If you're familiar with my blog, you're probably already aware that I'm a huge fan of romance novels. It's safe to say I'm a little obsessed, I look for romance in a lot of the fantasy books I read too and I'll read any style of romance featuring characters of any sexual orientation.
I think I first fell in love with romance when I was around 10 years old, it was then that I first read Pride and Prejudice, and saw Titanic for the first time. The concept of two people falling in love, usually against all odds, fascinated me and it still does.
Romance novels are some of my favourite books of all time, including; The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Jed Had to Die by Tara Sivec, Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan, Checkmate by R.L. Mathewson, and Bad Things Play Here by Chani Lynn Feener.
Then there are the books that aren't typically categorised as romance novels, but that feature romance as one of the central themes i.e. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, They Both Die at the End, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, The Night Circus, Caraval, A Court of Thorns and Rose Series (we'll come back to this one), Nevernight, and Twilight.
Most of the books that I rate 5 stars include romance or love in some form. I'm a sucker for a love, even if it doesn't always work out. One of the main reasons I read so much is because I like to escape reality, I enjoy fleeing for a few moments, sometimes hours, from the bleak, and depressing parts of this world we live in.
Reading is my escapism and when choosing a book to read I often look for something that will lift my spirits and make me feel. That's why I choose romance.
To fall in love with a character or character(s) is a magical thing. For an author to be able to create a character that you can in some ways fall for, swoon over, and care about is exceptional. After all, we're just reading words on a piece of paper and yet somehow these characters are coming to life in our minds, making us feel.
Over the years, I've noticed a lot of backlash towards romance authors and readers. Most recently this happened with #soapgate. If you haven't heard of #soapgate, basically a book subscription box released a box inspired by the A Court of Thorns and Roses series which included a phallically shaped soap. Hilarious, useful (for getting clean!) and nothing to get so worked up about.
Twitter descended into a downward spiral towards Hell that day. So many people with so many opinions, hurling insults at the book box company for including the soap (and I believe a smutty fan fiction story), insulting the author for including sex in a YA novel and then insulting fans of the books for liking this 'smutty trash'.
Seriously? Why do some people think that it's okay to tell other's what they should/shouldn't be reading? We're lucky enough to live in an age (in most parts of the world) where reading is free choice. It's entirely your decision what you choose to read, and why should anyone give a shit whether or not you enjoy it?
I honestly can't understand why I saw so much hate about this so here are my responses:
1.) A YA NOVEL CAN FEATURE SEX BECAUSE TEENS HAVE SEX. Sex is a part of life for almost everyone over a certain age. Whether they're having sex or not you can bet they know about it. Reading about sex is not a bad thing, especially when safe sex is promoted and encouraged. In this particular series, for example, the main character talks quite a bit about how she takes a tonic to ensure she doesn't get pregnant. How is this a bad message to send to teens??
2.) IT'S FINE TO LIKE A BOOK THAT HAS SEX IN IT!! As mentioned above, sex is a normal part of life for a lot of people. Porn is commonplace, I doubt I've met a single person in my life who hasn't watched porn, or even a movie with sex in it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying reading about sex.
3.) EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN OPINION. I started this blog because I wanted to share my opinion, my reviews on the books that I've read. I also love reading reviews and opinions from others. Whether they agree or disagree, I respect someone else's opinion. Opinions can start conversations, debates, friendships, and relationships. What I don't agree with is trashing someone because of their reading choices. I like romance novels, that doesn't mean you get to call me shallow, uneducated and 'not a real reader' - yeah, these are all things I've been told or heard thrown at other romance readers. Here's another opinion: I absolutely hate Fifty Shades of Grey, I tried to read it, I couldn't. I hated the characters, the plot, everything about it. That book, that series is enormous. It's a worldwide sensation. It's a movie-franchise, it's inspired other books, other movies, other writers. I don't like it. Other people do. Two contrasting opinions. Neither one is right, neither is wrong, but both are valid.
It's also ridiculous to say that romance authors aren't real writers, it's actually complete bollocks.
Romance is probably one of the most difficult things to portray. Scientists explain falling in love as 3 separate stages; lust, attraction, and attachment.
A romance author has to create a character that makes you weak at the knees, that makes you want to get to know them better and that you never want to let go. They create two characters who overcome obstacles on their path to love.
Not only this, romance novels aren't all black and white. They contain other elements, a larger plot that makes the story even more complex and gripping. Think about all of the different romance novel sub-genres:
And these are just ones that I've read. Here's another opinion: I'm not a fan of Erotic romance. I often find that Erotic romance focuses a lot more on sex than other romance novels, usually involving BDSM, which is something that I don't agree with (possibly because I don't understand it as I've only ever been presented with the commercialised version of it). I typically prefer romance novels that feature strong plots and varied developed characters.
Here are a couple of examples:
Romantic Comedy - Jed Had To Die by Tara Sivec - I adore this book. I adore all of Tara's books but this is easily my favourite. It's actually a murder mystery, romantic comedy, see what I mean about complex? It features murder, domestic abuse, strong friendship, three strong, brave women, lots of drinking, a few racoons and some very questionable home baking. See how I haven't even mentioned the romance yet, which is amazing, but it's not what I love most about this book. Each aspect comes together to make this book one of my all-time favourites.
Historical Romance - Sins of a Wicked Duke by Sophie Jordan - I know some people would immediately be put off this book by the title. But what you might not know is that this book is about a woman who is harassed by her male employer, and faced with no alternative, she pulls a Mulan and disguises herself as a man so she can get a secure job without having to worry about the actions of men around her. See what I mean? Not even a mention of the romance yet and you can already tell why I love this book.
Romance novels often feature incredibly strong, brave women who go against social norms, who deal with abuse, pain and discrimination on their own. Who pull themselves through tough situations. I've read romance novels featuring single mothers, business owners, abuse victims, women who've started with nothing and built themselves up. Women with drive, passion and conviction, and for me, these positive role models are some of the biggest draws to romance novels.
Think back to A Court of Thorns and Roses. The main character is the sole provider for her family. She provides food for her two sisters and her father every single day because she has no other choice. Because no one else will. When a beast threatens her family, she leaves to save them. Time and time again she puts her own life on the line to save others. She grows in strength over and over again, even though she has the option to just walk away. To take the easy way out. There are other strong women in this book, in all of Sarah J. Maas's books. Yes, the book has sex in it. I'd still allow my daughter to read this when she's a teenager because not only is it an incredible work of fantasy, it's has a strong feminist message.
On top of the multiple sub-genres, we then have the various relationship tropes such as; friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, soul mates, second chance, secret romance, first love, love triangle etc.
So many different ways for two people to fall in love, and that's not counting the romance novels featuring more than two people.
Enemies to Lovers is probably my favourite trope. It's a pretty common top choice since two people hating each other and then overcoming all of their differences until they can't bear to be apart is one of the most inspiring, and usually comic romantic tropes of all.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is a prime example of this trope. It's comedic writing at its finest.
So, now that I've said my piece, (and if you don't agree or if you do, you're welcome to leave a comment and chat about it), in an attempt to combat some of the prejudice surrounding romance novels and romance authors, I've decided to add a new feature to My Endless Shelf: Romance Author Spotlight. This will be a monthly feature, highlighting some of my favourite romance authors across multiple sub-genres and their books.
I'm going to start off this month with an author who two years ago got me hooked on romance novels and even helped to inspire me enough to attempt writing my own (even if I am still working on it!)
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Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, aspiring writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
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