I wrote this article over a year ago for the ARRA newsletter. Some of the references were dated—I’ve updated them as much as I can—but I think the general sentiment holds true.
This will sound melodramatic, but it’s a great time to be a romance reader. Not only did our not-so-little corner of the literary market thrive during the recession, we’re at the forefront of some of the most exciting innovations in publishing today.
This is because we buy and read a lot of books. I thought my TBR (to be read) pile of five books was bad, until I met people at the Australian Romance Readers Convention (ARRC) who have rooms filled with unread books. Despite romance’s lack of prestige in literary circles, its readers spend billions of dollars worldwide each year.
Why do we love reading romance stories? For me it’s the thrill of recreating that experience of falling in love, and the certainty that, at the end of it, my faith in human relationships will be restored. Although I read other kinds of books, romances remain my favourite reading pleasure.
At ARRC, I met women who expressed relief at finally finding a place where they can revel in all things romance without the stigma often attached to our genre. But with huge changes happening in publishing today, and the market power that romance readers enjoy, I’m optimistic that we might finally shake off the negative stereotypes.
In Australia, the romance community seems to be thriving. The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) held its first conference in Queensland last year. The Romance Writers of America awarded its 2009 Bookseller of the Year Award to Rosemary’s Romance Book Store in Brisbane. Every year year, new Australian authors see their debut novels in bookshops. And, of course, established authors continue to wow us with their work.
So if you’re a closet romance reader, or you’re constantly having to defend your reading preferences to people who think romance is beneath them, don’t despair. Fellow readers are only a blog or a Yahoo!Group away, and exciting stories are available with a click of the mouse. If you’re lucky enough to live near an independent romance bookshop or a romance-friendly library, you’ll know just how wonderful being part of the romance community can be.
Last year, Harlequin author Geri Krotow handed US President Obama a copy of her book to give to the First Lady. ‘This looks sexy!’ Obama said with a smile. I’d like to think he gave that book a go.
Now over to you guys. Why do you read romance stories and where are your favourite romance communities?
This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in the ARRA Newsletter in August 2009. Photo credit: Love Plant by adspark (via stock.xchng)