Romance – The Genre Nobody Admits They Read

Filed in Gather Books Essential by on June 27, 2007 0 Comments

I am a romance author, so take my words with a grain of salt.  But why is it that the romance genre always gets the shaft when it comes to the “literary” discussions?  Why is it you never see a romance novel review in the New York Times or the Washington Post?  Why does Oprah never choose a romance novel for her Book Club?  Why, when a website and/or magazine lists “easy summer reading”, there are no romance novels listed?

Because seriously, what do women *really* read on the beach?  Keats?  Or Nora Roberts?  Dickens?  Or Johanna Lindsey?

Go to any bookstore in America and they’ll tell you the genre they sell the most of is romance.  When you go to the grocery store and you wander into their book/magazine section, you get a taste of everything, but there’s usually more racks of romance than anything else.  Used book stores won’t even buy romances off of you anymore because they have waaay too many in stock.  Peruse garage sales up and down your neighborhood and you’ll find romances galore.

Maybe even your mom, aunt, and/or sister has an entire bookcase full of romance.  Heck, it may even be you.  Why, then, if the genre is so popular, does it not get more recognition?

Is it because romance is a genre that isn’t to be taken seriously?  Is it because romance novels are a dime a dozen?  Is it because romance couldn’t possibly be “good literature” because of the sex?  What is it exactly?  If it’s because of the sex, I gotta call bulls***.  lol  Our culture is saturated with it, from songs to movies.  Heck, you can’t *escape* romance, even if you wanted to.  It’s everywhere you turn.

 In your favorite TV show (even sitcoms).  In your favorite songs (most are about love and/or sex).  In your favorite movies (if there’s a man and a woman together in a movie, there *will* be some kind of romantic undertones, even if they don’t get together).

So what gives?  What makes romance novels the “dirty little secret” no one admits they read?  And yet the romance industry is thriving.  It’s THE hardest genre to get a foothold in if you’re an author.  Publishing houses for romance are sprouting all over the place.

True, not every romance you read is going to be worthy of being called a literary classic.  There are some trite romances out there with contrived, shoestring plots.  But you could say that with any genre, really.  And romance has SO many sub-genres as well.  Westerns, Medievals, contemporaries, suspense, paranormals, mysteries, comedies, fantasies, the list goes on.

My question here is, what is the stigma?  Are romance authors “real” authors?  Are they to be taken seriously?  Is it the general belief that *anyone* can write romance, but it takes a “real” author to write horror-suspense or what have you?  What’s so wrong with a book where the focus is falling in love?  And to that end, most romances actually *do* have a plot beyond the “falling in love” plot.

Case in point, my fantasies have a lot of backstory and drama surrounding the dragons and their magical talismans in my world.  That sub-plot has nothing to do with the romance.  And yet, my books cannot be shelved with Terry Brooks and R. A. Salvatore because the two main characters *also* fall in love over the course of the book.  What is wrong with that, exactly?  Why are people so afraid of it?

Anyone have thoughts on this?  This is a hot topic on a few romance blogs I read, and I thought I would bring the situation to Gather for discussion.  I just find it odd that the genre that’s doing so well in sales is the same genre no one admits to reading.  LOL


About the Author ()

I'm a stay-at-home mom and I homeschool my children, ages 11, 10, 8, 7, & 19 months! I'm also a romance author. I live in the Pacific Northwest in the home I've always dreamed about.

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