Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Falling in love with romance novels

Here in the U.S., clueless people often ridicule romance novels by calling the books--even those by other publishers--"trashy Harlequins." In the U.K., meanies like to snicker at Mills and Boon books. As it happens, Mills and Boon is owned by Harlequin Enterprises. Of course, not all romance novels are published by Mills and Boon or Harlequin, but those brand names have for many years served as lightning rods for people who love to despise our genre.

Romance readers are made, not born, and it's a fact that many converts to the genre were once some of its most vocal critics--until they actually read a romance novel. One such story has been recounted in The Guardian's book blog. It begins:

The combination of a dead phone, a frozen iPod and a distinct lack of any reading or writing material whatsoever on a recent train journey down from Leeds forced me to do something I've never done before. I picked up a discarded Mills & Boon book from the seat opposite me and read it. And I loved it.

Having spent a lifetime looking down my nose at the genre I would like to praise them for their honesty, dependability and fail-safe ability to cheer. Free from literary pretension, marketing babble, or anyone else's convoluted opinion brandished on the front, the book was refreshingly honest with me from the start.

At a glance I was provided with the essence of the story; image, category and title. On the bottom right corner of the book you learn what kind of tale you're in for: Modern Romance, Romance, Historical Romance, Medical Romance and Blaze, the spread of which ensures that there's something for everyone, using an orderly system of filling that is appealing in itself.

By the time she got off the train, she was a fan of "category" romance novels. How's that for a happy ending?

My monthly(ish) column is up at Romancing the Blog. Check it out, and be sure to read the Comments, where people are sharing their favorite romance-reading rituals.


Mirtika said...

Romance novels make you feel good. And I always tell people who are stressed out and I know enjoy reading, "Try a good romance. You'll end up feeling all glowy and like the world is NOT doomed."

I suspect a lot of the genre's popularity (well, okay, aside from the sexual turn-on some get from the steamier ones) is that they leave you feeling hopeful and bright at heart. Problems are overcome, love succeeds, happy families are formed, the future looks friendly. And the importance of committed, honorable relationships is not put down or ridiculed.


Brenda Coulter said...

You said it, babe.