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Guest Post: August is Read-A-Romance Month

readaromance-62713-aBobbi Dumas is a Madison, Wisc.-based freelance writer who loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. She reviews for Kirkus, writes about the romance genre for NPR (her most popular piece was the In Defense of Romance essay published last winter) and is the founder of ReadARomanceMonth.com. Hope you’ll stop by!

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(First, thank you Jane for having me here, and for helping to spread the word about ReadARomanceMonth.com)

If you’re here at the wonderful Dear Author blog, then you read romance.

And if you read romance, chances are you have had the experience – at least once in your life, though I’m guessing many, many more times – of someone telling you that romances are stupid, or unrealistic, or beneath you.

If you write romance, I’m sure at least one person – if not a thousand – has asked you when you’re going to write a “real” book.

As if what you read, or write, or love, doesn’t matter.

Well. Romance matters. We know it. We’ve created a whole universe of fans, writers, readers, editors, agents and bloggers who live off of these “silly” books, both materially and spiritually.

It’s a billion dollar industry, romance. It’s the best selling segment of the publishing every year. It’s the driving force behind the exploding sales of e-books. It’s one of the few successful enterprises that is created mainly for women, by women, and yet we are somehow always asked to defend our choice to love it.

I love romance. My goal is to someday live in world where it is simply a given that many women love romance novels, and that no one expects those of us who do to apologize for it. My husband doesn’t read romance novels, and that’s okay. I’m not interested in woodworking. A lot of people don’t like woodworking, but they don’t automatically make my husband the butt of their jokes at a dinner party because he does.

The same cannot be said of me and my love for romance.

Romance is uplifting, optimistic and pro-woman. It makes us feel better, even when we’re at our worst. And it supports women, emotionally, psychologically and even financially in a way no other industry does, that I can think of.

I feel so strongly about romance and the romance genre, that I created a month long celebration of romance at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Yes, I realize many of you read more than one romance a month, but think of it more as celebrating the fact that we read – and love – romances.

I asked 93 authors to write content on the idea that Romance Matters, three a day through the month of August. These are some of the biggest names in romance: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Mary Jo Putney, Jayne Ann Krentz, Mary Balogh, Susan Mallery, Jill, Shalvis, Suzanne Brockmann, Kristin Higgins – the list goes on and on.

They have created essays that touch the full spectrum of emotions. They are witty, profound, heart-wrenching, funny, angry, defiant. They are beautiful and brilliant and a must-read for anyone who reads romance. These authors get it, and they’re right there with you.

Come visit and take a look around. Whether you want to pick up the rallying cry and become a militant advocate — (Maya Rodale has some great reasons as to why romance is feminism, and Lucy March/Lani Diane Rich gets up on a horse named Betty and rejects the premise that anyone should be asked to defend anything they do, or read) — or decide to simply curl up and lose yourself in your next great read (Christina Dodd tells us to relax. Romance readers have more sex and live longer anyway.)

The fact is, there are millions of women — and some men — out there who read romance, from all walks of life, every age group and income level. We love the journey, the adventure, the Black Moment, the surprise save. We love the first kiss and the sexy love scene, or the moment when the awesome heroine figures out how to save the hero – physically or emotionally. (Though sometimes, the hero saves the heroine.)

Because really, isn’t that what the modern romance is all about? Two people learning to solve their problems and create a world where they can be together, just as they were meant to be? A man and a woman (or, increasingly, two men or two women) who become their best selves, who save each other so they can create a life together, more whole and complete than they’ve ever been?

We love the dramatic moment when their souls are bared and they have to admit their love; when it becomes clear that they’ve brought each other to their metaphorical — well, and sometimes physical — knees, because they belong together and life has only become technicolor since they’ve figured that out.

It’s the rush of passion and emotion and the perfect romantic sigh. It’s the always-present promise of a happy-ever-after.

What about you? What makes you love romance? And when you’ve just finished a great romance, do you want to go back and read the best parts again, or do you rush off to find another book by the same author?

Also, do you argue with cynics? Or do you simply walk away, and look for the next great read?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

33 Comments

  1. Mari
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 06:57:04

    So awesome! Thanks Jane for bringing this to the attention of the DA readership! Count me in as one of those that doesn’t believe romance needs defending. Such a strong genre (not without its problems but still). Maybe it sounds ridiculous but romance and the HEAs give me great hope for the future of humanity.

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  2. wikkidsexycool
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 08:10:20

    Thanks for your post. I’ve always been an avid reader of romance. I just began publishing my work, after reading a best seller that described my cultural group in unflattering terms, yet many in the public loved it so. That’s when I decided to start focusing on multicultural romance. After doing some research, I realized books for teens who enjoyed romance needed more people of color, so that’s what I released first. But for me, whether a book is in the literary or commercial genre, I just love to read, and in many genres and sub-genres.

