During the Romance Reading Month different romance authors wrote short essays presenting their opinions about the genre: why they write/read such books and what significance romance has for the world at large. If you are interested all the essays can be found on this page: http://www.readaromancemonth.com/ . I admit some of the opinions were so interesting that they begged for a commentary – that’s why my blogging partner and I decided to discuss them. Mind you we took just excerpts which caught our eye/moved our imagination, often for different reasons; if you want to know the rest, please follow the link provided above. Also feel free to add to the debate, no matter whether you agree or disagree with us. Let the madness begin!
“The genre is important because it represents and addresses female fantasies. In fact, it’s the only one that does.
Moreover, the books empower women sexually, showing heroines who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want.” –
Anachronist: Female fantasies have been addressed in fiction for ages.
Rameau: Mostly by men, you mean?
Anachronist: Depends on the era we are talking about- sometimes they were also addressed by women but it’s not the point. I understand escapism. Still I am looking for other stimuli if I want to forget about the reality and everyday life for a while. Romance alone is simply NOT ENOUGH even if it is written by women for women etc.
Rameau: Sometimes being the operative word. It’s not a genre for you, I get it. Today romance as a genre is (mostly) written about women, for women, by women, so I don’t think you can utterly dismiss it without dismissing everyone else’s fantasies. Their way to escape reality. And for the record, I don’t think romance actually represents my fantasies either.
“I believe a great book can cure cancer – disappearing into its pages can fill you with endorphins and scare away all the bad stuff. If you didn’t have romance books to turn to, what kind of hope is there?” –
I don’t think a book can cure a cancer, but I do believe in the placebo effect and if reading a good book or a very silly book makes you happy and believe in your own recovery, then good for you. There are other sources for hope; if you think romance is the only one, you’re seriously misguided.
Now you are stealing my lines, seriously…A cure for cancer? Well, I wish. But not in my case because more often than not romance makes me STRESSED. And stress is bad for your health.
“— According to a study cited by Dr. Joyce Brothers, women who read romance novels make love seventy-four percent more often than women who don’t read romance novels.
— According to special research from the British Medical Journal, the more orgasms you have, the longer you’re likely to live.
Assuming those studies are true, we don’t need to “read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” We romance readers are going to outlive all the critics anyway. “
And according to this totally valid one subject study I will now live years longer because of the minutes I spent laughing at these quotes.
Completely agreed. Even if you assume the cited research has been done properly, still this kind of reasoning means nothing, nothing at all.
A) making love regularly doesn’t equal a life full of orgasms (ask any prostitute)
B) a life full of orgasms doesn’t equal longevity (you can still die of cancer if you e.g. smoke during your lovemaking or right afterwards)
C) longevity doesn’t equal happiness or fulfilling existence (visit your nearest old people’s home to find out why). Not to mention the fact that if there are no critics there is no progress and no fun.
“I could say that Romance matters because stories that empower make us better people, better friends, better spouses, better parents. And Romance, above all genres, empowers.”
You were doing so well and then I hit the word “spouses”. Why does a woman’s worth rely on her spouse?
A great question. And why Romance empowers above all genres? Go figure…maybe because it teaches you how you can find a spouse ? *hides*
Romance empowers (women) above all genres because it’s written about women, for women, by women. We’ve been through this. Next.
“The best compliment I ever had was at an autographing when a woman told me she’d driven 400 miles to meet me. She said that she ran a safe house for battered women and she passed out my novels to them as textbooks. “This is how a man is supposed to treat you,” she told them.”
That’s actually a dreadful comment. Imagine you are running a shelter for victims of bulimia and anorexia. They haven’t had a normal meal for years and all of a sudden you present them with a wedding cake and all kinds of desserts and, with best intentions of course, you say: “This is how a real meal is supposed to taste”. Perhaps you do it in order to persuade them that food can be nice. Still it is as far from real as their previous lifestyle.
I have to agree. That is a dreadful comment and I’ve not read enough Jude Deveraux’s books to verify if her heroes are that much better than the abusers women flee from into those safe houses.
“Romance novels transcends class and race and gender by tapping into universal tropes. They encourage us to dream, provide a respite from the daily grind, and fuel the imagination.”
