Defending Romance

Posted Jan 31 2012, 9:26 pm in , , , , , , , ,

As I’ve said before, I came to reading romance later than many. I’ve been reading romance less than a decade, which is nothing compared to a lot of people I meet. Early on, I took much ribbing from my husband who thinks every hero is named Biff. (And let me add that over the thousands of books I’ve read, there has not been a single Biff.)

I never thought about defending the genre. Some people like to read horror, others fantasy. I think there are stereotypes for every genre, but after immersing myself in the romance community for the last 5 years, I’ve noticed that romance takes a beating regularly.

Here’s a quote from an article at GalTime that pretty much sums up what I think many people believe about romance novels (including my husband):

It seems you can’t read an article about a romance novel without the author joking about bodice ripping and Fabio. And then, of course, there are the ones that straight-out condemn books as women’s porn, with no redeemable qualities whatsoever, saying the books offer readers unrealistic fantasies about their love lives.

The article goes on to defend the genre and has an awesome interview with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Here’s another interview with Sarah, who is one of the great champions for romance authors.

Last week on the Internet, there was another attack on romance by some guy who clearly has never read one. Many romance readers and authors were up in arms to defend our genre of choice. Shiloh Walker has a good run-down of most of the exchange. I’m not going to link to the guy’s blog because I don’t think he deserves the traffic.

Here’s the thing…I read romance. It’s my go-to hobby for relaxation. I love knowing that I can get lost in a novel, fall in love with characters, and leave with a happy ending.

I read other genres. A couple of years ago, I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It’s literary fiction. It is somehow better than romance because of the genre. I loved the book. It is beautifully written and Ms. Sebold is an amazing author.

But it took forever for me to finish the book because it was so depressing. I knew there would be no happy ending. The story fascinated me, so I couldn’t give it up, but I read romances at the same time to keep from getting totally depressed.

When I read romance, I don’t expect my husband to live up to some mythic standard, any more than he would expect me to turn into a super model because he watched one on TV.

Here is author Maya Rodale’s defense of romance novels. She explains why we get so much from them and why we keep going back for more:

For me, it seems ridiculous that I should have to defend what I read and what I write. I don’t think I have it in me to be politically correct and defend the genre with the intelligent words and research that so many other people do (like Ms. Rodale, Ms. Wendell, and Ms. Walker). I’m more likely to tell someone to shut the f*ck up and mind their own business.

Life is too serious. I read because it’s fun. I write toward falling in love and a happy ending. I refuse to feel bad about that.

Do you ever feel the need to defend what you read or write?



23 responses to “Defending Romance”

  1. I read and write romance. I liked that video and that definition: A story of two people falling in love, overcoming obstacles and living happily ever after. Is that really an awful thing to like???

    No, I don’t defend what I read and write, but I still notice some people frowning, like I’d be better off reading/writing death, murder, mayhem.

    oh well, to each his own!

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  3. Emma Burcart says:

    That was an amazing video! And a great post. I have never read a romance novel, probably partly because I believed the “bad” hype and partly because it wasn’t what was around when I was growing up. Now I think I will have to read one!

  4. Ginger Calem says:

    You go girl! While I haven’t read many romance novels in the past few years, I did spend many, many years devouring them. I started reading them as an early teen. I remember so many times that my best friends were my romance novels. I could read one a day, easily and I did. They take you through such a swing of emotions and they always make you feel happy and hopeful and full at the end. Who doesn’t want that?

    • I think that’s the point so many people are making. I still don’t get the bad rep romance novels get. I don’t think anyone is harassed for reading Stephen King and he’s always killing people.

  5. Awesome post. Unrealistic expectations? Porn? First, that sounds like it was written by a guy who couldn’t be bothered to keep up his end of the bargain. (pun intended) Second, porn is fine for men to watch? It gives them no unreasonable expectations? Excuse me while I go scream… there, I feel better now. grrr
    You tell ’em girl. Everybody needs a bit of romance, and I can tell you, it isn’t that easy to write. sigh
    Thanks for great post. 🙂

  6. Liv Rancourt says:

    I write vampires.