    I will re-read a book that I’ve enjoyed, and several major authors as well as indie pubbed authors have released books that I’ve read several times over. I’ve never had the experience of anyone saying when will I write a real book, because most of my friends agree than we’re under-represented. I love romance because when the story is done well, as a reader I can lose myself in the story and truly connect with the characters on a level that I may not be able to in say, the genre of horror or scifi. Perhaps its because love in all its forms is universal. A book doesn’t have to use overtly physical descriptions on the pages for me to enjoy a romance. I find the 50 Shades effect as a major influence on many newly published books, even YA (imho). Some of Jane Austin’s classics are my favorite books (and movies) to view time and time again.

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  3. hapax
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 08:14:40

    It always makes me sad when patrons come up to the reference desk and ask for recommendations, but are ashamed to tell me what they want to read.

    Nobody’s embarrassed to ask for “great military science fiction” or “a new historical mystery author” or “when are you going to buy more westerns?”

    But romance readers are always asking sheepishly for a “good book, you know… like *this* one or *that* author…” And when I say “Hmm, if you like J R Ward, have you tried Christine Feehan? I think her early Carpathian novels are the best!” or “I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips! If you don’t mind a British setting, you might try Katie Fforde!” ; their faces just light up.

    It’s like I’ve uttered the password, or shown them the secret handshake, and they think “MY TRIBE!”

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  4. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:24:55

    @Mari: Thanks so much, Mari! I agree. Hope you love the essays. Great writers, wonderful advocates for romance!

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  5. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:26:44

    Thanks again, Jane, for inviting me here! Love your work to advocate for romance! xoxo

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  6. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:29:15

    @hapax: Awesome! I wrote about “Finding My Tribe” in the romance community at Joyce Lamb’s HEA blog. Message me off the RARM facebook page if you want a link. xoxo

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  7. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:32:09

    @wikkidsexycool: I definitely believe that romance is gaining traction as a viable literary form, but there are still a lot of people who don’t get it. Nonetheless, every step forward is positive. Hope you get to read the essays at the website. :o) Thanks, wikkid. xoxo

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  8. cleo
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:42:15

    I used to be really embarrassed about reading romances – I read them secretly through my teens and into college – part of it was me being embarrassed about sex and part of it was that I thought that since I was smart, I should like smart-people books, which I though was limited to the classics and literary canon (or something). Slowly, very slowly, I met people who were like me – smart and widely read and into romance and sf/f and other frowned upon genres. I also discovered romance authors that I really loved and that I thought were great writers.

    Now, almost 30 years (ahem) after my first romance novel, and a lot of militant self-acceptance, I’m finally comfortable with, and unapologetic about, my reading tastes and I find that most people respond well. Some people are surprised that I read romance but aren’t rude about it.

    Recently, a male friend who’s an aspiring author told me that he wants to write a romance and make a lot of money and I almost ripped him a new one – I was so offended by the implication that writing a romance would be easy and easy money. Then I realized he was kind of serious, so I sent him a ton of links and book recommendations.

    ETA – I don’t bother to argue with cynics or try to convince anyone that romance is great. But I think that just being upfront and unapologetic about reading romance is kind of its own argument. The fact that I’m not embarrassed kind of shuts down the ridicule, at least in the circles I move in.

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  9. Julia Gabriel
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 09:54:22

    Kristan Higgins gave a great speech on why romance books matter at RWA this summer. I wasn’t there but I watched it later on You Tube. It takes a box of tissues to watch, though!

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  10. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 10:05:33

    @Julia Gabriel: I love Kristan Higgins, and I, too, loved this speech. Thanks for sharing it, Julia! If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll visit R-A-R M. xoxo

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  11. Kim cornwell
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 11:53:15

    Bobbi is doing a fantastic job over at RARM. I am having a blast finding new authors! I have my favorite authors whom I keep up with and can’t wait to get their newest books! I am always up for finding new ones though.

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  12. Lisa Hutson
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 12:08:09

    Sometimes, I reread a part. But I usually take note of quotes or parts and then slip that paper in the book when I am done.
    I count on the happily ever after from romance. It keeps me coming back for more.

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  13. Cindy Gerard
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:12:43

    Thanks Bobbi for being such a wonderful advocate for the romance genre. We’re thrilled to have you in the fold :o)

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  14. Praxidike
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:45:42

    Great article. I used to feel the need to defend reading romance, but I’m pretty much over it now. I don’t think the fact that I read romance or erotica makes me look less intelligent than someone who doesn’t read those things, and I like to read a wide variety of topics. And hi! I also live in Madison!

