Romance is Not a Four Letter Word
by Barbara Vey, at the Publishers Weekly site
She's got some excellent points. Romance is my preferred reading genre. And yes, I hear many people disparage it as unimportant, "light", non-significant. Oh, and "aimed only at women" - uh, that means over half the population, over 70% of the regular readers in the US. There's something wrong with literature aimed at women?
When someone tells me they don't read or don't like romances, I always ask them what romances they have read that caused them to dislike the genre. I think you can guess the most common response -- the person has never read a romance. Nope, they are just taking a snobbish attitude that they learned from others -- or unfortunately, from the media.
A related issue is "romance" as a genre. Ever had a non-romance reader concede they're willing to try it, and ask you for a recommendation? Well, that's impossible. There is no such thing as just a "romance" that epitomizes the genre or is the best. "Romance" is as generic a term as "literary fiction". If you really hope to suggest a book the potential reader might enjoy and that would give them a positive opinion on romance novels, you've got to ask what types of books they already like. Historical, contemporary, futuristic/scifi, paranormal? Light and amusing or dark and angsty? Do they want a book with deep emotions that will make them cry, or do they prefer something humorous and entertaining that will lift their spirits? Find out what best fits them, and recommend a romance novel of that type.
So those of us who love romance novels, be we readers or writers, need to proselytize in order to counteract the negative opinions of many people. If you see someone reading a book in public, chat them up -- well, if you can do so without coming across as a stalker, and if they don't indicate they really don't want to be interrupted in their reading. And talk to people browsing the bookstore! Ask them for a recommendation -- that leads to the opportunity for you to offer them one. Always have a good book (preferably a romance, of course) with you, that you can whip out and talk about. That's what purses, briefcases, and pockets are for -- carrying books.
I can't imagine not having a book with me at all times, just like I can't imagine not enjoying some type of romance novels.