We are now in February. This month I’d like to write about the topic of romance and love (I know February and love is such a cliche, especially since we just finished talking about them). Well, it’s not going to start off with hearts and rainbows. I have a rant about the genre and how it is perceived.
When most people think of the romance genre, they think of bodice rippers and fluffy plots. The entire thing is about a boy meeting girl, and they fall in love, or it’s all about the sex followed by a happily ever after. You rarely, if ever, get to see what happens to the couple after they are finally together. This definitely happens in the genre. It’s the formula that most romance writers use. It’s also a genre that is highly underestimated, in my opinion.
Some writers do not follow this pattern at all. If you’re following a series (the Beautiful series by Christina Lauren or the Redhead series by Alice Clayton), the story takes you past the happily ever after and outside the courtship phase. I like Christina Lauren and Alice Clayton for taking us beyond that happily ever after and showing that relationships are not easy.
The characters have problems and fights, and they have to work at the relationship for it to succeed. These authors show us that dating and the proposal are not the end of the relationship, but really just the beginning. And yes out in the real world we know this, but it’s also nice seeing this reflected in the literature as well. It gives us more experiences and advice for our own lives. I know all about dating and proposal part, but not really about anything that comes after that happily ever after.
It’s evident in today’s bookstores that the romance genre follows the prerequisite formula – with a few variations – and books that don’t fit that formula aren’t considered to be romance novels. So we have romance novelists, such as, Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steel or Jane Austen, who are in the fiction section of the store and not the romance section. The reason they’re not in the romance section is that they deal with topics other than love.
With editors and publishers segregating the genre like this, what is considered a romance novel is going to be the “fluffy” books. I find this disadvantages the writers who go outside the bounds of the romance formula or they work new ideas into that formula. For example, one thing I love about Alice Clayton is that her main female character isn’t model perfect and is, in fact, overweight. You typically don’t see this in the romance genre because the books focus on societal ideals. The books also deal with women and women’s wants and desires, and again this is – sadly – not seen as being important enough to be given credit for their brilliance.
I often hear that the romance genre doesn’t contribute anything to society or talk about important or relevant subjects, which, in turn, does not make it “important literature” or that it’s “fluffy literature.” Again some of this is true – I’m looking at you Nora Roberts – but it’s not the entire truth.
Take Jane Austen, for example. She is in the canon of literary masterpieces, but she writes love stories. The reason why we get to study her literature in school and post-secondary institutions is that she challenged societal norms and wrote about women’s issues. She gives us a good look into what it was like being a woman in the nineteenth century. She contributed to society by challenging the status quo, but she was never credited for her efforts during her lifetime. She had to hide behind a pen name to be published as women weren’t allowed to use their own names at that time. They had to use a male pseudonym to have their work taken seriously by society.
That’s just a fraction of my rant without me going completely off track and start talking about women and literature. Like I said, that’s a whole different rant, and I’m sure we’ll get to it at some point. Even though I consider some of the writing in the genre to be “fluffy,” I do really enjoy reading that type of writing. It has its value. It’s great for taking your mind off of your everyday life and can make you feel better. Ultimately if a book can do that, no matter what genre, then it’s a good book. Just remember to challenge what your reading and don’t take it as it is every single time you read it.
Until next week.