Keep the Fire Burning

I never thought of romance as being dangerous, but after seeing Maya Rodale‘s video, Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation Of Romance Novels Explained, I realized we are all rebels.

I teared up watching this video. All I could think about were the all over the world women who are still repressed. Women in India and the Middle East. Women here at home. Yes, we still have repression here in the US, and likely wherever you live as well. But at least in what we term the ‘Free World’ we can vote, own property, own ourselves.

We can make the choice of who to marry. (Well most of us.) We can drive cars without fear, walk by ourselves, and read what we choose. And I choose romance.

I’ve never thought of it as being particularly rebellious, but in some ways, even for me, reading romance has been a rebellion. When I grew up girls who read were considered nerds. But I knew that I wasn’t reading boring old books, I was reading about strong women having adventures. And boy  girl, what adventures. I was an early adapter of romance.  I read my first romance in sixth grade, Jane Eyre. I guess that explains a lot of my Gothic tendencies and love of the flawed alpha male.

In seventh grade it was , Gone With the Wind. After that I read every single romance I could find and never looked back. Of course, one could argue that Gone With the Wind is not a romance. After all, there is no happily ever after. But it fits the bill of a story of a strong woman choosing to follow her heart rather than what society says she should want. And that, after all, is what makes it dangerous.

I was a rebel with a book. No one knew that behind my serious face and thick glasses lived a wanton romance reader. I’m not sure many people in middle school beyond my inner circle even knew what romances were, or what was between those covers. One of my vivid memories was in ninth grade when the boy in the locker next door (who I had a huge crush on) looked at my toppling stack of books that took up the entire top locker shelf, and asked “Have you read all those?”

In point of fact I’d read most of them in a day, or two. They were a everything from skinny contempories to thick historicals. I zipped through my homework to get to my reading. I devoured books one, two, three at a time. And I had no idea that the act of turning every page was heretical.

As I grew to adulthood I realized that my reading tastes were supposed to be hidden. Good girls don’t (but I do!). Never let them know that you read those smutty books. I’ve turned covers over, put books down fast, not taken certain covers to work. All the secret acts of a secret rebel. But now I’m not hiding.

I’m all over the internet with my reading, and writing, choices. My books are hot! And guess, what? Every hot book makes a statement that women can choose to be independent and sexual on their own terms. So claim those saucy covers. Take them outside and flaunt ’em because every romance read and claimed is a nail in the coffin of suppression.

How long have you been a romance reader? Did you know it was a rebel act? Have you ever hidden your reading choices? Why should we hide what millions of women read? What did you think of Maya Rodale’s statement?


Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania

15 responses to “Keep the Fire Burning

  1. Hey, Jessica! Good post. As you know I’m not much of a romance novel reader, except for your amazing books, but I had never thought of this reasoning for my tastes. I love strong female characters and happy endings but find with historical fiction there is just more to the plot. Something inside me wants to think Claire and Jamie have a great love set against amazing historical facts. There are juicy bits about wars and battles which are connected to the fictional characters in various interesting ways. So, yes, the romance is there, but there is more, and that’s what I love. Thanks for the video which points out a different side to reading of all kinds.

    • I think that it’s not just romance, but women’s fiction and women authors in general who get the shaft. (Hmm, wonder where that came from?LOL) I used to have a book called “Kissing the Rod”, a collection of women’s writing and poetry throughout the middle ages and Renaissance that was radical in that it said women could think and deserved rights. Even now, if it’s written by a woman a book will have to work twice as hard to be recognized by the critics. Not by us mass consumers though! Love Claire and Jamie, although I think I’m a book behind!

  2. Hi Jessica! Wonderful topic! I’ve been reading romance novels since I was 11 years old (I’m now in my late 30’s). When I first started reading them I was ashamed because my family called them “dirty” and “nasty.” But that didn’t deter me. I enjoyed the tales of love and happily ever afters. I can understand romance readers and writers being labeled rebels. It takes a certain amount of freedom to tell and enjoy romance! But its ridicolous that the romance genre is still considered taboo in the U.S. and other countries.

  3. One of my favourite memories is going to the town library with my mom and dad. The children’s books were in a separate area in the middle of the adult section, so our parents could watch us and pick books at the same time. This is the library I put in my fictional small town. My first romance novels came from my mom. She worked at a local drug store and brought home ALL the Harlequins EVERY month.

  4. Jessica, I read this post and took in the video – a tres cool history lesson – this morning, but took my time coming up with a comment to do justice.
    First, great fodder as I progress in my current WIP set in the 60s. Freedom and civil rights dominate the story, and, duh, my heroine must surely be a rebel, reading not only books, but romances, at a time when the male reporters at her paper wish she would get pregnant so she’d have to stay home.
    The writing of romance novels will come up in my next work, a series set in the 20s, again with women’s liberties simmering through all 5 plots.
    I am so impressed with the impact of this new knowledge. I’d thought of book banning to keep *shock* sexual content out of high school reading lists, or banning books during revolutions to prohibit the peasants from getting *gasp* ideas, but this post sheds a whole new light on the benefit of keeping the oppressed ignorant.
    Well done.

    • I’d love to take the credit, but really it’s Maya Rodale’s video and she’s the one who really stoked the fire. I planned this post three weeks ago, I wanted to do it then but was in the middle of my goals posts and the book tour so it got put off. Funny how it landed on the same week as your apartheid post. The universe is an amazing place!

  5. Although I like a good thriller as much as most fans of that genre, my favorite always has been and always will be romance.

    Living vicariously through the characters. The hidden pleasure I took in reading books my mother would likely have burned in the front yard had she found them.

    My first manuscript began as a suspense novel. Eh. I’ll toss in a bit of romance, I thought. But, I don’t want to be known as *GASP* a ROMANCE Writer! People will think I’m not literary or educated. [No. I have no clue where those thoughts birthed themselves. Yes. I now understand how misrepresentative they were of the many talented romance writers.]

    Fortunately, I got over myself.

    I love romance. I love writing steam.

    I am on a mission to make sure women who read my books know they have as much right to satisfaction between the sheets of satin as they vicariously experience between the sheets of paper. More to the point, I plan to use humor to teach some tricks I myself recently learned. And, that’s all I have to say about that!

  6. 5 stars post, Jessie!

    I’ve reading romance since… always. My first “collection” was the French series Angélique, an epic adventure set during the Sun King era, and the settings went from France to Istanbul to the New Americas.

    The author, Anne Golon, wrote the books early sixties, I believe, but the publisher wouldn’t publish unless her husband’s name was on the cover. The husband was outraged. But for the sake of publication, he agreed to have his name and HERS on the books. The first few editions are under Anne and Serge Golon.

    • That is amazing, that even in the 1960’s a publisher would insist on putting a man’s name on the book. I though that went out with the Brontes! It sounds like a grand series and I love then name Angelique. (Even if I can’t get my keyboard to put on an accent!)

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