by Amy, Book Buyer

It’s easy to dismiss romance as a genre. We are constantly inundated with reminders that suffering is good for you. Stories have value because we learn about a new kind of suffering, a new way to struggle. Falling in love and finding someone who values you is great. In life. In fiction?

It’s fluff. It’s trashy.

Being a woman and having sex makes you trashy. Being happy? Your story is a waste of paper.

I know a number of romance readers who remember picking up their first romance novel in middle school and having that moment of delicious scandal. After that they were hooked for life. I love those stories. That was not me.

Romance novels were fine. When I was younger they were on that expansive Someday List. As I got older and learned more about myself I learned one VERY important fact: I am obsessive.

I went years avoiding things because I knew, just KNEW, that once I got started I would want everything I could get my hands on. Well reader, we know where this is going; I started reading them and it was all over.

You know those scenes you read in books and you get a small, gleeful thrill, so you read them over and over before you move on? When I started reading romance I started getting whole books' worth of those scenes.

Wish fulfillment amounts of witty dialogue (I don’t think fast on my feet so this always brings me pleasure). Moments where these characters get flustered and flail in the most relatable ways that are almost painful but end up being comforting instead. Where women are strong and resilient but not always physically (and I love a good woman with a sword). Where women aren’t found dead in the woods.

Moments where a woman is valued for who she is rather than how she suffers. Because people are more than their suffering! There are stories worthy of being told that don’t involve being beaten and molested. And those stories are more than escapism and fluff. Stories where, for once, a woman is allowed to have power and embrace her pleasure without ending up dead. Where their needs get to come first. Romance is a place where women have value simply for being.

So what makes these trash and fluff? There are “clean” romances, so it’s not the sex. Sex doesn’t make a romance novel. The core of every romance is the H.E.A., the "Happily Ever After" (a "happily for now" is accepted on a case-by-case basis) and that’s what people have a problem with. It’s fluff because everything is okay. Because people get to be happy at the end. Because women get to be happy.

It’s nonsense.

What could be better during a pandemic than stories that you know end happily?

Here's some Highly Recommended Romance for your quarantine reading list (so many really amazing ones come to us direct from publishers and aren’t available right now, which is deeply frustrating and means you will have to come and check out our newly expanded romance section when we reopen):

Brazen and the Beast

Brazen and the Beast

Hattie knows what she wants and how she plans to get it. She did not anticipate finding an unconscious man in her carriage, but Hattie is adaptable. I love that she never doubts her ability to run a business; she knows what she is capable of, and watching her get everything she deserves is such a delight.
Rebel (Women Who Dare)

Rebel (Women Who Dare)

Valinda is a school teacher from the north working in the newly emancipated south. This story is about Valinda and Drake, but Beverly Jenkins makes sure we understand exactly what is going on in their world because it’s important to who they are. It’s not two people falling in love despite their circumstances, it’s two people falling in love and doing it beautifully.
The Bride Test

The Bride Test

Esme comes to America to meet a man because it might help her family. Khai’s autism has left him feeling “defective.” So much of the joy of this book is watching these two people, who struggle to communicate, connect. Neither of them is on solid ground so they aren’t trying to force the other to change.
The Hating Game

The Hating Game

Lucy and Josh are the most delightful of rivals-to-lovers. They’re both assistants to the dueling heads of publishing houses that had to merge, and they sure do hate each other. Yes, hate... right. Lucy is unfailingly her quirky self and Josh is secretly delighted and exasperated with her. Funny and awkward in all the right places.
The Rakess

The Rakess

"The Rakess" isn’t actually out until Tuesday but how could I not? Did you see that dramatic cover? This is an amazing traditional role reversal. Seraphina is going to sleep with who she wants and drink as much as she wants. Adam is a widower with a family to take care of. How could these two not be attracted to each other living in a seaside town in Cornwall? It would be impossible. This is a great, fun play on the Rake character but it doesn’t make light of Seraphina’s past, the difficulty of being a woman, or the rights she’s fighting for.
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