Another Saturday in June, another special reader guest post! (Confused? It’s explained here.) I “met” Stacy on twitter, and then in person at the Reader Author Get Together in 2010. She adores giving me a hard time… but I like her anyway. ;P
Hi all. My name is Stacy and I am a life-long romance reader. The devious, er, lovely! Limecello here asked me about a million years ago to write up a post. It’s finally time to pay the piper. So here goes…..
I started reading teen romances probably around 8 or 9 years old, and eventually graduated to my mom’s adult romances soon thereafter. See, like most of us, I was always an insatiable reader, glomming everything in writing from magazines and books, to cereal and Kleenex boxes that told brief stories. I grew up in the country and did not have easy access to a library, but we did have the book mobile that showed up every week or so, and when I ran out of books to read between visits, I would sneak my mom’s “grown-up” books, thinking she didn’t have a clue. But of course she did, she knew just about everything (like the time me and my brothers started setting fires…but that’s way off-topic) yet obviously didn’t feel they were risque enough to keep away from me. However, thinking back to some of those scandalous passages, I would say they make even some of today’s stories pale in comparison. It was one hell of an education. I distinctly remember one story that involved a cucumber and- ahem! I digress. (Though I wonder whatever happened to that book….)
Anyway, I read romances for a variety of reasons. I think stories about relationships can be the most complex, and the most interesting. People are fascinating, and watching two dynamic characters dramatically fall in love amidst a zombie apocalypse or slowly yet engagingly transform from friends into lovers in a quaint small town is actually quite wonderful. Nothing can beat that.
One thing I really enjoy about romances is that, in the 25+ years I’ve been reading them, the storylines have evolved tremendously. Back in the 80′s, the majority of the books, whether they were historicals or contemporaries, almost always had a virginal, naive heroine and a rugged, arrogant hero. In most cases, there was a significant age difference between the two, generally where the hero was 15-20 years older than our nubile heroine. And the heroine always ended up being dependent upon the hero to save her from something – a lecherous uncle, war, losing the family home, you name it. And once all the obstacles were overcome and “twu luv” was realized, the birds sang, the sky was filled with brilliant rainbows, and nowhere on earth was there a greater or stronger love to be found. Nowadays, romance novels are less fairy tale and more love story. Women are independent, some older than the hero, almost all able to take care of themselves because they have a working brain, employment, and the confidence and ability to support themselves. It isn’t about needing a man. It’s about finding someone who enhances your life. And perhaps the two get married, or maybe they never even get around to declarations of love. You just know that by the end of the book, these are two people who have discovered an equal partner, and maybe one they will spend the rest of their life with. Or not. And that is quite okay. Happily Ever After has become Happy For Now. Not every story needs to be about soulmates. As I’ve gotten older and collected my own experiences, I am completely open to either of those options. It’s what makes life exciting.
Another thing I am extremely happy to see is the continued increase in gay romances. And…it’s about damn time! Love is love, and I especially enjoy reading romances about two men, especially if it’s two extremely masculine and sexually aggressive men. Oh baby. *fans self* Admittedly, I have not read much lesbian romance, and the reason being is, I confess, I read romance mainly for the drool-worthy men. But if it’s a compelling story and gets positive feedback from fellow readers, I would love to read it. In fact I should really make it a point this year to seek them out. Who know what gems I have been missing because I have been so focused on the guys. A romantic story, told well, will make my heart flutter, regardless who the characters are.
The last thing I would also like to address about my love of today’s romance books is the varying levels of sexuality you can find out there in today’s stories. I admit I like a more sexually explicit storyline. Other readers prefer less. Nothing wrong with that at all. We all have our comfort levels. The one thing I feel is most important is that others should not be ashamed of their sexuality. It is not something to ridicule or sneer at. Case in point: I never thought I would say this, but I actually enjoy reading books with a BDSM theme to them. And by that, I do not refer to the recent phenomenon 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, although I know they are quite popular these days, what with local radio personalities sharing passages on the air. In recent years, through social media and meeting other book lovers, I have actually gotten to know some people who are involved in BDSM relationships. Some of them have become good friends of mine. Chicago has quite an active kink community, and in taking the time to educate myself on the lifestyle, I have really come to understand a lot about the dynamics of these relationships, and I have a healthy respect for anyone who exists within a healthy, honest, and consensual partnership. And because of that, I like knowing there are books out there that appeal to everyone’s personal preference.
The world of romance novels is a vast, complex, interesting and ever-evolving one. I cannot imagine ever being bored in what this genre – and all the subsequent subgenres attached to it - has to offer to its readership. In fact I look forward to all the fantastic stories that are yet to be told. So authors, please, keep on writing.
Sincerely & with much love,
What are your thoughts? Has your reading journey been anything like Stacy’s? When did you start reading? What are your genres of choice? Got any book recommendations for us?