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.
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):