Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger: The Evolution of an Angry Romance Reader

Posted October 12, 2017 by Suzanne in Random Thoughts, Under the Covers / 9 Comments

This post has evolved a bit from when I first decided to write it. It was going to be one thing and as time went and the more time I had to reflect it became less about unleashing every furious thought spinning through my head. Instead, rather than looking at the event itself, I found myself more interested in people’s reaction to it.

First, some background (and a tiny bit of unleashing a little of my fury), you have already probably seen  the article “A Roundup of the Season’s Romance Novels” published by the New York Times, written by Robert Gottlieb. And then the subsequent response by the NYT to the backlash this created in “Who Gets to Write Romance?” piece. Firstly, both these articles managed to absolutely infuriate me. They were condescending and out of touch. Gottlieb managed to cram in his obvious disdain for us little women and a bit of racism in a relatively small amount of space. All whilst ignoring a majority of what makes romance such a fantastic and diverse genre, which empowers not only women, but those in the LGBTQ community (a faction he managed to completely overlook – once again showing his ignorance) and anyone who wants to read something emotionally fulfilling. And, hell, anyone who just wants to read something fun or sexy.

*takes deep breath and counts to 10*

Anyways, as much as I positively ACHE to describe how each and everything sentence written was a general insult to anyone who has written or read a romance novel, that’s not what this Random Thoughts is about. Although that was my original plan. And, if you want to read some of the brilliant and intelligent rebuttals to the original argument I have provided a list of them at the bottom of this for you to read. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also be nodding along, pumping your first and shouting “hells yeah” as you go.

Now, back to my thought evolution! As time went on I become much more interested in reading the posts from other bloggers and writers in response as well as the comments left on the articles themselves. The more I read, the less interested I became in the original NYT article and the more my anger waned. Instead I found another feeling taking its place.

Pride. Love. Community.

So many people responded with such intelligence and passion, a majority of whom were romance readers themselves, but some who weren’t. These feelings of pride and warmth grew. Society has taught us that reading romance novels is something to be ashamed of, something that should be hidden; something that Gottlieb’s article managed to reinforce with his obvious contempt for the genre. And yet. Yet readers and writers have completely dispelled this myth that romance is for bored housewife or people who aren’t smart enough to read any thing else. I think it showed the romance readers are intelligent, successful women and not only that, that the romance readers and writers are a community.

And the more I read, the more Gottlieb’s sly jeering got pushed to the back of my mind. Instead, I got reminded why I love romance so much. No doubt it has awful books under its banner and as someone who is more critical than most I understand that not every book is going to be wonderful. But, aren’t all genres like that? Maybe romance isn’t as pretentious as more literary works, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to offer to the world. There are romances that give you something fun and sexy to feel good about as well as romances that offer thoughtful reflection and perspectives on difficult subjects and, guess what?

Sometime they can do both at the same time.

I have finished off many romance novels that have made me think deeply about subjects that perhaps I hadn’t given much thought to before. And as the cherry on top some of those books made me laugh and had a great sex scene.

However, I don’t need to justify my love for romance, just as the man I sat opposite on the train didn’t need to justify to me why he was enjoying the latest jumping-out-of-an-exploding-helicopter-into-a-yacht-then-diving-into-sexy-lady’s-undies-to-celebrate thriller aimed at men with James Bond fantasies. Nor does someone else reading classic fiction need to explain why they’ve decided to take up some Dostoevsky. The only difference between us is that I feel I have to hide the cover of my book lest I be disdained for reading “mummy porn”. And articles like Gottlieb’s just continue this type of thinking. But I wonder…romance is a billion dollar industry and if romance stopped being written, and romance readers stopped reading…what would happen then?

To conclude, when I originally started planning this post, I very much did it with anger raging through my veins. I doubt if anything I would have written would have been cohesive or make sense to anyone but me. I can be passionate but not terribly cogent when riled. But, as my mind settled I saw all the support and abhorrence from others, all saying exactly what I was thinking albeit much more coherently, it suddenly made me so fiercely proud to be part of the romance community. I love all books, but I particularly love romance books and in its own twisted way this whole palaver reminded why.

Responses I loved:

Smart Bitches Trashy Books 

Book Riot

Ron Hogan

Melville House

Let me know…why do you love romance?
What was your reaction to this?


