Embracing the romance genre

I’m a huge sap. I’ve always loved romantic comedies, and often my favorite element of any book is the romance. But for some reason, I had never been interested in reading romance novels – Romance with a capital R, that is. The genre defined by beautiful people overcoming obstacles to get their happily ever afters. I love that kind of thing in movies but had never sought it out in books.

Recently, however, that began to change. 

Many of my colleagues in the publishing industry frequently gush about their favorite romance novels, and their enthusiasm has risen to a fever pitch over the last couple of years as the genre diversifies. There is a huge variety of authors and subgenres out there, beyond longtime benchmark authors like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel.

For example, Sally Thorne (The Hating Game) and Christina Lauren (My Favorite Half-Night Stand) have written several steamy contemporary romances that inject wit, humor, and modern sensibilities into the classic romance format. Jasmine Guillory’s acclaimed The Wedding Date and The Proposal routinely fly off our shelves. Deanna Raybourn writes fast-paced historical romance-mysteries set in Victorian England. Beloved author Lisa Kleypas is famous for her historical romance and is a great choice for those readers itching to lose themselves in an elaborate fictional world populated by a vast array of interconnected characters. Alyssa Cole’s acclaimed Reluctant Royals series, which begins with A Princess in Theory, tells the story of a romance between a nerdy grad student and a suave African prince. Cat Sebastian tells LGBTQ-centric romances with happy endings, including A Gentleman Never Keeps Score and It Takes Two to Tumble.

For young adult (YA) readers, Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss kicks off a trilogy of fun, flirty romance novels that take readers from Paris to San Francisco to New York City. Another YA author bringing that classic rom-com feel to readers of all ages is Jenny Han, whose wildly popular To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was recently adapted into a Netflix original film.

As you can see from even this brief sampling, the romance genre encompasses a wide variety of subgenres, characters, and stories. And despite the fact that it is routinely denigrated–the reasons for which are many, often unfair, and often stemming from patriarchal dismissiveness and inherent fear of stories largely written by, for, and about women–romance is one of the top-selling book genres, making up about 23% of the overall book market and second only to general fiction.

All of that being said, despite the popularity of the genre and the superfluity of stories available within it, I only read my first romance novel a couple of weeks ago, Dance Upon the Air, the first novel in the Three Sisters Island trilogy. Written by the grand dame of romance herself, Nora Roberts, each book in this trilogy highlights a different heroine, their stories connected by an ancient curse. This series gives me major Practical Magic vibes; the setting is cozy, the characters likable and flawed. It’s the kind of series that makes me wish I could abandon all my responsibilities to do nothing but read, read, read.

I’m not sure what the reason is for my late arrival to the genre. Maybe I had been coached by various influences to eschew escapist fiction in favor of more literary fare. Maybe I had fallen prey to the stigma surrounding romance novels, in particular, deriding them as “chick lit” and worthless fluff. (Never mind that similarly escapist thrillers and adventure novels written by, for, and about men are not treated with the same level of scorn.)

Whatever the reason, I’m happy to declare that even after only reading two romance books (and a few chapters of a third), I’m a big fan, and I’m here to stay. I encourage our members to give the genre a try as well! With such a wide variety of romance novels available, you’re bound to find something you love.

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