Monday, March 29, 2010

More romance, please, we're British!

We have the wonderful authors here and many more, so what a shame there's so little romance, especially historical romance, on the shelves in the UK. Often bookstores don't have a romance section at all. Even if they have mystery and SF, no romance.

To me, it's a slap in the face for our genre and all who read and write romance novels.

I was pointed to today's Daily Mirror, where a piece says that younger readers are grabbing contemporary romance, especially the sexier ones, for the Sony e-reader because they feel a bit ashamed to be reading Mills & Boon because they see them as "mum's books." But they're loving to read them.

It's good news for the genre as a whole, because readers are reading the books, but what struck me was two posts in response that were, more or less, supportive of the genre. Good, but unfortunately the tone suggested kindness to some poor, perhaps socially handicapped and unfortunately pimply, member of the community, not a reference to a highly popular, successful form of literature.
"I actually did read one once somebody brought me one to read when I was not feeling well and I quite enjoyed it where's the harm?"

Where's the harm? It reminds me of an early review of one of my books in which the reviewer kindly said romance "is probably less harmful that Valium."

That poor reader, remembering her guilty pleasure but having never dared to venture into such risky waters again.
You can read the whole piece here. And comment if inspired.

Let's all be bold and outspoken about the wonders of romance novels because that woman next to you could well love the books, too, but be afraid to admit it.

It's even a public service. Books are known to influence out emotional health, so the plethora of grim ones that get official approval could explain a lot! Ones like romance novels, where good people are rewarded with the promise of a golden future are just what we all need.

You can find two of mine published in the UK by Everlyn books -- Lady Notorious and Tempting Fortune (complete with public sex in a brothel, except that the gallant hero saves Portia, and even strips off most of his clothes so she doesn't have to. That's what hero means!)

I have my classic Regencies being republished in the States -- remember, they're better than Valium -- and next week, a new Georgian adventure will be out. Should I update the comment and say "better than ecstasy? LOL! My New York published books are available here through Amazon and The Book Depository.
Check out all my other books in print.

You can read more about The Secret Duke here.

Remember the great truth -- it's easier to write angst and misery than fun and humour. Let's celebrate it.

Are you at all embarrassed by your fondness for romance novels? Are there places you'd not want to be seen reading one? Do others ever make derogatory remarks about your choice of reading? Do you have difficulty finding enough books of the type you want to read? I'd love to know.



Linda Sole said...

Romance keeps the world turning. I say three cheers for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Without them Romance fiction might be a thing of the past, Anne Herries

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jo. You look great!


Jo Beverley said...

Older photo, Bonnie. :)

But I wanted a cheerful sort of in-your-face pic!

Jo :)

Nicola Cornick said...

Hear hear, Jo. I'm not ashamed to read (or write) romance books and I always challenge anyone, nicely of course, if they make derogatory or stereotypical remarks about the genre. Unfortunately the British literary establishment has always been snobbish about romance books. I'm not sure why but it would be an interesting exercise for a psychologist. I believe there are many readers out there who LOVE historical romantic fiction in all its forms.

Miranda Neville said...

Not just the British, Nicola. The US too, and the readers who haven't discovered how good romance novels can be. I did a library reading last weekend and got just about every stereotypical response.

Q. surprised tone You write well. Why don't you try a different kind of book, a mystery for example? A. I like writing romance, and it sells.

Q. You write well. But aren't most other romances complete garbage? A. No. I'll be happy to provide a reading list.

Q. Why are the covers so embarrassing? A. Ask my publisher

Do you get the same questions now you are back in the UK, Jo? The lack of romance sections in bookstores must be frustrating for you. Last time I was in London I was thrilled to find a (small by US standards) romance section quite prominently displayed in Waterstone's in Kensington High Street. Mostly US imports and Little Black Dress. Oddly, US romance writers with UK editions (Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn etc) were shelved with general fiction. It's a whole different market.

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Miranda, such prejudice is evidently universal! I'm fascinated by the US/UK market debate since like a number of us on this blog, I sell in both markets. I do think that the romance market overall is quite different in the two countries but that tastes in Regency historicals have definitely moved closer together. However, to UK booksellers I suspect Regencies have not been "fashionable" since the 1970s. Borders used to stock a vast range of UK and US romances. Since they folded over here I've bought all my romance books over the internet and I suspect a lot of other readers do too. Interesting to hear what other people think.

Anonymous said...

There's a short answer as to why romance novels are despised - they're written by and for women (with one or two mainly anonymous exceptions!). Yet men's escapist literature fills review pages and library shelves. What else is James Bond but a male romance?

Madeleine Conway said...

I totally agree that there is insufficient promotion of romance in the UK - I was delighted to see your older books back in print, but wouldn't have known about that or the publisher if it hadn't been for your own posts in various historical romance blogspots/forums.

I don't understand why UK publishers don't have bigger romance lists - you would have thought it was a simple business issue, since romance sells. It does make us happy, it is fulfilling, fun and enjoyable. But readers do get embarrassed by the covers and the tag that romance is somehow for unfulfilled spinsters of a certain age. I do what I can! On my blog, I try to celebrate the good stuff, although some of my reviews can be a bit scathing.

Miranda Neville said...

Nicola, Georgette Heyer seems to be more popular in UK than ever (as she is, to a lesser extent, here) yet when I read her growing up she was regarded as semi-embarrassing fluff. So perhaps there's still hope for the "respectablization" of the Regency.

