I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon with women buying romance novels. There are a lot of excuses. “I started reading them in high school, and I can’t stop.” “They’re for my mom, really.” “I don’t usually buy this sort of thing…” “I just need a little break from Tolstoy.” “I know they’re not exactly literature.”
It sounds more like teenage boys buying an issue of Playboy. The wording of the excuses, obviously, differs (at least I hope it does), but the tone doesn’t. In fact, people buying erotica aren’t as shamefaced as some of these ladies.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading romance. Some of the authors are very talented as writers, if in no other way than the ability to deliver what the reader wants, time after time. If it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, like indulging in Godiva truffles, that’s fine, but why act like they’ve been caught drinking vodka straight from the bottle?
To me, one of the reasons reading is wonderful is that it can create so many different experiences. Not every book you read has to be “literature”, and you don’t have to like all the literature either. I, for one, despise Joyce’s Ulysses . Also, if you want a light read, a story with a happy ending, what basically amounts to an adult fairy tale, that’s romance. They can be formulaic, sure – but most fairy tales, both romance and adventure, are.
The original definition of romantic meant knights, adventure, true love, duels, etc. The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are romance. The Princess Bride is romance. Robin Hood, Canterbury Tales, stories of Arthur and Camelot, all classic romance. Somehow, though, even though modern romance novels contain many of the same elements of heroes, villains, derring-do, true love, reconciliation, and happy ending, they are sneered at as being “fluff”.
Well, I like fluff. I sometimes like a story where I know it’s going to work out ok. Sometimes there is enough tragedy and politics and brutality in real life, and it’s nice to, for a while, live in a world where you know the hero or heroine will always save the day, the couple will always kiss and make up, and the bad guy will get what’s coming to him/her. And the lovemaking never fails to be spectacular. Every time. Hey, it’s fantasy, right?
Romance and adventure novels (and many combine both elements) are, for me, the book equivalent of comfort food. In fact, if I can read them while eating comfort food, that’s even better. Ladies (and gentlemen, of whom I see even fewer buying romance), there is no shame in buying romance.
Reading Harlequin is not a crime. It’s ok to have a bodice ripper next to Kafka. Keep in mind that Shakespeare was the Michael Crichton of his time. Or perhaps Steven Spielberg.
Bring your romance novels to the counter proudly, knowing that you’re going to have way more fun than the people in line who are only reading a book to impress their friends and colleagues.
Later, we can sit around, eating chips (from the bag), and drinking beer (from the bottle), and having a fabulous time. Maybe we can convince those other guys to join us.