On a recent trip to the library, an acquaintance walked up to me and said, “I heard you write romance novels. Do you really read that stuff?”Mmm, I mused, how often have I heard that question?
Taking my usual bold stance—on quivering legs—I replied, “Sure, I do. Why not?”
I’ve learned one important thing in my mature years. If I don’t particularly like the question, I’ll ask one of my own. It’ll throw the person off track every time. Well, usually.
“Why not?” my casual friend asked. “Well, for one thing,” she stammered, “they’re…trite, with the same plot in every single book. A learned person wouldn’t waste time on them.”
Of course, by the time I arrived home, my busy brain had made a list of “why I read that stuff, and particularly why I write it.”
Answer Number One: Defending romance novels falls in the same category as defending myself. If I probe the question, "do you read that stuff?", the person might really be saying, “A reader of romance usually doesn’t have a life of her own, or a poor love life at best, or she reads to live vicariously through a character.”
My reply might be, “Statistics show that 75 million people read at least one romance novel last year. So, you’re saying you know how all these readers feel?”
Answer Number Two: Some romance novels are better than others. True, the first romance novels were written differently from those today, but one might say that about all fiction in general. Advice to my friend-of-the-moment:
“Try a romance novel. Begin with a few of the tried and true authors: LaVyrle Spencer (my all-time favorite), Susan Wiggs, Penelope Williamson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Eagle, and Karen Robards. Neither you nor anyone else needs to waste time on any bad book. That applies to romance novels, as well.”
Answer Number Three: Perhaps readers and writers of romance are actually readers….period. To my detractor, I might reply:
“Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for a good book, you might want to try the 450 page Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Societies, or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or Plainsong, or The Dust Bowl Years: Voices From the Past. I highly recommend them.”
Would that be tacky of me?
Answer Number Four: A simple statement.
"Reading and writing romance novels are my inalienable rights under the constitution."
After all, this is a free country.
Answer Number Five: I’m easily entertained. When I choose a movie, I do not need to select one that has garnered critically acclaimed praise over the entire globe. The same is true with my reading material.
Answer Number Six: In response to the statement “Romance novels are just fairy tales, stories that never happen in real life.” Maybe, maybe not, but I might reply:
“Sometimes, I like to escape reality.”
Or: "I happen to believe in fairy tale endings. My Mother and Daddy had a special fairy tale romance. In 1932, she was 16 and he was 18. They attended a dance for young people in Mineral Wells, Texas. She wore her prettiest blue dress, and her black hair that was so long she could sit on it, was pulled back with pearl combs. Her black eyes were shining.
He wore his one good suit, the same one he wore to church on Sunday, and his thick, curly blond hair and bright blue eyes sparkled.
Many years later, Daddy liked to tell people, "Another fella brung her to the dance, but I took her home."
Sigh. I almost cry everytime I think of that. God rest their precious souls.
I realize the question, “You don’t read that stuff, do you?” has been asked many times.
Everyone has a right to his or her own chosen reading material. I won't quarrel with a soul about that. What I would take issue with is that such a person who would ask this question, seems to think that's all I read--or any other reader who enjoys romance.
(I just finished Defending Jacob, a very long book that will hold you riveted to the page. This is in case anyone reading this needs a good book recommendation and you like crime and courtroom drama.)
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas