Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels

Welcoming back Sarah Wendell, aka Smart Bitch Sarah to the blog today. She was co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms, and my go-to person for two articles I wrote about romance writers. As her website says, she is "Man Titty Media Pundit."

Her new book, Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels, comes out in October. If you haven't checked out her site, please do. It is everything you want a website to be: funny (very funny), informative, and opinionated.

Her topic is romance novels. As I am a defender of the real Jersey Shore, she is a defender of a genre that generates over $10 billion a year. Still, despite romances being one of the most if not the most profitable segment of a declining book industry, romance writers and readers are easy targets.

Want examples? This, this or this will do.

Dumb. Epically stupid. To suggest that women who read romances are addicted to porn is idiotic. Would you say your grandfather is addicted to mystery because he reads the new James Patterson book as soon as it comes out? Of course not.

But romance novels, as Wendell points out in this a thoughtful and succinct treatise of the genre, are, for the most part, for women by woman. They have emotions. They have feelings. And, yes, they sometimes have bad covers. But the industry is doing SOMETHING right. $10 billion does not lie.

I'm a 30 year old woman. I'm in a committed relationship. I not only have a bachelor's degree in English literature but a master's degree as well. I even review non-fiction books for upstanding publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and American Way magazine. I don't really like ice cream. And I don't have a cat.

I do, however, enjoy romance novels.

Does that surprise you? It shouldn't. I grew up reading books like Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High. I started in on Clive Cussler novels at 13 - and those books have more sex than a lot of romance novels do.

They're an escape. They're a mental and physical rest. As Wendell points out, escaping into another world where you KNOW there's going to be a happy ending is a break from everything else that's going on. I have a new book out and am moving at the same time. To sit for a half hour over lunch and slip into another reality is a wonderful break.

And a lot of them are well written, too. The level of detail and accuracy in an Eloisa James book is beyond what I read in most non-fiction. James, by the way, is really Mary Bly, a Shakepseare professor at Fordham with degrees from Oxford and Yale. No slouch.

Sure, some romance books are stinkers, which is where Wendell's site comes it. It reviews, praises and criticizes these books like any other books.

Which they are. Just maligned by people who don't know any better.

Thank you, Wendell, for expressing that so well in this book.

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