Over the last couple of years there has been a significant rise in sales of romantic novels. For a while the industry was puzzled, but gradually the reason has become clear. With the advent of Kindles and other eReaders people have suddenly found themselves able to read romantic fiction without detection. Gone are the days when you had to conceal your Mills&Boon in the pages of War and Peace in case your boss caught you reading in your lunch break. Now you can upload romances to your heart’s content (as long as you also have The Catcher in the Rye handy to flip over to when someone asks what you are reading!) and eRomance sales have consequently boomed.
So why are we so shy about our love of romantic fiction? Perhaps it is partly because the so called trashy romances gave the genre a bad name. But there’s also plenty of badly written crime fiction around and that hasn’t given the crime genre a bad name. Of course the British literati have turned their noses up at romance for years, often refusing even to acknowledge it as an important element in the popularity of certain ‘literary’ novels. Runaway bestsellers such as Birdsong and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin are praised by literary critics for the quality of the writing, the historical accuracy and powerful characterisation, but very few praise them for including a cracking love story!
And why shouldn’t we relish a good romantic read? They are just as difficult to write. What is any novel after all but a means to escape the real world and lose ourselves in an exploration of make-believe, whether it be cliff top chases, gun battles, gruesome murders, ancient history, psychology, fantasy, science fiction or human relationships? Whether we like to admit it or not, romance, in one form or another, plays a huge part in our lives. We are emotional beings and it’s not surprising that we seek out novels that allow us to explore our feelings and fantasies. What is more surprising is that we still feel the need to have The Catcher in the Rye on standby!
In my next blog I will outline some of my all time favourite romantic reads, but in the meantime, especially as Valentine’s Day is approaching, I encourage you to take your courage in your hands and lose yourself in a romantic novel.