Another jab at romance…? How shocking.


According to a columnist at  Delaware Online , Harlequin sales are up.  That’s not a surprise.  Romance steadily sells, and it’s one area of publishing that has consistently grown in recent years.  It’s one that will continue to grow, I imagine.

And yes…the column was written by another journalist who felt the need to take potshots at the genre.  How shocking.  Not.

She comments:

But the most intriguing entry was the third item on U.S. News’ list: bodice-ripper novels. Harlequin, still the biggest name in serial romances, saw a $3-million gain, year to year, in North American sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 (by contrast, book sales in the general marketplace are down slightly).

It’s so easy to poke fun at contemporary romance novels that there’s really no sport in it. The plots, by definition, are formulaic; the prose manages to be at once overwrought and underdeveloped; the covers, well, they’re where that famous, flaxen-haired slab of manhood named Fabio got his start. But romances have long dominated sales of mass-market paperbacks (which, in turn, dominate sales of books in general). According to statistics from Romance Writers of America, an organization of more than 10,000 published and aspiring novelists, romances generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. It’s even been said (granted, by a Harlequin author) that, worldwide, someone buys a Harlequin book every four seconds.

It’s not exactly a surprise that the romance novel business would be pretty recession-proof; as bad as things get, a lot of people — OK, mostly women — can still afford a $5 paperback. It’s also no great mystery why stories of women being wooed by chiseled, robust millionaires would be extra appealing in an era when a lot of millionaires are finding themselves downgraded to (if I may dust off a favorite word from my childhood) “thousandaires.”

Not all of the article could be construed as negative, I guess.  Snarky, definitely.  She slyly (or not so slyly) jabs at why romance readers like romance, commenting:

Maybe these books are recession-proof not because they offer an alternative to uncertainty but because they reflect it back at us — with a lot of sex thrown in (and a happy ending).

Basically, that’s just saying that romances provide a brief escape from reality.  Which is true.  It’s an entertaining way to kill some time.

But of course, it also proves she doesn’t read romance, (a lot of the harlequins still do have their sex taking place behind closed doors, right?)  More commentary about the powerless heroine who isn’t in control of her life and needs the rich man to come in and save her….yadda yadda yadda… Granted this is true of many of the Presents books, but they are written that way because they appeal to a group of readers, and they sell like hotcakes.  Jabbing at a group of readers’ personal reading taste?  Yep, sure sign of maturity there.

Still, what really gets at me is the fact that she seems to think romance is easy.  Am I right?  Well, if by some chance Ms. Daum ends up reading this, I’ve got a challenge for you.  Write a romance.  Publish it.  And then I’ll say you’re entitled to call it easy, take as many jabs at it at as you want.  But until then?  You really don’t know what you’re talking about.

Oh, by the way…bodice rippers?  That’s like so eighties.