Thursday, 7 February 2013
Romance Novels - Trash or Treasure.
How many times have you heard Romance Novels dismissed as fluff, lightweight and unrealistic? How many times have you heard the art of Romance writing denigrated as lacking in originality, plot and not real literature? And what about Romance writers. Critics can't seem to make up their mind. They could be wizened spinsters creating unrealistic fantasies or bored housewives trying to inject spice into an otherwise unfulfilled life. On the other hand, critics suggest they could write one of these romance novels in a weekend. After all how hard is it to past a couple of cardboard cut out protagonists into whatever is the current trope and turn out something that will sell? I'd like to see the results of that exercise.
Just today on Twitter, word got around that a library in the U.S planned an Un-Valentine's Day party where romance covers would be "vandalised" in their words, to decorate the lounge. A library thinks it is a fun thing to vandalise books because they are only Romance novels. I can hardly wait until Halloween when truckloads of Stephen King novels will be similarly trashed. Yeah, I believe that's going to happen.
There are a lot of things I could say about the general denigration of a genre that accounts for 50-55% of book sales depending on sources. First of all is the implied sneer at all those foolish readers, the majority of whom are women. You must wonder why we were given the vote.
As for the writers. They range from professional women with careers in the medical profession, academia, accountancy, military, film industry, education, publishing and a whole range of other interesting and challenging jobs. And yes some of them are wives and mothers. Some are single, many are married or with partners, some are divorced and widowed. In other words they come from all walks of life with a vast array of life experiences to bring to their writing.
Now for the books. Lightweight fluff. I was joking on Twitter the other day that this year seems to be the Year of Endometriosis in Romance. I've read several romances in the last few months that have heroine's dealing with the results of this often debilitating disease. It causes pain, excessive bleeding and can lead to infertility. Not the stuff of happy endings.
Last year I would have designated as the year of the mastectomy. A whole batch of books that dealt with cancer survivors and the struggle to make a new life and find love after a blow that strikes at the heart of being womanly.
Other serious issues in books I've read this past year include rape, child abuse, miscarriage, marital abuse, infidelity, loss of a child, loss of a spouse, abandonment, divorce, unexpected pregnancy, surrogacy. The list goes on.
And we haven't even touched on the men in our heroine's lives. In the current climate with war coming so close to home we have heroes with PTSD and serious injuries. And the ever present Alpha male who is an affliction in himself until brought to his knees by the love of a good woman. Nice to read about but how many really want to live with these guys.
Whatever you think about romance novels, they do not skim over the realities of life. They deal with the things that real women are facing every day in a world that doesn't guarantee a happy ending. But in these books women can find hope and courage and inspiration that no matter how dark things may seem...and on page 143 things can be very dark indeed...it is possible to find a happy ending. And love can mend even the most broken of hearts.