Who reads these things, anyway?

Last week, Maili made a most interesting post about assumptions other people make about readers who are attracted to romance novels and romantic stories, and why cynics, in particular, are ill-suited to reading romance novels.

I’m still not sure how romance novels came to have all this baggage attached to them, but all I can say is that some of my least cynical friends—the ones most likely to spout “love conquers all” rubbish—wouldn’t touch romance novels with a 20-foot stick. And you don’t hear people making the same assumptions about cynics and, say, fantasy novels and comics, which are often loaded down with even more romantic (and I use this in the larger sense of the word) claptrap than romance novels are. Being a cynic doesn’t mean being unable to suspend some disbelief for fiction, and furthermore, as Rosario pointed out in the comments, not all romance are cloying and schmaltzy in the way people seem to think they are. Maili’s friend, I’m afraid to say, seems to have indulged in some lazy thinking.

Most of my friends are shocked I read and love romance novels, too. Many of them are disappointed—even mildly disgusted—that I do. It’s not because they think I’m too cynical to be a romance reader, however. They’re usually surprised because I don’t fit the kitten-sweatered, chipper, love-sunshine-and-puppies stereotype they hold in their head of what the average romance novel reader looks like and behaves. I’m young(ish). I don’t own a single item of clothing adorned with puffy paint, paste-on jewels or appliquéd baby animals (though my outfit for Santacon last year was sewn all over with tiny beheaded stuffed animals). And although I’m an idealist, I’m one with an unrepentantly evil sense of humor, and I am, at core, a pessimist and a skeptic.

But it’s not just that I don’t look or behave like the stereotype that throws my friends into a tailspin. The refrain I hear most often from my friends is that I shouldn’t be reading romance novels because I am, of all things, too smart to do so. My friend H is most guilty of doing this. “You have so many other good books to read,” she says, a look of bewilderment on her face. “And you’re one of the smartest people I know. I really don’t know why you like those books.”

Which is sort of flattering to my ego, but kind of not-so-much. I get the sense that these friends feel about that aspect of my life the same way I would if I found out a biologist friend of mine was a young earth creationist. “But…but…it makes no sense. There’s absolutely no scientific support, and you should know better.” With my friends, the fact that I read and love romance novels is not just an aesthetic judgment (“You should have better taste, dammit!”), it’s a judgment of my intellect (“You should be smarter than that, dammit!”).

I’m not sure when enjoying romance novels became equated with being stupid, but I know it’s a stereotype that’s been kicking around for a long time—I certainly subscribed to it until I started reading romances myself. Why? Is it the fact that they’re not viewed as being realistic, and that one would have to be stupid to buy into all that nonsense? (I’ve already bellowed and yelled about this issue in a previous rant, so I won’t re-hash it here.) Is it because a genre this popular could not possibly have any intellectual merit? Or is it something else entirely?

So thus far, we’ve determined that according to the non-romance reading public, cynics, smart people and people with taste shouldn’t be reading romance (and, hey, the Greater Washington Initiative agrees—at least, with the last two points). By that standard, I don’t think I should be a romance reader, because I’m somewhat cynical, somewhat smarter than average (if those tests are to be believed, anyway) and I have fabulous fucking taste (anyone who says otherwise will be soundly ignored for being wrong, wrong, wrong).

These assumptions are a big part of the rason why Sarah and I started the site and why we named it what we did, actually—to attract like-minded romance novel readers, so we’d not only have a haven where we can all gather around and talk about love stories, shriek with horror over man-titty and be unabashedly girly every once in a while, but also so we can send a huge collective middle finger to the public and their assumptions about who does and doesn’t read romance.

So: What kind of a romance reader are you? Let’s turn this into an informal and utterly unscientific survey. Tell us as much as you’re comfortable with, but some interesting bits of information would include gender, age, race, national origin, religion, occupation, education level, sexual orientation (yeah, this is a pretty private question, and like I said, totally optional for you to answer, but I want to see whether it’s overwhelmingly straight chicks who read romance, or whether bisexuals and lesbians have love for the torrid love stories, too) and why you read romance novels. I’ll go first:

I was born

a poor black child

in 1978 in Malaysia to Chinese parents who were devout Buddhists. I was a fantastically mediocre student until I started reading heavily at about age seven, at which point my grades saw huge improvements, including my math scores (I used to be dismal at math). For the longest time I classified myself as an agnostic, but recently, I realized I’m more of a weak atheist; when it comes down it, “skeptical foul-mouthed pro-choice fag-lovin’ secular humanist” is a pretty handy descriptor that covers my attitude towards most things. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English from a small, Catholic liberal arts university, and I’m in the process of applying to law school, because my current job (technical writer for a heavy manufacturing facility) isn’t jibing with my save-the-world goals. I’m married to The Tallest Man In the World (OK, not really, but he is 6’8”, which is pretty motherfucking tall), and I’m bisexual with a preference for dudes—I dig androgyny, which is why skinny, pretty men who aren’t afraid to wear skirts have a special place in my heart and my loins. I read romance novels for a whole lot of reasons, but mostly because I’m interested in narratives about love and sex, and because human drama and behavior fascinate me endlessly.

