A friend invited me to her book club. I was so incredibly flattered. The members all purchased and read BETTING THE SCOT. We sipped warm cider and talked about romance, and publishing, and Scotland, and “how the heck did I go from producing theater to writing novels?” The book club members were curious and welcoming and the time flew by!
I doubt many book clubs include popular romance in their reading lists. I was pleased these savvy women chose to do so, and honored they chose my book. They were, like many folks, shocked to discover that Romance represents a third of all fiction sales (that’s a conservative estimation), which means mystery, thrillers, crime novels, paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, inspirational, historical ,and all literary fiction comprise the other two thirds (the smallest portion attributed to literary fiction).
Yes. Love makes the world go ’round. And romance definitely makes the publishing industry go ’round.
You would not be surprised to discover that 86% of Romance Readers are women. However, you might be surprised to discover that the majority of Romance Readers are well-educated, middle to upper class, between the ages of 30 and 60, and, most importantly, they purchase and read TWICE as many books as the average fiction reader.
Romance novels have evolved along with women’s changing roles in society. The genre is inextricably linked to the women’s movement, reflecting ever-changing views on sex, ambition, and self-determination. In the 18th and 19th centuries, fiction or novels were all referred to as romances (something I learned very recently). Sir Walter Scot, for instance, wrote romances. Novels written by women were the way women spoke to each other from distances, from different cultures, and across time. However, women were actively discouraged from reading fiction because the content could lead to the corruption of one’s moral fiber. Or worse, romance could cause a woman to go insane. Seriously. There were clergymen who insisted this was true.
Today’s Romance Readers want demand strong female characters who are smart, step outside boundaries, and are the agents of change. They want to read about consensual, loving relationships with people who respect each other. They want to read about attentive, adventurous, and generous lovers. And they want to read intimate scenes that are deeply grounded in emotion.
In the past, Romance has gotten a bad rap. It’s been dismissed as Guilty Pleasure, Bodice Rippers, Lady Porn, etc. But not so anymore. Many young women learn about relationships and intimacy through reading romance novels. I like to refer to Maya Rodale’s comment in her non-fiction work, DANGEROUS BOOKS FOR GIRLS.
Romance novels feature nuanced portrayals of female characters having adventures, making choices, and accepting themselves just as they are. When we say these stories are silly and unrealistic, we are telling young girls not to expect to be the heroines of their own real lives.
Like you, I want our daughters to know that they deserve—that they should expect and demand—loving, respectful partnerships.
Here are three recommendations for romance novels that I think are as close to perfect as they come: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, and The Governess Game by Tessa Dare.