Ignite Passion – Read a Romance
Are you one of them?
If you are reading this blog post you probably are.
And what are they?
Readers of romance in its various forms of course: sweet and tender, raunchy and hot, LGBT or science fiction to name but a few.
Admit it or not people are reading them by the thousands with 75 million people admitting to reading at least one a year. Romance books make up 21% of all books sold and is worth $1.08 billion p.a.(source: Bookstats)
That’s a lot of romance books. So who is reading them?
Now stats are easy to quote and there were plenty of statistics around for the taking and interpretation; the Bookstats Report, The Romance Writers of America and plenty of others. The Romance Writers of America has developed a profile of the general romance book reader. She is female, aged 30-54, in a relationship and earning at least $55,000 a year. Of the books sold each year sales figures would suggest 84% are purchased by women and 16% by men.
My question here is: are these men reading them or buying them for the woman they love? Or are these figures including gay romance purchases?
As I don’t know the answer to that I will focus on the heterosexual romance book and the suggested premiss of why women read romance novels?
Some have said it is because they are dissatisfied with their real lives. Are the lives of 75 million so boring or empty or do they feel unappreciated and unfulfilled in their real lives that they need the fantasy of a strong hero falling madly in love with a stunning heroine? Some try to say women read romance because we are unhappy with our lot – that we crave to go back to the good old days – that the freedoms, expectations and responsibility that comes with our assumed equality to men has lost its shine. But with the modern romance novel featuring smart, savvy, intelligent, independent, educated heroines who are not afraid of their sexuality, and not afraid to enjoy their sexual encounters one can easily discard this premiss.
In the past romance novels have been written within the restriction of the time in history in which they were created; Pride and Prejudice, Pamela and many others. Until recently romance novels were often called bodice rippers in which the heroine was captured by the hero and subject to passionate encounters with ‘dubious consent’ on her part. In modern times romance books have been described on a number of occasions as porn for women. But the romance novel is not that and never was, although in modern times many have become steamy in line with modern values.
Maria Bustillos says in her essay: Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion Of Underground Writing
‘Romance novels are feminist documents. They’re written almost exclusively by women, for women, and are concerned with women: their relations in family, love and marriage, their place in society and the world, and their dreams for the future.’
While this is a possibility to make the premiss fit we need to take out the unknown quantity of the 16% of male purchasers and LGBT romance books of which today there is a growing number. There are also a number of male romance writers published now too.
And this slant begs the question: If Maria Bustillos is correct, on what terms are LGBT readers engaging in current LGBT romance books?
Is it important for the romance novel to have a ‘meaningful’ role in our lives, other than pure enjoyment?
We know it is love that makes the world go round and romance novels remind us of this. They tell us that true love and real romance are possible assuring the overwhelmed heart and soul that life holds love for all of us and a HEA. The stories remind us that we are loving sexual beings capable of far more than the demands of work, housework, and childrearing.
A reader can just sink in to a romance book and enjoy sharing the heroine’s success in finding happiness; riding the highs and lows of her struggle to find the HEA ending. Readers can recognize and celebrate the heroine’s personal growth and achievements, how she finds herself, and comes to understand better who she is, what she needs and what she is truly capable of. The romance book is an opportunity to see our world once again, even for a short while, through rose colored glasses that fade out the hardships, the uncertainty, suffering and pain we are presented with everyday not just with those closest to us , but the whole world’s pain as reported in the papers, on TV and various forms of media.
Most women underestimate themselves, their strength, their appearance, their intelligence, and their street smarts. They allow a negative slant to color their view of themselves. In a romance novel the heroine is just who she is. Although she has her doubts to overcome there is no talk of dieting, needing more education, or other self improvement strategies because the hero loves her just the way she is: with her quirks, weaknesses and strengths.
Life is busy, everyday stresses, employment, sports, money, TV and many other things hold sway over a man’s attention. Communication is often through social media, text or Facebook: pickups, breakups, meet ups arrange in a few typed words. Emotional needs and a connection or focus on each other is often overlooked or lost in the real modern romance. In a romance book the hero is wholly focused on the heroine and a woman can enjoy, for a short time, the fantasy of the hero providing the heroine with all the emotional support she needs.
When a woman begins to read a romance book she can let herself slip away and relax, knowing the happy ever after ending is assured and she can go along on the heroine’s journey and leave the everyday stresses and demands on her person behind.
This post has raised more questions than answers so leave a comment and get me thinking.