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  1. 1
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Oooh, me me me me, pick me!

    I was born in 1970 and I was always freakishly clever, at least as regards language. Taught myself to read by age 4, was reading Jane Eyre, Count of Monte Cristo and Don Quixote by age 8. My math skills are terrible, science is a little better. I was never a little kid; I have something people call an old soul.

    I’m at least part caucasian, don’t know my biological father for sure. I’m an American expatriate, living in Mexico, religion is largely agnostic because I just don’t believe we can know with any certainty what comes next, if anything. I think all religious writings are curious historical artifacts, but as evidence of divinity are pure bullshit. I think war about religion is even bigger bullshit. It’s like two little kis arguing over whose dad can beat whose up when said dads are never going to get their asses out of the hammock.

    My first love was my first-cousin, which is probably why I have a non-squick factor for that. My family is largely from Kentucky and yes, I understand how many jokes people could make from that, but if Daniel had lived, I’d be married to him. He died when I was 19.

    I have a bachelor’s degree in English Lit, minor in Humanities. Graduated with Honors and from Honors college, just three credits shy of my teaching license. I couldn’t afford to not work for my student teaching so I cut line and graduated. I promptly did nothing with that degree and ran through a sequence of jobs that paid the bills, nothing more. I’m married to a rich guy (quite by accident). He stands to run five companies here in Mexico someday. That’s his path, but it’s not mine, and I’ve been wanting to come back to the states almost since the shine wore off. For about three months it was new and exotic. Now it’s just foreign and lonely. I want to move to California and pursue teaching credentials.

    I’m bi, but only in the sense that I’m attracted to the person, not the apparatus. I’ve only been attracted to a woman once in my life, but Alexis was an amazing person. I have a weakness for big, hairy guys who look mean, but are cuddly teddy bears inside. I’ve met the perfect man for me, but I doubt I’ll ever be with him, although the jury’s still out on that. 

    And I read / write romances because I don’t believe in happily-ever-afters in real life, so it’s a candle against the dark.

  2. 2
    Kalen Hughes says:

    I was born to crazy Native Americans living on a commune in Bolder Creek CA in 1970. I’ve always been top of my class and a total grade hound. I have a genius level IQ (which isn’t as high as my little brother’s, much to my annoyance). I have a “terminal” degree (meaning that I’m qualified to teach at the college level and that there is no where else to go; aka a PhD or an MFA). I’m an International Trade Consultant (meaning that I get to say to lawyers, “You neither impress nor intimate me.” a lot). I’m also a Romance Novelist (first book due out next spring). I’m straight, but I have a healthy appreciation for the other side’s POV. Girls are just so pretty. You can put me down as another “skeptical foul-mouthed pro-choice fag-lovin’ secular humanist”. Hello, I wrote my thesis on skepticism and existentialism.

    And as an aside to Maili, I’m DEEPLY cynical, and that’s WHY I read and write romance.

  3. 3
    kardis says:

    I was born in a University town in Central Illinois in 1982 to parents with crazy PhDs in the humanities. I have a B.S. in biology emphasis on molecular genetics and evolution of pathogens (yes Candy, knowing you were reading Parasite Rex made me extremely happy!) I am now at a small school in Chicago working on a massage certification and will eventually get a Master’s in Oriental Medicine. I identify as straight, but I too am “fag-lovin’” and agnostic. I definitely consider myself a cynic when it comes to love, which I think helps me enjoy the romance novel! I’m passionate about politics and consider myself a humanist. I think that answered all the questions… (did I mention that I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to everyday stuff? My memory banks are currently full of TCM meridians.)

  4. 4
    Kaite says:

    Let’s see.
    I’m a 33 year old single female, a little over-dependent on her fur kids for emotional fulfillment, with a master’s degree in library science which I, as a customer service writer, don’t use (largely by choice.) I’m Catholic, mostly because it’s the most pagan of the Christian sects and I like to sing in my choir. I’d be just as comfortable in a grove praying to the Moon. I guess I took my religion teachers literally, but in the wrong way: One God=all Gods are the One God. As long as you’re not worshipping Entropy, it’s six or half-dozen to me. 

    I test high on intelligence scores and my friends would say I’m a pretty cold person, emotionally. But I know that a lot of my cynicism is hiding the soft, tender bits that NO ONE is allowed to poke and prod to the point of pain any more, ever, so I tend to use romance as a sort of wish fulfillment. I still hope, though, which I think keeps me sane, and the romance novels help.

