Bodice Rippers, Not

Okay, here is my response to the LA Times opinion piece of April 4, by Meghan Daum.

Dear Ms. Daum:

I read your recent commentary on the romance novel business with interest. I’m an author and avid reader
of the romance genre. I find these books entertaining and a fun escape. You are right on that point.

I’m glad you admitted to being predisposed to snobbery about this genre because it is clear that you have
no real knowledge about these books. In fact you proudly admit you have never read a romance novel and don’t
intend to try one. In spite of this complete ignorance, you state as fact that the plots are formulaic and the prose
is “at once overwrought and underdeveloped.”

If you read a few romance novels, you would find a range of quality just as you would find in any genre as well as literary fiction.
The best romance novels have excellent writing that does a terrific job of capturing human emotions, including love. There’s a reason
why the works of Jane Austen continue to resonate with readers centuries after they were written. It is the characters and human
emotions that still ring true–not the plots.

As to a formula–it is true that a romance novel must include certain key elements, including a relationship at the center
and a happy ending. I recommend Pamela Regis’ excellent book, A Natural History of the Romance Novel
for a complete discussion of the elements that define a romance novel.

When you think about it, the fact that readers know in advance how a book will end makes these books more difficult to write.
Romance novels are character driven. What defines a great read in this genre is not the plot or the happy ending, but the character development
and portrayal of the human emotions on the journey to that ending.

Some of my personal favorite authors are–Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jo Beverley and Susan Wiggs. Or check out any of the finalists for
the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award.

I highly recommend you give these books a try. You will find no ripping of bodices. What you will discover is a well-crafted story with three-dimensional characters struggling with real human problems and finding love.

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