RESPECT THE ROMANCE!

Mostly I read fiction. Thrillers, mysteries, literary, historical, and romance. Of those genres, romance is the black sheep. I’ve heard women, because most romance readers are women, disguise the covers when they’re reading on the train or the bus. It’s just that shameful.
Why is that? As in any genre, some of the romances that are published are pretty thinly written. (It’s my policy not to mention by name any of the books I consider clinkers.) The story might be banal and shallow and the writing not yet masterful as far as craft. But browse the shelves of other genres. Science Fiction? Notorious for having a great premise, but undeveloped characters and mundane writing. (Also some terrific sci fi books out there. My favorite is Enders Game by Orson Scott Card.) Westerns? Same evaluation, but wouldn’t you say Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses is a Western, and he’s highly lauded (and I second the rating)And he is so much more than the stereotyypical Western, which is the case for many romances, as well. Okay, point being that every genre has lots of weak sisters as well as some stars.
So why is Romance singled out for sneers and jeers? Well, tired as it is to trot out the gender issue, it has to be said. It’s a women’s genre. Mostly written by women for women. We’ve come a long way, baby, but attitudes that women’s concerns are “little” compared to the big old men’s worries persists. You know the old sort-of-joke: at a cocktail party (that’s dated, isn’t it?) the couple tell friends that they have it all worked out – she makes all the decisions for the family and he worries about nuclear disarmament. Big sigh.
Why else? Hmm. Maybe that’s all. Emotional, personal stories are simply the female provenance. It is true that most romance novels do not concern themselves with bigger picture issues. By definition, the romance concerns itself with the story of one man and one woman who are attracted but for varied reasons find obstacles to their happiness – but who eventually overcome all obstacles for their happy ever after. But that doesn’t mean other issues are not involved. Historical novels in particular often place their characters in settings that explore societal difficulties like war or crime or economic hardship or natural disaster. (Like my novels, which explore slavery, ownership of slavery, war, invasion, and oppression. Real uppers, when I look at it that way, but I do provide a happy ending for the two main characters if not for everybody else.) The sub-genre historical novel with romance elements seems to best cover novels like my Crimson Sky, Always and Forever, and Ever My Love. The backdrop of society’s upheavals rivals and at times overshadows the protagonists’ romance.
As for quality of the writing itself? Romance has some truly masterful writers and it is my pleasure to announce a new one, at least new to me. Sherry Thomas’s Delicious in particular is great fun. She carries the motif of food (and music) throughout the book — masterfully. And the queen of historicals, Judith Ivory – Black Silk and The Proposition are the highest examples of story and craft and character.
I once saw a t-shirt that said “Real Women Read Romance.” Well, if real men read Tom Clancy, who I’m not knocking but whom I don’t seek out, whose books have a fraction of the emotional resonance and depth of character of a good romance, then we women can certainly raise those romance covers high on the train. (Covers – there’s a topic worthy of another blog).

(The links for my novels given above take you to Amazon. If you’re a Barnes and Nobel shopper, use these links: Crimson Sky, Always and Forever, Ever My Love.)

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About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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