Welcome back, Book Clubbers! In Between the Lines Book Club, we meet here and in person at Arden Dimick Library to discuss literary fiction and nonfiction. While Arden Dimick is closed for renovations, I’m challenging my book clubbers to try some different genres, just for fun.
Last month we talked about mysteries. I had some suggestions, and book clubbers wrote in with suggestions of their own. This month, we’re going to talk about romance. That right, I want you to crack open a Romance Novel. I’m even suggesting one with Fabio on the cover. Why? Because, and I know this will be hard to believe, it’s a very good book.
A book so good I own two copies. You’ll just have to trust me – nothing about the actual book screams “Fabio offers a person flowers.”
No genre is more stigmatized than romance, and yet no genre is as varied (or as lucrative – the industry is massive). For a book to be a “Romance Novel” as opposed to a “Novel with romance in it”, it only has to meet two criteria:
- The reader must care about the romance more than anything else in the story.
- There must be a happy ending which involves the two (or, in more daring romance, especially erotic, more than two) protagonists finding romantic happiness together.
Based on these criteria, Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel, as is Jane Eyre. Those books can be read in many other ways as well, but that’s true of many romance novels – they cross genre lines. In contrast, Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, because it ends sadly, although it is a novel that contains romance. The comedies of Shakespeare are plays, not novels, but in every other respect they fit the bill (Romeo and Juliet is a tragic romance, not a Romance Novel, because the happy ending is the key component of a romance novel).
Romance novels are often criticsized as being formulaic, but they are no more formulaic than literary fiction (characters will reveal truths about society) or mysteries (there will be a crime and the crime will be solved). Other than the happy ending, everything is open to variations. There are contemporary romance novels, science fiction ones, mysteries, historical, and westerns. Some have sex scenes that are barely implied and others are explicit. Some novels are written with beautiful language and impeccable structure, some barely made it through spellcheck. It’s a varied world out there.
At this link is a post I wrote introducing a variety of romance novels (yes, including the Fabio cover one). You might also check out the other site I write for, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You can search the site by grade – when I first started reading romance I went down the list of A grade books until I got s feel for the genre. Try one this month, and let us know what you thought! There are a host of terrible, terrible romance novels out there, but some brilliant ones as well. Enjoy! We’ll be meeting in person at the end of June when the library has been beautiful refurbished.