Romance isn’t dead in this house

So we’ve been getting a lot of flack on this blog post about how we apparently hate romance novels, mostly from people who haven’t read our book but have read reviews of it.

People have a right to their opinions, of course, but we want to state for the record that we are not anti-romance—not at all. If you read the book, you’ll find that we praise bestselling romance authors such as Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, and Julia Quinn, not to mention authors of what we would call “literary romance,” including Arthur Golden and Audrey Niffenegger.

That’s not to say we don’t have some concerns about some of the content and writing out there—we do—but we don’t think romance novels are inherently trashy or that romance itself is not a topic worth reading about. The irony here is that we are actually quite romantic people (we’re a couple who writes books together, for god’s sake; how much more romantic can you get?)—which is exactly the reason we want to see more romance novels embrace the complexity of real-life love.

Also, we do not say or believe that all women read romance novels because they are unhappy in their marriages. We do, however, think that it is reasonable to conclude that the million-plus people who read 50-100 romance novels a year (not the norm—still, a million people!) are emotionally reliant on that experience. We base our conclusions in the book on sociological studies of romance readers as well as what we found in relationship-oriented nonfiction and bestsellers as a whole.

To prove to everyone out there that we are willing to approach romance novels fairly, and to make Imani happy, I just ordered Nora Roberts’ Morrigan’s Cross from my local library. This book sold around 2.5 million copies in 2006, and is the first book in Roberts’ “Circle Triology,” which apparently contains supernatural characters such as wizards and vampires. I am looking forward to this, as we didn’t get a chance to cover “paranormal” or “time-travel” romances in our book. You’ll have to be patient, as the Menlo Park library system is not particularly swift, but I will read this book. And if I don’t like it, it won’t be because it’s a romance novel.

Finally, we would love to hear from any romance readers who want to share their reasons for reading. Add a comment to this post or drop us a line. And that goes for readers of anything else, too! We look forward to hearing from you.

2 thoughts on “Romance isn’t dead in this house

  1. What exactly is a “literary romance”?
    What exactly is “literary”?
    Isn’t that just an opinion?
    The literary label, I mean.
    So, in your opinion, what is literary, and what is a literary romance?
    Is there literary sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.?

    P.S. does anyone actually visit this site and read your posts?
    P.S.S. if anyone does visit this site, please be generous with your time and opinions.

  2. Hi Bookman! Yes, I would agree with you that the labels are subjective and probably not that important. Still, sometimes it helps to distinguish sub-genres from another. We use the terms casually, but here’s how we came up with this methodology.

    Technically, a “romance novel” is a book primarily about love/relationships that has a happy ending. (This is the definition offered by the publishing industry and the Romance Writers of America.) Most official “romance novels” are published specifically by romance publishers as mass-market paperbacks (which are the smaller, less expensive, mass-produced books that you will find in airports, drug stores, etc.).

    The term “literary romance” is our invention. We use it to discuss books about love/romance/relationships that do not fit the conventions of “official” romance novels (tragic or mixed endings; books published by non-romance publishers; authors whose works are not associated with the romance genre). Such books would likely be found in a “literature” section of a bookstore rather than a “romance” section.

    While, again, these categories should just be considered guidelines, it turns out that there are actually a lot of thematic differences between these two types of romances. The relationships presented are very different, as are the plots of the books, and the concepts of what romance is.

    Using the above as a model, I would say there could be a such thing as “literary” horror or sci-fi or fantasy–though the definition would surely be different for each of those genres. Perhaps Harry Potter could be considered literary fantasy. But such books were not widely represented in top bestselling books from the past 16 years (horror was, but not fantasy or sci-fi, let alone literary versions of any of them)–so that is really a guess on my part.

    As for whether anyone’s reading our blog, well, we hope so! Why We Read What We Read has only been available for about two weeks, so we’re just starting out. We hope fans of books and reading will start to find us and stick around!

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