    I grew up in a family of voracious and curious readers and there were no forbidden books. I didn’t start reading romance until I was in my late 20’s though, because the classics were just making my depression worse (particularly the damn Victorians.) I would have to say my ‘sexual orientation’ is something I take on a case by case basis, although I really don’t easily thrill. Based on past experiences, though, I’d have to say I’m heavily biased to the men (only some androgynous guys really get me going) but there are some women out there who make me go all giggly. Alas for them!  ;-)

    I think cynics are natural romance writers! They’re also natural fantasy/sci-fi readers—they want a world that will live up to their expectations (after all, they wouldn’t be cynical if they hadn’t been hurt by the world, now, would they?) and you can’t find that in fiction set in the real world.

  5. 5
    tsquared says:

    I seem a bit older than the posters so far so I’ll leave that question alone. I consider myself black though my mother was white.  I am from Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in history from a small liberal arts college.  I work as a mid-level peon in the finance industry but law school didn’t work out and there’s not much more out there for a history degree with an emphasis on England since the Industrial Revolution.

    I used to hide all my romance novels under my dirty clothes in the closet but I am getting better at not letting people define me by what I read (comes with age, I think).

    I am either an atheistic cynic or a cynical atheist but one who still checks Catholic on surveys.

  6. 6
    eggs says:

    Born in 1969, I live in Australia, I’m married to the kind of physicist that gets published in Nature and I have a masters in political economy from one of the leading Aussie universities.  I’ve travelled a lot and lived in the US for most of my late twenties & early 30’s.  Luckily for me, we are well off enough that I don’t have to work, so I’ll be staying home with the tin lids until they’re both off to school. 

    Frankly, if people want to think I’m stupid for reading romances they can go right ahead – and plenty of them do.  OTOH, I feel equally free to mock those people for obsessing over fermented grape juice, chasing little white balls around with sticks, or owning Buffy DVDs.  I don’t need to rely on third-party assessments of my IQ to be comfortable with who I am and most of my friends feel the same way.  I do get the ‘why?!?!’ question a lot, but my basic response is that I enjoy reading romance, and why shouldn’t I spend my spare time doing something I enjoy?  After all, everyone else does.  This seems to satisfy most people.

    When people take us to task for any of our lifestyle choices, be it the home we live in, the food/wine we consume, the tv we watch, or the books we read, I think they are telling us more about themselves than anything.  They are telling us that THEY are afraid of being judged by others, and they really wish we’d be concerned about it too.  Because if we don’t care about it, they they have the extra worry of being judged for being shallow or judgmental.  It’s a form of paranoia.  I wish I could help them with that, but I can’t, so I just sit back and keep reading the books I enjoy.

    eggs.

  7. 7
    rebyj says:

    stupid? HA!!
    I laugh at that assumption.

    I win all the time at trivial pursuit because due to my romance novel reading I can answer any Indian, Highlander, Vampire, Architect, Museum, sci fi, old movie plot question on the board!!!

    I get asked all the time “How did YOU know that?” by my nerdly,college educated friends… “I read it in a romance novel thats how!”

  8. 8

    I’m a 51 year old (and darn glad of it—the alternative sucks) white woman who’s lived in Florida most of her life.  My mom dropped dead when I was eight, which left me pre-disasterized, and my father married a certifiable loony who managed not to destroy the family despite her best efforts. And I’m one cynical bitch.  I used to be a reporter, news director, editor, owned a radio station and worked at a drug treatment center.  All of that will whap the puppy cuddling softness out of you real fast.

    Nonetheless, I like a well written romance.  I’ve been married for over 30 years to the same man, and I like stories with a happy ending, partly because real live so often is about suicide bombers and dead mommies and babies in dumpsters and kids with cancer.  A little escapism helps keep you sane.

  9. 9
    Mel-O-Drama says:

    I was adopted in 1969 to a Church of Christ momma and a bible-quoting-non-church-going daddy. I lived in a community that was pretty much created as a white-flight community. When I was old enough to pay my own bills, I immediately moved to the big city of Little Rock, AR and reveled in the world of color and culture. My mom votes republican because of the taxes and daddy doesn’t vote, but again, he’s good with an opinion. He expected me to go to college to find a husband who could take care of me since he never really thought I would be capable of taking care of myself—being a girl and all. (Plus, he was resentful that my mom was the bread winner in our family—she being a girl and all.)

    Instead of finding a husband, I found a BA in English. I have actually been married now for 14 years, but we’re a dual income family. (sorry pops) I work in accounting for a Financial Software company.

    “Skeptical foul-mouthed pro-choice fag-lovin’ secular humanist” pretty much sums me up to a T…throw in the phrase “lapsed Catholic” and that sums up my husband. And we’re proudly raising lapsed catholic children.

    I started reading Romance when I was 13 because I felt that the “age appropriate” books at that time were still too young for me. It wasn’t so much the sex as it was the sentence structure. I had been reading since I was 2 years old. YA books read like See Spot Run to me.

