybe not the taxes part.
Why all the hating on romance novels?
First of all, if someone insists they don’t write romance novels when everyone and their sister-in-law believes they do, does that mean anything? Do they think booksellers will change where they’re shelved? Do they think their fans will feel better with that news? (Hey, what do you know? I read important literature.)
Or will it alienate their fans? After all, don’t their readers know darn well what they read and in many cases, probably don’t shy away from reading romance? If they act like they’re too good for romance, is that putting down their readers?
Second of all, what’s so bleeping wrong with romance novels that two authors want to turn their back on the genre that handed them their success? The romance genre is the most heavily read genre. What’s wrong with being associated with popularity?
Is this like how the Oscars rarely award Best Picture to the highest-grossing films? If something is popular, does that make it less important?
Say It Loud and Proud—Love and Romance ARE Important
Well, color me frustrated and befuddled here because I just don’t get it. In my mind, love is the most important and powerful thing in the world. Love drives parents to sacrifice more than they ever thought possible. Love inspires spouses to change themselves and become better people. Love gives the heartbroken hope for future happiness. Love strengthens us.
What’s so wrong with celebrating love?
And I don’t want to hear any excuses about the formulaic stories. Every genre has its formula. Every mystery has to solve the case at the end of the book. Every thriller has to stop the bad guy from blowing up the world. And within the romance genre, the single-title stories (i.e. non-category) stretch far beyond a simple romance plot. Nope, that excuse doesn’t cut it.
What about the fact that it’s written by women for women? Maybe. But you know what could fix that problem? Romance readers should stop acting ashamed. And just as importantly, romance writers shouldn’t be ashamed. Romance books are not less than other types of novels. They are real stories with important messages and positive values.
Romance novels are not porn. I have yet to see a romance novel get its jollies by having the heroine subjugate, objectify, and emasculate the hero. In fact, romance novels do the opposite. They celebrate men and all their strengths. The happy ending often means that the hero’s weaknesses are healed—not exploited. The happy ending is uplifting—for both of the characters.
So let me state for the record: I read romance. I write romance. Even my urban fantasy stories that are about big important things like terrorism, genocide, and freewill vs. destiny have the theme of love at their core. You will never hear me bad-mouthing the whole genre. If I break this promise, I expect you all to lash me with a wet noodle—publicly.
What’s your theory for why romance is scorned more than other genres? If you read romance, are you able to state without shame that you read those kinds of stories? If not, why not? If you write them, do you embrace the genre?