Romance Novels: Legitimate Laughingstock or Ultimate Girl Power?
Editor’s Note: this month is National Women’s Month and starting March 8th, International Women’s Day, we are featuring writers who have shared with us their thoughts on reading romance. Today we’ve asked our editors in New York City (woo, the Big Apple!) to write something. Click here for more blog posts on the subject!
by Keyren Gerlach, Associate Editor, Romantic Suspense
Seems like it’s always open season for trashing “trashy” novels. They’ve been called every name in the book: dirty, bawdy, glorified pornography, traditionalistic, irrelevant, silly, predictable and formulaic, etc., etc. ad nauseum. I say the naysayers are completely missing the point—not to mention that they clearly haven’t picked up a romance novel (or perhaps any other book for that matter) in the last 25 years.
Invariably when I meet someone new, the conversation goes like this:
New Person: “So what do you do?”
Me: “I’m a romance novel editor at Harlequin.”
New Person (chuckles smugly): “Have you met Fabio?”
Me: “Um, actually, I think he posed for like two of our covers, so no.”
And that, my friends, is one frustrating stereotype.
What’s being missed here is the work that goes into these books. The pressure on authors and editors to keep them fresh and relevant. Not to mention, THE TALENT. We have incredible authors who write with ferocious wit, humor and pathos. This is not mindless smut, ladies and gentlemen, oh no. It’s entertainment with a head and a heart that feeds the soul.
And therein lies the true value.
Case in point: As a member of a ladies-only book club who happens to be an editor, I’m often called upon to suggest books for our meetings. I happily oblige by recommending Harlequin romance titles, of course, because it’s my chance to use my own little grassroots campaign to win over new readers. And let me tell you, these discussions are the most spirited (it’s not just the wine, I swear), the most lively, the most uninhibited. We talk about boys (drool over heroes, more like) and sex, love and relationships. It’s cathartic. It’s freeing. And I’ll be damned if it’s not empowering. There, I said it.
Reading a romance novel isn’t just a distraction for distraction’s sake. It’s an experience that can be at once, heartening, inspiring, belly-laugh inducing, hanky drenching, titillating, and yes, when the characters aren’t doing what you want them to, even irritating.
Bestselling author Nora Roberts perhaps sums it up best:
“The books are about the celebration of falling in love and emotion and commitment, and all of those things we really want.”
And if that doesn’t say Girl Power, heck, I don’t know what does.