Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Romance Gets a Bad Rap Yet Again

A friend has been sick in the hospital and I recently paid her a visit. I decided to bring a book her her -- The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe.  I bought this book at the grocery story before checking into the hospital myself a few years ago.  At the time, I had not heard of the author and usually didn't go for fantasy/romance cross over, but it was available.

I loved it. The legend, the characters, the story, all of it.  It was all tight, well developed, well paced.

I have since forced this book and the rest of the series on a variety of people.  Most of them loved it and bought their own copies.

I decided to lend it to my sick friend while she was laid up.  I had no idea if she liked romance specifically, but it didn't matter because the story was good in its own right.  My companion on this mercy visit commented that she had read it too.  Expecting a glowing endorsement I was stunned when she said, "Don't worry, it's the type of book that only has four word sentences."  My jaw dropped at the blatant disrespect.  Pleased with her witty put down, she continued, "There might be one or two sentences that wrap from line to line, but not many."


The moment was actually awkward enough that my ailing friend picked up on it.  After all, my companion had just called the book, the book I had already said I loved and wanted to share, crap.  Under any circumstance insulting a gift someone just gave someone else would be inappropriate.  In this case it went even deeper.

My companion is a writer as well.  Her writing emulates the style of the wizened sage, rocking in front of the stone hearth and spinning tales of her youth, bursting with colorful descriptions and life lessons told in the slow, considered pace of Great Uncle Nephi who has wisdom to share with the youngsters.   I write character driven historical romance with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.  I keep euphemisms and purple prose to a minimum despite the industry standards of the early 1980's.  We cannot read, let alone edit, each other's work and I always thought this was due to our relationship.  Now I wonder if that might be, yet again, a sign of Romance Prejudice.

RP rears its ugly head so frequently that it's frightening. In no other genre do you hear belittling remarks based strictly on genre.  Sure, you may hear, "Oh, I don't enjoy science fiction," but people don't say, their voices thick with derision, "Oh, is that book about a chosen one who has to save the world?"  In mystery, non-mystery readers don't jeer, "I can't believe you read those books, they're all about crime and stuff."   But romance you get to hear it ALL THE TIME.  Apparently it is porn for women, too effusive, and they're all the same with different names and eras.  Sure, there are only a handful of story archetypes, but that is true in every genre -- it's what the author does with it that makes all the difference. Sometimes the harshest criticisms come from closet romance readers who are secretly ashamed of their low taste. 

I have a question -- why do you read it if it is so terrible, so beneath you?  You probably read it because it has a great story, good characters, and helps you escape real life for just a little while... In which case, why does that make it something to be mocked or hidden?


Raquel Byrnes said...

Just breathe...

There will always be detractors of any genre or art form...I know it hurts when the person is especially close to us. 0_0

You did a kind thing for your friend, and the author, by passing the book along.

As for what people have to say about romance...pretend they're like a foghorn in the mist. Plaintive, slightly annoying, but once you get used to ignoring the ridiculous noise...blissfully unnoticed. =)
Edge of Your Seat Romance

A.T. Post said...

You know, I might have sympathized with the unjust and prevalent Romance Prejudice, but I'm afraid I suffer from it as well. Not because I think it's an intellectually cheap genre (I don't think that), but because I'm a guy.

Romance books have cooties.

Susan Kane said...

The Smoke Thief is a great book. It is also a quick read. I am positive that your companion didn't mean to down-play the quality of the writing. She is probably the type who write intensely complex sentences, with all sorts of modifying phrases. She probably even uses adverbs correctly.
I hope your friend in the hospital read it and enjoyed it.
P.S. I love your writing.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Ugh. A great writer can say alot with few words. Can create images using few choice words instead of run on description. It's not an easy thing to do and yes, in many cases it must be learned. I've read erotica and fallen in love with the plot and characters. Just because it's erotica doesn't mean it's porn- the writing/writer is legit. They write what they love. Don't we all?

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