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  15. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:47:19

    @cleo: Thanks so much, Cleo! I think the fact that I get to write about it for NPR has made a few of my friends take notice. ;o) But you’re right, the less we buy into the idea we’re supposed to be embarrassed, the more centered we are in our conviction that romance is wonderful. Hope you get to the site – thanks so much for the comment! :o)

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  16. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:50:37

    @Kim cornwell: Thanks so much, Kim. Again. xoxo

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  17. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:51:24

    @Cindy Gerard: Awww – thank you, Cindy! xoxo

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  18. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:53:52

    @Praxidike: Hi, fellow Madisonian! Thanks for the wonderful comment. Great community of romance writers in Madison, and I may be starting a romance book club in the near future. Message me of the RARM FB page if you’d like to be part of that conversation. xoxo

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  19. Darlene Marshall
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 14:58:36

    Bobbi’s doing a great job pulling together a group of authors (who give the concept of “herding cats” a whole new definition) and is helping to spread the romance gospel. Thanks, Bobbi!

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  20. cleo
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 15:18:32

    @Bobbi: I did look at RARM (and shared it to Facebook – no snide comments yet) – you have an impressive line-up of authors, both old favorites and new to me. I really enjoyed the couple articles I had time to read (and I will be back). Keep up the good work.

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  21. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 16:38:12

    @cleo: Thanks so much, Cleo! xoxo

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  22. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 16:38:48

    @Darlene Marshall: Thanks so much, Darlene! xoxo

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  23. Suz Brockmann
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 17:50:38

    Awesome blog about an awesome project! I can’t wait until my Read-A-Romance Month blog on Aug. 26th! Romance matters, enormously! Thank you, Bobbi, for being a fierce advocate for our incredible genre!

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  24. Fiona McGier
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 18:09:53

    I’m so tired of people asking me what I write, then looking as if they just stepped in something smelly, as they remark, “Oh, who reads THAT stuff?” Or “I’m not interested in that, I read REAL books. Why don’t you write something I can read?” Or they wink and ask how much of my day and night I devote to “research”. If I’m feeling particularly snarky I’ll remind them I have a MENSA card in my wallet, right next to my lifetime membership card for the Sybaris chain of romantic motels. Or I ask if they think Stephen King kills people in his spare time, so he’ll know what that feels like. Or I ask if a Nicholas Sparks novel is allowed to be romance because it was written by a man, so it doesn’t get pigeon-holed as if it’s the red-headed step-child of literature. Romance is denigrated because it’s written by and for women…and the men who also enjoy romance, but don’t tell any of their male friends what they like to read.

    Honestly, what else is more important in life than connecting with someone on such a profoundly deep level, that you want to join not just your bodies together, but your entire lives, because you become one soul? Who doesn’t want that? And experiencing it again and again, vicariously, is almost as good as doing it yourself! Plus it allows me to still be faithful to my wonderful husband, yet fantasize constantly about other men…”Honestly, honey, I don’t need you to fake a Russian accent, just because my current hero is named Ivan! Though if you want to play…”

    So setting aside a month to celebrate such life-affirming books is an excellent idea! Where can I sign up to do a blog about it next year?

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  25. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 18:12:45

    @Lisa Hutson: Lisa – thank you! I don’t reread many books, but I have a few authors I’ve been known to slip back to when I need a boost. Lovely comment. xoxo

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  26. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 18:16:52

    @Fiona McGier: Oh, thanks so much, Fiona, what a great comment! Please do what you can to spread the word about Read-A-Romance Month! xoxo As for next year, well — I’m going to get a little bit of sleep in Sept, and then I’ll start thinking about 2014. ;o) Do keep in touch, though. You can always message me through the FB page or on twitter (BobbiDumas) xoxo

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  27. Bobbi
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 18:17:55

    @Suz Brockmann: Oh, Suz – thanks for being such a great enthusiast for R-A-R M! So grateful! xoxo

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  28. Kathy
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 06:06:32

    Bobbi, well said! What a terrific article! Thank you so much for being such an advocate for our genre. The “dissing” that romance gets is ridiculous and absurd. It’s about time we all come out for romance–in a big way! Read-A-Romance Month is an excellent event and I’m loving every blog I read!

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  29. Laurie Evans
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 18:02:38

    Well said! I’m over trying to defend reading and writing romance. I’m just over it. I also hate the comment about “When are you going to write a REAL book?” *slap*!

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  30. Bobbi
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 20:10:03

    @Kathy: Thanks so much, Kathy! xoxo

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  31. Bobbi
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 20:10:58

    @Laurie Evans: slap indeed. ;o) Thank you Laurie. xoxo

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  32. Molly
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 13:55:29

    I don’t bother arguing with ignorant people about romance novels. They just seem to dig in their heels and hold onto their preconceived (and inaccurate) notions. Of course, I will defend my choice of reading material if provoked. Thanks to 31 days worth of RARM blogs, I’m armed with knowledge on how to best defend the books I love best.

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  33. Romance Ahmed
    Dec 30, 2013 @ 12:32:59

    This is really a good article about romance. I’m finding the real meaning of romance. Is there sex is always need for romance? Is romance is the combination of love & sex or romance is mental issue. Finally I come to know that romance is very form people to people. Anyway I’m trying to find the pure romance.

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