    I read and write romance now because I can lose myself in them. Happily Ever After is a guarantee and dammit, I really, really, really like a good escape.

  10. 10
    rebyj says:

    hahaha

    when defending one’s intelligence , one should proofread before hitting submit..

    “because due” ? LOL

  11. 11
    sleepy vampire says:

    My first post – this IS exciting isn’t it? Nah, not really, but still…

    I think I’m the youngest one here at 23, I’m still a lowly uni student, political science and english lit. I’m Australian, currently studying in England (and freezing to death). I voraciously devour romance novels because they’re easy to rip through and don’t require me to study the postmodernist psycho-analytical interpretations of the use of figurative language in the sexual position of the queer male lead… or whatever my professor decides to torture me with. *grin*

    Seriously though, people are always shocked when they come into my room and see romance novels – I’ve been told I have a reputation as being “a sarcastic, cynical, cold-hearted puppy-kicker” which is true, except I love puppies. I’m bi, but have a preference for males, especially the alpha-male type much to my continuing annoyance. I’ve been through a lot of religions starting when I was about 7 years old – the unfortunate result of having a protestant mom and a catholic dad. I’ve since given up on trying to fit in to any single category and so my religion is “my kind”.

    Romance in real life is for chumps (in my opinion – sorry for offending any die-hard romantics!) but romance in books conveniently ignores all those obstacles to love – like money for food and scary in-laws and oral hygiene. Romance novels are fun, that’s why I read them. Escapist literature is a necessary element of surviving in a world gone totally mad.

    PS Love the site! You guys crack me up.

  12. 12

    Oh, I love this game. Must play!

    I was born in Southern California in 1964 (but I was conceived in Watkins Glen, NY, thereby making me “bi”, in the coastal sense at any rate, before birth). My mother was college eddicated, went to grad school at Berkeley in Social Science, and wound up as a tax accounting specialist. My father never went to college, was a Border Patrol agent and detective until he retired at age 50. He was also an amateur race car driver and archaeologist/anthropologist, and easily one of the smartest, most educated people I have ever known. I still miss him, damn it!

    But, back to me (because of course, it’s all about me). In kindergarten, I was given an IQ test and scored 164. My mother promptly wondered how in the world she was ever going to raise such a genius. As an adult, my IQ tests around 138 generally. Not sure whether that means my parents ruined me or whether the tests on five year olds aren’t all that accurate; I suspect the latter, seeing that my parents walk(ed) on water). Nearly seventeen years later, I’m still contentedly married to the same man (notice I don’t say “happily”, which would imply that constant happiness is some sort of standard for a successful relationship), and have three kids ranging in age from 9 to 4. Religiously, we are Unitarian Universalists, which means we are basically secular humanists who go to church every Sunday. I believe in God depending on what your definition of God is (which is probably not the same as mine, so you’d probably just call me an atheist).

    I have a Masters Degree in Classics from the University of Chicago and was working on my PhD when life intervened and I got married instead. (You understand now why I like romance novels, perhaps?) I make my living as an instructional designer but hope to someday join Kalen and Ana in the ranks of actually published writers. (Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? Shit, wait a minute, I’m fucking 42! I’m not a girl any more! Hang on while I go weep quietly for a few minutes.)

    Okay, I’m back, having successfully mourned my lost girl-ness. I started reading romance novels when I was in my teens. (My, what a lot of claptrap those books were! I’m sure most of them would horrify me if I were to read them now.) Books my mother referred to as “bodice rippers” and “soft-core porn”. (And what’s wrong with that, I ask?) I lost my taste for romance novels in my mid-twenties and thirties, but regained it recently (right around the time I weaned my youngest; you decide whether there’s any connection there or not) and then got my taste for WRITING back as well.

    Why do I like romance novels? Partly, it’s because part of me wants to believe in happily ever after, even though the reality is that love and marriage is mostly a lot of hard work. And partly, it’s because I love sex, but *especially* sex with love.

  13. 13
    Undercover says:

    I post my opinions here under another nick but if I’m going to be personal I have to hide a little deeper for professional reasons. 

    I’m about 52—still can’t believe it—how did that happen?  B.A. in English.  J.D. some years later.  Agnostic/atheist/Pagan, anything but the stultifying Protestant religion of my mother.  For the past 7 years I have been deliberately celibate—most productive years of my life.  You would not believe how much energy and time I used to waste on sex.  I liked younger men and older women.  Still enjoy looking.  Hey, I’m celibate, not dead. 

    I read all of the traditional stuff that is considered romances such as the Brontes, Austen, Heyer.  Then came the Sweet Savage stuff that squicked me out pretty fast—I remember the book that did it—a pirate story by Fern Michaels where the heroine was raped by everyone,  on the pirate ship, probably even the cabinboy.  (I would probably think that over the top funny now.)

