This is a quick blog about the genre-that-must-not-be-named.
As genres go, it is arguably the most popular, and certainly so when you look at Amazon sales and reams of reviews, but it is also the most sneered at.
It is my weakness. My dirty little secret.
Romance. Of course, Romance! I love it! Always have.
There’s a place in my heart for fantasy, that’s for sure, and there’s nothing like a good horror or crime thriller every so often, but Romance is my genre of choice.
I read and write mainly literary fiction, and literary fiction holds all that excites me about studying and creating literature. My favourite (living) authors are Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel and Alice Munro, and so many other perfectly respectable authors, so I shouldn’t love Romance. I should be as dismissive as everyone else and turn up my nose at those book covers depicting rakish English Dukes, or marauding Vikings, or kilted Scottish Warriors, ravishing ladies whose silk dresses are being precariously held up by erect nipples and arched backs. But I don’t sneer at them; I hide them under a Dickens or a DH Lawrence and shuffle guiltily to the counter to buy them. I may even don sunglasses, a false beard and turn up the collar of my raincoat first, that sort of thing.
E-readers have liberated we avid readers of the genre-that-must-not-be-named. At last, we can buy them in private and read them in public. In the last two days (I hope my supervisor doesn’t see this) I’ve read two romance novels cover to cover on my ipad. Both by one of my favourite Romance writers at the moment, Tessa Dare. She mixes it up a bit by breaking many of the conventions of the genre, and isn’t too heavy on the gratuitous erotica. So, it feels wonderfully fresh even if the format is just the same really – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, or vice versa. Tessa Dare has written a series of romances about a holiday resort for young ladies who are tired of or don’t quite fit into upper-class English society and the Regency London ‘marriage mart’, called Spindle Cove. But various soldiers and Dukes and Earls keep showing up, well obviously, and they have adventures and fall in love with bookish spinsters and blue-stockings. Fabulous!
The last one I read was a novella set in Spindle Cove where the hero was the most unconventional one yet: a blacksmith. Albeit a huge, handsome, rugged, craftsman artisan blacksmith, who’s all tanned and sweaty with brutish muscles and coarse, filthy, strong hands … oh my… just a sec… I need a moment. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s very good if you’re into that sort of thing. As she writes them, I read them.
I know why I read them. I always devour a romance novel when I’m stressed, under pressure and having trouble focussing. So, I read romance novels before exams, before deadlines, when I have big decisions to make, or when I’m dealing with difficult times. At the moment I’m under a lot of pressure with the course, got loads on my mind and am having trouble focusing. So – Romance it is.
But I’ve had my fix now, and I was able to get some good writing done today as a result, of the literary variety, I might add. I also read a short story by Chekhov and another by Kafka, amongst others. So reading those lovely romances has served its purpose. It’s like a holiday for me, a mini break at a nice hotel, and I come away from a romance novel feeling refreshed, like I’ve had some fun.
Of course I know they are a load of nonsense, but a bit of harmless, comedic escapism never hurt anyone. In the last 48 hours, it’s done wonders for me. I feel a more thorough blog post is needed in the future to honour this most beloved genre, in a way I haven’t given myself room here, but this will have to do for now. Here’s a picture of a Scottish warrior holding aloft his mighty sword to keep us all
coming going in the meantime.