In Defense of What I Read

I read romance novels.

This potentially embarrassing statement, which comes as little shock to anyone who has known me for more than six months, ever seen my bookshelves, or watched me check stuff out at work, puts me in a category that is about as stereotyped as my current profession.

Let’s see if I remember it right. I read romances therefore I

a) have unrealistic expectations about relationships
b) am waiting for my rich sheik to show up
c) am sexually repressed
d) have some odd fascination with sex scenes that are full of euphemisms
e) can’t find anyone willing to date poor pathetic little me
f) hate men
g) don’t ever read anything else (yes, AudioGirl’s boyfriend once said this to me when I was carrying around a copy of Everything is Miscellaneous)
h) spend my days dreaming about getting married and taken away from it all

To add insult to injury of the wounds of those “forced” to notice that yes, I have a 350 page paperback with a woman in a pretty dress or a half-dressed man on the front, I read historical/regency romances and paranormal, so obviously

i) I have huge issues with dealing with the real world
j) I’m waiting for a vampire to come and take me away from it all. Or werewolf, we won’t be too picky.

*clearing of throat*

Now, I won’t pretend that romance is not a lovely, brief escape from the every day. If it weren’t, I’m not sure I’d read it as much as I do and/or have in the past. But, as AudioGirl and I have discussed, it’s my television. Other than Bones, which I’m only watching one season at a time (I’m almost up for a glut of Season 3), my television watching is pretty much restricted to the occasional Alton Brown, What Not to Wear, Iron Chef and Clean House. Assuming that under all the dust there is still a television. These tales, mostly about relationships, capture me, take me away, and let me imagine a world where dukes or nice vampires trip down the street at every turn. (Seriously, where DO they find all these titled men?)

Romance has been described as a red-headed stepchild, something to be embarrased about, I’ve even called it a guilty pleasure. But I would consider it certainly nothing to be more upset about than an obsession with a television show. Same premise, right? Situation that needs to be handled and tied up, preferably in a punish bad guys, reward good guys way within a set period of time. TV can handle crimes, romances, friendships, and everything else in approximately 22 or 40 minute chunks, why assume books can do anything less in 100-350 pages?

And it’s interesting to see how romance–the most widely read genre in the world and the one area of publishing that seems to really be thriving and growing even in the current economy–is starting to get recognition. I was pleased to see an article featuring two authors I really enjoy: Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, both of whom are Ivy-League educated women as well as on the New York Times Best Sellers lists for their witty, funny and thoughtful novels.

I had the pleasure of hearing James speak at ALA. I think I’d really enjoy to have her as a professor (her “other life” as a tenured professor at Fordham). She has an interesting sense of humor and, as she described, she writes about couples who will end up in an ultimately healthy respectful relationship. Yes, there are problems, but, like sitcoms, they’re solved by the end of the book.

So I’ll keep on with my “sitcoms” which, nicely, don’t come with commercials, and need not be dvr’d.