An excellent recent article has talked about romance novels as a literature of protest.
It’s always heartening to hear someone voice an opinion you yourself hold.
Why are they so derided? They’re formulaic, sure. They’re genre fiction. So are crime novels and thriller novels, horror stories and a wealth of other fictions. But these are books in which, almost always, the subjectivity is female. Therefore they are frivolous and silly.
I mean, sure, there’s sex and love, talking about feelings, tropes that you expect, but when a man writes about love and sex then it’s literary fiction (even if it’s awful), but the sauce is not the same for the gander.
People love to make distinctions. This is high-status, this is low. That’s why we talk about ‘guilty pleasures’. Romance novels are my ‘guilty pleasure’ – to write and to read. Except I don’t feel guilty, and I won’t, and neither should anyone else who enjoys this.
This genre belongs to women. It’s written for women, with our desires in mind. Of course, this leads to a lot of drum-beating about how they usually depict swooning, submissive women with dominant men (mine don’t, but that’s by the by). But I put this to you: when Max Mosley paid to be spanked at his birthday party, who was in charge? If a man pays to be dominated, he’s in charge. If a woman pays for a book which represents a certain type of sexuality or sexual behaviour, she is in charge. Because a sexual fantasy is not the same as a desire to live something out in real life. She who buys the book has the power.
Romance fiction is ours. We’ve taken back the night. Let’s take back the books.