Reading the Romances

Why is it that when I tell people I’m reading a romance novel I get one of two responses? The first, and my personal favorite, is that of the person asking how it rates compared to a current “mainstream” romance like Fifty Shades, Bridgerton, or Outlander. The other is a scoff with an insulting comment. It has always seemed to me that people either adore reading romances, or think they’re totally worthless and insulting to consider in a TBR pile.

But guess what? Romance is easily the bestselling genre in the fiction umbrella by a WIDE margin. However, the level of ridiculous and insulting opinion pieces in the book-i-verse astound me. Many avid readers seem to completely discredit this predominantly female lead (in both reading and writing) genre.

I remember the first time that I read what would be considered a “New Adult Romance” novel. I was in college, and Fifty Shades of Grey had just taken over every housewife and college girl’s reading list that year. I was home from college and spending an afternoon with my husband’s family. “You HAVE to read Fifty Shades.” proclaimed my husband’s Aunt. “You remind me so much of the main character. She loves to read, she is assertive…I just think you would love it.” I distinctly recall thinking about what I had heard of the series to that point and being absolutely smacked with embarrassment thinking of what my future family must have thought I was “into”. In my mind a book like that would have no plot line, little character development, and be a flat out sex-fest. I wasn’t remotely interested in reading the series but after a bit more research and review scouring I thought I’d give it a try. Please recall, that at the time the YouTube video of Gilbert Gottfried reading the cult classic was taking over the internet. So…my interest was peaked and she lent me her finished copy of Fifty Shades. Somewhat reluctantly I started the series, and was surprised that I finished the trilogy within the weekend. I blame this partly on the fact I was a MASSIVE Twilight fan, and immediately I was making connections to the cross referenced fan-fiction element. Combining that with my love of suspense and book-thrill-seeking it was a banger. Once an English major, always an English major…right?

The following semester when I returned to university a course was offered titled, “Reading the Romances” and *immediately* I signed up to join. Reflecting on the last decade or so of my reading life, I can attest that this course really set the trajectory for my lifelong love of reading romance novels. We read historical romance (like the Bridgerton series), Fifty Shades, Austen, and just about everything in between. It was easily the most fun I had in college in terms of elective lit classes. Lead by a female badass professor and filled with my girlfriends who were the MOST fun to discuss the mechanics of writing romance and commonalities amongst the genre together it was just so perfect. I’ve continued to read contemporary novels, thrillers, best sellers, and just about everything in between because I genuinely love to read just about every single genre/sub genre that exists. The one thing that I read the most, though? Romances. As I’ve gotten older I’ve ventured into the different tropes of romances and built up quite the “collection” of virtual favorites and recently began sharing my recommendations with friends.

So why is it, that if I read a romance novel 10/1 for reading other styles of literature are they the least recommended type of novels I share? Ugh! It’s because I’ve always thought that there was a stigma attached to reading something raunchy or “trashy romance”. That feeling often becomes even more cemented when the most common style of commentary I get on my most read and enjoyed genre is “How, as someone who is such a feminist, and someone who loves actual literature, can you stand to read that trash?” To which I love to sassily respond that by assuming a romantic story can’t empower women or feature strong female characters is dismissive and the larger issue. But what changed in my hesitancy to share the genre? Freaking Bridgerton popping onto Netflix. All of a sudden I had friends asking to borrow my Bridgerton series, begging me to review for them which novels were the best to continue on with after they finished the A-H sibling series. Netflix really did us all a favor by cracking open the genre to readers that wouldn’t have considered it valid otherwise.

So buckle up, because over the next few months I’m bringing you alllll the reviews (and maybe even a book Facebook group dedicated to book talks!) for my favorites. Everything from mafia, historical, contemporary, thriller, paranormal, erotic, regency, suspense, reverse harem, western, gang, inspirational….all the book boyfriends are coming your way. I’ve.Got.You.Girl.

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