    Started back reading romance in 89 quit again because there were so few authors in Romanceland that I enjoyed reading.  Started picking up romances again about 2000 but hard to find the ones I like so I don’t read many romances, at least not all the way through.  I like non-traditional couples (or triples for that matter) and a good story makes me indifferent to the sex of the people involved.  I like strong women.  I hate, hate, hate TSTL, daddy worshiping, brother supporting, my hymen is gold heroines.

  14. 14
    Becky says:

    The basics:

    Female, white, 32, born in Pennsylvania and lived all over the midwest, currently a resident of Texas, Office Manager, non-practicing Pagan (which means that’s the way my beliefs swing, but I haven’t actively participated in a group or cast a circle on my own for a couple of years), half a degree in creative writing, learned more from RWA than I ever did from my professors, sexual orientation is constantly evolving, read my first romance at 17- “The Gift” by Julie Garwood, the least girly girl you will ever meet

    I think I first started reading romance because I never thought it would happen to me.  Looking back, guys were interested, but I was so clueless I didn’t pick up on the signs.  As I got older I had a few non-starter relationships.  Those disappointments, combined with watching friends go through horrible, abusive relationships (because it’s better to be smacked now and then or humiliated in public than to not have a date on a Saturday night) made me decide that I’d rather be alone than deal with that mess.  Romance novels became my outlet for all the soft, squishy feelings that I chose to block off from the rest of the world.  I don’t read them as much as I used to, but I still pick one up every now and then.  And of course I have a shelf or two of favorites that are read over and over.

    I also have a fur baby that my life revolves a little too much around.  I joke that he’s almost like having a husband or boyfriend- he steals the covers, he farts in bed, he expects me to feed and clean up after him, he gets irate if I stay out too late or am gone too long, and he can’t stand it when I talk on the phone.  Of course, there’s one big husband/boyfriend role he can’t fill, but that’s why I have B.O.B.

  15. 15
    rascoagogo says:

    Fun!

    Born in 1982 to creative parents in Austin, TX, I started talking at 7 months and could read by 2 1/2. My mom is an artist, my dad is in marketing (as am I). I have a genius-level IQ, breezed through private schools and then the University of Tx.

    I’ve always read voraciously. My family is intellectual but conservative and Christian. Romance novels and pretty much anything concerning sex was verboten. I started smuggling romance novels home from the library in a big satchel when I was 12 or 13. The appeal was obvious, but it turns out that I like them a lot as a break from Real Literature from my Eng. degree.

    Like a lot of people, a lot of the appeal is in the books as an outlet for the feelings I keep closed off from people. In a generation that’s all about ironic detachment, it’s not cool to be a hopeless romantic. I’m a secret hopeless romantic for now. I’ll be out of the closet when I get married. Romance offers the dream of finding someone smart, hot, powerful and sexy. Being smart and sarcastic and tall-ish, a male who leans toward the alpha is pretty appealing…

    I’m straight (but get the appeal of the other side), white, and my own breed of intellectual, gay-friendly Christian who doesn’t attend.

  16. 16

    I wish we could go back and edit our posts.  I was in a hurry and forgot to answer a couple of Candy’s questions:

    I have a B.S. in broadcasting, minored in History and Political Science and read everything from philosophy to Details magazine.  I’ve been an active science fiction fan for over 25 years, attending Worldcon most years.  I’m a published romance writer with three historicals on sale.  I’m Jewish and fairly religious—I keep kosher, am Sabbath observant, etc.  I like to mentally undress the cantor during the Rosh Hashanna service, but it’s OK ‘cause the cantor’s my husband.

  17. 17
    Nat says:

    I just hit 35 this month and was raised in relative affluence on Long Island. Both my parents are “off the boaters(though in my mother’s case; literally. She was too pregnant to fly, so she and my brother took the QE2 from England to here). Dad went to technical college and only read the newspaper (but he read every single article). Mum has her BA from the University of London and is ecstatic that one of her two children loves to read.

    I have a MA in English, but having no desire to teach or be in publishing, I also have a MLS, where I now am a Youth Services Librarian. I get to hang with the school age kids and the teens – who are a blast by the way.

    I’m definitely not a cynic and was always reading. As for romances, well I was a shirt, boobless, girl with braces in High School, and thus had not a date in sight. I had already been reading the teen romances at that time, but began graduating up through high school. Reading was always my escape – and my savior. Unbeknownst to me for 12 years, I was a sympotmatic depressive with no meds and no therapy. Reading kept my brain from exploding.

    Now, I am well medicated, happily in therapy, and married to a wonderful man 6 years this Saturday. Do I still read romances? Hell yes. They are wonderful stories and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying them. I mean, what’s so bad about happily ever after? Plus, as an added bonus, they are a good in-btween course when reading YA fiction. Those books are depressing!!

