August is Read-A-Romance Month. This is the second year of this wonderful event where romance writers, fans and the industry come together to celebrate romance novels. Each day on the site, three authors tell us why they think romance is worth celebrating, and since I don’t have my own post there, I thought I’d use my Kirkus post here to share my own thoughts.
Once in a while, romance fans are treated to the dismissiveness of a romance hater or two—particularly irksome when they begin, as they so often do, with some combination of the words: “I’ve never read a romance novel, but let me tell you why I think women shouldn’t read them....”
And every so often, I see a great post that exclaims how wonderful romance novels are, and why every woman should at least consider reading them. A couple of recent examples? Here’s a great introduction to the genre at Jezebel. And a recent poignant essay at Huffington Post on how romance novels can save us.
As an unabashed romance reader and advocate, I am so happy to see more and more pro-romance pieces out there, and, as I mentioned in my first-ever Kirkus romance blog post, I truly believe romances can have a powerful, positive effect on us. I know romance novels make me feel better when I’m down. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in real life and online who tell me romance novels saved them.
In hospital rooms and sick rooms. In healing from or dealing with grief. By teaching women what it means to have a man love you and that, first and foremost, a man who loves you shouldn’t hurt you.
One of the most powerful “aha” moments in my life was when a published romance author I’d met told me she’d received a letter from a fan whose life was really a mess, but knowing she could take a bath at the end of the day and read her favorite authors made it possible to survive until things got better.
It was the first time I remember feeling proud to be a romance fan.
But the more I understood what these “silly little books” are capable of, of how profoundly they can change lives or help through the hard times, the more I found myself speaking up for them.
Romance novels are fun, yes, but they are also so much more. They are empowering and enlightening and, at times, soul-changing and life-saving.
I’ve seen it. I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it.
Nearly every romance author I’ve ever talked to has a letter from a fan that says “you helped me through chemo,” or “you helped me survive my daughter’s stay in ICU,” or “you showed me how a man treats a women he loves, and I just realized my husband shouldn’t hit me.”
Sometimes it’s the authors themselves who experience these profound moments. Molly O’Keefe survived a high school trauma with the help of romances. Stephanie Tyler discovered romance novels in the hospital dealing with her sick newborn.
Honestly, I love romance novels and enjoy the genre more than any other. In general, I think the women in romances tend to be the most proactive and resourceful female characters in publishing.
I’m also well-read outside of the romance genre, and I’m annoyed when people who’ve maybe read three books this year look down their noses at me because I read romance. I’ve also read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Isak Dinesen, A.S. Byatt and Kazuo Ishiguro.
I love those books. I love those writers. And if you want to go read them, please do! When we meet, I’d love to talk to you about them, if you’d like. But if you don’t want to read them, and want to dish instead about Susan Elizabeth Phillips (you’re in for a treat with Heroes Are My Weakness), Eloisa James (Three Weeks With Lady X might be her best ever), or Nalini Singh (Shield of Winter? *happy sigh*)—I’ll be right there with you.
I will never judge you for what you read. And anyone who does isn’t worth your time. Even if s/he writes for The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal or The New Republic.
Me? I’ll simply celebrate the fact that you’re reading!
I don’t expect you to be a romance warrior, vocal advocate or even an “out” romance reader. But if you decide you’d like to say something to the romance haters out there, it might be satisfying to remind them that romance accounts for nearly 17% of commercial books sales. If it wasn’t for “those” books, other books might not even be on the shelves.
Just a thought.
August is Read-A-Romance Month. I read romances every month. Every day, really. But in August, I join romance fans everywhere to celebrate this amazing genre and these wonderful books. Inspiration, celebration, giveaways. (Kirkus will be giving away some favorite romance titles!) I hope to see you there.