A must-read article for all those interested in the history of the development of the romance novel, and in particular, the category romance, was published earlier this month at Pictorial. The article, by Kelly Faircloth, is entitled How Harlequin Became the Most Famous Name in Romance, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Faircloth’s style is a wonderful combination of irreverent fan and knowledgeable feminist.
When I was in grade school, my next-door neighbor was a housewife and avid reader of Harlequin romances. She had boxes of them and was happy to share them with me. I was also an avid reader and had devoured most of the fiction in my school’s library. By the summer between seventh and eighth grade, I was out of books and growing increasingly bored. My parents did not own a television at that time and books were my favorite form of entertainment. My neighbor offered me a couple of boxes of her Harlequins that summer and, after my mother scanned a few and determined they were acceptably bland, she allowed me to accept them. I had a great time that summer, thanks to all those Harlequin romances.
Faircloth’s article finally helped me put together all of the various aspects of popular romance history. I lived through that time, but never really understood what was going on in the romance publishing world. Then, I was just looking for another romance to while away a summer evening or Saturday afternoon. But as an historian, by both training and avocation, I enjoyed learning how Harlequin rose to its position of prominence. And, I finally understand the long relationship between Harlequin and Mills and Boon. Even better, Faircloth has included more than a dozen images of Harlequin book covers over the years, as well as a couple of magazine ads they used to run. This article was a wonderful walk down the memory lane of romances for me. If you read category romances yourself, or would just like to know more about their origins, I think you will enjoy this article.
Earlier this month, the online magazine of the Smithsonian Institution published an article entitled Why Can’t Romance Novels Get Any Love? It is about the growing attention, and, dare I say, respect, which the romance genre has begun to garner in recent years. Sarah Frantz Lyons, outré romance editor, reviewer, consultant, and devoted scholar of the genre was interviewed for this article. It is she who is eager to throw open the velvet curtain which she feels has kept romance novels separate from other popular genres.
I was most intrigued by her comment that the arguments which were made against the romance novels read by young ladies in the eighteenth century are pretty much the same arguments which are still being used against romance novels by those who do not approve of them in modern times. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the old saw goes. Being a life-long lover of Regency romance, I was delighted to see that sub-genre top her list of the romance sub-genres which deserved serious attention from academics. It was also heartening to learn that quite a number of prestigious colleges and universities are offering courses or full programs on romance novels.
Something else which struck me while reading this article is that it is the happily-ever-after ending of romance novels which so many of their critics seem to find especially objectionable. I find that particularly odd, since it is the certainty of the happy ending which most attracts me to romance novels. I can relax and enjoy the character’s interactions knowing that no matter the conflict, they will eventually come together. What a lovely break from my routine, ordinary life those stories are for me. Why would someone want to deny me, or any other reader of romance novels, that pleasurable escape? Well, I, for one, am going to ignore that dog-in-the-manger attitude and continue to enjoy reading romance novels!
An article on the development of covers for romance novels was published last month on the Publisher’s Weekly blog. This article briefly recaps the history of romance novel covers, not forgetting the days of Fabio. However, what is most interesting about this article is the discussion of the covers which are appearing on books published by independent authors. Many of them are no longer willing to settle for a stock photo with some text slapped over it. Indie author are getting more creative with their covers, partly to make them stand out, but also, partly because they can. Without the domination of a big publishing house art department, an independent author is free to exercise their own creativity on their covers.
However, romance authors with books that will be releasing this year may be most interested in the last part of this article. A best-selling author who has had a look at the current best-seller lists speculates on the types of book covers which will sell romance novels in 2015. Apparently, the standard naked male torso will be with us for the foreseeable future. But there are other unexpected images which might also appear on romance covers over the course of the coming year.
Personally, the cover of a romance novel has a big influence on whether or not I decide to read the book. How about you?
Today, the limelight falls on Taken, by Angeline Fortin. In this time-travel romance, an actress from the twenty-first century is whisked back to the early sixteenth century. She finds herself transported to the wilds of Scotland in the run-up to the devastating Battle of Flodden. But just how is a modern woman to deal with a medieval Scottish Laird?
Taken in the limelight . . .
Romance with romance? Today, romance author, Andrea Downing, whose most recent romance, Dances of the Heart, was released last month, shares her views on why so many of us love to read romances. I suspect that quite a lot of us will see ourselves in at least some parts of this article and will agree with Andrea’s explanations as to why romance is so important to us. These same reasons may also explain why romance is the best-selling fiction genre.
Does Andrea cover all the reasons you read romances, or are there others you would like to share?
I am very pleased to announce that my debut Regency romance, Deflowering Daisy, is now available in a print version. Since I know a number of you have been waiting for the print edition, I hope you are as pleased as I am to have reached this publishing milestone. As a bibliophile myself, I am delighted to be a published author, now with an actual book to my credit.
More information about the story, including an extended excerpt, is available on my Book page.
For those of you who want the print edition of Deflowering Daisy, you can find copies at:
Jupiter Gardens Press
Barnes & Noble