Madeleine: Absolutely agree on the UK publisher question. Romance sales are incredibly profitable for the Big 6 over here, holding their own in this recession when other genres have tanked. You'd think one of the UK branches would want to try and emulate that success.

Since Walmart is now the single biggest romance retailer in the US, I'm curious about UK romance sales outside of bookstores. For example, does Tesco carry romance? I think a lot of women will throw a romance paperback into their shopping cart but won't buy one in a bookstore.

Lindsay Townsend said...

It's so sad that British readers want romance and so many Brit publishers seem reluctant to supply it.

I'm a British romance reader and writer and proud of it. I write historical romances for two USA publishers - Kensington and Siren-Bookstrand.

I write medieval historical romances for Kensington and ancient world historical romances for Siren-Bookstrand.

In Britain, I'm looking forward to the launch of Everlyn books with interest. There is also the UK publisher Quaestor2000 for historical novels, including historical romance.

This is a super blog, by the way!

Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend

peggy said...

More Historical Romance Please From An American!!

I'm an avid romance reader who prefers historical romance, preferably British or Scottish. As an American, you might think I'd prefer historical romances with an American theme but I don't at all. I'm not ashamed to admit that I read romance novels, why should I? Romance keeps the blood pumping and the soul alive. Actually, I believe that those of us who regularly read romance novels are more in touch with our feelings than those that don't.
Those that are embarrassed to admit to reading these types of books obviously have no spine if being caught at or admitting to reading (and enjoying)a romance novel book is viewed in such a negative light. It's their loss, not mine. Gotta go because I'm just getting ready to start another romance book!! To all the historical authors who read this post, PLEASE KEEP WRITING those wonderful stories!! You bring much joy to this bookaholic American. Many thanks!! Peggy

Jane Holland said...

It's only the Daily Mirror. Don't worry about it. People will read romances even if you try to hide the stuff away. More so, in fact. My mother used to tell a wonderfully tall tale to journalists about German housewives swopping Mills and boons across the rubble when the Berlin wall came down. So keep writing and don't worry too much about the naysayers. You can't please everybody, but you can have a damn good time trying!

Jen Black said...

I see a lot of historical romance for sale in shops, but often I've read them already, sometimes 30 years ago. Why are the Heyer, Irwin, Plaidy and Barnes books being re-issued intead of new historical romance authors being taken up and given a chance? Is it because of cost? Does anyone know? We need some review journalists on our side, and publishers willing to take a gamble. Oh, and covers that don't suggest we have taken to reading erotica. A large amount of self-confidence is needed to lift some of the M&B off the shelves in public these days -
Jen (one of Quaestor2000's authors)

Jo B said...

Thanks for all the responses. Simply talking about romance novels whenever, wherever could start the change!

I do think, however, that it would help to draw the lines more clearly. Some writers fight genre designations, but I think they help readers find exactly what they want.

So if we have sections for romances, sagas, historical novels, women's journeys etc etc, I'd like it.


Jenna Dawlish said...

I hate the snobbery about romance books too. It's such a shame people are so judgemental. Jen Black, my publishers are actively looking for the sort of books you describe, but some authors aren't interested in small publishers.

Jenna Dawlish said...

Forgot to say - I went to Winchester Writers' conference a few times, and whilst it was fabulous and v helpful, whenever I talked to other writers, and they asked me what genre I wrote, they'd mostly look away embarrassed when I said I wrote Romantic fiction. Really sad. Needless to say, I was v pleased to find out about the RNA!

Barbara said...

I adore historical romance (I find contemporary fiction boring in general), and will read it anywhere. I always have a book on the go and have been instrumental in initiating 3 of my work colleagues to the genre, including a youngster of 25!Jo, I have just decided to try one of your books and have chosen St Raven,looking forward to starting it.
Please, all of you, keep up the fantastic work, I don't know what I would do without your wonderful books!!!

Jo B said...

Barbara, I hope you enjoy St Raven. And good for you for sharing the delights of romance novels with others. :)

Jenna, I decided a while back that if I was attending a general writing event I'd make it clear I was a romance writer, so I made a badge of my own with my latest book cover on it.

I found most other writers would at least be polite then. But when not expecting such an odd type, they're taken aback, then embarrassed, and it all gets very awkward.


Monica Fairview said...

Romance sells, but it's a women's genre, so of course it can't be very important or valuable, can it?

Love is the most important human emotion. Without it, where would we be? It's the one thing of beauty everyone has a chance of experiencing.

Erin Kane Spock said...

My sister puts a paper cover over her book so people won't see what she's reading. She's embarrassed. I write romance and she would rather I call it historical fiction than historical romance.
Romance offers a fun story with a sure happily-ever-after. In a world of depression, both emotional and financial, who wouldn't want an escape? As to the sex (that non-romance-readers think is the entire value of the genre), I read more explicit and gratuitous sex scenes in other genres. At least the sex in romance furthers the story (most of the time).
I have taken Valium. A romance novel is much better. :)
Okay, back to writing.

Cody Young said...

Great to discover this blog site. Yes, it does bother me a little that the romance genre gets denigrated by some people (usually people who haven't read it, or people who imagine that the formula for a romance novel is so tight you can even predict the page number where the kiss scene will be). But I have come to respect a genre that describes the powerful emotions that accompany sex and love. Romance rocks!