Reading is my greatest pleasure.
For three out of seven days I’m a teacher. For seven out of seven I’m a mum, cook, cleaner (a really, really shoddy one- I wouldn’t employ me), sock finder, triage nurse etc. For one day a week (and as many other moments I can grab) I’m a writer.
|Not quite enough to tear me away|
from a good book...
Considering all that, who can blame me if at the end of the day I reach for something to whisk me off from it all?
Give me a deep bath with my favourite Soap and Glory bubbles, a glass of white wine and a good book and I’m a happy woman. So much so that even if Tom Hiddleston climbed in the other end he’d get ignored (at least until I finished the chapter).
That said, I’m getting more than a little tired of having to explain why I’m reading a romance.
Who wouldn’t rather read a guaranteed happy ending and people falling in love rather than a story about people living tedious, repetitive lives revolving around school runs and remembering to put the bin out?
Some of the plots are outlandish but so what? If it’s unrealistic that I could be swept out of my classroom by a Venetian count looking for a fake wife I don’t care. That’s why it’s escapism.
No one gets sniffy at the same little old lady turning up just before or after a murder. I also love Fantasy and Science Fiction but people rarely expect me to justify why I like a dragon battle. Come to think of it, people rarely complain that Science Fiction gives people unrealistic ambitions regarding space travel, or that Fantasy is in danger of inspiring our children to seek out unrealistic quests involving rings.
A romance classic just about passes muster because Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell used big words and lots of subordinate clauses so you have to concentrate, but naming a modern romance (by which I mean written by a modern author rather than a contemporary set story) tends to be met with a bit of a sniff or raised eyebrow, or something neutral about not expecting me to like that sort of thing.
|In my favourite environment...|
When I read a book I want escapism, whether that’s being transported through space on the back of a turtle, racing through Las Vegas with an undercover lawman or being whisked away to the North York Moors with a hunky blacksmith. I’m looking for a cracking story, characters I can fall in love with, hate, empathise with, wish dead or cheer for. I can find those in lots of genres and Romance is one of them so to exclude it from my repertoire would be nonsensical. If reading a book takes me out of myself for a while and makes me feel better for having devoted time to it, I’m damn well going to read it.
I’ve read countless articles on why such a varied, popular and high-selling genre is so looked down on and never found a definite answer. Perhaps its down to old-fashioned sexism, because I rarely meet a man who gets challenged to justify what he reads (though a man who admits to reading romance has an even harder job and a friend who read my first book Falling for her Captor asked me not to tell anyone in case he got laughed at).
Perhaps its anxiety that women who read about sex might start looking at the men in their life and wondering why they don’t measure up. Maybe its snobbery, because unlike worthy tomes, Romance novels don’t tend to be the size of book you could use to stun a burglar or bring down a deer.
So I’ve made a decision. From now on I’m not going to justify what I’m reading. I could explain that Romance fiction deals with issues involving gender politics and sexuality, loss and grief, adoption, unwanted pregnancies, abandonment, abuse, juggling a work-life balance, class and race struggles and myriad other subjects that aren’t sniffed at if they’re in ‘proper’ fiction. But I won’t. I could argue that reading about women enjoying sex on their own terms it is a great way for women to explore their own sexuality. But I won’t. I won’t even argue that Historical Romance (the genre I write) has taught me things about the past I never knew.
I’m almost 41. I don’t have time for that, not when I’ve got so many books to get reading (and writing). The next time I get asked why I read (or write) romance I’m going to ask why the questioner thinks I shouldn’t. Hopefully they’ll give me a solid answer or go away and leave me to get on with my book.
Either would be good.
Why do you love reading romance? Elisabeth is dying to know, so join in the discussion in the comments!
A passion forged from fire
Rejected by her favoured knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half-brother!
For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his life-long dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…