Brave Women Read Romance

On Wednesday night I gave a brief talk about romance at the JCC of San Antonio. My usual speech at a book event is not so much reading from the book but giving a top 5 or 6 list of “Things you didn’t know about romance, and romance readers.” I customize the points, depending on the audience, but usually, unless I know the audience is already well-versed in the genre, there’s so much information, I try to counter it with some factual awesomeness.

I talk about how readers, much like the romance genre, are not at all what most people think we are. We aren’t all the same, we aren’t dumb and boring, and we aren’t limited to sexual content in fluffy, unassuming packages. Romance readers, like the romance genre, are diverse and unique. We are everywhere, and we are, given the readership statistics, almost every woman.

As usual, afterward and beforehand, I was schooled yet again in how awesome romance readers are. I don’t want to reveal names or too many details, but I had to share a little about these amazing people.

One woman told me how romance and Smart Bitches made her laugh while she was going through chemotherapy and radiation. She kicked breast cancer’s ass like holy damn hell.

Another woman, after the program, told me that she’d been injured very badly during her military service and was discharged. She’s been through hellish months of rehabilitation, and romance was the only thing she wanted to read. It made her feel so much better.

I had not yet had the experience, until that moment, of wishing a happy Veteran’s Day to a servicewoman younger than I am. Thank you, ma’am, for your service.

It is an amazing thing we do, to read and to write romance. No one should give us crap about our reading material – but they will anyway, and it’ll be a while before that changes unilaterally.

But because of the women I met, I have another adjective to describe romance readers: we are brave. We may not talk about our love of our favorite books because of that ignorant behavior, but push to shove, romance readers are some brave, brave people. Way to go, y’all. I’m so proud to have met you. Thank you.

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Jeez, you made me teary. Congrats on such a great night.

  2. 2
    Barbara says:

    Totally Off-Topic:

    Has anyone read this one?
    http://www.loriwilde.com/sweethearts_knitting_club.html
    Is it any good?

  3. 3
    Ash says:

    To the fantastic readers, the fantastic writers, the brave ones, the timid ones, the snarky bitches, the raunchy women, the ones who can’t say “sex” without blushing, the stay-at-home-moms, the ones that boldly wax poetic about the “wang” with a chuckle and a martini in one hand, the dreamers who drift off in fantasy while doing the dishes, the go-getters in power suits, the shy ones that hide their books underneath their beds, the ones waiting for their white knight, and the ones who want to rescue the prince for once : I don’t know you, but I love you all. <3

    Thank you, Smart Bitches, for doing what you do so well. Thank you, readers and writers, for giving me something to connect with every day. You are priceless.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    jean says:

    Yeah well, I started reading romance in great volume when I was pregnant and the only thing that kept me from puking was lying down and reading for hours and hours at a time.  So, I totally understand those that use it to keep their mind off illness

  6. 6
    Kristina says:

    I am one of the proud the many the brave.  I read romance novels in public!!  And I’m proud of it! 

    :-)  My books are actually pretty famous to my co-workers.  Everyone always wants to see the covers and know what is going on AT THAT MOMENT in whatever book I’m reading.  Then they get upset that it’s not a steamy sex scene. 

    tee hee, yes I do actually go into my dramatic reading mode and give them a couple paragraphs. 

    Security word= Wrong78.  and yes sometimes that IS wrong…… on about 78 different levels.

  7. 7
    Wendy says:

    My word, Sarah, you gave me goosebumps.

    Thank you, brave women (and men), one and all. Those that fight what’s on the outside and those that fight what’s on the inside, you are all inspiring and human and wonderful.

  8. 8
    Lyssa says:

    For years I was a closet romance reader. Pursuing an academic career took precident after all. However when my advisor (and academic role-model) fell and was hospitalized for 3 months what did she ask us to bring her. Romance novels! She said for three months she wanted books that gave hope, laughter and relaxed her. Romance heals. (And I stopped being a closet romance reader to one who stacked Nora beside Rawls and Pierce).

  9. 9
    Linz Hill says:

    My mom is a Registered Nurse who specializes in palliative care, and she mainly reads romances.  When she’s not reading romances, she tends to read the first chapter, then skips to the last chapter of a book before reading it through . . . just to make sure it all works out well. As she puts it, she gets enough drama and heartache in real life, and she wants to read something well written, exciting, and satisfying . . . with a happy ending. She also likes to cry in sappy movies, which is also something that she doesn’t get to indulge in during her decades-long career in one of the most emotionally wearing areas of medicine.  Hurrah for tough women who keep their sh*t together when it counts, without shutting themselves off from their emotions!

    Speaking of drama – I watched the movie adaptation of “The Painted Veil” with her, and was treated to quite the rampage after . . . .*spoiler alert* I never saw such a nice person get so incensed when, instead of a Happily Ever After when the heroine finally professes her love for the hero . . . the hero up and dies!

  10. 10
    Jemi Fraser says:

    Great post :) I read a lot of genres, and I enjoy them all. It all depends on my mood, my life and my job. I have a emotionally tough day-job and need my happy endings. Romance provides me a guarantee in that department :)

  11. 11
    Annmarie says:

    I’ve been scoffed at for my reading tastes since I first started reading romance.  It didn’t stop me then (age 10) and it isn’t stopping me now.  I still read romances in public. 

