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On Reading Romance

I have been resting this afternoon, although I'm never very good at accepting the importance of doing so. I've been reading a charming book by Mary Balogh, and I refuse to call it lightweight even though it's a romance. In my youth I disdained the very idea of reading romance novels, because I was an intelligent liberated woman, but now that I've settled more deeply into real feminism, I enjoy them a great deal, for I've come to understand that "women's literature" is just as valuable as any other. The histories of so many romance novel characters are quite tragic, and their struggles to find inner peace and happy relationships make worthy plots which no doubt would be more admired if they were written in artful prose by male authors.

It's also true to say that, when I was younger, I was an independent creature - I had relationships with others, but I was mostly focussed on myself. As I aged, that changed, and I discovered how centering my interest away from myself enriched my life indescribably. My reading preferences changed along with this. I saw that the truly ripe stories and biographies were to be found within an exploration of relationships rather than just the narrated experiences of one person, or the telling of what happened instead of to whom it happened.

I now personally believe that the most important thing in life is relationship - which is to say, relationship with other people, with nature, the environment, animals, ourselves, and Spirit. Romance novels unabashedly explore relationships not only of a hero and heroine but often of their families, their communities. And they're almost always interested in how happiness is reached. I've never been willing to read a novel with an unhappy ending (and yes, quite often I will read the back page first, just to check.) Apparently this makes me of lower intellect. I don't care. I choose joy.

Of course, most of my own stories are romances, although I present them as fantasy tales.

I would love to see more "women's literature" adapted to the screen - more relationship stories, romances. I think they would gain large audiences. No, I don't mean Outlander, the vulgarity and violence of which I find distasteful. I mean tv series and films which charm, uplift, and invite us deeper into our own tenderness and desire for contentment.

This post has become very long! I'll stop now, leaving you with a link which shows that smart and liberated women can like romance novels. 


  1. i'm ridiculously happy to read that i am not the only person who reads the last pages of books before starting them... i like to know how things end before i get emotionally involved with them! but then, i don't like surprises in general...

    this post makes me think again of the BBC production of "precious bane", which aired decades ago and was wonderful. and which, inexplicably, despite a not insignificant number of people wanting it desperately, they have never re-aired nor released on disc...

    it also reminds me of my husband's propensity to yawn ostentatiously whenever there is a romance element or love scene in anything we watch. (he's not alone in this.) i have rather wondered *why* he feels the need to demonstrate disdain for it, and on occasion found it very irritating. isn't life made up of relationships? i mean, honestly, day to day, isn't as much of life being with people and doing things for/with them as it is of anything else?


  2. I also would like to see more for the screen.

  3. When I was young the only fiction books I read for pleasure were romance novels. I still love books with strong romantic elements, but the novels currently being published as "romance" no longer appeal to my taste or romantic sensibility. Since the Fifty Shades of Grey series there has been a shift in "women's literature" (and by "WL", I mean stories marketed specifically for women, not necessarily stories written by women). I would love to see more stories both in print and on film that draw us deeper into tenderness and an appreciation for love, relationship, and beauty. Many wonderful stories come to mind, but none written recently.

    As a reader, I have a lot of thoughts about point-of-view and how male and female authors portray characters of the opposite sex and the kinds of relationships that emerge. Are there any real men in romance novels? Or are the heroes all...um...women? And, is this a problem? It isn't to me, but I am confident and happy in my femininity. I like reading stories written by and for women. And, honestly, I don't enjoy stories in book or film that are strongly masculine, like, for example, Game of Thrones.

    Here is an article that offers an interesting perspective on "Women's Literature": "On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women" https://www.nytimes.com

    This is such an interesting topic, Sarah!


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