  18. 18
    Jackie says:

    Ok, also old fart—52.  I was reading Georgette Heyer when she was STILL ALIVE.  Guess that makes me old.  There’s muddy duddy after my name—fuddy duddy being a Ph.D.  A select few of my patients know I read romance—although one, a guy who teaches special ed threatened to quit me when I mentioned that I too read Linda Howard.  He was reading LH at the time himself.  Folks in glass houses….

    Oh, as an aside—Candy you need to read Linda Howard’s Cry No More before you diss her again.  If you hate it, you can diss her all you want.  Sarah, you can’t read it until your youngest kid is at least 6 or 7.

    If you want to develop healthy cynicism, try working a county ER for 8 years.  Yes, ladies, I have heard it all.  I am straight, but non-judgmental unless you keep hitting on me, because I am YOUR DAMN DOCTOR and it’s not allowed whoever you are.  Married for 28 years to a veterinarian who is miraculously still alive.  Lapsed Baptist (thank God)—way too many things were forbidden.  And I love romance and a lot of sci fi because I can go to work to watch people suffer and die.  Plus I have three teenagers still at home and I need all the escapism I can find.

  19. 19
    Taekduu says:

    I was born in Nigeria in 1981 and came to the US when my mother remarried, I consider myself african because to say african-american or black connotates a 400+ year history I simply do not have in the US.  I have a BS (natural sciences) and an MD that I earned in 6 years.  Currently a medicine resident.  I have bopped myself from New York to the southwest.  My parents are confused and depending on what day it is are strict practicing Muslims or Protestant or belive in animal magic.  Like I said, it depends.  This has given me a thoroughly cynical view of the practice of religion and I am sticking to faith.

    I started reading romances because I am a voracious reader (can read 400+ pages in less than 2 hours and frequently require more books) and around the age of 9 my dad’s college books had been used up and wrung dry and I was bored and they were there in all heir sordid glory.  I think he first one was some western.  I endured many years (ongoing) of denigration of abuse for my love of reading.  My parents lumped romance in with fantasy, mystery, horror, and general fiction.  As far as my father was concerned if it wasn’t a classic (Dickens, shakespeare, aristotle, etc) then it was some kind of romance and that was for fat women and the birds! 

    I came out of the romance closet about 6 years ago and discovered fun people who also liked the books.  I have now addicted a couple more residents (what can I say, I deal in book crack).  I am a hardcore cynic as described by my friends and can be an evil plotter.  I love romances for taking me somewhere else, they are fun, and right up there with my other loves (fantasay and sci-fi) for taking me away from the here and now.  A clear cut reason why I like them is not currently available to me, but when I find out, I will let you know.  I do get tired of romance when I OD, but I always come back. 

    As for sexual orientation, I am straight, happily single but willing to play whenever someone falls in my lap.  I do admit to being a hopeless romantic (deep deep down, only admitted to myself on rare occasions).

    Candy thanks for the opportunity to share!

  20. 20

    Let’s see…I’m female, age 33, Caucasian (German/Ukrainian). I have a day job at an airline and also am a partner in an ebook company. Married, straight, but not narrow.

    I have an Associates in Computer Information Systems, graduated with a cumulative 4.0.  I have been editing professionally since I was fifteen, when I used to proofread term papers at five bucks a pop.

    I was hideously unpopular in school, and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about grades. I actually spent five years trying to be a rock star, then faced reality and eventually went to college.

    As a publisher, I actually think being cynical is a benefit. I first became involved in erotica/ romance because of what was covered in a recent discussion here: why so much romance is crap. Poor plots, TSTL characters, etc. So I thought I could be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

    I think my cynicism gives me the ability to see when something is going down that tired old road, and what to do to fix it. The drawback is, I have to find a very well-crafted romance to read for fun because I can’t silence the editor in my head, and that bitch starts screaming at every issue she spots.

  21. 21
    Sam says:

