Defending Romance Novels

People say a lot of mean things about romance novels, romance readers, and the romance publishing industry.

I’m going to say some mean things back.


Romance novels aren’t real books!

Okay, this is like the book world version of that one guy who’s like, “Driving stick is the only driving that’s real.” Aren’t they just the worst? You’ll be talking about how garlic seems overpriced, and this guy will jump in like, “Oh, speaking of, I was SO glad I had my stick shift last winter!”

People who are really into driving stick: get that tub of goo you use to make a DIY dildo mold of  your penis, and make a duplicate of your shifter knob to marry on one of those weird reality shows where people have sex with rollercoasters and stuff.

People who say romances aren’t real books: stop sharing this opinion online. Instead, write long letters about classics to that one college professor you had who would ONLY assign classics. This is the only person who might, perhaps, possibly give a shit.

Only lonely middle-aged women read that crap!

Lonely, middle-aged women are the only ones reading anything these days. When lonely, middle-aged women stop reading, reading, as an activity, dies.

Be a middle-aged woman and just generally live life. That’s more reality than you can handle.

The idea that a genre’s no good because its biggest fans are middle-aged women ends up being an indictment of books and reading as a whole.

Romance readers ONLY read romance!

Most people have like less than five things in life that bring them joy. Why do you want to take one of them away? What does that gain you or your cause? They’re not going to jump ship from romance and read your piece of shit book. 

Romance novels give people unrealistic relationship ideas!

So does porn. I say we keep both.

The plots are unrealistic!

Romance readers know that. They live the same real, hard, sometimes-shitty lives the rest of us live.

If you want to talk “realistic,” be a middle-aged woman and just generally live life. That’s more reality than you can handle.

I could write romance, easy, make a ton of cash, and the only thing holding me back is that I don't want to put that crap in the world!

No, you couldn't. If you could, you’d have done it already and be ignoring this column from the deck of your superyacht.

Happily Ever After as a guarantee makes it boring! What's the point?

Every time you masturbate, you have a pretty good idea what the ending is going to be like. Does that mean it’s boring? Not worth replicating? You did it once, got the idea, and never went for it again?

There’s a prescribed beginning, middle and end, like X has to happen before page 25, Y has to happen before page 50. That’s stupid!

If you think other genres don’t have clamped down ideas about what they want and in how many pages, you’ve never submitted fiction. At least romance has the balls to be explicit about it.

All romance novels are the same!

Are you telling me romance is worse than fantasy, a genre that has been wringing every last fart of an idea out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s old underwear for decades now? Are you telling me that romance is less creative than literary fiction, a genre of college professors writing characters who are college professors writing about being college professors? Are you really going to sit there and attack the creativity of romance, meanwhile Peter Parker’s been rebooted back to high school more times than the flunkingest student in all of history?

The writing in most of them is really bad!

That’s 100% accurate, but only because the writing in most of anything that has writing is really bad. TV? Mostly shit writing. Instructions for anything? Shit. The Rosetta Stone? Overrated.

Those Fabio covers are so stupid!

You’re referring to the famous “clinch” covers. That shit is so outdated. It’s like complaining about pop music by referencing Bing Crosby.

Romance Writers of America is a mess, wasn’t there like some racist bullshit going on over there?

At this point, organizations like this and their awards presentations only exist to piss people off and cause controversy. It doesn’t matter if it’s Oscars being so white or Stokers being so stoked—whatever. These “associations” are just the tortilla chip that serves as a vehicle for controversy and gossip.

The allure of romance will replace real-life relationships for some women!

If a woman would rather have a relationship with a pile of books than you:

  1. That woman likes books a lot, and that’s fine. If she’s happy, everything’s fine.
  2. You need to step up your game.
  3. You're being blown off, and you should just take the hint. 

Fine. But I'm still not reading romance!

Cool. You don't have to read anything.

You DO have to shut the fuck up when people are talking about books you know nothing about, though.


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Column by Peter Derk

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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