I spend a fair amount of time calling out some of the things in romance that hurt the genre and absolutely make me crazy. However, having read romance since the early 90s (ah, the days of sneaking books past my mother!), I’ve also noticed a lot of things about romance for which I’m truly thankful. It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the USA, so here are some of the Romanceland things I’m grateful for:
1. The decline of the rapist hero – We still have the occasional book that pushes some boundaries (Claiming the Courtesan comes to mind), but the expectation that verbal abuse and “forced seduction” are going to be the basis of the relationship have largely fallen by the wayside. And hooray for that!
2. Strong women – I saw some strong, intelligent women in romances that I read back in high school and college but there seem to be more of them out there now. I read a lot of historicals, and I cheer on the inside when I see more quietly strong, bright heroines and fewer who think wearing pants, tossing their curls and yelling at the hero substitutes for backbone. The ninnies are still out there, but I’m happy to see fewer of them and more of the sorts of sensible, adult heroines one might expect from writers like Meredith Duran or Sherry Thomas. And that’s not even starting with some of the great heroines we find in the better paranormals.
3. Great new authors – I have seen so many new authors hit the scene just since I started as a brand-new reviewer at AAR in 2003. Since then, we’ve gotten the books of Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Nalini Singh, Karen Rose, Marjorie M. Liu and…you get the picture. Lots of new voices bringing all kinds of wonderful stories and ideas to the bookstore. I love it!
4. Small presses – When I first started reading romance, we had fewer small presses than we do now. Nowadays, we have ebooks as well as smaller print presses. I love a lot of the books by authors at the major publishers, but I’m also thrilled to see some of the less mainstream offerings out there. I hope these presses continue to bring readers an ever wide variety of settings, writing styles and characters. As with any genre, I like the traditional stuff, but I also like to see good authors experimenting with the boundaries.
5. Fabulous readers – When I first started reading romance, it was primarily a solitary endeavor. I had no idea there was an online romance world until late in law school. Since then, I’ve found some really knowledgable and enthusiastic readers online. Many of our readers here at AAR help make the site a wonderful place to visit, and I’ve also enjoyed discussions with readers at some of the blogs I visit. I (most of the time) enjoy the people and have also discovered new authors and grown my once-modest TBR stack into a mini-mountain!
And then there’s one thing that hasn’t changed…
6. Hope and HEAs – Romance is now, as it has been for years, telling life-affirming stories. Sometimes terrible things happen along the way, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. We know the heroine and hero will get their happy ending somehow, and following the journey can be harrowing, but also inspiring. Not every book I read is a romance, but this is the major reason I keep coming back to the genre.
So, what are you thankful for?