    Ok, I am a 31 year old woman living in Tennessee. I have been divorced for about 8 years with my last date being over 2 years ago. Right now I’m just not interested in dating especially after the last few I endured. I’m in a small town where everyone seems to marry right out of high school so when you get older all the men are either married and unavailable or divorced and bitter and take it out on you. I no longer dream about my next beautiful wedding and have just about decided to go ahead and embrace spinsterhood (I guess I can be one-I wasn’t married very long) to be done with it. My point is that you would think I would be the last person to touch romance novels, but I love the hell out of them. Like a previous poster said they are fun and I just want to good story. Actually if I did have a guy who surprised me with a candelight dinner and roses and all that I’d think “Oh my God, what on earth is this?”. I have a BA in English and spend years reading classics and now I want stuff that doesn’t require cliff notes for every other sentence. I ended up working in a public library as a cataloger and it turns out my love of romance novels has led to more responsibilty at work. My boss noticed what kind of books I read and decided to place me in charge of donated books stating that I seem to have a better grasp on current pop culture. The other woman who did it hates romance novels and would stick brand spanking new books in the book sale instead of letting me have them to place in circulation.
    What else? I consider myself a Christian although I haven’t been to church in years. I have always been a bookworm devouring fairy tales and golden books when I was able to read without help. Then when I was ready for chapter books I read a lot of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume as I got older. There are actually a lot of Children’s books I missed so part of my reading as an adult is going back to fill in the gaps. For example, I didn’t pick up a Nancy Drew book until I was well over 25. As a teenager I read a few series books for teens like Sisters and Sweet Valley High. Then the Flowers in the Attic movie came out and started up a V.C. Andrews phase that lasted for years. That led to more horror fiction that included the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Anne Rice. Then right before I turned 20 I picked up a few romance novels from the library by Lisa Kleypas, Sandra Brown and Amanda Quick just to see what about them made them so appealing to so many people. I’m so glad I did. I firmly believe most people who put them down have either never read one or just had the misfortune of picking up the wrong one to start with.There have been a few romance novels I didn’t like, but that didn’t scare me away from the entire genre.

  22. 22
    Tania says:

    I think I’m now the youngest to post here. I’m 21, currently working full-time in fast foods and attempting to get my fuckin’ life together (AKA get back to university; I got depressed in my second term and dropped out). Mostly Caucasian, with a bit of indigenous peoples thrown in for fun. No religion, though I believe in things like karma.

    Born and raised in Canada. I’m straight, but not for lack of trying. Women just don’t do it for me, the bitches. Damned if I could tell you what my IQ is, I’ve tested for anything between 142 – 164. So I guess it’s high.

    I’m a virgin, never-been-kissed, even, probably due to my diagnosed social anxiety disorder. I read books because making friends was too hard. You can only play with your one friend for so long before the two of you need time off.

    I think I read romance novels because I don’t believe anything even remotely similar will ever happen to me. Not the dating thing, that’ll happen eventually, because knowing I couldn’t help the shyness has helped me overcome it (odd, that), but the whole being-swept-off-my-feet-and-onto-my-back-forever-after part.

  23. 23
    Tania says:

    I’d just like to say I didn’t mean on-my-back-forever-after as in dead, but as in appear-happily-together-in-later-novels-with-2.5 kids-and-dog kind of forever-after.

    Heh, this survey’s going to be way biased, because the women who do fit the romance-reader stereotypes won’t frequent this site, they’ll be over at the LKH forums saying “dont listen 2 wut every1 else says! i luv u n u still write good!!!!!111”

  24. 24
    Madd says:

    I was born in Chicago,1976, to Mexican immigrant parents. I was the first child in my family born in the US. They were divorced by the time I was 3. My mother moved in with my grandparents, who pretty much raised me and my sister while my mother worked. I grew up in a Puerto Rican ghetto. I went to Catholic school, but am now Pagan. I have an above average IQ and was a straight A student. I’m bi, but am in a monogamous hetero marriage and we have 2 sons.

  25. 25
    cassie says:

    I’m also a 21 year old female Canuck, though I spent some of my younger years in the Philippines.  Currently in university, and apparently I’m supposed to pick a major very soon.  I’m fairly certain I’m straight, am not sure what my religion is and have no idea what I want to do with my life, though something with horses (not a vet!), or better yet, that would allow me to have horses, would be nice.  I would say I tend to be on the pessimistic side – expecting the worst in any situation, but only so I can be pleasantly surprised when something better happens ;-) .

    All in all, with the exception of my parents’ marriage (and my grandparents’ and some of my relatives’ – am I sensing a pattern?), my life’s been pretty uneventful.  Not much residual high school trauma – not that I was in it much (took a lot of time off for riding, but still maintained good grades, which was the deal I had with my parents so I could ride).  I wasn’t hugely popular, but not an outcast either; I think my friends and I were kind of in that middle space where not much happened in terms of drama or angst or boys.

    I think I read romance novels because I’d like to hope that relationships will have a HEA, even with all the proof that it does not always work out (although, two of my friends have been going out since grade 10 and are still together, which I think is quite remarkable).  I got into romance books fairly young – 12 or 13 – and didn’t realize there was a stigma attached to them until much later.  I went off them for a while (I think around 16 or 17), having burned through many that were not all that great, and slowly found my way back.  I’m more careful now about which ones I read and buy.

  26. 26
    Sally says:

    What kind of romance reader am I?  For years, I was guilty of the same book prejudices that this site frequently blasts.  I wouldn’t be caught dead among the pink covers of the romance section in the bookstore.  This was despite the fact that I’m a total bookworm and have always, always had a weak spot for novels with a satisfying romantic subplot.  I’m not sure where my uninformed aversion to romance novels came from, although I suspect my mother’s vocal disdain for them had a lot to do with it (incidentally, my mother currently has a lot of Nora Roberts books lying around the house for someone with no use for romance).  Anyhow, about a year ago I was writing up my PhD thesis in chemistry and feeling stressed from the combination of trying to finish up my degree and find a job at the same time.  I needed something to take my mind off work, badly.  Something possessed me to try downloading erotica from an e-publisher.  And then I did it again, and again, and again.  I’m slowly moving into more mainstream romance and non-epubs (though I’m ashamed to admit that the romance section in bookstores still intimidates me a bit). 

