As you all know (or should know by now) I represent a great deal of romance and obviously read a great deal as well. I love these books, as do the millions of fans who spend $1.2 billion a year on romance novels. So why is it that romance writers—no matter how successful—editors, and agents have to continually defend the genre and what we do? Do you know that there are times when we even need to defend it to other industry professionals?
Lately, though, the defense of romance has reached national proportions with two recent, and very different, news articles. For those of you who aren’t in the romance loop, or from Texas, you might not have heard of the political race for comptroller between Democrat Fred Head and Republican Susan Combs. The race took an ugly and very interesting turn when Fred Head uncovered a romance novel Susan Combs wrote more than ten years ago. Besides calling the book pornographic, among other things, the most disturbing thing about this is that Fred Head is implying that because Susan Combs once wrote a romance novel she is not capable of representing her constituents. What if she had written a western, mystery, or science fiction? My guess is that no one ever would have taken notice. It is still shocking to me that in this day we have to defend these books and the people who both write and read them. Not only are we constantly defending the contents and how well they are written, but most
exasperating is that we are defending the intelligence of those involved, me included. Because here we are, in 2006, still looking for ways to prove that women are the lesser sex and that women who read romance are even worse.
The second incident ocurred in a recent Dear Abby column (http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby) in which several romance writers were inspired to write in and defend the genre, giving Abby the what-for and letting her know that we’ve come a long way, baby. To paraphrase, romance is no longer the damsel in distress needing help from her manly lover. Romance novels are strong women looking for equally strong men and hoping for a little passion along the way.
So fight on, romance warriors! Continue defending your genre. And for those of you who still consider romance novels not worthy of your attention, read before you judge. If you’re a mystery or suspense reader, pick up a book by one of our fabulous romantic suspense authors; if you prefer a little SF or fantasy in your books, buy yourself a paranormal romance. You might be pleasantly surprised, even inspired to join our fight.