First, a quote from Jude Deveraux's Remembrance, as blogged by Courtney:

Isn't the world a weird place?...I write funny little romance stories about men and women who fall in love with each other...You'd think that the very thought of a romance writer would bring a smile to people's lips. Ah, how nice. Love....

But no, the world is upside down as far as I can see, and romances and their writers are ridiculed, hissed, and generally spat upon. And for what reasons? One of my favorites is that women who read them might get mixed up about reality and imagine a man is going to rescue them from Life. According to this theory, women are so stupid that they can't tell a story from reality. Is anyone worried that the men who read spy thrillers are going to go after their neighbors with an automatic weapon? No, I don't remember anyone worrying about that. Nor do I remember anyone worrying about murder mysteries or science fiction. It just seems to be dumb ol' women who might think some gorgeous, thoughtful, giving hunk is going to rescue them.

Honey, if any woman thought a gorgeous hunk was going to rescue her, romance novels wouldn't be forty percent of the publishing industry.

I've written briefly on this topic before, though not with the bluntness of Deveraux's Hayden Lane, and I have to assume anything I might have to say on romantic matters is probably dubious anyway; someone got to my site this week via an MSN search for "men who are failures at dating", and while I might have guessed that there would be about 15,000 pages returned on this search, I wish I could say I'm surprised to find a link to me at #7.

And if romances and their writers are ridiculed, think of what their readers must endure. According to the stereotype, all these books are shipped directly from the publishers to the nation's trailer parks, where they're eagerly gobbled up by chunky yokelettes in threadbare capri pants who have just enough time for reading in between bouts of breeding. To buy this premise, you have to accept the notion that people who aren't renowned for their reading skills, according to a superset of this same stereotype, are nonetheless buying two-fifths of the nation's books, a proposition I don't see anyone anxious to defend. There are, I suppose, some sales to mobile-home dwellers, just as I suppose there are people who insist they haven't seen a film (they never say "movie") since Buñuel's Un chien andalou, but for the life of me I can't understand why there can't be room on the same bookshelf for, say, Georgette Heyer and Milan Kundera.

I don't claim any particular expertise in this genre, simply because I haven't read that many romances: maybe two, three dozen, some in glossy trade editions, others in the scuzziest self-destructing mass-market bindings. One I bought was an anthology to which a friend of mine had contributed a story. Still, I think I understand their appeal, because I have learned one thing over the years: You're never too old to yearn. Most of us, whether we're prepared to admit it or not, would like to have, or at least would like to have had, the sort of tumultuous affair that jumps out of the pages of a good romance. And those of us whose dreams were dashed years ago still like to see an occasional happy ending, even if it's someone else's.

The Vent

18 May 2003

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 Copyright © 2003 by Charles G. Hill