Think romances are about cruel yet dashing men forcing themselves on simpering, virginal women? Or that romance readers are desperate ladies whose most significant relationships are with their cats? Think again.
Wendell's debut, a brief apologia for the romance genre, is winning, entertaining and highly persuasive despite occasional lapses into silliness. The author, co-founder of the popular romance-novel review website "Smart Bitches, Trashy Books," quashes several stereotypes of romance novels and their devoted fans. She argues that the modern romance novel has, for the most part, done away with what she calls “rapetastic assclowns,” instead providing women with a model of how to negotiate healthy relationships. Drawing on comments from readers of her website, Wendell makes the case that women learn from romance novels to be assertive and confident, and that more equitable and passionate relationships are the result. Sometimes, these reader comments make up the bulk of the text, giving the book the feel of an extended blog; the author's persistently jokey tone contributes to this as well. However, the snark often works well, like in the sidebar “Six Simple Steps to Looking Like the Quintessential Romance Hero,” or in her description of a certain kind of romance hero: “I don’t like you, you drive me nuts, I can’t stop thinking about your hair, DAMMIT!”
Fans of the romance genre are likely to come away feeling vindicated; newcomers may be inspired to pick up a few new paperbacks with racy covers.