So, I admit I can be a bit of a book snob. Romances, although they are purchased more than any other sort of book, rank low in the book genre hierarchy. They are looked down upon as trashy diversions that do nothing to elevate the mind- the literary equivalent of cotton candy. And I'll say that I've agreed with that opinion in the past, and still sometimes think so.
But several years ago I went to a romance writer's convention. I went expecting to sneer at the authors who write such dreck. I was surprised, however, to find that these authors are smart, dynamic, powerful women who see themselves as providing a great service to thousands of women. I came away agreeing with them.
So much "literary work" these days is so damn depressing. It seems like if you're taking a creative writing workshop or working on your MFA, you get trained to be dreary and hopeless in your work. That's deep writing. But I find that life can also be dreary and hopeless. I read to escape, entertain myself, and feel relaxed. How relaxing can it be to read about a mother who kills her child (Beloved), a girl who keeps two lovers apart forever (Atonement), or a daughter and mother at odd s over the treatment of another daughter, ill with leukemia (My Sister's Keeper)?
So, while I do read more literary works and bestsellers (my special weakness is historical fiction), I also read lighter stuff. It seems like the more stressed I get, the lighter I like my fiction. I think this is perfectly natural: why wouldn't I like to get away to a happier place for a while and emerge less stressed and more positive about life?
If you love romances, and yet feel embarrassed about reading a book with a busty, lusty cover in public, you're not alone. And keep it up: I bet you'll uncover a lot of other closet romance readers.
Here are some of my favorite authors, if you're looking for more romance in your literary life:
Kathleen Woodiwiss: She's passed away now, but she was once the queen of historical romance. Her Wolf and the Dove captivated me when I was 14 and my mother didn't know what I was reading. Aislinn and Wulfgar, Saxon and Norman, totally politically incorrect, and I loved it.
Jennifer Crusie: This woman actually wrote her master's thesis on the romance novel. She's got it down. If you want funny, screwball romances, she's my favorite.
Susan Wiggs: Her books feature more mature women, who often have families. I think she writes characters well, and her prose is less purple than others,more realistic.
Lora Leigh: She's new; she's hot. 'Nuff said.
So give some of these ladies a try- you might like them.