I haven’t always been so open about my love of romance novels, even though it makes up 95% of my book choices and has since I read my first one. 10 years ago I never would have imagined having a blog dedicated to reading and reviewing romance novels. I wasn’t necessarily ashamed but I also wasn’t ready to jump into conversations leading with “I read romance!” Too often those on the outside of the genre had biases or misperceptions about what romance novels are truly all about. I came to dread the snarky comments and how it would change people’s perception of me, my intelligence, or my worth. I’ve been told I’m not a “true” reader, that my books are trashy, that I should be reading “real” books. Any romance reader can tell you they’ve heard these exact same things before.
It was comments like the above that had me downplaying my love of romance, coaching book topics in generic terms instead of romance specifically. When someone realized I liked reading and asked what I enjoyed, I would try to rush it into the middle of some other genres — “I like fantasy, science fiction, romanceandmystery, pretty much anything fiction” *smile innocently*. It wasn’t until after college that I really let go of any embarrassment and fully embraced my love of the romance genre. I can’t point to an exact day where I said, “no more embarrassment” but I know when it started and considering I’m very mild mannered and non-confrontational it’s one of the few times that I’ve blown up on someone and it’s one of my proudest moments. So, gather around the fire for a story:
I’m hanging out with some people in college, some friends, some strangers. The topic of books comes up and of course I’m all over that (otherwise I’m very awkward at parties, introverts, woo!) so of course the THE QUESTION comes around, “What do you read?”. I decide to be real and say I read romance and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, but then this guy I don’t know, goes “Well, those don’t count. What real books do you like to read?” I’ve heard this before but usually I brush it off or ignore it, but this time, I go full volcano, “Oh really?! Well I’ve read 20 books this month so far, how many have you read and tell me again how romance doesn’t count?” He is, of course, shell-shocked because clearly no one has ever contradicted his book snob self. Now if this were a movie an epic applause would take the room but alas it’s real life so we all stood there awkwardly and I soon moved onto a different group.
That moment stuck with me and I truly believe it was the start of real acceptance. I came to realize there was nothing wrong with reading romance and I didn’t need to keep it a secret. I consider myself fortunate, I found this inner peace fairly early in life and I know not everyone has or can find that acceptance. If you aren’t there yet, it’s ok, just know that there’s a whole community out there for you. Whether you’re embracing it all out or just anonymously, we’ve all been there. For me, I’m now comfortable proudly stating romance first when asked what I like to read and I’m happy to gently correct comments that show a person don’t know the genre as it exists today. And when gentle doesn’t work I just remind them romance/erotica is the highest selling book genre and they better thank their lucky stars that it’s keeping the publishing industry alive *mic drop*.
It’s been a journey but it’s also helped me appreciate romance in ways I never had before. Romance books are enjoyable, funny, emotional, healing, rejuvenating, and most of all accepting. I know what I’m getting when I open a romance book and there’s a sense of peace in that. No matter what happens, no matter how badly the character’s lives are or how much the author puts them through, I know it will all work out in the end. They’ll find happiness, whatever that means to them, they’ll fall in love, they’ll find comfort and safety with another person, and most importantly, they’ll have a Happily Ever After.