My World

The world according to me!

Reading Romance

I used to really love romance novels when I was younger. They were so adult, so sexy, so fun. I’d eat them up in minutes and return for seconds.

We had a book club in school. We’d source the books from our mothers’ shelves and plead with the borrower not to damage or lose them, since we’re not supposed to be reading those kind of books anyway. Lets be honest, some of them are practically soft porn. Sidney Sheldon, hello!

My romance novel introduction started with the  the Sweet Valley Highs and Sweet Dreams. They were the best. Not at all filthy, just innocent cutesy teenage romance issues.

Or so I thought. Apparently they had all sorts of horrible sub-plots. I don’t even remember what they were about, but I don’t doubt it at all.

Then I got into Mills and Boon. They were a little more adult, a little naughty. You’d get in trouble for these, at least you would in my household. Though I honestly can’t imagine why, other than they rot your brain. The love I had for these books was fleeting. The formula was obvious, especially in the books from the 60s, 70s and early 80s.

The men were always older. 35 was young in these books, yet the women were barely legal. 18 to 23 was the preferred age range. They were always skinny, with boyish hips. The bad girls were the ones with the curves of an adult. And I wasn’t feeling the rape-fantasy overtones in the sexual encounters. The Hero is ALWAYS bruising the woman with his grip. He ALWAYS kisses her in a rough way. I mean, really? I had to give this crap up.

So then I discovered Harlequin and Loveswept. Much better, they had a bit more variety,  the women could be curvier, they were closer in age…the women were still  virgins, but hey at least we had progress. The stories were sexier, without being graphic, at so I thought in high school.

I’d really liked Loveswept for a while. They were the modern romance novel. Their art direction was miles better than Mills and Boon. Their covers were reminiscent of Cosmo in their use of colour. More importantly I enjoyed their novels. But the line is no more, which is kind of odd since it spawned a lot of famous chick lit authors.

Alas, my romance with Loveswept didn’t last. I discovered Historical Romance and really explored the Dallas-as-a-novel type romances of Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon. Stranger in a Mirror blew my mind. I didn’t know you could write about those things! Harold and Jackie truly explored the sex, drugs and rock & roll aspect of Hollywood in the swinging 60s, 70s and 80s. Everything was gaudy over the top and scandalous, and I was hooked.

But as much fun romance novels are, they can be so formulaic. So I got bored, and got snobby and said goodbye to them. I left romance novels behind for up and coming writers, books on life in the West Indies and African love and politics. I no longer had time for shallow romance novel BS, because I read quality lit, not crap.

But if reading is fun, and you’re doing it for you, what’s wrong with reading the occasional romance novel? We may frown on it, but it’s the top-selling genre of book worldwide. I only returned to romance novels, after a long hiatus, during my final set of exams in university. I just needed to read something relaxing. My friend handed over the book, with the assurance that the sex scenes were, “hot.”

Since then I re-read some of my favourites, and couldn’t get pass the first chapter for most of them. Others like Abra Taylor’s “A Taste of Eden”, I still like.

And then I moved on to contemporary fare, like Terry McMillian and Eric Jerome Dickey, the latter I still like, a little. Dickey’s writing is intense, on all levels, and explores a side of the African American experience often ignored in the main stream. So, even if his novels are a bit cliched, like Tyler Perry’s movies they’re fulfilling a need. I’m not sure I can re-read his stuff though.

And yes I’ve read erotica, maybe 3/5 books. Most times it’s just too much for me. Like hard-core porn, I think its overrated.

These days if I want to read romance I will. They’re not on my TBR list, more like a vaps purchase or borrow. But if I can watch a variety of genres on TV and in cinema, then I can read all genres and show them off in my library.


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