I remember the first time I told a friend that I was going to try my hand at writing a romance.
She wrinkled her nose, and asked,“Ugh, why Romance?”
I answered with what I think is a much better question:
“Why not Romance?”
See, my love-affair with the genre started young. I spent much of my youth frustrated that there wasn’t a little more about Ned Nickerson in the Nancy Drew series. And I only read the Baby Sitter’s Club series for references to Logan and Mary Anne.
Then I discovered the Sweet Valley Twins series. By far, my favorite was #43: Elizabeth’s First Kiss. My aunt caught me reading it and teased me about reading “kissy books.” I was mortified. Because I didn’t put the book down. See, I had braces, acne, and was yet to discover how to deal with frizz. This book made me forget all about that.
From there, I moved on rather quickly to Sweet Valley High, in which the kissing got more frequent and a hell of a lot more interesting. Per my mother’s insistence, I’d balance out “those” library books with the Newbery Medal books I was “supposed” to read, but it was too late. I knew what I wanted. Cute boys, sexual tension and a whole lot of happily ever after.
Little did I know, I was still in the training-wheels portion of my romance-reading career. When I was sixteen, I was snooping through my mother’s Costco haul, and discovered The Reef by Nora Roberts. Not yet knowing that Nora Roberts was in fact, a romance queen, I gave it a try out of sheer teenage boredom.
There.Were.Sex.Scenes. Whaaaaaaat?! I blushed. I hid it under my pillow (sorry I stole your book, Mom).
And then I reread it. Twice.
The point of no return came shortly after discovering Nora Roberts when I found Judith McNaught’s Perfect on a vacation-rental bookshelf.
It was time to face one avoidable fact: I was hooked on romance, and there was no going back.
But here’s the part that I regret…
Despite the fact that these books were by far the best part of my teens (Still had the acne. And the braces. And the frizz), I can’t claim that I was a proud defender of the genre. Instead, I treated my romance addiction like a dirty little secret. Because I was supposed to be reading and loving the books of my American Literature class. The death and judgement and heartache of Hemingway and Hawthorne, McCarthey and Fitzgerald were the “good” books. The ones I should prominently display on my nightstand and read on an airplane.
And don’t get me wrong, I love me some classics, but to this day, it irks me that the dukes and tycoons and sassy heroines of the romance world are often considered second-class citizens by people who don’t read romance. Heck, even sometimes by people that do read romance.
I wish I could say I came to my senses quickly, but the truth is, I spent way too many years hiding my romance addiction. As a teen, I’d hide them beneath the clothes in my closet, away from my parents. In college, they were stuffed in the bottom desk drawer, away from my roommate. And as an adult, they went on the bedroom bookshelf, instead of the living room book shelf, so dinner guests would think I only read biographies and “high-brow” literature.
But then came the turning point: after a decade of obsessive romance reading, I was going to take it to the next level. I was going to write one.
It was time to come out of the closet.
I let my friends see me reading them. I recommended a few to my mom and sister. I terrified my boyfriend by trying to explain the allure of the alpha hero. The people that mattered? They didn’t care. Some of them even became romance converts.
But I also remember the first time I took a historical romance on the airplane and caught the woman next to me rolling her eyes and huffing at the bosomy cover. I remember the first time I corrected a colleague who called them trashy.
I also remember the first time I told someone I was a romance writer and got a full on eye roll and a snicker. I asked him if he’d ever read a romance novel.
It’s to all these people, that I ask my original question:
Why not romance?
I have yet to hear a good answer.
We, the readers and writers of romance shouldn’t be the ones on the defensive.
But to all of you who attack a genre you haven’t even tried? You have some ‘splainin’ to do. *smile*
Until then, I’ll be over here reading a book that makes me smile. With pride.
Question for readers: What are some of the most ridiculous comments you’ve received from people that found out you were a romance reader?
About Lauren Layne:
Lauren writes contemporary romance for Forever Yours and Loveswept. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in New York City where she writes full time. She’s a sucker for white wine, happy endings and salty foods. Lauren is married to her high school sweetheart who likes to think he’s the inspiration for each and every one of her books’ heroes. She smartly allows him to believe this. When not writing, you’ll likely find putting off walking the dog, at happy hour with her husband, or having cheese and crackers for dinner. Again.