Saturday, August 24, 2013

Romance Matters to Me

August is Read-a-Romance Month. Now I know as dedicated romance readers, we typically read more than one romance a month. In fact, many of us read more than one romance a week. But Read-a-Romance Month is not about numbers. It’s about celebrating a genre that is read by nearly 75 million people—and that statistic is from 2008. The audience for romance fiction may have grown in the past five years. Romance fiction topped $1.4 billion in sales last year, far more than the other most popular categories of genre fiction: mystery ($728.2) and science fiction/fantasy ($590.2). And although the literary elitists don’t want to admit it, sales of romance fiction help to fund the publication of literary fiction. I haven’t seen any statistics on this, but based on my reading habits and those of other romance readers I know, my guess is that a nice chunk of the sales in literary fiction and other genre fiction comes from the wallets of romance readers who, being generally more broadminded than their critics, also read mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and even literary fiction.

Bobbi Dumas, a freelance writer, Kirkus reviewer, and avid fan of romance fiction, founded where this month 93 writers are sharing their thoughts on why romance matters. I’ve checked out their comments every day so far. Some of them have made me laugh, some of them have made me cry, some of them have made me cheer wildly, some of them have left me amazed at their insight, and all of them have made me proud to be part of a community that includes so many gifted, intelligent, gracious women. There are writers on the list whose books I’ve been reading for nearly three decades, writers that I’ve discovered only recently, and writers whose books I’ve yet to read, but I’m grateful to them all and to Bobbi for giving me the opportunity to read what they have to say.

If you haven’t visited, eight days remain for you to stop by, leave a comment, and enter the great contests.  Cathy Maxwell, Jill Barnett, and Molly O’Keefe, three writers who have given me many hours of reading pleasure, are on the schedule for today, and you can click on the names of those who commented on any one of the 23 previous days and read their comments. I can guarantee you will find some of your favorite writers there.

I’ve been a romance reader for more than half a century, and I can look back and see that it has mattered during all the seasons of my life. It mattered when I was a ten-year-old, bored and complaining, and my mother put Pride and Prejudice in one hand and an Emilie Loring novel in the other and said “Read these.”  It mattered when I was fifteen, insecure, suffering from unrequited love, and convinced that only beautiful girls found True Love, and Jane Eyre reminded me that plain girls did too. It mattered when I was twenty-two and my life was shattered and “happy ending” seemed a cruel mockery, and Mary Stewart took me to Corfu and helped me believe again. It mattered when I was in grad school and Old English had me ready to pull my hair out and counting performances of a Colley Cibber play left me loathing the 18th century until Patricia Veryan’s Golden Chronicles showed me an 18th century filled with danger, intrigue, and passion. It mattered both times I spent endless hours in a hospice facility watching a beloved parent die by degrees and novels by writers such as Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Christina Dodd, Nora Roberts, Kathleen Gilles Seidel helped me escape to worlds where HEAs were assured and return to my own stronger. It matters today when the novels I read by several dozen autobuy authors make me laugh and cry and fall in love every day.

When I was still in academia and a covert reader of romance, a colleague caught me reading a romance novel on my lunch break and sneered, “You know those books will rot your brain.” He was wrong, of course. A couple of thousand romance novels later, my brain is doing fine, in no small part due to the things I learn and the hope that is replenished from reading “those books.”

Being part of Read-A-Romance Month is one way we as readers can say, “Yes, romance matters to me.”  Why does romance matter to you?

Note: All statistics cited are from the Romance Writers of America site.

1 comment:

bobbiwrites said...

Thank you for posting about Read-A-Romance Month! xoxo

Bobbi Dumas