by Julie LeMense
Have you ever had a stranger look at the cover of the romance novel you’re reading, and smirk? Whatever they’re thinking, it’s not likely to be complimentary. They’ve typecast you as so much less than who you are. So I’m here to set the record straight. I’m a lifelong romance buff, and am also a writer of Regency-set romances. I was an English Literature major in college, and I’ve read most of the “important” books out there, but I’ve also read some 3,000 historical and contemporary romances (and that’s is a conservative estimate!) I’ve been to several national romance conventions, and have been privileged to meet many of the wonderful people who read and write in this genre. Let me tell you what I know about “the typical” romance reader…
1) We’re smart. After all, we’re avid readers. Depending on our preferred subset of the romance genre, we can tell you all about Bonnie Prince Charlie of Scotland, diplomacy during the Napoleonic Wars, the design characteristics of 19th-century steam-powered machinery, and the latest counterterrorism measures employed by the Navy Seals.
2) We’re optimistic. Because, come on…what’s wrong with a happy ending? There’s something inordinately satisfying about a book that ends with people together and in love, despite efforts to tear them apart.
3) We’re also realistic…in that you better know what you’re talking about. Regardless of the time during which a book is set, the language, clothing, social mores, and customs had better be accurate. If they’re not, we’ll call out an author every time. The cover of my second book, Once Upon A Scandal, featured a backdrop with London’s Elizabeth Tower, even though the book was set in 1814. The Tower wasn’t finished until 1859. Did I get called on it? You bet I did.
4) We’re empathetic. Who among us hasn’t gotten so wrapped up in a story that we stay up until 3am, just to see what happens next? We’re invested in the characters we read about, just like we’re invested in the people we share our lives with.
5) We’re generous. When we’ve read a great book, we don’t hide it away. We share it! We’re on blogs and chatrooms and discussion boards, telling the whole world about the next novel it needs to read.
6) We’re inclusive. There are romances for every interest—from Amish and time travel romances to stories about shapeshifters and the aforementioned Navy Seals. We don’t make fun of your tastes in fiction, and we celebrate your sexuality, whatever it may be.
7) By the way, we don’t read romances for the sex (not all the time, anyway.) In fact, a book with too much of it can be tiresome. Whether the characters are holding hands or having a busy night between the sheets, we want their physical interactions to be a manifestation of the way they feel about each other. We want it to move the story forward in a believable way. Because let’s be honest. Ten times in a night isn’t particularly believable.
8) We don’t expect our heroes and heroines to be perfect. In fact, it’s far more interesting when they’re not. In a romance book, the characters become better versions of themselves when they’re able to wholly and completely give themselves over to love.
9) Speaking of love, we know how important it is. It’s the most noble and selfless emotion of all.
10) Finally, there are a lot of us out there. In fact, roughly half of all the books sold in the United States are part of the romance genre. We’re mothers and daughters and sisters, brothers and fathers and husbands.
So the next time you see someone smirking at the cover of your book, don’t be afraid to smile, and go right back to your reading. Because that person doesn’t know what they’re missing.
Julie LeMense is the author of two award-winning novels from Crimson Romance, Once Upon A Wager and Once Upon A Scandal. Learn more at www.julielemense.com.