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.

in a city that knows how to keep its secrets by thomasbrandt

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.

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Comments ( 3 )
  1. Marcie
    March 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm
    Reply

    OMG! Thank you. When people at work see the Harlequin title in my hand, I get the same comments you wrote about.

  2. Maisey Yates
    March 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm
    Reply

    Keyren, when I tell people I write for Harlequin, I fairly invariably get asked if Fabio will be on my cover. To which I say, ‘The man is in his fifties. And he never really modeled for Harlequin all that much.’

    When people start harping on about how romance novels are for sadly deluded women living in a fantasy world, I just say ‘and action movies are for men who will never experience a car chase.’ (which almost works except, most of us will experience romance, while most men will never experience a car chase)

    I agree that romances are empowering, positive, and just good entertainment. They make you laugh, make you cry, make you feel. I would rather read a Harlequin than go to a movie any day.

  3. keyren gerlach
    March 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm
    Reply

    Love that parallel, Maisey–amen to that! At least women reading romance novels have the chance of her fantasy turning into reality!

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