A year or two ago, I was one of those women who looked askance at romance novels. That wasn't real literature. But then, brain fried from studying for finals, I found myself wandering the aisles of my college library and stumbled upon a rack of donated novels. Among them were some Nora Roberts books. They were cute and funny and I didn't have to think too hard. It was what I needed when I needed it; literary fluff.
Since then, I've explored other romance novels by other authors. Some of them are absolutely terrible: perfect examples of why people say they rot your brain. But others have become some of my favorite books, not just because the romance aspect makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Many of them have well thought out plots, interesting characters, and often include insightful commentary on society and people's places within it.
And let's not forget that some of what we consider great literature are romances. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Ivan Turgenev and countless others wrote fantastic, life changing books which are, to a great degree, romances.
The danger of romance novels, i.e., stupidity and narrow-mindedness, is a danger inherent to all genres provided one genre is the only thing someone reads. People who only read war novels or science fiction exclusively are mocked for that self-same narrow-mindedness. The 'danger' attributed to romance novels is because it revolves around gender. Even the best romance novels I've read seem to fall prey to gender stereotypes, or fall into ruts of one partner saving the other from themselves, their past, or a contrived outside situation. Book by book, this can be okay. But when almost every book a person reads follows those patterns and reinforces those ideas in readers without a break or contrasting point of view, then the dreaded brain rot rears its' ugly head.
But a little romance is a good thing. It can be a nice break from other thought provoking reads. Of course, we love those best, but even the most intellectual persons head gets heavy after a while. Romance can be the equivalent to television in its ability to help us decompress from life, only we still get to read and there are no commercials.
So if you're like I was, someone who looks down on romance novels, get over yourself and give them a chance. You might surprise yourself and find some really enjoyable and well written books. And if you're one of those people who never reads anything BUT romance and harlequin, put down the friggin' Gail Dalton and read some Gaiman or Wilde or Dumas. And drop the Nicholas Sparks; he doesn't count either way.
Variety is the Spice of Life,
- Maria D'Isidoro
- was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.