This is the ideal, it must be, but reality is far from it.
Romantic tropes are ubiquitous, that’s true. About transcending class and race and gender…well, certainly we are not there yet.
“Yet we never doubt that the hero and heroine will live happily ever after because for a short time, we have the privilege of traveling with them as they share their darkest moments and unravel their deepest secrets.”
We never doubt…ehem…that’s my problem. I ALWAYS doubt and the fact that in a romance book the HEA is practically guaranteed makes me laugh. I know, it is not real life…
Here’s one thing we agree on. I think romance as a genre would be better off without the mandated Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. Sometimes couple ending up apart is the healthier option but it doesn’t necessarily diminish the romance itself if it’s only temporarily. That experience has—in an ideal case—been a learning experience both for the character and the reader.
“The heroines in those novels were occasionally perfect, golden-haired beauties, but more often they were regular girls experiencing first love AND dealing with family issues, academic pressures, athletic competition, and simply figuring out who they were and what they stood for.”
Occasionally? I think you need to relearn your vocabulary. I’ll give you that they’re not all golden-haired but in my experience the truly regular girls as protagonists are few and far between.
Completely agreed. Romance is for Pretties, rarely for true Uglies. It is known.
“Here’s what so many non-romance-readers don’t get: reality is not the point.”
I get it, Ms Kleypas. I really, truly do. Still, find me a fiction book in which reality is the point. For reality we have non-fiction, CNN, newspapers and documentaries. Still I want my books, romance or otherwise, probable, clever and logical – do I ask for too much?
What about all those fantasy and scifi readers who don’t read romance? Does this apply to them too?
“Society could stand to learn a thing or two from romance novels. Maybe instead of angry posturing, a few romance novels on the diplomatic tables could do more for furthering society than how many weapons to build or ways to control or annihilate certain populations of society.”
The right romance novels you mean? Make love not war? Hmm…nice idea but rather improbable.
HA! You just admitted she’s right! But seriously, all those alpha males in paranormal stories reading romance? I really don’t know what to do with that.
They certainly wouldn’t qualify.
“ Because we’re still fighting over a woman’s right to choose, when every romance novel is about empowered heroines making choices, starting with something fundamental like who to marry. Romance novels can give a girl Ideas, and the idea that she gets to make decisions for herself is one she ought to have.–Because in romance novels, women are taken care of.”
Oh well, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Giving ideas is not the same as empowering and do not forget that some romance books might actually give a girl a bunch of completely wrong ideas.
Like maybe to choose not to marry at all? To choose not to have children? Where are the romances for happily unmarried child-free couples? Also, I hate the fact that Rodale goes from “it’s a woman’s choice” to “women are taken care of.”
Every woman needs to be taken care of, suuuuuuuuure dude ;p.
“There are no limits to how our characters find happiness, and that’s how it should be. As each story is unique, so is each ending. The only constant is hope and that I think, is a beautiful thing.”
Ehem…hark who is speaking. It might be only me but after reading several Psy-Changeling stories I had a distinct feeling that Ms. Singh writes the same novel over and over again…
She’s certainly perfected her own romance formula—which I find problematic for several reasons—but it doesn’t stop me from admitting that the world she’s created in the Psy-Changeling stories is fascinating and unique. Individual stories within that world, though, not so much.
“I love romance novels because they are about big things and small things: about politics and life and cancer and war, and about home and hearth and making a perfect cookie, sometimes in the same book. They’re a reminder that not everything important is frontpage news—and, in fact, some of the most important things are details. They’re about the importance of building community.”
A small correction: the BEST romance novels are all about these things and perhaps even more if you are very lucky. Some of Ms. Milan’s novels are certainly that good. Still it is not true for the whole genre – any genre in fact but especially romantic fiction.
Most of Ms Milan’s novels are that good, but otherwise I agree with you. That quote applies only to the best books. And I wish you’d stop setting romance genre apart from all the other genres—even if this is an essay series about romance—because we already have a problem with the rest of the world taking seriously anything women do let alone do well, and women do romance well.
Ok, I’ll try (le sigh)