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Friday, June 28, 2013


Joan Reeves writes sassy, sexy, romance novels because she thinks the world needs more love and laughter. Her books feature a woman and a man who are made for each other—they just don't know it yet. Joan is a bestselling ebook author and also a multi-published print novelist and is published under her own name, various pseudonyms, and as a ghost. Learn more about Joan at her website and blog.—AP

The Mystery of Romance

I was in a bookstore several weeks ago—which is a rare occasion for me lately because I purchase most of my books as ebooks. Anyway, I saw a woman brandishing a book. In a whisper of disgust, she said to her companion, "It's a mystery to me why anyone reads this trash."

The trash in question was a paperback romance. Since I've been a romance author—romantic comedy, usually—I wasn't taken aback because it's certainly not the first time I've heard a woman make such a comment. I'm sure that when I publish my humorous mystery next year, some readers will sniff at it because it will contain a romantic relationship. In fact, it seems that a lot of people just get their feathers ruffled at the thought of sex, romance, and relationships in books.

Since I've been mulling ideas for this guest blog post, I thought I'd take a stab at solving the mystery of why people read romance. Oh, and it's not just women, either. I get an equal number of letters from male readers about my books.

The Skinny on Romance Novels

You may have heard the following 2 statistics:

1.  Most book purchases are made by women—buying for themselves and for others in their family or circle of friends.

2. The majority of all mass market paperback books sold are romance novels. (You can call it women's fiction if it makes you feel better. Heck! There are some instances where I call it that, too.)

How To Recognize A Romance Novel

The heroine always gets her man. It's as simple as that.

If the heroine does any of these: dies, divorces the guy, runs away, or generally parts ways with the hero, then the book is not a romance—it's probably a mainstream novel.
Further, if a woman writes a romance, the heroine and hero are fair game—not married or otherwise in love or committed to another. They end up together. (as in my latest romantic comedy Scents and Sensuality.)

If a man writes a romance, chances are adultery or cheating figures into the equation. They do not end up together. (as in Bridges of Madison County)

All joking aside, if you think about it, it's no mystery that romance is so popular. It's not only well-written but it's timely and compelling. Most romance novels are written primarily by women and mostly for women. Maybe it's because women know what other women want out of love, relationships, and life. As a woman in the jury panel said to me recently during Federal court jury selection, "Women know what they want, and they read about it because they seldom get it in real life." Viva la romance!

Romance fiction celebrates female power and defies the masculine conventions of other forms of literature because it shows women as heroes. In romance novels, women characters possess the qualities normally reserved for men in other genres—bravery, integrity, and determination. The characters are strong women who deal with their problems as best they can, and they don't lose their humanity along the way.

That's just the way women are in real life, and that's the women I want to write: women who have honor, fight their battles, and find the one thing we all want in life—love.  Not just love, but love that endures, love that is faithful.

I leave you with this thought, taken from a nonfiction book published in 1992, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women by Jayne Ann Krentz.

"All of us who write romance are indebted to our spiritual foremothers, the countless women who preceded us.  We are part of an unbroken female line dedicated to passing on an ancient tradition of literature written by women for women." 

As part of that unbroken line of female storytellers, I say, "Go out and slay your dragons whether that's a mundane nine to five job or caring for an elderly loved one or just getting through a day of housework, kids, etc. Then relax with a romance novel that makes you smile and validates all that is wonderful about being a woman."

Scents and Sensibility
Perfumer Amanda Whitfield knows the Science of Smell. Harrison Kincaid knows the Science of Computers. But what about the Science of Sex Appeal? Pulsing, throbbing, will-not-be-denied Sex Appeal.

Amanda, desperate for a man to escort her to her snooty cousin's wedding, and Harrison, desperate to put an end to his mom's matchmaking, get blindsided by desire when they are thrown together.

Desire—with a side order of desperation—creates a captivating complication.


Callie said...

Loved the article, and agree with everything you said. We need to stand up for our genre, and remind people today's romance novels are not the bodice rippers of yesterday. Today's heroine is a kick-ass kind of gal, even if she never raises her voice.

JOAN REEVES aka SlingWords said...

Thanks, Callie! You made my morning brighter. *g*

Liz Ghiselin Stein said...

Years ago, when I was studying for my graduate degree, I chose Romance as my genre (over epic, drama, etc.), to be studied over the ages. The modern romance novel, of course, is just one part of that historic genre, but people who scoff at modern romance simply do not recognize that it has a long and, until recently, respected place in literature. There are a lot of reasons for that, of course, but so-called escape fiction, in which category I would place modern romance, exists for most readers; it just varies according to what idealized world they wish to inhabit for a while. For many men, it is the violent thriller, which may be regarded with more indulgence simply because it is a male-dominated, male-values subgenre, and as we all know, anything written (as well as read) by a man is likely to receive more respect than anything written by a woman. That the genre is, by definition, not "realistic," was not, historically, a knock against it; it is only with the rise of modern novels, and the modern privileging of Serious, Realistic, and (usually) Tragic, over the ancient appreciation for fantasy, with its understanding that anything made up is inherently Unreal, that the genre of Romance in all its forms has lost its stature. Spenser's Faerie Queene, to take just one example, is a fantasy, a romance in every sense of the word.

JOAN REEVES aka SlingWords said...

Liz, thank you for your comment. You are correct on every point. I wrote a very long article on the history of romance several years ago. I think I should pull it out and publish it on my blog SlingWords.

Have a great weekend.

Cynthia Wicklund said...

I agree with Callie. Wonderful article! And great explanation of what and why. Romantic fiction empowers both women writers and readers. Hear, hear!