I have written before on my blog about the poor reputation of romance as a fiction genre. It’s simply not as respected as many other genres, and neverhas been. But there are signs of a change in the wind.
According to an article in the Smithsonian magazine:
‘[A] new breed of literary scholars… are throwing open the velvet curtains behind which romance fiction has long been cloaked (or these days, behind the leather pages of Kindle cases), turning their highbrow spotlight on one of the most popular and underrated lowbrow pastimes (a genre so beloved that it is often pegged for floating the publishing industry—more than half of the mass market paperbacks sold in the US are popular romance novels).’
There is now an International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, together with an academic journal, The Journal of Popular Romance Studies,which has published on subjects as diverse Nora Roberts, and disability and romance in vampire fiction. There is talk of a graduate prorgamme. Recently, there was a conference at the Library of Congress entitled ‘What is Love?’. And a new documentary project, Love Between the Covers, is taking ‘its viewers into the multi-billion dollar romance fiction business and the remarkable worldwide community of women who create, consume, and love romance novels’. The filmmaker Laurie Kahn told Emma Pearse for the Smithsonian:
‘The stereotype has been overweight women eating bonbons in bed, reading alone. The truth is that people from every conceivable socioeconomic background are reading this fiction. And the authors are surgeons, lawyers, professors.’
Meanwhile, dedicated bodies the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK and the Romance Writers of America continue to do great work to promote romance fiction and support writers and readers, and conventions are increasingly opening up for the romance genre as well, such as RomCon and the RTBooklovers’ Convention.
The verdict? Change is afoot, and it’s a very good time to be a romance aficionado. No longer will we be ‘hopeless’ romantics…