And, of course, the romance novel is no doubt prime ‘slop’ fodder, as it’s filled with women’s dialogue and ‘issues’.
But that’s to the uninitiated, the literary snob who buys J.M. Coetzee to place on the bookshelf rather than to read, those who think poetry books are what keeps publishing houses afloat.
Romance novels have ‘come a long way, baby’. Here’s why:
- Yes, the love story is the main arc, BUT…she can be her own boss, have her own home on five different continents, raise four children single-handedly, herd cattle, swim with sharks, fly charter planes, swing on the trapeze, or defeat the evil witches out to get her, and not resort to waiting for a man to make her decisions, give her ideas, dress her, take her out, walk all over her, beat her (unless they have a safe word), etc. We’re not side characters, comic relief, the ‘fat’ friend, the sexy temptress, the ditzy receptionist, the clutzy nurse, or any of the usual stereotypes that get trotted out to bolster the hero’s story. They’re about capable women who are earning money, getting on with the job, climbing corporate ladders, and/or raising families. And about how they fall in love.
- These are our stories. These are about women we know, women we love, women we wished we’d been, women we still hope to be one day. Relatable women. Our sisters, mothers, daughters. Our issues. About fitting in, finding yourself, acceptance, growing up, moving on, grief, revenge, vengeance, letting go, failing, stepping up, succeeding, you know, human issues.
- The characters are not always ‘nice’. In fact, some of them are downright difficult, rude, obstinate, stubborn, lippy, aggressive, short-tempered, vain, arrogant, even narcissistic. In other words, they’re human, with the human capacity for both sides of the emotion spectrum. They say the wrong thing. Swear too much. There are women who are useless with kids, who can’t cook (and don’t want to), who would rather die than ever wear a skirt. You know, like women you’ve met in your series of orbits round the sun.
- Hetero? We got it. Lesbian? We got it. Gay? We got it. African American? We got it. Nigerian? We got it. Australian? We got it. Vampires? We got it. Pirates? We got it. Love is always for everyone. Every. One. And no one is left out.
- Happy ever after never goes out of fashion. Why should every trip through a novel be bleak and unforgiving? Is hope a bad thing? Is escapism a bad thing? I expect ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to end with some sort of happy ever after/happy for now vibe. So does the audience. Happy ever after is more reassuring than ever in a world that’s imploding. But what’s expected for the male hero, is seen as ‘unrealistic’ for the female heroine. Say what? Romance novels restore hope. Hope. It gives you wings, remember.
- Sex. Filthy, dirty, fabulous, kinky, vanilla, light on/off, oral, with gadgets and toys or not. It’s all there. I met a woman who told me that ‘Fifty shades’ improved her sex life no end. It gave her ideas. It got her off. Women who’d never heard of BDSM, were suddenly out buying hand cuffs and floggers. Romance empowers women to explore their sexuality through their gaze, not men’s, opening up a wider variety of choice/experience/ideas. How can that not be awesome? Women in charge of and exploring their own sexuality? Awesome.
It’s a lavish, three-course dinner, fit to your culinary desires, that’s guaranteed to leave you satisfied.