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Blogger/Reviewer at Under the Covers Book Blog
Gosh, we all seem to be admitting our ages…and I hate that I am at the point in life when admitting my age is a “thing”…whodda thunk it? I was kind of hoping I would remain 21 forever. However, I have moved out of that New Adult stage of my life and am now strictly in the Contemporary Romance age zone of 28. I would prefer to be in an Urban Fantasy arena, but I don’t think I own enough black leather. However, I could probably squeeze into some PNR, I am fully prepared to give a horn job to my favourite demon, or suck on my sexy vamps…fangs and I am definitely up for some heavy petting with some fine looking shifters. Than again their’s always Sci Fi…I am fully prepared to do the right thing and help some poor alien race with more 6 packs than a supermarket repopulate their planet. Not that I am loose woman or anything.

Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?
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9 responses to “Random Thoughts of a Romance Blogger: The Evolution of an Angry Romance Reader

  1. Elizabeth

    Fortunately, I did not read this article. I don’t understand why people feel the need to insult others based on their reading preferences. So, thank you for your post.

  2. It’s amazing how infuriating RG is. I’ve heard him speak a couple of times and my jaw just drops every time. They were both at romance conventions, and his disdain for us, both readers and writers, shone through like a nuclear powered spotlight. It makes me question why he even represents any romance writers. And then it hit me: the money , of course. No other genre can touch us, which makes us a really good investment. He reminds me of those slick snake-oil salesmen from the past. (Not that we don’t have them today!) I think he looks at every one of us like suckers he just wants to make a buck off of.

    This was fantastic, though, Suzanne. I loved how your feelings evolved. Great post!

  3. Kathleen Bylsma

    It’s always the defensive ones who write such twaddle! How much do you want to bet he reads romances?

  4. Gotlieb is a throwback to men in 18th and 19th centuries who disapproved of women reading because it “gave them ideas”. All of this disdain for romance originates with ingrained misogyny and fear of women.

  5. Amy R

    I didn’t read the article because of the angry/upset comments I saw posted. I love the romance genre plan to keep reading no matter what.

  6. Great post Suzanne.
    You know, it might serve Mr Gottlieb well, and men like him, to read a romance novel once in a while. Maybe then, he could learn a thing or two about women, and men for that matter.
    It’s always fascinates me how men like him can’t relate to my genre in a favourable way. For eons men have used pictures to create their fantasies, while women are perfectly happy with pages and pages of text. Do I need to highlight the obvious difference… I don’t think so!
    You’re right, romance is a community, a strong one. On our own, in our quiet little book haven, wherever that may be, we invest our time absorbing the story while our imaginations build the set, pick the wardrobe, and fashion the characters into lifelike beings we come to love. And when we’re finished, we introduce those characters to others in the hope they will enjoy them too.
    It’s a caring, sharing community and I’m glad to be a part of it. 🙂

  7. I had a similar evolution of thoughts. I saw responses before I saw the actual piece in the NYT, and all the responses were well-reasoned and very informative for me as someone newer to the genre and not as deeply read as I’d like to be. I started seeing people saying ‘who needs the NYT anyway?’ and I think they might be right: Romancelandia is plenty robust by itself because it has had to be.
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  8. Great article Suzanne,you friggin rock!!! I don’t know how many times I’ve been reading a romance novel and somebody’s looked at the title or cover and started whispering or given me that you dirty girl look. In fact I was at a doctors office and a lady looked at the cover and said to me,dear you really shouldn’t read a book with a nasty title its not lady like. Pissed me off so I had to be a 18 year old smart ass and replied you should try it you might learn something!!! My whole family has made fun of me for years,in fact my one nephew calls my vampire novels (vampire porn)!!! I don’t give a shit what other people think or say about romance writes or reads were all friggin awesome and I’d give anything to be in a room with these women and men who write books that have made me laugh,cry,get pissed ,think and pull me into their worlds!!!

  9. Nicki S

    I commend you for being able to restrain yourself, waiting to cool down before posting/responding to an idiot who pi$$ed you off. I’ve finally learned to do that too, but I usually end up not responding at all. I haven’t yet read the NYT article, but I have little interest in some (likely old,white, rich republican) male’s opinion about anything regarding romance books. Sounds like he doth protest too much, though. Most homophobes are secretly questioning themselves and lash out against gays in self-hatred and to cover up their own “weaknesses”. So this guy’s lashing out is treated by me the same as any other political or religious zealot; muted and ignored. Glad you didn’t succumb to the fury that probably would’ve infuriated me to no end. I’ll stick with positive news about my favorite genre, and get the negative news in brief glimpses like I found here. Thank you for keeping me informed yet sparing me the gory details.

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