Mar 5, 2018

Stop Dissing My Romance Reading

 My first romance novel was a Betty Neels book that I read at the tender age of twelve. It was about a nurse who travelled to Holland to care for a handsome Dutch doctor's aunt... I started reading more novels - Emma Darcy, Penny Jordan, Charlotte Lamb (insert awesome author name here)...

Then I found the 'big' books, the single title novels written by the likes of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsay, Jayne Ann Krentz, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Suzanne Brockman, J.... and, yes, that list goes on, too.  I wanted to be the tomboy lady who could ride a horse and wield a sword, or a detective (again), military personnel, executive and a number of other professions that I read women doing, and doing darn well.

When I read these stories, I would be transported to different times, different worlds... and in every single one of those stories that I adored, the common thread was the independent, fierce woman - in whatever guise she came in. I believe these novels also showed me what a positive, healthy relationship could look like between a man and a woman, and that real men are worth the wait.

But as I grew older, I learned that sometimes people commented on your reading choice. People would at best tease, at worst insult me for reading a romance novel. I have been embarrassed, and sometimes even 'book-shamed' for reading a romance. Has anybody else hidden their romance book inside another book/newspaper/magazine to hide the cover? Or was that just me?
But this is a genre that I love, one where I could see characters I could relate to, strong women, working women, independent and honourable women, who attracted the strong, noble, and protective hero not through their beauty (some heroines were gorgeous, some were 'plain'), but through their actions, their personalities, and their big hearts and smart minds.
I didn't understand what the big deal was when it came to reading romance... why did so many people seem to want to put me down for reading what I was reading? Was it the sexy times?
I have been told that perhaps I should read a 'real' book, that these books are so formulaic, you just change the names, that it's books written by housewives for housewives. And all of this translates to my career in writing romances, as well. I've been asked what is the secret formula for these boy-meets-girl stories, why do I write smut, and when will I write a real book?

Well, here's what I say to that:

  • Most people who poke fun at a romance have never read a romance, or if they have, the quantity is somewhere in the lower single digits, and they ignorantly class a whole genre by that.
  • Most people who poke fun at a romance seem to have issues with levels of intimacy and vulnerability, and so it's easier to mock rather than engage.
  • If a romance is formulaic, then so too is a mystery, a science fiction/fantasy, adventures, thrillers, etc. Each of these genres have a recognisable style/convention to the genre - e.g.; murder mysteries have a murder, a detective versus a villain, clues, red herrings, plot twists, and then the solving of the mystery/killer brought to justice. But those genres are never tagged with the 'formulaic' slurs... why is that?
  • Is it because romance is written largely by women, and the audience is predominantly women? Before I get lots of comments, yes, there are male romance authors (great ones, actually) an male romance readers. I'm talking generally... 
*Thanks to The Writing Cooperative data report.

In today's climate, with the demand for more diversity, more representation in film and novels, equal pay, equal respect, where we've had films like Wonder Woman and Black Panther blitz the box office and prove that stories with women, and with people of colour are meaningful, entertaining and profitable, I've decided I'm over the mockery.
Did you know:

  1. Australian Newspapers review more books by male authors than female authors? Check out this Stella Count article that shows the data.
  2. This fact is replicated internationally - as per this article from The Guardian.
  3. As also stated by The Guardian, the Queen Mary, University of London conducted a survey commissioned by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, there is a significant gender pay gap, with women writers receiving approximately 80% of that earned by men. 

Romance delivers the feels, can be entertaining and escapist, but can also inspire, motivate - and it's an industry where women are the experts, and we can create stories that can promote positive change.

I write stories about strong women who overcome obstacles - professionally, personally, emotionally, to form a positive, healthy relationship with men - and I don't apologise for the sexy times.
I read romance, I write romance. Get over it. 😊

I would like to know - have you read a romance where the storyline/characters have really inspired you? Let us know the details, and we'll set up a TBR pile!


  1. Hear, hear! I write romance and am an avid romance reader. I love it for many reason, escapism being a main point.

  2. Look at those old romance covers -- what fun!

    I'm with you, Shannon -- long live Romance! The reviewing stats are appalling. I read one the other day that made me shake my head (from Maya Rodale's Dangerous Books for Girls). Nora Roberts has written 214 books, 191 of them have been New York Times bestsellers. How many of her books has the NY Times reviewed? 2. Makes me want to growl.

    1. Wow. That's ... sad. I wonder what the figures are for Mr. James Patterson?

  3. Hi Shannon
    Great post I love reading romance and am very proud to do so and never hud the covers I read all of those Johanna Lindsey books on the train to and from work in the 70's as for empowering me they all do because they make me happy

    Have Fun

    1. Ooooh, JL was one of my fave train reads, too! Which one was your favourite? Mine is Warrior Woman.

    2. I loved them all Silver Angel probably or Savage Thunder oh of course then there are The Mallory's too hard to choose :)

      Have Fun