    Love the stories of the brave cancer survivor and soldier.  I think they are awesome women!  Thank you for telling us about them.

  12. 12

    Mary Jo Putney’s SO, a truly wonderful gentleman, suffered a dreadful stroke.  He went through a long and nasty rehabilitation, during which he couldn’t wrap his brain around his normal engineering and scientific literature.  Instead he demanded Romance. 

    He wrote the most fabulous article evah for RWR on the novels he read at the different stages of his recovery and why.

  13. 13
    mingqi says:

    wonderful post that reaffirms my love for romance!

  14. 14
    Meg says:

    I’ve been scoffed at for my reading tastes since I first started reading romance.  It didn’t stop me then (age 10) and it isn’t stopping me now.  I still read romances in public.

    Annmarie, I admire you!  (You sure the scoffing wasn’t really just your family telling you to stop reading spicy books at age 10? xD)

    It does help that many covers nowadays don’t display boobs, unicorns and mullets in technicolor dream-glory like they used to…ah, those were the days when you’d have to have Lady-Balls of Steel to be seen with one in public. ;D

    Magic word: received78.  I receive, on average, 78 condescending looks as I browse the romance section of my local Books-A-Million.

  15. 15
    Kim says:

    Thanks, Sarah, for spreading the word about romance.  I frankly don’t care what people think of my reading material as I wait in line (although I do use Hidden Secets padded covers).  In fact, others in line commend me for being smart enough to bring something along to pass the time.  But it is fun to find another romance fan so we can trade quips about authors and books. 

    Diane W. mentioned Mary Jo Putney in her comment.  Diane herself is one smart lady!  Regarding Mary Jo, I had the honor of lunching with her before I moved to Hawaii.  I had come to know her over the past two years as she generously supported book functions at Fort Meade.  As we talked about the misperceptions of romance, she quipped, “No one becomes stupid from reading.” 

    Following that mantra, I am now converting nonbelievers here in Hawaii. 

    Kim
    AF veteran and spouse

  16. 16
    JamiSings says:

    I guess I’m lucky. My father is the only person whom ever had a problem with me reading romance novels and that’s because of the sex scenes. I guess he just wants his only daughter to remain forever pure.

    I get some teasing at work but not much and it’s all in good fun.

    I have to say though that working in a library opened my eyes. I always thought romance readers were like me – overweight misfits whom men either 1: Ignored 2: Treated like a kid sister/one of the boys or 3: Called names and threw food at while mooing or oinking. The kind of girls whom get no dates, ever, because they don’t fit in with anyone. So romance novels are the only love they ever get to experience.

    Now I see that isn’t true. There’s married women who check them out, old grandmothers – but what really surprises me – MEN. Men check out romance novels quite a bit. Granted, I usually see it from our male patrons who cannot make it down the stairs. (We’re an old library built before ADA laws.) But not always. Heck, not that long ago there was a man about 90 years old recomending Broken Wing to a woman. He enjoyed it that much. And there’s one gentleman whom seems quite fond of Harlequin Intriuge(sp?).

    Some start out by checking them for their homebound family members and end up reading them themselves. And I have to admit, despite the fact that my job woke me up to the multitude of romance novel lovers, a small part of me is still shocked that men read romances.

    Especially since I used to tell guys who whine about not being able to get dates “Read a romance novel or two. That will help you see most women’s fantasies.” And they’d scoff at me and continue with cheesy pick up lines and jerkoid behavior.

  17. 17
    appomattoxco says:

    I started reading when my mom was ill. I went back to Mystery and SF for a while but nothing makes me happy like romance. And I think I’m not alone in feeling it’s more about hope than sex.

    JamieSings My dad had a buddy who’s wife asked for stuff to read. I gave her my romances. My dad’s friend got ill and he ended up reading the bag of books. He got hooked and read so much that he signed the first page in pencil and rated them with stars. He passed away 5 years ago. Every now and then i’ll pick up a used book he read and rated at the local shop.

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  19. 19
    Nikki Hilton says:

    Thanks for the great thought provoking post.

  20. 20
    molly_rose says:

    I can always tell if my current guy is a keeper by his reaction to my bookshelves… they start scanning them, nodding at the Camus, the Joyce, the Thoreau, and then… BAM!
    Big Man Titty Wrapped in Pink Sexy Sauce and Lady Love.

    bad reaction = close-minded maybe, or asexual perhaps, or simply unintelligent, all of which are undesirable qualities in a man.

    My latest conquest, he just looked up and waggled his brows. *Squee!*

  21. 21
    Linz Hill says:

    Hah, Molly_Rose, that’s just too funny. One of my exes (and another guy friend, now I think of it) sometimes flipped through my romances looking for the juicy scenes, hoping to find something goofy to read aloud.  Or at least, that’s what they SAID they were doing . . .

    I was staying at the ski chalet of my old boss and his wife, and picked up my first Jennifer Crusie when I got bored.  I assumed it was hers . . . nope! My manly-man carpenter boss said ‘bit of a chick flick, but a good book’ when I asked them for a recommendation.

  22. 22

    I just dog-ear the dirty bits from my trashy books so my husband doesn’t have to bother skimming for juicy words. When I’m done I just hand it across the bed, pre-screened.

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