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!