You may have seen a recent Twitterstorm involving the Sunday Times’ ‘Best Books in Every Genre’ headline that excluded romance and romantic fiction. Unfortunately, I think it’s only the romance readers and writers who are up in arms. I’m used to this attitude, now, which is a shame and it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenged. But I’ve learned to find my validation (and reading material) outside of the usual publishing press because they do routinely ignore an enormous segment of the market.
As a reader, I didn’t discover romance until I found a book on a friend’s bookshelf. I’d always looked for romance storylines and usually read books with some disappointment, because the love story was an aside, a sub-plot. I had to read all this other stuff that didn’t interest me as much just to get the romance. I used to scour the shelves of my local book shops and try to work out which books had the most romance in them.
But when I picked up my friend’s book, I realised there was a whole genre out there, thousands and millions of books. They just weren’t in the book shops. A lot of these books do have sex scenes in them (although by no means all!!!), which may have been the original reason for omission from book shops forty years ago (even twenty years ago, which is the time period I’m talking about). But libraries have always stocked them (and have dog-eared copies to prove that they are popular) and when ebooks took off, I was set for reading material for life.
What’s difficult to accept, is that there are so many people out there who might enjoy reading romance if they didn’t have the impression that the genre was somehow inferior. Nowadays, there is on-page sex (of varying quality) in lots of different sorts of books, so that’s not reason enough to dismiss romance. The vast majority of romances, if they have sex scenes at all, are full a whole lot more than just sex scenes. And to be honest, erotica sometimes gets more credibility than romance, which is seen as naive and unrealistic, despite neither of those criticisms actually being at all true, if you’ve read books in the genre. You get a lot of complex characters, deep dives into human psychology and varied and interesting backdrops.
I could go into great detail about why I love romance: the carefully drawn characters from all walks of life, the chemistry (the CHEMISTRY!!!!), the escape, the warm fuzzies at the end. But ultimately, I don’t need to explain that. It’s enough to say that I, and readers the world over, love romance and to completely omit the genre is being purposefully dense and narrow-minded and reveals a lack of understanding about the publishing industry as it is today.
Media coverage of the romance genre is dominated by a set of very outdated assumptions about the romance genre and prejudice against those who either read or write it. How is this justified? What right do journalists have to make people feel bad about their reading choices? Despite these handicaps, romance continues to sell – and sell quite well. And I will continue to write love stories that are unabashed love stories. They show the path that two people take towards commitment and happiness together, overcoming all obstacles to find a love worth changing their lives for.