Refusing the shame – Declaration of a romance reader
Growing up I was a tomboy. I loved sports, I was loud and adventurous. I read science fiction, crime novels, horror and fantasy. But when no one was looking I was reading Barbara Cartland. I loved Barbara Cartland! Oh those diaphanous gowns, those large violet eyes, those girls with classical educations. However, A level English was not the place to discuss my secret love and it turned out that my degree wasn’t either. Quite frankly, if you weren’t reading Dostoevsky in the original Russian what were you even doing?
I left Uni and started working in a library. Honestly, it was like I had hit the motherlode. Whilst everyone kept talking to me about Dickens and Proust I was eyeing the Mills and Boon shelves. So many! I cancelled my monthly subscription to M&B, and I started to tear through them. In fact I enjoyed them so much I decided to write one. I sent it off and eagerly awaited their letter telling me how much they loved my work. Instead they said no. I sulked and moved onto reading Jilly Cooper.
During all my life I kept reading crime, sci-fi, I went to the gym, I worked in libraries and then opened a bookshop. And all that time, people assumed I was “well read” and “literary”. Occasionally, I would mention my love of SF and would have to watch the raised eyebrows. God knows what they would make of romance. I wasn’t ashamed of what I read but I seriously couldn’t be bothered with the justifications involved, the explanations. If they didn’t like romance, well that was on them. If they thought that romance readers were somehow sub-par, well that was on them too.
Finally, I wrote a book and whilst it “women’s fiction” whatever that means, it has a healthy and happy dollop of romance in it. When A New Life for Ariana Byrne was published it certainly raised eyebrows, as friends and family expected something else. Literary fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, crime. Anything else, to be fair, other than romance.
Poor romance. It brings so much joy and happiness and for some reason it is sneered or mocked. The truly great romances have excuses made for them, “yes it’s a love story but it’s so much more…” Honestly, how can there be more than love? It is the very best of humanity. Not just two people getting it on, but love for family, for strangers, for country, for beliefs. It brings out the best of us all.
And I for one am proud to read and write it.
For more on this subject there have been a couple of recent excellent article on the subject, in particular Milly Johnson’s words lit a fire under the whole issue.
Milly Johnson accepts the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association
“We are the glorious counterbalance to this climate of hate”
In light of the recently, wildly popular Bridgerton, there has been a lot of focus on romance and the inherent snobbery it attracts. The following article addresses the issue head on; the comment after the article highlight some of the perceptions held by many.
India Knight writing in The Times
Liz Hurley as well as being the owner of this blog, runs a bookshop in Cornwall, right by the sea and writes books. You can buy them in her shop (of course), Waterstones and other outlets, as well as Amazon.
When she’s not reading, she’s writing and when she’s not writing, she’s walking. And when she’s not doing any of that she’s binging on box sets and sleeping.
This website is for her fictional works. Her Cornish non-fiction titles and walking guides can be found at https://www.cornishwalks.com