[Note from Frolic: Today we have a guest blog from author Eva Moore. Take it away Eva!]
It is February, the time of year when the spotlight shifts to romance, and consequently romance novels. Many articles will be written by people who have never read a romance and who will describe the genre as a guilty pleasure at best and trashy mommy porn at worst. These pieces miss the point entirely.
I read romance for over twenty years before becoming an author. Let me give you the insider perspective. There’s a lot more to it than hot cover guys or steamy sex scenes. Romance novels have fundamentally shaped my life in unexpected ways, and I will be forever grateful.
To twelve-year-old me, romance was educational. I fell into Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey at the library. I was hooked. Jude, Julie, Johanna, I read them all. I learned about sex, male archetypes, and dangerous tropes safely. By the time I graduated to actual boyfriends, my book boyfriends had given me a good idea of what I liked and what I didn’t.
I was able to make informed choices from an early age. Imagine if every girl learned that her desires were powerful and normal, that sex should bring pleasure for both partners, and that knowing when and how to stand up for yourself makes you the heroine of your own story, before she ever started dating. Most boys didn’t last long. I’m starting a reading list for my girls.
When I met my now husband during my freshman year of college, I quickly recognized that he was hero material. I was deep into Ransom by Julie Garwood, avoiding my midterms, when he sat down and asked me what I was reading. He listened to my answer and asked good questions. The witty banter didn’t hurt either. Asking him out is still the best decision I ever made.
To twenty-year-old me, romance was a balance against the educational. I survived at an elite college because some kind soul left all of her Harlequin Blazes in the dorm lounge. Each quick read helped me reset between intense periods of study. Later, after an attack at the school where I taught left me with PTSD, Nora Roberts’ Jewels of the Sun brought love and hope back into my heart, even as my head was insisting that feeling nothing at all was the only safe choice.
In my early thirties, romance held me together. Through three postpartum depressions, a wildly fluctuating body image, and the stress of moving to the other side of the world and back, romance was a constant. Thanks to e-books, I always had something to read on my phone. I binged Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series in Singapore. Seeing women on the page handling everything life threw at them with grit and determination was empowering.
As I reach towards my forties, I’m expanding my reading choices. I’m choosing authors with voices different than my own to enrich my understanding of humans in the world and broaden my empathy. Beverly Jenkins, Alyssa Cole, Mia Hopkins, Alexis Hall, Jasmine Silvera, Alexis Daria, and Sierra Simone have all introduced me to new loves, new worlds, and new histories.
But my love of romance goes far beyond the actual books. The people in this genre have brought so much joy into my life.
While living abroad and searching for connection, I found Sarah MacLean’s Old School Romance Book Club (OSRBC) on Facebook. I had never met other readers who loved romance. Through sharing novel love, these people became true friends. We meet up digitally for Fantasy Balls and in real life for high tea and book clubs. We run several initiatives to raise money for charitable causes. We turn to each other in times of crisis. It’s my favorite place on the Internet.
During the really rough times, I was too tired to read. I played with my own stories to keep my mind active while I folded laundry and nursed the baby. Eventually, I started writing them down and made a career for myself that I love. Cherry Adair gave me the push I needed, and I’m delighted that I will be at the RWA Conference to see her accept the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. My daughters are already reaping the benefits of romance, because they see their mother working hard, chasing her dreams, and finding fulfillment inside and outside our home.
And still, these are only my stories. Ask any romance reader, “Why romance?” and you will get a different answer. People are reading for entertainment, escape, and the emotional release that only a happily ever after provides. They are learning about history, art, empathy, and building their English vocabularies with these books. And they are seeing themselves and others positively represented on the page. Where else can we be guaranteed that the female protagonist won’t die at the end of Act 2?
These books give us a place to watch horrible situations turn into HEAs. We connect with themes of redemption and growth. We disappear into stories of passion and hope. We laugh. We cry. We love. Some days, it’s the only thing we have to fight back against the darkness.
So the next time we react to some backhanded compliment or snide remark, consider that to us this is a personal attack. Calling the entire genre trashy or smutty not only implies that writers and readers are by association; it misses the point of the genre completely.
So why now? Why does Romancelandia flood Twitter and Facebook with responses when a comedian or a critic takes a cheap shot? Maybe because now we know we’re not alone. Maybe because now we have a platform for our voices to be heard. Maybe we’re just done feeling guilty for finding joy and pleasure in a life that too often serves up pain.
This February, let’s look at the ways romance supports our communities, strengthens friendships, and provides safe spaces for love, instead of churning out those old tropes of shame and judgment.
About Eva Moore:
Winner of Cherry Adair’s Finish The Damn Book Contest, Eva Moore writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance. Her Girls’ Night Out series, an ode to female friendships and HEAs, is available in KU. Her new Exposed Dreams series follows a family of home renovators as they stumble through a reality TV show and into love. She has also contributed to the Worst Holiday Ever and Worst Valentine’s Day Ever Anthologies. Eva now lives in Silicon Valley, after moving around the world and back, with her college sweetheart, her three gorgeous girls, and a Shih Tzu who thinks he’s a cat. She can be found most nights hiding in her closet/office, scribbling away or procrastichatting on social media. You can find her at www.4evamoore.com.
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