Thursday, November 1, 2018

Just For Fun: Romance Is For Everyone

I'm talking about romance novels, to be specific. I've been hinting at this on Twitter, but I'm ready to come out completely. My name is Jessica Olin, and I like reading romance novels. I read them as a kid, but put them aside because that's what I thought I was supposed to do. This summer I realized how foolish that was, so I'm reading romance novels again.

Further, I refuse to be ashamed. Sure, there are some poorly written books in this genre. Sure, there are some problematic tropes. That's true of every genre - even literary fiction. But there is also so much to love about romance:
  • Guaranteed happy endings. This is so much a part of the genre that there's even a well-known abbreviation for this. HEA, or Happily Ever After. Lord knows with the current state of the government (and not just the one in my country - I see you, Brazil and UK), I need some happy in my life.
  • Emotional intelligence. The characters in these novels - whether they're contemporary or period, hetero or queer, normal or paranormal - all display emotional intelligence. Sometimes it takes them a while to get to that point of realizing they're in love with this other person (which is one of the tropes I kind of love). Sometimes it takes them a while to realize why they're experiencing other emotions as well. But they always get there.
  • Love. I think The Beatles were wrong. I think we need more than love. I also think love is part of good friendships. But I love that romance novels are love stories. I don't need more bored-middle-aged-male-sex-romps-with-underage-girls-self-insert novels. Not that I'm a prude. I feel cheated if there aren't a couple of steamy sex scenes, but I want to see more love in the world.

My main requirement, beyond the above, is that there be something other about the novel. Contemporary is fine, if it's paranormal or sci-fi-ish. "Normal" settings are great, but they have to be historical. One of my favorite romance novels I've read since I started reading them again was paranormal, historical, and queer (oh my!). I've read and enjoyed novels with cisgay men, cisgay women, and cisstraight people. I've not yet read any with transgender characters or nonbinary characters, but I have a few on my to read list. I've also not yet read much with non-caucasian characters, but have some of those on my to read list as well.

Here are a few I've read and loved:

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

A young  woman who thinks she's firmly "on the shelf" gets pissed off and decides to start breaking the rules. The first rule she decided to break is kiss a notorious rake. Hilarity, both sexy and non-sexy, ensues. The characters were fun and their reactions felt genuine. The manwhore/womanvirgin trope was fully in play here, which is not one I appreciate, but other than that it was a great read.

More info on this book at GoodReads.

The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

A woman escaping a bad marriage pretends to be a governess and gets hired by a Scottish laird to get his children in line. He's battle hardened and also had a bad first marriage. She's scarred from severe mistreatment by her husband, who put her into an asylum. Trigger Warnings for spousal abuse and attempted rape (not a fan of rape/attempted rape as a plot point - that's another trope I dislike). But I loved that she wasn't a virgin and that was okay. Another great read - so great I've gone on to read the rest of this series.

More info on this book at GoodReads. 

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

A philologist who got his PhD at Miskatonic University (!!) learns that a man for whom he had a long-held but secret affection is killed. Enter an ex-Pinkerton detective who is investigating that death. Sparks fly between the two as they try to defeat a plot to bring an unspeakable horror into our world. The tension and fear of recrimination and prosecution that were attendant upon any same sex relationships in this era are handled well. Loved everything about this book and immediately bought my own copy after finishing it.

More info on this book at GoodReads.

I've read more in the last 5 months or so, and if you're interested you can check out my short, almost always spoiler-free reviews over on my GoodReads profile. I know this genre is labeled as "for women", but I've never understood that. Some of the novels have so much sex they verge on pornographic. Besides, doesn't everyone secretly love a happy ending? At least on occasion?

How about you? Do you have any favorites? I'm figuring you like romance novels or are at least interested in them if you made it to the end of this post. Please leave recommendations in the comments or @ me on Twitter. I'm always looking for new authors.

1 comment:

  1. Authors to check out: Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken, Rebekah Weatherspoon, K.J. Charles, Cat Sebastian, Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, Talia Hibbert, Nalini Singh, Beverly Jenkins, Vanessa Riley, Holley Trent, Kresley Cole, Thea Harrison, Amanda Quick, Ilona Andrews (but we may have had a squee session over the Hidden Legacy series already?), Larissa Ione, Olivia Waite, Kit Rocha, and Vivian Arend. This is more romance-adjacent, but I’d also suggest the Immortal Empire series by Kate Locke.