It’s August, which, in my world, means Read-A-Romance Month!
Read-A-Romance Month is a month-long pro-romance event where each day, three authors write a blog post on a specific theme. This year, the 5th annual Read-A-Romance Month, the theme is “The Power of Romance.”
I’ve done a lot of pre-posting to prepare for #RARM, and it’s not surprising that a lot of the authors have focused on certain aspects of the romance genre that are very powerful indeed.
Most romance authors will tell you that their experiences in the romance writing community are deeply cherished, and that some of their best friends are fellow authors they’ve met through Romance Writers of America.
Last week was the National Conference for RWA, and while I wasn’t able to attend, it was lovely to see all the great posts on social media and to follow many of the great friendships that exist among authors.
This feeling of community and friendship has come up a lot this year when authors reflect on the power of romance.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard authors talk about ‘paying it forward’ in the community. I’ve never seen a group of writers more willing to offer wisdom, advice, workshops, information and even advocacy. From the local level to the amazing spectrum of informational options at RWA, you’ll always find writers willing to share experiences and expertise.
Another aspect of romance that authors consider truly powerful.
Hope, Joy & Optimism
I’ve often found it interesting that people who tend to read romance are among the most optimistic people I know, and that the books they love represent this outlook. Writers and readers depend on the HEA not only because we want to believe in love, but also because we believe in the good—in the world, in other people—and to many of us, these books aren’t only about romance, but about positive outlooks. A good romance novel, for those of us who love them, makes us feel happier and more hopeful. I am always a little confused as to why romance critics—many of whom have never read a romance novel—think this makes romance readers stupid or somehow out of touch with reality.
I mean seriously? Half the books these days on self-help shelves these days are “guidelines” on how to be happy. Yet we should be ashamed for reading books that make us happy.
The Tension Between Escapism and Reality
This may be a strange way to put it, but over the course of the last five years, many of the contributing authors have touched on a theme that I think most romance readers can relate to.Shannyn Schroeder’s post yesterday expressed this really well:
“When so many of us have survived relationships that chipped away at our self-worth and damaged our self-esteem, it’s vital to be able to witness what a good relationship looks like—even if it is a fictional one…I’ve had friends question whether I would let my daughters read my books …[and] I see no problem with them reading my books if they choose to. Yes, I write explicit sex scenes, but why wouldn’t I want my daughters to grow up expecting a man to not only be clear on their consent, but to also be concerned about their pleasure? Often times, non-romance readers make fun of the genre because it sets up unrealistic expectations for men. I’ve never met a romance reader who expected to fall in love with a man with perfect six-pack abs, but they do want a hero who is kind and considerate. A man who treats a woman with love and respect is worth so much more than one with a perfect body.”
One of my all-time favorite RARM essays was by Tessa Dare in Year 1, when the theme was “Romance Matters.” I’ve excerpted it, but I love the whole thing. (You can read it here.)
I’m a public librarian by training, so I’m no stranger to stereotypes. I know you’ve heard them, too….I won’t try to list them all, but the one that frustrates me the most is the frequent assertion (from genuinely concerned individuals, I’m sure) that romance novels give readers “unrealistic ideas” about life and love….
One of the great joys of being an author is hearing from readers. People have told me all about the places they read my books. At the beach, on airplanes. Some read after long days of caring for special-needs kids. Others, to unwind from a high-powered office job. Some read to take their minds off a husband deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some read while deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. And still others read to pass time while waiting for a loved one to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Some days, a romantic waltz with a sexy duke is just what a girl needs.
As for those “unrealistic” charges—we’re talking about commitment, not unicorns. The day a committed romantic relationship becomes an “unrealistic” ending is the day I permanently move to Fantasyland. (Luckily, I’m ten minutes from Anaheim. It’s just down the road.)
All in all, I’m a romance advocate for a reason, and I am so happy to know like-minded writers and readers who share my love of this genre.
I’m pleased that RWA exists and offers writers a deep well of inspiration and information.
And I was also very gratified to hear that some of my favorite authors won RITAs (the romance world’s ‘Academy Award’) at RWA last week.
Congratulations to all the RITA winners, but especially to Michelle Major - who’s at Read-A-Romance Month today! Virginia Kantra, whose Carolina Dreaming is part of the wonderful Dare Island series - you should read them all! Sarah Morgan, a beloved favorite (Sarah kicked off the first day of the first ever RARM in 2013 with another all-time favorite post. You can read it here.) And Weina Dai Randel, whose terrific Moon In The Palace is a must-read historical novel about the fascinating Chinese Empress Wu.
I’ll be trying to read most of the rest of the RITA-winning titles over the next few months. I look forward to discovering new writers myself!