Well, it’s February, closing in on Valentine’s Day, and that means romance novel bashing is going to happen more often than usual. Good enough reason to cannonball back into the blogging waters, because my waters are boiling. Tee hee, look at all that ladyporn, giving women unrealistic expectations of real life, those books are all the same, blah blah blah, haw haw, shake head at the stupid love-deprived women who read and write them, so silly, so sad, so…stop. Okay? Stop.
It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and it doesn’t make the detractors look smarter. I listened to a radio segment on this topic today, same old same old, and, when combined with recent blog posts by writer friend E. Catherine Tobler, it produced this.
There’s been buzz lately in some science fiction and fantasy circles, over the treatment and depiction of women, which I think is an interesting point. Since I write and read romance, which is largely (but not entirely) written and read by women, our numbers skew in the other direction, regarding gender, but there is a common ground here. I’m talking women. We have the right to write and read whatever we please, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. Still, some people don’t seem to get that, and that puzzles me. It puzzles me a lot.
Every genre has conventions. Every one. So why is it worthy of derision when the whole point of the story is a woman getting what she wants out of life? Romance is the genre where the woman always wins. She selects a life partner who is faithful to and proud of her, who supports her, respects her and if he’s not actually helping her to achieve her goals, he’s shaking pompoms from the bleachers and cheering her on. He’s her equal partner, be he duke, cowboy, CEO, small town farmer, RN, or what-have-you.
I’ve heard the “oh, romances are all the same” argument since I was sneaking books from my mother’s nightstand. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. So, historicals are the same as contemporaries, as fantasy or futuristic, or romantic suspense, erotic as inspirational, as YA, as traditional Regencies, as westerns, as category, as single title, as serials and anthologies and multiple author continuities? New subgenres are emerging constantly, veteran ones declared dead but then coming back in a slightly different form, to go do their magnificent thing all over again in a brand new way. I love the vibrant feel of this genre, my genre, and no, I don’t think the books are all the same. Read a few and that becomes plain.
Neither are the people attached to these stories all the same. Mostly women? Yes, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. Some are stay at home parents or caregivers. Some are military personnel, pilots, scientists, clergy of various faiths, teachers, executives, lawyers, retail workers, businesspeople, artists, librarians, academics, holders of GEDs and PhDs. Married, happily or otherwise, single, happily or otherwise, and every point on the spectrum in between. What we do have in common is the love of a good story, that of two people who overcome obstacles and choose to stick together for life. Don’t see what’s stupid or cringeworthy there.
The books are all porn? No. Porn is porn. Romance novels are about the emotional journey of two characters. This may include opening the bedroom door, to small or great degree, or it may include closing it entirely. I’ve read very effective romances all along the spectrum from inspirational to erotic romances. Sex is a part of most romantic relationships, and that doesn’t only mean explicit depictions of the actual act. It’s the unique appeal of one person to the other, the “can’t take my eyes off him/her” that makes this person somehow different from all other potential mates. It’s different for every couple, because we’re talking individuals here, and how they go from two “me’s” to one “we.”
I don’t understand this bashing. I probably won’t, and most likely, most of the bashers don’t care what I think. They’ve chortled, slapped each other on the back and moved on to something more worthy, whatever that might be. They’ll be back at some future opportunity, and when they are, they’ll probably miss, once again, the real point of such articles. They provide opportunity for romance readers and writers to have a good laugh, blow off some steam and then go back to reading and writing some awesome books.
I’ll close with this: when I run into a romance basher in person, I ask them which books they read that gave them that impression. Not heard about, not saw the covers of, not read a snippet of the screen of a stranger’s Kindle on public transportation. Read. If the answer is none, they don’t know what they’re talking about, do they? If the answer is “none, could you recommend some?” then a new adventure is about to begin.