I usually keep a reading list of whatever I’m finishing, but I am here to confess that my reading list has been less than honest lately. I’ve been binge-reading romance novels for the last 2 months now, with not a whole lot else stuffed in between. I’ve been loath to admit it, so I’ve been leaving it off the list. Why, you ask? Oh good, I was hoping you would. I’ll tell you.
Well, I mean… Regency romance novels with all the sex in them are definitely considered some of the worst kind of beach smut by a lot of people. I get that, but I don’t think that’s the entire reason I hate to admit that I read them (although as a self-professed book snob, perhaps that’s some of it). I DO advocate for reading everything and for judging a book by it’s intended merits. Romance novels are fun. The real reason I’ve not wanted to say anything , though, is because I am a girl who has always prided myself on being a little weird. But if I’m a 33 year-old married lady who isn’t particularly happy with life in its current state (Why have I not received a six figure book deal yet? Oh, it’s because I haven’t finished writing the book, you say? And even then, that sort of money is a total pipe-dream?), I may also be a giant cliché. Okay, I’ll just embrace it; I’m almost certainly a giant cliché.
But I’ll live with it. That’s how much I like romance novels. I am willing to be labeled ordinary for reading them.
There has been a TON of scholarship on why women like the romance genre, but I’m going to add my non-scientific thoughts on it. I like them because they’re the best kind of escapism. It’s really that simple. For example:
There are no money problems. Or if there are money problems, it’s because one or the other of the protagonists is hiding their vast fortune. Or is about to be left a vast fortune. Or is about to have an amazing idea for an invention that will earn them a fortune. In a romance novel, no one ever spends the evening going over the finances and crying. There is no dismay at how bad the electric bill has become in the wake of the 100-degree heat. No cars or carriages ever need repairs that are unaffordable. No one shops at the thrift store, the dollar tree. They don’t have to worry about deciding where to eat, or where to spend date night, or if there will even be a date night. Just have the cook make whatever you want! Attend the ball, or the theater! Characters buy libraries and entire wardrobes in one fell swoop in these things. Characters buy and furnish entire manor houses in one fell swoop. It’s relaxing.
And then… There are no job problems, because no one works. Everyone has a title or a vast fortune, so there is no day job to make ends meet. If you are female, your job is to dress yourself in awesome clothes, read books, and drink tea all day while waiting to be seduced or chatted-up by a VERY handsome (and often smart) man. You can attend balls and theater performances if you’d like. If you are a man, your job is to gamble, talk horses, tie a mean cravat, and go to the club while chatting up a lovely lady of your choice. Bonus points for tight pants and sheer manliness. People have professions if they want them or are good at them, but they work for themselves. There are no crappy bosses. There is no sacrificing time with your loved ones because the boss needs you to work overtime. There are no assignments that make you want to tear your hair out with boredom. No one ever has to decide what they want to “be when they grow up,” because what they’re going to be is independently wealthy. It’s lovely.
Put that together with settings of fantastical manor houses, pretty dresses, and bleak yet beautiful countryside and you have something that is just the perfect place to escape to. It’s so unlike my current American life of offices and cars that it’s almost like reading fantasy. Now if only we could do something about the sappy, cringe-worthy titles. That is the only thing left to reconcile… I can’t tell inquirers that I’m reading “Three Weeks With Lady X” with a straight face. I just can’t.