Stop knockin’ the romance novel

So I just read this post by contemporary romance writer Jeannie Moon, which, of course, made me feel all twitchy. Why, tell me why, are people always knocking romance novels? Tell me how a romance novel is “not a real book.”

What makes a “real” book? Plot, character, description, tone? Because romance novels have all of those things. And have the people who say such things actually read a romance novel? (Or, if they have, do they just skip to the dirty parts? Tsk tsk tsk.)

I just realized I’m preaching to the choir. *steps away from pulpit*

I was already feeling mildly irate because, in a writers loop I belong to, a fellow writer said that her boss called her books “silly romance novels.” Silly? Romance novels are silly? They’re not real?

Oh, wait, excuse me while…

Sorry. I’m back.

Jeannie, who managed not to turn into the Incredible Hulk, raised some valid points to put her particular naysayer/book snob in her place:

“I set out to bury Harpy with the facts. Facts about romance’s incredible reach, profitability and the most basic of all: that if the genre were to become extinct, 1.3 billion dollars in book sales would be lost. It would decimate publishing and all those “real books” wouldn’t have anyplace to go. I talked about academic work being done at major universities studying the genre as literature and I talked about how it made people happy. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.”

So here’s my piece. Why do I think romance novels are most certainly REAL books, and not at all SILLY? Because…

Books change us; all art does. Books help us understand the human experience. The last time I checked, romance, yummy parts included, is a vital part of that experience. And we’re never more alive than when we’re in love.

I could go on. And on. And on. But I think I’ve said enough.

And this whole thing has inspired me to blog about why I chose to write romance novels. But that’s a separate post for another day.

Why do you love romance novels? Why do you think people feel this way? And how can we help them see the light? Or, if you’re a hater, why?

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7 thoughts on “Stop knockin’ the romance novel

  1. I love romance novels! The world is too critical and insensitive, so I like to escape in a world with true love that develops and builds. How can’t you like romance? That is the question…

  2. My mom is an avid romance novel reader, and can devour 3-5 in a week if aloud. When I was in high school (a bit of time ago) I was devouring scores of sci-fi fantasy books right along side her. I admit I read several of her romance books when I ran out of my own, yet I always went back to the sci-fi fantasy genre because I felt that they contained the romance while adding the epic plots that I loved. Perhaps if she read more romance that involved magic, unicorns, and aliens I would have had more interest. I admit I have never read a paranormal romance novel, and now that I know they genre exists maybe I will pick one up and try it.

    On the subject of weather or not they are ‘real’ books, well, the sci-fi and fantasy genre gets plenty of that kind of snobbery pointed our way too. And to be honest there is ‘junk’ writing getting published in all genres, just as there is ‘junk’ music getting pushed onto the airways of popular radio. Only time will tell weather a book has left a lasting impression its readers.

    • My mother is also an avid romance reader, and I, too, would read her books whenever I had already devoured my own stacks. I love fantasy and sci-fi as well, and realized that I loved both fantasy/paranormal elements and the romantic elements. I read a few paranormal romance books, and I was hooked.

      Agreed that there are good and bad books in every genre. Ultimately, we need to judge a book by its own merits, not because of the genre it falls into.

  3. Janelle, this is a great post! I’m so flattered your referenced my post and I can echo so much of what you’ve said. I read romance because like you said, there isn’t anything that makes you more alive than being in love.

    I can be a lit snob. I have a graduate degree in English and one in Library Science. I’ve read a ton. When I need to draw on my literature background for work, I do it, but when I read for fun, my fun is romance. My writing is about giving people a break from the everyday. It’s about love and being happy. And to paraphrase an old song, I think the world could use a little more love, sweet, love.

    Thanks for reading! I’ll look forward to coming back here again!

    • Yes, in academia, it’s easy to become a lit snob (or a music snob, for that matter). And I say this as someone with a day job in academia. I think sometimes we’re all just worried what people will think. Academic peer pressure?

      When I earned my undergrad degree in creative writing, we weren’t allowed to write genre because, my professors claimed, they wouldn’t “know how to grade it.” They might have meant that they didn’t know the conventions of each genre, but I’m not sure that’s the only thing they meant. When I went to grad school, I went for my M.F.A. in children’s lit, and I was free to write about dragons and faeries and whatever else had been flitting around in my mind, just waiting to get out.

      I also draw on my literary background for my work. And what’s considered “literary” writing changes over time. After all, Jane Austen’s books and those of the Bronte sisters were once also dismissed by some as women’s writing. And now, who holds a higher place in the canon than Jane Austen?

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