    There, I’ve said it. I like reading about them, too. And I’m tired of apologizing. Thanks for the post. I feel like I’ve got a little more breathing room.

    • Nothing to be ashamed of in writing vampires. (Although I will admit, I don’t like the sparkly variety). Why be ashamed of writing about something that has a market and will sell? You don’t need to apologize for that.

  7. Hooray for Romance readers and writers!

    Sure, I get the hint of a raised eyebrow when asked what I write and answer “contemporary romance.”

    There’s been a HUGE shift in my perception of myself as a writer of romance over the last year. Maybe it’s that unstated confidence in my voice that has some guys asking if I’ll put them in my novel. TONS of opportunity to entertain myself with “bubble talk” in response. My mouth says. “Maybe. Do you want to be a villain or hero?”

    My brain thinks, “How good are you in bed?”/”I live and sleep vicariously through my characters and–nope–not getting the vibes.”/”See a dentist, and we’ll talk.”

    LOVE Jenny Crusie snark and her steam. My favorite? Faking It. KUDOS to Maya Rodele’s commentary.

  8. E Kelly says:

    I’m also a reader and writer of contemporary romance. I’ve noticed that while noone seems to think it’s odd that I read romance, the writing of it is something else all together. I’m a teacher by day, so when I started writing everyone assumed it would be an educational book. Why would I do that? Like you I read and write romance as a form of entertainment and escape. I LIKE knowing that the book comes with a guaranteed happy ending. I often wish life did. LOL

    • Don’t you know, as a teacher, you’re supposed to write something “Intelligent.” Clearly romance doesn’t count. Except for those of us who read it and write it and know the work involved.

  9. Thank you for posting this! This is one of the things that drives me nuts! Romance outsells every other genre and yet people still look down their noses at it. I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but there are some terrific writers in this genre and maybe as the publishing world goes through its inevitable evolution romance will get more of the respect it deserve (or at least equal footing). 😀

    • I don’t know if it will ever get equal footing. I don’t know how to change the perceptions of people who’ve never even read one. Until the perceptions change, the respect will lag behind.

  10. Janie says:

    Thanks for a great post! I read romance almost exclusively, but have been in the closet, lest I be mocked. As part of NaNoWriMo last year I wrote a romance novel, but haven’t talked much with friends about it because I am somewhat embarrassed by the genre. Why is that??? — so silly when I think about it. You’ve given me lots to ponder…

    • Maybe you need to find a different class of friends 🙂 Have you joined RWA? A local chapter will be filled with romance writers. I love attending my chapter meetings. Not only do I get support as a writer, but they’re all going through the same stuff.

  11. I read pretty widely from fantasy and scifi to thrillers to romance (though I admit I prefer the sweet variety to the steamier ones). I think you perfectly summed up what I like about romance and can’t always be sure of in other genres–a happy ending. I’m a reader who wants a happy ending in everything I read. I don’t have unrealistic expectations about my husband because I read romance. What I do have is a little more hope that happy endings are still possible in our world.

  12. […] Hedlund wrote a defense of the romance genre. She is much more eloquent than I was (especially since I’m more likely to flip someone the bird than offer valid reasons for my […]

  13. Heemo says:

    Hi Linda,I grew up in Wyoming,Montana and Idaho and i didn’t know there was anything other than a coobwy until i was around 8 or 9 and my parents took us to the City . LOL! what a eye opener that was. see we didn’t have a t.v. growing up and so we read or did something else. i did a lot of crafts and baking, etc.,etc.etc. now that i am an adult and live in the city (even if it is a small one) i can’t wait to get back to the country. i really miss my mountains and i miss the way that the men in coobwy states seem to know how to treat their women like ladies(most of them). Tammy ramey