    As for the other stuff, I’m 29 years old and currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in chemistry (yes, I did get a job, despite the distraction of the e-pubs…).  I was not raised in a religion and I think I qualify as an agnostic at the moment.  I’m straight, although looking at sexuality as falling along a continuum always made more sense to me (and I don’t think I’m all the way to one side of that continuum).  I’m from the US, with some blend of European and eastern European ancestry.  I don’t think of myself as particularly cynical, but maybe I’m a little snarky because I get a real kick out of this site.

  27. 27
    Katie says:

    I claim youngest, as I’m 20. Currently an evolution and ecology major in college and planning on going to grad school to do research.  I’ve been reading voraciously since I was young, and romance novels from my early teens. Luckily, my grandmothers, who loaned romance novels to my mom, had excellent taste, so part of the reason I liked romance initially was because it was better writing than the ‘age-appropriate’ stuff we read in school. Plus, it felt so subversive to be in the general fiction section (there was sex! in books!) as a young teen.  I like romance partially for the escapism but also for the characters—I love seeing relationships that work (my parents are in the process of getting divorced, after many, many years of unhappiness).  Also, I am a hopeless romantic, but I keep up appearances as a cynic.  I identify myself as Methodist, but my beliefs are not as tidy as that.  My mother was Presbyterian-turned Methodist and my father is a never-misses-mass Catholic, so while a strong belief in God was emphasized, beliefs in a specific denomination were not.  Although I hid my romances for a long time, I now proudly own up to reading them, which confounds my friends to no end.  I’m slowly trying to lure them in with well written, non-snarkable-cover romances.  I’m single, straight, female, and quite intelligent (if test scores are to be believed).

  28. 28
    geniusofevil says:

    you forgot to mention how you survived the tsunami!

    and, yea atheism!

  29. 29
    Sami says:

    Age: 18
    Nationality: American (Arizona desert rat to be specific)
    Gender: Female
    Intelligence: I’d love to say smart, but I t
    Orientation: Lesbian (I love love love stories about two people falling in love… I just wish I could find more better quality stories about two ladies falling in love.)
    Race: White
    Religion: agnostic with a side of lazy
    Occupation: Ticket seller at a theater
    Education: College Freshmen with my major as Creative Writing

    Honestly, I think the romance reading is the least that people could pick on me for. I mean I own Buffy DVDs ( ;) ), I’m a random trivia whore, I geek out on everything from Star Wars to Dinosaurs, and I rock my nerd glasses. Besides, most of my friends think that its cute. They are horrible cynics so compared to them I am a ray of sunshine. I used to be cynic and then I went to college and realized that there was a void to fill.  What can I say? I like being devil’s advocate. I love genre books so it was only a matter of time before I moseied over to romance.

    I read my first true Romance last year. It was a Christine Feehan. I thought it was silly but enjoyable. I started reading a few more and liked them more but I still have a soft spot for Feehan. I really got into romances just by reading the blogs and the reviews. I’ve been trying to find good romances. I love strong, badass females so it difficult to find them among the virgin widows. Also, they are great just as a writing resource. My major is creative writing and one thing that I wasn’t getting better at was writing relationships so it great to read books to study how published authors build up chemistry. I like them the most for giving me a story I can just plain enjoy and escape from the real world with. My favorites are paranormals.

  30. 30
    Audrey says:

    Ok, I’ve got to delurk for this one, I’ve been coming here for a long time, but usually someone says what I want to say much better than I could!

    I’m a 48 year old Canadian born of German immigrant business people. I had an uneventful childhood with my two sisters, got married at sixteen, stayed that way and had three children. I’m a bookkeeper but didn’t go to college, but now am not working and not looking. So that’s what I am, but who I am is an atheist, a skeptic, a liberal, a woman who loves to bake and renovate homes and spend a lot of time with my husband and children.

    Why do I read romance? I’ve thought about this while reading threads on that subject and the answer is…sorry, don’t have a clue. I was an avid reader as a kid, blew my way through everything from Nancy Drew to C.S. Lewis to Homer and my favorite book in junior high was an anthology by Isaac Asimov. Then I quit reading for a few years while my children were small (I hate being interrupted while I read) until a friend recommended The Wolf and The Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. That was it, I was hooked. Now I read about 150 a year. I think I just love to read about interpersonal relationships and I just never get the same thrill from the other kinds of books I occasionally read.

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